Aircraft Ownership: The Journey Back - Episode 1

As most know, we sold our airplane in May after eight years of ownership. It was a great airplane, and we enjoyed our ownership experience. But it was time to make a change. Long story short, our airplane was facing quite a bit of work in the future (fabric, paint, panel) if we really wanted to make it like we wanted, and we didn’t want to pour money into this particular airplane.

Now we’re in this weird “interim” period of life where I still want to run out to the airport to fly on my terms, but the airplane isn’t there. (And that part really stinks.) True, we joined a flying club and have access to planes, but everyone that has owned an airplane knows why that isn’t the same.

I thought it’d be fun to document our return to aircraft ownership, however long that takes, and whatever the heck that ends up looking like. So here goes.

Current Status

Unless you’re just crawling out from a deep, dark hole, you know that the world is a mess right now. The economy is struggling and job security is… well, not secure. Oddly, the used aircraft market remains strong (anyone want a $70,000 Cessna 172?).

So, with all of that going on — and prices remaining high — we’re likely in a period of just saving our money and waiting a year or a bit more to see what the world decides to do. There have been some great local airplanes come across our radar, but the truth is we don’t have the money (and we don’t finance toys), so it’ll just have to wait for now.

Looking Ahead

If there’s anything we’re doing right now, it’s watching the used airplane market closely and trying to really lock in our mission. That’s what you hear from anyone helping people buy airplanes: Define. The. Mission. I’m actually glad to have this time to sit and really think about that question.

Also, we’re considering experimental aircraft, but I’m not convinced that is the right path for our family.

This next airplane will (hopefully) be our forever airplane. We’ll use the heck out of it and take care of it for the long-term, so we want to get it right.

Stay tuned for future updates as we progress along the route back to our own airplane in the hangar!

Working on a getting an App Store refund. Some things just make a person chuckle.

My Experience With a Roomba

I’ve been intrigued by robot vacuums since they came out — probably for two reasons. First, I’m a self-proclaimed gadget geek, and I love playing with new toys. Second, I hate vacuuming. Specifically, I hate wasting time on the task.

So, enter the robot vacuum. Many people have them, but the experiences seem to vary. This short post is my experience. Hopefully it’s useful to someone out there.


It’s not easy to narrow down your options when looking at robot vacuums. There are many different companies, vacuum shapes, capabilities, and “intelligence” levels. Like many things today, it’s not simple, and it can seem overwhelming.

For me, I wanted a model with good reviews, good suction, and home mapping of some kind. Yes, some models just bounce around until your home is clean. After a couple of nights of research, I landed on the Roomba 960.

This model fulfilled all of my requirements, and I even found an open-box option at Target that was discounted a bit. Home we go.

The Experience

Setup and connecting to the app was a breeze, to be honest. The vacuum was up and running within minutes, and hard at work. It took off, learning our home’s layout and bumping into all of our furniture repeatedly (but gently). In short, all seemed well. We even named him “Ted,” which is a vague reference to the name of the reindeer in Jingle All the Way.

Over the course of two weeks, we let Ted work his magic. It seemed to be getting smarter, but it also did a lot of dumb stuff. I’ll cover everything in the pros/cons lists below.

In short, I can’t complain about the Roomba experience. The app worked well enough, and the robot didn’t suffer any hiccups during setup/use for the most part.


  • I was skeptical of the power of a small vacuum like this, but it truly works well. It routinely needed emptied, which was eye-opening for us. We tend to vacuum at least weekly, if not more, but Ted always had more dirt.

  • The app is great. It offers scheduling, alerts for issues with Ted, and a visual of the area your robot has mapped.

  • It was nice to sit and watch a device do the hard work. Ours ran at 8 p.m. each day, after everyone had trampled the main floor carpets. There was no shortage of work to be done.

  • Battery life was decent. With our rather large main floor, it would get almost done with the job, but have to return to home base and charge. Not horrible, but it did extend the overall time it was running.


