Hello to a new friend N168EE
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Diary of an aircraft owner
By Paul Jansen
It took a long time. A really long time. But I am finally a plane owner again.
My new aircraft and my previous one are like chalk and cheese.
The previous plane, a Piper Warrior PA28-161, left the factory in 1989. Like all General Aviation planes of that era, it was metal and analogue.
Her replacement is composite and digital. Made for the video games generation. Built to take advantage of the multitude of advances since Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, and William Piper came out with their models in the 20’s and 30’s.
No six pack of instruments. Instead, there are two large screens showing your flight information and engine performance and many other things. No two-handed control yoke. Instead there is a single side stick. Wider cabin. More comfortable, reclining, seats.
I could go on for a bit about the differences but two which stand out for me are the additional door and safety features.
The lack of a pilot-side door on my 9M-PRJ was a nuisance when boarding, and particularly when I had to hold for take off in the blazing heat of our tropical mid-day. So it is nice to have a plane where entry and exit is a breeze for all and be able to pop open my door a crack and feel the prop wash on my face when I have to wait for take-off clearance. (Actually, since the new plane has an air-conditioner, I won’t need to open the door at all.)
While the single door was something I could live with, the safety features of the new plane can save lives and should be rolled out on more planes, in my opinion.
Among these are a parachute which will bring the whole plane and its passengers safely to Earth if deployed properly, shock-absorbing seats, airbags on the seat belts, devices which will return the plane to straight and level attitude should the crew become disoriented in bad visibility or turbulent weather, and go-around with the touch of a button.
Many of these features are beginning to be found on more recreational General Aviation aircraft, but the plane I purchased, made by Cirrus Aircraft, has them as standard, and this has made the series the top-selling four/five-place aircraft for 12 years in a row.
I have replaced my Piper with a Cirrus SR22. Along with the other bells and whistles, it comes with anti-icing. This means that I can fly longer, faster, higher and in worse weather. On the apron, she’s a head-turner.
All those who have flown with me will be surprised when they see the state-of-the-art Cirrus. They know that I enjoy a challenge. That I’m happy coaxing better performance out of an old steed. That I’m more bush prop pilot than light jet jock. I’m happy eating my $100 burger in a sweaty rustic aerodrome rather than a sleek VIP lounge.
For me, the ideal plane is a vintage Spitfire, not an Eclipse 550 VLJ.
I had long planned to replace the Piper PA28-161 with a tough-as-nails out-of-production Commander 114B.
But I bought the SR22. A plane more associated with the glamorous Angelina Jolie (who owns and flies one) than the crusty chaps I hang out with at the flightline.
You should conclude by now that I’m not your typical prospective Cirrus owner.
So why did I even start looking at them?
Cue Chong Foo. He is a pretty persuasive person. A businessman who is a newly-minted pilot, he approached me after hearing from the grapevine of my intention to replace my Warrior. Over several months, he whittled away at my long list of Reasons Why I Prefer To Be A Single Owner. It’s better to share costs. Two owners will keep the plane in the air more than one. Two wallets can get a newer model than one, expand the range of updates. Friendly co-owners can help each other improve faster by sharing their knowledge and experience. And so on.
I had always enjoyed giving “joyrides” to anyone I met who expressed an interest in flying. The excitement of my passengers was infectious and I would be smiling long after we landed. What if I was missing out on an opportunity to extend this by sharing a plane with someone who had just discovered flying?
I should point out that Mr Chaw is a successful businessman who networks on a global level. You don’t become one if you cannot sway others to your point of view. I was swayed.
I gave up the freedom to grab my keys and head off into the wild blue yonder without consulting anyone. Or to upgrade a part or buy an accessory on a whim.
Freedom was replaced by Scheduling and Negotiation and Consensus. On the other end of the scale was a bigger budget to buy and operate a plane.
But, in the end, it was not the financial arguments that did the job. In fact, I put a lid on the budget even though we could have comfortably set our purchase price much higher. With our more sophisticated aircraft, our equipment will cost more to repair or replace. Our insurance is also higher because of the higher hull value, and so on.
What made me change my mind was not the touted financial benefits of co-sharing a plane, but a curiosity about partnering a particular person.
During our several conversations, Chong Foo and I had talked about life, work, people, responsibilities, tough starts, good breaks, getting and especially giving back, and I had found resonance in the positivity of our values.
I came to the conclusion that I had as much to gain as to give in our partnership.
Our handshake was just a beginning.
It took two painfully long years before we found something both of us were happy with. We went from Commanders to Columbias to early Cirruses and finally agreed on our present buy. The only thing I would not budge on was that it had to be low-winged.
If I had been flying solo, I would have had a plane much sooner. I bought my first aircraft from the Singapore Youth Flying Club, 9V-BOE, within days after seeing it.
Although the wait for N168EE, necessitated by the need for compromise, was extremely difficult for someone like me who loves to fly, the search led us to quite an incredible deal. And an epic ferry flight. More of these in my next episode.
Copyright: Paul Jansen 2016. All rights reserved. Pictures are copyrighted by Paul Jansen. Written permission is required for their use or purchase. Contact Marketing
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