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What's EAA doing to bring down the cost of light aviation?

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Matthew Long
Homebuilder or Craftsman
122
Posts
12
#1 Posted: 7/12/2010 02:17:33

With your typical LSA going for as much or more as a new Porsche, the Sport Pilot category seems not to have made a big dent in the cost of flying.  Both given the current state of the US and world economy, and to help bring the next generation of young people to aviation, including aircraft homebuilding, we need more options at the low end of the price range.  Fewer Porches and more VWs, so to speak.

There are lots of ways that EAA could encourage low-cost aviation--ultralights, LSAs or experimental aircraft--including design contests, more promotion of plans-built aircraft and liaison with the manufacturers and kit builders.  What is EAA doing to bring down the cost of light aviation and encourage growth at the critical low end of the price spectrum?  Without new blood, both EAA and aviation in general will simply fade away.

Cheers,

Matthew



******* Matthew Long www.cluttonfred.info
Judson Knowles
11
Posts
0
#2 Posted: 7/12/2010 10:59:17

Around here, the flight schools that have LSAs charge as much for the 172's.... They have the great looking Remos, but still puts the price out for me.... I'd love to learn in an old Stinson, Cub,  Cessna 140, T-Craft, Champ etc.... I could be way off base here and do not speak for the masses, but my price point is about $100 and hour, (plane and instructor). Pipe dream now days...

I joined EAA simply because of my kids attending a Young Eagles ralley. I have always loved GA. We had planes when I was a kid in SoCal. I have some great memories from the airport and flying. I'd love the chance to share those same things with my kids.

 

-Judson



Judson Knowles
Joel Cox
35
Posts
5
#3 Posted: 7/12/2010 13:13:44

Don't take this personally, but who started this whole "LSA as a cheaper way to fly" myth? LSA wasn't meant to do that at all, but rather regulate a large number of illegally operated ultralights. The S-LSA category just happened to be grouped in in order to get some new stuff going, not make cheaper planes. And its not like there aren't S-LSA's out there for less than $70,000. They may not be composite built, glass panel, night equipped, but they are out there. You could build many other sport pilot eligible planes for less than that.

 

Quite honestly, I don't think EAA can do anything to get costs down. They can try to encourage lower cost developments, but the biggest thing that could help is tort reform, and that isn't going to happen any time soon.



Matthew Long
Homebuilder or Craftsman
122
Posts
12
#4 Posted: 7/12/2010 16:13:32

Joel,  you said:

"Quite honestly, I don't think EAA can do anything to get costs down. They can try to encourage lower cost developments, but the biggest thing that could help is tort reform, and that isn't going to happen any time soon."

I don't agree with that.  EAA can encourage low-cost, back-to-basics options essential as a first step to recruit young members, builders, pilots.  EAA seems very cozy with the manufacturers of high end plans and equipment without really doing much to open up the sport at the lower end of the price range.

I don't think I am alone in preferring back to basics aviation, and few manufacturers seem to be aiming for that market.  How many people would ride motorcycles if they hard to start with at $25,000 Honda Gold Wing just to learn to ride?



******* Matthew Long www.cluttonfred.info
Dan Malone
Homebuilder or Craftsman
18
Posts
1
#5 Posted: 7/12/2010 19:47:55

I agree with Joel.  "the biggest thing that could help is tort reform".  Ask any aircraft manufacturer and they will tell you that the bigger cost they have is liability insurance.  Get rid of the frivolous law suits and the cost of insurance will come down; then the cost of aircraft will come down.



Judson Knowles
11
Posts
0
#6 Posted: 7/12/2010 21:16:35
Dan Malone wrote:

 

I agree with Joel.  "the biggest thing that could help is tort reform".  Ask any aircraft manufacturer and they will tell you that the bigger cost they have is liability insurance.  Get rid of the frivolous law suits and the cost of insurance will come down; then the cost of aircraft will come down.

 

 

I have to ask... What percentage of the cost of a new airplane is the liability insurance? 10%, 20%, 30%? More?

I have yet to see a large company pass on savings to anyone other than investors, certainly not the end user/customer. It is a neat idea but even at 30% off, a new LSA plane can cost over $100k.



Judson Knowles
Janet Davidson
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
131
Posts
54
#7 Posted: 7/13/2010 16:37:43 Modified: 7/13/2010 16:40:21

Interesting discussion. 

 

Judson, what would be your own suggestions for bringing the cost of a light sport aircraft down?  Lets say you start right at the beginning with a pen & a piece of paper -

design

test

test

& test again

build

redesign during building

more testing

correct any other issues

more testing

 

Eventually, possibly the plane is ready for the market. 

 

And in your finished product, would you have a nice gadgety Garmin with all the great features they offer?  Or would you stick to the steam driven instruments of old?

