Questions about buying your first airplane?

4 Replies - 1432 Views

Questions about buying your first airplane?

Posted by Emily Meczkowski on May 25, 2017 2:18 pm

Get your airplane buying and ownership questions answered by AOPA Finance President, Adam Meredith. Each month he answers questions from members about buying, financing and owning airplanes. You may see your question published on our site or as a feautre article in one of our mangazines. Go ahead and post your question right here or submit it here, and it might be highlighted in an upcoming Adam's Answers content piece.
  • Bookmark

Re: Questions about buying your first airplane? (Sport Pilots & EAB aircraft)

Posted by Leonard Lorden on Aug 4, 2017 8:15 pm

I'm currently a student pilot going for a Sports Pilot license, primarily because I can't afford to feed the average GA aircraft so the small step into the cockpit with a sports license makes the most sense for me right now.  As a gently aged and heavier pilot, the challenge I'm faced with is finding a roomy aircraft with a higher than average useful load.  There are aircaft that can exceed the LSA weight limits yet still qualify as LSA aircraft and I have found SLSA, ELSA, and EAB registered versions of such aircraft available.  As the EAB versions tend to sell a bit less than the factory builds, I've been trying to figure out if, as a sport pilot, I could legally operate an EAB registered craft or would I be limited to an aircraft specifically registered as ELSA or SLSA?  Since the EAB version has the exact same engine and airframe and is simply amateur build, it would appear that even the LSA registered aircraft have the same performance characteristics but are just advertised as having a maximum weight capability of the LSA limit of 1320 lbs.  Could I own/operate the EAB if I simply keep the weight at or below the 1320 pound limit?

Can you shed some light on EAB aircraft and the sport pilot and where/if the two can meet?  Thanks in advance!
Leonard

Re: Questions about buying your first airplane?

Posted by Rodney Martz on Aug 9, 2017 5:25 pm

Hello Leonard !
I can answer those LSA questions for you:

First, to correct one statement that you made: LSA/EAB aircraft and the weight issue: no LSA/EAB aircraft above the 1320 lbs gross take-off-weight (original certification) could qualify for you to operate under the 'Light-Sport' pilot certificate priviledge. Any seller advertising otherwise is mis-understanding the code. Therefore, as a 'sport pilot', 1320 lbs is your maximum starting weight, period. LSA/EAB aircraft with the better useful loads 'migh't be the Vans RV-12, or maybe the Arion Lightning series aircraft. I would direct you to Dan Johnson's website https://www.bydanjohnson.com for ability to search everyone of the 100+ LSA models for official 'useful' load figures.

That being said, if your only concern is cost to 'feed' the average GA aircraft, and not a medical issue, then why not consider a regular private pilot certificate. For the $3,000
more that you might spend on initial training, you could buy any aircraft at 1/4 to 1/2 the purchase price of an SLSA or an ELSA and not have to worry about weight.
Operting costs would be  comparable for the same size/horsepower of engine. I am not against LSAs as they present a more modern/new airframe, just being fully realistic
on weights. EAB aircraft were assigned a max weight certification at their original homebuilt certification and that can not be changed. Again, 1320 lbs is the maximum weight
for any EAB that would allow operation by a 'sport pilot'.

Rodney
AOPA Pilot Information Center 

Re: Questions about buying your first airplane?

Posted by Leonard Lorden on Aug 9, 2017 7:42 pm

Good pointer there for ByDanJohnson, very familiar with his work and I have been following him for some time now.  The Private Pilot approach is certainly an option, one I've seriously considered and am well poised to pursue but I didn't want to start a discussion over the several topics and issues that led me to my decision to go Sport when I'm simply trying to narrow down the variables on the LSA aircraft options.  Your response is in-line with how I interpret the FAR/AIM description of an LSA but I'm also getting different responses from different kit manufacturers and individuals on this matter, perhaps based upon how my question is either presented or interpreted.  I believe I've found my answer and it appears to be what I thought it was, a paperwork entry.  The aircraft can apparrently exceed the capabilities but once it's registered with a specific weight, then it can't be altered and that creates the magic line for a sport pilot.  To quote from AOPA's own website...

