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Thread: Learning to fly, is this a recipe for disaster?

  1. #1

    Learning to fly, is this a recipe for disaster?

    I've wanted to be a pilot since I was 7, but as a kid it was always one of those things that everyone told me was not realistic (maybe that's why I've wanted it so bad).

    Now I'm 30, and I'm still not a pilot, and that fact is pissing me off.

    The fact is, at my income and with my student loans money is tight, and the potential costs of flying lessons concerns me, but I have been reading about ideas to cut costs and I think I have a plan, but I am worried that I am underestimating risk and overlooking better options.

    I just accepted a job that comes with a significant raise and once I sell my house I intend to budget $750/month for flying. After flight training, I want to buy an airplane to fly at least once, ideally more, every week. For reference this is near the Metro Atlanta,GA area.

    This is my rough plan:

    1) Start Flight training, train with my instructor on rented equipment until I begin to solo.

    2) Start Solo time, rent an aircraft to maintain training pace, and look for a plane for purchase

    3) With a small down payment, finance a plane in the $15k-20K range

    4) Work with instructor to learn my plane

    5) Finish solo training in my plane, knowing that if it takes an extra 10, 20 or 30 hours to prep my for my check ride, I have more control over costs.

    6) Pass Check Ride

    7) Fly my plane until I complete or purchase the E-AB or E-SLA of my dreams.

    8) Sell the plane to recover some training costs.

    My math suggests that if I can depreciation, maintenance, insurance, parking, fuel and repairs come out to less than $9000 by the time I'm issued my PPL I will come out ahead.


    Now for my concerns:

    1) Am I underestimating the cost of owning a plane? Doing the math, one major failure does not seem like it would completely derail my budget. For example, (an offhand suggestion from pilot I don't know suggests) a top overhaul for multiple cylinders showing low compression on an annual could cost $10K, but I should recover at least half of that in resale, which would still leave $4K to cover other costs. But I am still worried that I am being too optimistic.

    2) When researching planes and asking opinions the planes that are suggested include: Cessna 152s, Ercoupes, Talyorcrafts and Luscombe 8s.
    a) When taking into account fuel burn, my research suggest the Luscombe 8 or Ercoupe would be cheapest
    b) When taking into account what I want, the Luscombe 8 looks like the plane 7 year old me imagined himself flying.
    I understand I will need a tail wheel endorsement (I want one even if my plane is tricycle), but am I underestimating the risks and insurance costs of flying a tailwheel with so little flight time?

    3) The nearest airstrip to my new job (and presumably my new home) is a grass strip. Ideally I would like to be as close as possible to my plane, and I would be inclined to think that a grass strip would offer a cheaper tiedown (I have not called to price them), but would the grass strip's location and potential cost savings offset the risk of a low hours pilot flying to and from the strip regularly.

    4) In spite of this massive word vomit, years of dreaming about this, and it being the primary thing I have thought about since I accepted the new job (even though I probably should be thinking about moving), I know I am missing something. The question is, am I missing something big enough to derail this plan?

    If you read all of that, you deserve my thanks, if you have anything to add to this, please be an awesome human and tell me, even if it is just to tell me I'm an idiot.

    TL,DR: I think too much, will it bankrupt me?

  2. #2

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    From my own personal financial disasters over the decades I would advise against piling on up to $15000 in debt (cost to get a PPL) plus the substantial costs of airplane ownership on top of a student loan burden. I'd suggest taking that $750 a month and paying down the student loans to 0 first, then start your flight training with some 'discretionary' money for what IS a rather pricey hobby, remembering it is just a hobby .

    Most training locally is in the range of 'about' $150-$175 per hour for instructor and plane rental, insurances not included. $750 = 5 hours a month of training, which some might suggest is going to drag out the total hours you will need to perhaps double the 40 hour requirement or more. Personally, I'm (at age 69) looking to start training for a Sport Pilot license. Money is tight and I've decided NOT to begin until I have sufficient $$ in the bank to fund the project through completion.

    Like any discretionary, fun pastime hobby itemů.boat, motorcycle, ATV, golf AND flying, it's more fun if you can also eat regularly and live indoors - lol

    Just this old goof's two cents.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the advice.

    As for the student loans, I am expecting to pay off the worst of them with the sale of my house (I will be renting for the foreseeable future). The rest will be eligible for forgiveness due to my job in the future.

    How many hours per month should I plan to train to avoid dragging it?

  4. #4

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    It was suggested to me to shoot for 3 hours per week. And have a schedule that allows for the inevitable weather cancellations.

    I'm sure those who are FAR more knowledgeable and experienced on this subject will chime in. Like I said I am far below novice status.

  5. #5
    gbrasch's Avatar
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    I would concentrate on getting the license first, and worry about the complexity of aircraft ownership later.
    Glenn Brasch
    Tucson, Arizona
    2013 RV-9A / 1952 Piper Tri-Pacer
    Medevac helicopter pilot (Ret)
    EAA member since 1980
    Owner, "Airport Courtesy Cars" website.
    www.airportcourtesycars.com
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    Volunteer Mentor www.SoAZTeenAviation.org

  6. #6

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    One way to save some money is to learn as much as you can by the best methods you can other than sitting in an airplane with a CFI at $175 per hour. You can, if really disciplined, get the cheapest books, maybe even free at the library or buy a set from a student who just got his private license. Perhaps a better way is to spend the money, ( think it is $200?) to get the computer interactive course, think both King and Sportys have one, and really prepare for the written the most effective way like that. I like King, one thing about Sportys, is I think if uses Cessnas, so is a little better for high wing, though Im sure it translated ok to low wing planes. If you go on in aviation, ,more likely more of the high performance or advanced planes are going to be low wing, but really it is sort of like do you prefer Coke or Pepsi>
    So thats the approach to passing the written test, and some of the knowledge for the flying part. The next thing you can do is hang out at the airport if yours is a friendly one, and learn as much as you can for free. You can learn a lot about the flare part of landing by watching others land,both good and bad. if they or you have access to a simulator it can be valueble for the first hours and quieter and cheaper than in a plane.

