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The Lowly 152: The Once and Future King of Training

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At last weekís Redbird training conference, I wouldnít say the attitude toward using LSAs in training was exactly hostile, but it wasnít warm and fuzzy, either. During his talk on the Redhawk diesel, Redbirdís Roger Sharp said that LSA resale values are a relative unknown and, at least in Redbirdís view, LSAs havenít yet demonstrated theyíre up to the rigors of the daily training regime. Several of the attendees I spoke to shared this view, without flat out ruling out LSAs as a training option for them.

To be fair, I think this was a biased crowd. While theyíre receptive to new initiatives in the training process, they also seemed more inclined to favor traditional piston trainersóCessna 172s and the Piper PA-28 line. At the opening night reception, Piperís Simon Caldecott won props merely for recommitting Piper to building training aircraft and recognizing that flight training is the door into future GA growth. This is, Iím afraid, preaching to the choir. Itís fine to verbalize this commitment, but it does nothing to address the exorbitant cost of new aircraft. Yes, the FAR Part 23 revision coming in 2015 may help, but even if it reduces the cost of new aircraft by a thirdóand I think thatís doubtfulóitís not going to help much. Iíll believe the effect of this promised cost reduction when I see it. Meanwhile, Redbirdís Redhawk is both more immediate and economically more potent. Compared to the regulatory revision, itís moving at the speed of heat.

So if LSAs are deemed too expensive and not durable enough and new trainers like the soon-to-be $415,000 2014 Skyhawk are too expensive, where does this leave us? It leaves us just past the starting line on a growing industry to remanufacture existing airframes. Iíve reported on this before, but one aspect of it that hasnít emerged yet but I think should is a focus on the low end of the training market, specifically the Cessna 152.

It seems like every time I report on LSAs used in the training market, Iíll hear from several operators who say they either tried to use LSAs as trainers or considered it, only to return to using clapped out 152s because theyíre cheaper, more durable and easier to service. These operators seem mixed on whether it matters that the airframes just look like crap. Some say they desperately need more presentable aircraft, others say theyíre willing to tolerate rattiness just to remain competitive. Iím not going to pulp the dead horse by again doing the airplane/Lexus comparison.

This suggests to me that there is or thereís going to be a Redhawk version of the Cessna 152. The airframes are out there, because flight school operators are telling me theyíre finding them. I can imagine a refurb that includes a fresh engineóthe O-235 is very competitive and its overhaul costs a third what the Centurion diesel does--new paint and an upgraded interior. For now, they can do with steam gauges and digital navcomms, which are easy to teach and more than capable enough for a trainer. If the FAA and the industry arenít just floating BS about the Part 23 revision, it should eventually be possible to install in them equipment like Garminís G3X or the Dynon line. The FAA has publically stated that this is part of the goal of the revision. Just because I donít believe the bureaucracy will ever allow this to happen in a timely fashion if at all, Iím willing to pretend for the sake of argument that it will happen.

So if it does happen, three to five years from now, could a lively business in 152 refurbishment be part of the training mix and what would such an airplane cost? My guess is it could be done and done well for between $70,000 and $90,000. That would bring refurbed 152s into the market slightly under the price of new LSAs and slightly higher than decent used 172s, but less than half of the Redhawkís cost. If the industry ever shakes off its irrational bias against mogas, fuel operating costs would be comparable to but probably a bit less than diesel operating costs. And this is exactly why Airworthy Autogas is aiming its efforts at the training market initially. The economics arenít as attractive with $7 avgas.

Increasingly, then, schools could have more choices. For many, new 172s arenít ever going to be an option unless Cessna stops dissing the light aircraft segment, in my opinion, and gets its prices under control. New management could address the former, but I donít see how theyíre going to reduce prices much. So I can foresee a market where the Redhawk would be a good choice for some schools, a freshened up 152 for others, LSAs for yet others and ratty old, cheap whatevers for those who think they can sell those to customers. The fact is, some are doing that already. And with the exception of the refurbs, the market already looks like what Iíve described above.

In an airplane-selling market thatís seeing decline across the board, I can see some opportunities here. There are probably some STC and PMA targets for the 152 that could be viable. If the numbers can be made to work, there could be a market here worth seizing by a company or two with a little capital and business savvy. Redbirdís sim-centric training seems to be built around airplanes like the 172, but why canít it be adapted to the 152? And even if it canít be or itís not economically practical to do that, motion-based sim-centric training doesnít have to be the only game in town. And what the heck, in a hopelessly hallucionogenic moment, I can even imagine Cessna offering genuine factory remanufactured Cessna 152s. Who better to do it?†Competition is all about having choices. So letís have some.

Increasingly, when I attend industry events where speakers say things like ďweíve got to find a way to make flying more affordableĒ or ďweíve got find ways to attract people to flying,Ē I have the uneasy feeling Iím amidst a conclave of dinosaurs after the comet has already exploded. We are less angling for a return to GA growth here than we are trying to find brief level outs in the industryís decline until it regains footing in the future.

The growth is far ahead. To me, this whole refurb idea is lot less of a leaky lifeboat than a promised revision of the FARs. But then nobody ever accused me of owning a pair of rose-colored glasses.

Join the conversation. †Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (82)

Paul, your approach is a good idea and likely to succeed. I am putting together the following cost estimates for anyone to adjust to their preferences. The calculations are for a flight school aircraft. The nav/com equipment is optional, it is what I would like though. The C152 is a IFR/VFR trainer therefore it has a greater utilization range.

Cost factors for an refurbished practical trainer(IFR/VFR);

1. Get a $15M airworthy C152 airframe 2. add an O-235 and prop say $18M, 3. take the rattiness out, new paint, new plastic windows, new upholstery, say $8M 4. new or refurbished panel, intercom, GNS430W, plus another flip flop radio plus two VLOC/GPS heads. Say $12m 5. The goal is to keep the refurbishing cost between $50m-$60m for lower commercial insurance rates. 6. Estimated operational (commercial) costs, say about $60 (in case someone wants to know a C172 180hp runs about $90/hr WET) 7. Estimated rental rate $85/hr WET at $5.80/gal

Can anyone beat this?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 2, 2013 9:37 AM    Report this comment

CORRECTION: 6. Estimated operational (commercial) costs, say about $60/HR (in case someone wants to know a C172 180hp runs about $90/hr WET)

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 2, 2013 9:45 AM    Report this comment

Paul:

Re: "... $415,000 2014 Skyhawk ... " and "Yes, the FAR Part 23 revision coming in 2015 may help, but even if it reduces the cost of new aircraft by a third--and I think that's doubtful--it's not going to help much."

Can someone explain to me how a Part 23 revision is going to reduce the cost of building already certified aircraft like the Skyhawk and Cherokee? Hasn't the cost of certification been amortized yet? Is it the cost of certifying improvements? If I buy a Cherokee with a six-pack, why would certification have any effect on cost?

Thanks.

Posted by: Thomas Reilly | November 2, 2013 11:26 AM    Report this comment

Rafael, add one item to your spec: ADS- Out. With mogas, you might get to $80 an hour. Not cheap, maybe, but better than $150 for a "like new" airplane.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 2, 2013 12:28 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you are correct, ADS-B Out after 2020. Say, the GTX330-ES or equal at about $5,000

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 2, 2013 12:46 PM    Report this comment

The school where I teach has just sold their last 2 C 152's and replaced them with C 172's. The problem was that less than half of the students fit in the aircraft. The most common problem was weight. The dirty little aviation secret is that every other training flight in a C 152 is over gross. We were simply not willing to do that and that so restricted the use of the aircraft that they were no longer viable. The other issue was maintenance. Why is the 108 hp C 152 engine more expensive to overhaul than a 180 hp 172 engine ?

Posted by: David Gagliardi | November 2, 2013 2:34 PM    Report this comment

IMO Cessna missed a huge opportunity by not certifying the C 162 sky catcher as a part 23 airplane. My understanding is when the dust settled they pretty much did all the testing required and ended up using a certified engine. They could then have certified it at a decent gross weight and if they kept the current price point I bet they would sell very well.

