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Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2018 10:49 pm
by savy13

As surely like few others on this forum, my recent kindle for flying took me to some research online, and landed me on this wonderful forum. I've been reading the posts here (excitedly,I would add) for last few hours and am confident that this is the exact group I was looking for guidance and motivation.

As for introduction, I am 39 years old and hail from Chicago suburbs. I was keen to join a flying school ~13 years back but for various reasons it never happened. Earlier this week, I was in Schaumburg Airport area (for those not familiar with this region, it is a northwest suburb about 35 mi from Chicago) with my two kids in backseat, who got super excited seeing those lovely planes. And the fire lit in me. I always wanted to fly and realized there is never a better time. For last couple days, have been spending some time doing research on options. Based on what is offered, I believe Sports license suffices my needs. Below are few questions, where I seek some advice:

- Cost: I understand that there are various factors and each individual has a different learning scale, which would have a direct influence on # of hours and the total cost. Would it be realistic to consider ~$4k (or under) budget to attain the sports license?

- Time: I believe I am fairly a quick learner and am used to work hard (if required for test preps). Assuming I get for actual flying approx 3-4 hours a week, would 8-10 weeks be too aggressive to complete the requirements (say before end of 2018)? Or would be it advisable to get slow on the pace?

- Upgrade to Private in future: Few posts indicated that recent changes in rules, potentially allow the use of hours availed for sports license for Private license requirements. Not that I see an immediate need for going Private, but it would be a good option to have. Should I consider any specific requirement (say in flying school or the instructor selection) to ensure this?

- Choice of school & instructor - As few others indicated, I also faced challenges when I contacted some local flying schools in that they didn't want to train for Sports (& pushed Private rather). Any recommendations around north west suburbs (or withing 30-40 miles radius from Chicago) which offers Sports option?

Thank you for reading this long post, and sharing my excitement!

- AS

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2018 11:12 pm
by chicagorandy
IMHO a 'reasonable' budget for a Sport Pilot ticket would be more like $6000 - $8000. Yes, I have been looking myself. That 20 hour 'minimum' by all accounts is simply not realistic. I've never read a post by anyone who qualified that quickly.

Only a few places offer Sport Pilot - I have seen some in Aurora and near Morris. You have doubtless found the same ones via Google. I suggest picking one near you for easier travel.

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2018 11:37 pm
by TimTaylor
At 39 years old with 2 kids and a wife I assume, I would go for a Private certificate. While a Private requires 40 hours and a Sport Pilot certificate requires 20 hours, realistically speaking, both would probably take 40 hours or more. It is possible to get a Sport Pilot with less hours, but most don't.

The issue with a Private is you would need to take and pass an FAA 3rd class medical. If you fail it, you are grounded, so don't take it unless you are healthy with no significant issues. You can get a pre-exam evaluation just to make sure you don't get surprised.

A Private will allow you to fly 4 place or larger aircraft that can carry your entire family. You can later add an instrument rating that will make you a better and safer pilot and allow you to fly in the clouds. You can also fly at night. Sport Pilots are limited to 2 seat light sport aircraft with one passenger, daytime only, good weather only.

Getting a Sport Pilot license and upgrading to Private later is certainly doable but, IMHO, not a good idea. You would have to take two written exams and two flight test, and would spend significantly more money. The only reason I would get a Sport Pilot certificate is if I knew I would probably never want to upgrade and I had the money to purchase my own light sport aircraft. That would probably require around $60,000 or more for a used aircraft and a monthly flying budget around $1,000 per month.

If you go with a Private Pilot certificate, rental aircraft are easy to find, and you can purchase a decent used Cessna or Piper for $30,000. A monthly budget for renting would be around $500 per month + or -. Much less than that, and you aren't flying enough to stay current and safe.

You will get a lot of advice here because pilots like to express their opinions and give advice. You are correct to do your homework, then decide how to proceed. I would guess you might spend $6,000 + or - getting your certificate. Don't worry about how long it takes because winter is almost here and learning to fly is a good weather activity. I took a year and 44 hours to get my Private 55 years ago, but I was in high school with limited resources. I'm guessing it will take you 6 months. Learning to fly is a big part of the fun, so don't be in a hurry.