  • My chief complaint was that it needs someone to babysit it. Even though we kept our floors picked up and obstacle-free, Ted always seemed to get stuck under chairs, couches, etc. I would think it would be smart enough to notice where it throws an error and avoid those spots, but I would be wrong. With each new alert on my phone that Ted was “stuck,” I became more discouraged.

  • It was quiet enough on the carpets, but on our kitchen flooring, it was pretty loud. Since we ran it late at night, it just seemed to be in the way from a noise perspective.

  • Price. These are not cheap devices, and in some ways, their performance doesn’t reflect that dollar amount. Certainly, I’m happy with the actual cleaning, but the babysitting got old.

  • Home mapping worked well enough, but there were still moments of head scratching. Some days it seemed like Ted was intentionally avoiding a spot that actually needed more cleaning.

The Verdict

Ultimately, we took Ted back to the store. It was a splurge purchase, for sure, and I got tired of babysitting it each night. If it were more hands off, I could’ve justified it because it did keep our carpets cleaner, I think.

But shouldn’t these devices make life easier? In some ways, it was more work.

The technology is cool, but still quirky enough to be frustrating at times. I’ll just vacuum more often, I guess.

Easiest dental visit in a long time. They were fast, had good cleaning procedures, and no polishing right now. In/out in 15 minutes.

Dental office requiring masks. Not sure they’ve thought this through.

Good morning, Cedar Rapids. ☀️

Flew some safety pilot/right seat today.

Masters of Social Distancing

“There is no attraction here, and for me that’s the attraction,” Wendell says as he looks out from a tennis-court-sized deck on the river, canyon, mountains and plains. “I made a living dealing with people and can get along with anybody. I just don’t like to, that’s all.”

A married couple living in true isolation, by choice. This pandemic has been just another day for them.

Great read from Reuters.

Reflections on Aircraft Ownership

As our eight years of aircraft ownership have come to a close (for now), I thought it would be interesting to reflect on some of the things I learned about owning an airplane. Some good, some bad. Keep in mind this reflects our experience owning a simple, economical single-engine airplane. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

  • It’s as expensive as you think, mostly. It’s hard to gauge this because the costs do change year-to-year, but I can say with confidence that it cost us around $3,500/year before the airplane flew. Annual, hangar, insurance, etc. Then stuff starts breaking, and you factor in fuel/oil per hour. You get the idea. The unknown is the hardest part. Some years it almost seemed affordable!

  • You won’t fly it like you thought. When we’re airplane shopping, we have all of these dreams of flying the machine for vacations, to see family, etc. You might. Or, the airplane may break, your skills might be subpar for the desired mission, or the weather will happen. In so many ways, the airlines are just an easier option if you really want to get from A to B easily. (Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m still a strong advocate for general aviation.)

  • It’s a complicated maze of regulations. If you thought being a pilot and managing regulations/requirements was overwhelming, wait until you’re responsible for an airplane. If you’re doing things the right way, you’ll contend with finding certified parts, competent mechanics, paperwork, and managing a multitude of inspections. Experimental aircraft help with some of this, but they have their own issues, too.

  • It helps to be mechanically inclined. Whether changing engine oil or tinkering with some other maintenance (many maintenance items are legally OK for owners to perform), it helps to have some mechanical aptitude. It will even save you money. As for me, I was semi-capable, but also was always scared I would do something silly that would put the aircraft/passengers in danger.

  • Finding parts for older aircraft can be troublesome. Flying a 70 year old airplane may put aircraft ownership within reach of the normal human, but it also means contending with scarcity of airframe/engine parts. We were lucky with our airplane as Univair has many airframe parts for the Pacer, but there are still plenty of things that, if broken, would be hard to source.

  • You will be identified by your airplane. Pilots are a strange bunch, mostly in a good way. Our aircraft take on personalities (and even names!) of their own, and pilot friends will elevate your airplane to the status of one of your human children. It’s an interesting dynamic. This is all good, but at the end of the day, it’s just an airplane. They sell them every day. (Some airplanes are family heirlooms — that’s a different story.)

