There appears to be a pure development, however it’s not linear, and the paradigm considerably shifted when plane composites turned extra extremely developed, glass panels began changing the outdated “six-packs,” and information turned extra inexpensive and accessible by way of packages like ForeFlight.
A few years after incomes my non-public pilot certificates in 1983, I purchased my first airplane, a Piper Tomahawk, in order that my spouse and I may get pleasure from brief VFR cross-country flights. From there, we upgraded to a Piper Warrior for extra passengers, payload, and vary; then, a Beechcraft Sierra that I earned my instrument ranking and business pilot certificates in; and the Socata Trinidad, which was excellent for longer cross-country annual flights between St. Louis and San Diego, and finally overwater flights to the Bahamas. Every improve was thrilling and difficult due to every airplane’s distinctive flight traits and more and more complicated—however extra succesful—avionics.
After studying in regards to the Columbia 300 sort certificates in AOPA Pilot in 1998, and following the eventual evolution of the Columbia 350 and 400 plane being manufactured in Bend, Oregon, my spouse and I made a decision the Columbia 350 could be our last improve. We bought a brand new Columbia 350 in 2007. We owned the Columbia 350 for seven years earlier than downsizing and shifting to Florida, the place we finally used the airplane for lunch flights, and the “$100 hamburger” exploded to over $1,000! Our mission modified, and I then felt I used to be not flying sufficient to securely preserve my IFR foreign money, so we bought the Columbia 350 and I ended flying at age 65 with 2,600 hours of accident-free, violation-free flying.
My spouse and I had been happy with our 40-year flying journey, and we had been content material crusing and boating in Tampa Bay after we bought the airplane 5 years in the past. Issues modified, nonetheless, when the coronavirus pandemic struck and we started operating out of protected, socially distanced actions that we may get pleasure from collectively.
I recommended to my spouse, “Perhaps we should always think about shopping for a lightweight sport plane that seats solely the 2 of us, and we are able to once more fly to lunches round Florida. Wouldn’t that be nice?” She was completely on board, commenting that “any man in his 70s wants a mission to maintain his thoughts working, and it appears like enjoyable.” I renewed my AOPA membership and reviewed all the LSA necessities on AOPA’s web site, deciding that the LSA limitations of VFR, daytime solely, and most altitude of 10,000 ft completely glad our new mission.
I remembered seeing a PiperSport in 2010 that I believed seemed like a “actual” airplane that will be enjoyable to fly. Despite the fact that Piper dropped this mannequin after a yr or two, it continued to be constructed within the Czech Republic with a worldwide fleet of over 600 airplanes. The Sport Cruiser even has a U.S. location in Bountiful, Utah, known as Cruiser Aircraft, that gives full product and gross sales assist.
I discovered a 2017 Sport Cruiser in Florida with 45 hours complete time that seemed brand-new. (Most significantly, my spouse accepted of the paint scheme!) With two Dynon SkyView HDX glass panels, the Sport Cruiser does just about every little thing the Columbia 350 did, besides it cruises at 100 knots as a substitute 170 knots; the 100-horsepower Rotax engine makes use of 5 gph as a substitute of 15 gph, and problematic scorching begins turned a nonissue. The air con might be missed in Florida, however gaining a ballistic parachute and the “Degree” button on the autopilot are big security advantages, particularly for my spouse who’s a prepared passenger, however not a pilot.
Throughout my analysis to insure the plane, I discovered that trade insurance coverage protection appears to be capped at $1,000,000/$100,000. LSA premiums might also appear comparatively excessive, however it was defined that the aviation underwriters discovered skilled pilots eager to over-correct such gentle plane, which brought on many extra claims than anticipated. One other potential challenge is discovering a CFI with sufficient model-specific time to qualify on the proprietor’s coverage whereas coaching the brand new proprietor, and that the proprietor will usually require a specified variety of hours and doubtless a present flight overview to even fly as pilot in command of their newly bought LSA.
Each expense of the Sport Cruiser in all probability runs one-third of the Columbia 350, and my spouse and I are having a good time flying VFR at 2,000 ft to three,000 ft, seeing issues on the bottom once more as a substitute of primarily flying IFR within the clouds. What an ideal approach to spend high quality time with my spouse flying “socially distant” to lunch round Florida!—By Rick Polinsky
Rick Polinsky is an instrument-rated business pilot who lives in Florida.