Sport Pilot - Not So Much

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PropFan
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Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby PropFan » Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:28 am

I'll start out by saying I am completely sold on the idea of the Sport Pilot License -- so much so that I have been trying in vain for the past two months to figure out how I can get one without having to purchase my own airplane. I live in the Kansas City metro area (about 2 million population), and there is precisely one LSA-qualified aircraft for rent: a Sky Arrow 600 Sport. I recently took an introductory ride in it, and although I had a great time, I wasn't wild about the tandem seating or the $95 per hour rental charge. The flight school estimated the total cost of training would be in the range of $5500. For that price, I might as well just go straight for my private pilot license, which I can get at a local flying club for about $7300.

EAA's web site lists several Sport Pilot instructors in the Kansas City area, and I have called them all, reaching out to a radius of 200 miles. No one has an LSA-qualified plane, even though in 3 instances the EAA web site says they do. (By the way, a few of the "Sport Pilot" instructors tried to steer me towards private pilot training right out of the chute.) I did find one instructor in Joplin, MO who has an LSA-qualified plane -- yea! But, he is also a charter pilot and his schedule is so erratic that it would be nearly impossible to set up a feasible instruction schedule from my home base 150 miles away.

That leaves me with the option of going to a flight school such as St. Charles Flying Service (in the St. Louis area) that offers the possibility of receiving a Sport Pilot license in a couple of weeks for $3200, exclusive of test fees. Now we're talking! However, the vagaries of weather, combined with my inability to take off two weeks from work, pretty well eliminates that option. Even if I did that, what would I fly here in Kansas City? So, that leaves me with the option of purchasing an LSA-qualified plane (and assuming all of the associated costs of ownership) and finding an instructor who will teach me in it. But wait. That's not what the Sport Pilot program is all about, is it? It's about having the opportunity to get in a plane as pilot in command in a relatively quick and affordable manner and fly often for pleasure.

As a result, I have reluctantly given up on the Sport Pilot option, and will (gladly) pursue my private pilot license instead. It seems to me that four years into its existence, the Sport Pilot program has a long way to go in fulfilling its primary objective, and I suspect my experience is fairly common around the country. While I do enjoy reading every month in EAA's Sport Pilot magazine about all the new LSA models being produced, those simply are not an option for most of us. Until those planes start showing up in flight schools at affordable rates (competitive with the $63 per hour wet rate I can get in a Cessna 172), and until there is an adequate supply of rentable LSA aircraft, the Sport Pilot program cannot be considered a success.

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

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champguy
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby champguy » Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:47 pm

No flying is going to be succesfull until you own and maintain your own plane. Be it ever so humble, it is available and airworthy on your own terms and responsibility.

Sport Pilot or PPL is really not the issue. What matters is whether you have the training, attitude, and the ongoing commitment to bring that plane, yourself, and your passengers safely down after each and every flight.

Sport Pilot is a great new framework for flying and is showing real promise. It is not however a shortcut from the underlying realities of flying, and it will not change the fact that most people will never fully accept personal responsibility and make the necessary commitment to be a pilot.

For those who do, the sky is the limit. I would have it no other way.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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Dave Higdon
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby Dave Higdon » Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:56 pm

Wow, PropFan, you've really worked at this, for that you have my highest respect.

Do want to comment on a couple of your points, taking the last one first. You're hopes of finding someone renting a new LSA for the price of an old Cessna Skyhawk are probably futile, considering the cost of purchase, finance and insurance. I can rent Skyhawks down here in the Wichita area but there's a huge divergence on the costs, depending on whether I go out to rent a 30-year-old 172 or a newer one with the Garmin G1000 package. The new one can costs as much as double, depending on which *old* Skyhawk I rent...simply put, what it takes to recover the costs of a new LSA makes rental at old Skyhawk rates a money-losing proposition.

That said, that $5,500 you were quoted seems woefully high...for example, presuming you'd ultimately need 30 hours of dual and solo time to complete the Sport Pilot ticket and check ride, you're looking at $2,850 in rental time; that leaves $2,650 to cover instructor and materials...even at $45 an hour for an instructor and assuming you wind up flying 15 hours of dual, that's still only $675...leaving me wondering what in the world they're supposedly giving you for the remaining $1,975...even if you threw in books and a two-day ground school and the test, you'd still be looking at $1,500 I can't account for.

No question, there are things you'll want/need -- headset, study guides, VFR charts -- but they can be put together for well under $500...or less if y ou shop for a decent set of pre-owned headsets...

Facing what you've been told, I'd have walked, too...sorry, but sounds like those deals I hear about (too) frequently, in which the flight school tells the prospect about the $1,500 to $1,700 worth of *stuff* they'll have to buy from the school to before you really get started...

There are better ways, and it may take more digging. As for buying a LSA-compliant airplane in which to get your ticket and start flying, man, you're close to unlocking the keys to the kingdom here. And you're options, you should remember, range across everything from old Aeronca Champs and Chiefs, Luscombes, Ercoupes, Taylorcraft, and a host of others -- at prices that are often well under $25,000...or, you can opt for something new, and here the prices start at about $40,000 for a CGS Hawk LSA (it's tandem, though...) and another that goes for $50,000...from this point, prices do rise -- but financing is, fortunately, available, at decent rates and terms...

