Why Small Planes Are Better Than Airlines on Short Flights?

December, 10, 2021
Why Small Planes Are Better Than Airlines on Short Flights?

Airplanes represent a sense of independence, giving you the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want.

But let’s face it, having your plane, say a Cessna, is a status symbol, the convenience of having a personal airplane is immeasurable give an example, if you commute every week between Louisiana and Texas on American Airlines, it would require the following:

  • First, you have to arrive at Baton Rouge airport at least an hour early if you wanted to bring more than a carry-on. There’s no free parking so you will either have to take a cab or park for $10/day in the airport parking garage.
  • If you wanted to check a bag, you need to wait in line.
  • Next, you need to wait in another line for security checks, where you remove your belt, shoes, watch, and all your electronics and liquids from your carry-ons.
  • Once you get through the TSA, you get to sit at the gate and wait, hoping the flight isn’t running late. 
  • Finally, you get on the plane, where space and comfort don’t exactly exist and wait again and again due to ground delays.
  • Once you get up in the air, the flight time is hard to beat in a single engine, but you never know whom you get the pleasure of sitting next to. 
  • Arriving in Dallas however is another story, taxi times are an average of 10 minutes, but can go much higher.
  • Getting off the plane usually takes another 10 minutes unless you sat at the exit row,
  • Then you make a long walk to baggage claim. 
  • And finally, there’s the wait for bags, usually about 10 minutes. 
  • After all that, you leave the airport for half an hour’s drive to downtown Dallas…

From door to door, assuming everything is on time, that’s about 4.5 hours. The cost would be around $375 for a non-refundable round-trip ticket, that’s assuming everything is on time, and the airline didn’t cancel the flight. Commuting in your airplane is a little different:

let’s say you have a Cirrus SR22

  • From the comfort of your home, you file an IFR flight from Baton Rouge to Dallas, then call the FBO asking them to pull out your plane and tell them how much fuel to add. 
  • Arriving at the airport, you walk out of your car to your plane, no lines, and no TSA, do pre-flight checks, call for IFR clearance and taxi instructions, then take off. 
  • Flight time IN your SR22 for this route is about 2.5 hours from takeoff to landing.

There are no long walks to baggage claim, no waits for baggage no nothing, you just leave the airport. Usually, from door to door, this takes about 3.5 to 4 hours and your variable cost will be $320 round-trip, even though you will spend more time in the air while flying in your cirrus, the total time spent from door to door is about one hour less. 

The best thing about this is the huge flexibility it offers, you can change your plans at any time and decide to make a last-minute trip, your costs stay the same, while on American airlines you will be paying from $500 to over $1000 for a last-minute trip.

The cost of owning a plane can be split into two groups: fixed and variable costs. Your fixed costs are incurred even if you never take the plane out of the hangar, these are Scheduled maintenance and inspections, Unforeseen repairs, Insurance, and Hangar, or tie-down fees. 

To estimate an hourly cost, you must amortize the fixed costs over your flying hours, which means you must have an estimate of how many hours per year you plan to fly. Let’s work on an example problem.

Let’s say you’re getting a Cessna 182. It’s a solid, proven aircraft model with easy maintenance requirements. Buying a Cessna 182 will cost you about 550 to $600,000, but if you don’t have a lot of money, 1974 was a good year for Cessna 182’s, I have a friend that flies a 1974 182P from time to time, and from what I’ve heard as well, they’re generally sturdy.

So, you can find a 1974 Cessna 182P anything between 150 to $200,000, it used to sell for $75,000, but prices are currently through the roof.

So, how much does it cost to fly private aircraft?

The operating costs are fairly straightforward and significantly less than most other conventional aircraft. These are typically broken down by hour and include, fuel, insurance, tie-down or hangar storage fees, regular maintenance inspections, and landing fees. 

Typical Cessna 182 costs around $180-$200 per hour depending on a wide range of variables. For Hourly Costs: The 182 burns about 14 gallons per hour, with Avgas typically costing about $6 per gallon, hourly fuel costs for the 182 run between $84 to $90 per hour. 

For an Oil change: if you do it yourself; it will cost you about $100 every 40 hours, which breaks down to $2 cents per hour.

