Getting a Sport Pilot License... for the wrong reasons?

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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spooky981
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Getting a Sport Pilot License... for the wrong reasons?

Postby spooky981 » Mon May 24, 2010 5:35 pm

I've been thinking about flying for a long time. Recently seeing pictures/video of the sexy A-5 have gotten me excited again. I've never flown outside of commercial airlines but I just can't kick the thought. It's a very expensive hobby as I've ascertained. Even though I have the ability to take off/land/store at my own property, it seems just thinking about getting involved in aircraft costs money.

My primary motivation though is ease of travel. This weekend for example, is Memorial Day Weekend and everyone goes to Ocean City, MD (3 hr drive away). The traffic is literally intolerable unless you leave at midnight. I imagine packing lightly for the weekend into my personal aircraft and taking a much shorter flight down there where family would pick me up.

My parents have retired in Edenton, NC which is a 6 hour drive. We visit several times per year and I have the exact same thoughts. Jump in my LSA, the trip takes about half the time, and arrive in style.

I have two questions for you professionals:

1) Do I have a rosey outlook on what it's really like to own a plane? Is the convenience of travel not quite what I make it out to be?

2) Is it possible to rent a plane to go on vacation with? Every price I've seen has been a per-hour charge. But is there any way to pay a flat Friday-Sunday vacation rental?

ibgarrett
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Postby ibgarrett » Mon May 24, 2010 11:18 pm

Spooky,

I'm a recently minted Sport Pilot and I'll chip in my $0.02 worth (that's all I have left anyway... :wink: I wouldn't use my experience as a baseline analysis as everyone's mileage may vary.

It took me the better part of 14 months, and about that much in thousands of dollars for me to get my SP license. Between airport closures (runway work), training planes being down/unavailable, the weather, and sometimes my slow learning curve it was an ordeal. I have a fellow pilot friend of mine who did his SP license in about 5 months, and certainly far-less in dollars spent.

That being said I haven't given up! I've been working on getting checked out for a 1/4 share on an LSA that is owned partially by another former club-member student (now SP) and also owned by the club mechanic. It's a great deal for the StingSport. The 1/4 share is going to cost less than my last new car (although it was a nice car) and the perks of a certified mechanic owning a share pays back with him doing the labor at no cost.

Depending upon your area, there may be a share available for sale. If there isn't and you can swing it, you can buy a plane (used or new) and start your own plane membership up. Splitting the time four ways (quarters of the plane) is really the sweet spot for owning an airplane. There's plenty of documentation on this over at AOPA.

I won't kid you though. It won't be inexpensive. Depending upon the situation it could be very expensive, or manageable. If you have money in the bank (the best option) then budget wisely and you'll go far. If not and you're really super-committed, refinance the house and take some of the equity out. I wouldn't recommend borrowing money, but that's essentially the same when you refi.

A partnership can present scheduling problems. Other members will fly a lot, some won't. But when you do have the plane, boy it's great! There are lots of little "secrets" about flying in General Aviation (GA), lots of Fix Based Operators (FBO's) have courtesy cars that can be checked out to make a run into town, or wherever you need to go. There's lots of little gem places to fly into that you may never in a million years have visited unless you flew in there.

Flying can be a convenience, but a lot of time (most of the time?) it is totally dependent upon the weather. So if you had plans to fly to attend a wedding x-amount of hours of flying time away and that was your ONLY plan, you'll want to rethink that. A good general rule of thumb is that it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air rather than in the air wishing you were on the ground.

The Sport Pilot license has its limitations, however for 95% of the flying that people do, a SP license will be enough to do that. It can be dangerous to fly in inclement weather. It can be dangerous to fly at night. Both of which can be done with additional training, neither of which can you do with a SP license.

It is possible to rent a plane to go on vacation with, but as my training club owner says "Planes don't fly on air or gas, they fly on money", so if you rent a plane for x-period of days, count on paying some sort of daily rental charge for the plane sitting on the ground. Because if you rent a plane and fly it out of the area that it normally flys in, it can't be rented out when you aren't using it. This is where owning comes into play as a great option, especially if you are looking to do a lot of traveling. My wife and I are, so that's why we are purchasing. A fellow club member isn't planning on doing anything other than regional flying (boring if you ask me), and he is perfectly content in just renting when he wants to go up.

Some rental clubs are flexible enough to have you pay a flat rate, but count on that rate being very high.

Probably the most important advice I would have to offer is to just get started. You'll be able to make a better educated guess about what you want and how you want to go about it through the people you'll meet along the way.

