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)?
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Must be in possession of proper license, medical certificate, and ID.
- Must also be current on the operation of the aircraft.
- Illness - free from any affecting flight.
- Medication - restricted
- Stress - Be mentally fit to fly.
- Alcohol - Effectively, none allowed
- Fatigue - free from any affecting flight.
- Emotion (hard to legally quantify)
- Documents - E. A.R.R.O.W. C.C.C.
- Inspections - A.V.1.A.T.E.S., Preflight
- Maintenance - ADs, 337, MELs, KOELs, TSDS Life Limited Parts
- Equipment - Primarily 14 CFR Part 91.205
- NOTAMs (for TFRs, NavAid outages, construction, etc)
- Weather at departure, enroute, destination, and alternates
- Known ATC delays
- Runway lengths of intended airports of use
- Alternatives to your plan (alternate airports or transport)
- Fuel requirements of flight
- Takeoff and Landing performance calculations
- 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.