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Home > Blog > Economics Of Owning A Small Plane

Economics of owning a small plane

Posted 27 Sep 2022

Economics of owning a small plane

In this article, we have tried to summarise the key expenses, as well as the factors that may influence them, so that you can make an informed decision!

While the decision to buy an aeroplane can be an overwhelming one, you should understand that being aware of the expectations that come with the purchase can leave you in a much better position.

Knowing what exactly you are getting yourself into is the key to a successful purchase, and that’s not just with aeroplanes. If you buy a car but don’t factor in fuel or maintenance expenses, you will be hit with costs you may not be ready or financially equipped to pay.

This is why it is best to understand the ins and outs of aeroplane ownership so that you know exactly how much investment the aeroplane will require. Planning ahead can save you a lot of trouble and make for a stress-free experience.

There are so many variables when it comes to the economics of owning a small aeroplane. In this article, we have tried to summarise the key expenses, as well as the factors that may influence them, so that you can make an informed decision!



 Before we even get to the part about buying an actual aircraft and maintaining it, you need to ask yourself whether, as a pilot, aeroplane ownership is the right way for you to go.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need your own expensive private jet in order to build a career as a pilot. It is important to understand what your flying needs are and how often you require an aeroplane to make a smart and informed decision.


Private ownership

Private ownership of an aeroplane may be a dream for many, but what must be understood is that it is not at all a necessity for most. Private aeroplane upkeep and, in fact, the initial purchase itself, can get quite overwhelming, especially if it’s being financed out of your own pocket.

You must understand the pros and cons of private aeroplane ownership, and you will then have to determine which side wins out. While it is indeed a big responsibility, it is also true that the cost of renting can get too much as well if you are flying too frequently.

If this is the case, then private ownership may be the right way for you to go, since you have a need for an aeroplane frequently, and you cannot afford to share with others due to conflicts of interests or schedules.


Fractional ownership

If you want the luxury of having your own aeroplane but do not want to bear the burden of initial cost and upkeep in its entirety, then shared ownership may be right for you. Also referred to as fractional ownership, this is when two or more people buy shares in an aircraft, with a set amount of hours allocated to each shareholder depending on the amount that they have invested.

If you will need the aeroplane for a longer period of time as compared to others, you can choose to buy two or even three shares of the aircraft. This way you will have more time with it.

However, if you are someone who cannot share due to a packed schedule or high flying demand, then this may not be the best option for you. Also, if you feel like you won’t be flying all that much, it’s really no use to waste money on an entire share of an aeroplane.


Renting aircraft

For those who are occasional flyers and don’t have their schedules packed with flights, the option to rent is a rather good one. Most aeroclubs such as Sherburn have their own fleet, aeroplanes from which you can hire at an hourly basis.

You can pay and fly whenever you like, just make sure you book a bit in advance. This is perfect for people who like to fly every now and then and then take weeks or months off from flying.

However, if you feel like you’ll be flying more often and don’t plan to take long breaks in between, renting can quickly become too heavy on your wallet. It is in times such as this that a bigger investment in either a share or an entire aircraft makes more sense.



Not all aeroplanes are made equal, and this is reflected often in their price. There are a few features that are bound to make the price of an aeroplane go up. If you are looking for a cheaper option, it may be a good idea to rule out which of these features you don’t need, so that you can make a smart decision when buying.


Make, model, and age

This is true for almost everything on the market. If it’s new, it’s probably going to cost more (unless it's a rare vintage!). In situations such as this, it is a good idea to opt either for a second-hand aircraft or one that is an older model.

If you want the newest, shiniest model, then you will have to open your wallet and invest a higher amount. When it comes to an aeroplane, you can easily buy an older aircraft and be just as satisfied, given that it has been properly maintained.


Number of engines

Another thing that you must keep in mind when buying an aeroplane is how many engines it has. Smaller aeroplanes usually have a single engine, but some can have two in order to boost speed and performance.

Single-engine aeroplanes are generally cheaper as compared to the multi-engine variety. However, this is not to say that a single-engine aeroplane will not give a good performance.  While a multi-engine aeroplane may be faster and more powerful, the single-engine is perfectly sufficient for the needs of most hobbyists.