Posted by: David Gagliardi | November 2, 2013 2:39 PM    Report this comment

David Glagiardi, the 1980 C152 is certified for a maximum station load of 400 lbs (pilot and passenger) and can carry 24 gallons of fuel and stay within the gross weight of 1670 lbs. As a comparison, the C162 is limited to station load of 340 lbs (pilot and passenger) and carry 24 gallons and not exceed maximum gross weight of 1320. I might add that the C172 has a 400 lbs "pilot and passenger" station load limit as well. Exceeding station load limits in any aircraft is a problem.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 2, 2013 11:30 PM    Report this comment

I agree the 152 is a viable trainer (and the 150 for that matter - I always did kind of prefer the O-200 myself). I would like to know where Rafael is coming up with station limits on the Skyhawk - I know there is a baggage station limit, and the weight/moment chart maxes the front row at 400lbs, but I can't find anything that says its limiting. Not sayin it doesn't exist, just can't find it. Easy enough to figure the front row pax separately & add it up.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | November 3, 2013 7:20 AM    Report this comment

Josh, the loading graphs establish maximum station weights. Then consider the stress limits for seat belts, seats and seat track rails and brackets design loads and all begins to make sense. Its not only about CG.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 3, 2013 9:31 AM    Report this comment

More about graphs and limits. Aircraft manufacturers decide weight limits and prepare graphs for each make and model aircraft at the time of original certification. Based on FAA approval the graphs become official and a permanent part of the aircraft records.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 3, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I did not realize that the Part 23 rewrite was possibly going to allow non-certified or experimental equipment in certified aircraft. If so, that will allow us pilots and owners to add new life and value to these older aircraft. I do transistion training for the light sport aircraft distributor here in Little Rock as well as instruct in traditional "trainers" at the local FBO. I believe the c152 is definitly more suited (sturdy) for basic beginner training, but the the light sport aircraft with the non-certified equipment has much more utility in VFR conditions. I'd hate to fly an old 152 to Florida, but it is a joy to fly an LSA with a rotax engine, G3X (or Dynon) with a two axis autopilot, and basic, but new, radios. There is no comparison in fun and comfort.

So, after the revision, if the G3X potentially can be placed in a 152, will a non-certified engine like the rotax be allowed in these older certified aircraft as well? I might buy and fly one if so.

Posted by: Michael Piervy | November 3, 2013 12:25 PM    Report this comment

As a follow up, and while somewhat off topic except it was mentioned earlier, ADSB-Out is gonna ground a lot of older training aircraft. None of the trainers at my school has a transponder that has or can be upgraded to extended squitter. On top of that, as the rule now is written, a GPS source that is "certified" is also required which none of our rental planes have. That's a double wammy for a lot of existing aircraft.

Posted by: Michael Piervy | November 3, 2013 12:31 PM    Report this comment

Rafael: The last 152 we ran had an empty weight of 1161 lbs. Now if you add full fuel of 147 lbs that leaves 362 lbs for people. I weigh 180 lbs so that leaves 182 lbs left for my student. I teach part time and have 3 students all of whom weigh more than that. With my heaviest student (235 lbs) there could only be 94 lbs of fuel in the airplane. So if the plane has more than 2/3 fuel than we can't go. When the airplane was built the FAA considered an average male to weigh 170 lbs. Well those days are over. As you pointed out the C 182 is even worse for useful load but it has a much more comfortable cabin. That is why I said a Part 23 C 162 with a 1500 lb MGTOW would be IMO be a real option for flight schools.

Posted by: David Gagliardi | November 3, 2013 1:10 PM    Report this comment

David, Cessna has determined that the C162 has no future. Now comes the resurrection of the C152, a VFR/IFR, sturdy little trainer with a strong economic potential even when fitted with new avionics and completely refurbished. There are limitations, as you mentioned, making the C152 incompatible with the plump but still suitable for the lean.

I am planning on refurbishing a 1981 C152 in conjuction with an avionics entity and others to serve as a model for flight schools to use. We are emphasizing in keeping this simple, good looking and low in price. Stay tuned as more shall be revealed.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 3, 2013 4:02 PM    Report this comment

"...moving at the speed of heat."

Haven't heard that simile - how fast is that?

Posted by: Rush Strong | November 4, 2013 7:30 AM    Report this comment

We had a tough time finding good 152s when we started a flight school earlier this year. We'd see what looked like a good one online or in TAP, call, and find out that they had already been sold to Brazilians who took the wings off, stuck them in a shipping container and sent them home.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | November 4, 2013 8:13 AM    Report this comment

For the girth-challenged among us, there's always the venerable PA-38 Tomahawk. Its tadpole-like fuselage is as comfortable as a PA-28. You certainly can't beat the visibility! Like the 150/152, it's easy to maintain and it's durable (both the Piper and the Cessna use spring-steel main gear). It also climbs better, is faster, and has far better ventilation. And right now, it's very inexpensive to acquire.

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | November 4, 2013 9:04 AM    Report this comment

There is nothing preventing a flight school that owns a "legacy" aircraft from overhauling the engine/prop, having the plane repainted, installing a new interior, and upgrading the avionics... other than money. The insurance cost will go ballistic when insuring a trainer for $70,000+. But if the investment will pay off, and they have the funds, they can do it.

One problem with the Tomahawk is the wing is life-limited, and most of the fleet has timed out or will soon. Also, they were built very cheap. The Skipper is a much better airplane, but few were built.

A Warrior or 172 on mogas costs about the same to run as a 152 on 100LL... something to think about.

Posted by: Dan MacDonald | November 4, 2013 10:07 AM    Report this comment

In search for the perfect C152 or equal trainer. UPDATE: Starting from home, California has 358 C152s, about 80 leased back or registered to flight schools. Few C152s for sale in the US. We have found 2 meeting criteria; $15,000 and 4,000 hours on airframe (not many available) and no accidents. One has 11,000+ hours on the airframe, AZ registration, but looks good, two others need to be inspected. Prices are higher than expected. Following T. Yardsley's advise the Tomahawk is now an option. We own a BE77 SKIPPER, plenty of room here and clean so we may include this in the criteria. If anyone has leads go to www.palmspringspilots.com and contact us.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 4, 2013 10:11 AM    Report this comment

A purely anecdotal observation. On the ramp where I tie-down in SoCal, a flight school keeps 4 or 5 C150/152s and 2 C172s. All are painted a simple white/red/blue trim to look similar. They are kept clean, the plexi is kept polished, the interiors are kept clean and no torn seats. Panels with steam gauges look fine. Who keeps them clean? I can't say, but when I was flight instructing in the mid-60s, one thing we all did, when we weren't instructing, was wipe the oil off the lower cowl, etc. keep the plexi clean and empty ashtrays.

When I'm diddling with my plane for several hours, the flight school planes seem reasonably busy. And, without any factual data, it seems the 172s are utilized more, might be an illusion because they are both parked in the row in front of mine. Anyway, my point is that legacy aircraft can be used in a successful flight school operation.

On another subject, another flight school at a different airport had 2 SR-20s sitting on a ramp with lots of dust, suggesting they hadn't moved for a while. I asked why. Seems when used for flight training, they both suffered tail strikes on landings and damaged the tail cones. No one knew how to do an airworthy repair. A Bonanza they used suffered a gear up landing at another airport. It was repaired and put back into operation quickly. Not sure about the CFI who was onboard ;-) Another point for legacy aircraft.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | November 4, 2013 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Response to:

"One problem with the Tomahawk is the wing is life-limited, and most of the fleet has timed out or will soon. Also, they were built very cheap."

1) The life limit on the Tomahawk wing is a substantial 11,000 hours.

2) From what I've seen it's likely that very few of even the oldest Tomahawks have accumulated anywhere near 11,000 hours. (check Trade-a-Plane, etc).

3) For those that need or want it, an STC is available for extending wing life. http://www.sterlingaviationtech.com/products/wing-life-extension/

4) Making a blanket statement that Tomahawks were "built very cheap" is unfair. It's a certified aircraft built using approved aircraft parts. There were numerous nuisance ADs early-on in the model's life, but that's largely water under the bridge now. Better interior plastic parts would have been nice at the outset, but that issue, in addition to being trivial, is also history. All airplanes need interior refurbs eventually, and we're well past that point now in most cases with all breeds of legacy trainers.

5) The bad rap that the Tomahawk suffers from has its origin in early history and is largely the result of having been an unusual new entry into the competitive "C150 class" two-seat trainer market combined with the early AD issues, which were exploited for competitive reasons by Cessna. Ignorance, parochialism and brand-loyalty are also factors.

6) I am a fan of both the C150/152 and the Tomahawk. Like most airplanes, the flight characteristics of a Tomahawk differ from those of a C150/152, and that's not a bad thing. The ability to rapidly and safely adapt to different airplanes is an important pilot skill that helps develop confidence and overall proficiency.

7) http://www.flight.org/blog/2011/12/10/piper-tomahawk-versus-cessna-152/

Posted by: Mark Robinson | November 4, 2013 12:57 PM    Report this comment

'We are less angling for a return to GA growth here than we are trying to find brief level outs in the industry's decline until it regains footing in the future.'

Agreed, and I really hope the middle class (if one remains) worker can be part of the future of GA. But as far as fitting my 6'3" stick-man frame into a 152, I think I found more room in the early MRI machines where your shoulders were crushed and they gave you a mirror eyepiece to see your feet for sanity. I trained in a Warrior and enjoyed it immensely, whereas I couldn't hardly fit into a 152 no matter how I tried. The thing is tiny, made for the smaller frames of the past, and today's bodies and needs are just bigger. Always interesting, however, when I hear people say my LSA homebuilt with 44in cabin built like a tank is a toy compared to the toy-like size of a 152.

Maybe this refurb idea can keep some employed and a few flight lines viable, but considering all the factors we've hashed over recently about lack of interest, cost, etc. for low pilot starts, I'm putting it in the room with Golden Eagles, mogas, 100ll replacement, more women, and everything else we've thrown at the problem for years. Thanks Paul for an informative and objective blog.

