You're buying a WHAT? - Jay Maynard

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Monday, 12 May 2008


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2040 - You're buying a WHAT?

In my conversations with various folks, when the subject of my airplane comes up, the reaction is often one of huge surprise. It's as though people don't think any mere mortal can buy an airplane.

I don't get it. They're not even that hideously expensive, especially now with the price of fuel going up: if you think the market for large SUVs is dropping, that's nothing compared to the market for light aircraft. You probably can't buy one for four figures any more, but it's actually not too hard to get into one for under $20K, if you look around a bit and have reasonable expectations.

Yeah, mine's six figures. That's because my expectations are unreasonable, in terms of what is strictly needed to go flying. I'm also buying new, and specifying avionics, paint, and interior - and not skimping on any of it. That all costs money. It wouldn't have to, however: I went flying Friday afternoon with a guy who has a nice airplane (a Taylorcraft BC-12D) he bought for $13K not all that long ago. He has just as much fun flying as I will in mine. He just takes a bit longer to get places.

Yeah, aviation costs money, especially in these days of $5/gallon avgas. That doesn't make it unattainable; it just makes it something you have to want.

current mood: [mood icon] amused

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:ihnatko
Date: - 0000
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I'm curious about your "gas mileage." How much will one of your sky commutes cost you? And is the cost prohibitive enough that you wouldn't want to spend many afternoons flying strictly for fun?

(Nice meeting you at ROFLcon, BTW)
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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It's a little harder to figure fuel mileage in an airplane than a car, because you don't measure fuel consumption per mile directly, but per hour. Mine will burn about 6 gallons an hour while cruising at about 110 knots (about 126 MPH). That works out to about 24 MPG - if there's no wind. Because of the way winds affect a round trip, however, it'll always be a bit lower.

I can afford to fly it, either for fun or to go somewhere. That's part of what I looked at before buying it. It'd annoy me as much to have it sitting in the hangar unused as it would to not have it in the first place.
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From:unix_jedi
Date: - 0000
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Because of the way winds affect a round trip,

There's a headwind going, and a headwind coming back.

Yup.

It'd annoy me as much to have it sitting in the hangar unused as it would to not have it in the first place.

What amazes me, as a semi-professional airport bum is how many people let their planes sit and sit and sit. Especially the engine, given the Lycoming designs, it's *got* to fly about 100 hours a year, or else you *will* be overhauling it long before the 2000 hour "TBO".

I'd just say "You're getting a WHAT" because I've never known anybody to not build their own Zenith. :) Other than the Alarus.

Which brings up: Why not get an Alarus? Why the Zodiac?

(I was talking to Chris Heinz at Sun n Fun a few years back, the 640 had just come out and I was looking at it and wincing at the price. "What about the Zodiac?" "Oh, like I'd fit in one of THOSE," I said.

"No, no, really!" So he insisted, and I got in - getting out the landing gear made some VERY strange noises and I told him I told him so. :)
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Well, it just *seems* like a headwind both ways...but, even with the wind constant in one direction, the help from the tailwind component doesn't counteract the penalty from the headwind component. To make it obvious, consider an airplane with 100 knot cruise, and a trip of 150 nautical miles. That makes the outbound ground speed 150 knots, and the flight last an hour and a half each way, for a total of three hours. With a 50-knot direct tail wind on the outbound leg, the ground speed goes up to 150 knots, making the outbound trip last an hour - but the return trip now goes at a ground speed of 50 knots, making the return leg three hours long, and the total four hours. The same principle applies for any wind at all.

You probably knew all this, but not everyone reading this will...

The AMD Zodiac uses a Continental O-200. It, too, likes to be used more rather than less. I fully intend to do so.

Yeah, most Zodiacs you'll find in the wild are homebuilts; mine will be S/N 70 or so from AMD. I've got Zodiac builders after me to come visit so they can see how the factory did things. As for why not the Alarus, it's not legal to fly as an LSA - which is how I intend to fly mine, at least initially.

Which Zodiac did you try? One of the major differences between the 601HD/HDS and the 601XL is the gear: the HD/HDS use bungee-suspended gear for the mains as well as the nose gear, while the XL uses a single, stout piece of thick aluminum. I can't speak for the HD/HDS, but they tell me that, as long as you put the XL on the mains first, you're not going to break anything (at least not on the gear) no matter how hard you land it.

I don't know which part of Georgia you're in, but the AMD factory is in Eastman, about two hours southeast of Atlanta...
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From:unix_jedi
Date: - 0000
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even with the wind constant in one direction, the help from the tailwind component doesn't counteract the penalty from the headwind component

See, you're doing math.

I'm used to watching the weather change while I'm at the destination such that it's a straight headwind by the time I start to go back.

(Exception, was in the Mountains of NC one time, had a HUGE storm blow in - by the time it cleared, the winds were still > 100 knots at 8000 feet. I had the Cherokee throttled back to 85 kts indicated, and was still seeing > 200 mph ground speeds. (I had to pay for the time *anyway*, might as well get the flight time for it.)) (I spiraled up to 8000 because I wanted to make *damn* sure I had room in case of wave action, etc.)

