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I'm interested in possibly owning a small aircraft sometime in the future. In the interest of finding out how much money it would cost, I recently called a local FBO and asked about a hangar rental. I was told that it starts out at over $300 per month and that there is an 18 month long waiting list to get one! I am talking about an older used piston engine plane, not a private jet.

I'm quite aware of the fact that it is money, rather than aerodynamics that keep a plane in the air, and I'm getting the impression that it takes a lot of money to keep a plane on the ground, too.

The only other thing I know of is to tie it down, which I was told costs $150 per month at this same FBO. The issue I have with that is concern about the weather. I live at high elevation; the summer sun is very intense, thunderstorms and hail and common in the summertime and winter brings plenty of snow; sometimes up to two feet at a time. Temperatures fluctuate from about 0 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was wondering if there are ways to effectively protect an aircraft from the elements while it is tied down, or if there may be some more cost-effective storage solution than a rented hangar.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you already gotten the license to fly that plane? Maybe your instructor can give some advice that suits your local condition. $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Jul 26 '16 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ No, this question is to help me make appropriate plans for when the time comes in the future. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Allen Langdon Jul 26 '16 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, planning in advance helps you getting prepared. I still suggest you to learn flying, see if you really like it before spending money. Also if you edit into the question the airport you plan to operate from will help make the question more specific. $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Jul 26 '16 at 6:52
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    $\begingroup$ @vasin1987 There's nothing in the question that even remotely suggests that Daniel is going to go out and buy a plane and rent hangar space before he's even learnt to fly. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Jul 26 '16 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ take the wings off? It's less likely to wander off that way $\endgroup$ – Tom H Jul 26 '16 at 19:45
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Location matters. Where are you located? A hangar is not as important in a dry climate like Las Vegas as it is in, say, Miami.

It may make sense to pay more for a hangar. Leaving a plane exposed to the elements you describe (0° - 100°, snow, wind, sun) will do damage over time. The plane won't corrode into a heap but little things will start to require extra attention. Those little things will add up at annual time. It's unavoidable. Having the hangar is another layer of protection that, in my opinion, is well worth the cost. If a hangar is simply unworkable then think about a covered tie down. A covered tie down plus a decent cabin cover can accomplish about 75% of what a hangar offers at half the price. You won't have complete protection from hail, vermin, or thieves but that's not a deal breaker. Just lock the doors and keep the insurance up to date.

Are you considering a simple plane like a 150 (all metal, "affordable"), a tube and fabric plane, or something with more complexity like a Bonanza or Mooney? Maybe a C-150 with rough paint, a worn interior, and old avionics that aren't worth stealing will do just fine outside. If you buy something with good paint and interior (or fabric covering) you'll want to protect it. New P&I costs thousands and thousands of dollars so it's much cheaper to keep a pretty plane pretty than to make an ugly plane pretty. The costs to re-cover a plane in fabric can cost tens of thousands depending on the amount of fabric and complexity of the paint scheme. Other airplane-specific considerations like corrosion on Mooney's steel structure (see Mooney Service Bulletin 208) or a Bonanza's magnesium control surfaces should be factors in your decision as well. Finally, when you go to sell the plane a buyer will likely feel much better about a plane that was hangared than one that was parked outside.

One piece of (unsolicited) advice: draw up a conservative budget assuming that costs will be higher than expected. Budget for a hangar, $1M smooth insurance, and a tough annual during the first year of ownership. Multiply this number by 1.5 at the very least. This is a "bad case" first-year cost (don't worry, it gets better as you settle into ownership). If you can absorb that cost without feeling any pain then you're ready for ownership. If you can't...who cares? Buy the plane anyway!