 

What sort of engine?  A Continental, tried & tested, but modified to make it lighter?  A Jabiru?  A Rotax? 

 

What sort of structure/skin - aluminum?  Or something less traditional?  Or even more traditional - tube & fabric?

 

I don't know the exact prices on everything.  I don't disagree that the current LSA, modern aircraft are not cheap, but if you add all the aircraft components, and processes a manufacturer has to go through to get the plane to the point of selling 1 single aeroplane, how can they build them cheaper, and survive in today's market?  It almost seems like a catch 22 - to get the prices down, you have to sell lots of them, but how can you do that if the prices are above most folks price range?

 

Or you end up like the Eagle LSA aeroplane.  The company managed to make a couple of them, then disappeared...  It is not a cheap & easy, quick process.  The prime example is the Skycatcher - all that flight testing over & over again.  It may cost more, but I know which plane I'd rather get in to fly!  The one where someone an awful lot braver than me has done all the dirty work & possibly scared themselves before I get any where near it. 

 



John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#8 Posted: 7/13/2010 17:08:24

I've heard this idea before, but if the gross weight restriction and possibly the top speed & stall speed restrictions could be raised just enough to include more of the older "trainer 2 seater" aircraft like the Cessna 150/152 and more tube and fabric Pipers & Champs, more aircraft would be available for light sport use.  More used equipment would be available for sale/rent, so cheaper alternatives would be there even though the increased demand would probably raise their prices some.  Sounds like a win for everybody to me and the mission of LSP remains the same. 



Joel Cox
35
Posts
5
#9 Posted: 7/13/2010 21:35:23
John Eiswirth wrote:

 

I've heard this idea before, but if the gross weight restriction and possibly the top speed & stall speed restrictions could be raised just enough to include more of the older "trainer 2 seater" aircraft like the Cessna 150/152 and more tube and fabric Pipers & Champs, more aircraft would be available for light sport use.  More used equipment would be available for sale/rent, so cheaper alternatives would be there even though the increased demand would probably raise their prices some.  Sounds like a win for everybody to me and the mission of LSP remains the same. 

 

Its not going to happen. If it was likely to happen, the best time for ti would have been at the very beginning of the sport pilot phase. The weight limit got bumped up to 1320 from 1200 (IIRC). Sport pilot was about 1 thing, and 1 thing alone. Regulating pilots who were illegally flying "ultralights" that weren't really ultralights. But now that we are 5+ years into sport pilot, not only those who were against a higher weight limit before are against it. All of the current S-LSA manufactures would be against it, because well, it makes their current products virtually worthless. Protecting your brand is one of the biggest things a company has to do, and changing the weight limit would make a vast number of S-LSA's out to be junk.

Like it or not, it's not going to change one bit.



Judson Knowles
11
Posts
0
#10 Posted: 7/14/2010 19:45:15
Janet Davidson wrote:

 

Interesting discussion. 

 

Judson, what would be your own suggestions for bringing the cost of a light sport aircraft down?  Lets say you start right at the beginning with a pen & a piece of paper -

 

Janet,

 

Every time I get out a paper and pen I wind up with a paper airplane with cool graphics... For me it isn't ownership of a new plane.... that is out of the question. I will have to buy something very old or go experimental. My stumbling block is the price of flight training. I would be happy with an old Stinson, Luscombe, Cub. Heck I don't care if there is an old whiskey bottle half full of water used for a horizon and we are throwing carrier pigeons out the window for ATC comms...

Joel,

When the Sport Pilot website states "affordable, achievable and fun" I am finding it hard to realize the affordable part. The local flight schools that offer LSA training have the newest LSA planes and charge accordingly. $150+ for a plane and an instructor isn't affordable in my book. I have a hard time forking over $75 an hour for an instructor too... (for LSA and PPL) I have a really hard time with paying that if they are just "building time" on my dime. I do not make that much in my job...

 

Best regards,

-Judson



Judson Knowles
Dan Malone
Homebuilder or Craftsman
18
Posts
1
#11 Posted: 7/15/2010 05:47:14

Here is a link to the Bureu of Labor and Statistics paper on aircraft manufacturing that stated;

"The average cost of product liability insurance rocketed upward, from roughly $51 per plane in 1962 to $100,000 for each aircraft

in 1988."  www.bls.gov/mfp/mprkh93.pdf 

This quote was taken from the section addressing General Aviation aircraft.  So they are not talking about insurance on military or airliners.  I don't think the inflation rate of the economy was 1960% over that 26 year period.  So why did it go up so much?  They don't mention the average cost of the aircraft, but if you assume the average cost was less than $300,000 (a very high guess) then the insurance was 30%.  That is only the cost on the first layer.  What about the liability costs that the engine, avionics, and raw material manufacturers have to pay becuase they are making "aircraft" parts?  That gets passed on to the end user also.