Also remember that you’ll have to overhaul your engine every 1500 hours, and it will cost you about $24,000 for the engine and another $2400 for labour: breaking this down gives us $17 per hour flown.

Another thing is Prop overhauls: which is also done every 1500 hours, this will cost you about $2500 for the prop and $2000 for the governor, breaking it down with 1500 hours gives us 3 dollars per hour. 

So, in a Cessna 182, every hour flown will cost you a total of $110 per hour in variable costs.

For the Fixed Yearly Costs:

An annual inspection will cost you about $1200, that’s if nothing is broken and needs replacement, depending on whether you just carry Liability coverage or Full Hull Coverage, this cost will vary, but it typically runs between $530-$1,200 per year, which adds about $3-$6 per hour depending on the number of hours flown in a year. 

Hanger or tie-down fees will run you anything from $100 to $300 per month, depending on whether you want your plane hangered or tied down at an airport. 

This doesn’t include periodic improvements you might want to make to your aircraft, such as a fresh coat of paint now and then or maybe a new gadget in the cockpit.

So, what are the most efficient and economical personal airplanes to buy?

Number 1 is the Vans RV 10.

Personal airplanes: Vans RV 10
Vans RV 10

The RV-10 stands out as one of the fastest, most economical to build and operate, and one of the most pleasing to look at. This is not just an airplane with four seats, the RV-10 is a true four-person airplane, this means that it will carry four FAA standard adults, full fuel, and sixty pounds of baggage while remaining at or below maximum gross weight.

If your mission includes more than two people, and you like airplanes that perform and handle well, you owe yourself a ride in an RV-10.

In this airplane, you can comfortably cruise at 197 mph, with a range of 825 miles, burning about 11 gallons per hour, with Avgas typically costing about $6 per gallon, hourly fuel costs for the RV-10 run between $66-$90 per hour.

With a little over $130,000, you can build this aircraft yourself.

Number 2 is the Lancair Evolution.

Lancair Evolution
Lancair Evolution

This airplane is a speed machine, obviously not the best economical choice, but if you love travelling over 1500 miles, and you love getting to places fast, the Evolution may be just what you’re looking for. 

Currently, the Evolution is only available as a homebuilt, so you do have to build it yourself. This airplane offers performance that’s in the very light jet category. 

Currently available in both turboprop and piston engines. The piston version burns 18 gallons to cruise at 250 mph, climb at 2000 ft per minute, with a range of 1900 miles.

The turboprop version comes in three different engine options, and the exact performance depends on which one you choose, I advise you to head to the evolution aircraft website for that information. 

Both airplanes are pressurized, the piston version flies at a maximum of 25000 ft while the turbine can fly up to 28000 ft. miles with four occupants and luggage.

Number 3 is the Cirrus SR22

cirrus sr22
Cirrus SR22

For a fixed-gear machine, the SR22 offers performance that’s more typically associated with retractables. With a 310hp in front, you will be cruising at 211miles per hour, nearly up to pace with the Mooney Ovation.

Perhaps equally important, the SR22 has a generous-size cabin that will easily accommodate four adults.

The airplane’s 92-gallon tanks allow a range above 1000miles with over 1300pounds of useful load included. The Cirrus SR22 burns about 18 gallons per hour, with Avgas typically costing about $6 per gallon, hourly fuel costs for the Cirrus SR22 run between $100-$108 per hour. 

You can buy a brand new SR22 for about $800,000, but a used model will run well under $200,000.

4. Pipistrel Panthera.

Pipistrel Panthera
Pipistrel Panthera

The Panthera is undoubtedly the most efficient four-seat airplane. Efficiency does not only reflect itself in low fuel consumption of just 10 gallons per hour at 230 miles per hour but is translated directly into more speed for the same power.

No other four-seat aircraft exists that flies this fast on the same engine! The 1000 miles range is available with any payload, something which pilots of four-seat airplanes have been wishing for.

The robust design of the undercarriage and low overall weight allows for operations from short grass strips, taking you as close as possible to your desired destination. Currently, the company is offering the Panthera as an experimental aircraft, either factory-built or as a kit for amateur construction, with the type certified variant expected next year.