I got in an XL, I'm 95% sure of. I've been paying a lot less attention to other manufacturers (save the RV-10) since I've seized upon what I Shall Be Buying and Flying.

Sounds like they've got the same landing gear as the Alarus, which looks sturdy as all get out. Heinz does seem to be a good designer.

Alarus: I didn't know it wasn't LSA-certified, that seems rather odd.

The guy out of Dothan who went down in the Zodiac going to Sun-n-Fun, what's the latest on that? (That was a factory built.) Things were sketchy when I was hearing about it, and someone said they talked to M. Heinz and they were talking about limiting elevator travel?

I'm out of CTJ - You'll probably go by in the shiny new Zodiac on the way out. :) We're just west of the ATL Bravo.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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The Alarus came along well before the LSA rule. It's over the LSA max gross, and maybe the speed limits as well (didn't look too closely).

The Titan T-51 looks like a neat aircraft (even if it's not LSA-compliant, either).

The Sun n Fun crash was in a Zodiac built by the Czech Aircraft Works, a company in the Czech Republic (duh) that had an agreement to build them with Heintz. That agreement was terminated a couple of years ago. There's indeed discussion about limiting down elevator travel; the Zodiac design has lots and lots of elevator authority, originally to allow full controllability even outside the CG envelope, and the thinking is that that allowed overstressing the airframe. The suggested limit reduces some of the excess control authority while not limiting operations within the CG envelope.

I'll have to look up CTJ. As it happens, I may find myself needing to park the aircraft for a couple of days within taxi or MARTA distance from ATL, and fly off to New York and back; will CTJ work? I'd been thinking PDK, but I'm not married to that idea.
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From:unix_jedi
Date: - 0000
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I doubt the Alarus exceeds the speed limits. :)

The T-51 can actually be LSA-ed. Fixed gear for that version, of course. But I've already got the PPSEL, so....

I didn't know that they'd terminated the Czech plant, I knew they were making the Alaruses in Eastman.

The guy from Dothan's crash is the sort of one that worries me. (There were 2 fatalities at SnF, his, and one departing who apparently was trying to secure the canopy during takeoff). The latter, I say, hey, that's a stupid thing, don't be stupid.

Wings/spar's failing.... Ain't much you can do about that. One of the guys I worked with is building a 601, and so we discussed that crash some.

Given Heinz's past history and structural soundness, I'm really hoping they isolate that and find the problem. I have a hard time believing it's a design flaw.

CTJ's just too far if you want to run into Atlanta easily/quickly. PDK I think's on the railway, etc. Fulton County might be a better bet - I don't go into ATL a lot. PDK I've landed at once to pick up a passenger, it's big on bizjets.

Now, if you were coming by the 3rd week in July for the flying club cookout...

I don't even know how much it would be to run into Hartsfield from here shuttle-wise. I'll ask around about PDK alternatives.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Hm. You're right. I'd thought the Alarus had a higher maximum speed in level flight at sea level above 120 knots, but while I can't tell what it is, with a 99 knot maximum cruise, it's probably not over it. The 1692 pound max gross is definitely too heavy, though.

I've got a PPSEL, too. I'm sticking with the LSA rules in order to avoid having to deal with getting a medical, which would be a major hassle. Hint: If you ever develop a condition that may disqualify you for a medical, don't apply anyway just to get turned down, because that will disqualify you from operating under the LSA rules.

The current thinking on the Sun n Fun crash is that the Czechs had lightened some of the components to fit into the European LSA rules, which mandate a 450 kg max gross (instead of the US's 600 kg). They may have also used materials different from the ones Heintz specified. We won't know for sure until the NTSB reports. A more troubling crash is the in-flight breakup of N158MD in Yuba City, California (Google the tail number for more). That one was built by AMD. The NTSB hasn't reported on that one yet, either, and it was a year and a half ago. There have been other Zodiac crashes lately, but most can be attributed to the usual causes (abrupt maneuvers outside the envelope, fuel exhaustion, VFR into IMC, thunderstorm encounters).

My take on that is that the Zodiac has a long record, with many examples flying, and I don't believe it's a design flaw either. If a problem is isolated, I'm confident AMD will step up and have whatever fix is identified applied to their aircraft at no charge.

I've got another recommendation for PDK. That may be where I wind up.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Looking at Airnav, there are a lot of raves for one FBO at FTY, and the biggest FBO at PDK has asked Airnav to turn off comments. That doesn't bode well; I think I'll use the one at FTY.
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From:unix_jedi
Date: - 0000
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2 out of 2 local pilots said FTY definately over PDK.

I don't know the MARTA routes or anything, so check on that. I asked if they knew of any others on MARTA or the like, and they're West Georgians, didn't know as much about the east side of ATL.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
(Link)
Thanks for the recommendation.

As it happens, the delivery may wind up slipping a week, and if it does, I won't need to stop at FTY after all...

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