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I'm 47 and want to learn to fly. I flew a lot with my Dad, and know a bit about what's
involved. The flight school at the local FBO works in 172's, old and older. I flew in them
as a kid, and recognize they are something of the standard for new pilots. But I recently
flew in a DA40, and loved it: the visibility, the stick, the seeming ease of control, and the
new airframe. Seems like people who fly Diamonds really love them. And I also recognize
that the more time I spend in a plane, the safer I'll be in that plane...learning in what I'll
eventually fly makes sense. I figure that if I see myself in a Diamond down the road, the
more time in one the better.
And so with the support of the other major player in this decision (my wife), I'm giving
some thought to buying a plane to learn in, and DA20 is real high on the list. I'm curious
as to thoughts on this as a choice of a plane to learn in, and then fly at least for the first
several years. I recognize the weight limitation issues; I'm just 150 lbs, and given how few
A-1's there seem to be offered around, I'd probably be looking at an C-1. And I know a
two place airplane is small. But I really don't see this, or the plane's VFR limitations, as an
issue for some time to come. I'd like to learn, have some fun locally, maybe do an
overnight here or there with one of my kids, and perhaps have them learn in the plane as
well (all three have expressed interest).
So the specific questions are the following: How do used C-1's stack up these days in
terms of value? I can't find the post now, but I have this recollection of Phillip advocating
the value in used A-1's at some time in the past, particularly as a plane to fly in for a few
early years, but what about C-1's? How about the notion of buying, learning, and then
flying in a C-1? I haven't checked with the local flight school, but I doubt these guys have
much time in Diamonds. Will it be a mistake to ask one of them to teach me in a DA20, or
can they figure it out quickly enough to teach me how to fly it? Away from crosswind
landing considerations (I gather the DA20 can take some learning for these), any other
important considerations as a beginner plane? Costs of ownership? Insurance? Is it the
wrong plane to buy for this purpose, as I may find myself quickly wishing I'd just spent the
extra dollars and gotten a DA40?
Also, will tying down this plane outside in central Virginia (hot summers, some snow in
winters) seriously hurt its resale value? What else should I be considering?
I know there are loads of used Cessnas for sale. But that DA40 was fun, and everything
I've read on the DA20 says its a fun ride as well. If I can own a DA20 with reasonable
carrying costs, and feel confident it will hold decent value and be a good choice for my
flying interests for a few years, I'm willing to take the less economic step, rather than the
most practical one. Thanks much.
-- Michael Weiner, August 30, 2009
Now that Rotax has given up on supporting certified engines it probably doesn't make sense to get an A1. If you could buy a C1 for $60,000 it might be worth it. An experienced CFI should be able to learn to fly the C1 in just a few hours. A 1970s Cessna or Piper four-seater, though, can be bought for $30,000 and can be flown IFR legally (maybe not prudently, though, unless you put in a glass panel with battery backup). The four-seater will be much smoother in turbulence due to the extra weight. If you're doing short trips, flight training, and don't care about having space for passengers, the DA20 is definitely more fun.
-- Philip Greenspun, September 4, 2009
Responding to Richard's question below regarding Rotax engines in LSA aircraft. I believe that those are non-certified powerplants. They might be physically similar to the engines in a DA20-A1, but the paperwork is different and the engines cannot be substituted for each other. If you need a part or a replacement engine for the LSA you might get it from inventory. The part or replacement for a certified engine could take weeks or months.
-- Philip Greenspun, September 4, 2009
Joshua (below): I did not do a comprehensive survey of Rotax engine operators. I know that our flight school had to sell its fleet of DA20- A1s to a European school because it was no longer commercially practical to get replacement engines when they reached TBO. A consumer who didn't mind a plane being down for a few weeks needing a spare part or a few months needing an engine might have found Rotax certified support to be adequate.
-- Philip Greenspun, September 5, 2009
Just wanted to comment to express an interest in the idea of buying a plane to train in. I'm in a similar situation as I have no interest in training in an "old and older" Cessna. I'd like to fly in my own beginner appropriate plane of choice with a known perfect maintenance record that is not available at most flight schools. Some people have stated insurance complications (insurance companies do not want to insure a plane for an unlicensed pilot to solo in). While others say it is pretty straight forward (get the instructor orientation in the plane, get the insurance company to approve the instructor, pay a bit more for insurance for the instructional use, and you are covered too.) Does anyone have experience in this issue?
-- Richard S, August 30, 2009
Phil could you please elaborate on "now that Rotax has given up on supporting certified engines"? How would this affect owners of planes with Rotax 912 UL, 912 ULS, or 914 UL engines typically found in many LSA aircraft? Thanks!
-- Richard S, September 4, 2009
I've seen several people mention Rotax not supporting certified engines, and have been unsuccessful in finding substantial information regarding it. Though I'm not currently in the airplane market, I may be within a few years, and would like to be as informed as possible. Do you have any background info on not getting engine support, or know where I could find such info?
-- Joshua Levinson, September 5, 2009
Thanks, that makes sense. I recall Mark mentioning a few months ago that he wouldn't buy a plane with a Rotax engine, under any circumstances. Now I know why.
-- Joshua Levinson, September 6, 2009
As I was quite curious about the remarks concerning Rotax discontinuing support of their certified engines, I asked Lockwood Aviation in Florida, the go-to people on all things Rotax (aviation-wise) in the USA.
Their response indicates that Rotax indeed still supports their certified engines and has no intention of stopping. For the DA-20 A1, replacement engines are special order (primarily due to the mechanical tach), so one just needs to plan ahead if a new engine is needed. Certified parts are procured through a separate supply chain in order to maintain traceability of everything, but parts are in stock and one has the ability to get anything needed, including the overhaul kits.
It should be noted that Tecnam is spending tens of millions of dollars on certifying their new P2006 twin using the Rotax engines. One would think they wouldn't go that route if they didn't have every confidence in the continued viability of the Rotax Part 33 power plants.
I hope this is helpful information to anyone considering a Rotax powered bird.
-- Geoff Shepherd, March 26, 2010