Tool not a toy has been written for all who are interested in the acquisition and or partnership in aircraft ownership. I am writing this passage as a request from my good friend and Business partner who both he and I have had more than one encounter with this very statement or thought process.
The hardest thing about being a pilot much like anything else is selling other pilots on your ideas, stories, wishes, and knowledge. Throughout flight training we are taught that to be a good pilot you must understand and study the things you do not know. Yet, when it comes time to look at the dream of owning an airplane it's funny to see how many people are not willing to look at all the factors. Pilots are not the only ones I have had this very conversation with but really anyone who is interested in the lifestyle of owning an aircraft.
Pilots, are well the best place to start because for people with a great and very in-demand skill set we, the collective we, have a hard time getting away from many of the biases that we have. Like if you are Piper guy/gal you will always be a piper guy/gal, and if you’re a Cessna guy/gal you will always be a Cessna guy/gal, but I think everyone is a Beech guy or gal. I personally would like a Cessna before a piper although my second daughter is named Piper, so I think that shows my ability to get over brands. The reason I bring this up is cause many of us have a close-minded attraction for the aircraft that we started in or at least we think we do. Malcolm Gladwell writes a few books on the cognitive subconscious that we have and our base line of thinking as to the prime fundamentals of our ideas for how we image ourselves. Hints why Top Gun was such a recruiting magnet for the Navy. Every pilot even the Piper ones think the day they took their private pilot checkride that even Tom Cruise and his F-14 could never touch them. This is where the problem starts, many years before the conversation ever begins with regards to aircraft ownership.
What we need to do is remove the dream from the ownership of an aircraft and look at the facts about ownership. What is the real cost, how much will we actually fly it etc. That should be the baseline on the discussion of aircraft ownership v.s. other options of aircraft use agreements.
For an idea of the actual base line download the Plane Connection Aircraft Cost Calculator!
Over the last ten years I have been flying professionally from Flight Instruction to Oversea ISR. I have started over three different Aviation companies, and work with and employed almost every kind of pilot known to man. A few years ago, a friend of mine and I set out on an adventure to start our own air-service that would be a place of knowledge and experience for anyone who is interested in aviation. This list was not just for newcomers to the industry but people of all experience levels. Sounds great right? We thought so.
A little about me I am a fortunate person as to the fact that I have a wife who loves me and allows me to be a little boy and fly airplanes. I have a family that has gone above and beyond to provide me a life with no limits (or at least what they could), I have flown anything and everything that others have allowed me too. I have be in and out of all types of aviation adventures to include skydiving, LSA , instruction, military, overseas contracting, aviation business start ups, aero clubs, partnerships, and even selling my wife on the great wonders of a Cessna 150. This being as it is my life has been interesting and my love although sometimes difficult for aviation has always been to show the world the greatest thing Man has ever invented. Flying!
When I was nine years old my father, a 35 year Marine Lt. Col, was station at 29 Palms, where as a young boy I was able to see all the amazing toys the Marine Corps had to offer. I watched as the F-18, and cobras did practice Close air support, and how the tanks and LAV played leap frog on firing missions.
All this led to the first time I was taken in a small aircraft a Piper 140 with a Captain Alablo. He was one of my father's Captains and he invited me to go on a flight. He himself only being a private pilot (which in my opinion is still and amazing feet) when had gone up on new year's day and during our flight he asked me a question of whether we were descending or gaining altitude? I being the impressionable young man who wanted to look go in his eyes answered with going up. We were falling at 7oo feet per min. So it wasn’t a great start but I did learn something that day, this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Ok not just fly a Piper 140, but be a pilot, and do everything in aviation.
My mother likes to tell a story that when I was younger I told her “when I grow up I am going to get married and live alone!!!” Well now as a professional pilot I have held that to be true. My wife a wonderful woman who has resolved her desire to understand why I love it so much to just “that’s Steven” and I guess that’s a good thing for me at least. I have a Two-year-old daughter that loves flying and so I think mom is out numbered.
A little over 12 years ago I graduated high school and was asked where and what I was going to school for. I responded with “a job that is 90% hands on 10% books.” Well I can tell you that any pilot and especially the ones who get their ATP’s (Airline Transport Pilot) rating have done 90% reading 5% flying, 5% dreaming.
When I was in college I was fortunate to study at the University of Southern Illinois Carbondale, the Harvard of flight schools, or at least the best aviation colleges I know. I graduated in 2009 after successfully trying and falling short of fully getting a Part 135 air charter operation going at the age of 21. Following college I flew for food and sometimes for just the drug of flying. I had joined the Marine Corps where I became an Intelligence Specialist, and deployed to Afghanistan (thanks to government sequestration).
During my time in the Marine Corps, I co-founded an Aero Club for Marines and DOD personnel where myself and a great V-22 instructor Maj. Gabe Glinsky donated our CFI abilities to provide cost effective flight training, and aircraft rentals to Marines throughout North Carolina. Unfortunately, a friend had rented the aircraft and passed away, affectivity closing our operation down. I then Met my friend Darrel who both he and I were not willing to settle for the normal Aviation path of piloting, and we started a Company to fly seaplanes up and down the Carolinas.
During our time the adventure has taken us through many different opportunities, trials, relationships, leases, aircraft management agreements, government contracts, flight instruction, aircraft ownership and probably 12 other things that has driven both of our wives crazy with 9pm phone calls or texts of good ideas or how about this type questions. Over all one them has happen to us more than any other one.
The dream of owning your own aircraft. Now, for many this may seem far fetched but for every pilot this is a dream close to home. Tool not a toy is based off of my experience and interactions with pilots and people of all backgrounds.
TheConnection Blog is a combined effort of the Plane Connection family and occasional guest contributors. You will find that while we are in the Aviation Industry, we are really in the People business. So we write about airplanes, the industry, training and life in general.