Sunday, February 04, 2007

The (fiscal) dangers of faux hibernation

Yes, stuck inside again today, unwilling to brave the -12 degree wind chill. There aren't many things in life that are enhanced by negative numbers when you think about it: negative numbers are bad in your checking account, pay stub, winter temperatures, employer's annual P&L statement, and the like. The only example I can think of where I like to see negative numbers is in the grocery store receipt, where they total up the "savings" from your store loyalty card. And these are, as we all know, bogus savings in that these are the weekly discounts that used to be offered to one and all without the requirement of effectively selling data reflecting your purchasing behavior to a cabal of bean-counters in a marketing office somewhere. With regards to temperatures, I'm becoming a big fan of Celsius. When it's hot hot hot, say 90+ degrees Farenheit, it's only a brisk 33 degrees Celsius. And when it's a balmy 25 degrees Farenheit, the true reality of the bitter, bitter cold is reflected by the -4 degrees Celsius. Cooler in the summer, and a mathematical symbol to provide validation of your dog's refusal to go out in the morning in the winter: what's not to love about Celsius??

So, when both Farenheit AND Celsius are telling you that staying indoors is the wise course of action via the symbolic accentuation of the measurement with the dreaded negative sign, the challenge is to find something to occupy the mind that has developed a Pavlovian reaction to the combination of a weekend day and a clear, blue sky out the window: the incredible urge to do something, anything, having to do with an airplane. Today's manifestation of the airplane bug took the form of assessing where I am with the A&P program as it relates to questions of utility in the short-term, timing of classes, and balancing time spent out of the house with time spent in at least some proximity to my family. This line of thought was triggered by a decision I made last week: I'm not going to take classes in the Spring. Two classes are being offered back-to-back on Tuesdays and Thursdays, bringing the hours for each night to 4:30 - 11:00. Additionally, they total up to nine credit hours, at the rate of $70+ per hour. These both would be endurable if these were classes that would have direct applicability to my short term interests, which are limited to things that would be helpful in either maintaining my single engine light plane or building/restoring a similar plane. Classes on turbine engines or large hydraulic systems need not apply, in other words. Next quarter's classes did not meet those new criteria, nor will the Summer classes. Hence, I'm looking at least a 6 month hiatus. There's no problem with this in the long term since I'm not in any particular hurry to get done, but it does present a problem in that I won't have anything to work on.

One of the guys in my class had pretty much the same idea I had last year - he bought a project plane. I've been noodling that as well, going back and forth with various approaches I could take. I could find an old fabric biplane that needs restored, I could take over a partially completed kit, or I could look for a restoration project. I had been leaning towards the latter, so I definitely took note of this ad I came across on

This one has everything I was looking for: completed airframe requiring restoration but not major repair, a high-time engine for me to overhaul, and great resale possibilities. For example, I think it would be a fantastic learning experience to update the panel with something along these lines:

Since it's already in parts, it would be a simple matter to trailer it straight from Colorado to my basement. Think of it: a self-paced project, requiring relatively small initial investment (as compared to a brand new QuickBuild kit of some type), sitting right downstairs in the basement where I can effectively work on it whenever I want, without having to be 1) out of the house, and 2) working in a hangar that alternates between frigid cold and equatorial heat.

Tempting. Mighty tempting.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's this partially completed biplane:

It clearly has the benefit of lower acquisition cost, but I fear that might be a false economy. The risk of never being able to complete it would be much higher in that it is, as you can see, in a state of being far, far from complete, and there may very well be a good reason for the current builder throwing in the towel. A plane like that wouldn't come with the built-in peer-level support and easy parts availability of an RV, and it most assuredly wouldn't have the resale value of a two-seat RV. The skills learned by working on it would be valuable, but not as mainstream as those gained while working on the RV.

While clearly more affordable at the outset, I'm not sure that it would be a better value.

Alas, I fear the entire question to be entirely moot because when I'm faced with these "What to do, what to do?" questions, particularly those involving dollar amounts greater than $100, I invariably end up doing nothing.

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