  7. #7

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    When it comes to flying part the right or best instructor is vital. Some frankly are not conducive to learning, they are willing to take your money almost indefinitely and dont really care how well or how quickly you learn. The have the motivation to drag out your training, more money for them, rather than expedite it. Some instructors frankly, seem to feel that being a pilot is a sacred inner circle that should be limited to only an elite few. You dont need that kind, but as novice it is often hard to know who is what. Ask around and see which students liked their CFI, and important, WHY they did or did not like them? The guy or even better maybe the girl you want is the one who loves to fly and wants to SHARE the excitement with you, not the one who sees you as the income stream to pay off his new boat loan. Try to find facts on how long it took their students to solo and get their license. I soled in 12 hours, and got my private in 43 and I could have done it maybe 10 less in an ideal world. My CFI was above average, his best point was he was trying to teach me, not hold me back. Of course I did some on my own and I had the time and money to do it, but I didnt have the interactive course or simulator we have now. You can find CFIs who have a great story about how it should take 25 hours to solo today since the airspace is more complicated and so on, Dont buy it, most likely you may solo a C172 or similar which is almost the same as in my day in the Piper 140 and as for as airspace you are likely going to solo at your home airport not in a class B (TCA) just like 40 years ago, it doesnt take twice as long.To do the whole private rating may take some more time if you have more complex avionics etc.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 06-22-2018 at 01:28 PM.

  8. #8
    CarlOrton's Avatar
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    Many folks have purchased a plane and learned in it from day 1. Most important thing there is to find an instructor who's OK with that. Most FBOs want to rent you a plane for obvious reasons. You'll also need to address the insurance issues, i.e, adding the instructor to your coverage. They want to be included, too.

    If you're going this route, I encourage you to take some time and become an airport bum for awhile - several months. If you're going to buy your trainer, you'll need a GOOD pre-buy inspection. Just about anyone can do a pre-buy; you want a relationship with a good A&P who knows you'll be using him/her in the future for your annuals, repairs, maintenance, etc. A good A&P will push you away from a questionable plane. When I was buying mine, we (A&P and I) found several planes that were in an airworthy condition, but paperwork was the issue. Things like repairs done that weren't in the logs, ADs not complied with, etc.

    You can find a somewhat decent aircraft, but it may be ugly, need upholstery, etc. As long as it's in good shape, don't sweat it. Unless you're in one of those areas where it's more important to LOOK good than to BE good. I would NOT count on having a full top overhaul done; that can be determined with good confidence during pre-buy. You *might* have an issue during the first year or so with something like a stuck valve, but that doesn't mean they're all bad.

    You also want to find a plane that's been flown regularly. While low hours are great, I'd rather have an 8000 hr 150/2 that has had 200 hrs/year put on it, along with corresponding maintenance, than one with 1500 hrs that's only flown 20 hrs/year.

    In Atlanta, corrosion may be an issue; you *can* find one in fairly decent shape, but just take your time and look. Lastly, don't buy on price alone. As a wise sage told me years ago, if you're looking for a relatively common plane like a 172/152/Cherokee, etc., you will find it in your own backyard. No need to fly to CA just cuz one is cheap.

    Regarding whether it will bankrupt you or not, that's your call. Many people have to drive an expensive car, get a Starbucks every day, and play golf several times a week at a typical course. Set your priorities, and if the other things are more expensive, delay your foray into aviation. If your income permits an airplane loan and hangar/insurance costs, if something bad happened like a rod going thru the case, you can always just suspend operations for a year or two while still making the payments, so I don't see that bankrupting you. Might cramp your style, but, hey, treat it as a learning experience.

    Carl Orton
    Sonex #1170 / Zenith 750 Cruzer
    http://mykitlog.com/corton

  9. #9

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    Might get a good deal on a used EA-B for training. If you have an instructor that will teach in it.
    In 1975, my brother and I restored an Aeronca Chief and I built time in that and got the private after flying solo about 70 hrs. Sold for slightly more than parts cost.
    I would get a simpler Sport Pilot Certicate if I had to do it now.

  10. #10
    lnuss's Avatar
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    How many hours per month should I plan to train to avoid dragging it?
    Not hours, as such, but I'd suggest a minimum of flying twice a week (three times is better), to minimize the amount of review time on each training flight. I'd also suggest, as some have above, that you be sure that you can afford to see the training through to completion without pause, since that will minimize your cost. Whether this is done by financing your training or by saving up, it will help a lot, in terms of minimizing the number of hours required, thus the costs involved.

    While Bill G. talks about some problem CFIs, there are also occasions when a specific instructor, no matter how good, has what amounts to a personality conflict with a specific student -- not something that reflects badly on either person, just a fact of life. So if your training seems to be progressing poorly, or you seem to have trouble communicating effectively with your CFI, then don't be afraid to ask for a different instructor, or perhaps ask the chief instructor to have another CFI check your progress (that should be done as part of the curriculum at most schools anyway).

    But don't slack off on the ground studies, and don't be afraid to ask questions, either.

    Larry N.

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