Can We Save Old Hangar Queens and Forgotten Planes?

I’m sure the rest of you are just as familiar with old forgotten planes as I am.  The ones that are tied down in the back corner of the airport or FBO because whoever the owner is can’t afford to do anything with it, or for all I know, they completely forgot they even own a plane.

It kind of reminds me of the island of misfit toys from the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie, only at least those toys had each other.  Most abandoned planes sit all by themselves and watch all the working planes go out and have adventures.

The worst offender I have seen of this is a group of planes that were, or rather are, abandoned on the side of a road here in Arkansas.  They have been in the same place since I first moved here eight years ago.  A friend of mine found the owner to see if they would be interested in selling them, but got the cold shoulder and an, “absolutely not”.  What a waste of what used to be salvageable airplanes.  From what I can see from the road there are 3-4 152 or 172 types and a couple of multi engine planes that look like barons from a distance.

What a waste!

Pretty much every airport you go to has planes like this, and a lot of the smaller airports have numerous planes like this.  For someone that is dying to own an airplane, but simply can’t afford it right now, it breaks my heart to see them out there rusting away.

There has to be a way to get more of these planes back in the air.  Maybe having them back out there would even help bring the cost down if the supply was a little higher?  I realize it wouldn’t make a dramatic change, but if we could just get more of these planes back working with their simple avionics it might give a few more cost effective options to people.  There is no need to put G1000s in them, or other crazy things, they just need to get back in the air where they belong.

It is unfortunate that restoring planes is not the same as restoring cars.  I love watching those shows on Discovery where they buy a running but ugly car and spruce it up a little before selling it for a decent profit.  The regulatory aspect of aviation alone probably makes this a non-starter, but from everything else I can find, the math just doesn’t work because in most cases, the cost to restore simply outpaces the price you could sell it for in the end.

The one variance I have considered over the years is what if you could get the owner in on the deal.  They clearly don’t want the plane anymore, or they would be using it, but they also can’t sell it for much in its current dilapidated state.  So what if you were to agree to restore it back to flying condition, and then sell it and split the profits?  The owner doesn’t have to put in the time or money to get it running again, but they still walk away with a little money from it.  You wouldn’t have to front the cost of a busted up plane, but could also benefit from your time and effort.

And the big winner is that we have another plane back in the air.

The biggest issue with this would be if there were no profits.  I feel like the only way this would work is having an A&P as part of your team and rewarding them with a bigger percentage of the sale for their work, and even that may not be feasible.  I realize there are other problems with this idea that I am sure I am missing, but there has to be something we can do to get more of these planes flying again.  Allowing them to rot away into nothingness is not only sad, it can’t be helping the costs of the industry as a whole.

I’m curious to hear what others’ thoughts may be of this situation.  What can we do to get more of these planes back in the air?

Thanks for reading.