Condition of aircraft

This one is a no-brainer! The worse the condition of an aircraft, the cheaper it will be. Always be wary of aircraft that are being sold at suspiciously low prices and without official maintenance certification.

You may think you’ve spotted a steal, but the maintenance and servicing of your “new” aeroplane may end up costing you more than the actual price you paid for it. It’s important to buy an aeroplane that has been cared for and is in good condition since it will not turn into a hassle later on.



 As we have mentioned already, the initial money you pay for the aeroplane is only the beginning. There are quite a few other costs involved in aeroplane ownership. However, it is important to understand that while this does require you to spend money, the amount can be managed if you are smart about your purchase and about how and when you fly.


Maintenance costs

 One of the biggest investments required when it comes to aeroplanes, apart from the initial purchase, is the maintenance cost. Maintenance is of paramount importance when it comes to maintaining the flight worthiness of an aircraft.

Flight worthiness is whether or not the aeroplane is fit to take to the skies, and a certificate specifying such is a requirement when flying. Flying in an aeroplane that is not deemed flightworthy is illegal and dangerous. You are putting your own life and the lives of others at risk, and you are also risking revocation of your pilot licence.

Remember it's always better to spend money on maintenance than to put yourself and others in harm's way! 


Fuel costs

 Your aeroplane will need fuel to run! Otherwise, you will just have an aeroplane collecting moss in your backyard. It is important to factor in fuel prices when you are buying an aircraft. Jet fuel does not come cheap, and if you are in an area where the cost of fuel is very high, then shared ownership may be better since the price of fuel gets split between the shareholders in such an arrangement.


Aeroclub membership

Aeroclubs are a wonderful way to train, learn, and build social connections as a pilot. They are a major part of the lives of most pilots since it gives them access to a community of like-minded individuals who love flying just as much as they do.

However, these do come with a cost. On the bright side, there are a variety of membership options available depending on your needs and budget, and the pro of having so many facilities at your fingertips beats the con of having to pay a membership fee.

It is also important to understand that most clubs are member-owned, which means the money that is collected as fees is actually invested back into the club and used for the collective benefit of the members.




Yes, owning an aeroplane can be expensive, but it’s a small price to pay for a hobby as thrilling and fulfilling as this! Also, there are many ways that you can cut down on costs without compromising your safety or the safety of others.


Make sure the aeroplane is well-maintained

This is on top of the list for a reason. Think of your aeroplane as a car. Suppose there is a slight gash on the tyre and you choose to ignore it. With time and wear and tear, the gash will widen until the entire tyre becomes virtually useless.

It is important to catch issues in your aeroplane and nip them in the bud. If the damage is allowed to accumulate, you may end up having to pay a hefty sum at the workshop. A smaller issue is always easier and cheaper to fix. Don’t let it turn into a big one that may eat up your savings!


Opt for fractional ownership or rentals

 As mentioned in the previous sections, fractional ownership or renting out an aeroplane as needed can end up saving you quite a bit of money. In private ownership, the responsibility of maintenance, fuel, and upkeep is solely on the individual. In shared ownership, you split the bill to ensure it doesn’t get too much for any one person.

When it comes to rentals, you will only be required to pay for fuel for the amount of time you fly the plane, and you won’t at all be required to invest anything into the maintenance of the aeroplane.


Plan your flight to avoid fuel wastage

 Joyrides are great, but too many of them can seriously impact your wallet. Pick the shortest and most efficient routes to ensure you are not wasting any fuel and are only using what is necessary.

It doesn’t hurt to go the long way every now and then, just make sure you budget yourself accordingly.


Maintain the aircraft’s resale value

The best part about purchasing an aircraft is that, if it is kept in good condition, it can easily be sold forward and you can make a majority of your investment back.

This, however, requires you to maintain the aircraft’s resale value by ensuring that it is not sustaining any lasting damage or extreme wear and tear.


Don’t fly in unsuitable conditions

 This goes without saying, but don’t fly into bad weather! Not only is it dangerous, but it can also severely damage your aircraft. Just like you won’t go off-roading in a city car, don’t go into a storm in a light aircraft.

You don’t want to deal with the servicing costs that will come as a result of the damage that the aircraft sustains during one of these flights.



Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs.

It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country. With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licenses, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

Sherburn also offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month. For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.

The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on owning a small plane.

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash 



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