The Value of a Light, Simple Aircraft

Simple, light, and affordable is not a throwaway line. Each word is pivotal.

Like many of you, I have enjoyed the advancing development of the light sport aircraft space, leading to MOSAIC LSA in about 15 months. Additional operational capabilities, plus features like autopilot, synthetic vision, and powerful, compact engines, all can build a very exciting airplane.

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TL Sport Aircraft‘s Sparker, already in active operation, is a candidate for MOSAIC LSA. [TL Sport Aircraft]

With MOSAIC, the list gets even longer: more weight, more seats, more powerful engines, plus retractable gear, adjustable props, even aerial work for entrepreneurs. Wonderful, I agree. Some pilots have asked for more and industry members, with the FAA, have been working to achieve these potentials.

Yet this is a path to ever-more complex (and expensive) aircraft. Have you been waiting for MOSAIC LSA? If yes, your wishes may be answered in 15 months. If not, please continue reading.

Simple

Sometimes I find my attention returning to the easy pleasures of sightseeing around the local area, basic stick-and-rudder flying, feeling the air.

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Simple pleasure: The Quicksilver Sport 2S [photo by James Lawrence]

While features like modern economic autopilots make cross-country flights easier, operational procedures for sophisticated instrumentation absorb my time. Using this great gear becomes almost second nature, a muscle memory, if you fly often. Yet, as with apps on your computer or device, you must invest time to keep up with software changes and the particulars of operating digital avionics offered by Garmin, Dynon, MGL, and Kanardia (among others).

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I applaud study and learning. These make your flying safer and more enjoyable. But time spent poring over manuals and software upgrade installation necessarily takes time away from simply going up for a fun hour in the sky.

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My real joy in flight is simply looking around, aerial sightseeing, enjoying the view of my surroundings from a airborne platform few other humans will ever experience. I don’t need autopilot for that. As much as any phase of flight, I thoroughly enjoy a series of takeoffs and landings, honing my skills. For that I don’t need a fast aircraft and I don’t need to carry anything with me so payload is less important.

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Badland‘s F-series, based on the former Kitfox Lite. [Badland]

For the visceral joy of flight, you may find it optimal to, well, keep it simple. The more capability you add to an aircraft, the more you have to manage, pay for, stay updated on, maintain, insure, and all the rest. Complex aircraft that can do many things will demand more of owner and pilot. They can deliver much more but you have to keep up with them.

Aviating can be simply about the physical act of flying. It doesn’t all have to be about sleek designs, cool tech, or powerful engines.

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Kolb’s Firefly, seen aloft with rare tricycle gear, has long been an affordable choice for homebuilders. [Kolb]

Then, cost. Buying and maintaining increasingly complex aircraft is its own taskmaster. While maintaining even the simplest aircraft is still vitally important, we do now have choices in very light electric aircraft that require far less maintenance, not to mention no oil spills. Plus, your neighbors will hardly know you’re flying.

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CGS Hawk is available in two-seat or single seat; different builders each supply affordable models in kit or ready-to-fly. [CGS]

Today, not in some indistinct future, you can buy and fly an electric aircraft. I don’t doubt electric motors will power larger aircraft in the future, but who wants to wait—and who will be able to afford the batteries needed to provide four-seat cross-country flying?

If your goal is some delicious airtime on a calm, sunny afternoon, the simplest aircraft are darn hard to beat. Plus, they cost a lot less.

Light

Light is a key ingredient in keeping aircraft affordable. Require more material inputs, and you increase costs in a multitude of ways. Physically larger, heavier aircraft cost more—maybe a lot more. You’ll need more power, and your skill set must be kept in tighter tune. True, light aircraft are more affected by turbulent air. So what? If it’s that kind of air, I might choose to ride my bike rather than fly.

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Light also means using less fuel, which will continue increasing in price. Every government seems to fantasize about an all-electric future. Whether an improvement or not, it ain’t happening tomorrow when the flying is great. A lighter ICE aircraft sips fuel at a far slower rate but that airframe may also be fitted with electric propulsion, today. Several brands offer an electric option. How many four-seat electric aircraft have you seen? Yeah, me too. None. Heavier aircraft will be a far greater challenge to electrify.

Affordable

Affordable is a major focus of this website. If you can’t afford it, then you are somewhat doing a Walter Mitty, dreaming about owning some shiny new speedster that you may never buy. If you can’t afford flying, you won’t fly, or will fly less. Those aren’t good choices.

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Fisher Flying Products’ Koala looks very cub-like and is affordable and fun to fly. [Fisher Flying Products]

Yet keeping an airplane’s cost affordable means not having every feature imaginable. The very best airplane in the world may be the one you can actually buy, maintain, and have the pilot chops to enjoy.

All this is so basic, so simple, that you may wonder: why bother writing about it? As I contemplate what MOSAIC will deliver, I feel good about the new choices pilots will have. If your budget allows a new MOSAIC LSA, great! If not, you may need to make other selections. Fortunately, you have plenty of choices.

As the new year arrives, we face complicated times. Elections (all over the globe), multiple  wars, unbelievable amounts of government debt (also around the world), and ever-expanding regulation mean the challenges to keep flying may be great.

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With all that in mind, how about a nice hour-long sunset flight in an aircraft your budget can cover. What could be finer?

I hope you enjoy all the flying you can afford in 2024!

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