Posted by: Dave Miller | November 4, 2013 2:58 PM    Report this comment

Doesn't matter if its a 152, 172, Warrior, or whatever. All these legacy airplanes were designed 50 years ago. They are mostly like old and wore out VW Beetle's with wings. For instance, they have 1930's flat and air cooled engine technology( FADEC and electronic ignition is far from bring normal in flight training). The creature comforts are identical to my friend's old '77 Beetle (vent windows, old worn plastic panels, little sound proofing, etc.). And of course just at 1st glance they look like old metal boxy airplanes held together with rubber bands and glue at first glance. I believe since people became used to cars with ever increasing creature comforts and sleeker looks that airplanes should follow. It is 2013 anyway. Also, you can trace the FAR's to old ways of thinking too. Why do we need to learn a 1920's era e6b, nav logs, and wind triangles when we have iPads and GPS's? The airspace system and the ways of using it are antiquated, people wonder why students quit flight training today when we have to memorize all the types and requirements for airspace. Same goes for knowing the different kinds wx services (charts, FSS) when we have much easier ways of accessing them today but still learn what people had to learn in the 1980's before the Internet.

Aviation needs to join the 21st century and the industry needs to quit holding on to the "golden age" because that shipped has sailed long ago. Or else, aviation will continue to decline unless more companies like Cirrus, Icon, Garmin, Apple, and other innovators step up. I don't know how to make a truly modern and sub $100K airplane, I'm just 19 year old aviation student student in college that sees the old dinosaurs which shape GA aren't helping to drastically change it to make flying better. Paul, you and avweb are the only ones in the av media that understand the situation. From a long time fan.

Posted by: Joshua Waters | November 4, 2013 3:24 PM    Report this comment

I find that some responders who want modern interiors with the BMW type interiors, lots of soundproofing etc miss one very important point. These things all add weight. Look at the current vintage C172, C182 or PA28 vs. the 1970s vintage. The new ones have gained around 200 pounds vs. the old. Sure the interiors are far nicer, and quiet, however, they have lost the equivalent of one passenger or 33 gal of fuel. The same has happened to our cars. Look at a 70s vintage Toyota vs. a current model, they are much heavier, safer and quieter. Weight requires HP to lift and that requires more gallons per hour to create. A training airplane needs to be robust and light. This is not to say that we need to fly in a rent-a-wreck that smells like a dirty sneaker and has broken plastic everywhere. If the current C150 and Tomahawk fleet were given a detailing and refresh of the interior, I think that they could be sold to new customers. As with any sale, the sales person must overcome objections before they arise. If we are to attract new customers, one thing that we can do, is clean up the training fleet. Many of the current LSA (1320 pounds) have light structures that do not withstand the rigors of the crash and go torture that is a part of the training realm. Again, this is a reality of having bureaucratically imposed weight limit. We should not condemn them nor expect them to survive better than their heavier purpose built trainers.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | November 4, 2013 7:17 PM    Report this comment

Of course we understand weight is an issue. But it is 2013 and all I'm proposing is this, there must be a way to combine a modern refinements and something that it is robust at the same time. The newer composite designs (Cirrus and Corvallis) have made it work with those types of machines. Hopefully some smart people will figure out an affordable solution for trainers and those who can't drop over $50K on airplanes.

Posted by: Joshua Waters | November 4, 2013 9:48 PM    Report this comment

Paul, why has no one mentioned the new Pipistrel Alpha trainer? Looking over the specs, it seems like a winner for flight training. Rotax engine that can burn mogas, 44" wide cockpit, useful load of 518 lbs. with full fuel, full dual controls and easy entry/exit. This looks more like the future of flight training than refurbished legacy aircraft to me.

Posted by: Ric Lee | November 4, 2013 10:26 PM    Report this comment

Joshua, you're crippled by your having grown up in a plastic-airplane world. You need to see a bigger picture.

The objective is to TRAIN PILOTS, and do so cheaply enough that the school will still be in business 6 months later. That means cheap, durable and reliable aircraft. The newer composite designs aren't cheap.

"Modern refinements" aren't cost effective for trainers. As much as I like the glass cockpit in my buddy's experimental, I'm reminded that the more things that a single device does, the more things you have to do without if that device fails.

And soundproofing is completely unnecessary since headphone technology has come so far. I spent my first couple of hundred hours in the air in planes with a thing that you held in your hand to talk into (we called it a "microphone") and listening to a thing in the ceiling of the plane (the "speaker") to try to figure out what the tower was telling us. Today I don't even HAVE a microphone in my plane, because it's of no value when I'm wearing my ANR headset).

If a 150 or 152 can be refurbed for, say, $50K - 70K, there's no way that a $150K new plane can be more cost effective, and most students will fly the $80/hr spam can rather than the $130/hr plastic plane, no matter how advanced the design.

Posted by: Keith Wood | November 5, 2013 12:52 AM    Report this comment

Re the sales of 152s overseas. The maintenance shop of the flight school where I instructed in Kankakee a number of years ago, marketed a service of packing up 152s for shipment overseas. The were going to eastern Europe mostly. I instruct in a ratty 152 at a small flight school. It does seem to bother some customers, but it stays busy enough. Another plane I haven't seen mentioned is the DA 20. We have one that seems to do well. The owner of the school says it's easy to maintain. We do charge a bit more for it than the 152. The 152 is used the most because it's the least expensive to rent.

Posted by: John Gaitskill | November 5, 2013 7:04 AM    Report this comment

Joshua has a very valid point that needs to be addressed. If we want to train younger pilots the aircraft must be appealing to them. A legacy design may look good to us older guys but not to a 19 year old. If they want composite aircraft they should have composite aircraft. A friend of mine did a frame up restoration on a 1959 Corvette. The car looks beautiful but driving it is not a pleasure. Compared to a modern auto the suspension is crappy, the brakes are weak and the steering is substandard.

A refurbished 150/152 is just not going to appeal to the younger generation with its' smaller cockpit and reduced performance compared to a modern design. If you want to refurbish something pick up a DA20-A1 and use that.

Posted by: Ric Lee | November 5, 2013 8:37 AM    Report this comment

OK Joshua. Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to bring a DA-20 C1 equivalent to market at a new, fully equipped price of, say $100,000. It should appeal to flight schools and individual buyers at that price.

And it need have the same visual, sporty, sex appeal the DA-20 has.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | November 5, 2013 12:01 PM    Report this comment

Joshua's right. His is the generation of future pilots. They have been raised amid a "technologically advanced" age in which the latest and greatest is obsolete in two years, and, other than those who come from aviation families, are unlikely to be seduced by airplanes built before their fathers were born.

Flight schools that recognize this and develop business models around it will be successful, I have no doubt. But they will be larger, more expensive, and much less numerous than the back-country ventures where many of us GA pilots came of age.

Posted by: Jerry Fraser | November 5, 2013 2:39 PM    Report this comment

The challenge here is to make flying more affordable with the assets we have. Can this be achieved by retrofitting and overhauling the existing fleet and then put it to work while achieving value at a reasonable price? Many of us agree that it can be done. Lowering costs increase the incentive to fly.

Just look at the "Question of the week" response.

To Joshua, Jerry and the others; I believe that the new generation of pilots is no different than the old generation. We all want more and better. In some ways we, the pre-baby-boomers and baby-boomers are superior and (I hate to say it but...) in some ways the younger crowd is better. At the end of the game, a Glass Panel in the cockpit does not make one a better pilot or fly more efficiently if one is not current and proficient. Fly and simulate more. Understanding basics and growing through good practice and education will make one better.

By the way, we invented Rock-and-Roll.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 5, 2013 4:07 PM    Report this comment

Jerry & Ric: My thoughts exactly.

Edd: I would say $100k is still too much, and someone smarter and with an innovative mindset with a lot of $ backing them up will have to produce the answer for us.

Keith: I am well aware that the objective for trainers is to train pilots. The big problem is less people want to be pilots in the first place. This is because flying is for one way to expensive, and the product is outdated. Again, there has to be a way some way in this time to combine comfort, durability, ease of operation, and of course affordability ($50-80 an hour) into one package common people will actually want to learn to use like the Pipistrel and DA20 mentioned above. I come from an aviation family, I've grown up with this stuff and in my life I've seen aviation decline because it hasn't evolved to fit what the 16-40 yr old common person expects in a machine they get in and use. It has become increasingly unaffordable over the past few years as well.

Also, I am not crippled because of the time I've grown up in. Times have simply changed. I get asked all the time why can't airplanes be simpler to use by my non-pilot friends all the time. It is difficult for them to understand why airplanes aren't more user friendly since almost everything else we use today has, and I hope the new certification rules will help make advancing GA easier. And just so we're clear, I have not grown up with plastic airplanes. I leaned to fly in an old 1961 C172 with the newest radio being a KX170C, have time in Colt's &Aeronca's, and have been restoring a Pacer with my dad since I was 6. I'm well aware what flying was like in the past. Old airplanes can be fun, but this is why I think GA needs to rethink what an airplane should be in the future because the legacy airplanes are just that: old, like an AMC Gremlin. The equipment should be easier to use in the 21st century than that. But it's not for multiple reasons.

