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The airplane dilemma. - Tina Marie's Ramblings
Red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme...
The airplane dilemma.
I'm thinking of selling the Tripacer.

Yes, I'll be glad to give everyone time to pick their jaws off the floor.

I'm sick of doing airplane maintenance. Actually, I'm really just sick of having to do airplane maintenance. She turned 51 in November, and I honestly don't have the time or inclination to keep everything fixed. Part of that is that I'm not flying enough these days, and that always makes maintenance expenses go up, and part of the reason I'm not flying enough is that I dread finding out what's going to break next.

There are no working radios in the plane, and if I'm going to keep it more then 6 months or so more, I'm going to have to put in new ones, and that's a $5K hit right there. My hanger rent has nearly doubled since I moved, and I'm now half an hour further out from the airport, so I can't just pop out to do a bit of maintenance (or flying) in the evenings. I was ashamed to tell my insurance agent this morning that I'd only flown 50 hours last year, and only 20 of them in the Tripacer.

Everyone tells homebuilders that you have to make a decision - do you want to build an airplane, or do you want to fly? I seem to have stumbled into a variation on this - do I want to maintain an airplane, or do I want to fly it?

I don't want to stop flying. So the logical conclusion is to sell the Tripacer and buy something newer that I really enjoy. I can't afford to upgrade a whole lot, so that means a partnership, but Mike could go in half with me, and we could get something a bit better. There's a Cheetah on the field that was rebuilt from the ground up 3 years ago, although it's sat in a hanger since. It's got a nice panel, with modern radios, and I really like the Cheetah/Tiger line. Faster then a Tripacer by 25%, on the same fuel-burn-per-hour. No fabric, mid-time engine, and I could buy half of it for what I have in the Tripacer. And there are other things out there in that price range, most of them 20-25 years old.

Then, this weekend, I saw a new airplane. It's called an Allegro 2000. Tripacer speeds (on 3 gallons of fuel an hour!), 2 seats plus minimal baggage, and it's available brand-new for about $75,000, well-equipped. That's a lot of money, but it would be brand-new. Even comes with a 2-year, 100 hour warranty. It's a Light Sport Aircraft, which means you don't need a medical certificate to fly it. The engine is a Rotax 912, which has been around a while, but is a lot more modern then any certified aviation engine. It's a steel frame with a fiberglass skin, with aluminum wings. Certainly not state-of-the-art design, but a lot more modern then even all-aluminum airframes.

The best part? You can fly it without the doors in the summer.

The downsides to LSA are no night and no IFR flying. I honestly haven't been single-engine night current in at least 5 years, and I don't think I've been single-engine IFR current since I got a multi rating 2 years ago. But that's still a downside. And there's no serious cargo capacity, so I won't be packing it to the roof and heading off on an adventure for 2 weeks, and that is a use case I'll miss. There are other downsides - will there be parts support in 15 years? Will LSA still be viable in the US in 15 years?

It's possible to finance it, and it's possible to get insurance on it.

I'm intrigued. I'm going to be heartbroken to sell the Tripacer, but she's not the right plane for me anymore, and I'm not the right owner for her. No matter what I end up buying, I'm going to have to sell the Tripacer first.

I suppose there will have to be a rename token in my future.

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Current Mood: curious curious

13 comments or Leave a comment
jpallan From: jpallan Date: January 4th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that if you want to switch from driving the Tripacer to a fun newer plane, who should say no? Seriously, taking care of a plane like that is a ton of work and should only ever be a labor of love.

I'd also seriously consider joining a partnership or flying club, because if you only got fifty hours last year, that's a lot of debt to carry for what may be no more than one hundred or one fifty hours, since maintenance would no longer be an issue.
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: January 4th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd fly more. This was a big year of changes for me - buying the house, Michael's accident, breaking up with him, Mike moving in...and I still managed 50 hours. My weekends are going back to normal, and I don't see this as being a decision that's going to happen in less then 6 months. If I get 6 months down the road and I'm still only flying 50 hours a year, then it's time to sell the Tripacer, give up the hanger, and rent or join a club.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: January 4th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
i was also going to suggest a flying club. that's how my brother in Dallas flies, when he's not flying with the CAP. (no way his wife would ever let him own a plane, or even part of one!)

you could be "airplanedriver", if that's not taken...

