In today's world of recreational flying there are almost too many choices available to the new airplane owner.
You can pretty much buy or build anything you want, from powered parachutes (insane by my standards) to gliders, to personal helicopters to 4 seat speed machines to flying boats, even personal jets (yes, people have built their own jets, from scratch, it has been done) and everything in between. I saw evidence of this at Oshkosh.
Capabilities such as different ranges, speed, load carrying capacity and materials used all mix together to offer anything an owner could want or need.
Layer on top of this endless paint and colour schemes, avionics and powerplant choices.
The sky is the limit if you can excuse the horrible pun. I'm not interested in just buying my way back into the air. I want to create something and be the master of my aircraft.
Everything one decides they want in an aircraft is a compromise of choices. The goal is to get the best balance of options which gets you closest to the mission your aircraft is designed for.
So what is the mission? That's is what needs to be defined within the scope of what one wishes to invest (and let's be honest it most times comes down to $$$).
The best thing is to make a list of priorities of what I want the aircraft to do, use those priorities to guide the choices that get me there. It's a lot to think about and anyone has to be realistic in expectations.
For my example, I'm going to work this logic somewhat backwards and talk about my "mission" first, then try to mesh priorities and choices together.
As you can see from my previous posts, my overriding mission is to get flying again. It's where my heart is.
Okay so I need a licence (check, already got that) and an airplane. Next in my definition of the mission: What do I plan on doing with an airplane?
The airplane will be for recreational use with the possibility of eventually instructing in it. So it logically follows it must have 2 or more seats.
I hate government red tape. I need to find a way that has the least government involvement as possible.
I want the ability to take someone with me - I get great joy sharing flight with anyone.
I don't need to go fast or do a thousand mile leg all at once, but I would like something with decent speed and range for those occasional longer trips.
Eventually I'd like to put it on floats. I don't need to haul 500 pounds of gear, but it sure would be nice to pack an overnight bag or fishing gear or both.
I have a night rating, would sure be nice to use it.
I need this to be economical. Nobody can expect any hobby to cost nothing, but I don't have access to an endless pool of cash either. Fixing mechanical issues myself (within the scope of my abilities) is appealing for this reason. So is being able to use normal automotive fuel vs 100LL aviation fuel. The price spread between the two is worth investigating. Government red tape usually is a big drain on economics as well.
So my mission is fairly well defined. Now to prioritize, in order of importance. Here is where compromise is considered:
Fortunately, my priorities fall reasonably well into what the average person would call a standard light airplane. Still the options are many, but there are a number of ultralights available in today's marketplace that meet at the intersection of personal priorities and mission.
Now to stop window shopping and start looking for just that match.
This is a continuation of part 2 (below)
While at the UPAC fly-in, we checked out several other aircraft.
Some were very expensive, some were not unreasonable. We checked out a real nice Kitfox IV. High wing, great visibility and comfort. Could be put on floats easily. Cost might be an issue.
Some of them were obvious non-starters for what I want.
I flew Piper Cherokees while I worked on my night rating and learned to appreciate the view from high wing Cessnas even more. Low wings have their place, but are rarely put on floats (one of my future goals).
I had sat in a Challenger II at Oshkosh and was disappointed on the level of comfort for two reasons. I don't like the ergonomics - you sit with your legs fairly straight in front of you, which I imagine would get uncomfortable over a long flight. As I mentioned earlier, I want an airplane where passengers sit side by side. In a Challenger, the rear passenger sits with their legs beside the pilot in the front seat. I want to see the joy on my daughters' faces when I take them flying.
I have no interest in owning a gyrocopter or powered parachute. Don't get me wrong, their owners get lots of respect from me for what they do, but it isn't for me.
Long story short (right......) we both came away from the UPAC weekend with lots of good information and a better feel for what is available.
A few weeks went by and I continued to bounce ideas off Brenda of what might be a good way to get back into flying.
I've pondered for some time whether I want to spend a bunch of money on a complete airframe and just get flying. Unfortunately, I'm not a rich man and the thought of taking out a huge loan to pay for an airplane won't allow me to sleep at night.