The big picture is that flying has become increasingly less popular because of being very expensive and we're using aging airplanes that were designed and built in the 1980's and the years before. The industry is going to have to modernize and become a lot less expensive if it is to survive; remanufactured airplanes are a good start to that. I'm expressing what I feel most of the GA industry in the US avoids talking about because there is no easy quick fix to it and they are not 100% sure how to make it work. And neither am I. Just saying.

Posted by: Joshua Waters | November 5, 2013 5:26 PM    Report this comment

Hm, $70k-$90k for a refurb'ed C152? Or about the same price for a used DA20-C1? I think I'd lean towards the Katana...

Posted by: Dennis Lou | November 5, 2013 11:06 PM    Report this comment

Oops. I meant Eclipse. Forgot that it went through a name change when they swapped out the engine.

Posted by: Dennis Lou | November 5, 2013 11:20 PM    Report this comment

Seems the most important part of the story is getting overlooked. The schools need to stay cheap to stay competitive. Competitive with whom? The guy across the field with the flying rust buckets?

Saving GA has very little to do with training airline pilots. How does someone who will fly at $100 per hour, but not $125 per hour, help expand new aircraft volume? If I call up Diamond and order 1000 DA-40 diesel trainers, does the price come down to 200k?

I am no longer in the industry. There are only a few things I know for sure. Most existing flight school owners are addicted to the 172 for no reasons other than familiarity. None. It's only cheaper to maintain because they are familiar. They fly exactly like a 172 for better or worse, and in this case worse is considered better because it's what they know. The customers all think they want to fly one. The insurer knows exactly what the costs are and won't play games. Diamond made a much better trainer at a much lower cost and got rejected. They made one at a slightly higher cost and got rejected again.

Composite costs and quality are moving in the right direction and aluminum in the wrong direction. Aluminum fuselages are going to go away.

The turn around will not ever come until the 172 ceases to be the go to training aircraft. Ain't going to happen. How much longer do we need to keep trying?

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 6, 2013 11:10 AM    Report this comment

I'm 32 and I've been flying for 8 years. My wife has been learning for the past year. GA is not in good shape. We need to look at other activities in life and figure out what we are doing wrong.

My wife and I learned to SCUBA dive this year, and those people have their act together. There was a book we read, with USEFUL informaiton then a few nights to learn the theory, a weekend in the pool to learn the skills and then a trip to Mexico to demonstrate the skills and finish off the "license". The rental equipment was modern (current generation stuff), well maintained (wasn't afraid to be seen in public with) and the cirriculum was developed by a nation/worldwide organization with a PhD in education at the top. At no time did we learn about unused techniques or technologies (I tell my wife not to even study NDBs, time-to-station problems or repacking times for silk parachutes).

In the last 30-40 years we have seen many technologies become "appliances": technologies that have been simplified until ANYONE can use them, and they are expected to work ALL the time.

Cars: 250,000 miles without major work except changing the oil and tires, airbags EVERYWHERE, automatic transmission (one single GO lever), power-everything, oil changes every 5000-7000 miles, push button start.... and it gets better EVERY YEAR

Computers: You just plug in the computer out of the box and it's supposed to work, no more DOS allocating memory, you plug in a mouse: it WORKS, you plug in a monitor or a printer or whatever: it WORKS, the computer does it FOR YOU... and it gets better EVERY YEAR

Cellphones: bluetooth connects to anything easily, apps can be downloaded, it switches between wifi and cellular data seemlessly, they are getting lighter and the charge is getting better... EVERY YEAR

Can you imagine an airplane as an appliance? That's what healthy industries build though: constant innovations. You should expect new features that make use easier and more powerful while safety features become standard features. And the cost of the new model should not be significantly greater than the last year's model.

LSA might not be a "magic bullet" but it did teach us one thing: change the rules can unleash a LOT of creativity. 100+ new models in less than a decade is nothing to sneeze at. The FARs have been an economic barrier-to-entry that have protected the old guard. Hopefully the new ones will be a standard-of-safety that will allow innovation so that we start looking like a healthy, innovative industry.

Posted by: Jeffrey Smith | November 6, 2013 11:31 AM    Report this comment

"I get asked all the time why can't airplanes be simpler to use by my non-pilot friends all the time."

This is a question--or an answer--with two facets. Airplanes are getting simpler to operate. The new diesel engines are single lever and start and operate like cars do. Even gasoline engines are going to single lever, but the penetration of this technology is glacial. The market has rejected it.

The second facet is that buyers don't want simple. Stated another way, buyers don't want simple. Time and time again, avionics companies have learned that simple, stripped down products don't sell. Garmin learned this many years ago when it tried to market the GPSmap 89 as a downmarket version of the GPSmap 90 found that it sold poorly, despite the cheaper price.

Are things different now? I doubt it. The tablet app makers are in a virtual arms race to add features, not produce shiningly simple little gems of apps that are simple to use. They keep adding features, making the apps ever more layers deep. No one is falling over trying to certify a simple alternative to the G1000 because they know it won't sell well enough to justify the effort.

I suppose one could argue that we could attract more people in GA who aren't now pilots if we further simplified airplanes and avionics. Perhaps. I'll believe it when I see it. I think people who are attracted to airplanes are also the people who like tech stuff, complex processes and procedures and difficult challenges. Performing in this realm gives them some satisfaction. I don't know if it will always be so, but it is now.

As for the trainer market, I don't think there's a holy grail here, a one-size-all solution that kicks demand and flight activity to the next level. From talking to flight schools, I expect to see a mix of airplanes. Some will be able to make LSAs work, some will stick to older 152s and 172s whether refurbed or not, some will go with the PA-28 line. I will point out to you that a perfectly competent, safe and well-built trainer--the Diamond DA20--hasn't done well in the market. It's modern, affordable and capable. Yet we don't see many of them.

You can diss the operators all you want for not being more sophisticated, but that's like blaming the audience for a bad play. For whatever reasons--mostly related to economics, I suspect--flight schools tilt toward the older airframes.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 6, 2013 11:37 AM    Report this comment

Dan McDonald--"A Warrior or 172 on mogas costs about the same to run as a 152 on 100LL... something to think about."

Even better--take a page from Piper--in the late 60's, Piper was getting killed by the 150. Cessna said "Our airplane only burns 5.5 gph. Piper responded with "If you only want to go 100 mph, throttle back to "instructional cruising speed"--you'll go 100 mph, and burn 5.5 gph."

There is a reason that there are few new 2-place trainers--one that FBOs learned years before the manufacturers. Two place trainers don't have the utility of 4-place airplanes. One the used market, the price difference between 2 and 4 place airplanes is not much. The overhaul cost per hour is about the same, the hangar is the same, the 100-hour is the same, and if you throttle back, even the fuel is the same. The insurance is only a couple of hundred dollars more for the extra 2 seats in the 4-place. The 4 place airplane is a better instrument trainer and rental aircraft.

If you are going to spend $50,000 to refurb an airplane--spend it on the 4 place.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 6, 2013 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Paul Bertorelli -- "a perfectly competent, safe and well-built trainer--the Diamond DA20--hasn't done well in the market. It's modern, affordable and capable. Yet we don't see many of them."

Yeah, I'm scratching my head over this one. Am I an outlier or something? If they had been available to me I probably would have trained in it rather than than the 172 a couple of years ago. Well, I probably would have also wanted some DA40 rentals to which I could step up.

Heck, a Skycatcher came on the rental line around the same time I got my ticket. I got the checkout and had a ton of fun flying it until it switched to another FBO on the field. I thought it was a great trainer. However, if it had been available to me during training I would've had to fire my primary CFI and find one closer in weight to an FAA standard human.

Posted by: Dennis Lou | November 6, 2013 12:28 PM    Report this comment

'In the last 30-40 years we have seen many technologies become "appliances": technologies that have been simplified until ANYONE can use them, and they are expected to work ALL the time.'

And, as in any human development there is a corresponding side to behavior that, if not kept up in pace, always tends to lag behind. It's similar to the ubiquitous need for speed - in all things - an insidious, emotional dependency that those who are not quite ready to handle the techno increase in their lives will succumb to and apply it to every aspect of their and other's lives, opening up greater uses for impatience, intolerance, and other reactions that get in the way of experience and relationships.

Also, there are intrinsic qualities to things like flying, gardening, reading comprehension, dream study, healing from trauma, etc., that are disrupted and quality degraded under the influences of speed for speed's sake. Some things in life are only accomplished by facing the bear, and not acknowledging the illusion of time as the primary driver.

Manufacturers (and politicians, teachers and many others, too) love to dumb down the populace also - they sell more stuff that way. So far, I'm not seeing the emotional side of society keeping pace with the techno progress at all. But as long as ease of use, comfort, security, simplicity, lack of challenge, and saving 'time' is in our societal focus, things like learning to fly will take a back seat to the illusion of speed as its own fulfillment.

