TEN WAYS TO KEEP FLYING ON A TIGHT BUDGET
A slightly tongue-in-cheek look at how to do it
1) Blag free flights from your friends, or make friends with local pilots: No cost apart from friendship; good for air experience flights if you don’t yet have a PPL Need to have friends with planes, and to keep them, which may need petrol (Avgas) money.
2) Fly Ryan-Air with Pre-paid MC Debit Card: Proper pilots and modern aircraft. Leave your luggage at home if you want it really cheap. Need this card to avoid admin fees.
3) Build Your Own Plane: You own it, and know it’s been done properly. Pride of ownership. You can rebuild it, if you survive the crash. Can take a long time if it’s plans built, not from a kit. Kit planes cost almost as much as a good second-hand similar one. Must be supervised by LAA Inspector.
4) Buy into a Group-Owned Plane: Can choose your outlay and regular payment; hourly costs often quite cheap. A group can be a good way to learn from others. The more in the group, the less availability there is. Need to trust your group members. Cheap-skates may end up with a vintage type that flies slowly.
5) Take up Gliding: Cheaper, lots of friendly club members to help out. Fly from some lovely hill-tops. Have right-of-way over power planes, so can pop-out of cloud with no warning and scare them. Can spend much of the day being friendly and not get much air time. Dangers of winch cables and tight manoeuvring near other gliders. Every landing is ‘dead-stick’, and may be a long way from home.
6) Buy a second-hand, well-used aircraft: Can be good value flying if you do a lot, but the total cost still adds up. Fly when you like – the weather will make sure you don’t do too many hours. Not likely to use the plane enough to keep it running well. Servicing, insurance, and unexpected repairs can all cost big money.
7) Rent from a club: Not your plane, so good when you’re learning or improving. Overhead costs shared by many. Expensive if you’re doing a lot of flying – cheapest option if flying less than about 15 hours a year.
8) Join the RAF, Navy or Army Air Corps or a University Air Squadron: The tax-payer pays for all your flying. Tuition standard very high. Well-respected if you leave for Civvy Street. University students can join the Air Squadron and try flying before they buy into service life. Entry can be difficult – only a few are selected for pilot training. Service life isn’t for everyone. You lose some control over your destiny. It can be dangerous at times.
9) Train up as a commercial pilot: Rewarding in many ways if you love flying. Lots of respect and admiration from others. Get to fly some pretty nice planes and may go to some exotic places. Very expensive now sponsors are hard to get. Many trainees need big loans to cover training. Need excellent health to keep your licence and career.
10) Take up Flying Flex-wing Microlights: Cheapest form of power flying. Admired by others for the sheer audacity of it. Lots of fresh air and simplicity of instrument panel. Folds up small. Exposed to the elements – good for bikers but not for lovers of draught-free comfort. Controls moved in the opposite direction to normal planes.
A good way to make friends who are pilots is to look on the Light Aircraft Association (LAA)website at the Local Struts pages and find when and where your nearest LAA group meets up. They are called Struts, which are wing supports – quite a suitable name but not understood by non-flyers, so it’s soon to change to ‘Branches’, which is not a part of an aircraft but better understood by the public.
They generally meet monthly, and you will find advice on where to train cheaply, and may be offered flights with members. You will learn a lot about flying and avoid some of the expensive mistakes, like paying a lump sum to a training organisation about to go bust! They’re likely to know the cheapest and best places to go for flying training or aircraft hire.
Microlights have developed into ‘proper’ aircraft with comfortable seats and good economical performance. Some achieve this better than others, and even sound like ‘normal’ aeroplanes but all have limited luggage capacity, and trade-off crew weight for fuel carried, so wouldn’t suit two big flyers. Microlight licences are cheaper to get than for Group A aeroplanes, and at present are more readily accepted for flying within Europe. Microlights may be operated under the LAA or British Microlight Aircraft Association ( BMAA ) regimes, so you need to find out which organisation to join, depending on the Microlight you are considering.
Many home-built aircraft projects can be supervised by Light Aircraft Association inspectors. There are many technical leaflets and information available on the LAA Engineering pages to help with building and maintenance of such aircraft.