Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Talk about airplanes! At last count, there are 39 (and growing) FAA certificated S-LSA (special light sport aircraft). These are factory-built ready to fly airplanes. If you can't afford a factory-built LSA, consider buying an E-LSA kit (experimental LSA - up to 99% complete).

Moderator: drseti

N918KT
Posts: 450
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:49 pm

Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby N918KT » Mon Dec 07, 2015 9:27 pm

Hello all. I was recently browsing LSAs on Barnstormers when I noticed the prices of used SLSAs vs ELSAs and LSAs that are amateur-built. Most used SLSAs I see are in the $50,000 to $80,000 range, give or take. However both used ELSAs and E-AB LSAs are quite a bargain with prices in the $20,000 to $40,000 range give or take.

With ELSAs and E-AB LSAs that cheap I would be inclined to purchase a plane like that over a used SLSA if I do have the money and a SPL to purchase one. However, I always thought experimental aircraft's safety record is worse than a certified aircraft or SLSA.

Is it true that flying a used ELSA or E-AB that somebody else built is riskier safety-wise than flying an SLSA and if it is so, would it be worth the cheaper purchase price?

User avatar
FastEddieB
Posts: 2136
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:33 pm
Location: Mineral Bluff, GA

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby FastEddieB » Mon Dec 07, 2015 11:24 pm

It's late, but I'll do my best to post some thoughts on this tomorrow.
Fast Eddie B.
Sky Arrow 600 E-LSA • N467SA
FastEddieB@mac.com

User avatar
MrMorden
Posts: 1733
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:28 am
Location: Athens, GA

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby MrMorden » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:08 am

The safety of experimental airplanes *is* worse than other types. However, most accidents occur within the first 10 hours of flight, when the airplane is still in phase I testing. Once an airplane has a hundred hours on it and the bugs are shaken out, the safety record improves dramatically.

E-LSA are generally built to the factory standard, the same as an S-LSA would be. They have to conform to the S-LSA prototype, so are usually built to a similar standard (though not identical since they are built by amateurs). The exception is airplanes sold as S-LSA that are then converted to E-LSA, Like Eddie's SkyArrow. They are factory built planes that simply have a change in certificate type.

Any experimental can be of better-than-factory build quality and have impeccable maintenance, or they can be deathtraps held together with chewing gum and baling wire. It is highly dependent on the builders and owners.

The best advice I could give when buying an experimental is to decide what type of airplane you want to buy, and learn as much as you can about it. Attend the builder workshops for the type if you can. Study the plans. Learn builder best practices and construction. Make friends with some people who have built good examples of the type. Then go looking at airplanes of that type for sale. Bring one or more of your builder friends with you. Go over *everything* in the airplane. If it passes muster with a good builder, it's probably as safe as any other airplane.

One last thing: be especially wary of airplanes that are for sale before completing their phase I testing (usually the first 40 hours). Sometimes these are guys that have to sell for financial or medical reasons, or they are just guys that like to build more than fly. But sometimes they are builders who have low confidence in their build quality, or have flown the airplane and realize it has significant or hard to fix problems.
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

N918KT
Posts: 450
Joined: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:49 pm

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby N918KT » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:17 am

Thanks for the response MrMorden! I am always a fan of low-wing tricycle gear LSAs having most of my LSA flight time in Evektors, so if I had the money and a sport pilot license to buy a ELSA or E-AB LSA, I would buy a Van's RV-12 or a Zenith Zodiac (with the wing modifications included).

User avatar
MrMorden
Posts: 1733
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:28 am
Location: Athens, GA

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby MrMorden » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:39 am

N918KT wrote:Thanks for the response MrMorden! I am always a fan of low-wing tricycle gear LSAs having most of my LSA flight time in Evektors, so if I had the money and a sport pilot license to buy a ELSA or E-AB LSA, I would buy a Van's RV-12 or a Zenith Zodiac (with the wing modifications included).


I received my first 20 hours of training in a 601XL Zodiac. Honestly, I'm not a fan. The construction on them is a little cheap, and they are *very* sensitive, particularly in pitch. And Zenith/AMD did not respond well to the wing failure problem; they denied there was any issue for about two years until the FAA stepped in, reviewed their engineering, and found significant under-engineering that contributed to the failures.

The RV-12 is a great machine. If you want another option that is less expensive, I'd look at the Sonex. They are great handling, and fully aerobatic with +6g/-3g limits. Built like tanks and faster than either an RV-12 or Zodiac (~130-160mph cruise), but still with mild handling and slow stall in the 40-45mph range. You can get nice built ones with a VW engine in the $25k-30k range, and with a 120hp Jabiru 3300 engine (which I would recommend) in the $40k-$50k range.

To give an example of the build differences, the Zodiac and the Sonex have very similar wingspans. The Zodiac has six ribs per wing...the Sonex has thirteen ribs per wing.
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

User avatar
drseti
Posts: 5224
Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2009 6:42 pm
Location: Lock Haven PA
Contact:

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby drseti » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:07 am

Very interesting, Andy. Do you happen to know the rib count for an RV12?
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof. H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC, iRMT
AvSport of Lock Haven
fly@AvSport.org
http://AvSport.org
http://facebook.com/SportFlying

User avatar
MrMorden
Posts: 1733
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:28 am
Location: Athens, GA

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby MrMorden » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:46 am

drseti wrote:Very interesting, Andy. Do you happen to know the rib count for an RV12?


