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Thread: Newbie forming my buying vision... am I crazy?

  1. #1

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    Question Newbie forming my buying vision... am I crazy?

    My brother, sister, and brother-in-law all fly very nice, very expensive, airplanes. When I told them I wanted to build or finish an experimental light sport they told me to budget $45+k for the aircraft and $10k-$30k for avionics. While my family flys long distances in a straight line (boring), I personally want the excitement of low, slow flying locally and landing in a field close to my lake house. $60,000 to play around with toy that flys is a non-starter for me. If I take a Lean approach to flying can I build and enjoy an inexpensive EA while getting tons of value - fun, reward of construction, cool plane, etc.? Here are the goals and constraints I am working with...
    - Have taken lessons in the past. Sport Pilot license seems easy, but open to getting a full ticket.
    - I am BIG - 6', 300lbs, 4X jacket, big shoulders, 37" arms, 34' pants inseam
    - Would like to take a passenger occasional but not an absolute requirement
    - open to side by side or front and back seating
    - open cockpits sound like fun, open to feedback
    - folding or removable wings will enable me to work in my home shop and trailer to field.
    - would like advantage of STOL bush capability (I live in rural area south of Branson MO)
    - I also like the feeling of motion, of performance. Screaming around corners in a loud vintage motorcycle or sports car is tremendous fun. (but carefully)
    - I have experience restoring many different vintage sports cars and motorcycles. Willing to take EAA classes to acquire any new skills I need.
    - retired so I have time
    - retired so I have money... but have been downsizing in all aspects. Can't spend stupid money like my family who are all still working. Or perhaps I am just Scotch-Irish. For example, we bought a $35k luxury sport boat. However, it was a perfecting maintained 16 year old 27 ft COBALT boat that now costs over $90k. IT IS FULLY DEPRECIATED AND COLLECTABLE. Will always be worth what I paid for it.
    - My family thinks I am crazy to look for a way to add value to a LSA and at least break even if I ever have to sell. Their comment is that you spend ridiculous money on flying "because you love it". I love a lot of things that cost money. I don't want to become airplane poor.

    So what's my budget? Depends. I am pulling money out of my investments to make another investment. What's my positive or negative ROI? I know I will never recoup my time, but I would like to feel like I have a reasonable asset. SO... $10K for an ultralight? $20k for an unfinished single-seater ELSA? $30k for an unfinished 2-seater Bush plane? $70k for a factory build LSA is not going to happen.

    Is there a viable Lean strategy to owning and flying a fun LSA... or am I crazy? Wide open to suggestion?

    I apologize for the length of this post. Thank you for listening.

    Brock

  2. #2
    A Davis DA as a single with a Cont 200 engine could handle 300#

  3. #3
    cluttonfred's Avatar
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    My first thought is to suggest a classic taildragger in flying condition but in need of some TLC. The ragwing Pipers are overpriced but you ought to be able to get in a flying Aeronca/Championi/Bellanca for less than your $30k budget for a unfinished, two-seat project. Tandem seating should be more comfortable for a big guy like you, but you'll need to try it out, of course. You'll see far less depreciation in something like that than in a homebuilt project, though there are certainly homebuilts that could work like the Wag-Aero Cub clones or maybe something like a Pober Junior Ace (side-by-side but the bench seat means you could set it up to sit in the middle when solo and use the outer pedals on each side.)
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  4. #4
    Sam Buchanan's Avatar
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    My advice is for you to get your license first, then revisit your query. More than likely your mission profile will have been refined after going through the training process and accumulating some time. One option you may want to explore is purchasing something like an Aeronca Champ in which you can complete your training and would be very marketable if you decide to go a different direction later. However......buying a used aircraft can be a snake-pit for the uninformed. Use all the experienced resources at your disposal.

    There is plenty of time to select your ultimate 'ride', in the meantime, enjoy tire-kicking!
    Last edited by Sam Buchanan; 12-17-2017 at 03:55 PM.
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  5. #5
    cub builder's Avatar
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    To date, I have owned 10 planes over the last 40 years, three of which I built. $30K is the most I have tied up in any plane, so your goals are certainly achievable. I am also of a similar build/size right down to your Scotch/Irish heritage. The Champ is a great little plane (I've owned two of them over the years), but you are going to be hard pressed to fly two in any Light Sport qualified plane with a 300# pilot. You might want to consider getting your Private license, which opens up a world of older planes that are just a tad heavier than light sport, but can carry significantly more weight and cost a lot less to buy. It also allows you to build/buy some heavier Experimental aircraft that will allow you to haul even larger passengers.

    If you are wanting to build, I would suggest looking at some partially completed projects. You can usually buy them for a lot less than the cost of materials in the project and finish them out from there. If your workmanship is good, you'll have a plane that matches the value of your investment when it's completed.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by cub builder View Post
    To date, I have owned 10 planes over the last 40 years, three of which I built. $30K is the most I have tied up in any plane, so your goals are certainly achievable. I am also of a similar build/size right down to your Scotch/Irish heritage. The Champ is a great little plane (I've owned two of them over the years), but you are going to be hard pressed to fly two in any Light Sport qualified plane with a 300# pilot. You might want to consider getting your Private license, which opens up a world of older planes that are just a tad heavier than light sport, but can carry significantly more weight and cost a lot less to buy. It also allows you to build/buy some heavier Experimental aircraft that will allow you to haul even larger passengers.

