How to 'buy and fly' cheap in 2022?

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JayKoit

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I want to make sure I'm not missing any good options here...

With plane prices continuing to rise, I'm trying to sort out the best equation for affordable "buy and fly" (and own and operate) options in today's market. I'm thinking LSA and/or EAB. Could go certified, but that's where the prices have soared the most.

Affordable to me means under 30K. 25K would be even better. Need two seats, and I need it to be affordable in every category beyond purchase price: storage, insurance, annual, fuel, and maintenance.

Based on my preliminary research, here's what I think are the best criteria:
- Cheap to insure
- Tricycle gear (cheaper insurance)
- Tie Down-able - so probably all metal or composite(?)
- Low fuel burn (max 5-6gph)
- Can burn auto fuel if needed (saves $1+ per gallon)

This is a "nice to have" that could save even more money:
- ELSA (or SLSA to convert to ELSA) so I can take the light sport course and do my own annual CI's - BUT, I'd still do the first one or two with experienced A&Ps...

All that said, here's what I've found to fit my criteria under 30K for EAB/LSA:
- Sonex/Waiex
- Zenith 601
- Jabiru J160/J170 Calypso
- Thatcher CX-5

In the certified world, all I've seen that fit my criteria are a couple Early C150s or an Ercoupe (with metalized wings)...

Are these my only options? Have I missed any?
 

BJC

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- Low fuel burn (max 5-6gph)
Fuel burn is much less significant than the other costs.
In the certified world, all I've seen that fit my criteria are a couple Early C150s or an Ercoupe (with metalized wings)...
Luscombe, C120/140, several older Pipers, E-AB, etc. Skip the hull insurance, and carry liability only.

It is going to cost more tomorrow than today, and the next day, .....

BJC
 

jedi

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Certified only one choice 65-67 Cessna 150 (not sure which two years) rear window, manual flaps, straight tail. Need to rework the wonky starter boden wire. Get the most expensive one you can afford as someone else has done all the work.

Why do you want to insure it?

EAB has lots more choices, advantages and disadvantages. More bang for the buck. There are a few I would cross of the list. Move the CX-5 to the top of the list, Zenith down a notch.

In the end what you can find relatively close to home at the right price is what is best.
 

JayKoit

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Fuel burn is much less significant than the other costs.
Luscombe, C120/140, several older Pipers, E-AB, etc. Skip the hull insurance, and carry liability only.

It is going to cost more tomorrow than today, and the next day, .....

BJC

Thanks - I didn't include taildraggers as they cost more to insure.

I could go the Colt / Tri Pacer route, but can you successfully store tube and fabric outdoors (maybe with a full set of covers)? I'm in southern California so I don't have to worry about hail and snow..
 

rv7charlie

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If you're tail-rated, insurance rate differences will converge as you build time. When I had about 25 hrs in trikes & about 250-300 in TW, an underwriter told me that my rates wouldn't be any cheaper for a trike than a TW, if both were RV-x. I agree about liability-only, if you can stand the 'big hit' risk. I flew with only liability for about 20 years, until I finally bought something that was expensive enough that I'd feel the financial pain if it were lost.

If you're willing to go TW, you could add several homebuilts. On the higher performance end, a Thorp T-18 could probably be found in your price range. Multiple Cub-like homebuilt designs, on the lower end of the spectrum.

Jedi is right; unless you get really lucky, you could buy another a/c for the travel expenses going cross-country to look at planes.
 

kent Ashton

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I've heard more and more pilots are carrying liability only, I guess thats one way to go...for me as a low time pilot i'd like to have both liability and hull, just in case....
As you gain confidence in your ability to operate and maintain an EAB, you will worry less about hull insurance. I would not have liability either except that my airport demands it. Even if you buy an EAB vs. build one, you will become more aware of how it runs and how to diagnose problems. I prepared a "Release from Liability" form I was thinking to get passengers to sign but I never have. If I damaged my airplane, I would probably be the one to fix it.
 

Victor Bravo

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Make sure you sit in a Sonex before you consider buying one. Same for the 120 and 150.

A 601HD or HDS with a decent 115+ HP engine might be a good idea, but it will have to be cheap.

The Stits "Skycoupe" will be a major "sleeper" in terms of bang for the buck, you'll see them for sale if you research it. Not the prettiest airplane, but solid and capable. Fabric covered, so everything that comes with that. E-AB, and not very common, so the prices are usually lower than the capability of the aircraft.

A Tri-Pacer is always on the "most bang for the buck" list. A set of covers and a little more thorough maintenance regimen will allow it to sit outside, but sooner or later it will need recovering.
 
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jedi

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I've heard more and more pilots are carrying liability only, I guess thats one way to go...for me as a low time pilot i'd like to have both liability and hull, just in case....

In five years you will save enough with no hull insurance to buy a newer faster airplane.

Get a good CFI to keep you new purchase safe and become a good enough student to take over when the time is right. Put those extra $$ into becoming a better pilot.

A Protec PT-2 is one that could make your list but I would not recommend. Definaitely be sure to fly before buy.
 
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Dana

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First, define what your mission is: Just buzzing around low and slow on a nice day, $100 hamburger runs, short cross countries, long cross countries, off airport flying, aerobatics, and how much baggage space do you need? Those will (or should) influence your decision.

You can leave a fabric plane tied down outside, but it will take its toll. In SoCal, moisture and corrosion or rot isn't as big a deal but UV damage is. I kept a T-Craft tied down outdoors for 5 years or so in the northeast, and it took its toll, but that was 30 years ago when that was normal. But it might be OK if you can get a "sun shade" hangar.

Adding tailwheels to the search increases your options quite a bit. A quick wing folder and an enclosed trailer to keep it in might be a good option, then fabric is fine.

