Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

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).

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FastEddieB
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby FastEddieB » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:12 pm

To be clear, the 16 hour course for LSRM-I is virtually all about inspection, not maintenance. It only permits an owner to do Annual Condition Inspections on his or her own ELSA.

No course is required to perform maintenance on an ELSA. Anyone can do so.

If you want to work on your own, or any, SLSA* - that requires a much more lengthy and comprehensive 120 hour course.


*Beyond the Preventive Maintenance an owner is permitted to do.
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TimTaylor
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby TimTaylor » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:44 pm

Tom, your training and experience would be what I would want to see having maintained any aircraft I was going to purchase.
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby drseti » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:04 pm

TimTaylor wrote:I don't think a 14 hour course, or whatever it is, can teach you as much as you should know to maintain an airplane as well as an experienced A&P such as Paul.


Just to set the record straight, I do not hold an A&P certificate. I hold an LSRM. According to the FAA, that requires 120 hours of training (not 16; that's for the LSRI, which only allows one to inspect an ELSA that he or she owns - an LSRI cannot hang out a shingle and go into the condition inspection business).

Of course, my training and experience go far beyond that mandated 120 hours, and that's true of most LSRMs I know. In my case, I bring to the table add-on courses and certificates for glider, weight shift control, and powered parachute LSAs. I've taken Rotax courses at the service, maintenance, and heavy maintenance levels, as well as half a dozen renewal courses to keep my skills and certificates current. Before I got certified, I held an engineering PhD, and had worked as an engineer for decades at various aerospace companies. And I do a monthly aircraft maintenance webinar through EAA (many thanks to MIke Busch for presenting those! )

Not boasting here - I'd say this level of training, experience, and dedication applies to the majority of LSRMs. It is, frankly, more than can be said of many (but certainly not all) A&Ps.

So, why do I not have an A&P certificate? Simply because I'd rather teach than turn wrenches for a living. Why, then, did I bother with all the LSA training? Four reasons:

(1) there is a shortage of mechanics who understand LSAs and Rotax engines

(2) LSA is the best kept secret in aviation, and I chose to specialize in it

(3) I wanted to be able to maintain and inspect my own flight school fleet

(4) it's fun! :)
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby TimTaylor » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:34 pm

And my point is not that I want to see the aircraft was maintained by an A&P as much as I want to see the aircraft was maintained by a well trained, experienced aircraft mechanic, regardless of the letters after his name. I would not feel very confident in an aircraft maintained by someone with little training and limited experience. That's my opinion, feel free to disagree, but I am entitled to my own opinion.
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby drseti » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:43 pm

TimTaylor wrote:That's my opinion, feel free to disagree, but I am entitled to my own opinion.


Oh, I don't disagree at all (and of course you're entitled to your own opinion - as long as it doesn't contradict mine!) ;)
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby drseti » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:39 pm

3Dreaming wrote: To overlook someone like myself to work on a LSA because they are a A&P and not a LSRM would be foolish.


To overlook Tom for any reason would be foolish. :)
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby ShawnM » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:16 pm

TimTaylor wrote:I don't think a 14 hour course, or whatever it is, can teach you as much as you should know to maintain an airplane as well as an experienced A&P such as Paul. And yes, I would want him to be experienced with LSA and even the make and model I am flying. Feel free to disagree.


I don’t disagree but we are talking about two different certifications here, I am referring to LSRM-A not LSRI.

And I couldn’t agree more with everything Paul stated.

And yes, 3Dreaming is an exception to the rule. I didn’t say ALL A&P’s were not qualified. In fact I know an A&P, IA who I trust with my life even though he does very little LSA work. I know him personally and we are great friends. I just prefer LSRMA’s over A&P’s because of their training/experience.

My prebuy in 2013 was done by a LSRMA with knowledge of the particular aircraft I bought and it still took nearly all day. I was very confident in his work and findings.

This is my opinion and like you I’m entitled to it as well. We all have our own comfort level and of course they all vary.

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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby Jim Hardin » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:51 am

I had one new owner honestly ask me HOW to wax a plane... Apparently he had never waxed a car in his 30 years. I got out the wax and rags.

