Leighnor Aircraft spent Feb. 7-9, at the Copperstate Fly-in at the Buckeye Municipal Airport. This fly-in was a great time for general aviation. There were a lot of visitors and we stayed very busy on Friday and Saturday talking to people about flight training and our amazing Aeroprakt aircraft, for which we are now the Southwest dealer for sales and support. As is the case with most of these events, Sunday tapered off toward the afternoon and many people and vendors headed for home. If you’re an aviation enthusiast, you should put this fly-in on your list of places to visit!
One of the reoccurring topics of conversation at the fly-in was flight training and the question, “How much does a Private Pilot certificate cost?” We weren’t the only vendor at the fly-in offering flight training, but we were the most affordable vendor. We talked to numerous flight students who were dismayed at being quoted prices in the $10,000 to $15,000 range for a Private Pilot certificate. These same students were quite shocked when we told them we could do the same training for $6,000 to $8,000.
How is that possible?
To understand the economics of flight training, we need to look at the training aircraft used. Most schools in the country are using some type of four-seat aircraft. Cessna, for example, touts the Cessna 172 as “The World’s Most Popular Trainer.” In Prescott, this is certainly true as both North Aire Aviation and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University fly the Cessna 172 as their primary trainer.
Other schools use four-seat Cirrus aircraft, four-seat Diamond Aircraft or four-seat Piper aircraft. The common theme with these aircraft, which also includes the Cessna 172, is that brand new, these aircraft cost between $300,000 and $400,000 or more, depending on equipment.
Schools like Leighnor Aircraft that fly Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs) as primary trainers are in a different cost level. An expensive LSA aircraft is just over $200,000, which is still quite a bit less than the four-seat choices. Even better, the Aeroprakt aircraft is on the lower end of the price scale, with a very well-equipped new aircraft costing around $115,000. To put the numbers bluntly, we can buy three aircraft for the price of one at other flight schools.
Why did we choose the Aeroprakt aircraft as our trainer? The answer is several things, from cost, flying characteristics and useful load. Most light sport aircraft have a small useful load in the 460-pound range, much like our Cessna C-162s. The Aeroprakt, on the other hand, has a useful load in the 600-pound range. What we tell people is that we can put two 230-pound pilots and half fuel in our aircraft and be legal. Virtually no other aircraft in the LSA class can make that claim!
Another big factor in flight economics is fuel. Those four-seat aircraft? They burn eight and 10 gallons per hour of roughly $5/gallon aviation fuel. The LSA aircraft? They burn between three and five gallons per hour. Again, to put it in very blunt terms, the flight fuel burn of a light sport aircraft is half or less of the equivalent four-seat trainer.
Besides insurance, the other big cost in aircraft operations is maintenance. When you run a school or rental agency, you must do routine maintenance at specific intervals of use. For all aircraft, an annual inspection is required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. In virtually all other aircraft, the mechanic will have to remove large numbers of screws on inspection plates to get to places in the aircraft where something must be inspected. The Aeroprakt A22 does not have one single inspection plate that has to be removed as all items that must be inspected are easy to see and access. This ease of access means less mechanic time is required to do an annual inspection on our A22 than, let’s say, a competitor’s Cessna 172. That ease translates to far less maintenance cost over time.
You add up all these cost differences and both of those number ranges for flight training are true. Schools flying four-seat aircraft are in the $10,000-$15,000 range and schools like Leighnor Aircraft are in the $6,000-$8,000 range. It’s really that simple.
For those of you reading this article who might be interested in an affordable and easy-to-fly new airplane, I’d urge you to check out the Aeroprakt line of light sport aircraft. Leighnor Aircraft can help you there if you’re interested. QCBN
By Lance Leighnor
Lance Leighnor has four decades of experience in general aviation aircraft, and active management of rental aircraft since 2011. Lance is the managing member of Leighnor Aircraft. He can be reached by phone at 928-499-3080, by email at lance@LeighnorAircraft.com or via the Leighnor Aircraft website at LeighnorAircraft.com.