Flying, it's a rich man's hobby

"Yeah, I have an airplane," said no poor man, ever.

It's a sad fact of life that flying is just simply a rich man's hobby. As if learning to fly wasn't expensive enough, actually doing what you set out wanting to do in any decent amount will cost a person a fairly indecent amount of cash. Even when people pursue aviation professionally and start making the fabled salaries of major airline pilots, they're often still paying off the tens of thousands of debt that it took to get there. Indeed, flying is a rich man's hobby, no two ways about it.

I may be in the 1% by global standards, but that hardly means I don't feel as though the money I set aside to care for and feed my Citabria is the slightest bit lavish. Really, it is, and my other 1%-by-global-standards friends confirm this when the see my Insta feed of me putzing around in a little airplane and express a little bit of wonder as to how I manage it.

And it's not like it was ever any different. The Cessna 195 (Sport Aviation, December 2017, pg 76) originally cost $12,750 in 1947, or ten times the cost of new car. These days that same money would get you a barely-touched Cirrus SR20. And nobody can afford that, unless you have $60,000 sitting around for a down payment and $3,500 extra per month, even more if you actually want to fly it. And even though the 195 may have been the 1940's equivalent of the Cirrus, even the ubiquitous 172 was six times the cost of a new car in 1955 at its roll-out. That same ratio gets you a nice Sling 4. Still, that is a huge outlay of cash and a sizable out-of-pocket expense for the ordinary family.

Indeed, flying has always been for those with a little more than just a few pennies to scratch together. That's why the Jet Set was chock full of celebrities, titans of industry, and trust fund babies--they could actually afford it. John Travolta's 707 isn't for John the travel agent, and neither will Harrison Ford's collection of aircraft ever be for the the factory worker at Ford Motors.

Worse, not even those who keep a more modest mount are among the 99%, either. Even a decent Cessna 210 to haul a family of 5-6 is going to set a person back around $2,000 a month to own and operate. That isn't the kind of money that Joe the Plumber is going to sling around for the $500 hamburger. Heck, an old Mooney in decent shape is going to cost at least $1,000 a month if you actually want to take in in the air.

So yes, there is aviation for the rest of us, but it isn't the glamor or glitz of the Learjet-setting, vacation-house-in-Aspen, Penthouse-in-Beverly-Hills types. It isn't even the "lives in the nice part of town" kind of flying. It's usually a scraped-together, build-it-yourself, share-with-ten-other-people kind of flying, and it's not always as glamorous as people think of when you say "yeah, I have a plane."

Or is it?

Next time I'll be a bit more serious about how to say "yeah, I have a plane" with a straight face and how it is actually quite possible for most families in America.


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