Posted by: Dave Miller | November 6, 2013 2:38 PM    Report this comment

I guess I'm in a unique position to comment on the relative value of 152s, 172s, Warriors and Skycatchers... Our flight school has all of these, along with a Cherokee Six and a 140. The Skycatcher is busy for sport pilot and private pilot training, but not the market we figured it for (medical-less private pilots flying as sport pilot on their driver's license). The 152s are busy for primary training as are the 172s (a 99 SP and an 03 SP), but the 172s are most popular with the renters. The Warrior is the least used of all the planes. The Cherokee 140 is equipped with hand controls and is primarily intended for training handicapped pilots. Although it looked good on paper, we have no students and have had only a couple of intros in the 140.

Our rates are competitive for the area, slightly higher than our on-field competition but the planes are in very good shape with low hours airframe and engine and are well maintained. We've found that once pilots see our equipment, the slightly higher per hour cost makes no difference. None of these airplanes are G1000/FADEC/composite modern-day wonders, just clean, solid airplanes.

I've rented ( and taught in ) some real junk in my days, and I'm always amazed that people keep coming back for more. I guess expectations are set pretty low in GA.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | November 6, 2013 2:39 PM    Report this comment

Another note for anyone contemplating a light-sport addition to your line...

When the flight school started we had probably 100 pilots stop in and ask if we were getting a light sport. The demand appeared real, but it was not. If this happens to you, ask each person for a $10,000 deposit and tell them when you get 15 people to buy in, you'll get a light sport.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | November 6, 2013 2:42 PM    Report this comment

LSA VS 152? Interesting!

First off , the Skycatcher was "all wrong" from DAY 1! On payload, like many replied, not adequate for two 200+ lb people; but neither is the 152. Wider cabin on Skycatcher; several inches wider than a 152. Greater "appeal" to a contemporary flight student; dated design for the 152. More modern panel, dated "6 PACK" on 152. High capital cost for Skycatcher; $140K? - under $40K (very nice/low time SMOH, reconditioned, etc, for 152.

From a purely MARKETING perspective; the Skycatcher has greater appeal, regardless of a NEW look on any 152, it's still a 50+ year old design

Personally, I feel the 152 is a far superior airplane; that said, however, on APPEARANCE along, the Skycatcher wins 'hands down".

Why didn't LSA's, ALL of them, really "take off" in the training market - my analysis: 1. The aircraft was ORIGINALLY designed and sold, with the "aged" aviator (medical issues, downsizing, etc) in mind. There were TWO major design flaws in perhaps ALL LSA models: 1. Unnecessary fuel capacity; 35+ gal with a fuel burn (Rotax engine - not Skycatcher) 2. Weak nose gear- NOT for students prone to landing "errors" during training.

If the aircraft was truly designed form the onset as a viable low end trainer: 1. A 22-24 gal fuel was more than ample - @ 4.75-5 gph, you had 3+ hour flights safely BEFORE top off was required. Beef up the nose gear and now you had a marketable trainer and "natural "replacement" for the aged 30K+ produced 150/152's from Cessna.

YES, many would say; " But Rod, what about the acquisition cost of $140K"?. Same deal as a C-172 that's on leaseback; a smaller investment, well under HALF, and most likely, will exceed any other aircraft in the fleet in terms of monthly utilization - easy sell?

On Cessna building the Skycatcher from scratch? If "my call", I would have searched for the BEST high wing LSA in the market; BUY it, bring it here (USA). and make it here, (good PR) More cost effective - any bodies guess!

In closing, I have flown 5 LSA's, and I believe the BEST high wing currently on the market, but lacking high sales visibility, is the Storm Rally. WHY? Fly's much like a C-172 (captures Cessna loyalist) and similar flight characteristics, contemporary appearance, wider cabin than a C-172 (44 inches) and a low fuel burn -4-5 gph. I invite readers to look up the specs on this bird - impressive to say the least!

This aircraft with, as mentioned earlier, a 22-24 gal fuel capacity, 400 lb+ payload, beefed up nose gear, and you have a WINNER - problem solved?

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 6, 2013 4:21 PM    Report this comment

"Computers: You just plug in the computer out of the box and it's supposed to work, no more DOS allocating memory, you plug in a mouse: it WORKS, you plug in a monitor or a printer or whatever: it WORKS, the computer does it FOR YOU... and it gets better EVERY YEAR"

You must live in a different universe.....I just bought three new computers for a local network.......nothing was just plug-in.........but you did use the word "supposed".

Do we think NextGen will work the same way?

Posted by: Edd Weninger | November 6, 2013 4:27 PM    Report this comment

We sell the Tecnam P92 Echo Classic Light for a starting price of about $75,000. Add in a glass panel, ADS-B weather and traffic, a 2020 compliant transponder and for under $100,000 you have an all metal day/night VFR trainer with direct variable operating costs of about $35 per hour. It can use 87 unleaded, premium unleaded, Mogas and Avgas in any combination and is fully tolerant for ethanol use up to 10%. The P92 series has certified versions sold in other parts of the world with about 2,500 of them flying in every condition from extreme heat, to extreme cold and mainly off rough, or grass strips. The landing gear is a choice of sprung steel or aluminum and features such as seats that slide back and forth on seat rails so are easily adjustable for most occupants. Much wider than a Cessna 152, better climb performance and incredible visibility. People all over the world successfully train in these aircraft usually soloing in half the time we seem to expect in the US. Recently, we used a series of Tecnams for time building with European students and hit over 100 hours per plane per month with the only issues being scrubbed tires. For volume purchases the acquisition costs can be further reduced as it is all about volume. You also get a two year warranty on a NEW plane. Buy an entire fleet of four planes for the price of one fully loaded Cessna 172. Phil Solomon, CEO, Tecnam North America

Posted by: Philip Solomon | November 6, 2013 4:34 PM    Report this comment

Paul; in the 1967 film, "The Graduate", the word was "plastics". In recreational GA - it's MARKETING! Nice promo for Tecnam and LSA!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 6, 2013 4:51 PM    Report this comment

Where'd everybody go?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 6, 2013 8:16 PM    Report this comment

The assumptions about "aging" aircraft are moderately worse than real. I agree that one would like to fly modern and cool looking aircraft. However, today's challenge is to do this at a reasonable price.

Thus the quest for cutting the cost of flying while maximizing value. My choice is to refurbish, fly and instruct in an airworthy and sturdy aircraft under the lowest operational cost. The C152 is my choice. If yours is a DA20 - go for it. Others may agree with you as one size does not fit all.

So here are my reasons;

1. A C152 is a good transitional trainer. The C152 offers a history of reliable performance in VFR and IFR conditions with a "pilot and passenger" load limit of 400 lbs. Where as the DA20 is limited to VFR, with hot and cold starting issues and a "pilot and passenger" station weight limit of 340 lbs. limiting its use even more so.

2. Flight instruments. Keep the round dial instrument panel and this makes for a better transition to other (the majority) aircraft models. This is important as the glass panel backup instruments are round dials in need of an ingrained understanding. I believe it is best to start with round dial instruments and then transition to "glass".

3. High wing vs. the low wing. Not quite before electricity, I ended upside down in a high wing aircraft and managed to exit expeditiously and unharmed, therefore my liking for the high wing C152, especially as a basic trainer.

4. As a flight school operator I would want the C152 upgraded to a "plug-and-play" panel (my design) and avionics to meet the 2020 ADS-B requirements. This means incorporating a WAAS GPS receiver with an ADS-B OUT transponder with round dials or with an Aspen PFD1000 or equal. Bring your iPhone or iPad and accessories to see traffic and weather.

5. Maintenance, repairs and parts availability. The C152 maintenance is cheaper, easier to inspect and service with ready access to parts nationwide. Reduced downtime.