I have come to the conclusion that the easiest and most economical route to get back in the air is ultralights, and that maybe the best path is to purchase a used aircraft that needs work and re-build it. I don't have a bunch of experience doing this type of work, but I feel these are skills that can be learned as I go (Google and YouTube are your friend, young Jedi). Even better, if this gets me moving in the right direction (towards flying) it provides the incentive and allows me the luxury of budgeting sections over time. This solves or at least takes some of the financial pain out of the equation. An added bonus? I can make the airplane into what I want, not just be satisfied with someone else's discarded dream....
This is a continuation of part 1 (below)
Personally, I sunk back into a funk. My dreams of flying again seemed to be slipping further and further from my reach. Renting from the local flying club is prohibitively expensive (I used to rent a Cessna 150, including fuel AND instructor for $68/hour. Now that same airplane costs $160/hour without an instructor!). Our wheel flying season is short here, so currency on type is difficult to maintain. Joining or purchasing a share in a local club aircraft was minimally less but with the same issues.
The nature of my job as a 911 dispatcher leads me to lots of downtime (between moments of terror) especially during nightshifts. We have access to the internet so I've spent countless hours browsing all the certified planes on Barnstormers.com, EBay, Craigslist and Kijiji. Although there are deals out there, I've yet to find a deal that met all my needs (right aircraft, price, insurance, hangar etc.) I know there has to be compromise in any of these to realistically expect to buy one, but the over-riding issue has always come down to money.
Now, I mentioned earlier that Brenda is "the world's most tolerant woman". She has constantly listened to my ideas and grand schemes to obtain an airplane ("you should see the deal I found last night, Honey!!"). She has always been wise council on this and other matters. I've said to others if we hadn't met, I'd probably be in jail due to my spending habits. Thankfully she got me back on the right course.
Over the last couple of years she has been there for me as I grew frustrated over the airport issues and a lack of flying time. She has patiently detoured with me on our travels to stop at airports all over Ontario just to have a look at what was there. We even explored North Las Vegas airport when we went to Vegas for our tenth anniversary - did I mention how much I love her!
Something that was on my bucket list for many years was a trip to the mecca that is EAA Oshkosh. So in 2013, my Dad and I loaded up our tent trailer, drove for two days and camped at Oshkosh for the entire week long event. It was a fantastic time and couldn't have had a better time with Dad.
This was an important time for me. I learned that my options for getting flying again were many and available for the asking. I think this was when I made the conscious decision that ultralights had everything I was looking for:
- able to carry a passenger in side by side seating, something that makes flying fun for me
- a LOT less government red tape
- ability to put on floats and winter skis
- ultralights are more than a lawnchair strapped to a chainsaw motor that they used to be
- potential to instruct others at a future date
- and several other reasons
In August of this year, during our annual weekend away from our daughters, Brenda and I attended the Ultralight Pilots Association of Canada (UPAC) convention and fly-in weekend. I wanted her to come with me and actually sit in some of the aircraft (ultralight and homebuilt) that were in attendance. Although Brenda understands most things about flying (I've taken her up in Cessnas in the past), we both wanted to get a better idea what's involved and how modern ultralights might be a viable (and possibly economic) alternative path to getting back in the air.
I managed to obtain a demo ride in an Ikarus advanced ultralight while at the show. It was the first time I had flown in a couple of years.
Although I was only up for about 20 minutes (and my skills are rusty, that's for sure), Brenda tells me that the smile on my face when I returned said it all.
But like all things "demonstrated" by salespeople, this was a $90K Cadillac ultralight. Gorgeous and fun but not something even close to my budget. It did have some of the features I was looking for, such as high wing and comfortable seating.
One thing I did notice right away when we were taxiing to the runway and also on the departure. The Ikarus uses the Rotax 912 series of motor. This motor, although a 4 stroke, runs at a very high 5000 RPM. I know that it is geared to turn the prop at a much more realistic 2000 RPM. I caught myself several times during the flight wanting to throttle back as I'm accustomed to in certified powerplants (Lycomings and Continentals found in Cessnas and Pipers). To be honest, I didn't feel comfortable at the time (it felt like the engine was working way to hard) but I suppose it's something one might get used to.
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Husband, father and 911 dispatcher. Long time pilot with a licence that burns a hole in my pocket where my student loan money used to be. First time aircraft builder. Looking to fly my own airplane.