Experience, Knowledge & Attitude are the hallmarks of any mechanic or owner. Without a good attitude toward maintenance and the responsibility that goes with it, the other two mean little.

You need to have faith in your mechanic whether they are doing your pre-purchase or maintaining your aircraft. But I will admit to using one from time to time because they were much cheaper than a shop. Of course I watched over things closely.

As far as ELSA owner performed maintenance. Well that is something I would have look at very closely and have my pre-purchase mechanic do the same.

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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby FastEddieB » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:27 am

Of course, waxing a plane does differ slightly from waxing a car - static ports and TKS panels do not like wax.
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby FastEddieB » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:43 am

I'm glad this thread has garnered the following it has.

Speaking back to a couple issues...

1) It took me about 10 minutes to put together that expense worksheet. Karen and I try to log every penny spent over the course of a year on a spreadsheet. It may be anal, but it lets us see where our income is going, and whether our expenses exceed our income for a given year and if so, by how much. Heisenberg showed us its impossible to measure something without affecting that which is measured, and in the macro scale I find that to be true of finances. We don't have a budget, per se, but at year's end we do look back on expense categories and compare them year-to-year.

2) I recall a story a student told me. His father had plans to work his whole life, and was saving for retirement so he could fulfill his goal of seeing the world. Problem was, right before his retirement he went blind.

I know this has an O. Henry ring to it, but I feel it shows that while planning for the future is important, so is living in the moment. I think the key is balance.

3) I have made mistakes, some classic, maintaining my own plane. To err is human. But stories abound of Maintenance Induced Failures by certified mechanics as well. I'm virtually certain I take more time and give more attention to detail when doing my own Annual Condition Inspections than would a shop. My life is on the line, as are the lives of my passengers, and that's a pretty strong motivation to take my time and do things right.

Anyway, my posting of my expenses was not to make a case for ownership - it was just to inform of one particular data point so others, mainly lurkers, could make a more informed decision as to the true cost of ownership. Clearly, in a low utilization year, renting costs less - no doubt about that. I prefer owning regardless, but each individual needs to weigh their own financial and personal needs and make their own choice.
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby ShawnM » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:34 pm

FastEddieB wrote:3) I have made mistakes, some classic, maintaining my own plane. To err is human. But stories abound of Maintenance Induced Failures by certified mechanics as well. I'm virtually certain I take more time and give more attention to detail when doing my own Annual Condition Inspections than would a shop. My life is on the line, as are the lives of my passengers, and that's a pretty strong motivation to take my time and do things right.


To me this pretty much sums it up. Thanks FastEddieB

I do not do my own annuals because I WANT an extra set of eyes looking over what I've done myself. I just completed my first annual at the end of November since going E-LSA. I informed my mechanic of everything I did and we went over the log books as well so I didn't skip anything. If something was not done properly or up to his standards on the plane then he'll tell me.

FastEddieB, you may or may not remember but I contacted you by phone last year before I considered going E-LSA. You had some great info and advice for me so thank you. Best decision I've made in regards to my LSA.

As for the expense of owning a LSA, I'm young enough to not have to track my expenses to the penny and worry if I've over spent. I dont have any kids to leave my money to so I'm going to spend every penny I have, on me, before I leave this world. This is my hobby and I'm going to enjoy it while I can. If nothing goes awry with the plane my annual expenses will be around $4500 dollars. I think I flew close to 60 hours last year. if I flew 6 I'd still be ok with it.

Nothing beats going out to your own hangar and getting into your own plane and going anywhere you want. No one to check with, no schedule conflicts, I dont have to worry if it's down for maintenance or if there's fuel in the tanks or if someone damaged or broke something on their last flight. My plane is exactly the way I left it on my last flight sitting in my hangar. Again, this is my hobby and it's what I enjoy. :mrgreen:

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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby Nomore767 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:41 pm

I know a guy who bought one of the first RV-12 SLSAs. He's not an A& P but he went and took a couple of the courses which enable hime to work on his own plane and do the annual.
Last I heard from my Rotax mechanic, who knows him better than I do, was that he was still trying to complete the annual and had encountered problems, and at that point was 9 months into his 'annual'. Not sure how it turned out.