Good luck - and get started! :D

Brian
Brian Garrett
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spooky981
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Postby spooky981 » Tue May 25, 2010 10:21 pm

Really appreciate the perspective. The idea of partial ownership is very alien to me but it appears pretty standard within the sport. And by the way - great looking plane you bought into there.

Getting the monthly payments down to something similar to a car payment is very attractive to me. But my greatest concern would be investing in the sport pilot license, perhaps even buying/sharing a plane, and then not being able to really 'get into' it. But that's an individual question that only I can answer.

ibgarrett
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Postby ibgarrett » Tue May 25, 2010 11:50 pm

I think the toughest part about flying is the fixed costs that tend to be overlooked when buying a plane. It's easy to figure in about how many hours you want to fly and then multiply that out and budget for it.

Planes also require insurance, hanger fees (if you hanger), in the case of my share of the plane, XM Weather/Radio expenses. Those fees alone could amount to as much as a car payment each month.

That's one of the reasons I recommend trying to be able to pay for the plane all in one swoop. I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a StingSport outright - at a very reasonable cost of $80k. I could put nearly half down and pay the second half off over 20 years with an airplane loan. The loan payment and the fixed payments wound up totaling close to $1,000 - and I wasn't even flying the plane yet.

Thanks re: the plane looking great. I think so. Personally I wanted to get either the new Piper LSA, or the Icon A5 (look that one up if you really want to see a killer LSA). The Piper was most certainly outside of my price range (for now), and the Icon is at the same level, plus I wouldn't even be able to entertain the idea of one arriving at my doorstep until 2012 at the absolute earliest. So, the Sting it is - for now. :D

Brian
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rsteele
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Postby rsteele » Wed May 26, 2010 11:17 am

spooky981 wrote:Really appreciate the perspective. The idea of partial ownership is very alien to me but it appears pretty standard within the sport. And by the way - great looking plane you bought into there.

Getting the monthly payments down to something similar to a car payment is very attractive to me. But my greatest concern would be investing in the sport pilot license, perhaps even buying/sharing a plane, and then not being able to really 'get into' it. But that's an individual question that only I can answer.


You need to go flying! Find an airport, take a "Discovery Flight" or a couple of lessons. You may love it, you may hate it. It will count toward your hours if you decide to continue. And you need to "interview" your potential instructor anyway.

If you are looking for a good, relatively inexpensive plane, check out the Zodiac 601/650's on Barnstormers.com. Because this model has had some recent problems, they are just dirt cheap right now. All the ones I've seen for sale have been upgraded so these problems are no longer relevant, but they are still being sold at fire sale prices.
Many planes that are popular today have similar histories.

When calculating the own/rent argument, keep in mind you need to fly several hours a month to stay proficient. It's not a matter of just jumping in the plane a few times a year for a trip - that's a fast way to a bad end. Flying is a use it or lose it skill.

Ron

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Re: Getting a Sport Pilot License... for the wrong reasons?

Postby drseti » Thu May 27, 2010 6:34 am

spooky981 wrote:Is it possible to rent a plane to go on vacation with? Every price I've seen has been a per-hour charge. But is there any way to pay a flat Friday-Sunday vacation rental?


My flight school's rental policy allows this; you're billed a minimum of three flight hours per day. So, for a Fri-Sun rental, that's nine hours at $99/hour. Adds up. May not be practical for you, but since weekends are the main revenue-producing days, the owner has to do this to amortize his or her fixed costs (insurance goes on whether you're flying or tied down...)
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
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Re: Getting a Sport Pilot License... for the wrong reasons?

Postby rsteele » Thu May 27, 2010 11:05 am

drseti wrote:
spooky981 wrote:Is it possible to rent a plane to go on vacation with? Every price I've seen has been a per-hour charge. But is there any way to pay a flat Friday-Sunday vacation rental?


My flight school's rental policy allows this; you're billed a minimum of three flight hours per day. So, for a Fri-Sun rental, that's nine hours at $99/hour. Adds up. May not be practical for you, but since weekends are the main revenue-producing days, the owner has to do this to amortize his or her fixed costs (insurance goes on whether you're flying or tied down...)


What do you charge for a similar rental during the week?

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Re: Getting a Sport Pilot License... for the wrong reasons?

Postby drseti » Thu May 27, 2010 6:06 pm

rsteele wrote:What do you charge for a similar rental during the week?


The rate is the same, weekday or weekend ($99/hr wet Hobbs, plus tax). You just pay by the Hobbs meter, except if you keep the plane out overnight -- then, it's 3 hours minimum per day. (This is pretty typical of most FBOs.)

