How much does Cirrus Insight cost
The reaction to our overview of used aircraft in the lower price category in issue # 2.2011 was clear: Many readers not only wanted to know what the purchase of an aircraft costs, but also what expenses can be expected during operation. A clear overview is often difficult to get; many owners are reluctant to talk about what they are spending on their piece of jewelry. Some do not even want to know exactly - they fear an alarmingly high number and shy away from precise calculations.
But of course, the expenses arise if you try to ignore them - and the ignorance of the real costs may deter potential buyers whose budget would be quite sufficient. So let's try an overview. Precise amounts are difficult to give because a lot depends on the type of aircraft and the operating conditions. For some samples, spare parts are significantly more expensive than others.
For ULs, maintenance in particular is much cheaper than in the E-Class, because owners can do a lot themselves, parts are cheaper and there are fewer regulations. Fuel consumption and costs are also lower. A concrete example with figures from practice can be found in the box on page 78 for a Socata TB-10. It makes sense to split the costs into two categories: fixed and running costs. For expenses that occur at regular intervals after a certain number of years or flight hours, the pro rata amount is set aside and saved up per year or per hour.
These expenses are incurred by the owner regardless of whether the aircraft is in the air for even a minute. This has two consequences: the more an aircraft flies per year, the lower the proportion of fixed costs in an hour of flight becomes. Of course, this does not reduce the total expenditure, but the more you fly, the more likely it is to own an aircraft. And: The high proportion of fixed costs in the total expenditure makes owner communities so attractive. While the costs incurred in flight operations remain independent of the number of owners, the fixed costs are shared within the group.
Everything that is not dependent on flight hours is included in the fixed costs. For example, the annual inspection, due once a year, is one of the fixed costs. The 100-hour check, on the other hand, does not count here. The important items in fixed costs are:
In addition to the policies for liability, fully comprehensive insurance is the more expensive and, above all, not legally prescribed issue. Fully comprehensive insurance replaces (self-caused) damage to your own aircraft. With valuable machines there is no question: comprehensive insurance is a must. But with older, lower-value aircraft, some owners decide to save the premium of usually two to three percent of the aircraft's value per year - and in the worst case, to bear the complete loss of the investment in their own aircraft themselves.
Hangar / storage
An aircraft is certainly best accommodated in a hangar. But hangar space is not available everywhere. While rents in small places can be 100 to 200 euros per month, large airports often charge well over 1000 euros per month for storage. Outdoor storage requires an investment in a sensible, tailor-made protective cover - and more often in a new paint job.
Annual inspection (JNP)
Once a year the aircraft has to be checked for airworthiness. Ideally, this is done in combination with maintenance, since both covers usually have to be removed and parts dismantled. Many workshops offer fixed prices for certain samples, which can be inquired about before buying.
The avionics in the aircraft must be checked every two years (if VFR is in operation) or annually (IFR). The back pressure and static pressure system is also checked. The more devices are installed, the more expensive the test becomes.
How often an aircraft needs a new coat of paint is also a matter of taste. How expensive it will be depends on many factors. Nevertheless: Even with a low calculated 5000 to 10,000 euros every 20 years, there is still an annual share of 250 to 500 euros, for which it is worth creating a reserve.
A simple Garmin 430 in the cockpit, the navigation database of which is updated monthly, costs a few hundred euros, depending on the coverage area. In the case of the glass cockpit with the display of approach maps, an annual fee of EUR 1,000 is quickly achieved.
Many aircraft have components that need to be replaced or overhauled after a certain number of years. The costs for this are divided by the number of years and a corresponding reserve is formed. This also makes sense if the maintenance interval is not mandatory - this saves the right amount of money to repair the unit if it breaks. If it lasts longer than the maintenance interval, there is a small gain that can certainly be used elsewhere. Typical examples of such reserves: the regular overhaul of seat belts or the entire rescue system in ULs or a Cirrus. Although engines and propellers have both an annual and a flight hour limit, their overhaul is usually added to the running, flight hour-dependent costs - this is also the case with our calculation.
Cost of capital
If you borrow the money to buy your aircraft from a bank, you have to include the cost of this financing in your fixed costs. Interest and repayment are to be taken into account. Very precise calculators also calculate how much capital gain they could have made with the money in the plane if they had invested it instead. From a business point of view, this is certainly part of a full cost analysis, but this approach is hardly suitable for the passionate pilot who flies privately and for fun.
When the machine is in the air, there are additional costs. They are not calculated per year like the fixed costs, but per flight hour. We don't count landing fees as part of the cost of our own aircraft, but if you want to calculate what you spend on flying each year, you shouldn't forget them.
It should be possible to estimate the consumption per hour of a sample quite precisely from the manual data. You should expect more than the minimum consumption when cruising. There is potential for savings with some aircraft if they can be operated with cheaper mogas.
Motor oil, oxygen on some aircraft or TKS de-icing fluid - all of this is included in the hourly price.
Typical intervals are 50 and 100 hours. After 50 hours, usually no more than an oil change is required. The scope of a 100-hour inspection is also precisely defined for each aircraft type, so that the costs for this can easily be inquired about and divided by 100: that is the hourly portion of this maintenance. It is clear that more complex aircraft, for example with retractable landing gear, require more maintenance than simple machines. Larger inspections are often required every 500, 1000 and 2000 hours - a reserve equal to the hourly portion must be calculated for them. In the UL area in particular, you can save a lot of money here if you take on parts of the maintenance yourself, as far as this is permitted. That can be a lot of fun too.
