I Spent How Much? Oh… OK…

3
You go through a lot of little tires when the airplane takes five at a time!

I just placed an order with our favorite major aircraft parts vendor for some tires. Small, little tires. A couple of tailwheel pneumatic tires for our bush plane, and a set of tires for the little jet. Yeah, the jet takes five tires – but they are tiny – the kind used on electric wheel-chairs and mobility devices. So two tail wheel tires (one for now, one as a spare), and five tires for the jet – came to a total of a little over $300! Wow, I think to my old brain… that’s a lot of money all at once to spend on tires – and I didn’t even buy any normal-sized mains! I mean, I am the kind of guy who was brought up trying to decide if I should buy the big burger or the small one based on price. I was recently thinking about upgrading a TV, and agonizing over the difference between last year’s closeout model and the latest model with an $80 price difference. And then I nonchalantly spend over $300 bucks on tires!

But really, in aviation, everything is relative. I flew one of the airplanes over to the closest neighboring field (we don’t have gas at our airpark) for fuel yesterday—25.8 gallons for $99.33. That’s a couple of days of just playing around locally. Now Jet A—that’s a bargain right now: $2.75/gallon. But I drive over to the big airport to fill up at the self serve with ten fuel jugs and spend $151.25 – and that is gone in about three flights. Fuel costs are just like morning coffee—ou don’t account for it, you just spend it. Insurance? Let’s not talk about insurance rates right now. At least I get a “fleet” policy because my wife and I can fly (at most) only two planes at a time.

I guess the real problem is that I am old enough to remember when a candy bar was a nickel, and a McDonald’s hamburger was 19 cents – so my perception of what things costs is a little warped. Remember the ten-cent cup of coffee? You’re lucky to get out of Starbucks with the major portion of a ten dollar bill these days.

So yeah, $300 for an assortment of “incidental” tires seems like a wild number, but taken in context with what we routinely spend in daily aviation operations, it’s just another expense. I used to live in a waterfront house with an assortment of watercraft tied up at my dock. The neighbors, similarly equipped with floating money pits, always complained at how expensive “boat stuff” was when they compared it to household materials at the local big box store. I liked to point out that they were looking at the problem from the wrong direction—sure, going from a box of sheetrock screws to boat parts seemed extravagant. What they needed to do was first own an airplane and then anything they ever did for their boat would seem like a bargain!

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I agree the memory of 19 cent burgers, nickel candy bars and 10 cent coffee make current prices seem unreal. In 1967 a set of 6.50-13 Goodyear 2 plys for my Corvair ran just under $25 ea., retail. My gen 5 Camaro had a new set of P zero Pirellis installed last June; $250 ea. So the cost factor of ten comes into play except those P zeros are high speed tires able to run well in excess of anything the old Goodyear would do. On the other hand a set of Desslers for the 1941 Aeronca Chief will definitely put a dent in the wallet.
    The takeaway? We fly to enjoy and know there is no free lunch.

  2. I’m almost 60. Yep, same page. I rarely drink. Don’t do sports. Live within my means… really. Therefore I don’t begrudge myself my airplane. It’s all relative… priorities decided.

  3. Imagine buying Bushwheels, 10 times that amount for each tire! I learned the hard way about the expense of aircraft parts. Back in 2001 I bought a 1963 Cessna 150C. For the next 9 years I wasn’t able to build up any savings or pursue any other activities. Finally facing yet another annual over $10,000 I sold it for a song to an A&P student who’s dad was also and A&P. Anymore I tell people that the price of certified aircraft is just the down payment. Now I fly a Challenger II, which costs pennies to own by comparison.

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