We can give you a more complete answer if you know the answers to the following questions:

  • where are you based?
  • what kinds of planes are you looking at?
  • what is the current condition of this hypothetical plane?
  • what's your maximum annual ownership budget?
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    $\begingroup$ In the interest of following the site guidelines and not making the question about myself personally, I omitted my exact location, but since you have asked, I live near Denver. The FBO I called is at the "Front Range Airport", a few miles east of Denver International Airport. And just so I said it, I hope that you kidding when you say "Buy it anyway!" $\endgroup$ – Daniel Allen Langdon Jul 26 '16 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ Owning a plane is a lot like owning a boat or any other expensive "toy" that doesn't come without some pain of ownership. Personally I own a 1/9th share in a Cardinal 177, my dues are cheap, the aircraft is cheap, and the hanger is paid for. I'd look into flying clubs before jumping into ownership... @DanielAllenLangdon $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jul 26 '16 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ I know front range. I flew cargo from DIA for a few years. I'm half joking when I say buy it anyway. If you think you can make it work, go for it. You can worry yourself over imaginary scenarios forever but you can only fly your own plane if you buy one. Regarding parking, Front Range open air parking isn't the end of the world but consider Centennial's covered parking option if it's not that much further away from you. An extra 10min drive would be worth having some protection against the elements. Also think about equipping with an engine pre-heater. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Jul 26 '16 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, you mention "covered parking". Is that some sort of option between open air parking and parking in a hangar? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Allen Langdon Jul 26 '16 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. It's an airplane version of a carport. Google "shade hangar" to see examples. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Jul 26 '16 at 15:39
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The way to answer this is to determine whether the convenience and lower maintenance of hangaring your airplane is worth the financial cost of it. \$150 per month is \$1800 per year, would 10 years of being outside cost \$18,000 in damage you'd need to fix? Is having a nice, warm and dry airplane when you want to fly worth the extra cash? It's also much more secure in a hangar, if you have nice expensive instruments and equipment a hangar will help protect them from theft.

High altitudes with lots of snow are hard on airplanes. The high UV wears paintwork fast, damages acrylic windows, and reduces the life of fabric coverings. Extreme cold and snow, plus exposure to moisture will damage wood and fabric much more than metal, but it's still more wear on an all-metal airplane.

Still, \$18000 is a lot of money, and on a metal airplane you could mitigate a lot of outdoor damage with a good cover. I don't see it being financially worth it to hangar an all-metal airplane. Fabric airplanes are expensive to re-cover and replace wood on, so it is probably worth it for one of those. As for the convenience and security factor that's something you will need to determine for yourself.

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Look into whether or not it is possible to rent space in someone else's hangar.

That's what I do. My landlord keeps his own plane in the hangar, but there's enough room for mine as well.

I have personally seen a Decathlon and 2 single seat Pitts in a single standard T-hangar.

Be creative!

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I managed 5 Cessna for a flying club in Texas; where weather could be severe and summer heat intense. We kept the planes outdoors and in 5 years only suffered one incident of hail damage, even survived a passing hurricane. Planes are tough.

One disadvantage to hangering a plane is getting it in/out. If you fly often then waiting to have your aircraft shuffled in/out takes a while each time. But 300 dollars per month is not just the going rate, it's on the cheap side for a hangar.

I agree that a covered (carport) option is close to ideal = fast in/out yet protection from hail and beating sun. If you are flying larger stuff, then obviously money is not a hindrance and a hangar is ideal. But if 300 per month is unattractive, you are obviously new to aviation and will soon not think it's so much. And when you end up divorced because of your airplane, welcome to the club!

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    $\begingroup$ When you say that you only had one incident of hail damage, is that because you only had one hail storm, or because your equipment holds up in spite of hail? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Allen Langdon Jul 27 '16 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ "But if 300 per month is unattractive, you are obviously new to aviation and will soon not think it's so much." Couldn't agree more. There is a tounge in cheek way to refer to money spent on airplanes: Aviation Money Units, or AMUs. 1AMU = $1,000. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Jul 27 '16 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ acpilot, you remind me of what I heard about boat ownership on the radio years ago. If you think that a boat is something that floats on water, you are mistaken. Boat is an acronym; the letters stand for Break Out Another Thousand. But seriously, regardless of how much something costs, one doesn't want to unnecessarily pay too much for something. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Allen Langdon Jul 27 '16 at 22:34
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300 dollars per month is not too bad. Up here in the northeast, west of Boston, it's 500 per month. I'll be tied down outside for just 125.

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you could try a low cost tie down ~$50/month in Northern California for small aircraft storage and use a cover, here is a little more info and pictures of the site

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