Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby mmike » Tue Nov 10, 2009 9:09 pm

After about 5 hours of dual in the logbook I have put my hopes of becoming a licensed pilot on the shelf. Money was a big part of it (shifting family financial priorities), but not all of it, so I'll assign blame only where it's due.

The other part was mission-versus-cost. I'd be fine to get my PPL just to fly in circles on a sunny day, but the cost to get licensed ($8K through the FBO) plus rental rates to carve out those circles make that quite a costly conceit. So, I figured, the Sport Pilot license is fine, and just over half the cost--I'm figuring $5k--but I'd have no access to an LSA, since where I live the only folks who rent them do so for instruction only and with an instructor inside.

Finally, it was mission-versus-benefit. My significant other isn't interested in flying with me, and time with her doing a dozen things we both like vs. time apart from her doing one thing that only I like... well, what can I say? I like my wife more than flying.

Most days.

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby Vertolet » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:37 am

In my opinion "How much to learn to fly?" is the wrong question, because you really never stop. I mean, how can there ever be a finite number unless you plan on quitting after a certain point? The right question is probably, "How much does it cost to fly?" Which in my neighborhood is somewhere around $100 for an hour.

So instead of quoting a price for a certificate, why not quote them a price for an intro flight? If they like that, the expense afterwards is totally up to them based on how often they want to build their experience and ability.

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby PilotBillFromTexas » Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:58 am

mmike wrote:...logbook I have put my hopes of becoming a licensed pilot on the shelf.....

Hey, we all have to do what we have to do. No shame there at all. I would just encourage you to stay in the community. Show up at EAA chapter meetings, chime in on forums like this, volunteer at aviation events, etc... You can still be one of the good guys for GA and who knows, maybe 10 or 12 years from now when your situation is different then the time might be right to pull the trigger again.

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby champguy » Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:26 pm

It is a maintenance thing, maintaining an investment in aviation, and the life and community that goes with it.
I have a third of a hanger and about the lowest cost plane that can go over the mountains and on to see new places.
If I tried to have a hanger all my own, and an IFR equiped 172 of better, heck, I'd have to go out and get a job. What fun would that be!
On the other hand, if I was being paid to get places, then the higher cost would just be a deductable expense. And, I could be on the way to makeing a small fortune.
Yes you have to have some disposable income, but hiring an instrctor through solo is a drop in the bucket, and money well spent while getting up to speed on becoming a pilot.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby cphillips103 » Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:15 pm

Private Pilot: (based on a Cessna 152, block rates) Per Hour Total

30 hours dual instruction (aircraft and instructor) $138hr $4,140 Total
$93.00 (aircraft) + $45.00 (instructor) = $138.00

20 hours solo rental $93hr $1,860 Total
20 hours ground instruction $45hr $900 Total

Student Pilot Kit - $300 Total
private pilot manual; plotter; E-6B; logbook;
aircraft manual; sectionals; FAR-AIM;
flight planners, other pilot supplies

FAA Medical Fee $100 Total
FAA Written Exam Fee $90 Total
Check Ride Fee $400 Total

Total $7,790 Total

Got this from a difference school and it's close to my school. Doesn't include headset


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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby t0r0nad0 » Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:37 am

I work as a ground instructor for a local flight school that offers a significant discount if you enroll in the aviation classes at a local community college. If you are enrolled in two ground classes and a flight class, you don't get charged for instructor time - on the ground or in-flight - and you get the plane for $95/hr wet (normally $105/hr for VFR-only machine and $115/hr for IFR-capable machine). Using a similar model to what Christopher did above, here's what it works out to.

