A partnership can be a good idea, but the key is to find the right partners. Pick the wrong ones, and it can be a nightmare from hell. How would you like a partner flying your airplane who runs the crap out of it? Who never cleans it? Who refuses to kick in his share for unscheduled maintenance? Who doesn’t think that that ‘little problem’ the A&P found during the annual is big enough to warrant fixing?
Most stories I’ve heard of partnerships usually end, “Well, I just couldn’t take it any more, so I sold my share.” But they can be very useful if you find the right people.
And Mooney252, you should make sure not to give the impression that all airplanes cost $2500/yr to annual. We’re trying to attract people to aviation here, not scare them off. Using your Mooney252 as an example in a thread like this would be like someone opening a thread saying, “I’m thinking of finally buying a house - can I afford it?” and you answering, “No, because the swimming pool maintenance will kill you.”
If you own an entry-class airplane like a Cessna 172, Grumman Tiger, Piper Warrior, etc., it should be a rare annual that exceeds $1500, and if you do owner-assisted annuals and take good care of your airplane, substantially less. My cheapest annual was $265. I pulled all the inspection panels, removed the cowling, wing tips, tail fairings, seats, and other owner-removable hardware. My A&P then did the inspection. I then put it all back together again and he checked my work. No sweat. I’ve done all my annuals except one that way.
I highly recommend owner-assisted annuals. They save you money, but more importantly they make you intimately familiar with the machine that is keeping your butt in one piece.
If you want the absolute cheapest flying, do what I did - I bought a Grumman AA1 in 1991 for $11,000. I flew it for 8 years, and sold it for $13,000, even though I ran about 500 hours off of the engine. So I made a $2000 profit on the airframe (would have made more if the money was in the bank, but hey…). My fixed costs (tie-down, annual, insurance, unscheduled maintenance) were less than $1500 per year. The annuals averaged about $500-$600, insurance (liability only - no hull coverage on an airplane this cheap) was about $150 per year through COPA (Canadian counterpart to AOPA). My tiedown was $360/yr.
That particular airplane went up in value quite substantially after I sold it, because more people started discovering the AA1’s value. If I had held onto it for 3 more years, I could have sold it for $18-20K or so, and pretty much recovered all my fixed costs. So I could have flown that aircraft for the cost of gas and oil.
Now, I’ll grant you that I got a little lucky. No major AD’s, no major failures, etc. Anyone who owns an airplane knows that it’s like to feel a little vulnerable. Since I didn’t have Hull insurance and had the airplane tied down outside, every time we had a hailstorm my heart would do a little dance. Every annual inspection felt like dodging a bullet. “C’mon, compression test! Be good!”
Still, there are certified airplanes available in the $10-$20K range, including some basic 4-seaters. If you can go up to $40K, that opens the door to a lot of nice travelling machines like a Grumman Cheetah, Piper Cherokee 140, Older Cessna 172, etc.
None of those airplanes should cost more than a thousand bucks or so to annual (on average - some annuals you’ll fly through for $500, but once in a while you’ll get hit with a big ticket item and have to cough up a grand or two over what you thought you’d pay), and hopefully a lot less. And if something catastrophic happens like Cessna issuing a crankshaft AD that mandates an engine teardown, you just sell the airplane and take your lumps. But the way airplanes are appreciating in value, if you hang onto it for more than a couple of years you could probably sell it and break even or even make a little, even if it needed some engine work.
One more comment in this long-winded essay: If you’ve got, say, $50,000 to spend on an airplane, you are WAY better off finding an excellent example of a simpler airplane, than you are buying a ratty old complex airplane. For example, in that price range you could buy something like a 1978 Grumman Tiger with a low-time engine, or you could buy something like a 1962 Cessna 210 with a high-time engine and other problems. The old 210 will eat you alive on maintenance, and represents a much higher risk of a repair that can cost half of what you paid for the airplane. The Tiger is a known commodity, with a ready supply of spare parts, a simple airframe and engine, and not much wear.