Letters From Readers: March 2018

Cessna 414 Flying Club

stew koesten ramp

I read the Cessna 414 report in the February 2018 Aviation Consumer Used Aircraft Guide section with interest. My aircraft partner and I have owned three airplanes, including our current 1977 Cessna 414, through our nonprofit S Corporation. It is set up as a flying club, allowing for as many as five members, although we’ve never had more than three. There are three primary elements that affect our shared ownership arrangement.

First, we divide responsibilities. My partner Richard takes care of coordinating maintenance and avionics work and I take care of managing the finances for the club. We try to keep the Cessna 414 maintained as well as we can during the year, addressing squawks as they occur. We find that keeps our expense for the annual inspection fairly low, but at the cost of more regular repairs during the year. Also, we upgrade our cockpit technology from time to time, which generally means an extra contribution to the reserve pool. Richard regularly updates our Garmin systems and other avionics.

Each member contributes a fixed monthly payment to include a share of the hangar costs ($550 a month), annual insurance premiums ($4700), an estimate for the annual inspections and other maintenance ($12,500) and annual avionics update expenses ($1500). We each pay for our own fuel and oil as we go and we contribute $100 an hour for engine repairs and overhauls.

We are both aware that when it comes time to rebuild or replace the engines, we will be making a one-time assessment for that purpose. Our monthly contribution for engine reserves gets used up regularly for maintenance expenses not covered by other contributions, or for a piece of technology we’ve decided to upgrade to. The ADS-B requirement and Garmin GDL we installed did the trick this past year. All in, we estimate our hourly cost for the aircraft based on 150 hours of annual use is between $500 and $550 per hour.

We use a shared Google calendar to schedule the aircraft and we’ve been fortunate that our schedules rarely conflict and when they do, we work it out. That usually involves the other partner driving to a nearby destination or renting a single-engine aircraft for a longer trip. The Google calendar works well for our needs and I can’t recall an argument about who gets to use the aircraft. We have talked about adding a third owner. I believe we eventually will add a member in order to lower individual fixed costs and to prepare for one or another of us aging out. Both of these are good reasons to consider adding another pilot, but there will be a utility cost. That is, a third pilot will complicate scheduling and potentially affect the present culture of our arrangement. We will be careful to find a member/pilot with the right fit—not an easy task.

The key to making this work is solid communication. We talk about repairs, the service we receive from our mechanic and FBOs—you name it, we’ve talked about it. We have monthly business meetings and fly together for fun and training. Richard and I both use the aircraft for family, fun and business but we still go through periods when we just can’t fly enough. During these periods I typically will work with my flight instructor to train and stay current. We arrange for our annual recurrent training to be done together. During inactive periods Richard and I swap our time as safety pilots once or twice a month. On occasion, we’ll even act as each other’s second-in-command on long trips when there is a quick turnaround.

Our 414 meets nearly 80 percent of our mission needs and we marvel at what a terrific airplane it is. We’ve considered a Cessna 421, but in our opinion the added gross weight, speed, service ceiling and range don’t justify the expense. We’ve also considered a used turboprop, but the dollar numbers don’t make sense to us. For now we are pleased as punch with our 414 and ownership arrangement.

Stewart S. Koesten
via email

Skybeacon ADS-B

I found the article on budget-based ADS-B (February 2018 Aviation Consumer) extremely resourceful. These articles are why I’m a lifetime subscriber. What wasn’t clear, however, is when uAvionix will earn FAA certification so I can install the system in my humble little Piper Cherokee. Is this system a dream or will it ever be a reality?

Also, I thought I read in one of your articles you were going to review aircraft wash and wax products. Did I miss it?

Stan Woodruff
Greenville, South Carolina

We asked uAvionix for an update on certification and were told that spring 2018 is still the target time frame.

You didn’t miss our wash and wax product coverage—the lengthy evaluation is in progress. In the interim, if there’s a particular product our readers like, we want to hear about them.