6. Plastic vs. metal. Composite plastic airframes are subject to deterioration as chemicals and the environment degrade thermoplastics. Composite layers separate or become brittle and break especially when exposed to large temperature variations and stresses. Also, there are fatigue problems as plastic tends to snap rather than bend or stretch. These problems have happened to several Airbus aircraft, expect the Boeing's "Dreamliner" with a 50% composite content to experience the same. Both aircraft have a potential to plastic failure as is the DA20. The use of composites in aircraft structures is a matter of concern.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 6, 2013 10:05 PM    Report this comment

The old aviation joke "what keeps a plane flying?" with a response of "money" needs to be modified to have an answer of "nostalgia". We have to be the only industry with major growth prospects that considers that a forty year old aircraft or a seventy year old design is an "investment". There are many reasons for an aging pilot population but one of them is because we project the image to the younger generation that they should fork out tens of thousands of dollars to be able to fly in aircraft that their grandfather, or perhaps great grandfather, was flying in. The rest of technology, science and manufacturing appears to have moved on from the 1940's and 1950's but in light aviation we talk ourselves into a time warp. Is an aircraft weighing an extra 250 or so lbs going to be more ruggedly built than one that is much lighter? Probably. Which do you think is going to survive better in you drop something on it, an old IBM typewriter or touch screen I-Pad? Which one are consumers buying? so, you adapt to the reality that there are certain compromises in new technology but in return you also certain benefits such as incredible fuel economy, greater speed, better equipment and greater comfort. The argument that nothing is being sold new at a low enough price to be attractive is clearly false. The aircraft that are selling the best in every sector of general aviation are consistently the top of the range - look at the GAMA statistics and see which of the Cirrus's sells the best - answer, not the SR20. The same is true in the Light Sport arena. There are probably seventy or more models that can be purchased under $60,000 but almost none are being sold. The only ones being sold are high end with price tags of $140,000 and up. The reality of most people's flying is that they will rent aircraft and never purchase, so the key to their continued flying is purely access to affordable hourly rates in attractive aircraft. They will, and do, fork out $200 or more per hour to rent a Cirrus SR20 but the people who do this are generally new to aviation which demonstrates, again that price is not the critical factor in every pilot demographic. I own a Cessna 152, multiple Cessna 172'2, Warriors, a Beech Sierra, a Diamond DA20 and multiple Tecnams so I have a very clear view of what is a viable aircraft to offer for rent. I stopped general rental on the Cessna 152 three years ago because there was no price anybody would pay that could cover its operating costs despite a purchase price of about $23,000 when I bought it. The Cessna 172 is a viable aircraft to rent out providing you bought it about ten years ago. Today's Cessna cannot be made viable under any conditions if you buy it new and try and charge enough to make a return. We average 8.5 gallons per hour in the Cessna 172's and Warriors and 3.2 gallons per hour in the Tecnam LSA's using premium unleaded fuel. My Cessna 172's have analog panels and first generation GPS's while my LSA's have modern Nav/Coms, Moving map GPS, Glass panels and fly just as fast. At $25 to $30 per hour less per hour which ones attract new people into aviation? I say bring back the Cadillac Eldorado and Ford Pinto - you could buy them a lot cheaper than a new car. There was a reason why outside of US military personnel there were almost no American cars sold thirty to forty years ago in Europe and a reason why today there are a load being sold. I am a huge fan of Avweb and Paul but we have to wean ourselves off the nostalgia fix and join the 21st century or watch the continued decline of an activity that we all love.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | November 7, 2013 7:06 AM    Report this comment

Solomon, desperate men do desperate things. You are desperately trying to sell your goods and I am desperatlety trying to keep flying affordable. Mockering innovation and renovation is not going to make your product better or more affordable. Unfortunately for the S-LSA industry the product has a low overall utility and disproportionate high price forcing the LSA industry to the outside of the aviation community's financial scope. Thus the decline in SLSA sales. IT WAS A MISTAKE TO JUMP ON THE BAND WAGON. you should know that by now. The SLSA market is weak and getting weaker - it never was the solution to save the declining pilot population. Making flying affordable by lowering costs is.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 7, 2013 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Rod Beck. Say again slow.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 7, 2013 12:19 PM    Report this comment

No left seat for you, Rafael. Such is the life of an 'expect' sometimes...

As far as a nostalgia problem in GA, I really don't think that it's pervasive. Sure the sound of a Merlin or the sight of a Cub can elicit feelings in older pilots and enthusiasts, but I see it as more using what lays at our feet. It's conservative, creative and viable to use/reuse the quality built aircraft we have sitting idle to help lower costs and maybe convince a few pre-pilots to take the leap.

As Ric Lee mentioned above about his friend with impeccable taste ('58-60 vetts are the s#!t) I drive a restored classic car every day, too. It's not so much the nostalgia, but it is always fun to drive, every time I get into it. I just allow for the differences in braking and handling compared to newer cars. But I get bored just looking at huge, modern electric razors oozing comfort and detachment from the road. Give me a smaller car, manual tranny and a ragtop every time...I just couldn't comfortably afford to duplicate that economically today, so the resto path has worked great.

Still would need a five foot shoehorn to wear a 152, though. Refurb the 172's is my view.

Posted by: Dave Miller | November 7, 2013 1:23 PM    Report this comment

"I am a huge fan of Avweb and Paul but we have to wean ourselves off the nostalgia fix and join the 21st century or watch the continued decline of an activity that we all love."

And so we shall. Eventually. But what we're discussing is used car economics. People buy used cars not for nostalgia but because they get a better value buy for their dollar. For many buyers, the same economics apply to airplane purchases but the biggest difference is that many buyers can't even consider new airplanes. People vote with their dollars and they are doing that in the used and refurb market.

As it is now, the LSA market is fractured, overserved and not supported by the traditional manufacturers. Operators complain that LSAs aren't holding up to the rigors of U.S.-style training. So they buy used airframes that do hold up.

I believe we're going to see a mix of old used, refurbed and new--including LSAs--for the foreseeable future. At some point, the LSA market may tip as this category improves and/or solves the durability issues. I think it will happen. Just not around the corner.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 7, 2013 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Dave Miller, you are correct, one size does not fit all. I have a restored C172H with a GNS430W, an Apollo 55, a GTX330 transponder, HSI and an A/P with ALT control and a new Lyc. 180HP conversion. A sweet airplane, a clean and comfortable C172H. It has $94,000 in it and has endured about seven years of IFR/VFR training. Operating costs including the database updates run between $80 to $90/hr depending on the monthly use. A restored C152, w/o autopilot but with an Aspen PFD 1000, would run at around $60/hr - this is why I am tracking the course. When all details and costs are on the table we will decide. Thanks.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 7, 2013 3:28 PM    Report this comment

GENTS: Too all touting the "restored"152 concept; keep in mind not only your present student/customer base - but the FUTURE (demographic) ones! Yes , the restored/reconditioned 152 "answers" a lot of investment and lower operating costs questions than the 172, predominantly used by most flight schools. Frankly, it gets back to this: cost/benefit. In weak demographic (low density - low/working class clientele) towns and cities, I would "op" for the restored 152; that said, however, in the more high density - middle/upper middle markets) the BEST LSA trainer on leaseback would be my choice for the entry/lower retail rental cost than the 172. ONLY problem is this: When "Earl" who weights 285+, BUT insist he wants to train, do to a money issue, in the 152, then what? ANSWER: Hire a Japanese - American (female) instructor! Possibly an "extra" from an earlier James Bond film of the 60's?

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 7, 2013 4:46 PM    Report this comment

To Mr. Paul Bertorelli; To much General Patton "bold/direct/frank/honest/" style comments for you to publish OR just the REAILTY of GA's woes? I see TWO of my prior posts have been "deleted" - freedom of the press - yeah right! No wonder this "NON-BUSINESS" oriented industry has it's problems.

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 7, 2013 5:19 PM    Report this comment

Rod Beck - I speak only for myself, but maybe it would behoove you to consider that we are all striving to accomplish the same thing here, that is, to keep GA alive and encourage folks to consider learning to fly.

Each have their own way of addressing this. Seems entirely useless to me to approach the subject with anything other than a willingness to share ideas and support those who have their heart and mind in the right place, despite the occasional glaring differences. Just sayin.

Posted by: Dave Miller | November 7, 2013 5:46 PM    Report this comment

Beck, this is a moderated forum and if your messages tilt toward attacks on other posters--and yours did--they will be removed.

You're free to post here as much as you like, but kindly keep it civil.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 7, 2013 6:26 PM    Report this comment

TO ALL: I'll remove my "Patton" helmet and replace it with my Henry Kissinger "cap" - NO offense intended; just my personal style of combating (responding) to "unqualified" statements! ps and Dave Miller - got it!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 7, 2013 6:38 PM    Report this comment

Mr.Paul Bertorelli: My "response", the one you deleted, was on "behalf" of the statement made by Mr.Rafael Sierra to Mr. Solomon, quote: " desperate men do desperate things. YOU are desperately trying to sell your goods and I'm desperately trying to keep flying affordable"!. Now I "get it" - the "villian" is the capitalist/businessman (Solomon) like me, and the "hero"( Rafael) leans, I'll try to be politically correct here, in the "opposite" direction. NOTE: Rafael's comment still stands!?!? If I may, I'll be taking the perspective in ALL of my future comments, if permitted, from a pro-business/investment and NOT from a more "socialistic" view. This certainly will "raise some eyebrows" since the general consensus of the readers (I believe) is that aviation is for EVERYONE - rather it's AVAILABLE to everyone - but NOT for everyone. Given the (fact) about 1 in 1,400 of the general population have an interest in GA, speaks for itself - wouldn't you agree? In the event my "opposing" views are in conflict with the political theme of this publication - so be it. And I thank you for allowing me to express my position!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 7, 2013 8:08 PM    Report this comment

Guys. Take a step back and look at the training market and ask yourself one simple question. "Has our current, and continued reliance, on legacy aircraft helped to fuel an increase in pilots coming into aviation or fueled a continued decline?" If the answer is that the decline continues then what needs to be done about it? Hint, if the Cessna 152 was such a fantastic, low cost universal solution to flight training why do you think none have been made in the last thirty years by the company that has more experience in this part of aviation than any other?

