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I am (with a couple of partners) considering a (likely used)
motorglider purchase in the near future. We're mostly-soaring pilots
with 5-10 years' experience and some single-engine training. We're
looking for something that will let us soar free from towplane
schedules, and occasionally allow us to go somewhere within a few
hundred miles on a nice VFR day. None of us has owned an aircraft
Now, the motorglider scene is dominated by small- to medium-sized
manufacturers. A production run of a couple of hundred aircraft over
a decade is huge. Factories are concentrated in Central and Eastern
Europe (plus Aeromot in Brazil). The companies go in and out of
business fairly often.
The big exception to this small-scale rule is Diamond, which makes the
HK36 (the motorglider sibling of the Katana). Now, the HK36 seems
like a really solid aircraft but has a few performance drawbacks
compared to some of the other ships out there. But to my eyes, having
a company with the stature and reputation of Diamond behind it seems
like a huge advantage. My question is: how big a difference will it
really make -- in terms of cost/ease of maintenance, resale value,
etc. -- to have a large, stable aircraft company behind the plane vs.
a small, innovative company that might not be around in three years?
Many used ships on the market were built by companies that are no
longer in business or no longer serve that market.
Anyone here own an "orphaned" plane and have decent (or horrid)
experience with it?
-- Eric D. Zimmerman, September 2, 2009
I would stay away from a certified aircraft that doesn't have a few hundred planes in service. A fleet of about 350 seems to be necessary to stay away from parts hassles after the inevitable bankruptcy or near such event. More than 350 or so, and it seems someone will buy and restart the parts business for the model. I didn't own an orphaned plane, but I have watched the values of planes yo yo when orphaned, and then adopted.
Now, I don't think most motorgliders were ever considered certified anyway so that doesn't really apply, but it does point you in the right direction. I would learn the differences in what hoops you jump through if you have an LSA vs. traditional motorglider status, and whether or not you built it, to replace a part that cannot be found.
It can be done, even on a certified plane, but it is a hassle.
-- Eric Warren, September 3, 2009