LSA manufacturers are not "large companies".  And yes most small businesses will pass savings on to the buyer if they think they can get a larger share of the market so that they increase their bottom line profit.

 

 

 



Paul Mulwitz
Homebuilder or Craftsman
5
Posts
0
#12 Posted: 7/15/2010 19:31:33

I am a big fan of the SP/LSA rules.  I am back in the air flying a nice new S-LSA.  I also have built a kit plane and started a plans build project - a Whitman Buttercup.

 

While new S-LSA planes cost something around $100,000, a new part 23 plane costs many times that amount.  If you want to fly new planes you need to invest a bunch of either time or money to get ownership of the plane.  You can build a Buttercup from plans for considerably less than $20,000.  This takes a lot of work and skill to complete, but not so much money.

 

For those who think they should be able to buy a shiny new airplane that goes around 150 mph for the price of a used motor scooter I say it is time to wake up.

 

 



Mac Forbes
Vintage Aircraft Association Member
2
Posts
0
#13 Posted: 7/15/2010 20:43:16 Modified: 7/15/2010 21:00:10

EAA (and, AOPA, for that matter) has contributed significantly to my being very involved in flying over the years.  I very much recognize and appreciate that, and will always continue to support them as an active, genuinely enthusiastic member.  ...still, I just wonder why it seems that there has never been even the slightest "official" suggestion or "pressure" from EAA (or, AOPA) to increase the LSA weight to include the Cessna 120, 140, 150, 152 etc.? Interestingly, there was (...still is, in fact) an "approved" STC to lower the gross weight of a 120/140 to make it "legal" to be flown by a Sport Pilot -- the only obstacle is that the FAA refuses to allow it to be actually approved and used for an individual aircraft.  EAA apparently did not offer assistance and reportedly actually DIScouraged the Int'l Cessna 120-140 Association in their efforts to seek FAA approval and use of the STC for their members. ...just wondering out loud. 

The LSA "industry" as well as EAA did very definitely suggest that the "reduced" cost of flying would enable "lots" of folks to be involved that wouldn't have otherwise, and that can probably be demonstrated to be true in some instances, 'though I certainly would not argue that it has.  Meanwhile, there's always been and will always be some nifty and desirable "things" out of reach for some of us, no matter how "entitled" we may wish that we were.  In the final analysis, maybe all that we can expect is equal opportunity to earn (or, save) enough to afford what we want and "need".  ...one thing for sure, however, is that the great privilege of being close to all kinds of aircraft and many, many wonderful "plane people" remains affordable for most and can be attributed to the EAA "gift that just keeps on giving".

Thanks for the excellent sharing of thoughts and ideas!

Mc

 



Matthew Long
Homebuilder or Craftsman
122
Posts
12
#14 Posted: 7/15/2010 21:02:41 Modified: 7/15/2010 21:06:36

For those who think they should be able to buy a shiny new airplane that goes around 150 mph for the price of a used motor scooter I say it is time to wake up.


 

No one is talking about an airplane for the price of a used motor scooter, but a minimalist airplane, the modern equivalent of a J-3 Cub, at the cost of a nice new car, does not seem too much to ask.  The cost of two nice new cars seems a bit steep, IMHO.

A quick Google search did not turn up the original price for a Piper Vagabond, but I did find that a PA-18-95 with a Continental C-90 engine originally sold for $5,850 in 1949, so I'm guessing that a PA-17 Vagabond with an A-65 sold for under $5,000 in 1949.  $5,000 in 1949 works out to be about $45,000 today when adjusted using the Consumer Price Index.

Are there any LSAs being offered ready to fly, without radios, for under $45,000?

 

 



******* Matthew Long www.cluttonfred.info
DJ Merrill
Homebuilder or Craftsman
6
Posts
0
#15 Posted: 7/16/2010 12:05:40
Matthew Long wrote:

 

No one is talking about an airplane for the price of a used motor scooter, but a minimalist airplane, the modern equivalent of a J-3 Cub, at the cost of a nice new car, does not seem too much to ask.  

 

 

   Mathew, I agree completely.  It is pretty sad when you can buy a brand new and fairly nice car for under $20k, but that same price gets you a 35+ year old airplane that often has less than desirable cosmetics.

   Many of my friends would love to get into aviation, but I'm told again and again that they just can't afford it.  It costs on average about $7k-$8k to get your Private, and $20k to get a mechanically decent 35+ old airplane to fly (something like a Cessna 150 or Grumman AA1x), implying that someone would expect to pay $27k-$30k just to own and be able to use an airplane.  It is less money to get your Sport Pilot license, but the LSA aircraft cost more so the overall total is actually HIGHER to get into aviation with Sport Pilot than it is at the Private level.

