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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Easy Ownership: The Great LSA

Paradigm shifts happen...and we’re right in the middle of one!

Challenge: LSA haven't delivered us unto the GA-saving Promised Land with a $40,000 aircraft, although they remain much less expensive than new GA aircraft. Consider: In 1970, a new Champ two-seater cost 1.5 times the average national wage. Today, its descendant, the Super Decathlon, costs $164,000, or 3.65 times annual income, about the same as the priciest composite LSA...while a new Cessna 172 costs more than $300,000—seven times annual income!

LSA are cheaper to buy—but still out of reach for many. One solution is a much-needed paradigm shift in cultural thinking—shared ownership. Organizations like Let's Fly, the Aircraft Partnership Association, (recently acquired by AOPA and already 10,000-members strong) and resurgent flying clubs will once again help buyers enjoy airplane ownership benefits—at costs equivalent to a new car.

We're talking new, not used, LSA. And as the economy-hammered fleet of 2,000 U.S.-registered LSA grows more rapidly, expect cheaper "pre-owned" LSA to start appearing.

License To Thrill

Of course, lighter-weight LSA are more affected by atmospherics than most GA planes. Like the Cubs and trainers of old, they require the better airmanship skills that students learned back in the day. That's a good thing. Sport pilots also need to pay more attention to weather. Another good thing.
Most of my students get their first flying license after age 60, and take less than 20 hours of dual instruction to do it.
Stats show most pilots average four to eight flight hours a month. That's classic Get Up flying. And the driver's license "medical," arguably the most liberating benefit of the sport-pilot concept, was never meant solely as a way for pilots to make end-runs around health issues that might compromise safe flight.

"It does help pilots stay pilots longer," Dan Johnson observes. "I'd like to see FAA relinquish its mandate for medical screening for all categories of light-aircraft flying. No statistics support medical causes as a significant danger: They impact less than one percent of all flying accidents."

Ambassadors Of LSA

Who better to sing the praises of LSA than the happy souls working with and enjoying them every day?

Mike Zidziunas' thriving LSA operation, Breezer Aircraft USA in central Florida, keeps three all-metal, German-made Breezer II low-wingers busy with training and rentals.

"Most of my students get their first flying license after age 60—and take less than 20 hours of dual instruction to do it," Mike Z says. That's impressive: The sport pilot rule mandates 20 hours (dual and solo) minimum, but 35-40 hours is typical.

"My oldest primary student, who's 85 now, has already put 350 hours on his Ercoupe," he adds.


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