Sunday, March 22, 2015

It Takes a Village

I've decided that the notion that I own an airplane is a foolish belief for a few reasons:

1.) A bank still owns more of the Oklahoma Kid than I do.
2.) The airplane will hopefully outlive me, making me a temporary custodian.
3.) It's really impossible to own an airplane without a veritable village of people helping you out.

As for #1, well, that will eventually change.  Regarding #2, if I don't screw up too badly, that will come true in time as well.  #3 is one of those eternal truths that's just not going anywhere.

In fact, I wouldn't own the Oklahoma Kid without a laundry list of good (and bad?) influences prodding me along.  The Kid was found by a friend I had spoken with a few months earlier, asking him to keep an ear to the ground for any Cubs coming up for sale.  A significant amount of research was done in advance with several folks reminding me to ask certain questions, look for specific things in the logbooks, and to poke at certain areas during the prebuy inspection. 

The technical assistance was one matter.  Whether foolish or not, I felt pretty solid in evaluating the airplane (with the requisite surprises) on the technical front.  The mental side of purchasing an airplane is a WHOLE different matter.  You see, there is really no good time in life to buy an airplane.  That would be akin to saying that there is a good time to light a stack of cash on fire just for grins and giggles.  I suppose there are less bad times to do that, but, the fact of the matter is, you can talk yourself out of buying an airplane forever and ever until you're looking back on life wondering what the hell just happened to the last umpteen years. 

The mental gymnastics are far more complex than the technical issues.  Technical issues have a way out, a starting and stopping point.  The decision to buy an airplane can be far more taxing.  I consider myself a relatively responsible person in regards to my finances.  I started a retirement account in college and increase my contributions to my 401(k) when possible.  I overpay on my student loans and am set to pay another of my loans off in full in the next month or so.  The notion of adding a few hundred dollars a month to own an airplane was difficult to swallow.  That money could mean a nicer car, or bigger student loan payments, or a bigger retirement contribution, or some seriously nice pairs of shoes. 

This is where friends come in--the kind that can look at you and call "Bullshit" when you start offering up reasons that could be considered excuses.  In fact, I called a trusted friend and started off with small talk about the airplane, kind of beating around the bush.  Then I piped up and said, "I'm running out of reasons to talk myself out of buying this thing, but I still don't know . . . it's a lot of money."  His response?  "You put more planning into things than anyone I know.  You can talk yourself out of anything. There's never anything practical about buying an airplane, and you're just making up excuses now. Go buy the damn thing!"

So I bought an airplane. 

The follow-on to this, of course, is that the village is just as necessary AFTER you bring your new family member home.  There's a lot of "What was that?" and "Is that normal?" in the first weeks and months of owning a new airplane.  It's what I refer to as the "dating stage" of aircraft ownership, where you're both still getting to know each other.  Just like a new relationship, the euphoria of your airplane purchase soon fades into the reality of caring for a mechanical creature.  While you're find out all of your airplane's quirks and creaks, you call a fair amount of people to make sure it's normal.  When it's not, you need that village even more.

The Kid hasn't been awful in any regard, but she's tossed me a few curve balls--even in areas I knew we had to address.  It's part of the game.  Fundamentally, you can pay now or pay later.  I chose to pay later and buy an airplane that will require both a certain and uncertain amount of work in the coming years.  For me, this allowed me to afford an airplane I otherwise couldn't have.  There were no PA-11s in my price range, let alone ones that came with floats, skis, and a spare prop.  

Now, as I approach the first annual under my ownership, I called upon my village of friends and aviation family members to find a trusted person to take care of the Kid.  With almost a year of ownership, it's a neat time to reflect on all of the people that made it possible.  

You know who you are--and thank you.


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