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Northeast Pilots Group Message Board › Flying On A Budget

Flying On A Budget

Clark B.
Greenwich, CT
Post #: 1
When I started flying in '01, Warriors rented for $70, instructors were $30, and fuel hovered around $2.20 a gallon. Even then I had to come up with ways to make this new obsession affordable. Luck was with me as I had a friend who had his license for five years and also liked to fly. He had dropped out of the flying scene, though, because flying everywhere by yourself is expensive. It's also much better to have someone else with you to share the experience.

This worked out perfectly. He got recertified and we ended up flying all over the northeast several times a week. Having a buddy to fly with makes it more fun, you learn things from each other, it's safer with more eyes, and the costs drop by 50%! Bring that on!

I hear too many stories of new pilots who get discouraged after a couple of months when they run out of ideas for places to go that justify the costs. It seems like the "$100 hamburger" is only possible if you taxi to the cafe on the other side of the field.

I started the Connecticut Pilots Group for many reasons, but this issue is important to me since I've been there.

It would be great to have pilots and future pilots meet each other and see how teams can be made. Perhaps two pilots based at the same field can rent a plane together and bring a student pilot along to a fly-in at a nearby restaurant. I've seen this work first hand, but it takes an organization to bring everyone together, thus the Connecticut Pilots Group.

In another case, if you own a plane, you might like to bring newcomers to aviation with you to our meetups. There's a great resource at where you can keep an eye out for the best deals in aviation fuel. You might see a price worth making a short trip. Check out's Aviation Fuel page for details.

I hope this sounds like fun to you! Feel free to contact me if you have suggestions or questions. I'd like to hear you thoughts!

Clark Email­
Roger A.
user 3632162
Trumbull, CT
Post #: 1
I think Clark's idea of getting folk together is great. Who of us hasn't taken off with a plan to go do something, and once airborne wish we had someone with us just for the fun of it. Many newly-minted Private Pilots quit flying because of this. What a shame.

Another take on this idea is gaining or maintaining Instrument Proficiency. Finding people to fly Safety Pilot for you, or that wants you to fly Safety Pilot for them, means getting into the air more, at lower cost (the one under the hood usually pays for the trip), and further develops that hard-won instrument rating. Many people don't realize that as Safety Pilot you are filling a required crew position, and you get to log PIC time. If you don't have an Instrument Rating, or are currently studying for it, flying Safety Pilot is a great way to see how others do it, and sometimes find out what real IMC is like. On the other side, while working on your Instrument Rating, practicing with a Safety Pilot instead of an instructor saves money while getting you used to the idea that the person in the right seat isn't there to teach you, so you get to figure it out yourself. An Instrument Rating is merely a license to learn, no matter which seat you're in.

A final idea on this comes from my idea that I wanted to see what it was like to fly Angel Flights. I joined Angel Flight, New England and asked them to link me up with someone to "learn the ropes." The guy I linked up with wanted another pilot to fly with because Angel Flights come with a sense of needing to be as reliable as possible (within safety margins), and we often fly close to minimums. Two pilots on a low ILS is just safer than one. Now we do all our Angel Flights together; swapping roles each leg. We also fly in and out of really cool places that you would otherwise never do in small planes, like BOS, JFK, or PHL. We learn from each other, sometimes in hard IMC, sometimes on beautiful days, and we're never left wondering where to go now that we're up here.
Clark B.
Greenwich, CT
Post #: 54
I originally posted this message back in January '07 and since then, flying has predictably become -even more- expensive. That prompted me to bring this discussion to the foreground on our message board. It's great to have fun, but we also have to be able to make the numbers work.

I welcome our members to share their thoughts and ideas on this important topic.

Ken J.
user 4594031
South Kent, CT
Post #: 13
This NEPG is a wonderful idea and we owe thanks to Clark for his time and efforts. I wish I could be at more of the meetups but there are several factors for me to deal with. Cost is a factor if you have no passengers to help out. So meetups 2 or 3 hours away impose a considerable cost factor. For me, flying out of a field with no lights becomes a factor on the return trip, especially at this time of year. Neither my plane nor home field is IFR capable so that is another limitation. Being a family person, my kids and grandkids often have conflicting dates. For these reasons I prefer the close in less formal meetups.

