Salary Requirements for Upkeep of Cessna 172

Hello everyone.

This is second day on the site and my first post, ever. I’m 34 years old, an electrical engineer, and I have really begun to take a serious interest in aviation, lately, and am hoping to begin private flight training within the next year or so.

My question concerns ownership of an aircraft. Have no fear – my aspirations towards aircraft ownership are years down the road, but I’d like to begin planning for it now. How many years down the road depends on the answer to my question.

Living in the South, where the cost of living is fairly comfortable, what would some of you say that the minimum yearly income of someone need to be in order to comfortably own and maintain a Cessna 172?

I know that there are a multitude of financial factors that must be considered, but let’s assume that the potential owner is extremely responsible, lives well within his means, and has a mild debt load (i.e., mortgage and possibly a vehicle payment – no consumer debt).

Are we talking 6-figures? Possibly high 5-figures? I would just like a ballpark figure that will give me something to aim for.

I appreciate any help you could provide.

Here’s a good thread from some other owners on the cost’s associated with owning a plane.

I would love to give you a pat answer, but you are asking the wrong question.

Salary isn’t the most important factor, though I would say that most owners who own their own plane alone are 6 figure guys, and fractional guys are high 6’s in most cases.

What’s more important is priorities, then capital, THEN income.

New aircraft are sold to people with very small incomes all the time. Often they use a leaseback, but not always. One of my favorites was a retired teacher. He liked the idea of new because the costs were more predictable. He had no other debt, owned his home outright, and his payment for the plane was going to be the largest draw on his pension.

If owning is a priority then you can make it happen.

Capital is important because if you have no payments, then almost anyone can afford a plane. One of my favorite low end planes is the Piper 140. If you buy a nice one around 40k, it will cost you next to nothing to fly the heck out of it.

Lastly, if your family income is over 100k, then you might want to look into buying NOW! There is bonus depreciation for people in some Gulf States, and I think its good till year end. This can make a plane seriously cheap to own.

Since my salary is “public record” anyway, to give you an idea, I make 70K a year. My wife makes about 1/3 less then me.

I own a 1976 Sundowner. Bought it for 38K with the knowledge a major over haul was in my future. I just didn’t know how soon the overhaul would come until the engine decided for me with an exhaust valve taking up the ghost in flight (partial engine failure). I upgraded one radio to include a Garman 430 for 12K.

Had some significant repairs to update a very underused plane at about $7,500 such as wheel bearings (grease settles), replace instruments due to lubrication not being distributed from lack of usage.

The plane before I bought it was only flown 10 hours in 3 years by the prior owner. Since I have pretty much the biggest expenses behind me, it’s mostly a maintenance issue.

Oil changes are $200 per change (every 50 hours), annuals run about 2K. Keep in mind, any part aviation related, the price is jacked up 10x the local hardware value. Just as an example a silly nav light on the wing costed $40. for bulb, yes you read correctly $40 for a “christmas light bulb”. My insurance is just below $900 a year. Tie down at my airport is $50.00 per month.

I fly about 25 to 30 hours a month, fuel runs about $3.50 to 4.00 at my home base. I burn 10 gallons an hour, so per flight you are talking about $30 an hour. So, you are looking at $900 per month just for fuel.

Soooo, with the above info, you know have some hard numbers to consider for plane ownership.

Please note, there is much more to buying a plane then providing numbers as I did above. For one, a lot of emphasis is put on engine compressions. While some of the action does take part in the top part of the engine, there is a bottom part to consider. Need to consider how the plane was used prior to you. Was it a trainer, was it underused? (underused is a big time bad thing as I found out!)

Bottom line…

Price of owning an airplane = rediculous
Pride of owning an airplane = priceless

If you need more info, feel free to email me.