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Aviation news

I haven’t written much about flying recently, mostly because I hadn’t been flying in over seven months before this weekend. However, I do have a bit of news to report on the aviation front.

Last weekend, I did a day trip to the AOPA Expo in Palm Springs, California. Although I spent a lot more time in the car driving there and back than I did at the expo, I did think it was worth the trip. It was fun to be surrounded by thousands of aviation enthusiasts and learn about products that I didn’t even know existed. Very light jets — small jet planes carrying only a few passengers — are one of the current trends in aviation, and several manufacturers had their prototypes parked outside of the convention center for the public to see. Others had mock-ups displayed inside. It was interesting to see how different manufacturers are implementing the same concepts. It looks like the prices for these aircraft are going to be around a couple million dollars. That may sound like a lot, but when you compare the price and performance to other general aviation aircraft, the economics are there.

Two weekends ago, I bought a share in a flying club. The club owns four aircraft — two at Deer Valley and two at Chandler. I’m very excited about making the transition from being a renter of aircraft to being a part-owner. Two of the aircraft are too complex for me to fly with my limited training, but the other two perform very comparably to what I’d been previously renting. What makes this a great opportunity for me is that it changes the cost of flying dramatically. While I have to share in the monthly overhead of the aircraft — insurance, hangar rent, annual inspections, etc. — the marginal cost of each hour flown is about half what I was paying as a renter. Furthermore, the terms of scheduling aircraft with the other members are much more favorable, making it economical to schedule an aircraft for a three-day weekend, or making it possible to take the aircraft into Mexico if I choose.

Yesterday, I took my first flight in one of the club aircraft, along with an instructor, so that he could sign me off for club and insurance purposes. The aircraft I flew is a Piper Cherokee Archer II, which I had never flown before, so we flew for almost two hours and did about a half-dozen practice landings to get myself familiar with it. Also, since it had been over seven months since I had flown at all, it took me some time just to be comfortable flying again. However, the flight went well overall, and other than a little of my usual apprehension with stalls, I had little trouble with any of the standard practice maneuvers or scenarios. On top of that, it was just a gorgeous afternoon for flying.