How airplanes fly

About nine years ago I started flying as a way to blow off steam from the stresses of work. As with anything I do, once I got past the initial learning hurdles, I pursued the hobby very aggressively, eventually earning an instrument rating, a commercial certificate (land) and a private pilot certificate in seaplanes. (NB: Flying seaplanes is almost as good as sex.)

In March of 2000, I became a delusional airplane co-owner. Yesterday, I came to my senses and sold my share.

During training you learn a about aviation, radios, weather, and physics. The FAA is especially keen on drilling into students Bernoulli’s principle to help explain how airplanes fly. Bernoulli’s principle is technically incorrect. Based on my experience the last four years, it’s also practically incorrect. A diagram is needed to illustrate what really makes airplanes fly:

As the wallet is opened, a sucking force pulls the $20 bills fly over the top of the wing, generating lift. The faster the plane goes, the quicker the wallet empties. The $20 bill on the bottom represents the cost just for being able to look at the plane in daylight.

And don’t ask where the money actually goes. It’s too painful to contemplate.

Each spring, flying magazines across North America write about plane ownership, some suggesting a plane is an investment. I never believed it and assumed the authors were injecting 100LL into their veins. Tonight, for entertainment purposes only, I did put on my Illudium Q36 rose-colored glasses and looked at the comparative return of my share of the plane versus some of my former stock holdings over the same period.

This is purely an academic argument, but the airplane fared a better investment than anything else… but only because it hemorrhaged money slower. Using logic, I could have saved even more (losses) by buying two or three airplanes!

Investment Period
(share price)
“Investment” Mar-00 Apr-04 Return
AMZN $67.00 $48.00 -28%
Airplane don’t ask don’t tell -37%
HD 65.50 35.99 -45%
MSFT 53.12 26.56 -50%
GPS 49.81 22.53 -55%
INTC 65.97 26.88 -59%
ORCL 39.03 11.90 -70%
CSCO 77.31 22.37 -71%
NOK 56.06 14.27 -75%
LU 62.00 3.61 -94%
VTSS 96.25 4.76 -95%
Mystery Company 1 127.52 3.68 -97%
Mystery Company 2 95.37 0.00 -100%

This is a manufactured argument. I actually got out of most of my stocks by early 2001 when I couldn’t understand the market anymore, nor did I have time to follow it constantly. (Mystery Companies 1 and 2 are former employers. I will have some funny anecdotes when my NDA expires in June.

The co-ownership experience was very good, and if I honestly thought I’d be flying more than 100 hours a year, I’d stick with it. But as it stands, with biking, blogging, and babies, I don’t have much free time to keep my skills sharp.

9 Responses

  1. Splits affected nearly every stock and were factored into the been factored into the March 2000 price. You can see the volatility Microsoft had in the 5 year chart, including a precipitous drop in early April 00 and again in December 00.

    Of all the stocks I owned at the time, only the non-technical ones (WFMI, WMT, and FO) would have done well.

  2. 🙂 It was a very good question that I should have made a point about in the original data.

    Hey, if 20-20 hindsight analysis weren’t so easy, there would be a lot of money in it.

  3. I never realized how similar airplane and boat ownership are. For example; “A boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into.” or “The two happiest days of a boat owners life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it.” Regardless of this, like you, I wish I had bought 3 or 4 boats in 2000…