It’s logical that flying costs can be cut through shared ownership of an airplane. A partnership, a flying club, or even renting spread the fixed costs of flying over many so each individual’s costs are reduced. The problem is that for many us flying isn’t logical.
By that I mean we fly because we love it. And you don’t need me to tell you that love is hardly logical. Have you ever heard a hit song or read a poem rhapsodizing the logic of love? Me either.
Of course we can use an airplane for efficient transportation but that’s secondary for most of us. We fly because we want to, and then we figure out where and when to fly. The $100 hamburger didn’t become legendary because most airplanes are used for efficient transportation.
The problem is it’s really hard to share something you love. Doting on, fiddling with, polishing, modifying and just plain taking pride in are the key factors in airplane ownership. Just having all the switches in the same place you left them is a big deal. Keeping charts, headsets, all the stuff that goes with flying in its spot where nobody else touches it is invaluable. In other words, that’s why we own instead of rent.
When flying has a specific purpose then the ownership question is different. For example, nearly all of us are content to rent a trainer to learn to fly. The trainer has a specific mission and it’s a temporary one to get us to our goal. We don’t often develop deep affection for a trainer, anymore than we take a rental car through the car wash, or park it way out back so others don’t ding it with their doors.
If transportation is the fundamental mission for an airplane we are also perfectly happy to share it with other crews. I don’t know of any professional pilots who intentionally abuse their employers airplane, but they don’t pat it on the nose and look over their shoulder when they walk away at the end of a flight either.
Some people who see shared airplane ownership as a way to revive private flying have pointed out to me how young people in many big cities now buy small shares in cars, or even in bicycles. They see that as evidence that shared ownership is on the rise and that it can work for airplanes.
I see just the opposite. When young people are unwilling the bear the cost and inconvenience of owning their own car it tells me they don’t enjoy driving, or any other aspect of cars. Fewer American teenagers have a driver’s license than at any time in the modern era. And those who get a license do so at a much older age. Compare that to my generation–and probably yours–when we all got our driver’s license on the first birthday that was allowed. We loved cars and driving, young people today don’t, at least not at the same level.
Don’t get me wrong. There is an important role for shared ownership and renting in private flying but it is not the same as owning your own airplane. We use other people’s airplanes to accomplish a task. We use our own airplanes to satisfy a desire that really can’t be explained to those who don’t share it.