    Until we can get fairly new aircraft on the market for about the cost of a decent new car, we are going to continually see the overall number of pilots diminish as the older pilots stop flying, and fewer younger people start flying.  Combine the cost issue with the TSA BS and I'm concerned there may not be private, recreational flying within the next few decades.

 




Joel Cox
35
Posts
5
#16 Posted: 7/16/2010 14:19:57
   Matthew Long wrote:

 

No one is talking about an airplane for the price of a used motor scooter, but a minimalist airplane, the modern equivalent of a J-3 Cub, at the cost of a nice new car, does not seem too much to ask.  The cost of two nice new cars seems a bit steep, IMHO.

A quick Google search did not turn up the original price for a Piper Vagabond, but I did find that a PA-18-95 with a Continental C-90 engine originally sold for $5,850 in 1949, so I'm guessing that a PA-17 Vagabond with an A-65 sold for under $5,000 in 1949.  $5,000 in 1949 works out to be about $45,000 today when adjusted using the Consumer Price Index.

Are there any LSAs being offered ready to fly, without radios, for under $45,000?

 

 

   There are LSA's out there for less than $45,000. For instance, take this one into consideration. The M Squared Breese 2. 2 place, LSA, 1320 MTOW. Its a full blown S-LSA, at $35,000. http://www.msquaredaircraft.com/page43.html

 




Joel Cox
35
Posts
5
#17 Posted: 7/16/2010 14:23:05
Dj Merrill wrote: 

   Mathew, I agree completely.  It is pretty sad when you can buy a brand new and fairly nice car for under $20k, but that same price gets you a 35+ year old airplane that often has less than desirable cosmetics.

   Many of my friends would love to get into aviation, but I'm told again and again that they just can't afford it.  It costs on average about $7k-$8k to get your Private, and $20k to get a mechanically decent 35+ old airplane to fly (something like a Cessna 150 or Grumman AA1x), implying that someone would expect to pay $27k-$30k just to own and be able to use an airplane.  It is less money to get your Sport Pilot license, but the LSA aircraft cost more so the overall total is actually HIGHER to get into aviation with Sport Pilot than it is at the Private level.

    Until we can get fairly new aircraft on the market for about the cost of a decent new car, we are going to continually see the overall number of pilots diminish as the older pilots stop flying, and fewer younger people start flying.  Combine the cost issue with the TSA BS and I'm concerned there may not be private, recreational flying within the next few decades.

 


  Economy of scale. If there were places that built planes at the rate that today's cars are built, they would be much cheaper. But just lowering the price won't do that, you've got to get people interested to begin with.

What TSA BS are you concerned with. I've yet to be screened in a light aircraft, and don't see that happening any time soon (other than for a few airports). The cost of doing so would be astronomical, and the government knows that.

 

 



DJ Merrill
Homebuilder or Craftsman
6
Posts
0
#18 Posted: 7/18/2010 13:40:27

Hi Joel,

    The problem is that you can't get people interested if they can't afford it to start with.  One look at the cost and they just turn away.  I've seen it myself many times.

     The TSA BS is the locking down and blocking of airports from being accessed by the public.  One of the primary ways to get people's interest is to get them immersed into the environment so they can experience it.  If people can't be near the airplanes, how are we going to get them to be interested?  Young people used to be welcomed at airports, and they'd hang out and watch the planes come and go, talk to the pilots, and often have offers of rides extended in exchange for washing the plane or similar.  Now, these young people are locked away on the other side of a metal fence, often far away from the airplanes, and are often unable to even be close enough to talk to the pilots, let alone be in a position to help wash the plane.

   From my perspective, COST and TSA BS are the two largest threats to aviation today.

 

 

 



Judson Knowles
11
Posts
0
#19 Posted: 7/18/2010 16:46:06 Modified: 7/18/2010 16:48:39

Dan,

Thanks for the link. Numbers like those leave me shaking my head.

 



Judson Knowles
Matthew Long
Homebuilder or Craftsman
122
Posts
12
#20 Posted: 7/18/2010 17:15:56

To bring this conversation full circle and encourage EAA to return to its roots, how about an EAA-sponsored design contest for new, Sport Pilot-legal, plans built aircraft?

What we need is to encourage the next generation of designers to follow in the footsteps of guys like Bud Evans (Volksplanes) and others.

Yes, there are many older homebuilt designs that are Sport Pilot-legal, but we need new and exciting, low-cost designs on the covers of popular magazines and zipping around the internet to attract the next generation of EAA members.



******* Matthew Long www.cluttonfred.info
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