Private Pilot: (based on a Grumman Cheetah, Lee College rates) Per Hour Total

30 hours dual instruction (aircraft and instructor) $95hr $2,850 Total
$95.00 (aircraft) + $0.00 (instructor) = $95.00

20 hours solo rental $95hr $1,900 Total
20 hours ground instruction $0hr $0 Total

Books & Supplies: $270 Total

FAA Medical Fee $110 Total
FAA Written Exam Fee $90 Total
Check Ride Fee $375 Total
Lee College Tuition (14 credit hours) In District: $611 Out of District: $961 Non-Texas resident: $1451

Total: Up to $7,046 Total

This also does not include a headset.

Without the Lee College Discount, here's what it works out to:

Private Pilot: (based on a Grumman Cheetah) Per Hour Total

30 hours dual instruction (aircraft and instructor) $145hr $4,350 Total
$105.00 (aircraft) + $40.00 (instructor) = $95.00

20 hours solo rental $95hr $1,900 Total
20 hours ground instruction $40hr $800 Total

Books & Supplies: $270 Total

FAA Medical Fee $110 Total
FAA Written Exam Fee $90 Total
Check Ride Fee $375 Total

Total cost: $7,895

PP-ASEL as of 8/15/2007
AGI as of 6/30/2008
FAASTeam Representative

States in which I have been the sole manipulator of the controls on takeoff and/or landing:

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby MerlinFAC » Thu Nov 12, 2009 8:52 pm

Couple of comments on the last episode...

First, as for the cost of learning to fly... I haven't started, yet, so I can't quote too many numbers, but I have been extremely involved in the local aviation community for many years. Last week, one of our local pilot associations had their yearly meeting at a major flight school/college (I won't say who, but 80% of you would know the name I'm sure). They recently added an LSA to their fleet. They were quoting learning to fly for "only" about $7,000 and frankly, they have a bit of a reputation for outsiders (i.e., folks who aren't learning to fly as part of their aeronautics degree programs) having real struggles in ever finishing, due to a new instructor every time, etc. (I knew a guy who gave up after 80 hours, not yet having soloed). Probably the next-largest local flight school (fixed-wing, anyway) still refuses to get involved in LSA training, after what, 5 years? The message the local flight schools here, and I've found in most places, is clearly that they feel that "Sport Pilot is a joke". Well, folks, it ain't a joke, and it's the ONLY hope we have of keeping aviation alive in the long term.

I know someone who went down to an LSA training specialist (again, I won't name them but they're very well known and located in Sebring) and although he was a police helicopter pilot from way back, had no fixed-wing time. He went through their program (located about 2 hours away) and got his Sport Pilot certificate for a fraction of the price. Others have started training because they found a willing instructor and airplane (doesn't have to be an LSA the whole time) and from what I've heard, have done it for less than $4,000, sometimes drastically less if they're smart about it all and have a little luck in finding the right folks.

The multi-page ads in recent Sport Aviations showing that you can buy into part ownership in a brand new LSA for $2900 (IIRC) was, in my mind,a GREAT idea and really captures the mindset to help reach people. The outright purchase price of over $100K... very daunting. Buying into ownership and the use of a new airplane, for the cost of a 15 year old used car? THAT will reach people!! We need to get over quoting a big, scary number representing a final total in the worst-case scenario to answer this question.

The moral isn't to slam traditional schools, really. It's that the cost is HIGHLY dependent upon thorough research, looking extensively, and maybe a bit of random luck (something I don't really believe in, but you know what I mean). Aviation isn't like most other hobbies... you don't just go to the store and walk out with an airplane, or take a couple hours of classes to get certified. It's a real commitment. BUT it's also full of opportunities to participate in many ways before you become a pilot. I think emphasizing that is just as important, because any dollar amount you give someone will seem excessive to most people. We desperately need a bigger emphasis on the many, many aspects of it and as a corollary to that, those who fly traditional aircraft (Cessnas/Pipers and larger) MUST, I mean MUST, stop putting down the very light end of things like ultralights, trikes, PPCs, gyros, LSAs, etc. That damages ALL of aviation, and besides such comments are borne solely out of ignorance and snobbery. I know quite a few pilots of very light aircraft and probably 50% of them are longtime Private Pilots, probably 25% of them are former military aviators, 90% of them have never had an incident or accident of note, and what's most important, 100% of them are HAVING FUN IN AVIATION. If it takes the relatively low cost of such aircraft to enable someone to start flying, fine. And any "aviator" who puts that down is, in my opinion, harming our entire beloved sport and working to destroy it's future.