(Deleted comment)
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: January 4th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's an interesting question, and one I don't know the answer to. On one level it doesn't matter, really - my multiengine privileges went out of currency 2 months ago, my IFR went out before that, and my tailwheel will go out in a month. If I don't have access to the type, I don't need to be current in it, and if I have access to it, it's not difficult to stay current. So if an LSA doesn't count as airplane-single-engine-land, I don't need to keep that currency, and if it does, well, I have it.

I suspect it does count, because there are a number of planes that qualify as both LSA and have standard airworthiness certificates, like the Cub and the Champ.

If your travels bring you this far south, I'll be glad to take you up in whatever I happen to be flying. :)
(Deleted comment)
alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: January 5th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know what, I'd love to go to Burning Man one day. It looks intriguing AND YOU CAN FLY IN!
From: ptomblin_lj Date: January 4th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Move up to Rochester NY, and I'll go halves on the float equipped version.
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: January 4th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
And give up half the flying season? I hear you get this wierd white stuff that falls out of the sky up there, and ice exists on the airport sometimes in places other then in the King Air Catering Cart....

The float version does look interesting. When I sat in it, my mind immediately placed me flying it at 50ft just off the beach in the Keys, but that may have been partially the paint job.
From: ptomblin_lj Date: January 5th, 2007 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Think of that white stuff as just another type of thunderstorm. I had to cancel a trip to pick up my daughters after Christmas because of lake-effect snow, but today it was severe clear and right now it's 58 degrees. Some winter.
(Deleted comment)
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: January 4th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
*laugh* I don't expect there to be a big gap between "selling the Tripacer" and "buying something else", so unless you happen to hit that gap, you're still welcome to a ride.
alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: January 5th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

As a moldy old airplane owner...

...all I can say is "Nooooooooooooooooooooo...!!!"

But on the other hand, if I still lived in Houston, I'd go in on a partnership on the LSA you mention. I figure that the FAA aren't cruel enough to suddenly decide to stop LSA, and even if the original manufacturer folds you're in no worse position than you are with the TriPacer (but with a much newer airframe).

On the other hand, the Cheetah is a lot of fun to fly. I wish someone hadn't crashed AMP's, because it was one I could just go out and fly - and I liked that plane. A recently refurbished Cheetah has to be a good bet and it *does* have the capacity to go off on a long trip. There would certainly be less risk of sitting in a pool of brake fluid on the ramp at Van Nuys, any rate :-)

If it were me, on weighing things up, I'd probably go for a Cheetah - but then again, the fuel burn of the LSA is awfully attractive.
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: January 5th, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: As a moldy old airplane owner...

There are some other problems with S-LSA (the ready-to-fly ones). Here is the biggest: You cannot make any airframe mod without the permission of the manufacturer. That means not so much as a new radio without a letter of approval. That's pretty terrifying.

OTOH, Fantasy Air has been around for something like 10 years in Europe, so it's not like they just sprang up last week. But, still - they have a 250-hour-build kit, and that would get me E-LSA.

Except the whole point was not to have to build something!
alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: January 6th, 2007 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: As a moldy old airplane owner...

Is changing a radio an airframe mod though? What is an airframe modification, and what's not? Would it be possible to get clearance from the manufacturer to put in a fairly generic radio mounting - so the mounting is approved - and then be able to swap things like radios at will? The other question is how often do you make modifications - once you've got a radio (which really means a single navcom and transponder for VFR) they tend to stay the same for years (nay decades).

Of course, with the Cheetah you've got to do the same with the FAA instead of the manufacturer (which is going to be the path of least resistance? The problem with manufacturer approvals is it's going to depend from manufacturer to manufacturer, where at least Houston FSDO is a devil you know).

I feel your pain on the lack of flying. Hopefully, this summer I should get a lot more in now that the incremental cost of each hour of flying is about a third of what it used to be thanks to having the Auster. With the poor weather recently (weekends are the only days that are flyable, it's dark by 4pm this time of year - not much good for a day VFR only aircraft!) I think I've flow three times in the last two months (although it's been glider towing, so at least currency hasn't been a problem with lots of takeoffs and landings).
13 comments or Leave a comment