The retail price of avgas continues to climb with fewer refineries supplying it. Aircraft parts, never cheap, increase in cost each year as new-old stock dwindles. Smaller airports close and larger airports raise hangar rents. Fewer private pilots are flying today than ten years ago, reducing economy of scale. Flying is getting too dang expensive.
However, flying remains an unrivaled pastime. Flying literally offers a third dimension over two-dimensional recreation such as boating, motorcycling, and RVing.
Flying also offers opportunities for multi-purposing: combine a business trip and vacation, practice slow dutch rolls on a long flight, use a pleasure trip to practice for an upcoming flight review. Flying challenges and rewards. Frugal pilots discover new ways to reduce the costs and increase the joy of flying. One of the ways is by combining flight goals. Here are some suggestions.
Flying for Pleasure
Many pilots fly because it is not related to what they do during the weekday. Pilots I know work in lumber mills, operate a pharmacy, run a back-hoe business, engineer a train, publish newspapers, work in city government, and are retired civil servants. For some, flying is their release from the stresses of their day job. For others, flying is a controlled adrenalin boost.
Most private pilots fly primarily for fun. We seek the best hundred-dollar hamburger, attend fly-ins, fly to vacations, and inspect clouds. But we sometimes get into a rut, flying to the same airport grease-shack each Saturday or flying the same loop to the same airports once a fortnight.
Frugal pilots discover new ways to fly for pleasure. They offer a ride to anyone who will buy them lunch and maybe chip in for fuel. They take their boss up for a flight to improve work relationships. They take friends to a fly-in for the cost of fuel. They repay social debts by offering airplane rides. Frugal pilots find ways of covering flying expenses and increasing the fun.
Adding Business to Flying
Many pleasure pilots find business reasons to help pay for their flying. They buy and sell aviation parts or related products on Barnstormers or eBay or at fly-ins. They use their private aircraft to attend professional conferences. They fly people or packages that their employers need urgently delivered. The IRS allows fuel and other aviation costs as legitimate expenses for people who have established a for-profit business, no matter how small. Of course, pilots flying for business must obey FAA requirements regarding a commercial pilot license.
Flying for Training
To remain proficient, pilots need on-going training and experience. Frugal pilots don’t have to stop what they’re doing to perform training. They can multitask and improve flight proficiency while flying for other reasons. If flying for pleasure with an experienced pilot, they can practice unusual attitude recovery. Flying with a more experienced pilot offers an opportunity to learn advanced techniques from another aviator. Flying for whatever reason offers opportunities to practice takeoffs and landings you typically don’t do: simulated short field and soft field. You also can take a few minutes at your destination airport to practice a few landings.
Flying for business or pleasure also offers you time to review and practice safety procedures. Pull out your Emergency Checklist and review what to do if there is an engine fire on the ground or in flight, a cockpit fire, an engine loss on takeoff, engine loss during flight, a rough-running engine, high oil temperature, or other potential in-flight problems. Go through the motions, checking instruments and identifying the steps needed to resolve the emergency. There may be a day soon that you will be tested. Meantime, you will be building confidence in yourself and your aircraft.
Another procedure to practice from time to time is the emergency descent. As you are nearing a familiar airport, perform a forward slip of your aircraft to descend at 1000 fpm or more. Caution: Don’t try this with passengers without letting them know first and making sure that they will be comfortable. Call the practice off immediately if any passenger is uncomfortable.
There are many ways that a frugal pilot can expand aviation horizons while reducing flying costs. Frugal pilots know that multitasking their flying is a practical way to get more fun for less money. That’s what frugal flying is all about!