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I was wondering about how often can one fly a privately owned plane? Is it somehow like owning a car where you just light up the ignition and just drive away? Obviously, there are a lot of regulations and rules... but say I have my plane parked in a hangar in a nearby airport. Can I just drive up to that airport and take my plane for a spin anytime I want (after coordinating with the control tower)?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you may read about class G airspace. Otherwise, at least for ultra light in Europe, you can see the hangar as a shared private parkiing attached to a club (with its own rules) $\endgroup$ – Manu H Feb 24 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ "Whenever your wallet allows"... which when you own a small aircraft is much less often than you may think. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 24 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! See the information in this question about part 91 flights too; private flights are usually operated under part 91 regulations. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Feb 24 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ @boodo17, Are you just asking hypothetically, or do you actually own a plane? $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Feb 24 at 18:57
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Depending on what country you live in, yes, but it will cost you.

It's probably the cheapest to fly an airplane you own in the United States. Here, the answer is yes, with very little restriction, you can just drive out to the airport and fly an aircraft within the National Airspace System. You just must abide by the legal and medical requirements for you, and the legal and operational limitations of the aircraft. Most airports throughout the country are uncontrolled, so you may have limited, if any, interactions with ATC. The ability to fly pretty much anywhere you like with very few restrictions is what makes GA so appealing in the United States.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why is it the cheapest to fly in the US? Nothing prevents the owner of a private plane living, for instance, somewhere in Europe to do exactly the same $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Feb 27 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard Fuel/Landing fees/ATC fees are cheaper/non-existent in the US for most GA. Fuel is generally cheaper in the US, most airports don't charge landing fees for GA aircraft, and ATC is a service that isn't charged for here. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Feb 27 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer Apart from fuel potentially being cheaper, those other points you mention also apply in Europe. $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Feb 29 at 7:34
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This varies heavily by country, and I know some countries have almost no general or private aviation. But in the UK, USA, Australia, most of Europe etc yes owning a plane is almost like owning a car in terms of freedom to use it.

Certainly in the UK, where I'm from, you can take off from a private strip in uncontrolled airspace with no radio and no flight plan. Flying is heavily regulated, but a lot of non-pilots are astonished at how easy it is to fly and how little oversight there is once you have a valid licence and aircraft.

Even using a club aircraft is often less onerous than renting a car.

say I have my plane parked in a hangar in a nearby airport, can I just drive up to that airport and take my plane for a spin anytime I want (after coordinating with the control tower i guess)?

Absolutely - weather and local rules depending, this is exactly how many private pilots operate. At my airport, cooridinating with the tower is as complex as 10 second phone call to tell them you're going flying. Or, you can even do it over the radio though that's discouraged.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm curious why you say that talking to tower over the radio is discouraged. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Feb 24 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Sorry I could have been clearer - we have a "booking out" process, where you let the tower know the information about your flight. Persons on board, destination etc. You can "book out" over the radio, but they prefer you to phone with those details to save some airtime. It's pretty common in the UK at towered fields - there's normally some kind of process or sheet to sign. Some have a dedicated office linked to the tower who will pass over your flight details $\endgroup$ – Dan Feb 25 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Dan That sounds like what in the US would be called “filing a VFR flight plan”. It’s not required and the only time I file one is if I am flying into a Presidential Temporary Flight Restriction. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Feb 27 at 21:13
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In the US, you can pretty much legally fly your private plane whenever you want, as long as the ceiling and visibility are compatible with flight under Visual Flight Rules. If you have an instrument rating, then you have even more freedom, but you have to follow certain procedures in order to exercise that freedom.

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Carlo Felicione is exactly right. His answer is spot on. In the US, you can fly at any time, day or night, as often as you would like. Every day if you want. Just as long as both you and your aircraft meet the minimum legal requirements to fly.

