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!