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Thread: Dilemma (sort of) about where to start in my quest for the air...

  1. #1

    Dilemma (sort of) about where to start in my quest for the air...

    Hi all, greetings from under the Class B shelf at KCVG, on the wild and wonderful KY side of the Ohio.

    I had a much longer post prepared, but it was really complete overkill. I think it was more sorting my own thoughts out and making justifications to myself more than anything else. It wasn't needed. So, I'll keep this short. Well, ... short-ish.

    After 25 years or so, I'm finally in a position to pull the trigger on getting myself into the air in a meaningful, sustainable way. Unfortunately, it won't be in the form I always envisioned, via a PPL. I've finally admitted to myself that, although I get paid reasonably well as a CRM archaeologist, we're kind of the red-headed stepchildren of the sciences and I just don't bring in enough disposable income to justify the expense of either a PPL or the rental fees to buy a fair number of hours at the yoke per year. Purchasing a standard category aircraft just isn't particularly likely either, except perhaps, *maybe*, something like a 50 year old Cessna or Piper, and even then, the cost of annuals, rolling maintenance costs, hangar rental, insurance, etc., all combine to make it not particularly feasible or realistic. I can't afford a purchase on par with a house. Just isn't in the cards, at least for the foreseeable future.

    Dreams not shattered, but definitely warranted a reappraisal of what I wanted versus what I needed in a recreational hobby. And for me, being able to get meaningful time in the air and the hobby (at all) without breaking the bank seems the most important.

    For a while, I was very seriously considering going the sport certification route, with subsequent purchase of a smaller LSA of the tube-tail, fat-ultralight variety, like a CGS Hawk or a Kolb, sizes I have some experience with from the 90s before the LSA revolution. This would fit my desires as a recreational pilot, allow some meaningful cross-country of a few hundred nm, allow me to take up a family member to get them involved and maybe even interested in aviation as well, maybe do some LSA camping, etc. Going the kit route would save me some money at the cost of a 6-12 month build time, a 16-hour FAA course would let me do my own annuals, and I could store such an aircraft at home instead of in a hangar (eventually anyway, not so much at the present). All great things, which is why it really appealed to me over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, researching the aircraft I would be interesting in, I'd still be looking at the cost outlay of a really nice new car, or modestly packaged new pick-up. Better than the cost of a house, and at least it's a potential possibility for me. But not right away. Maybe over a 3-5 year time frame.

    Which brings me to the option I'm 99% sold on; PPG trike (I have a weak knee I can't really run on). Classified as ultralights under 103, the training is half as much as even a sports certificate and I can buy brand new gear for around $12k, maybe $15k with all the bells and whistles. A PPG, even with a trike cart, is much easier to store and transport, and there's not much maintenance to manage except for engine. The big sale for me is that it would let me get up in the air this year without breaking the bank, at the cost of a passenger, cross-country range, and some airspeed. But there's nothing stopping me from saving up for a sport license in a year or so, and maybe even upsizing to an LSA a few years after that. At least I'd be finally getting flight time instead of standing by patiently, as I have for the last 25 years.

    Obviously, there are pros and cons to everything. I've made a big list for myself of the pros/cons for both LSA and PPG trike down to including specific maintenance issues in my selected models of interest, safety factors, re-sale potential, etc. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, for me the pros of PPG significantly outweigh the cons of LSA, whereas the cons of PPG are on similar footing to the pros of LSA.

    Really though, beyond the pros and cons in my Excel table, it all comes down to this:
    -I can go the PPG route and start flying this year, and maybe add on a Sport license and/or LSA upsize later.
    Or,
    -I can save for a few more years, get my Sport license, and make the choice to go LSA or PPG then.

    I think I'd rather be actively participating in recreational aviation while making a decision about upsizing, rather than staying on the sidelines any longer. Call it pessimism, but I'd strongly suspect that if I wait, I'll be in this exact same position in two years, four years, 10 years... Time to do my business or get off the pot, as they say. I've watched my late-30s roll into my early-40s while waiting for the right time and circumstances; I REALLY don't want to see my mid- to late-40s rolling into 50 as I quietly debate this over and over in my head, on the ground.

    Anyhow, I'm just curious what others in a similar position have decided for themselves, what went into your decisions, etc. I'm sure I can't be the only one in EAA for whom disposable income is a little tighter than ideal for our aerial aspirations!

    Thanks for reading (if you made it this far!) Sorry for the long-windedness!