I've always carried liability insurance on my planes, just in case an unexpected gust catches my plane as I'm taxiing past somebody's $1,000,000 airplane. I got hull for the first time when I bought my Hatz because I can't easily afford to replace it if something happens. Hull also reduces the temptation to save the airplane when something happens ("when the fan stops turning the insurance company owns the plane"), letting you concentrate on saving yourself.
 

TFF

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What is mostly happening is cheap planes are not being sold because owners are pretty sure they can’t jump on another. What is being sold is really the dregs at jacked up prices. The deals are two seat homebuilt biplanes and parasols but they are not metal and are tail draggers. I personally would wait for it to ease up if you need something reasonable. Head hunters are out and they are trying to scalp. If you have had a buddy who wants to sell his plane, that’s the one you want.
 

Victor Bravo

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The Pro-Tech PT-2 has had a few pointed questions raised about the structure. I have NO IDEA if those questions are valid, but I know they have been raised. Steve Beatty in the greater Phoenix area always has two or three of them for sale... no idea why they have not sold, possibly the price tag.

All of the Kitfox series is going to be too small.

The Aeronca Champ series is a fantastic, roomy, inexpensive classic. You will never lose money, and you will probably never have as much good clean fun. There is an Aeronca Champ with a nosewheel, the 7FC "Tri-Champ", but it's like passing your 4th grade math test because you had a calculator under your desk :) (That said, I'd love to have a 7FC and get my LSA instructor rating,a nd become a billionaire in aviation)

JK I think Dana is correct, getting your tailwheel endorsement may cost $2500 in instructor fees and save $7500 in aircraft purchase cost... wait, let me get my calculator and see how that math works out........
 

blane.c

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Different airframes of motor glider keep popping up for sale under 30k, like this one. Most of them have the Limbach engine from what I can gather on the internet they are modified VW engines for aircraft. As you can expect for a 50 foot wingspan they ain't fast.

 

Pops

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Ercoupes-- I like Ercoupes, have flown 6 or 7 different one's. Have owned 2 different Ercoupes. One with metal wings ( cost 35 lbs weight increase) and with rudder pedals. The other had fabric wings and no rudder pedals. Both C-85 hp engines. Don't like the metal wings, and with the small rudder throw , wouldn't install rudder pedals. Will out perform a C-150 with the C-85 with the fabric wings and flat windshield and stock panel and interior.
Have owned the same 1966 Cessna 150 two times. Daughter used to own a 65 with the straight tail. I liked the 65 a little better. Have flown about every years of the C-150 and liked the 59 the best. Never flew a C-152.
 

ToddK

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Get the tail wheel endorsement, and a hanger, skip the insurance. Aeronca chiefs are the most undervalued airplanes in aviation. They can be had all day long under 20K in great shape. Pietenpol air campers also sell very cheap and are a ton of fun.
 

12notes

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I think Dana is correct, getting your tailwheel endorsement may cost $2500 in instructor fees and save $7500 in aircraft purchase cost... wait, let me get my calculator and see how that math works out........

Simple, in aviation math if one option costs $2,500 but will save you $7,500, then no matter which way you decide you'll look back and see somehow it cost $10,000.
 

bmcj

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A few thoughts based on everyone’s comments:

TW may cost more for hull insurance, but if you are going liability only, then the higher hull rate does not affect you.

Environment… you probably don’t want to park a plane (especially metal) outside if the area is prone to hail. You don’t want to park a plane (especially composite) outside in high heat/sunlight areas. Shade hangars or sun covers can HELP protect against sun exposure (but not give 100% protection). Thick padded covers might help guard against most hail damage. [EDIT: I just saw that you are in SoCal]

Fabric outside… I’ve been told by some pilots who fly in Alaska that a lot of their fabric airplanes stay outside. As long as someone has put a good silver coat and as long as you touch up spots that are showing through, you wii probably be fine outside.

Taxes… research your state and local taxes for aircraft ownership. Some states can really gouge you on aircraft property tax. Many owners create LLC corporations in other states (I think New Jersey is a big one) to avoid their home state fees and taxes.
 
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JayKoit

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First, define what your mission is: Just buzzing around low and slow on a nice day, $100 hamburger runs, short cross countries, long cross countries, off airport flying, aerobatics, and how much baggage space do you need? Those will (or should) influence your decision.

Adding tailwheels to the search increases your options quite a bit. A quick wing folder and an enclosed trailer to keep it in might be a good option, then fabric is fine.

I've always carried liability insurance on my planes, just in case an unexpected gust catches my plane as I'm taxiing past somebody's $1,000,000 airplane. I got hull for the first time when I bought my Hatz because I can't easily afford to replace it if something happens. Hull also reduces the temptation to save the airplane when something happens ("when the fan stops turning the insurance company owns the plane"), letting you concentrate on saving yourself.

Thanks Dana. All I really care about at this point is being up in the sky. That's my (very broad) mission :)

Also, I hadn't considered the folding wing in a trailer, that could work if the plane and circumstances were right.

The thought of no insurance is pretty much a non-starter. if I'm putting years of my hard earned savings into the plane, I'll insure it. Plenty of 5000 hour pilots with gobs of training still end up in bad situations and crashing their planes, sometimes into other planes, or homes, or cars....just don't want to be on the hook for any of that should something happen.
 

bmcj

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Thanks Dana. All I really care about at this point is being up in the sky. That's my (very broad) mission :)
If that’s your primary goal, have you considered a part 103 craft? Lots of fun, especially in SoCal (as long as you aren’t in the class 3 veil). Some have folding wings and they are light enough to load up on a trailer. Definitely a fair weather flyer, but you have an abundance of that where you live.
 
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