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:02 am
by Warmi
Yeah, flying is a lot of fun... so much fun I actually bought myself a plane and the darn thing wasn't cheap either ... but ,yeah, I digress.

Cost: I doubt 4k would be enough - more like 5-6K but as you mentioned, it is highly variable.
One thing for sure, if you get going , it is better to make sure you can keep going all the way until you get your certificate - otherwise, it may end up costing you even more since you will have to re-learn certain skills.

Time: Again, highly variable , if you are committed and good at it , sure you can do that in 3 or 4 months or so .. just keep in mind Fall is upon us and consequently with weather slowly getting worse and worse, you can't count on getting your 3 or 4 hours every week.

PP or SP: You can talk to your instructor and together you can make sure that your training is oriented toward potential future upgrade to PP.
In any case , if you go for the SP license and then upgrade to the full private, it will cost you more than going directly for the private ticket.

Well, I did most of my training at SimplyFly at Aurora back in 2016/2017 and I would certainly recommend Dave and his crew. They utilize multiple Remos aircraft and you get to fly out of Aurora which is a reasonably busy D class airport so, beside learning how to fly, you get to learn how to talk to the tower, operate within a busy air space etc... lots of fun all around.

Here is a sample of some of that fun at Aurora (KARR) with Dave pulling the power on me...

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:19 am
by Sling 2 Pilot
I’m a PP for over 30 years and now own and fly an LSA. One thing remains the same about learning to fly, whether going for your PPL or LS ticket. It’s “TIME AND MONEY”! Have all the time and no money or pleanty of cash and no time, you are spinning your wheels and wasting both. You are definitely on the right track and with the right attitude. Make sure you find a good fligh school, with good available aircraft, be it LS or PP and get comfortable with your CFI. Cant stress enough, make sure aircraft are available as well as the CFI. Weather will be you only enemy this time of year.

Good Luck, its never too late...

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 9:49 am
by savy13
Great advice everyone. Appreciate all your inputs.
Randy - I have read several of your posts. Good luck for your training as well. I guess you have shortlisted Morris. I looked at it and liked it, just that its a little far for me. Aurora would be much closer.

Tim - great advice. I knew I'd be swayed to go Private route. However your points are very convincing. I had not gone to the future of potentially purchasing a share in a plane, but definitely something to consider in long run, as well as the fact that Private would allow to fly entire family. Surely, something I will consider in my selection. Much appreciate your views. 'Learning to fly is a big part of the fun' - will remember this :)

Warmi - good point to consider that its essential to go all the way. I am fairly confident that I need to take it to the end (certification) this time. I read somewhere that winter is a better time (hence hoping to make the best for the next few months), but maybe I misunderstood. I'd the consideration as well on the cost difference of going directly for PP versus going SP first and upgrading to PP later. Any ideas what the difference range might be? It was fun watching Dave's video, and Aurora is in my shortlist so far.

Sling 2 Pilot - thanks for your thoughts. Its always a hard balance of time and money. At this time I was hoping to commit my resources (time and money) for SP, but thats not an absolute hard line (my wife might think otherwise though :wink: .

On the approach of going through the process, here's the general outline I plan to work on. Didn't see any specific information regarding this, or maybe I didn't look hard enough. But would appreciate your views & thoughts:
1. Reach out to few schools in the area and meet CFI for their availability, type of training offered (PP/SP) and available aircrafts.
2. Shortlist on school, CFI & aircraft along with timeline commitment.
3. Get the prep material for the written test (takes as long as it takes to prepare), and clear the test.
4. Schedule the flight training.
5. Complete the training and get certification.

Does this look structurally the right approach? Any steps out of order, or anything missing?

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:29 am
by MrMorden
Question: "How much money does flying take?"

Answer: "All of it."

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:41 am
by Warmi
No idea in terms of numbers on cost difference , especially since FAA just changed the rules where a lot of SP training can count now towards your PP training.
Any decent CFI ( which you planning to meet with anyway ) should be able to detail that for you and if they can't then perhaps you should skip them in the first place :-)

As far as weather , yeah winter can be a better time in some regards ( no thermals i.e bumps/turbulence to deal with, improved plane performance ) on good days - the problem is that there aren't that many good ( read VFR friendly) days during winter as there are during summer.