We have a sub $100,000 trainer that has proven its ability to stand up to the rigors of flight training all over the world but it does not have the magic words required for success in the US market - Cessna, Piper or Beech. Our extensive experience of US flight schools is that they do not have access to funding to buy a $20,000 aircraft let alone invest $100,000 in a new or refurbished aircraft. Traditionally the local flight school has relied on local owners to finance, typically at a loss, aircraft for them on leaseback which is how I got started in the industry. As technology and costs have advanced and a lot of people had planes repossessed there is minimal appetite to fund leasebacks and many flight schools never charged enough or generated enough cash to replace outside aircraft with their own. The model is broken and the issue is not LSA versus traditional but "viable business versus nostalgia". If I am looking to make an investment for my business I look at many factors with almost the most important one being "can I finance it". The overall answer for most flight schools outside of the major universities and academies, is a resounding "no".

We have a plan to regenerate Light Aviation in the US and we work day and night to try and make it a reality but, without any large scale financing or investors, it can never come to fruition. There is no appetite in the professional investor market for anything to do with light aviation and the expected returns they are seeking can only be found in "bubble companies" providing they can get out really fast after the initial IPO has been hyped.

As a group of pilots we can create our own future but despite a plethora of alphabet organisations who lay claim to representation of our interests the underlying challenges remain untouched and unresolved. Money cannot solve everything but it sure helps!

Posted by: Philip Solomon | November 8, 2013 7:11 AM    Report this comment

Once again, the problem is not with the products--it is with government regulation. LSAs were designed and built to fit the artificial restriction of 1320 pounds--resulting in aircraft that haven't held up as well as aircraft 200# heavier. Where was that 200# cut?

Allow private pilots the freedom to fly without a 3rd class medical, and you wouldn't see many 1320# gross weight airplanes sold. There are a number of LSAs that have been certified at MORE than the 1320# artificial limit--they have been "lightened up" to meet it (with resulting maintenance issues). Remove the artificial restriction, and you would see more robust aircraft--you would see real-world useful loads. You might even see a 152 or Tomahawk with a Rotax (a move that would further improve useful load with the lighter engine and reduced fuel need),.

These government regulations mean that companies are trying to fit within the restrictions--resulting in a blivet (ask anybody that has been in the military what a blivet is). Get rid of the restrictions, and industry will produce what the market DEMANDS--a concept we seem to have lost.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 8, 2013 11:24 AM    Report this comment

Jim Hanson, I agree. It would be interesting for AVweb to include a survey on what the GA population would want as an trainer or recreational aircraft. Including price, equipment, utilization and performance for the next 20 years.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 8, 2013 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Jim, a "blivet" is now 5 lbs of manure in a 1 lb. bag. Times have changed.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 8, 2013 1:07 PM    Report this comment

There are definitely challenges related to the 1,320 lb limits for LSA's where, a few extra pounds could be used to strengthen certain vulnerable elements of the aircraft. However, this category already exists and is known as Primary but you can only use TSO'd or certified components so it adds tens of thousands to the cost. Other than the obvious legacy aircraft, companies have tried to introduce other two seat certified aircraft into the US market - Diamond DA20, Symphony and others - with limited to no success. Cessna pulled out of two seat certified aircraft thirty years ago so they clearly struggled to see long term economic viability. Consumers and flight schools apparently did not see the value then and obviously do not today.

As I mentioned in an earlier post do not underestimate the effect that proper training has on maintenance and reliability. We went through horrendous problems with nose gear plates (easy and cheap to replace but....) when we first started to rent out our Tecnams. With a modification to the thickness of the plates (minimal weight penalty) and a change to the way we taught instructors led to a virtual elimination of any nose gear issues. We can also offer a castering nose wheel option that is both heavier and stronger. The main gear has never been a problem, being sprung steel. If weight is the most critical issue we can take out at least thirty pounds using a light weight battery, aluminum gear, removing the wheel pants and swapping out the metal control surfaces for Ceconite but leaving all the structural elements in metal.

We need to focus on what is achievable and the FAA has made it very clear that they have no plans to blanket increase the weight allowances and even the alphabets admit that the medical exemption is almost certainly dead in the water. We, and many other flight schools, use LSA's and their certified equivalents under European regulations, to turn out happy and competent pilots so we know it can be done. We can offer students today a brand new glass panel aircraft that will save them twenty to thirty dollars per hour compared with a Cessna 172 and they respond with their check books and credit cards. There is a market for both, no doubt, but LSA's or their equivalents are pretty much the only long term viable basic trainers so we need to find a way to make them work the way we want. Our younger consumers have no desire to fly in grandpa's plane even if it has been upgraded and those that do, expect to pay what they remembered paying twenty or thirty years ago and that is not going to come close to covering the operating costs.

Whenever an asset has a high fixed cost and a low utilization it is a clear candidate for some form of shared ownership, flying club or other which would get the costs per hour to the levels that people clamor for but.....not enough people are willing to share use so we end up at an impasse.

I calculated that at one of our FBO locations that the average aircraft in our hangars was from the seventies, valued at about $30,000 with old equipment, flying less than forty hours per year and costing the owner about $300 per actual flight hour. Sell them and buy into a flying club with a mix of brand new planes and they would be flying new technology and a fraction of that cost per hour but....they won't do it so it is clearly not just cost that is stopping people from flying.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | November 8, 2013 2:16 PM    Report this comment

"Our younger consumers have no desire to fly in grandpa's plane even if it has been upgraded and those that do, expect to pay what they remembered paying twenty or thirty years ago and that is not going to come close to covering the operating costs."

But Phil, that doesn't make sense. Younger consumers don't remember what we paid 20 or 30 years ago because they don't have any memory of it. I would challenge the basic sentiment that younger consumers are universally sensitive to the age of the airplane.

When I have asked flight schools about this--i.e. do the customers care if the airplane is new or a rebuilt older model--the answer is almost always, "some are, some aren't." That suggests to me or actually confirms what we seem to see--a stratified market with a mix of airplanes on the typical ramp. I see it everywhere I go. I think you're saying you see the same thing.

As for me, personally, if I were seeking a rental, I'd want an LSA providing the price is a fair value against an older traditional airframe. I see LSAs renting for $100 to $110 against $95 for a Cessna 150/152 and maybe $135 for a 172. I always assume that renters tilt toward the LSAs, but many schools say they don't. One school locally used to have a Flight Design on the line, but they don't now. LSAs can be hard to find for a renter.

I suspect this will change. I think it probably is changing. In the meantime, some schools that hope to be competitive are gravitating toward older airframes.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 8, 2013 3:44 PM    Report this comment

The majority of pilots have argued that COST or better yet RELATIVE COST vs. INCOME is an important factor in the decline of the pilot population. Flying COST is disproportionately offset from income compared to that of the 70s and 80s. Denying this is naive. How can costs be reduced? Flying less or not at all does not fix the dilemma for the pilot nor the industry. I suggest a general awareness and agreement by all to start solving the current General Aviation crisis. Perhaps well established subsidies, private grants and scholarships combined with the cooperation of the GA domain,i.e; flight schools, flight instructors, OEMs and GOVERNMENT. Contributing to stop the decline and give new strength to our nation's GA industry is critical. We start at 0600 hrs tomorrow morning! Good night!

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 8, 2013 11:23 PM    Report this comment

Then I will not sleep in!!

All good ideas, Rafael. You're one of the good ones, no doubt a fine instructor.

Posted by: Dave Miller | November 9, 2013 2:26 AM    Report this comment

Woops! Paul is absolutely right that I let rhetoric overcome logic! Obviously the young are not the ones thinking about the prices from 30 years ago! I mixed two points into one. My second point should have been that the older generation who want to rent are constantly comparing costs from thirty years ago.

I enjoy Rafael's passion even if we disagree on the extent that his solution could have any universal or long term effect on pilot activity.

I repeat that the solutions are available already but there is no genuine collective will to implement them. There is no need, or desire, for government to step in to save the day. The FAA already pours money into infrastructure improvements at already moribund airports and not a single new person ends up entering aviation as a direct result. As pilots we are not a cohesive group despite a very large number of us belonging to the same alphabet organizations. If we can get financing/investors interested in this market again the results will come.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | November 9, 2013 8:34 AM    Report this comment

"One man can make a difference, and everyone should try" JFK

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 9, 2013 11:26 PM    Report this comment

Hi Rafael (and other readers) ; I think we're BOTH from the same era/generation, (more or less) however, I think our views are based on our INTEREST in aviation form TWO very different perspectives. You are still quite actively involved (day to day) in aviation giving and promoting flight instruction/l and GA in general. My, given the fact that in the period I was actively and professionally (1966-78) I leaned something about my self; 1. As I became more deeply involved in GA, I saw a "pattern", no pun intended, that any degree of financial security WASN"T one of the things GA, or most all of aviation, had to offer. Naturally, I became very conflicted; my "affection" (passion?) was staring to wane for a career in the business side of aviation:, NOTE, business, was diminishing! 2. Do I continue to stay in GA OR do I choose an alternative career or occupation more befitting of my NEED for LONG term financial security. I "opted" for 2. Now that I'm away for over 35 years,, with the exception of a few aircraft sales and business consulting from aviation, feel I can be quite "objective" in my evaluation and conclusions concerning the problems facing GA, and in particular, the recreational segment. Many of you may see me as the "villain" here, NOT so; just offering practical/rational business oriented solutions/ideas WITHOUT the bias or "passion" so many of you well meaning guy/gals have for the unique world of flight. Fond memories - I took my first hour of "dual" in a J-3 Cub at age 13 in 1956 at (1N7) Blairstown, NJ!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 10, 2013 9:40 AM    Report this comment

Rafael--" Jim, a "blivet" is now 5 lbs of manure in a 1 lb. bag. Times have changed."