"As the builder of a home-built airplane that has yet to receive its experimental airworthiness certificate, you may decrease or increase the weight as necessary to have the airplane meet the definition of light-sport aircraft, which is defined as having a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds. However, once a weight limit has been set as part of the airplane's experimental amateur-built certification process, the original builder, future owners, and repairmen are prohibited from making any modifications to the weight for the purpose of meeting the definition of light-sport aircraft."

Re: Questions about buying your first airplane? (Sport Pilots & EAB aircraft)

Posted by Ronald Levy on Aug 16, 2017 7:55 am

Leonard Lorden:
I've been trying to figure out if, as a sport pilot, I could legally operate an EAB registered craft or would I be limited to an aircraft specifically registered as ELSA or SLSA?

As a sport pilot, you would be able to operate an aircraft which is not licensed as LSA as long as it meets the legal definition of an LSA (found in 14 CFR 1.1) even if it's registered with a Standard or Experimental airworthiness certificate.  For example, a Piper J-3 Cub registered with a Standard airworthiness certificate meets all those requirements and may be flown by a Sport PIlot.  Likewise, an E-AB aircraft which meets all those requirements may also be flown by a Sport Pilot.  For reference, here are the requirements for an aircraft to be considered a "light-sport aircraft" which may be flown by a Sport Pilot:
 

Light-sport aircraft means an aircraft, other than a helicopter or powered-lift that, since its original certification, has continued to meet the following:

(1) A maximum takeoff weight of not more than—

(i) 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms) for aircraft not intended for operation on water; or

(ii) 1,430 pounds (650 kilograms) for an aircraft intended for operation on water.

(2) A maximum airspeed in level flight with maximum continuous power (VH) of not more than 120 knots CAS under standard atmospheric conditions at sea level.

(3) A maximum never-exceed speed (VNE) of not more than 120 knots CAS for a glider.

(4) A maximum stalling speed or minimum steady flight speed without the use of lift-enhancing devices (VS1) of not more than 45 knots CAS at the aircraft's maximum certificated takeoff weight and most critical center of gravity.

(5) A maximum seating capacity of no more than two persons, including the pilot.

(6) A single, reciprocating engine, if powered.

(7) A fixed or ground-adjustable propeller if a powered aircraft other than a powered glider.

(8) A fixed or feathering propeller system if a powered glider.

(9) A fixed-pitch, semi-rigid, teetering, two-blade rotor system, if a gyroplane.

(10) A nonpressurized cabin, if equipped with a cabin.

(11) Fixed landing gear, except for an aircraft intended for operation on water or a glider.

(12) Fixed or retractable landing gear, or a hull, for an aircraft intended for operation on water.

(13) Fixed or retractable landing gear for a glider.

​...and note in particular the phrase "since its original certification, has continued to meet...", as that's the operative language preventing you from altering/relicensing an aircraft which doesn't meet that definition so it then does meet that definition.  That would affect planes which have had their max gross weight altered.  An example is the Ercoupe 415 series.  The earlier 415C and 415CD models were produced with a max gross weight of`1280 lb, qualify as LSA's in all respects, and thus may be flown by a Sport Pilot.  The later 415D models were produced with a max gross weight of 1400 lb and thus do not and will not ever qualify as LSA"s, so they cannot be flown legally by Sport Pilots even if they are then altered or relicensed to limit their max gross weight to 1320 lb or less.

 Since the EAB version has the exact same engine and airframe and is simply amateur build, it would appear that even the LSA registered aircraft have the same performance characteristics but are just advertised as having a maximum weight capability of the LSA limit of 1320 lbs.  Could I own/operate the EAB if I simply keep the weight at or below the 1320 pound limit?

​Not if that specific E-AB aircraft was ever licensed with a max gross weight over 1320 lb.  The only way to do that would be to have built that plane from the kit but licensed it with no more than a 1320 lb (or for a seaplane, 1430 lb) max gross weight rather than the higher MGW which would otherwise be available -- and never change it above that limit..

Ron