On the more distant meetups an overnight campout or if a reasonable motel is close by would be fun also. Nice thing about that is you can have a drink in the evening and not feel rushed to get home. Jaffery NH has camping close by and I'm sure there are others. I have a condo at Lake George NY, about 10 miles from GFL, sleeping 8 good friends available most of the year. I still want to do the Danbury tank museum one day. The last ones got weathered out. Anyway lets keep this good thing going.
user 3676117
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 44

As the fuel prices keep going up, it's probably very timely for you to have brought up this subject again. I wish there was one perfect way to solve this cost problem. Well I never really looked at it as a "problem", simply an "issue". However, now that I'm working again on an independent basis, I have to be a bit less casual about just hopping in the Frankenplane than I was for the first 6-8 months of the year.

Since I got my license in 2004, I have rarely asked for, or accepted, contributions of the pro rata share of a given flight. That has basically been in the spirit of "if I'm the PIC and logging the time, then it's legitimate for me to pay for the plane" (even if another pilot comes with me -- which actually I've only done once, when Jeanette joined me to go up to Columbia County). However, there are a couple of recent occasions when I've offered to share the costs (like once with Kevin, when he was flying ..... and also last weekend, with Lori, when I was flying).

As you guys and girls know, I'm going to "migrate" to more of a policy of a willingness to accept contributions of the pro rata share of the rental costs. That's mostly in light of the fact that I'm working on an independent basis again. Either way, for whatever reason(s), I would have loved to simply ask people to join me without asking for any contribution -- hoping that my infectous enthusiasm for flying would rub off on them and they'd start flying themselves (Lori is already well on her way to doing so actually -- good job, Lori!). But after having dropped a mega amount of cash throughout the first 2/3 of the year, I have to be a bit more realistic about this. Otherwise, I'll never be able to buy my Gulfstream V or finance construction of my private airstrip.

I really wish I could offer some specific suggestions as to how to keep the costs down, while keeping the spirits and involvement up. I would say that -- if there are people (like Andrei, Lori or others for example) who are dying to fly and come on some of the trips, and they can in fact contribute at least occasionally to the costs even if they are not the PIC, then it will help to defray the mega amount of money most of us spend to fly (irrespective of whether you rent or own, but especially if you rent). Wouldn't everyone agree?

So far -- to a greater or lesser degree -- this has already happened. I'm not sure this "policy" can or should be formalized in any way. I do very much appreciate that there are those of us who are more than willing to help share in some of the costs in return for joining the group when they otherwise may not have been able to. In the final analysis, this has been a very exciting year for me, mostly because of having met all of you. So regardless of the level of participation, involvement, or even financial contribution of any given member, I've gained so much this year -- mostly because of meeting everyone involved in NEPG. I'd especially like to thank Clark for having the fortitude and vision to start up the group and keep everything running along so smoothly. I think that's a very rare talent. Happy Holidays!
A former member
Post #: 8­

Becoming very popular. Pilots register, list & share for free.
A former member
Post #: 18
I had occasion to figure out costs today and came up with an average of 50 cents per nautical mile for fuel and oil plus another 20 cents a mile toward put-asides for engine, avionics, and paint/upholstery. The fuel & oil is double what it was when we started. We have also begun to curtail our flights.

It is a trade-off. We have to fly to stay safe and current. Don't know when the tipping point will come, but it is certainly getting closer.
Roger A.
user 3632162
Trumbull, CT
Post #: 80
Okay, just to set a frame of reference. When I came back to flying in 2004, a 1976 receipt fell out of my log book. It showed the rental rate of a Cherokee 140 at $19/hr, the instructor was $6/hr, and a brand new AIM was $0.75. Fuel was about $1 a gallon. If you accept that prices double every 10 years, that Cherokee should cost $152, the instructor $48 (worth every penny and more!!), and the gallon of gas $8.

Statistically, $5/gallon gas takes the same relative size bite out of your paycheck as the cost of gas did in 1984.

This isn't to take away from the message that flying is expensive - it is, always was, and I'm betting, always will be. In 1971 when I started flying, that Cherokee cost $16/hr, but I only made $7,000 per year as an electrical engineer.

I am so grateful for this group, and Clark in particular, we not only have fun events and good friends, but flying together and sharing costs does make it almost affordable.
A former member
Post #: 10
I'm always ready to share expenses, but no one has taken me up on the offer. I have a comm sgl/multi w/ instrument, private glider and an AS in Aviation Science and 1,000 total. All my experience has been going to waste since I moved out here from California. Partly my fault because I have yet to attend any local get-togethers and meet the other pilots face to face. But I'm putting my spiel back out here. I don't care if I'm co-pilot, safety pilot or passenger as long as I can get in the environment.

A former member
Post #: 11
See Flying Mag November 2008 issue, Don't be fuelish by Tom Benenson. It would be interesting to hear everyone's opinion on running lean of peak.
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