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Cover Story October 18th, 2007

  Untitled Document


by lyle e davis

It’s a fairly safe bet that every single one of us has, at one time or another, wanted to fly.

Who amongst us has not wanted to leave the runway, climb into the sky, soar amongst the eagles . . . look out upon the planet before us, smile, and say something profound like . . .

"Oh I Have Slipped The Surly Bonds of Earth... Put Out My Hand, And Touched the Face of God"
John Gillespie Magee, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, WWII

Well, now you can do it!

The cost of flying has now come down to where you and I can not only afford to fly . . . we just might be able to afford our very own aircraft!

There’s a new pilot rating available known as the Sport Pilot rating. It requires only 20 hours of flight time, a written test, a current driver’s license and voila! You’re a pilot! Thanks to a combination of a less demanding pilot rating and the introduction of a new ultralight aircraft, the joy of flight has now been brought back down to the working class budget.

One of these aircraft, the Sport Hornet, will be on display this weekend at the Escondido Street Faire on Sunday, October 21. The aircraft will be on display on Grand between Orange and Escondido Boulevard.

The concept of sport pilot/light sport aircraft was the product of a lot of work by the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association). They successfully guided the new recognition of the rating and aircraft through the halls of the FAA (Federal Aeronautics Association) and it is now a fact. The rating is just turning three years old and word is getting out to those who have always had an interest in flying. And that is just what the EAA had hoped. The goal of the EAA was to break down the barriers of time and cost, encouraging people of all ages to learn to fly.

At least one major aircraft manufacturer, Cessna, has embraced the concept and has begun building LSA (Light Sport Aircraft) planes. They are offering the SkyCatcher and the Cirrus models.

But you don’t have to go very far afield to find our own local manufacturer, located in Ramona. Higher Class Aviation ( is building the tandem seated aircraft known as the Super Hornet, the aircraft on display at the Escondido Street Faire.

We’ve flown in it and I can tell you from first hand experience it is an absolute delight!

We compared notes with another pilot who was taking a test flight with the Super Hornet. Nick E. L. Palanza, of San Diego, who said . . . “This is a real aircraft! It’s a ‘kick in the pants’ to fly. Very nimble, very forgiving, extremely responsive. It has a nice wing with lots of lift.”

I first soloed in the Piper J-3 Cub. I earned my private pilots license in the Cessna 150 and have flown the Cessna 172. This Sport Hornet has them all beat. The visibility, with the large, clear canopy, is superb. It fairly jumps off the runway in a nice smooth take off, lands beautifully . . . it’s simply a fun plane!

Here’s all you need to do to earn your Sport Pilot Certificate:

15 hours of dual flight instruction
5 hours of supervised solo flight
Passing grade of the Sport Pilot written FAA test
Passing sign off by a FAA or DE inspector for the practical flight test
Driver's License or 3rd class FAA Medical certificate
Additional training (normally 2-5 hours) will allow you to fly in controlled airspace.

Nearly 3,700 people have joined the world of flying by becoming Sport Pilots. That's up 2,300 people in 10 months!

The light sport aircraft are available for purchase at 25% to 50% of the cost of traditional new factory aircraft.

Let’s take a look at those numbers.

Remember that J-3 Cub I spoke about? I, like many older pilots, fell in love with the Piper J3. This phenomenal little plane sold in 1946 for $2195. They are very nostalgic, they are lots of fun, they are cute as a bug. But today you almost have to buy one to fly one. There are hardly any available for rent.

If you can find one, a baseline J-3 — a model with new fabric in the past 10 years, with a midtime Continental A- or C-65 engine and no electrical system — prices will average around $29,000. The Piper J-3 Cub current market value: $23000 to $45000.

But, wait! There’s a company known as Legend Cub who will make a brand new replica of the J-3 Cub. Cost? Base price, no extras, a mere $91,785!

A little too rich for your blood?

Me too.

Now let’s look at a brand new Sport Hornet, made right here in North County. Higher Class Aviation will put you in a Sport Hornet for $50,000. Yes, there is financing available. You put 10% down, $5000, leaving $45,000 to finance over 15 years at the current interest rate of 8%. Your monthly debt service would run around $430.


Six modern day versions of the J-3 Piper Cub. “nostalgic, they are lots of fun, they are cute as a bug. But at a starting price of $91,785, a mighty rich price to fly low and slow.

If you buy the Sport Hornet as a kit and build it yourself, you will save yourself around $10,000. Both are available, either a finished aircraft, ready to fly off the runway, or a kit, at Higher Class Aviation, Ramona.

In either case, if you allocate about $30 per hour, assuming somewhere between 100 and 200 hours per year flight time, you should easily be able to cover all the incidental costs, maintenance, insurance, tie-downs, etc.

The cruise speed of the Super Hornet is 101 knots, or about 116mph. It can take off and land on a strip that is about 1000 ft. With a fuel consumption of about 4.3 gph, it has a range of 470 miles.

Some readers are already doing the math. You could fly to Las Vegas in about 2 hours for less than $28 in gas! Of course there are other considerations, but the math is correct.

