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Does anyone know of flight schools offering light sport training in
the Boston area? Seems easier to me to start via this route than the
PP license, especially with relaxed medical.
-- Jim Cashman, April 25, 2009
As Chip, below, notes, it doesn't make sense for a flight school to pay more money for a two-seat LSA than for a 5- or 10-year-old four- seat certified airplane. The four-seater can be rented by a family going to the beach in the summer. Another problem with the typical LSA is payload. The typical flight instructor and student are over the FAA's 170 lb. standard and therefore can't fly in a typical two- seater with full fuel.
I haven't seen a flight school in our region with an LSA on its ramp nor have I heard any of them express any interest in acquiring an LSA.
Try getting a Third Class medical. It shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. If you don't have a heart attack in the doctor's office, you'll probably pass.
-- Philip Greenspun, May 4, 2009
Caveat: I did my private pilot training at Hanscom, and never even considered a sport pilot license, so my advice will be a bit biased.
There is so much controlled airspace around here, that it would be incredibly frustrating to have to avoid it all the time. And, given how much training traffic there is, I personally find it much more comforting when flying in the pattern when there is a tower coordinating all the aircraft around.
Second, given how often low clouds and fog seem to set in, I want the ability to add an instrument rating. I haven't done so yet, but certainly plan to within the next few years.
Finally, as for actual flight schools, from what I've seen, most flight schools prefer to deal with manufacturers who have been in business for a long time (ask Mark at East Coast Aero Club about the Rotax-powered Diamonds for a good reason here). Until Cessna gets its 162 certified, and given the recent accidents, it might be a while, most LSAs available are from young and unproven manufacturers.
A third class medical is a breeze. Send me an email and I'll give you the name and phone number of an AME who does third class medicals for under $100. <$100 every five years is practically nil compared to the overall cost of flying. I would say it's worth the extra hours to get the private pilot and have the additional privileges and responsibilities that go along with it.
-- Joshua Levinson, May 4, 2009
While I agree with many of Mr. Levinson's remarks, I find his conclusion a tad harsh. There's no reason why one can't fly an LSA in controlled airspace; we do it all the time in Toronto (I admit I may be unaware of Boston/Logan-specific regulations which might contradict my view).
I'd suggest that most flight schools do prefer to use 152s and 172s, but I don't believe that is because Cessna and Piper have been around for a long time; they use the equipment because it (a) lets them train for the PPL, (b) they already own their existing fleet, and (c) because flying a 50-year old 152 or 172 is much more cost-effective for the school than using a new LSA. Interestingly, here in Toronto I can fly with an instructor for $197 an hour in an ancient 152 or $160 an hour in a brand new Sportstar; it's not a tough choice. As a student pilot with a bit of experience in old 152s and 172s, I'm not wildly fond of climbing into an aircraft that is (a) as old as I am, (b) is lethargic and (c), looks like crap. I've spent a fair bit of time in an Evektor Sportstar, and less time in a Tecnam Super Echo and an Aerotrek. All three aircraft outperform the 152 by miles in all respects and they're a ton more fun to fly. The Cessna 162 may prove to be a decent aircraft, but I've not seen any positive comments about it from those who've seen it on the ground at places like Oshkosh; most observers seem to feel that it lacks useful load. And it's much-vaunted "sales figures" reflect sales-to-dealers numbers rather than sales-to-pilots/owners numbers; I expect it may eventually enjoy some success as a replacement for aging 150s and 152s, but it doesn't appear to be the kind of LSA that owner/pilots are going to wish to own.
Finally, I wouldn't let myself get upset about "young and unproven LSA manufacturers". There are a bunch of manufacturers out there that have been around in Europe for many years (Tecnam being perhaps the oldest) and the European and eastern European aeronautical tradition is deserving of great respect. The Europeans have been at the forefront of glider and ultralight manufacture and design for the past sixty years.
As for the Rotax, it's true that there is a group of aviators that will never be comfortable flying behind anything that isn't a big, low-revving gas burner a la Continental or Lycoming. I'd respectfully suggest that the Rotax engines are fantastically reliable, don't need a neurosurgeon involved in ongoing maintenance, and provide great performance for relatively modest weight.
I think the big issue you must resolve is what kind of flying you'd like to do. If you want your aviation to be IFR or load-carrying, LSAs won't cut it (I believe there are some IFR-qualified LSAs in the US). And there's no question that an instrument rating (properly maintained) increases one's flexibility; it's also true, however, that an ill-maintained instrument rating can be a dangerous thing.
I'd therefore encourage you to give the LSA route a chance (assuming such an option is conveniently available). The aircraft are fun and there's no question it's a relatively cost-effective way to get going in aviation. You can always upgrade to a PPL and eventual IFR-ticket if that is desired.
-- Chip Pitfield, May 4, 2009
Chip, thanks for your response. In true internet discussion form, I will respond to it.
Regarding controlled airspace: The sport pilot license in the US does not allow for flight in controlled airspace without additional instructor training and endorsement. The sport pilot license requires 20 hours alone. Add additional flight time for ATC communication practice, and ground school to learn the different airspace classes and communication requirements, and you're getting pretty close to the time needed for a private pilot certificate anyway.
I can't comment on price, as Phil noted, there aren't any flight schools in the Boston area that are using LSAs. It sounds like it's certainly a better value to rent LSAs in Toronto, which is pretty interesting, given the much higher acquisition cost. I'm curious what the differences are in the risk models that the insurance companies are using to cause the costs to be so different. You're probably right about the 162; it does not seem to offer much over other much more capable LSAs aside from it looking more like how people expect a small plane to look.
Regarding young manufacturers, I think a lack of history in any given country would make a flight school owner feel nervous. My comment regarding the Rotax engine was specific: East Coast Aero Club had some Rotax powered Diamonds, and Rotax stopped supporting that engine model (at least in the US, parts may have still been made available in Europe). Therefore, he was stuck with two planes that couldn't be kept flyable in a rental setting. I think they may have still been airworthy for private aviation, though I may be wrong here.
I would say that it's best to get a private pilot, and then, after you have it, buy and fly an LSA, if that's what you're interested in. I firmly believe that the private pilot certificate is the way to go, however.
-- Joshua Levinson, May 11, 2009
Northampton airport (7B2) out near Amherst MA does training in a CTLS light sport. Not exactly in the Boston area... but at least in MA. They have a good mechanic, John Bishop, who understands CT's.
-- Bill McCandless, July 17, 2009