In the end, it was all worth it. No regrets. But I’m also welcoming this “pause” in ownership to take what we’ve learned, think about our mission, and go shopping again. We’re different now than we were eight years ago. Everything is on the table, and that’s kind of fun.

I didn’t delete my Facebook account, but I did delete the mobile app, and my usage is probably down 90%. Amazing how addicting that little app is.

I’m putting less and less stock in online product reviews (both positive or negative). Just not sure how accurate they are anymore, and at the end of the day, a product experience is often unique to a particular user.

COVID-19 and Airline Cabins: More Research Needed

Boeing said it is developing computer models that simulate the cabin environment and could ultimately inform decisions by airlines, health officials and regulators on how to prevent the virus’s spread.

Interesting article from The Wall Street Journal about how Boeing and Airbus are researching new ways to making flying safer with regard to COVID-19.

Memorial Day bike ride. 🇺🇸🚲

In the background: Mays Island, Cedar Rapids.

Sunday morning Scrabble (Junior).

Beautiful Iowa evening after a stormy day.

70F, Winds West at 7 mph.

In-bed trunk on the Honda Ridgeline is slick. Smart design!

Taking this as a sign. Facebook won’t load because of some message that makes absolutely no sense (considering I never bought the FB app).

Today is day one of no more posting to FB!

This is a great look at our home state of Iowa.

Brad Montague in Becoming Better Grownups:

Sometimes we spend so much time doing things for applause or approval that we miss out on the love that’s right in front of us already.


I feel like politics has crept into aviation now more than ever. Maybe I just never noticed before, but wow. The last 4 years have been an eye-opener.

Goodbye, N7371K

I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want my own airplane. In my later teen years, I even wrote a letter to an older gentleman that owned a Cessna 172, asking if he would take on a partner. To no one’s surprise, that didn’t happen. (Apparently my part-time employment at Fareway Food Stores didn’t impress him.)

In 2012, my wife and I took the plunge and purchased N7371K, a 1950 Piper Pacer. It is a well-cared for example of Piper’s short wing group, with decent speed and good economics as far as airplanes go. As a devout, no-joke airplane geek, this was the epitome of aviation to me. My own wings, waiting for whenever I got the itch to go. Wow.

From early-morning breakfast flights to lunch on an airport island, we’ve made some memories. Flynn’s first airplane ride, supper along the Mississippi River, grill-out events at our local airport — they all dot the timeline of our aircraft ownership.

Why Sell It?

For eight years, we’ve cared for the Pacer, given it the gift of upgrades, and just generally enjoyed being “those people with an airplane.” But all things come to an end at some point, and with life’s changes — and some new ideas for our flying mission in general — this one has, too.

Frankly, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, which isn’t the entire story behind our decision to let 71K go. We’ve been contemplating it for a couple of years. We simply weren’t flying it as much anymore, and it deserves someone who will make it a priority.

Luckily, we found those owners, and they’re happily together now. They are going to love it.

The best reason I can give you? We’re ready for a change.

What’s Next?

Despite rumors to the contrary, I’m not giving up flying! Quite the opposite. In fact, a condition of this sale (from Amber) was that I immediately fill the gap. We still want to fly! And fly we will.

In the short term, I’m joining a local flying club that will afford me access to two airplanes, both with glass cockpit technology and IFR capability. I haven’t been IFR current in years, and it’s time I got those skills back, among others. Hopefully I’ll get back into the instructor’s seat more than I have been, too.

I’m sure another round of aircraft ownership is in our future, but I can’t predict what that looks like right now. Maybe when Flynn is older and we have a better mission definition. Maybe when our schedules aren’t so full with other priorities in life. Maybe when the right airplane appears before our eyes.

But I do know I’ll get that ownership craving again. Maybe N7371K will be somehow involved. Life is funny that way.

Safe travels for now, 71K. It’s been an honor to look after you.

Truck party.

Sunday swimming. 💦

Had fun parking airplanes today at a local fly-in. Yes, this one is fast.

Since it’s going to be too windy to fly this weekend, let’s just admire the Pacer from the comfort of our phones.

Most definitely time to invest heavily in my presence!