Many people tell me all the time to go ELSA and/or build a plane myself.They say its pretty easy and you don't need a lot of tools. My hangar neighbor built his RV-12 over six years and his hangar is full of tools that he's had to buy. He's not painted it yet and has been working on installing the wheel pants for the past few weeks. Apparently, the fibre glass parts require a lot of work on his part to install.
He also took some courses and recently completed the first annual, but still needed my mechanics help to complete it.
This is why I'm wary of going that route. The courses would be informative but I'd rather have my mechanic work on it, he also goes to annual Rotax refresher courses.

Point is, for anyone contemplating building or working on their own LSA...caveat emptor...best to get a good idea as to what's involved, and the cost, before going that route. Not impossible, but be careful.

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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby TimTaylor » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:17 pm

I think this illustrates that we each have our own individual situation, experiences, and opinions. It's good to express those without criticizing someone else for theirs.
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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby ShawnM » Tue Jan 09, 2018 7:57 am

Nomore767 wrote:I know a guy who bought one of the first RV-12 SLSAs. He's not an A& P but he went and took a couple of the courses which enable hime to work on his own plane and do the annual.
Last I heard from my Rotax mechanic, who knows him better than I do, was that he was still trying to complete the annual and had encountered problems, and at that point was 9 months into his 'annual'. Not sure how it turned out.

Many people tell me all the time to go ELSA and/or build a plane myself.They say its pretty easy and you don't need a lot of tools. My hangar neighbor built his RV-12 over six years and his hangar is full of tools that he's had to buy. He's not painted it yet and has been working on installing the wheel pants for the past few weeks. Apparently, the fibre glass parts require a lot of work on his part to install.
He also took some courses and recently completed the first annual, but still needed my mechanics help to complete it.
This is why I'm wary of going that route. The courses would be informative but I'd rather have my mechanic work on it, he also goes to annual Rotax refresher courses.

Point is, for anyone contemplating building or working on their own LSA...caveat emptor...best to get a good idea as to what's involved, and the cost, before going that route. Not impossible, but be careful.


Working on AND building are certainly two different animals in my opinion. Building certainly requires more skills and tools. There will always be specialty tools no matter what you work on.

9 months for an annual? Working on aircraft is not for everyone.

You can go ELSA and still hire a mechanic. The freedom of choices you get from buying or converting to ELSA is what makes it attractive. If your particular manufacturer doesn’t hand out LOA’s then they leave you no choice. As in my case.

If you just want to fly you can certainly do so without ever lifting a wrench.

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Re: Annual Expense in Owning an ELSA (Good News & Bad News)

Postby FastEddieB » Tue Jan 09, 2018 8:39 am

I don’t think a “real” aircraft mechanic has touched my plane since 2012. That’s when Roger Lee did my last rubber parts change. Some time after that I did ship my carbs to him for overhaul. Pretty sure I could have accomplished it, having done so on nearly identical motorcycle BING’s, but I liked the idea of someone with more experience “casting an eye” on them, so to speak.

Dirty Harry opined that a man has to know his limitations. When I needed to rewire to change voltage regulator types, I enlisted the help of a friend who had been an electrical engineer for Honda. Again, a second set of eyes, and knowing my limitations when it comes to crimping skill, made this a wise choice.

But it is a good thing to have someone else look the plane and engine over once in a while, in case an owner is consistently missing something or doing something wrong. My rubber parts replacement is due, and the plan is to have Prof. Shuch perform most of it this summer. I say most because I’m comfortable with the fuel line replacement, less so with oil and coolant lines.

But, truth be told, the majority of Annual Condition Inspection items are pretty straightforward and only require a basic knowledge of mechanics. My basic knowledge has been acquired over decades of working on bicycles, cars and motorcycles. And that transfers over pretty well to a simple Light Sport like my Sky Arrow.

As a data point, my typical Annual Condition Inspection takes maybe four 6-hour days. A lot of it is just tedious and time consuming, such as wheel bearings. But most is just performing each checklist item, mostly in order, and making sure none is skipped nor given short shrift. And the majority of those checklist items are pretty straightforward.

As an aside, I never mind some help and that second set of eyes if anyone is interested in helping!
Fast Eddie B.
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