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Leachman House

Pilots on the decline, no surprise...

There has been hardly anything new in the private aircraft industry for quite some time, let alone something that an average person can afford.

Most people are pretty much stuck, if they want an aerial sports car, they take one look at the air force enlistment and walk away...

I have two uncles in the air force and as much as I'd love to fly, there is no way I'd even come close to passing the medical entrence exams...

Doesn't mean I wouldn't like to build my own plane someday, though :)

Dean Burkholder

Hello,I am a 44 year old engineering tech that has always been fascinated by aircraft. Since my childhood, I have always gotten into things that resembled flying. I had my remote control airplane and helicopter period where I could imagine myself in the cockpit. Then there was the scuba diving period, it also reminded me of the freedom of flight. Then I tried the hang gliding approach. This was great, but at this stage of my life, I was too much out of shape to "hang in there". So here I was at the graceful age of 42 and one day my wife and I were talking. I told my wife that I have always wanted to fly. She told me that I should go for it. Well, I did and it has changed my whole life. It took me a little less than a year to get my license and I have been flying ever since. The flying community in my area is a close knit one. Everyone is very friendly and generous. I went into a partnership on a cessna 172, and it has made my costs decrease and my flying time increase. It is now two years later and i have approx 170 hours in the air and am always looking forward to my next flight. My only regret is that I did not do this sooner.

David Nogueira

Go for it, a true aviator will take pleasure in flying anything.

Jack Okie

Shea, I recently retired and am back in the air after a 30 year absence, and aside from the joy of flying again, I'm kicking myself for not finding a way to make it happen sooner.

The new Light Sport Aircraft category would be a great way to get started; there are many new A/C in that category that are relatively cheap to fly, and some are already being used for flight training. Much flying by private pilots is day / VFR anyway, so you can start with SLA and upgrade to the private certificate later if you want.

Mr Burkholder, as I'm sure you know, your wife is a pearl beyond price.

John Moore ( Useful Fools )

I have been a private pilot since leaving active duty as a Navy aircrew member almost 40 years ago. But not any more. The reasons:

*too expensive unless its my only hobby

*too time consuming to maintain currency - especially in the crowded skies of a metro area and the always increasing complexity of FAA ATC procedures

*too dangerous - I chase tornadoes instead

*medical - The FAA is overcautious in some areas

However, for those who have the time, it's a great hobby.

I do want to put in a plug for sail-planes (gliders). Gliding has no medical requirement (last I checked which was a long time ago). There are minimal ATC rules because you tend to fly far from busy airports. It is a pure sport (nothing practical about it) and is a more elegant experience than driving an air truck. In a thermal, you sometimes are literally soaring with eagles (more often hawks). The engine never quits (except on takeoff) and you can set it down at very low speeds. I would still be soaring except for the time it takes. I may take it up again some day.


Could you esteem this logic? tks.

Daniel Lockett

Has anybody looked into these autogyros? They seem more feasible on the money side (about $40,000 for a complete kit with engine). However I would imagine you would have to invest a lot of time building it.


Rich Anthony

I'd love to become a Privat Pilot. But, the costs are just too great. When I was a teenager a good used aircraft cost only a little more than good used car. Not anymore.
In addition the cost of landing fees, fuel and insurance are out of sight for a middle class family with 3 kids.


What about an ultralight? Do you have to have a license to fly those? They're not THAT expensive, are they?

David Nogueira

Dynamic WT-9 is my answer to you....


I am a 15 year old just starting flight training. My grand father was a pilot but I never got to fly with him. To help with your choice it depends on where you are. I have seen flight schools on the web that charge $15,000 for a private pilot license. Don't do that. In the Portland, OR area most schools charge about $5,000. At Pearson field, the longest continually operating airport in the U.S., they can do it for $4,000 in a Cessna 150. I am 6'5 so I use the Cessna 172 which brings it up to about $5,000, except solo training might be possible in a 150 to bring the cost down.

So if your in an area where it's in the lower of the price range and still need to save money, A sport license is a good idea to be able to experience this great hobby.

