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Jan
16

DiamondShare Featured in FLYING Magazine

GlassPilotDiamondShare, General, News

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Shared Aircraft Ownership for the New Millennium

By Stephen Pope / Published: Jan 07, 2015

 

“Emerging concepts such as LifeStyle Aviation’s DiamondShare program are piquing the curiosity of pilots who like the idea of flying modern, well-equipped airplanes for a fraction of the cost of full ownership.”

If you haven’t noticed, general aviation is on the verge of a mini revolution — and it has nothing to do with jet-fuel-burning diesel engines, shiny new glass cockpits or multibillion-dollar NextGen modernization programs. Instead, the big change in aviation centers on the new millennium’s “sharing economy” and you, the pilot — or, more precisely, the choices you the pilot will be able to make in the not-so-distant future about flying yourself wherever and whenever you want.

The idea of sharing resources is catching on in a big way — we share our cars, our couches and just about anything else that can be advertised through a smartphone app or website. We’re even starting to share airplanes in ways that would have been unthinkable only a decade ago.Imagine this: You show up at a small airport anywhere in America and pull out your phone or tablet. On the screen of your plane-sharing app you find a dozen privately owned airplanes you can fly right now. There’s a gorgeous late-model Beech Bonanza, an older but less pricey Cessna Skyhawk and some enticing options in between. You tap the screen to book the airplane you want, head over to the FBO office to retrieve the keys and minutes later proceed on your way. The rental charge for your flight is automatically deducted from your bank account, including the fuel and even insurance. After the flight, you rate the experience to let other potential renters know whether they should go with that same Piper Cherokee or perhaps choose something else.

This app doesn’t exist today, but there’s really no reason why it couldn’t.  The technology-fueled share economy suddenly is intensifying in size and scope, and with it our notions about how, where and what we fly are on the cusp of radically changing for the better.

Access, Not Ownership

We’re seeing signs of this shift already as tech-savvy providers like OpenAirplane, AirPooler, Flytenow, FlightClub and others seek to make flying and owning airplanes more affordable and simpler than ever.

Flying in a Diamond DA40

 

I joined this “collaborative consumption” wave a couple of years ago when I became a member of ­DiamondShare, a shared-leasing program that gives members 100 hours of access a year to a new Diamond DA40 for a fraction of the cost of owning the airplane outright — and with no depreciation hit down the road or recurring maintenance and repair bills to worry about.

The hourly cost is on par with renting an older, slower and less well-equipped airplane, with the difference being that I can take the Diamond on trips for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks if I so desire — and fly with confidence knowing I’m seated behind the latest technology, including a synthetic-vision flight display, traffic and terrain awareness systems, a terrific digital autopilot and SiriusXM weather data.Still, the vanguard of entrepreneurs leading the way in this brave new world has hit some turbulence in the early
LifeStyle Aviation's DiamondShare is helping pilots fly in a new plane for a fraction of the cost. going. New ideas can be both labor and capital intensive, as many of these start-ups are learning. And just like ride-sharing services such as the suddenly ultrapopular Lyft and Uber have run afoul of some old-economy regulations, aviation app developers have experienced regulatory snags as well. FlyteNow, for instance, is suing the FAA for the right to establish a flight-sharing website that would take advantage of private pilot cost-sharing rules first defined in the 1960s and expand them online.

It’s messy at the moment, but it shouldn’t take long for legal clarifications on a whole range of issues, leaving the ideas that are compatible with FAA regulations free to enhance, or in some cases upend, traditional aviation business models.

 

Many flight schools, of course, complain about new students showing up on the flight line less often these days. Light aircraft manufacturers, meanwhile, lament the economic reality of selling only dozens of a particular model of airplane each year versus over a thousand at the height of the market 40 years ago.

 

One major barrier the industry faces is rising cost, for everything from fuel to insurance to maintenance and hangar space. Meanwhile, increasing liability and litigation costs are hamstringing all GA manufacturers at a time when there’s more competition than ever for consumers’ hard-earned disposable income. As a result, the pilot population has declined since the 1980s from around 350,000 private pilots in the United States to fewer than 200,000 today.

 

Doing the Math
Are rising costs really the biggest impediment the industry faces? Much of the evidence we see points to the answer
LifeStyle Aviation is helping pilots reach their aviation goals.
being a definite yes. Consider, for example, that for many years through the 1960s and 1970s, a new four-seat general aviation airplane like a Cessna 172 consistently sold for about twice the median annual household income in the United States. Today, that same airplane costs seven times median income.
In 1967, for instance, a new Skyhawk was priced at $12,750. Median household income that year was $6,054. By 1977 the price of a new Skyhawk had climbed to $22,300 while household income had risen to $11,992. By the late 1990s, however, when Cessna re-entered the piston market after a lengthy production hiatus, airplane prices began a steep rise. Despite household wages remaining relatively flat for the last couple of decades, the $350,000 price of a new Skyhawk today is no longer neatly aligned with the U.S. median household wage of around $52,000 a year.
You can make the argument that a Skyhawk sold in 2015 is a significantly different product than one that rolled out of the factory in 1967, but better avionics and a nicer interior don’t tell the whole story. Airplanes are expensive. They can provide incredible utility, obviously, but the pool of pilots who can afford to buy a new plane is shrinking while the glut of used airplanes from the 1960s and 1970s keeps aging.

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