Airplane prices

I just read an article in the latest AOPA Pilot magazine. (You probably have to be a member to read it.)

Things I’ve said in the past: At the height of production in the late-1970s, some 15,000 new aircraft were being built per year. When my dad bought his first plane, in 1976, it was six years old and cost about twice his annual salary. Today a six-year-old Skyhawk would cost me about 3-1/2 to four times my annual salary. Others here disagree with me, but I think the increase in prices are a function of supply and demand. Rather than 15,000 airplanes being made per year, for a long time 2,000 new aircraft being built was considered an outstanding production number. Since the reform of liability laws, which limit a manufacturer’s liability to 18 years (much longer than for cars, I think) more aircraft have been built, both on existing designs and new designs as well. But a new Skyhawk (admittedly, with vastly superior avionics) will still set you back over $300,000.

Now Cessna have brought out the 162 Skycatcher, with a price of $112,250 as of 2010. It is a Light Sport aircraft, which appeals to many new pilots who do not want to pursue a Private ticket; at least right away. As quoted above, some FBOs are thinking of selling their 152s and replacing them with 162s.

So will the price of 152s (currently $24,900 to $69,900 at come down? Not that it does me any good, as a 152 would not be useful to me (though I wouldn’t turn one down if someone wants to give me one), but could it be that with more new aircraft being built the cost of older ones will drop?

I haven’t looked at aircraft prices for at least 10 years now, so I don’t have specifics to offer you. You probably already realize that the liability risks caused a rapid increase in prices that reduced production volume, which increased manufacturing costs. The limiting of liablility and the Light Sport category are bringing down costs, which if it leads to increased volume production, should have some effect on price. In addition, the cost of lightweight composite materials has come down a little, and their availability increased, so that should have some effect on smaller planes (lighter=smaller engines, which are lighter, and cost less). Out of curiousity I’d like to hear what you find out. Otherwise this is just a long-winded bump.