The second point I wanted to make about this episode concerns the comments on the Corvair engine and auto conversions in general. I feel I should take our intrepid hosts to task (gently) about their comments. I wasn't 100% sure, but it sounded to me like the guys thought poorly about the 'Vair, and had some real misconceptions about it. In the opinion of myself and thousands of others, this engine is actually revolutionizing an important segment of aviation, in large part due to how close it already is to an aircraft engine design. As for uses, it's very similar to an O-200 and almost any aircraft that can use an O-200 will be happy with a Corvair. That's a BIG segment of the GA world, considering how big the experimental amateur-built slice of the whole pie really is. And contrary to what was stated, the VERY well flight-tested Corvair conversions, which started with none other than Berard Pietenpol and which now continue to be highly refined and developed by William Wynne, have been flying successfully in aircraft ever since the Corvair car first came out. The fact is, Corvairs have far more safe flight hours on them than many "aircraft" engines that have garnered a lot of press!

More generally, I believe it's inaccurate to say that all auto-derived engines have failed to find success. True, many have, especially in the certified world... often, die to business (funding) issues and the complexity of the certification process itself, not always because that the engines can't be made to work. Some have failed spectacularly, but consider the thousands and thousands of VW-derived engines flying, the Ford Model As, Ts, and Bs that have been flying since the 1920s, the Mazda rotaries that have made big inroads, the Subaru conversions that are also quite numerous, the Corvair, and various others. Have auto-engines had the same safety record, overall, as Lycs and Continentals? No, not at all. But are there certain auto-derived engines that have achieved good safety records on a par with their "aviation" counterparts? I believe the answer to that is YES. Every engine (auto or otherwise) has appropriate uses, and non-appropriate ones, and some folks have tried some really questionable things at times that have produced poor or even fatal results. But when someone builds an auto engine conversion that's been developed by qualified persons and has a track record of actual flight-testing, and builds it properly and according to basic standards of craftsmanship, and uses it in an appropriate application, there's been a lot of success, often at a much lower cost than the equivalent "aero" engine (a Corvair can be built for as little as (around) $3,000 by someone who puts in the sweat equity to get a basic, reliable, and safe engine... how many O-200s fit that bill at even twice that price??) By the same token, there have been many folks who have crashed due to improper usage of certified aircraft engines, too... yet but nobody screams about how poor Lycomings/Continentals/etc. are in that case. As is so common in aviation, when an auto engine has problems or powers a plane that has a crash, regardless of the true causes or facts, it seems that all sorts of ignorant people (who in fact know NOTHING about the subject) are usually real quick to jump up and blame it on "those death-trap car engines" regardless of the facts of what happened. Like the flight schools slagging on LSA, this creates very wrong ideas in the aviation community (and worse, outside of it) and ultimately it only hurts us all in the end by directly contributing to the ongoing decline in aviation activity and the numbers of new pilots... both things that will likely eventually bring on the extinction of personal aviation.

I'm not trying to insult our fine Podcasters or be a negative nelly. I really enjoy the show or I wouldn't bother being on here... but I would suggest that the topic of auto engines would make a very interesting subject, and if you could get some folks actually in that field to join in a round-table discussion, I think a lot of folks would really enjoy it and learn some new things. I might suggest a panel of guys like Pat Panzera (Contact! magaine and EAA Experimenter e-newsletter fame), William Wynne (flycorvair.com), Jan Eggenfellner (Subaru guy), the Sonex folks (they do the VW conversions)... there are other good folks out there of course. I'm NOT thinking of a debate of their individual products, but a discussion of the status of auto engines in general, related safety concerns, what makes for a good or bad auto conversion, and things like that.

