Aircraft Ownership: Good Times

The results from the 2005 California aerobatic season are in. I finished 3rd in the California points series, and probably also finished 3rd in the southwest regional points series. Not bad.

Looking toward next season, however, I realize that a) it’s time to move up to a higher category, and b) I can’t do it in the Super Decathlon. It just doesn’t have the power to compete in Intermediate, and it doesn’t respond well to snap rolls despite the fact that they are an “approved” maneuver for that airframe.

My options are few. Either rent the Pitts S-2B (at $250+ per hour) or the Extra 300 (at well over $300 per hour), or I buy something. I’ve been considering a Pitts S-1S, a single seat rocket ship that can be had for less than $30,000. An S-1S would be enough airplane to take me through Advanced. Of course, journeying back into aircraft ownership entails other complications. Hangar, insurance, tax, and maintenance. Ah, the maintenance…

Another possibility is co-ownership, though that gets complicated. Many people I’ve spoken to said they’d never go that route again. You know, there’s something to be said for NOT owning an aircraft.

Then again, ownership does have its privileges. This was forwarded to me by fellow pilot who suggested it be filed in the “kids say the darndest things” category.

I have read many posts on the web site from members and on MMAIL who are thinking about owning their own aircraft and looking for ways to offset the cost of ownership. I have heard many reasons for and against ownership. Why buy an aircraft? It’s cheaper to rent and you do not have all the hassle with maintenance, fuel and insurance. Well, here is a little story that I think explains it all as to why I own my own airplane.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. No winds and the temperature was just right. So instead of mowing the lawn like my wife had planned for me, I decided to go to the airport and take the Sport out for a run. She yells back at me, “WELL IF YOU GO, TAKE YOUR SON WITH YOU.” So I ask my son. “Want to go flying with Dad?” To which he says “Yea. Can I take my light saber?”

You see, my 9 year son thinks he is a Jedi Knight and that our Sport is his personal X-Wing fighter. He is only 4′ 5” and has to sit on a pillow in order to see over the glare shield and he always carries his light saber just in case we land on a strange planet in which there might be trouble or civil unrest. Always prepared this one is. So away we go.


We were straight and level at around 6,000ft and I let him take the controls of the X-Wing to do some turns to the left and right. Joshua Approach called and said there was traffic at our 2’oclock 2 miles opposite direction and my son said to me “Look over there dad, Tie fighter coming right at us”. I told him to steer clear of the Tie Fighter because our lasers were out for repair and we were un-armed. No reason to provoke a fight.

So even though he is having a blast, I am starting to get a little bored and thought, “Let’s go do a practice approach on the ILS”. So I called Joshua Approach, requested the ILS 25 Approach to Palmdale Full Approach and off we went. I maneuvered the X-Wing to the VOR and started the turn outbound to the outer marker. Now my son is just really enjoying this. At the outer marker, the blue light started to flash and you could hear the BEEP in the headset. My Son jumps in and said “That Tie Fighter has locked on to us!” I said “That’s Right” and I started my ‘evasive maneuver’ on the procedure turn.

My Son is listening to the exchange between me and the controller and wants to chime in on the conversion. I said to my son, “Just hang on; I will give you a chance”. I never should have said that because now he is all excited to talk on the radio. As I start to turn inbound on the turn, the Approach control said “Contact tower when established on the localizer”. So I told my young Padawan Learner “OK, when this needle gets here on the dial, push the radio button and tell the tower that 93 Romeo is inbound on the localizer”.

Now imagine this, I am giving basic instrument instruction to a 9 year old, I cannot get adults to say this during training. So before I can give him something simpler to say he keys the mike and says “REBEL BASE, THIS IS RED 5. WE ARE STARTING OUR ATTACK RUN ON THE DEATH STAR”.

Good God.

Now this is post-9/11 and before I can key my mike and say anything, the tower jumps on and says “RED 5, YOUR CLEARED FOR THE APPROACH TO THE DEATH STAR. REPORT HITS AWAY”

Now I am waiting for the tower to add “And tell your dad to call this number.” But I hear nothing else. So we continue the approach. Now my son is in heaven. This is real life stuff to him and he is doing everything I tell him to do as far as tracking the needle. As we approach the outer marker inbound, the light starts to flash and there is that tone again. “Dad, the Death Star has a lock on us!” “Yes Son, you keep on the approach, I will worry about the guns.”

Everything is going great and now we are approaching the middle marker. My son has noticed the GPS has a red line with an airplane on it and it ends at the Death Star. So he asks me “IS THAT A TARGETING COMPUTER DAD?” Well of course it is, and it shows us where we are to the target. So now he hears Obewan tell him to USE THE FORCE, SCOTT and he turns the GPS OFF, tells me he is OK and does not need the targeting computer because he is using the FORCE.

Now the middle marker light flashes and the tone comes on. I apply full power and the airplane… X-Wing… starts a climb. I start the turn to the missed approach path when my son keys the mike and says “HITS AWAY”. The tower answers back with “GOOD JOB RED 5, CONTACT REBEL APPROACH ON 126.1”

We go back to Mojave SPACEPORT, and I decide that the X-Wing needs a bath. So out comes all the cleaning stuff and we spend the rest of the day washing and waxing the turbo jets and laser pods.

So you see. This is why I own my own aircraft. You cannot beat this kind of quality time with your kids. And there is no way you can put a price on that.

Light saber: $20
20 gallons of avgas: $65
Blowing up the Death Star: priceless

  5 comments for “Aircraft Ownership: Good Times

  1. December 1, 2005 at 5:18 am

    Great story, I always needed the perfect excuse to convince my wife of the need to own an airplane, now I have it! 🙂

  2. Jon
    December 6, 2005 at 9:47 am

    That’s a great story!

  3. Jason "Q"
    December 8, 2005 at 4:00 pm

    Ron… great story! Big up to the man in the tower on that one. And congrats on the results from the aerobatic season! That’s awesome – proud of my friend!

  4. Tim
    December 30, 2005 at 4:05 pm

    You can view the original post at the Beech Aero Club website.

  5. January 10, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    I laughed so hard that I printed it and hung it on the bulletin board at work.

    The consensus at Toledo Tower was that we all would love to have the opportunity to reply to a transmission like that on the frequency.

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