Pilot Spotlight

Elizabeth Gibson

The pilot who purchased an aircraft while training for her PPL

Elizabeth Gibson began her training in a Piper Warrior in Robbinsville and went on to buy a Piper Warrior from Jack and Ken at 39N. Once she purchased the aircraft, she based it here at 39N and continued to train. We took a moment to find out what it was like purchasing an airplane while training for her PPL and this is what she said:

What inspired you to take flying lessons?  

I was inspired to learn to fly from my dad. He always talked about all his flying adventures back in the 70s and even purchased a plane himself along with a friend. He never finished training, but still talked about flying all the time. I feel like he could almost hop in a plane now and still know more than me at this point. He was so passionate and excited every time he talked about planes that I wanted to learn to fly and take him in the air again, which I was able to do a week after I received my PPL!

Why did you purchase an aircraft while still a student? 

One reason I decided to purchase my own aircraft is to have the freedom to go up whenever I wanted. I didn't have to worry about scheduling or someone taking my favorite rental. I had my own plane. I also did A LOT of research and decided my mission. I wanted a plane that was IFR certified so I could continue on and get my instrument rating (which I plan to start early next year, once I enjoy VFR for a bit). I also wanted a plane that my husband and I could enjoy the views and explore the Northeast (and eventually do long cross-countries to visit our families in the south (GA and TN). I could have gone bigger or faster, but I looked for a type of plane that had reasonable maintenance costs and reliability, so Piper Warriors and Archers were on my list, as well as Cessna 152s or 172s. It would mainly be my husband and I and only occasionally a 3rd or 4th passenger, so I chose a plane that fit my needs most of the time. I worked out the costs (there are great Excel sheets online) to determine if buying or renting would be better financially and for me, buying was the way to go. I also have control of my own maintenance and don't have to worry about who was in the plane before me or hop from plane to plane and have to figure out the avionics every new plane I hop in. I started looking halfway through my training, expecting to not find one until after I already had my PPL, but alas timing and pricing worked out and Jack and Ken helped me through the process, along with AOPA! Their resources for prospective plane buyers are extensive. 

Any challenges owning a plane while still training? 

The biggest challenge I think has been learning the systems. When you rent a plane, you know it has had a 100-hour inspection and if something breaks the school fixes it, but now I have to worry about the maintenance myself. Oil changes, washing and waxing, weird noises that you try to explain to maintenance, airing your own tires (which is really difficult with a plane with wheel farings on). It's simple things that just get done with a rental aircraft. 

What are some benefits of training in your own aircraft? 

I think the most exciting thing getting a plane during my training was the ease of scheduling lessons. Most flight schools have more instructors than planes, so having my own I was able to schedule more easily. It was also nice that every time I got in, the radios were still set the way I had them, I know the feel of the plane. My landings just got better and better, because I wasn't switching from plane to plane. I was also able to solo fly a lot more as well. The cost turned out at this point to be more affordable. 

What advice would you give a student buying an aircraft? 

What was recommended to me.

1. Instead of a pre-buy get an annual done as the pre-buy. It is more thorough and can find issues, before you invest a lot of money.

2. Be prepared if an issue does arise with your plane that it has to be down for maintenance. If you have to rent while it is down, be prepared for that extra cost.

3. Have a budget for unexpected repairs, don't think of just the cost of the plane, think about the yearly maintenance and if any issue arises (need an engine, a window cracks, flat tire, etc.) Also, remember tie-down or hangar costs (or get on a hangar list and make sure you have the budget if one comes open)

4. Find a good A&P and maintenance shop. This advice is probably the most important. It's your own plane and you learn it and its quirks, so find a maintenance shop that doesn't mind you asking lots of questions, and lets you look inside while it is in annual, so you can see the inner workings.