Monday, March 20, 2006

The Joys of Planes

Nothing like owning a plane, especially when it is in for its annual inspection and your mechanic finds an item that needs to be fixed that will cost a pretty penny. In all of history, I wonder if there has ever been a time when any kind of mechanic has called with good news.

Luckily, I have a mechanic who is decent, honest and not willing to cut corners. And that, at the end of the day, is all I care about. This item could possibly have been covered over and the plane gotten its annual certification, but why would I ever want such a thing? I love flying and I will always want to do it, but I am well aware that it is a risky proposition. One of the reasons I bought my own plane was this exact scenario. Who wants to be in a rental where you don't know what the mechanic has done? Do you want to find out at 5,000 feet that the owner cut corners? It's just not worth it.

As I was discussing the repairs with my mechanic, he told me about a recent crash in New Jersey. Turns out that the pilot had found a crack in his propeller and, instead of paying for the propeller to be repaired by a professional, he filed two inches off of each side. When a piece of metal is turning at 2500 rpm and it is not balanced, the plane becomes uncontrollable. I can't imagine how any pilot could justify such a silly, dangerous home repair to himself.

That's why I may bellyache a little about costs, but I will never say no to getting a professional to repair the plane.


Chrispy said...

C'mon, Dave, don't be such a wuss.

Put some duct tape on it and get your butt down the runway!

Just kidding. I always insist that repairs to my Millenium Falcon be done by a qualified professional (Chewie).

Dave Cavalier said...

Alluvial damper?

No, that's not it. Bring me the hydrospanner!

Tony Alva said...

Planes have gotta be automobiles times a hundred.

It's the cost factor of preventive and wear related repairs thats kicking my savings accounts ass right now. I was more than willing to pay the ass fucking dealership the $1200 for the 60K tune up. Afterall, it's timing chain/belt replacement, valve adjustments, etc... all drop the motor kind of stuff. But when they told me it'd be $280 to replace a plastic skid plate (I found one on line for $85) I had to call BS. Then they quoted $1650 for brakes all around and I threw a good ole Tony Alva fit to them (Ted can atest to what one of these fits sounds and looks like). I've got my indy guy doing them for $500 as we speak.

If I didn't have to worry about where I'd be working this time next year, I'd have picked out a new ride vs. dropping this much dough purely on the emotion of it all. Especially since this baby was sitting right in front of the service garage.

F'ing sweet! I bet it'd fly faster than your plane. Oh well...

Dave Cavalier said...

If it can cruise faster than 165 mph, yes it can.

Chrispy said...

Tony, if you want a car that's not expensive to maintain, perhaps you shouldn't own a Porsche.

People complaining about how their airplanes or expensive sportscars are too expensive to keep up are not gonna get much sympathy from me....

Dave Cavalier said...

Was I complaining? The point of my post was supposed to be that it is always worth it to spend the money to get the job done right.

Tony Alva said...


I understand why you might see it that way, but my beef is with dealerships, their service centers, and being scammed. As I stated, I'm willing to pay for scheduled maintenance and brake work as I see these a necessary to longevity and safety. What I believe is going on is that just because it's a Porsche, BMW, Merc, etc… that dealerships think that it's OK to double any reasonable cost of parts and labor. I'd have had my indy guy do all of this work if he was closer and more convenient for this round of repairs (I won’t be lazy next time you can bet). The dealership lead me to believe that the 60K tune up was required to be done by them for warranty reasons, which I found out was complete and total BS. My guy could have done the work for half.

Being ripped off is heinous whether it be at a Dodge dealership or at a Porsche dealership, with an aged Buick, or an aged Porsche.

Jackson said...

The cab driver I had in Wilmington had a Caprice with over 600,000 miles, original engine. It was a smooth ride. It's all about maintenance! Americans like cars, but tend to hate maintenance. Not you guys, though, you guys love it, love it, love it!

Chrispy said...


Cars like Porsche's, BMW's, and Merc's are designed for a different market, at a different price point than a Buick. So are their parts and maintenance. Why shouldn't it be more expensive to fix a Porsche, since it's a higher quality machine? If the car itself is, say, 3 times as good (thus being 3 times as expensive) than you'd expect that the parts and labor would also be 3 times as expensive. Otherwise, you got ripped off when you bought the car itself, right?


I dind't think you were complaining that much, just a bit... "I may bellyache a little about costs..."

I understood the point of your post, though.

Dave Cavalier said...

Chris -

You make it sound as if it's not sympathetic to complain that I spilled a bottle of Opus One on the carpeting of my G5 last week. I thought you were supposed to be the bleeding heart.


Chrispy said...

Come again?

Dave Cavalier said...

Opus One = Expensive wine

G5 = Gulfstream V private jet

Chrispy said...

I was asking about the part "You make it sound as if it's not sympathetic to complain..."

I get it now (I think). And yes, as a good bleeding heart of course I'd feel awful for you. Oh, no, wait - I'd only feel awful if you asked for a government handout of new wine.

Tony Alva said...


In all actuality, that’s not the case at all. To some degree, parts for European model cars are a little more expensive, but the disparity is not nearly what you think. It’s the fucking rip off dealerships, their parts departments, and service writers, who have earned my disgust and are worthy of being hung by their testicles. They are the worst kind of crooks you guys typically love to rail against.

I’ll give you an example from this last fiasco that has me boiling: I was quoted $250 to replace a plastic skid plate cover that protects rocks and other road debris from kicking up into the engine ($150 for the part, $100 per hour for the labor). I declined to have them replace this since I thought the price they quoted sounded fishy. After getting back to my desk, getting on the internet, and making two calls I found out that the part is exclusively Porsche, which caused me to sigh, but the guys says, “What’s the big deal, I’ve got it in stock and l’ll ship it to you for $85”. I had it the next day. It took exactly six screws to take the old plate off in my driveway. I put this thing on in 20 minutes. If I had a lift and was afforded better access to the set screws, this would have taken five minutes. $250 my fucking ass. Mind you, the service guys did bill me quarter hour increments for some of the work they did do, so they could easily have done this job for $100 no question.

Brakes. 55,000 miles on the ones I have, they had to be replaced. Dealer quote, $800 for the front, $850 for the back, both pads and rotors ($800 in parts, the rest labor @$100 per hour) I declined to have the dealership do this and had my indy guy do them. Bought the parts at an Ebay store specializing in Porsche parts. Bought pads, rotors, and sensors for all four wheels as a kit (same stuff the dealership was selling me) for $500.00!!! My indy guy billed me $180 in labor to put them on. Funny thing is, Beal told me he could’ve got the same kit for $30 less. The car now stops on a fucking dime.

My independent mechanic and his partner make a VERY good living. They don’t advertise and get all the work they can do by word of mouth only. They work on strictly exotics and from what I gather talking to guys picking up their Ferrari’s, Lotus’s, etc…over the years, they offer the same fair priced service even for these hyper expensive models.

There is simply no excuse that can be offered for a dealership to gouge patrons like they do. They are preying on people’s ignorance plain and simply. No matter what car you drive, find a solid independent service guy that you can trust and take your car there no matter how inconvenient the location might be.

Jackson said...

Dave, be careful now, we don't want you getting pulled over at 20,000 feet for a FWI.