Looking back at the groups Nick has been involved in
TURBULENT As a fairly newly-qualified pilot, I bought a share in a Turbulent with very high hours and a somewhat clappedout engine so my outlay was minimal. The three members of the group met every Saturday morning, took turns to fly for twenty minutes, then drove to a nearby Chinese restaurant for lunch. We became good friends. I also flew cross-countries in it every couple of months, once as far as Calais. After a while, I decided it was time to move up to something bigger, sold my share for more than I paid and bought a Jodel.
PITTS SPECIAL I sold two shares in a Pitts as it was getting too expensive to operate on my own because of spiralling hangar rent. The other two members were also entering aerobatics competitions, so we took it in turns to do the ferrying, which helped to keep down costs. However, one pilot lost an expensive crash hat−which we shared−flying upside down without the chin strap secured. And there were two other serious incidents: a nose-over that broke the propeller; and a start-up accident that put the aircraft on its back, destroying the top wing. The new wing and propeller weren’t as good as the originals. Eventually, with one member leaving the UK to work abroad, and the other wanting a two-seat Pitts, the group disbanded and G-AZPH was sold at a loss.
PITTS NO2, THEN LASER Three of us clubbed together to buy a souped-up, one-off, Pitts Special (G-BKDR) from another syndicate, which was moving up to a Lazer monoplane. We took it in turns to fly with a trainer watching below and soon discovered that ’DR was a contest winner. We entered several in the UK and some on the Continent (Belgium and Holland) and all moved up the competition ladder. The aircraft was fast, reliable and a delight to fly, but it was rapidly being outclassed by monoplanes, so we sold it for what we had paid and bought another aircraft−the Laser−from the same syndicate that had sold us the Pitts. They were moving up to a Su 26. The Laser had a lot wrong with it and two of us worked hard to fix it before we all settled down to hard practice. It was an extremely worthwhile group, but eventually came to an end and we sold the aircraft for roughly what we had paid for it.
STAMPE My Stampe was a battered, oily old thing, expensive to operate from the start, but after a rebuild I eventually met my goal of winning the Intermediate Nationals in it. The maintenance bills kept mounting though and I couldn’t justify paying them alone, so thought it might be fun to operate the Stampe as a group aeroplane. I advertised and soon sold three shares, keeping a quarter of the aeroplane. You might wonder why maintenance was so costly: the Stampe was designed as a military trainer on the assumption that there would be lots of spares and labour on hand to keep it going, and it had accumulated a lot of labour-intensive Airworthiness Directives.
However, the three new owners were inexperienced with old biplanes and inclined to be rough with the controls; they also failed to master landing at the farm strip where the aeroplane was kept, so I ended up ferrying them around. It always seemed to be me who wiped the oil off the belly afterwards and one member was slow in paying his bills. I eventually persuaded the others to buy me out. Finally, the remaining owners decided that they had had enough of large bills and asked me to sell the Stampe for them. It sold for two-thirds its worth and I worked out later that the three members who bought into the Stampe ended up paying (fixed and running costs) a quarter to a third more than it would have cost them to hire one with an instructor for the same number of hours.
In conclusion, group ownership isn’t for everyone and there are pitfalls, but it’s less risky than sole ownership and it opens up a whole new world of aviation. For a newly qualified PPL, it’s an avenue well worth exploring.
Group ownership will for many pilots be the only way to secure affordable flying in complex types
Today ’PD flies on in Whiteman junior’s sole ownership