With your own airplane, you may find it easier to find a free-lance LSA instructor willing to work with you on instruction at a reasonable costs. That's what we did when time came for me to move beyond the ultralights and hang gliders I started flying 31 years ago...bought a Cherokee 140 (1969 model) for $18,000...interestingly, you can still find old Cherokees and Skyhawks for very low prices...

And if you decide to go ahead with the full Private ticket, you'll still be able to own and fly an LSA...

So don't give up...

Love to hear some others' input here, as well...

Good luck, man!

Dave

PropFan
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby PropFan » Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:19 pm

Champguy and Dave:

Thank you for your feedback. Good food for thought. I have put a lot of effort into this, and despite the roadblocks so far, I'm pretty sure I have the desire to see this through. However, I must say you both are shameless enablers. You should be trying to convince me of all the reasons NOT to buy a plane, rather than the other way around.

Actually, I plan to drive down to the Funk Fly-in in Coffeyville, KS this Saturday, primarily just for the fun of it, but also to take a peek at a 1946 Funk that's for sale for $12,495. I had never heard of Funk aircraft until recently, but they're lovely little taildraggers made -- of course -- in Coffeyville, KS. Dave, you should forego breakfast in Ponca City and hop over to Coffeyville this weekend, too.

I'm told that getting insurance on a taildragger as a student pilot/owner is nigh unto impossible, so I put a call in to an insurance agent this morning to find out. I haven't heard back yet, so maybe he hasn't stopped laughing.

If I do buy a plane, I'll almost certainly have to keep it at a tie down rather than in a hangar. Up here, heated "community" hangars at the FBOs go for $350/mo., and county-owned T-hangars (for which there is a 5-year waiting list) go for $250/mo. Tie-downs go for $45. My wife is so supportive of my obsession that I almost feel guilty, but I think she would draw a very clean line between $45 and $250. How bad is the wear and tear on a plane at a tie down? How in the world do you heat it up at 7:00 a.m on a frigid January morning?

Champguy: the account of your return trip from Oshkosh to Oregon read like a 1930s adventure novel. In my mind's eye I could see an airplane tracing a route over a map, like in an Indiana Jones movie. Good stuff. I wonder if a Funk could pull that off!

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champguy
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby champguy » Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:02 pm

Ya don't let my preachy stuff put you off. But here are some numbers.
Bought freshly rebuilt Champ for 26 AMUs because it was in great shape and as a 7-CCM had the C-90.
Got it home from North Dakota and after a while "discovered" that it had the wrong crankshaft, short throw C-85 crank with low compression C-90 pistons made for a really smooth 65 horse power motor. Easy to start one handed but really not up to the task for me and the wife on a warm day.
So 12 AMUs later I actually had a nice fresh C-90 just like the data plate said. Flying over mountains and tractless forest is always a little uncomfortable, but a fresh motor helps a bunch.
As for going cross country, thats the easy part. Its just one VFR hop at a time. Two hours at 80 MPH, heck you can see half way to the next stop. Know your personal minimums, and realize that a nice Motel is much cheaper than an IFR ticket and pannel.
To OSH, Bar Harbour Maine, and back to Oregon, a month of flying and visiting, 110 hours in the log, plane burned $2500 bucks gas and 2 quarts of oil each way. Everyone has there own idea of reasonable, and next February a bungalow in Belize might seem like a better deal, but it won't be any cheaper.

Now for the free advice. The easy part. Go find a beater C-150 for around $18,000. There are two available here at that price. Beat the heck out of it for a year learning to fly and get a PPL. It will still be worth 18 grand next year and you will only be out gas, tie down, and an annual. Next year you will have a better idea what you want, make fewer mistakes, and not beat up the plane you want to keep.

Doesn't that sound like fun?
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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Dave Higdon
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby Dave Higdon » Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:51 pm

PropFan -- As a Funk Fan, I've long wanted to hit Coffeyville during the Funk reunion, but seems like something always interferes -- and this weekend is no exception. But it's not Ponca City -- that's the First Saturday of every month -- but a fly-in meeting of this little club of pilot reprobates to which I belong...basically eats up the day between 10 and 2 -- and it's in the opposite direction out of Wichita. But may find somebody thinking of flying over after the meeting...and if that happens, well, I'm not above hopping a ride.

Now. To the topic at hand...

ChampGuy said:
Now for the free advice. The easy part. Go find a beater C-150 for around $18,000. There are two available here at that price. Beat the heck out of it for a year learning to fly and get a PPL. It will still be worth 18 grand next year and you will only be out gas, tie down, and an annual. Next year you will have a better idea what you want, make fewer mistakes, and not beat up the plane you want to keep.


Well...PropFan, speaking as but one of many enablers on this site, gotta say that there's a lot of wisdom in what he said...tried to nudge you toward his thinking in my original post, where the text talks about buying the $18,000 Cherokee 140 to get my ticket and fly my first two years...should've gone farther, with the rest of its story.

