How Important is Your First Airplane?

After passing your first 100 hours of flying within a year, you might want to ask this question to yourself: Am I ready for my first plane

Aside from passing 100 hours of flying, another rule of thumb when buying your first plane is that you must be prepared for the responsibilities that come with it, such as regular training and certifications, inspection and maintenance of the aircraft, and above all, financial obligations that include repairs, fuel cost, insurance, storage fees, to name a few. 


Private Pilot Planes and Trainers 

George C. Larson, former editor of Air & Space and licensed commercial pilot, has shared his first flight as a student pilot with Cessna 150 as his trainer. This single-engine was the most popular all-around entry airplane in the seventies because of its design suited for training and light travel.

While Cessna 150s are no longer in production, you can still find their upgraded versions in the used market, typically selling between $25,000 and $30,000. This price tag already comes with upgraded horsepower engines, new radios, and paint jobs. 

(Note: Cessna built around 22,000 150s, according to AOPA’s official value guide Vref.)

The Cessna 150, a two-seat tricycle gear light aircraft, remains popular today among first-time owners and hobbyists because of its relatively low wing loading, allowing it to glide more gently compared to trainers with higher wing loading. However, its light airframe comes with a downside: A bit of a bumpy ride if there are gusts of wind. 

Another popular light aircraft for first-time buyers is the Cessna 172, with the 1998 model arguably the top pick among private pilot planes owners and hobbyists even though it remains in production today after it was first introduced in 1956. 

For student pilots, the Cessna 172 provides a notable advantage: Its wings sit high above the cockpit, and so it gives them a better view of the ground during landing. 

Both the Cessna 150s and 172 are popular for flight training, personal use, and short trips. 


Light Aircraft for the Middle Class 

When people hear private planes, the first thing that comes to mind is the elite class, particularly the celebrities and business moguls who want to avoid the crowded airport. However, you might be surprised to learn that in the fifties and sixties, the most popular US light aircraft makers, Cessna, Beech, and Piper, were targeting middle-class consumers who wished to become pilots. 

Today, owning a light aircraft is not exclusively for the ultra-rich, although if you’re middle class it might be safe to surmise that it is an expensive hobby–but not out of reach as many people would assume. In a Quora post, aviation enthusiast Keith White has shared his story on how he was able to buy his first light aircraft even though at the time of his purchase, he was “at the very low end of being middle class.”

White said that around 25 years ago, he took flying lessons at least once a month and paid for it out of pocket. He was also able to save up to buy his first light aircraft, a Piper Warrior 161, which he booked for private hire. 

Another student pilot and school teacher, Ronnie Godfrey, wants to dispel the common misconception that flying and owning a plane is “something only for the rich.” In a Quora post, he said that “all hobbies are expensive, and flying is no different.”

Godfrey and his wife, who is also a school teacher, live below their means which allows them to fly as a hobby. Meanwhile, he said they are “looking at the possibility” of owning their private aircraft “in the near future because their goals will be cheaper if they have their own plane” than just renting it. 


The Importance of Having Your First Aircraft 

Single-engine planes typically cost between $15,000 and $100,000, while multi-engine aircraft starts at around $75,000.

If you look at the price of most light aircraft, you’d realize that it’s like owning an above-average vehicle (not even a “bona fide” fancy car). Nonetheless, it is understandable if you have some doubts–after all, most consumers know what it entails to be a car owner, but owning an airplane is a bit of a niche. 

Despite the challenges and responsibilities that come with owning a private plane, aviation hobbyists and pilots who have their own small aircraft feel that all is worth it as it represents freedom, recreation opportunities, and convenience.