Around the Airport

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Will Your Plane Die With You?

Some photos have more mileage than others.
When you look at this photo, you’re sure to take it all in and decide it’s a picture from a nice day at a flying field.  But among the obvious items, the Cub, Mustang convertible, Spartan Executive, and beautiful E-type Jag, there is a hidden lesson for all of us to consider.
The Cub tells us some things don’t lose their value as much as others, the convertible Mustang reminds us that pure and simple are typically the best things in life, and the Spartan is a great example of how the prettiest things need constant polishing.  But, those points are obvious aren’t they?
What isn’t so easy to see is the lesson contained within that beautiful red Jag.  Bought new by a gentlemen while overseas in the service, only recently did it change hands.  When I saw it I stood at stared at its beauty.   Imagine buying that at the dealership and still having it.  So what’s the lesson?
Well, look at it.  It’s a dream on wheels.  Would you want that car?  If the owner offered it to you would you take it?  Would you?  I mean, if the guy who bought it originally were to call you up and say, “You know Fred, we’re like family and if you want the car you can have it”, would you say, “No”?  Can you imagine anyone saying no to that?  Well, here’s the thing, that’s what his kids said.  They didn’t want it; had no interest.  But, up to that point, he thought they would.  That’s why he asked.
Are you starting to see the lesson?
That big plan of yours to give your vintage plane to one of your kids, well it may be nothing but a fantasy.  The fact they fly with you and have a pilot’s license is no different than kids who have a driver’s license and talk to you about your old car.  Chances are really quite good that when the time comes, they’ll not want it, won’t want to take care of it, and would rather sell it.  If it doesn’t make sense to them, it doesn’t matter how much it makes sense to you.
But there’s more to this than your kids.  This will play heavily on values and the future disposition of our vintage fleet.  For those of us who want the planes to be preserved and flown, this is something we must face head on and be willing to discuss.
Do we want these planes to take on the role of super rare cars that are trailered from show to show and rarely started?  Is our number one priority to make a killing on the sale of them to one of those trophy room collectors?  Or, do we really believe the talk and are willing to walk the walk to keep them alive?
If the later is you, the time is approaching where you’ll need to find someone you trust with the plane, someone who would love the plane and keep flying it, and who may not be able to pay you the full fortune you once imagined.  I realize that’s a tough idea for many people; most of you being from the parenting generation of “give your kids everything”.  But, if you love that plane and you want it to go to a good home and be flown on a regular basis, your kids may not be getting that truckload of money they fantasize about.
And then there’s that other tough subject which is difficult to discuss.  Do you trust your family to do the right thing with the plane once you’re no longer with us?   If you don’t find it a home before you are gone it’s only going to cause problems for everyone.
First of all, you’ve probably made them believe it is worth a fortune.  That was your first mistake.  This means after you’re gone the wife and kids will be looking to sell it as soon as possible to anyone offering top dollar.  Unfortunately though, after your passing, what they believe they know about it will be largely incorrect.   That in turn means they’ll be left believing everyone is out to take advantage of them because every offer will seem like a low-ball.
Next, brokers will show up and reinforce the notion of a high value in hopes of getting a big commission.  The family will cling to these dreams, sign a contract, and hold out for that big payoff that never comes.  Meanwhile they’ll be getting angrier and angrier as the low but realistic offers continue to trickle in.  Then when they are at their wits’ end, they’ll do one of three things with it.
One, they’ll let it go to some dreamer friend who’ll truck it home and there it will sit.  Two, and as hard as it is to believe, they’ll chose another resolution; they’ll scrap it or let it rot.  Or finally, they’ll give it to a museum.  This they’ll do because they can justify it in their minds as something you would like and also because they can get a highly inflated appraisal to help them with their taxes.  And yet, none of these are good options if you’d rather that plane go to someone who’ll treat it like family and keep it flying the way you did. 
I know the subject of dying is a tough discussion to have.  But, if you’re one of those people who have ever stated proudly, “I’m not the plane’s owner, but merely its caretaker”, then it’s time to think about who its next shepherd will be.  Of course, there’s always the chance you merely latched onto this popular gratuitous statement as a way make yourself sound really deep and complex when asked about the airplane at fly-ins.  If that’s you, people will remember your BS the same way people remember sports players who claim to do it all for their fans and then take the highest salary they can find and move elsewhere.  But, whichever of these people you are, and without passing judgment, I hope you’ll at least try to find a new owner that will keep the old bird flying.  Leaving the decision up to your family or looking only to get top dollar will betray who you said you were and the airplane you claimed to love .
So there you have it; that’s the upbeat subject of the day.  Nobody likes thinking about death.  But, if you really are its shepherd, I encourage you to think it through.  Others may look at it and see nothing more than an object, but let’s face it; most of us know at least one airplane that feels alive to us.  The decisions you make will determine if it lives on.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

I never thought about that. My plane is not old, but seeing the old ones stay flying would please me very much. Good points Rich.