Good ol' N8038N came to us for those 18 AMUs that ChampGuy quoted; got my ticket, then flew the little puppy 335 hours in about 22 months; to Sun 'n Fun, Oshkosh, several family trips east to Indiana and D.C., down to Kitty Hawk, all around the eastern half of the U.S. and several states on our side of the Miss...only on our 12th or 13th 1,000-mile-plus trip did we finally give in to the idea that we really should consider something fast enough to cut those 12-hour travel days down to 8 or so...

We sold said Cherokee two years after buying it -- for 25 AMUs; after backing out all of our expenses, we wound up spending 3 AMUs to fly for two years and 335 hours...well-kept starter airplanes tend to hold their values pretty well...as long as you don't pour thousands and thousands into upgrades and expect to get it all out, if you fly it, keep everything working and looking at least like you care about it, getting your purchase price back out isn't too hard...

That's it; enjoy Coffeyville...which, for what it's worth, was also the site of the last big robbery by the Dalton and Younger gangs...townspeople fought back and won -- so they still celebrate that every year...have fun!

Dave

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mike5
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby mike5 » Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:12 pm

One resource for people looking for training or rental in LSAs is Dan Johnson's FIRM list. See

http://www.bydanjohnson.com/

Dan is Mr. LSA. He is the spokesman for the entire movement. He has a very informative website.

Mike5

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DaveA
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby DaveA » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:52 am

PropFan wrote:
I'm told that getting insurance on a taildragger as a student pilot/owner is nigh unto impossible, so I put a call in to an insurance agent this morning to find out. I haven't heard back yet, so maybe he hasn't stopped laughing.

If I do buy a plane, I'll almost certainly have to keep it at a tie down rather than in a hangar. Up here, heated "community" hangars at the FBOs go for $350/mo., and county-owned T-hangars (for which there is a 5-year waiting list) go for $250/mo. Tie-downs go for $45. My wife is so supportive of my obsession that I almost feel guilty, but I think she would draw a very clean line between $45 and $250. How bad is the wear and tear on a plane at a tie down? How in the world do you heat it up at 7:00 a.m on a frigid January morning?


Insurance:
Check on EAA's program.

Tiedown vs Hangar:
There have been mostly fabric airplanes in my life. The last one I had I recovered myself (TriPacer) along with most of the previous ones. Way back in the day (1930's - 1950's before all metal light airplanes became prevalent), it wasn't any big deal to leave your fabric covered airplane out on the line tied down, even tho you wanted a hangar if you could afford it (like today). Fabric was usually Grade A cotton or Irish linen, and it had a life of 5-10 years average depending on where it sat. Need recovering? No problem because the local A&P could do it in his sleep.

Today it's different. You have synthetic fabric- dacron (Ceconite or Polyfiber, usually) better finishes etc. etc. BUT it's still tough on an airframe to sit in the elements. Alot of places for water to go, the sun is tough on the paint, glass, rubber, etc. not to mention the interior and electronics. The Fat and Friendly Funk has a steel tube fuselage, and typically a taildragger gets cancer in the lower longerons and the tailpost if it's been sitting outside much. Wooden spars/ribs in the wings, even tho they're varnished or coated otherwise with a polyurethane, can be subject to deterioration over time faster outside than inside. Ask any Bellanca owner. And then there's the talent pool if you can't do a recover job yourself. Dave mentioned on Ep100 or 101 about getting fabric work done today, and it being a dying art. Yep, to a degree- not too many A&P's out there that can do it, and do it so that you can afford it. But I found it rewarding, and would still. There's alot of EAA resources to doing it yourself or getting a few guys that want to help and making it go fast, especially if there's an experienced guy in the gang.

I'd better stop now. Recollections of spraying dope all night, rib stitching till my fingers were raw, wet sanding with 400 grit until I had no fingerprints left, overspray all over the shop, waiting for the compressor to catch up....ah, yes. Rewarding indeed!
"Powered by 110 octane Algae-Poo..." :mrgreen:

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champguy
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby champguy » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:18 pm

Fabric taildragger outside, don't even think about it.
Even a beater 150 will have problems after a year. Maybe in Arizona would be OK.
Try to find some old guy who can fit a second plane in his hanger for a modest amount if you help him take care of needed repairs. Or a guy loseing his medical but can't let go. Keep looking, its out there.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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PropFan
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Re: Sport Pilot - Not So Much

Postby PropFan » Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:52 pm

All:

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions.

Jack, Dave and Jeb:

Thanks for continuing the discussion in Episode 101.

There's a short piece in one of the recent aviation magazines echoing what I suspect is the case: most LSA activity is taking place among pilots who have concerns about passing their next Class 3 medical. That's a great use of LSA; heaven knows I could be in that situation before too long. But, I hope the primary objective of making it easier to get that first certificate will also be realized some day.

In the meantime, I have started my private pilot training, and I completed my fourth lesson (on stalls -- WOW!) last week.

PropFan


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