Flying is expensive! There is no end to the rationalization that occurs to justify the realization of my life long objective……becoming a pilot. I have doggedly pursued this goal over the last two years, relying on a strategy that only a masochist could conjure up……..but pursue I will. For those of you considering this lofty goal, please consider the advice that I am offering here. It is your money and your time….spend both wisely.
First of all, begin this adventure as soon as you can. There is a reason professional athletes are pretty well done when they hit their mid thirties. You lose a step here and there and stuff breaks……The FAA recognizes this and requires an aviation oriented physical examination that really takes a hard look at the things we take for granted, like hearts and minds. When you are 35, in general terms, this physical is a walk in the park…..when you are 67, not so much. Because of heart related issues, wonderfully corrected at the Cleveland Clinic, this physical presents a risk to my erstwhile flying career…fail it and you are done. The FAA developed a new rule, the Sport Pilot Rule, that let’s folks like me fly a certain class of airplane without the aviation physical. I must fly only under certain conditions, all really common sense, such as on clear days, daylight hours, under 10,000 feet, and in little airplanes that must weigh under 1,320 lbs. There are speed restrictions, fixed landing gear requirements and airspace limitations. I can only fly with one passenger, preferably an underweight midget wearing only a thong and headband. My instructor, fortunately, is a petite lady who can escape the necessity of under dressing to save weight! Still, it is worth it and I am not dissuaded.
Secondly, If you take the route that I have chosen, locate a Light Sport Airplane that you can rent for training. The picture accompanying this article is of my beloved Cessna Skycatcher, N7027F. This airplane and it’s stablemate, another Skycatcher, are located in Olathe, Kansas where I was extremely fortunate to find a diminutive instructor named Jeanné to teach me. Please note, this excellent program is located in Olathe, a three hour drive for me, one way, for an hour in the air. In an already expensive proposition, this adds up folks…..in a hurry. Miss Jeanné and the Skycatcher are billed at 150+ an hour. In Missouri, the light sport airplanes that are available are in St. Louis, Kansas City and one, a tailwheel, in Joplin. Not being close to the airplane and instructor will exponentially increase your time commitment, thus financial commitment and is simply NOT the way to do this! Once again, it is worth it and I am not dissuaded.
Where am I today? I have enough hours logged to qualify for a private pilot’s certificate, (the physical thing again!), am ready for a checkride and am reviewing to retake the FAA written exam, as my existing exam qualification is time lapsing today. I am looking for a Light Sport Airplane to buy (preferably a classic vintage airplane like a J3 Cub, Tailorcraft or Ercoupe) and will attain my certification in it. There are a number of light sport airplanes in production, worldwide, but I am not ready to mortgage the house to write a check for 150K-300K to own one! Typically, the weight of LSA airplanes leaves you with between 400 and 500 lbs payload, INCLUDING gas which weighs 6 Lbs. per gallon. See midget comment above! As a side note, I should mention the Skycatcher is a twitchy, overweight, Chinese built and cramped little guy that will climb like a homesick angel, which has been abandoned by Cessna, who is apparently crushing the few remaining airplanes in it’s inventory, thus dooming the owners of the 300 or so Skycatchers that were actually sold to the public, should they need replacement parts. Again, it is worth it, and I am not dissuaded.
For the record…..I am well aware the Skycatcher in the picture makes my hat look big..and my butt for that matter. You will notice the only thing that looks small in this picture is the airplane and my wallet…….
Finally, it is worth it, and I am not dissuaded!