An easy memory aid to remember the legal requirements is:

Pilot

  1. Must be in possession of proper license, medical certificate, and ID.
  2. Must also be current on the operation of the aircraft.
  3. Illness - free from any affecting flight.
  4. Medication - restricted
  5. Stress - Be mentally fit to fly.
  6. Alcohol - Effectively, none allowed
  7. Fatigue - free from any affecting flight.
  8. Emotion (hard to legally quantify)

Aircraft

  1. Documents - E. A.R.R.O.W. C.C.C.
  2. Inspections - A.V.1.A.T.E.S., Preflight
  3. Maintenance - ADs, 337, MELs, KOELs, TSDS Life Limited Parts
  4. Equipment - Primarily 14 CFR Part 91.205

enVironment

  1. NOTAMs (for TFRs, NavAid outages, construction, etc)
  2. Weather at departure, enroute, destination, and alternates
  3. Known ATC delays
  4. Runway lengths of intended airports of use
  5. Alternatives to your plan (alternate airports or transport)
  6. Fuel requirements of flight
  7. Takeoff and Landing performance calculations

Extenuating Circumstances

  1. Flight conditions must be within your Personal Minimums.

There are so many airports without control towers that you would not need to coordinate with anyone. An airport with an operating control tower would control their respective airspace. But, working with them is relatively easy. Typically, you only need to notify them of your intent to fly once you have started your aircraft engine and are ready to taxi. They will then give you clearance instructions. If you intend to fly IFR, you will need to file a flight plan at least 30 minutes ahead of time. If you intend to fly VFR, no flight plan is necessary. Although, one is highly recommended.

Just like driving a car, you are free to fly an aircraft whenever, wherever (taking into consideration airspace, restrictions, and safety of flight) and however often you like. Unlike a car, there is a lot more planning and prep work that is required to go into each outing. And, there are a lot more and a lot stricter rules of the sky than there are rules of the road. You can’t legally just jump in your airplane and go for a spin. At least here in the US, that is.

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  • $\begingroup$ "You can’t legally just jump in your airplane and go for a spin. At least here in the US, that is." Yes you can. I fly out of a non-towered airport, under Class B/C airspace, I can go to the airport, prep the plane, fire up & go. Don't have to talk to anyone, but announcing intentions and listening for other is always a good idea (like stopping for STOP signs on the road before pulling out). Keeping the plane airworthy and documents up to date is similar to a car, keep those current and just go. If you know the plane and the area, a briefing is usually a good idea, can be online, or a call. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Feb 24 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @CrossRoads - I doubt most pilots would check the weather each time they jumped in their car for a fifteen minute drive to their local Wal-mart. Neither would they do a full pre-drive inspection. And, I certainly don’t calculate my expected fuel burn regardless of how far I am going to drive. Although, keeping track of your documents and inspections should be a no-brainer and done over time. Some things like NWKRAFT are mandatory for each and every flight, required in part by Part 91.103. Other things may not be mandatory. But, thorough flight planning is never a bad idea. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Feb 24 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ As far as flying out of a non-towered airfield and staying VFR in Class G airspace (or even E) outside of any Mode C veil, I already covered that in my answer. Now, if you are just beating up the traffic pattern at your local Class G for hours on end, you can get away with a lot less planning and prep work. But, I doubt that is what you are doing. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Feb 24 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/91.103 "become familiar with all available information concerning that flight." NWKRAFT covers that, in way too much detail for every flight. If I'm just going for take off and landing practice at my home airport in my personnel airplane, then a look at skyvector.com for any surprise TFRs (President/VIP flying to an airport nearby?) and a glance at the weather can be enough, along with normal pre-flight actions, like checking for external damage, dipping the tanks and checking the oil. Going elsewhere requires a little more, or if using another plane $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Feb 24 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Dean F.: But I don't do a lot of thar every time I fly, especially if it's locally - or if I do, it's just in my head. Check the weather? I do that by looking outside (though I do live where it's easily predictable most of the year). I'd check if I was going on a longer trip, of course, but I'd do that if driving, too. Calculating fuel burn is a matter of putting the measuring stick in the tanks and seeing how much I've got - just as I'd look at the car's fuel gauge. And I check the car's oil, tire pressure, and so on regularly. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 24 at 19:17

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