One of my 10 Tips for Frugal Pilots is “Learn from smarter pilots.” No matter what you fly or where, there’s someone nearby who knows more about aviation than you do. Unsolicited advice can be annoying, but finding smart pilots who can teach without lecturing is an opportunity to improve your skills — and lower your flying costs — without having to depend on just your experiences and your pocketbook. As you identify these smart and helpful pilots, cultivate their friendships and save yourself a ton of money. I especially recommended membership in aviation organizations that fit your needs: the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, etc.
Let me expand on that concept and suggest that you seriously consider joining or adding a “type club” to your knowledge base. Typically, for a dues payment of less than an hour of avgas each year you can add the wisdom of hundreds of pilots with common goals and unique prospectives.
First, let’s start with an inventory. Here are the 20 most-popular aircraft models that have been built for the North American general aviation market in the past century, by the (approximate) production numbers:
- Cessna 172 Skyhawk (43,000)
- Piper PA-28 Cherokee (33,000)
- Cessna 150/152 (31,000)
- Cessna 182 Skylane (23,000)
- Piper J-3 Cub (20,000)
- Beechcraft Bonanza (17,000)
- Chotia Weedhopper (13,000)
- Piper Pacer (10,000)
- Aeronca Champion (10,000)
- Cessna 210 Centurion (9,000)
- Piper PA-18 Super Cub (9,000)
- Beechcraft 18 “Twin Beech” (9,000)
- Boeing-Stearman 75 (8,000)
- Cessna 206 (8,000)
- Piper PA-32 (8,000)
- Cessna 120/140 (7,000)
- Piper PA-23 (7,000)
- Cessna 310 (6,000)
- Cessna 180 (6,000)
- Stinson 108 (5,000)
Few surprises here (except for the Chotia Weedhopper, the only ultralight on the list). Cessna is the most popular brand with about 133,000 GA aircraft on this list. Piper follows with about 87,000. And, of course, the list doesn’t include experimental/homebuilt aircraft brands or the light-sport aircraft category that started just a decade ago.
My point is that in addition to membership in the AOPA and/or EAA, frugal pilots should join at least one type club to get specific advice and resources from “smarter pilots.” For example, the Cessna 150/152 Club (cessna150152.com) has approximately 1,000 owner/pilots who fly and maintain these classic trainers. The club forum is active on topics from modifications and STCs to information on their annual fly-in. Members also can access 25+ years of club newsletters on all topics imaginable plus a database of 150/152 aircraft photos by N-number. It also includes travelogues by pilots who have flown in specific regions, cross-country, or to destinations such as Oshkosh or Sun N Fun. Online club dues are just $35 a year ($50 for a postal subscription).
Other GA type clubs work similarly: smart owners and pilots with tons of knowledge (and opinions) share with others. Here are some resources:
- Aeronca Aviators (aeronca.org)
- American Bonanza Society (bonanza.org)
- Beechcraft (beachaeroclub.org)
- Cessna 172 Club (cessna172club.com)
- Cessna Flyer Association (cessnaflyer.org)
- Cessna Owner Organization (cessnaowner.org)
- Cessna Pilots Association (cessna.org)
- International 180-185 Club (skywagons.org)
- International Cessna 195 Club (cessna195.org)
- International Stinson Club (stinsonclub.org)
- Luscombe (luscombeassoc.org)
- Piper Owner Society (piperowner.org)
- Short Wing Piper Club (shortwingpiperclub.org)
- Stearman (stearman.net)
- The Piper Cub Club (cubclub.org)
- The Skylark Association (cessna175.org)
- Van’s Aircraft Club (vansairforce.net)
- Vintage Piper Aircraft Club (vintagepiper.com)
- Weedhopper (ulav8r.com)
And the list goes on. There are aviation clubs and online forums for canard aircraft builders (canardzone.com), vintage ultralights and light planes (vula.org), Zenith builders and flyers (zenith.aero), plus the Vintage Aircraft Association (eaavintage.org) and Warbirds of America (warbirds-eaa.org), both divisions of the EAA.
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If you can’t find an aviation type club or interest club to fit your wings, you’re just not trying hard enough. There are dozens. And if you still can’t find one, start one. Chances are there are others out there who are smart pilots looking for friendly skies. You can start with an online search at http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/, entering a make and model number for results by state, then by owner. For example, there are nearly 1,000 Beech Model 19 or 23 (Musketeers) in the FAA Registry. Make sure you search for the manufacturer’s model number (19 or 23) rather than the marketing name (Musketeer).