On the ground and in the air, ever increasing fuel costs are eviscerating the disposable income of wannabe pilots and the profit margins of flight schools who teach them to fly. Looking forward, many schools are wringing their hands and searching for viable solutions. May I suggest the light-sport aircraft.
Today’s typical trainer is a decades old four-seater. Running full rich most of the time, with a lot of power changes, their 150 to 180-hp engines are burning 100LL 10 gph, give or take a bit. At $5 a gallon, give or take a bit, that makes President U.S. Grant every student’s pocketbook passenger.
Most fixed-wing special light-sport aircraft fly on 100-hp Rotax or Continental O-200. In the same thirsty training environment, they sip 4 to 5 gph, taking that $50 bill twice as far. As a bonus, an appropriately equipped LSA can expand the pool of possible students because it can serve the needs of both sport and private pilot candidates.
Private pilots need simulated IFR training, and a number LSA manufacturers, like Tecnam and Flight Design, offer Day/Night VFR certified birds with IFR capability (but not certification). Aircraft Manufacturing & Development (AMD) offers an IFR certified bird with TSO’ed steam gauges.
Don’t think LSAs are a cheap and quick fix to high fuel prices. New these SP/PP trainers cost more than $100K, but that’s still way less than what a new four-seater runs. But their miserly use of fuel stays the same, and that’s the key to their long-term savings.
As the price of avgas continues to climb, schools that stick with traditional trainers will be multiplying the cost per gallon by 10, if they can find students who have the disposable income to pay the price.
Flight schools are reluctant to change what they have been doing for more than half a century, but ever escalating gas prices — and the declining pilot and student populations — are giving them a choice, change or die.– Scott Spangler