Good news everybody....after many emails and after an exhaustive search, I have finally found a pair of wings that I can call my own. I am the proud new owner of my very own airplane.
She's a Robin ATL, with the registration F-GFNP. Not the fastest bird in the hanger by any means, but she's solid, is perfect working order and easy to handle. What's more, she sips only 12 litres of avgas (around 3 US gallons) per hour, so she won't break the bank when operating her.
Originally the plan was to buy a decent C172. But after a tiring search, I found that the older ones were in bits and the better/newer ones were still commanding a high price. Testament to the quality and popularity of Cessna's venerable workhorse....but not doing me any favours in finding a cheap 1st time-buy. Until the Robin happened along. Besides, as I have flown more and more this past year, I've noticed that more often than not, I was flying either by myself or with only one other person in the cockpit with me. If I had a C172, that would mean I'd be burning 14 gals of AVGAS with load factor of between 25%-50%....not economical at all. And with the Robin being only approx 10kts slower than the C172, that small amount of lost time really doesn't compare to the amound of pure savings on each flight. You can tell that the man behind the stick works with numbers each day :-)
I'm in the process of getting all the paperwork together and the insurance organised. But I'm not in a mad hurry to be honest because the weather this weekend is SO bad. I will most likely have to pick her up later in the month when the sun decides to make an appearance.
The only two snags I have with her are the transponder and the engine. The transponder is a mandatory issue...i.e. she needs a Mode S in order to fly uninhibited in Holland. And the engine because the current one is a little under powered. Eventually I'll swap her for a Rotax, which sips a similar amount of fuel but packs a bigger oompf. But the engine can come later. She already has a GPS, albeit an 1st generation one. So I'll look into getting a new GPS at some stage. But that's not a necessity for the moment. I think I'll focus the initial 10-20 hours just getting to know her and she how she handles, and then work on the add-ons later on. So now hopefully the family and friends who complain to me at Christmas and Birthdays about "buying the man who has everything" know what they can buy me....something for "NP" :-)
Keep your fingers crossed that the weather clears up over the coming weeks so I can go pick her up, and I hope I'll see you all soon so you can come and take a spin in her with me. Hopefully this will keep the "mid-life crisis" at bay for a wee while longer.