No they haven't--that is exactly the point I was trying to make--trying to design a trainer to meet artificial government limits has resulted in "blivets."

If we were going to design the ideal trainer--would it be limited to an artificial 1320 pounds? Designing for that arbitrary limit has resulted in aircraft that don't hold up well--and owners like Phil Solomon have had to make "field fixes" with upgraded components.

Remove the artificial restrictions--let designers provide the best trainer they can--give US choices--and let the marketplace prevail.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 10, 2013 10:41 AM    Report this comment

HI Jim (Hanson), I best can I contact you - I think we should talk! Thanks, Rod Beck

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 10, 2013 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Jim, I understand. Re.: Blivet. I was suggesting that there is now more crap and is now being spread even more so by giving it out in smaller packages but with the same intent. A 1320 lb. limitation for a trainer is not a practical.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 10, 2013 12:31 PM    Report this comment

I seem to recall an earlier post by a reader, the "build and THEY will come" marketing/sales approach is the theme of ALL of GA, products, (aircraft) and many unjustified airports as well. A "dated" concept - absolutely.

One might look it and examiner TWO visionary aircraft; the Bonanza (1947-today) and the King Air 1964 - also today. Why the longevity? An INTICIPATED well calculated future DEMAND for both aircraft.

Ok, my analysis is this;: As most aviation history buffs and market researchers would conclude, many retuning WW II vets (pilots) having been exposed to 300+ mph fighters MIGHT find an aircraft most like what they may have flown during "wartime",and desire able to purchase .A 150+ mph cruise, add the "family" (4 place) capacity, plus a great "utility" value and you have a WINNER! NOT for every "weekend flyer, NO, was it intended to be, NO again!

So lets turn to the birds aimed at the so called "middle-class" market of the same period. A nice little airplane: the Aeronca Champ -7AC of which I have flown many decades ago. add in the Taylorcraft BC-12, the Aeronca Chief, and of course, the Piper J-3 Cub. The so called "demand" NEVER happened - WHY one might ask? Frankly, the the majority (assumed demand) of the WW II aviators didn't have a NEED or WANT? If those already "sold" on flying courtesy of the US Government, who were the best prospects weren't buyimng, then how could "Joe and Jane Surburban", whose priority is the $5,000 Cape Cod and family be?

But lets get back to Beechcraft for a moment. Why the nearly 50 year run of the King Air series? A "niche" market was filled; for a 250 MPH "low end" corporate/business airplane with good short field performance, comfort (cabin class) and no "hairy" flight characteristics, to name a few!

Moral of my thesis: In depth market (demand) research that will show a high probability for longevity for the product BEFORE it's introduced!

The replacement for the C-152 and a more economical training aircraft was a "'missed opportunity" by the majority of LSA manufactures - "build and they will come" - the mere history of spotted success and fragmented "all over the map or Rubics Cube" marketing is (or the lack of) results!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 10, 2013 2:27 PM    Report this comment

You are correct--the Bonanza was a clean break from pre-war aircraft--cruising at speeds similar to the airliner of its day (the DC-3). It was made possible by replacing big radials with modern flat engines of higher horsepower.

The King Air started life as the Beech 120--designed by Ed Swearingen--with the wings and gear from the Beech Twin Bonanza/Queenair. Mrs. Beech didn't like the looks of it--and said "Build it on the Queen Air" instead. Swearingen went to San Antonio to produce his airplane--which became the Merlin.

Both Swearingen and Mrs. Beech recognized that piston engines had reached their horsepower limits--that a replacement was needed to replace the converted WW II aircraft used by business--that Gulfstream had proven that business would pay big bucks for a reliable NEW turbine-powered aircraft. Every other turboprop manufacturer eventually tried the same concept--but the only surviving twin turboprop was the old King Air--though it was dowdy and slow, it was also SAFE and RELIABLE. It was the perfect combination of old tech (the Queen Air) and the new (the turboprop).

Similarly--I believe that there is a place for a combination of old and new technology by re-engining the 152/Tomahawk/Skipper--or using a more modern LSA and making it more rugged. All we have to do is to get the government out of the way by removing artificial restrictions.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 12, 2013 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Hi Jim, The "only" problem I have with resurrecting vintage birds is this: at the end of the day, you still have a 152, Tomahawk, Skipper, etc, although "restored'", never the less, DATED!

I feel strongly that the RIGHT current LSA makes more cent$ with what's NEEDED or what's lacking. No one would argue that the TWO major factors, capital/costs aside, are 1. PAYLOAD: on average, about 360 lbs. SOLUTION: decrease fuel tanks (designed for training/fleet market) to no great"r than 22-23 gallons useable. Since almost ALL LSA's have around 35 gallon tanks, this slight 'compromise/mod" would INCREASE the payload = pilot/instructor/student/passenger, etc RESULT: 420+ lb payload 2. Non study nose gear: SOLUTION: Redesign and beef up/rigid( critically tested) nose gear to be similar in durability as 152, ideally. RESULT: Marketable to flight schools (30K+ sales potential?)

So then, you have 1. A nice bird with great flight characteristics 2. Low fuel burn (Rotax) powered 3. Much lower operating cost than C-172 type bird 4. Wide cabin - already at least 4 inches greater than 152. 5."joy stick" - appeals to the "Top Gun" in all pilot candidates. 6. Low overall maintenance Now add a "contemporary/modern" appearance" - and you have a sure winner!

One would, again, be critical of costs; keep in mind the 30K vacant market left behind when Cessna, for all practical $$ purposes, departed the "2 place bid" market.

Acquisition $$ an issue? If an operator can "SELL" a student/renter on the lease-back of a $300K+ Skyhawk, how hard would it be doing the same deal for HALF $ of that?

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 12, 2013 6:00 PM    Report this comment

I'm not advocating for one or the other--I say produce BOTH and let the market decide!

There is no doubt that a "legacy" trainer CAN be refurbished--an operator would have about $50,000 in it.

They can even be re-engined. An operator would likely have about $90,000 in it--but it would be a proven airframe with a proven engine--and would also be able to burn auto gas.

At the $120,000 price point, you could have an LSA-based trainer. The LSA-based trainer needs some beefing up in order to hold up to the rigors of training as well as the legacy trainers. This is not a problem--many of the LSA aircraft are derivatives of certified aircraft with gross weights higher than 1320#. Get rid of that artificial restriction in order to let manufacturers provide a viable option--then let the marketplace decide! Isn't that what would NORMALLY happen--absent government interference? I resent the government depriving us of viable aircraft with their restrictions and high certification costs.

As far as the fuel issues--leave the tank capacity alone. There is nothing that says that we need to fill the fuel tanks for a one-hour instructional flight. I roll my eyes every time I read a pilot report in a GA magazine that pans an airplane because "you can't fill the tanks and fill the seats." You can't in a 747 either! In the 1930s--that was part of the certification--the result? We had airplanes with large radials and small gas tanks--short range--even if only the pilot was aboard. Leave the big tanks in--and teach students that you DON'T want to fill them for every flight.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 13, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Jim; Only problem is TODAY's students are TAUGHT to "top off' BEFORE every flight - even if say only 4-5 gallons used prior - that's WHY I'm recommending the lower capacity tank - convince me that the 35 or so gallon tank idea is saleable to the BIGGEST market;; FLIGHT SCHOOLS - remember the 30K "hole" left by Cessna? As far as the refurbished C-150, etc - VERY cost effective and probably will sell in less density (demand) or critical markets, .i.e. West Podunk, MT, but I think you'll have a hard time selling the 32 year old "Wall Street:" trader who makes $400K on a C-152 as a training platform!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 13, 2013 6:27 PM    Report this comment

Jim; Only problem is TODAY's students are TAUGHT to "top off' BEFORE every flight - even if say only 4-5 gallons used prior - that's WHY I'm recommending the lower capacity tank - convince me that the 35 or so gallon tank idea is saleable to the BIGGEST market;; FLIGHT SCHOOLS - remember the 30K "hole" left by Cessna? As far as the refurbished C-150, etc - VERY cost effective and probably will sell in less density (demand) or critical markets, .i.e. West Podunk, MT, but I think you'll have a hard time selling the 32 year old "Wall Street:" trader who makes $400K on a C-152 as a training platform!

Posted by: Rod Beck | November 13, 2013 6:27 PM    Report this comment

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