    Jason

  2. #2
    lnuss's Avatar
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    There's certainly nothing wrong with going to an ultralight to get in the air. And I'd suggest that starting earlier might be a good way to go, since I've seen too many people who waited 'til retirement (or something else major) before starting flying or buying an RV or trying some other major hobby/endeavor, only to find they either didn't live that long or their lives were cut short so they didn't have long to enjoy it, or they wound up with disabilities that hindered their plans.

    So given your comments above, I'd say go for the PPG and learn, possibly with the thought of changing later, but also keeping in mind that there are lots of folks in ultralights who are there just for the joy, and many who were fully licensed that ALSO took up ULs without giving up regular aircraft, so go for it -- you'll likely be glad you did.

    Larry N.

  3. #3
    Dana's Avatar
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    Go for it! PPG is a lot of fun, as are other ultralights. It's a very different scene from airplanes, though there is a lot of overlap, many PPGers are also airplane pilots, or become airplane pilots.

  4. #4
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    I would echo what Larry said: get in the air however you can, and you may find that a relatively cheap PPG or ultralight will scratch enough of your aviation itches to make you happy long term. As you pointed out, you can always get higher level training and upgrade aircraft in the future, and you can sell your first aircraft to help finance that.

    I don't know your situation, but it sounds similar to where I was several years ago. I had a lot of interest in building, owning and flying my own plane, but lacked the resources to do it. I made a decision that I was going to make it happen, and set about ordering my life around that goal. I examined everything I did that involved an expense and really thought about its importance to me. I was amazed how quickly I was able to save real money just by applying a little discipline.

    I dropped my $100+/mo cable TV and have never looked back; there's more than enough content about my hobbies and interests on YouTube for free, and I've found that I get a lot more enjoyment from learning about those things than watching contrived dramas. Full disclosure: I'm not much interested in sports.

    I cancelled my expensive cell phone plan at one of the big-name carriers and switched to one of the pre-paid Mobile Virtual Network Operators. My bill is $25/mo for unlimited talk and text with 400Mb of data. I'm not a heavy data user (I used 175Mb in Feb), so it works fine for me. When my old phone died about a year ago, I bought a used iPhone 7 on eBay for $175 instead of going to the Apple store for an iPhone 26 Platinum XL King Ranch Edition.

    There are little nickel-and-dime expenses all over that you can probably do without. Cut up your Starbucks card, don't eat out as much, stop going to movies so often, cut back your vacations, sell the car you're making payments on and buy a cheaper car for cash. You get the idea. Where there's a will, there's a way!
    Eric Page
    Building Kitfox Series 5
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
    Map of Landings

  5. #5
    Thank you Larry, Dana and Eric! In retrospect, maybe it turns out I really did need some encouragement from folks that have been "there". I wasn't expecting it, but I feel very much more confident of my decision this afternoon. My aviation and flying interests are fairly unique among my coworkers, friends and peers, and I don't really have anyone to chat with about such things; oh sure, they all go "Wow, that sounds cool!" But then when I start talking the more down-to-earth side of things, they all tend to look at me funny and say "That sounds overly complicated and expensive. Why would you want to do that?" Mind you, they all have their own hobbies, some more expensive and involved than others and they're cognizant of that, so they've never been mean or dismissive with me. But I can tell they just don't get it, so I don't really chat with them much about it all.

    To add to Eric's points, a big part of why I'm now able to act was by just taking care of some old outstanding debts and living within my means. I live pretty frugally as it is. For example, I've been fortunate in that although I'm a two-pot-a-day coffee fiend, I'm strictly a Maxwell House/Folger kind of guy with his own restaurant style fast brew Dunn, not a Starbucks fan. I usually don't eat out/order delivery much (2020 being an exception), or go to the movies, or go on big vacations, or have an expensive beer habit, etc. My phone is company paid, so no bill there at all. I drive a 20 year old truck, which admittedly doesn't get great gas mileage but I put on under 8,000 miles a year and it's owned free and clear and I do 90% of my own maintenance, and most of the time I'm on the motorcycle for my work commute anyhow, which is also owned free and clear. I do have a model railroading addiction/hobby, which can get awfully expensive in a hurry, but I (try to, mostly successfully) keep those expenditures in check. And there are still other things I can do. Cutting my $200/mo Spectrum cable/internet bill to just high-speed internet would save $150 a month (it was a great package when I signed up, but that honeymoon period ended after a couple of years and the bill jumped extraordinarily. Been meaning to cut that bugger for a while, as I only rarely actually watch TV). And cutting out a nicotine addition would save a TON per year, too. A few smaller things, like paying off a couple credit cards that I keep at about 30% utilization just to build my credit score, could also be paid off entirely and eliminated. And there are some things I could sell off, too. Like my skydive gear; as much as I'd love to use it again, until my knee gets replaced or repaired via surgery one day, I just don't see me making many (or any) jumps.

