Prospective pilot questions: plane sharing? second career?

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I'm very interested in flight training, which is well within my financial grasp, but owning
my own aircraft of the type I'd like to fly on cross-country trips is certainly not (as far as I
can tell so far a 4 seater can cost over 100k plus other costs).

I'm hoping someone here can help with two of my major questions.

1. How do Flying Clubs or aircraft time shares usually operate, is it possible to take a 4
seater for a week or two once or twice a year? Please feel free to enlighten me on other
avenues, if there are any. After earning my private certificate, I'd like to eventually take
longer flights to see family (from DC to MI, TX, OR, CA). During these times I'd like to take
them out in a four seater for a week or two, probably once or twice a year. In the mean
time flying a two seater and maybe a variety of others would be wonderful a time or two a
month. I'm active duty military so time can be tight but I'd strive to be a sharp, relevant
and safe pilot.

2. 10 years from now I can retire from the military with 24 years active service (at 42), if I
earn my private certificate soon, I should have many flight hours logged by then. Though
flying for recreation now, I could start required training for a second career after the
military. What types of certifications (I'm not sure what they're called) could I start training
for now, that would lead to a decent second career without spending most of my time
away from home? In short, "It's great that I'm a pilot, but can it be a second career while
still being able to see my daughters recital thursday night?"

Thanks very much for your time, I'm really looking forward to hearing back from the

Catch some air for me!

-- Brian Ross, August 24, 2009


Flight schools usually charge an hourly minimum per day. If you took a plane for 7 days you'd pay for 3 hours of flight time per day or 21 hours, even if you didn't fly 21 hours. Flying clubs or partnerships may have more relaxed rules, particularly during off peak seasons. A four-way partnership in an older airplane ($30-50,000 in value; divided by 4 is not a big commitment) might work best for what you want to do.

If you want to fly as a second career you'll need to get a Commercial certificate and then a Flight Instructor certificate and build some hours by instructing. If you're accustomed to military pay and benefits you'll probably be in for a rude shock when you see what civilian aviation expects from its workers. But if you love to fly and are willing to spend a few years mostly away from home, e.g., working for a regional airline (at $19,000 per year), you can probably find a corporate pilot job that does not require too many overnights (the executives buy the jet so that they can get home for dinner after a meeting).

-- Philip Greenspun, August 24, 2009

In answer to the follow-up question below... You'd be buying a Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior from the 1970s with a more recent engine overhaul. Pick up a copy of Trade a Plane magazine if you want to see some examples, but the asking prices will often be much higher than the market. It is better to look around your local airport and talk to the mechanics. They probably know of someone looking to sell an airplane or take a partner. It is a lot simpler to buy a plane if you know its history.

As far as "expertise and responsibility" leading to more pay, that's only in the government! Private employers pay a market-clearing wage and $19,000 is sufficient to get qualified jet pilots so that's what they pay. Helicopter pilots start at a higher salary and if you're willing to work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off in the Gulf of Mexico you can eventually build up enough experience to work at a local employer (TV station, medevac, corporate).

-- Philip Greenspun, August 24, 2009

Thank you so much for your response!

A older 4 seater can be between 30k - 50k? Without knowing exactly what other costs are involved, owning a machine of this cost I could afford. Which aircraft would you have in mind and where would one find a ready to fly 4 seater for this price?

Right now it would be all about the fun of flying until retirement. In part, I'm researching the practicality of utilizing flight training to supplement income later on down the road. Where I would decide to live would depend on these factors. Maybe also earning my wings as a helicopter pilot would be good?

You're right, I am surprised on what regional pilots earn per year, especially for the expertise and responsibility on their shoulders. I'll have to look up 'the life of a pilot'.

-- Brian Ross, August 24, 2009

Thanks very much for your time and insight, this information is very helpful!

-- Brian Ross, August 24, 2009

The 3 hour minimum is one of the lamest ideas to survive the golden age of general aviation. It no longer makes any sense for either party except the school if the planes is a leaseback (because the school makes extra money for nothing and has zero downside to it sitting). If the school owns the plane, or is willing to take an offer to the owner, the whole thing is open for discussion. Owning and training can actually be tough if you don't own a really common or simple airplane because the insurance wants the instructor checked out by another instructor (Cha Ching and/or enjoy calling EVERYONE looking for an instructor). Lastly, run away from any ownership deal where one of the owners is THE instructor or THE mechanic unless they provide their services to the group for free. Not that every one of them is a rip off scheme, but because there is NO way for you to know the ones that are. Airport Mafias are all over the place as well, so even the free instructor could be getting kickbacks from the mechanic for work not needed.

-- Eric Warren, August 26, 2009