One more thing ... I personally found studying for the written test easier once I got a few practical flying lessons under my belt - some things just make a lot more sense when you experience them ... but again, the test itself, as far as tests go, is pretty trivial to begin with so not a big deal.

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:20 pm
by ShawnM
There's no time like the present, right? Glad you are following your dream.

Costs will vary all over the country so take all these numbers with a grain of salt. Here in Florida it'll cost under $5000 if you have a good head on your shoulders and are motivated. If you have longer gaps between your flights during training it could take longer and cost you more. This can happen as "life" tends to get in the way sometimes. There are even accelerated courses available that will get you a certificate in 2-3 weeks but you are eating, sleeping and drinking pilot training every day. Can be overwhelming but some people do it to simply get it done as they are on a tight schedule and they dont want to procrastinate anymore. Immersion training is not for everyone.

Talk with your local flight school, find a CFI you "click" with, tailor a plan that works for you, your schedule, your budget and stick with it. It's an awesome adventure.

I'd recommend the Gleim Sport Pilot Kit if you dont already have what you need. Their course and materials is no frills, no nonsense and has everything you need to pass the exam. I lived in the same city as Gleim when I was finishing my training and can't say enough good things about them. It was nice to "drive" over for books and materials.

Good luck !!

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:04 pm
by TimTaylor
Once you have a Sport Pilot certificate, the cost to upgrade to Private would not be tremendous. I would guess $1,000 to $2,000 just to put a number on it. However, if you ultimately want/need a Private, I see absolutely no reason to get a Sport Pilot certificate.

To me, the biggest reason is not cost. Having to take 2 writtens, get 2 CFI endorsements, and take 2 flight test would be reason enough. Taking a flight test is a somewhat intimating experience for some people. Also, there is a requirement for 2 or 3 hours of dual instruction and CFI sign-off just before each flight test. I love flying the 2 LSA that I rent, but LSA are not always easy to find. Almost any flight school is going to have plenty of Cessna 152's and 172's available.

The main difference in training for a Private is some night flying and more instrument training. The cross-country training is a little more. In actuality, your total hours may not be that much different if you and your CFI do a really good job in planning your training and you don't spend a lot of time "sight-seeing" after solo.

I'm not anti-Sport Pilot at all. However, I think for a young, healthy student with a family, Private is the obvious way to go. Doing Sport Pilot first will cost more and take longer in total.

So, who should get a Sport Pilot certificate? IMHO, older guys or gals who may not pass the FAA 3rd class medical and have the money to purchase their own LSA and have a monthly flying budget of at least $1,000. I think that is the demographic of most of the new Sport Pilots here.

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:31 pm
by Warmi
Tim is right.

Even if all you want to fly is LSAs , you can still do it with the private certificate but if you want to fly certified planes then you can only do that with the private certificate.
Now, of course, we have this other thread where we have been discussing this new proposal where a Sport Pilot could be allowed to fly anything up to 3600 LBS gross ( which pretty much covers probably 90% of planes you want want to fly as a GA pilot ) - if that were to pass, then things would change considerably in favor of getting only the SP ticket but that's probably 3-5 years off.

BTW... Have you had a chance to fly a LSA or a small GA (Cessna 152/172) plane yet ?

Re: Newbie looking forward to scale the skies!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:14 pm
by TimTaylor
I thought I would throw this out there because it is a cost factor for me. Most, but not all, LSA are fiberglass construction. This means they should be kept in hanger to prevent solar degradation. Around here, if you could find one, a hanger would rent for at least $500 per month. If your flying budget was $1,000 per month, that only leaves $500 for insurance, fuel, maintenance, annual inspections, depreciation, cost of capital, etc. This is why I will probably never own a fiberglass LSA.

On the other hand, if you owned a $30,000 C152, you could tie it down for $50 per month. However, you couldn't fly it unless your were a Private Pilot.

This is part of the mental gymnastics people should go through when deciding how to proceed.