One of the most important reserves is for unexpected repairs. Something always breaks when it shouldn't. Depending on the complexity of the aircraft, a reserve of ten euros per flight hour is certainly on the low side. Large items are the reserves for engine and propeller overhauls. The “time between overhauls” (TBO) prescribed by the manufacturer is not binding for private aviation if this is specified in the aircraft's maintenance program.
A complete overhaul of the engine will not necessarily be necessary when the TBO is reached. However, the cost of a major overhaul is a good guide to what an owner can expect over the course of a TBO interval. For example, if an engine for which a major overhaul costs 30,000 euros has a TBO of 2000 hours, it makes sense to set up a reserve of 15 euros per flight hour. The same applies to the propeller. Additional reserves for maintenance that occurs regularly after flying hours, such as the overhaul of ignition magnets or inspections prescribed by airworthiness instructions (LTA), should be taken into account accordingly.
No aircraft owner is protected from unpredictable expenses: an engine can suffer premature capital damage; an LTA can cause expensive inspections. Changes to the avionics regulations have also put a lot of strain on the savings accounts of many owners - for example with the introduction of the Mode S transponder or the 406 MHz ELT. The next cost trap of this kind is foreseeable: In the next few years air traffic control will push for radio devices with 8.33 kHz frequency raster for all airspace users.
Even the above-mentioned formation of reserves for all kinds of eventualities only protects against such unexpected costs to a limited extent. After all, the reserve reserve must build up over time to a sum with which larger amounts can be covered. It should be clear to every aircraft owner that he can face unexpected expenses of several thousand euros at any time, without which the aircraft cannot continue to fly.
Owner communities help to reduce unexpected costs
Here, too, a community of owners can fully exploit its advantages. Regarding regular repairs, characteristic problems of a model and type-specific airworthiness directives, the value of the many type clubs cannot be emphasized enough. In the USA at least, there are associations of their owners for many models that are active on the Internet and hold a wealth of information there. Many also have active departments in Europe and Germany. Membership is often free or very inexpensive. If you are interested in a certain type of aircraft, you will find information about the expected costs here before buying. Examples include the European Bonanza Society, the Grumman Gang, the Socata TB Users Group and others.
The language barrier to these forums, which are often English, shouldn't be a deterrent; the additional costs that arise if your own aircraft are to be improved or embellished are difficult to estimate. Thousands of euros can be invested in avionics upgrades - each owner can only decide for himself whether these investments, which often reach a high double-digit percentage of the aircraft value, make sense. The same applies to renovations of the interior, but only to a limited extent for the paintwork, which after all has an undisclosed anti-corrosive function. After so much talk about expenses, a look at the plus side must follow: the profit of having your own aircraft is difficult to estimate where no one else twists the buttons or causes disorder in any other way, where no charter company insists on the minimum number of hours to be flown on vacation - and where everything is just as you want it to be.
A practical example
For a Socata TB-10 Tobago with IFR approval, built in 1984, the expenses in 2010 are listed here as gross prices. The machine has flown 101 hours.
The hangar space for the TB-10 costs 2500 euros per year, the insurance costs 4665 euros (which are above average for various reasons). The annual inspection was carried out together with the 100-hour inspection, it cost 884 euros. The annual avionics check required in IFR operations was EUR 678. Jeppesen charged for database updates for the Garmin 430 and the JeppView approach chart subscription at 1056 euros.
The Tobago flew 3989 liters of Avgas in 2010, at a price of 8535 euros. 39 liters per hour is a lot for a Tobago - but on the one hand the machine was operated with high performance and a rich mixture during the engine break-in period (see below), on the other hand it was mainly flown on short, fuel-guzzling distances. For the 50-hour check with an oil change, 500 euros were due, another 100 euros were spent on engine oil. The 100-hour check was received for 999 euros. The following pro rata reserves per flight hour were also calculated: 6 euros for 500, 1000 and 2000 hour checks, 12.50 euros for engine overhauls, 8 euros for painting, 9.50 euros for unexpected repairs.
It was not a good year for the Tobago: Both an overhaul of all four cylinder heads (6863 euros) and a muffler repair (2588 euros) were unexpected. Almost trivial: the inspection and overhaul of the seat belts was charged at 600 euros, the replacement of a defective EGT measuring sensor at 200 euros. In principle, such expenses must be financed from the reserves for engine and repairs, which are included in the running costs.
There are two ways of calculating the cost of an hour's flight with the Tobago in 2010. One: all actual costs incurred (excluding reserves) are divided by the 101 hours flown. This results in 299 euros per hour, with total costs in 2010 of 30,168 euros. The price is extremely high because very large unexpected costs (cylinder heads, exhaust) have been incurred. The other way of calculating is not to include these expenses and instead include the reserves. After all, they are made precisely for such exceptional costs. This results in an hourly flight price of 233 euros.
Text: Thomas Borchert, Photos: Thomas Borchert (4), Cirrus Europe aviator magazine 05/2011
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