Today, we review the Best States To Own A Plane, best states for pilots and aircraft friendly states. More Californians, Floridians, and Texans own private aircraft than residents in the other 47 states. Data gathered by the Federal Aviation Administration and published by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) show that California, Texas, and Florida are by far the most active states for private flights. In fact, No. 3 Florida had more than twice as many hours in the air as No. 4 Oklahoma. What makes these three states so private-flight friendly?
Favorable flying weather might be one reason; an abundance of airports could be another (Texas ranks second in the country in that category, and California third). Or maybe it’s simply because they are the country’s three most populous states. “When you compare the states’ activity, do so in the context of population,” says Jens Hennig, GAMA’s vice president of operations.
best states for pilots
California, he points out, accounts for about 12 percent of the country’s population and, with nearly 21,000 aircraft, 10 percent of the country’s private-aviation fleet. Florida makes up about 6.4 percent of the country’s population, and its residents own about 6.9 percent of the collective private fleet in the States. Those correlations make sense, especially when combined with shared friendly-sky statistics such as plentiful airstrips and sunny days.
best states to own a plane
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Best Private Planes You Can Buy Right Now
Available: Since 2009
Range: 440 nautical miles
For many pilots, the Cessna Skycatcher isn’t the plane you buy; it’s the one that teaches you to fly. The single piston-engine model is a popular trainer, with extremely beginner-friendly Garmin-built avionics – much of the instrumentation is displayed on dual monitors – and just enough seating for a student and a wary instructor. But the Skycatcher is the cheapest (or close to it) light sport aircraft (LSA) on the market, part of a relatively new class of small planes that make general aviation more obtainable than ever. The limited range makes it a bad fit for most business travelers, but a perfect choice for those who simply want to soar.
Icon A5 Amphibious Light Sport Aircraft
Available: Mid-2014 (estimated)
Range: 300 nautical miles
It’s okay to want a plane that looks and functions like a G.I. Joe vehicle come to life. Not that the Icon A5 is a toy, but its undeniably nifty, with its retractable wings, water landing capability, and unique design – the single engine is mounted behind the two-seat carlike cockpit. Along with useful LSA options such as a full-plane parachute, the A5 can dispense entirely with the need for a runway. By having the landing gear removed, it becomes a seaplane, taking off and landing on water, and docking like a small to midsize boat.
Available: Since March 2013
Range: 1,250 nautical miles
The Cessna TTx is the airborne equivalent of a high-performance luxury sedan, boasting the fastest maximum cruise speed of any single-engine piston – 235 knots, or roughly 270 mph – and seating for four. It also has enough range to supplant domestic commercial flights, whether you’re flying solo or taking a modest-size group on vacation. The TTx’s best feature might be its ESP (Electronic Stability and Protection) autopilot system, which automatically kicks in if the pilot becomes incapacitated, initiates a stall, or otherwise loses control of the craft.
Beechcraft G36 Bonanza
Available: Since 2006
Range: 643 nautical miles (with four passengers)
The Beechcraft Bonanza is a single-engine piston that has been around longer than any other – it’s been in constant production in one form or another since 1947. But Beechcraft has also steadily upgraded it along the way, so while it’s still an ultrareliable workhorse, with seating for up to six, the most recent iteration has a higher-visibility glass wraparound windscreen and the kind of touchscreen-centric Garmin avionics that, according to JA Air’s Scott Fank, is the single biggest draw (of small-plane features) for new pilots, who’ve likely never flown with older, purely analog instrumentation.
Cirrus Vision SF50
Price: $1.96 million
Available: 2015 (estimated)
Range: 1,100 nautical miles
If the amphibious A5 is a would-be G.I. Joe gadget, the Citrus Vision SF50 is pure Cobra. Or it will be, if Cirrus can get a model ready next year for flight certification and stay on track for first deliveries in 2015. But anyone, even those of us without nearly $2 million sitting around, can root for this plane with its single, top-mounted jet engine and V-wing design. It would also create its own category, what Cirrus is calling the Personal Jet, with enough pep (300 knots) to satisfy performance fanatics and enough seating for the whole family (up to five adults and two children).
Price: $2.89 million
Available: October 2013
Range: 1,125 nautical miles
Until the Vision hits the market, the Eclipse 550 is your first choice for personal jetting. Eclipse brags that it’s the only twin-engine jet for under $3 million, and the most fuel-efficient, too, consuming 59 gallons per hour. We’re more interested in its 375 knots (430 mph) maximum cruising speed and max altitude of 41,000 feet, getting you from Memphis to Miami in under three hours, while coasting above the majority of commercial air traffic. Optional features include Enhanced and Synthetic Vision, offering fighter jet–style night vision and a heads-up display with integrated 3-D maps of approaching terrain.
Pilatus PC-12 NG
Price: $3.3 million
Available: Since 2007
Range: 1,560 nautical miles
There are cheaper turboprops, for sure, such as straightforward cargo haulers like Cessna’s Caravan series. But the Pilatus PC-12 NG is a jack-of-all-trades, with a pressurized cabin, versatile interior layouts that can include seating for up to nine, and a single turbine that can hit 280 knots (compared, for example, to the Caravan’s 186 knots). It’s also renowned for its reliability and durability, one of the reasons the PC-12 is flown by everyone from commercial airlines to special operations commandos in the U.S. Air Force. Again, car comparisons can be misleading, but this is the fastest, toughest, meanest minivan you’ll ever fly.
Embraer Phantom 100
Price: $4.4 million
Available: Since 2007
Range: 1,178 nautical miles
What do you get in a so-called “entry-level” jet? Twin turbofans capable of 390-knot speeds, a fully enclosed lavatory, a large (class-leading, in fact) BMW-designed cabin with a built-in wardrobe for accessible storage, and seating for up to eight – though two crew members up front and four passengers facing each other limousine-style is standard. The Embraer Phantom 100 is a model example of the recent (by aviation standards) Very Light Jet, or VLJ, category, which bridges the world of turboprops and bigger, more traditional jets. Still, if you’re buying a VLJ, there’s very little chance you’re the one flying it.
Beechcraft King Air 350i
Price: $7.5 million
Available: Since 2009
Range: 1,714 nautical miles (with four passengers)
There’s no more fuel-efficient way to fly 10 people to their destination than with the Beechcraft King Air 350i twin-turboprop plane. A similar size jet usually burns at least a fifth more fuel. The 350i has other merits, such as a ludicrously strong airframe and landing gear, making it one of the only aircraft that can take off with both a full passenger load and a full fuel load (providing for extremely long ranges) in virtually any temperature, and on runways too short for similar turboprops or jets. But the emphasis is on bulk travel. Corporations choose King Airs in the name of thrift, but private buyers are more interested in ferrying entire clans to distant climes.
Price: $11.5 million
Available: Late 2013 (estimated)
Range: 2,060 nautical miles
Learjet used to be the Xerox of private aviation, its name synonymous with the entire notion of airborne wealth. The brand (part of Bombardier) isn’t exactly failing, but models like the upcoming Learjet 70 could help win back some territory. It can reach a smooth-sailing max altitude of 45,000 feet, and its range of 2,060 nautical miles is practically transcontinental. Along with a lower weight than the model it’s replacing (by some 200 pounds), the new eight-seater will be one of the first aircraft to feature Garmin’s latest cockpit layout – the top-end G5000, with its array of 14- and 5.7-inch touchscreen panels.