I want to go soaring

Jan 03, 2014

Sail Plane

So I mentioned back in Feb of 2013 that I wanted to fly and that I specifically wanted to get a Diamond DA42. That dream still holds true and I have begun the process. But my plans might be changing.

I still want to get a DA42, or a Cirrus SR22 or even a Cessna 400 but the simple fact of the matter is they are amazingly, stunningly and astronomically expensive. Even so, I still started the process of getting my pilots license. I have taken a couple lessons since then looking for a good instructor, got my 3rd class medical that is required for aviation and outfitted myself with all the accoutrements I would need to make it happen. It’s still a very real possibility.

But then I started to really think about what I would use it for. The “Mission” as most GA pilots refer to it. My initial goal was to get an airplane for the occasional flights back and forth to Texas from Georgia. And that with an airplane of my own I could make that trip more often. This is completely unrealistic.

I, like most people, hate commercial airlines, but I can buy a round trip ticket to Texas for under $300 right now. Sure there is the discomfort of the commercial aircraft, the crowds, the airport hassle, the delays, the TSA..etc.. but at that price point, I simply can’t warrant getting my own aircraft. Unfortunately, it would cost me more than that to put fuel in it for the trip to Texas – one way. Add to that airplane costs, maintenance, hangar space, licensing..etc.. and it just doesn’t make sense at all.

This was a real downer to ponder by the way. Everyone knows it’s expensive, but now I can actually put real numbers to it. Wow. The plane alone that I would need to get in order to realistically do this mission in a timely manner would cost me over $350k – used. Not counting fuel and all the other monthly/yearly expenses. Sure I could get a plane that costs a lot less, but it’s still cost prohibitive.

This really was a pretty harsh dashing of my flying dreams. Not that I can’t do it, or even that I couldn’t afford it. I could actually, but it doesn’t make sense. It was expensive enough to trip my financial warning meter.

Enter Soaring.

A couple weeks ago I got to go gliding/soaring at the Chilhowee Gliderport in TN and had a blast. I posted a video of it on youtube: Gliding at Chilhowee

Suddenly a whole new option opened up; Gliding!

Firstly, it’s safe. Most folks don’t understand how safe it actually is and are under the mistaken impression that the lack of an engine means it’s some how dangerous. Couldn’t be further from the truth. There are dangers involved of course, but it’s not any more dangerous than flying a plane, riding a motorcycle, driving a car… walking. Etc.

Secondly, it’s cheap! Everything about soaring is a lot cheaper than powered general aviation. Stunningly so. It costs maybe $2k to get your glider pilots license versus closer to $10k for powered flight (or higher if you’re using a “pilot factory” school like the ones Cessna puts on)

And then there’s the cost of aircraft … Wow! So much cheaper! A top of the line multiperson glider with all the bells and whistles is something like $300k to $400k. And I mean that’s the end of the price range.. that’s the top dog. A $300k to $400k powered aircraft is excellent to be sure, but it’s no where near top dog.

Finally, it’s a more realistic mission. To have fun.

I can suffer commercial to fly back and forth to Texas when I need to go (going this January), but to have fun in the sky I can use a glider. I knew that I wanted to fly just for the joy of flying once I had gotten my GA license, but the cost would make that a lot less fun. Well gliders are so much cheaper you can do it for virtually nothing if you rent. You can easily rent a nice glider, tow to altitude and fly around all day for under $200. Awesome.