BTW, I have no dog in this fight (er, polite discussion) beyond I'm a probable future Corvair builder and someone who greatly admires the "movement" towards bolstering personal, fun aviation at reasonable cost, which is a drum that my friend William Wynne has been beating for years and which the Corvair community has really helped to coalesce. It's NOT about the Corvair specifically, really, I think... it IS all about helping folks find affordable ways to commit aviation, regardless of the specific aircraft, engine, or license category they do it with. I believe that the ultimate survival of aviation as a whole depends upon such a re-invigoration... NOW.

That's too long already, so I'll shut up now. Thanks for reading my blabbering. :)


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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby kellyrw » Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:24 am

Wow, those break downs in prices really threw me. I invite anyone that wants to learn to fly to move to Missouri. I spent $4,230 - ground school, rental plane, instructor, written, DPE and a kneeboard (this was late 2007). Took my checkride with 40.3 hours (last 1.2 was a dual cross country to get to the examiner). No prior flying experience. Then bought a legacy 172 and never looked back. When someone asks how much it costs, that's what I tell them. But the cost of flying, to me, was never the cost of getting a certificate, it was the cost of flying whenever I wanted. About what I pay for golf or poker night, and I never lose. But the idea that anybody can afford it is just not true. And I would strongly counsel against anybody paying anything for a certificate that they won't be able to afford to use. If you can't afford to fly, you can't afford to learn, unless a couple of thousand bucks to say you soloed for an hour or two does it for you. And if so, enjoy.

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby champguy » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:16 am

Exactly the point I was trying to make. The cost of flying is the cost to buy, hanger, maintain, and feed a plane. Once those fixed costs are met, the additional cost of the instructor until ready for solo is a drop in the bucket.
Learning to fly is fun, and a day of flying is, well a day of flying.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.

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Re: Episode #158 "Mach Point Five Six"

Postby rcigliano » Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:55 pm

Unfortunately, AOPA's estimate is correct (maybe a little too cheap). Up here on Long Island learning to fly is really expensive. If you want to learn in a DA40 G1000, the costs are $190/hr + $55/hr for the instructor. If you learn in the standard 172 (steam) the cost is $109/hr + $50/hr for the instructor. Even a 152 costs $101/hr.

So for arguments sake let's say it takes 40 hours, it will cost around $9800 for the DA40 and $6360 for the 172.

Now I know this is not realistic because you fly a number of hours solo and here on Long Island, I would bet the average hours to get your PPL (because of the busy airspace) is around 80 to 100. So the cost is actually higher than what AOP has quoted and this does not include books, equipment, insurance, etc.

What I would like to see is more of a push for the sport pilot license, explaining that with a couple of endorsements for flight into busy airspace, you can have most of the PPL privileges (except for night and carrying more than 1 passenger). Plus you would start enjoying flying sooner. If a prospective students know that you can get the sport pilot in half the hours and then add on the additional endorsements as needed, spreading out the cost, then maybe more would pursue a pilots license.

If prospective student wants the full PPL right away we can talk about flying clubs. If that person wants to learn in a new plane (and keep costs down) then we should talk about learning in an LSA. My Eaglet costs me $103/hr and if you want one with glass it is $113/hr and a sleek Sport Cruiser with glass is $120/hr.

So my answer would be, it depends. It depends on the mission of the pilot and what is his/her budget. I agree with Jack in that there are many ways to keep costs down (I wish I knew them when I was learning) and I also agree with Jeb. No one asks how much it will cost to own a boat or a motorcycle. Let's sell the benefits first and then discuss what it might cost.

Also, I whole-heartily agree that we typically preach to the choir in our support of GA. We need to market it like the motor cycles and boats. This is our competition. We need to be more aggressive.
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