News that a flight school now offers sport pilot training is quick to catch my eye. The March 2008 the Oklahoma Aviator reported that Oklahoma’s Chickasha Wings Inc. had added an Ercoupe 415-C to its fleet, which also includes two Cessna 150s, a 172, and a Piper Apache. Sport pilots can train in and rent the 415-C because it, like many J-3 Cubs and Champs, meets the light sport-aircraft weight and speed limitations.
The school went LSA shopping because "we have had many calls asking for sport pilot rentals," Mitch Williams, owner, says in the article. "We looked at new light sport-aircraft and legacy taildraggers and decided the Ercoupe was the best fit for us with its electric starter, tricycle gear, and side-by-side seating."
Calling him for more information, Williams says asking a solo student to prop the plane is a liability hazard, and it is "really windy here in western Oklahoma, and if I’m teaching someone to fly in [a taildragger], we’re gonna have to pick our days."
Going first to the vendors of new light sport-aircraft, getting something he could rent was $100,000, more than he wanted to spend. "I might spend $50,000 or $60,000, but I didn’t want to pay the big insurance and all that on having to borrow money."
Rental fees was another consideration. The hourly rate for any of the new LSAs would probably be $89 or more, Williams says, adding that "you’re always going to have a rental ending in 9; that’s just how it is [laughs]."
Williams paid $20,000 for the Ercoupe 415-C, which rents for $59 an hour solo and $79 dual. It has flown about 50 hours in its first two months, paying off on the calls that led to Chickasha Wings’ to offer sport pilot training. One caller has already earned his sport pilot certificate.
Receiving several sport pilot calls a week, price was–and is–the primary draw, Williams says, adding, "They want a cheap way into aviation." A good number of callers are older pilots flying ultralights who need training and an aircraft to rent for their sport pilot checkride.
The Ercoupe has its original two-axis controls, elevator and interconnected rudder and ailerons, all controlled by the yoke. On the floor is a single brake pedal. Chickasha Wings was going to install a rudder kit, but with all the STC’ed kits the steering stays with the yoke and its aileron input. That means, Williams says, when using a wing-down crosswind correction, the nosewheel is pointed in the wrong direction at touchdown.
Those who take a checkride in the Ercoupe and go on to three-axis controls will need a "mini-checkride," says Williams. "We solo them in their three-axis control and then they go for a short checkride–three times around the pattern–with the examiner."
"I’d like to think it has increased business," Williams says. "Just this month [March] I’ve had two new guys come in and say they want to get their sport pilot." To see how it goes I’ll follow up later this year, after the fun flying season really starts. — Scott Spangler