The Sport Hornet is ideal for off-field use. That means a grass or dirt strip of at least 1000 ft length could accommodate the aircraft. Off-road motor cycle and dune buggy riders will find that the trailers they are already using can transport the Hornet to their favorite spot for a different point of view of off-road riding.

Interested? Want to go on a free test ride? You can sign up for one at the Street Faire booth this coming weekend.

You can look, you can buy, you can rent, you can take flight lessons, you can join a flying club (and thus get even better flying rates) . . . it’s all there . . . at the Higher Class Aviation Hanger, Ramona Airport.

These are the folks who are putting the aircraft on display this weekend. They’ll be on hand to answer any questions you may have, hand out literature and, believe me, they’ll get you motivated to, at a minimum, explore the idea of flying. They’ll have information on both the Sport Hornet and flight training. Their goal is to attract 15 members to the club.

Hornet’s Nest Flight Club

Douglas Goodwin, a local businessman and owner of Liberty Tax Escondido, is forming the Hornet’s Nest Flight Club. Doug began flying ultralight aircraft while serving in the Marine Corps and became a private pilot in 1997. Currently, he holds his Commercial, Multi Engine, Instrument, and Single engine Certified Flight Instructor ratings. He has owned a Piper PA-28-140 and a Cessna 310 aircraft.

The mission of the Hornet’s Nest ( is to re-introduce flying to the masses of people. Many people are under the impression that flying is a rich man's sport or that you need years of training and thousands of dollars just to get and keep your rating.

With the Sport Pilot rating you can earn your certificate for about $3000 and rent aircraft for less than $90 per flight hour. People who choose to purchase will find that the direct operating cost are about $15 per hour with fixed cost varying on the aircraft and location of storage. Some people will decide that lease-backs are for them and will make money off the rental of the aircraft to other students and pilots.

As an LSA flight club, the collective purchasing power of the club will decrease the cost of flying for the typical person over that of a typical flight school or club because the aircraft will be new, requiring less maintenance, and the cost of the two person aircraft is below $60,000, decreasing the cost of insurance.

If, for any reason, you decide to not join the club but simply want instruction, Goodwin is ready, willing, and able to begin instruction to help you gain your sport pilot certificate right now. In January, they plan on introducing a special two week course, but you can get started now and get a leg up on the other pilots.

Kudos are certainly due the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), who lobbied long and hard for the Sport Pilot certificate program and for the Light Sport Aircraft designation for aircraft. This program made flying much more affordable for the average person and offers recreational aviation for less time and money.

The Marketplace

In researching this article we learned that there are over 50 LSA (Light Sport Aircraft) manufacturers with ready to fly aircraft on the market. Of this number only five or six are made here in America.

They even have LSA amphibian aircraft available. In the Northwest, this is a big deal, with so many waterways. We are limited as to where you can use amphibians in the San Diego area. Some of the planes are two-seaters, some are four place.

One of the more attractive LSA aircraft we saw was the Sportcruiser. It is also one of the more popular LSA; so much so that they have a wait list of six months for customers, with 70 to 80 planes on order right now. The demand has been so heavy that they have discontinued taking orders on “The Mermaid,” their amphibian plane that sold for $95,000.

The Sportcruiser sells for a base price of $79,500. That’s the basic model, with the basic engine instruments, no radios, three different panel selections. You start adding in options and you now are spending about the same money you’d likely spend on a more traditional aircraft.

The Sportcruiser - sleek, comfortable . . but starts at $79,500.

Compare the Sportcruiser, the Mermaid, the modern J-3 Cub, and their price tags . . . then look at the Sport Hornet and its price, its local availability . . . and it begins to look even better.

Rapid growth in aircraft, in certified sport pilots, in sport pilot instructors, flight schools, and examiners all suggest that there is a booming market out there in the world of aviation, and a tremendous opportunity for those of you who’ve always wanted to fly, to jump right in and enjoy taking to the air.

For those interested in specs and more technical information:
The $50,000 Sport Hornet includes a basic radio package of a Becker radio/transponder and PS Engineering intercom. Mostly analog equipment, all guages and displays. Look for a 100 hp Rotax 912 engine, airspeed indicator, altimeter, vertical speed indicator, Grand Rapids EIS system, 5 position ignition switch, and a Kuntzleman light kit. There is even a proviso for a BRS ballistic parachute package at an option cost of $2000.

With the $60,000 upgrade model you go to a bit better radios, glass display, autopilot and a Grand Rapids Sport electronic flight instrument system.

Expect to carry 18 gallons of fuel. The Hornet will take off in 400 feet, lands in 285 feet. It gets 4.3 gph, will cruise for 4.5 hours at 116 mph cruise speed

Most people do hangar their planes but can get two to a hangar.

In only three years, light sport aircraft have become a significant part of the recreational aviation community. So, if you want to fly by yourself, with your spouse or close friend, just to enjoy the scenery or make short trips, sport pilot is the perfet ticket. Inexpensive and fun.

Check out the Ultralight-Type LSA Sport Hornet this coming weekend at the Escondido Street Faire!





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