Peak Utility Needed to Meet Airplanes' Operating Costs

Aeronca Aircraft Corporation
(excerpts from paper entitled "The Operating Costs of Personal Airplanes")
September 1945
By John W. Friedlander

There are no two operators who can really agree upon what is the cost of operating small personal aircraft.

One important factor, however, is that air travel saves approximately 18 percent in distance as compared with automobile travel. Treating operating cost figures, certainly the saving in time by using one's own airplane instead of other means of transportation must be considered.

The chief item in the final cost of airplane travel is based upon the amount of time flown; this is, the amount of usage the airplane will get. In order to bring this to a factual basis, I have taken the following fixed cost items for an airplane: depreciation, insurance and hanger cost. I have figured depreciation on the basis of 20 percent per year of the original cost of the airplane, and assumed that at the end of five years the airplane would have a residual value of 20 percent of its original cost. The insurance cost I have used is the average cost to a buyer of a new Aeronca airplane, this cost is being the amount of insurance that he is required to buy in case he finances his airplane.

For hanger cost, I have assumed a rate which is standard throughout this part of the country, namely $15 per month for hanger service.

The variables I have considered are gasoline, oil, periodic inspections, minor repairs, pro-rating of a 500 hr major overhaul speed of the airplane, number of miles or number of hours flown per year, speed and the cost of the airplane.

If we use, for example, a typical pre-war airplane powered by 65 hp engine, listing at $2000, flying at a cruising speed of 90 mph, we find that if the airplane is used 50 hr per year, the cost per mile is 16�. However, if this same airplane is used efficiently and is flown 300 hr per year, the cost of operation drops to 5� per mile. If that same airplane were to sell for $1500, the cost of operation per mile, 300 hr per year, is 4.7� per mile and at 200 hr per year, 5.7�. The accompanying chart lists these data, and illustrates as well that a comparatively small variation of horsepower, speed and list price make but little difference is the cost per mile traveled if the airplane is used to its full utility; that is, 200 to 300 hr per year.

By the same token, one is drawn to the inevitable conclusion that if the airplane is not used very much, the cost per mile of travel, of course, is usually high. Recall, however, that this is equally true of an automobile, a motor boat, or any other conveyance that one might own.

Therefore, the job is a fairly obvious one. It is to design, manufacture, and sell airplanes having the utmost utility for the private owner so that they can be used to their maximum efficiency, 200 hr use per year or more. This, of course, poses a problem for engineers and manufacturers. However, we believe that we are rapidly approaching an airplane of this nature: easy to fly, safe to fly, and economical to use.

One approach to increasing the airplane's utility has already been started - an active campaign on the part of the private aircraft industry to create throughout the country a series of airparks, landing strips, and suitable facilities to make the use of a private airplane more attractive than it is at the present time. Travel by personal aircraft, as a result, will be commonplace and worth whatever price it costs.