By Jay Wischkaemper
When I stopped, I didn’t do so with the intention of seeing Robin, but since I was in his building and he hadn’t yet paid his bill for using the plane that month, I did have a reason to drop in. Visiting Robin is always an enjoyable experience. He invited me into his office, and then called to his new secretary to come in. He informed her that whenever this ugly SOB showed up, it was always to collect money. He thought he had already paid his bill, but she told him she hadn’t mailed it yet, and shortly returned with the check. Quickly getting into the tone of our relationship, she chimed in that maybe they should charge me for coming by to collect.
Robin is a successful, high dollar attorney whose billing rate is probably several hundred dollars an hour, but whenever I stop by, he’s always willing to give me a couple of hundred dollars worth of his time. It’s always talking airplanes. This time, he was informing me, among other things, that I was going to join EAA. Of course, in typical lawyer fashion, he lied about how much it was going to cost me, but I agreed to join anyway. The discussion usually gets around to our plane and our dream plane. Having recently seen a very nice Cirrus up close and personal, I joked with him about how we should buy one of those. His response was revealing. He told me that he had often thought about getting into an RV6 or something like that, but only if he could have the same partners he had now. “You guys aren’t getting rid of me,” he said. “If you ever decide to sell this plane and buy something else, I’m coming along.”
I have to say the feeling is mutual, and it’s a good feeling. Five of us own N14745, and it’s a good group. We respect one another. We accommodate one another. We go fly with one another, and we like one another. Everybody pays their bills reasonably on time. Everyone treats the plane well. We are all different, but each with individual strengths that meld together into a perfect fit.
With the cost of aircraft acquisition and ownership being where it is, a partnership has never made more sense. I’m not ready to jump off into a new airplane just yet, but with enough people involved and creative financing, it could actually be feasible. That’s not to say it’s cheap, but at least it’s within the realm of reality for many who couldn’t dream of paying for one alone. I’ve heard horror stories about partnerships that didn’t work, but I’ve never experienced it. The key to a good partnership is to have good people who are financially solvent enough to afford a plane, and with an accommodating personality to get along with others.
As I thought about the people I know in aviation, it occurred to me that the previous sentence is an apt description of most of them. Who are the people you run into around your local airport? If you’re a member of EAA, what kind of people do you rub elbows with? If you go to a safety seminar, what kind of people show up? If your experience is like mine, they are usually very nice, sincere, accommodating people. That’s not to say there aren’t some bad apples around. I’ve experienced one of those in my over 20 years of partnershipping, but one out of the probably 10 or so who have been through our group over those years isn’t too bad. People have come, and people have gone, but overall, they have been a consistently good group of people to work with.
That’s typical of airplane people. I remember the time I flew into a small airport expecting to use their courtesy car. Someone else had already taken it, but a local pilot who was about to leave on a trip insisted I use his vehicle. Actions like that aren’t uncommon around airports. How many times have you been in a situation where a fellow pilot went out of his way to help? Would that happen in regular life? Possibly, but in aviation circles, it’s the rule rather than the exception.
It’s that kind of attitude among pilots that makes good partnerships possible. When I meet someone who wants to learn to fly, my advice is always to find a couple of other like-minded people, go buy an old, inexpensive trainer, and get your license in it. It’ll be cheaper than renting, and you’ll have the fun of the fellowship as well. The same thing applies to anyone who wants access to an airplane. I know the numbers about renting being cheaper below a certain number of hours, and the figures are undisputable, but just as undisputable is the intrinsic value of having access to your own wings, even if you do have to share them with a couple of other people. It may cost a little more per hour, but it’s still easier to write out the monthly check for hangar rent, note payment, and insurance, and know that all you have to do is put gas in it and maybe pay a maintenance fee than it is to know the Hobbs is clicking off at the rate of $1.50 for every minute the prop is turning.
In addition to that, you can’t put a price on friendships. Some of the best friends I have are my partners. I see some of them more regularly than others, but there’s not a one of them I wouldn’t trust with my backside if I was in trouble.
I later sent Robin an e-mail with a picture of the Cirrus I had seen attached and asked him if he was SURE he didn’t want one of those. If we ever decided to do it, I know what his answer would be. “Just as long as you guys come along with it.”
Texas native Jay Wischkaemper is a successful MassMutual life insurance agent based in Lubbock, Texas. He is a long-time partner in a Bellanca Super Viking, which he uses for business and pleasure.