John Mahoney

Thanks guys for all the input—I'll keep you posted on any new developments (and on any interesting tidbits found in the FAA handbooks I've started perusing).


Maybe PopSci could sponsor a design contest or challenge for a new recreational air vehicle. I would be willing to participate.

Bryan Fry

I was a private (IFR) pilot. I flew for ~3 years. After which I stopped and went back to get my Master Degree.

Well, today I am making more money but unfortunately I am no longer flying due to the high cost. In my generation we have to save for retirement and save for the overpriced house.

Anyone who can afford flying I envy you. Maybe one day I will make enough money to continue my passion for flying.

John in Texas

Please look at barnstormers.com and look at things planes like the Ercoupe, Taylorcraft and Luscombe. You will find that as a sport pilot, you can fly certain models of these standard category airplanes and if you want to buy one, the can be had for the price of a good used car. So the argument such a plane cannot be found is just incorrect. In addition, as a private pilot a Cessna 150 or 152 can be found in the same price range. Keep in mind you need to have them checked by an FAA certified mechanic, but that is information for another day.

Next, why would anyone say the Sport Pilot certificate is not of any use. You can fly anywhere a private pilot can with only a few restrictions... You cannot fly above 10,000 feet, you cannot fly at night, you cannot fly in low visibility and you need a special signoff to fly into or out of certain size airports. With regard to the plane you fly, there are restrictions and the toughest is that you can only carry one passenger.

With regard to earning the Sport Pilot certificate, it takes half the time of the Private certificate. This whole change to the system is a gift to potential pilots.

I suggest not sitting around and talking about it and writing about it. Go put the money together and learn to fly.

Check out the EAA sport division at sportpilot.org to obtain information on instructors etc.

Luis Boza

I like to fly and I have good basis. Actually I'm living in Guatemala. I went to a flying school for info and when they told how much they charged, I turned back and never returned again. The do-it-yourself spirit is lost yeah, but it's also a matter of cost and it contributes greatly to dissapoinment so you switch for cheaper hobbies. I have heard that there isn't much space to fly in USA. but it's almost the same anywhere. It isn't very different here around the capital city. Authorities and plane makers don't think service is the most important thing. Laws are putting people far from flying and kits and planes cost an eye of your face. Will the days of enjoying a J3-like aircraft come again? If not...... the number of students and even pilots will drop drastically. God Bless. Thanks. Luis


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Hi Guys,

I read your blog with interest. I am based in Spain, Europe and the level of private pilots here and in the UK is still quite high!

However, I believe it is still difficult for the average guy in the street to pay for a license, even though prices are more competitive now.


I'm in my early 30's but I've been dreaming about flight since my early 20's. When the sport pilot rule came out I was very excited. The number of awesome air crafts available and information on the net is great. For me a trip around the pattern isn't what I'm looking for, I dream about cross country flight - say about 150-300 mile trips. What keeps me from this? Cost and cost only. I don't know anybody in my age rage (who isn't rich already) who makes average income (40-50k per year) that can afford a house priced aircraft. My research tells me that even a trimmed sport plane is still 50k-ish. For guys like me, even cutting many extra spending out, it still isn't affordable. Even if I lived in the cheapest apt I could find, ditched my cell phone, cut extra spending, etc the cost of owning a good and safe air craft still isn't achievable. I suppose partnering with someone might help, but I would probably have to search high and low for 2-3 guys willing to chip in on a 100k price tag. If I'm out in left and there is a way, please share and thanks for this post, just offering one average man's opinion..

rick mcilrath

I bought an ercoupe out of Kentucky three years ago and I got my sport pilot license 2 years ago.

I spent the first year fixing up the coupe and had the c-85 engine rebuilt. I have taken over 40 people flying and they love the canopy cockpit that opens like a convertible.

I regret nothing other than more people need to downsize from their 30k car and buy an old airplane. Most folks at airports are great to be around. Low and slow is fun and fuel consumption is reasonable.

It all looks the same up there if you are the type without an 6 figure ego you can have a lot of fun with an old airplane.


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