    If you are wanting to build, I would suggest looking at some partially completed projects. You can usually buy them for a lot less than the cost of materials in the project and finish them out from there. If your workmanship is good, you'll have a plane that matches the value of your investment when it's completed.
    I have friends who buy completely restored vintage cars and then just take them to shows. That is not me. By the time i'm done I know everything there is to know about that vehicle and have laid hands on every nut and bolt with the exception of engine and trans rebuilds. People who know me say I am anal about my projects. The good news is that my cars and motorcycles are gorgeous and flawlessly reliable. I only restore cars and motorcycles that are significant and deserve to be returned to as-new condition.

    Your advice makes a lot of sense relative to older vintage aircraft, but will I be able to be as hands on as I want? For me owning and restoring the plane will be as much fun as flying it. Getting a private license isn't an obstacle. Doing my own work and learning all about the airplane is important. That is what led me to experimental planes.

    Can I work on vintage planes?

  7. #7

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    Here's the thing about certified aircraft - one can do almost all of the work one's self - if one can find an A&P willing to sign off on one's work. That means not only will there be regular checks on what one is doing (and questions on how they did it), but the kinds of A&P's that are willing to sign their name on someone else's work are a rare breed. Usually it's the result of a long relationship of trust.

    Build it yourself and you are the Repairman, sole arbiter of what is okay and what isn't. This is both good and bad, of course.

    I will tell you that when building an airplane, perfect is the enemy of good. My airplane might be a little rough around the edges and will never, ever win any sort of award or prize that doesn't have the prefix of "booby," but it's in the air, and got there a lot faster than most folks who build the same type. I know folks with years and years and years into a project, chasing perfection. Then again, there are two types of folks, in my mind, that build airplanes - pilots who love flying and are building an airplane, and builders who love to build and are also pilots.

    The best thing to do is find someone with a Champ and have them take you up, with you riding in the front. I'm in the Low and Slow camp of aviation, and my Low and Slow aircraft fits my flying needs perfectly. My very good EAA brothers simply don't understand that I have no desire to fly to Florida for the day, or Kansas, or anywhere else. We laughed at the fact that my buddy flew to North Carolina from Talladega, AL in the same amount of time it took me to fly to Gadsden (by a bit of a long route - 30 miles) and back.

    The point is that one must match the mission and the aircraft. It would really stink to spend 3-5 years building an airplane and find it doesn't meet your needs.

    Also, a lot of the high prices thrown out are for cutting edge avionics, which aren't needed. Yes, ADSB-out is coming (and required if one is going to fly in certain controlled airspaces), but that doesn't require 30K worth of glass panel. Likewise, if one is flying under Light Sport Rules, no IFR gear is needed. One isn't allowed to fly at night, let alone in low visibility situations.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  8. #8

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    Sure. But get a A&P-IA to assist.
    A vintage SuperCub or C-172 might fit you.
    I bought and rebuilt several projects in the 70's -90‘s for under $5k initial (+$5-10k for parts).
    Not sure what they would go for now. Depends on condition and minor damage.
    Last edited by Bill Berson; 12-17-2017 at 10:33 PM.

  9. #9
    Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbutler455 View Post
    Your advice makes a lot of sense relative to older vintage aircraft, but will I be able to be as hands on as I want? For me owning and restoring the plane will be as much fun as flying it. Getting a private license isn't an obstacle. Doing my own work and learning all about the airplane is important. That is what led me to experimental planes.

    Can I work on vintage planes?
    As Frank said, you can, if you have a cooperative A&P. But you're still limited as everything has to be according to the original design, original or approved parts, etc. With an experimental, even if you didn't build it yourself, you can do anything and everything yourself, only the annual condition inspection needs an A&P if you're not the original builder.

    There's a big guy at my home field, I don't know if he's as big as you but he's close, who flies an Avid powered by a 582. I think he treats it pretty much as a single seater, I've never seen him with a passenger, but I think he's flown with his wife some.

  10. #10
    DaleB's Avatar
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    I will echo the advice to finish your training while you decide what airplane will be right for your needs.

    You may find that cheap is incompatible with your requirements, or you may not. You really won't know until you get some actual flying time under your belt, especially solo time and cross country where you find what really does it for you. You also won't know until you actually try to wedge yourself into some of the airplanes that fall into that under-60K budget. I'm not a small guy either, and some of the more affordable choices are too uncomfortable for me to enjoy flying. You're not going to squeeze into a 150 and be happy, let alone try to take a passenger bigger than a hamster. At my age (late 50s), many are just too much of a chore to get in and out of. And, a few that looked like a ton of fun to fly turned out to be fun to fly, but totally impractical for what I wanted to do.

    As for the certified vs. experimental, well, you are in the EAA forums. When I was plane shopping, I was also a member of a flying club. We operated a 172, a 182 and an Arrow, with 45 members sharing costs. I got to see first hand what the operating costs are, including (frequent) maintenance and repairs. I decided that there were a lot of certified planes I could afford to buy, but not many I could afford to own. If you have an experimental, you can learn to do your own maintenance and upkeep -- but I would strongly suggest finding an EAA chapter tech counselor, A&P or someone else to help you and get a second and third pair of eyes on things. Flying is very, very unforgiving of mistakes.

    As for the cost, you might consider shared ownership. Realistically, you're probably not going to fly more than 50 to 100 hours per year. You have a boat, so unless you sell it to help pay for your airplane there goes a lot of weekends and evenings. That's an awful lot of time the airplane will be siting idle in the hangar. I have a co-owner, so my fixed costs are half of what they were last year - and even with him being a post-solo student pilot, so far we have NEVER had a conflict over who's going to go fly. We might even take on a third. It drastically reduces your up-front cost as well as the expenses like hangar rent, insurance and upkeep.

    So... go forth and fly, and the rest will sort itself out.
    Measure twice, cut once...
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