The President of my Belgian flying club, Michel Notelaers, who was also my flight instructor many years ago, often told me that buying a plane as a private pilot flying only in the weekends goes as follows. The first year, the fresh owner flies more than 100 hours taking all his friends with him. The number of flown hours rapidly diminishes over time and after 3 years, most of them fly less than 30 hours a year …then approaching the club if they are not willing to rent out the plane. According to him, there’s little interest to own a plane if you are a Sunday afternoon pilot. My Belgian club has a couple of Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 for training purposes. Further, one glass cockpit C172SP with state of the art modern cockpit and one fast complex aircraft Mooney 205. They are both IFR and autopilot equipped and can be used for IFR training as part of a modular training. You can easily online book a plane. It makes sense from a logical point of view. Here’s a youtube movie showing claiming what it is like when one buys a plane. http://youtu.be/Vf810gvZ3ik
It is sure that it is time consuming, because you need to take care of setting up maintenance and taking care of so called red tape. If your plane is located at the back of a hangar, you first need to spent your time to put others planes outside and back inside the hangar in order to get access to your plane.
It seems to me the big difference between flying in Europe and the US. In Europe, you have strong flying clubs with plenty of planes for rental, whereas in the US, clubs tend to have a smaller fleet as pilots prefer more to own a plane themselves. It has to do with a difference in mentality but also with a related price tag.
Fuel costs are lower in the US and the size of the country makes buying a plane more interesting. I have been flying a couple of times in The US and having CAVOK weather by default is more inspiring than the often cloudy weather we have got over here due to our sea climate.
You can easily find a Cessna out of the 70’s for less than 40.000 euro in Europe. Owning a plane give you the absolute freedom to put in equipment you like and to go flying when you like.
If one flies some 40 to 50 hours a year like me, it seems better for the moment to continue to rent a plane…..and keep on dreaming about buying a plane and maybe do a crazy thing one day….