    So on the financial side, I'm already doing what I can to better my savings without resorting to living like a hermit, and have been in that routine for a long while now (thank goodness!) Sure, that savings account doesn't go up as fast as I would like, but such is life. There are some rough spots I can still sort out, and I shall. And I'm sure dumb s**t will continue to happen, like a vehicle dying on me or the stepson needing a new French Horn or a septic system needing to get replaced, etc. The point is, I'm confident I can meet whatever goals I set, no matter what they may morph into in the future. I just have to keep them in perspective (which, I admit, is something of a challenge for me. I have a tendency to "think big" but often have to "go home" instead, lol.)

    For now, these goals are pretty modest: Get in the air! PPG trike offers me a mode, and I'm tired of waiting for some mythical, sunnier day. Who knows what personal connections I'll make, friends I'll meet, opportunities I'll have? All I know is that if I don't act, those unknown connections and opportunities stay squarely at nil.

    Thanks again for the support! I've been chatting with the training service I want to use for a while now; time to go ahead and schedule the training time once and for all.

    Jason

  6. #6
    lnuss's Avatar
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    My aviation and flying interests are fairly unique among my coworkers, friends and peers, and I don't really have anyone to chat with about such things; oh sure, they all go "Wow, that sounds cool!" But then when I start talking the more down-to-earth side of things, they all tend to look at me funny and say "That sounds overly complicated and expensive. Why would you want to do that?"
    You're not alone -- most of us are (or have been ) in the same boat. Few people understand (or much care) about details of aviation beyond touting the virtues (or lack thereof) certain airlines or experiences, having a wrong concept of how airplanes fly, terminology and many other things -- it's a foreign language to them, just like golf is a foreign language to me.

    I do have a model railroading addiction/hobby, which can get awfully expensive in a hurry, but I (try to, mostly successfully) keep those expenditures in check.
    Me too. Curiously, I find that model railroading, ham radio, motorcycling and a couple of other things are quite common among pilots.

    One suggestion, Jason -- one can learn a LOT from hangar flying (being careful to not believe certain tall tales, and to take along your "grains of salt" shaker), and one can often relieve a certain amount of the flying itch with hangar flying (temporarily), so if things work out so that you can, you might spend a Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon (usually need at least somewhat warm weather, depending on the locale) hanging around the airport just to chat with people, perhaps stroll around the hangars or sit on a bench near the flight school, or some other opportunity dependent on the layout and customs at your particular airport. You'll make friends, learn a lot and maybe even get some opportunities that otherwise would never show up for you.

    I specify the weekend for the above mainly because that's when you're the most likely to find others there, but mid-week occasionally has pleasant surprises, too.

    Larry N.

  7. #7
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lnuss View Post
    ...one can often relieve a certain amount of the flying itch with hangar flying (temporarily)...
    I only wish it were so. The beautiful winter days this year have been brutal! My neighbors (PA-12, PA-18 and two C-180s) blast off on flying adventures, while I'm left behind in my garage because my Kitfox isn't finished yet. Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, they come home and show me photos on their phones, bragging about the beautiful little strip they found next to a river. Oh, the agony!
    Eric Page
    Building Kitfox Series 5
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
    Map of Landings

  8. #8
    lnuss's Avatar
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    I understand, and I'm sorry you had that problem, Eric, but that's also why I said:
    can often relieve
    (emphasis added), rather than saying always. Of course you certainly have something to look forward to, and maybe sometime the neighbors will offer to let you ride along.

    Larry N.

  9. #9
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    Yes, I know. It was an attempt at humor. Apparently it didn't work.
    Eric Page
    Building Kitfox Series 5
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
    Map of Landings

  10. #10
    lnuss's Avatar
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    Sorry -- I've never been good at reading faces, body English or tone of voice through text, so guess I missed that. I bet there was a lot of truth in your post though, too -- I sure could identify with that at times.

    Larry N.

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