Weekday or weekend, enrolled students get scheduling priority over casual renters. They've usually prepaid for their lessons, and are trying to finish up a rating on a schedule. Since the plane is a primary trainer, students have to be first in line. If it gets to the point where I have enough graduates, and enough rental demand, I'll consider purchasing an additional aircraft just for rental, and use the existing one just for training. But, given the high acquisition costs and substantial fixed costs of ownership (hangar, insurance, inspections), that would require near certainty that the demand level is going to remain high. This is, after all, a business, and has to generate a profit.
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

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Postby spooky981 » Fri May 28, 2010 12:35 pm

Too bad you're a three hour drive from me Paul. Now that I've decided to really investigate getting a sport pilot license, I find there's NOBODY who offers it, who also owns a plane. At least within a reasonable distance from Washington DC.

For the sake of simplicity and possible discounting, I'd rather be trained by a company that can also supply the plane.

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Bill
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Postby Bill » Fri May 28, 2010 1:38 pm

spooky981 wrote:Too bad you're a three hour drive from me Paul. Now that I've decided to really investigate getting a sport pilot license, I find there's NOBODY who offers it, who also owns a plane. At least within a reasonable distance from Washington DC.

For the sake of simplicity and possible discounting, I'd rather be trained by a company that can also supply the plane.
Have you checked out http://www.ChesapeakeSportPilot.com? Cross the Bay Bridge and take the first right - shouldn't be too far from DC. I had a few lessons there (before I bought my 'Coupe) and I drove down from Baltimore.[/url] They have several planes on the line and several instructors. I flew their Sierra - but they also have Eaglets and Sky Arrows available.
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Selling Personal Checks and Business Checks helps pay for the 'Coupe.</i> :)
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spooky981
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Postby spooky981 » Fri May 28, 2010 2:00 pm

I saw them - and they're probably one of the best bets I've got. But that's still about a two hour drive without traffic for me. The darn Montgomery County Airfield is right next door to me but none of them want to work with an aspiring sport pilot.

There's also the Laytonsville Airfield which is pretty close too. They don't have a sport pilot program but apparently they're interested in starting one.

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Postby Super Cub » Fri May 28, 2010 3:32 pm

Take a look at www.adventureflighttrainingpa.com in Lancaster, PA.

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Postby Helen » Sat May 29, 2010 3:40 pm

Spooky, I am the Chief Flight Instructor at Chesapeake Sport Pilot. We have a number of customers from your neck of the woods. They just time their flights around the traffic and have no problem at all.

Like other schools, we do have minimum usage charges, especially on the weekends. One option that has not been discussed though which may fit your needs is leaseback. A leaseback deal allows you to own and use your plane whenever you wish and rent it to the school to make money from it when you are not flying it. Leaseback owners who work with CSP also have the benefit of us storing and maintaining their plane and otherwise dealing with all of the hassles of ownership. We have a truly superb mechanic. We accept leaseback for Tecnam's excellent aircraft and will soon be doing so for SeaRey seaplanes as well if you want to travel to Ocean City in style!

As for training, why don't you give us a call and sign up for our $99 1 hour introductory flight? I must give you fair warning though. If you do you will have a fantastic experience with our incredibly fun aircraft and highly experienced professional instructors and likely be hooked for life. There is no other school in the area that will offer you the type of quality light sport training experience you will find at CSP.

We look forward to flying with you. 410-604-1717

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q3jP7WsgQI

Helen
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Postby spooky981 » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:32 pm

Helen,

Thanks for all the help! My discovery flight went very well and I was actually fortunate enough to arrive on the Porches and Planes day. Luckily my girlfriend was pretty well entertained while she waited for me.

However no matter how strong my desire to get a sport pilot license, the 1-2 hour drive both ways really kills things for me. Especially as a weekend warrior with all the traffic moving to and from the beach. I'd spend far more time in a car than in the air.

For now, I'll have to shelve the idea until something comes up in the Rockville area. Perhaps even convince a Private Pilot CFI to give me just sport pilot training out of the Montgomery County Airport.

But either way - thanks for meeting me on Memorial Day! And hopefully someday I'll come by to rent a plane for a traffic-less trip to Ocean City.

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Postby gmohr » Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:20 pm

If your desire is great enough the drive time will not matter. Right now I
have to travel to Atlanta from Augusta...It is 2.25hrs drive with good traffic.
I do this every weekend(sometimes multiple times) to train at the closest SP
training facility with an aircraft. I am motivated.. but then I own part of a
Remos G3. I now have 20hrs and will spend the next few flights honing my
ground reference skills in prep for my check ride.

Spooky... all I can say is "Just Do It!"

Gene


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