Flying is brutally expensive, and if you’re on a mission to build hours, then every little thing can help. Here are five easy things you can do to help you save a buck or two on your next flight.
1. Fly with Another Pilot
If you’ve got pilot friends, you probably already know that you can save money by sharing flying costs. You can divide up expenses and build up a lot of flight time quickly. Plus, it makes flying more fun by sharing the experience with another pilot!
If you’re looking to meet more local pilots to fly with, Pilot2Pilot.com is a fantastic resource if you're looking to save money on your flying costs. As a Pilot2Pilot.com member, you can find other pilots, search their posted planned flights, and send them requests to join them as a second pilot on their flights.
2. Make Every Hobbs Hour Count
Every pilot knows that they’re billed for the aircraft’s Hobbs time, so it only makes sense to do as much as you can before you start the plane. One example is the ATIS. You need to copy that long briefing out on paper, but why not copy it down before you startup? You can switch on the master and the radios and tune in. No fuel burned equals less money spent. If you have a handheld, you can use that for free. Of course, you still need to make sure that it hasn’t been updated right before you call the controller, but if you’ve already copied it, that should go much quicker.
This ethos can be applied to many facets of flying. Never do something for the first time in the air. Know your radios, GPSs, cockpit, and checklists by heart before you go up. The more you study on the ground, the faster you can accomplish it in the air. Don’t rush yourself, but don’t dally either.
3. Join a Club or Start One
Flight clubs offer discounted plane rental fees to their members. There are clubs all over the country, and they’re a great way to get a better deal on flying. Club planes are usually rented at a dry rate, so you’re responsible for fuel on top of the rental fee. If there’s no club in your area, look into starting one. If there’s interest, a club is a great way to help you pay for your flying in whatever type of plane you want.
4. Get the Best Price on a Plane
There’s no reason not to shop around for the best rates on a plane rental. If you have multiple FBOs in the area, look at the fine print and check out the planes. Is one more expensive, but with no real benefit? Can you find an older plane to rent for less money? Do you need to be flying a G-1000 glass cockpit to build your hours if flying stem gauges can save you $20 per hour or more? For that matter, is there any reason you need to time build in a four-seater?
Be on the lookout for schools or FBOs where you can negotiate a block rate. Block rates are purchased in advance, and you deduct off the hours you’ve already paid for every trip. You can save significant money doing it this way, and FBOs love it because it locks you in as a customer for a while.
In some areas, it might be cheaper to find a dry rate on aircraft rental. This rate means you are responsible for filling it up at the end of the flight, just like you do with car rentals. It’s a great option if there’s someplace you can get fuel at a lower price, like a nearby self-serve pump or a not-too-distant airport.
It’s also not out of the question to purchase your own aircraft. Older Cessnas and Pipers can be had for around $30,000. They won’t be state-of-the-art, but they can easily be kept airworthy. Remember, you’ll sell it when you’re done, so the question is figuring out your hourly rate for flying the plane is. It takes a lot of research to nail down, and you need to know your maintenance, insurance, and tie-down costs.
5. Fly Every Chance you Get
The more you fly, the more you can save. But more importantly, the more opportunities will come your way so that you can find cheaper ways to fly. Being an airport bum is underrated—it’s a great way to meet like-minded people, and you’ll be amazed at the doors that open before you.
Acting as a safety pilot is a great way to get in the air. There are two types of safety pilot. One is the pilot that is legally required for another pilot to work under simulated instrument conditions. Instrument pilots need safety pilots to help them keep their currency. You need to be rated in the plane.
But many pilots simply don’t like flying alone. This is especially true of pilots flying with their families, who maybe want to have another pilot on board so they can disconnect for a few minutes and talk to their passengers. This sort of safety pilot isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s excellent for the pilot to divide the workload, and it’s an invaluable way for young pilots to get some new experience.
You can also backseat during training flights. Some flight schools allow you to observe other student’s flights. If you’re friends with other students, you might get invited along. Just make sure it’s okay with the instructor, as some flight lessons are not conducive to it. You’d be amazed at how much you can learn by doing this. Pilot2Pilot.com also offers a low-cost membership option for non-pilot flight observers who want to meet local pilots who would be happy to let them tag along when they go flying