I do not.

Of course, rib count is not everything, the strength and construction of the spars is vital, as well as other details. The Sonex is built up for aerobatic maneuvers, so it's naturally going to be stronger than a normal +4/-2 airplane like the RV-12 or my CTSW. But some are more built up than others. I do know the static wing load test for the Sonex at the factory has the wing failing (bending only, not breaking) at the equivalent of a Sonex at gross weight pulling about +10.5g...that is strong!
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

User avatar
FastEddieB
Posts: 2136
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:33 pm
Location: Mineral Bluff, GA

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby FastEddieB » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:00 pm

If you zoom in on the rivet lines in this photo, looks like 12 or 13 to me.

Oops - huge image. Let me try to scale it down.

Try this:

Image
Fast Eddie B.

Sky Arrow 600 E-LSA • N467SA

FastEddieB@mac.com

User avatar
designrs
Posts: 1485
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:57 pm

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby designrs » Tue Dec 08, 2015 4:57 pm

If you are considering buying an E-LSA RV-12, get on the VansAirForce.com
It is a HUGE community of RV builders.
Some of which are highly experienced builders that can give advice or even do a pre-buy inspection for you.. and they know ALL about the kits and builds.
Find the right people there and you could most likely buy with confidence.
- Richard

User avatar
MrMorden
Posts: 1733
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:28 am
Location: Athens, GA

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby MrMorden » Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:42 pm

designrs wrote:If you are considering buying an E-LSA RV-12, get on the VansAirForce.com
It is a HUGE community of RV builders.
Some of which are highly experienced builders that can give advice or even do a pre-buy inspection for you.. and they know ALL about the kits and builds.
Find the right people there and you could most likely buy with confidence.


Agreed. For a Sonex a similar resource is sonexbuilders.net
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

User avatar
drseti
Posts: 5224
Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2009 6:42 pm
Location: Lock Haven PA
Contact:

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby drseti » Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:43 pm

No matter what you're flying (or considering), type clubs are a marvelous resource.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof. H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC, iRMT
AvSport of Lock Haven
fly@AvSport.org
http://AvSport.org
http://facebook.com/SportFlying

User avatar
zaitcev
Posts: 619
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:38 pm
Location: Austin, TX
Contact:

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby zaitcev » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:09 pm

I looked at Sonex pretty seriously because they are basically half the price of RV-12. Unfortunately, Sonex has some downsides, namely:

- BRS is rare (note that RV-12 does not ever have it).

- Fuel tank is tiny. Cross-countries require more refueling stops than in a typical RV, and the stops kill your speed advantage by wasting time on the ground.

- The cockpit is tight, and taller pilots cannot fit, even with so-called "lowered seat mod" (possibly can fit into Onex, or sitting on center in Sonex if properly equipped).

You have to understand that you're buying a sub-LSA airplane with gross weight of 1100 lbs. There have to be compromises made. So for practical purposes Sonex is a single-seat airplane.

howardnmn
Posts: 35
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:20 pm
Location: san francisco bay area (mill valley)

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby howardnmn » Sat Dec 12, 2015 3:05 am

The answer is...Yes, Yes, Yes, it is risky to buy/fly a (used) ELSA or E-AB. flying an aircraft that has 'experimental' written on it's side involves much more risk than flying a factory made airplane. you become a test pilot. the market factors this additional risk into the price

if they were honest i believe all builders would admit that they would build the same aircraft better on their second try; the third try becoming even better, etc. the builder's competence is a huge unknown and most builders also make their own modifications which usually have unintended consequences.

if you don't have the $50-60k for a used S-LSA or older part 23-- and you want to fly as much as the people on this web site do -- i would look for a VERY simple LSA or ultralight kit (do they still sell X-Air's?) and line up an experienced builder to help you assemble.

totally gratuitous comment but; even more than the quality of your airframe & engine, the quality of your ability as a pilot is the major determinant of risk. fly only in good weather with lots of fuel. stay within your comfort zone. be a student pilot forever. then, with a bit of luck, someday you'll buy your 2nd airplane

there is a formula for this: the number of airplanes you will want to own = N+1, where N is the number of planes you have already owned
Remos GX nXES. N999GX
smith ranch/san rafael airport (CA35)
california

SportPilot
Posts: 1060
Joined: Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:39 pm

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby SportPilot » Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:57 pm

.......
Last edited by SportPilot on Sun Mar 20, 2016 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
snaproll
Posts: 204
Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 12:11 pm
Location: Southern California - OXR

Re: Is it risky to buy a used ELSA or E-AB LSA?

Postby snaproll » Sun Dec 13, 2015 12:47 am

Many of the ELSA's and E-AB's are good stable well constructed aircraft. Any buyer considering the purchase should thoroughly research the design, have some knowledge of aircraft structure and construction techniques, and understand the design limitations. Most are far more airworthy than 40 to 50 year old aircraft sold in the $10K to $20K range. As with any aircraft, a pre-buy inspection should be accomplished and logs/records should be reviewed. Most Experimental builders will also have receipts for materials used during construction. I don't accept the "more dangerous" aspect for Experimentals as many of the accidents are attributed to risky behavior.


Return to “Light Sport Aircraft”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests