P. Edronkin

Fly for One Third of Your Costs in Europe



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Why pay more? That's a good question, especially if you are about to pay over six thousand Euros for a Private Pilot's license and moreover, if now you receive this tip: you can get the same thing for about two thousand bucks. This is just for 40 hours comprising the PP Course, but if you are one of those trying to get 200 hours for a commercial license, or the 500 required for getting into aerobatic school, well, you would better revise your math or risk paying - literally - tens of thousands more than really required.

If you are living in Europe and you fly as a pilot or student pilot, you should know that you are paying too much. In fact, people in countries such as Argentina, Brazil and the United States pay about one third of your fees per each hour of aircraft use.

There might be a lot of explanations or excuses - depending on who is talking - but the truth is that outside the European Union there are many places where flying is equally safe as in your country, airspaces are not so clogged, and people pay much less than you.

In these three countries I just mentioned, you can easily take off early in the morning and leave for a quiet grass airstrip somewhere else that will remain yours for doing approaches, emergency practices and the usual PP course stuff, the whole day!

This is not an issue related to safety, maintenance or anything like that; European aircraft are not more expensive because they are better.

Cessnas - for example - are made in the U.S.A., which despite its many shortcomings, is not a country where aviation issues are taken lightly. I think that in many cases, those who are trying to sell the idea that European aircraft are inherently more safe as an excuse to justify exorbitant expenses are just not telling the truth.

There are indeed tax and insurance issues, but even considering that, you cannot reach the enormous fees: the same Piper Archer for which you are paying at least $150 really costs no more than half than that, and why use such an aircraft for a private pilot course, anyway? Really, anything larger than a C-152, anything having more than two seats and with an engine surpassing 115HP just to learn how to fly is a bad investment. Do you think that taxes and insurance do not exist elsewhere? Don't you think that state bureaucracy asks for the usual pile of papers anywhere else?

What happens with aircraft in Europe is the same as what happens with other products and services: the merchandising 'belongs' to a few merchants that decieve consumers into believing that there is a real reason to bill them whatever they want.

Just take another example: a steak in Argentina costs about one tenth of what it costs in the U.E, and don't think for a second that meat is in any way better in the Old World, or healthier or wathever. European consumers sometimes pay more just because of protectionism and lack of information.

Curiously enough, the best aircraft to learn to fly with continue to be the simplest ones: Piper Cubs and the like, with 65HP engines and no GPS, no vacuum systems, and no gadgets. Why are they not used? This is really intriguing to me, but perhaps the cause lies in the fact that they are 'old' and newbies get really impressed by buttons and dials belonging to more sophisticated and expensive aircraft's cockpits which are commercially better for flight schools and more csometically apealling to students. I mean, you can do touch-and go practice on a Warrior, Arrow or Skylane, but why?

In other words, it is easier to impress a newcomer with a lot of technology that they will not really use during a basic course, but bill them accordingly, as if they were actually using it. In this sense, seemingly-complex systems on training aircraft fulfill a different role: they are just advertising items.

Instruments are required by aeronautical regulations to pass checks and tests which are similar to those of airframes and engines. If you have an EICAS installed in your panel, it must be checked after some hours of flight, despite if it has been turned on or not.

The fact remains that Piper Cubs and similar aircraft are simpler and less expensive, not to mention the fact that smaller engines are indeed better for our environment, and if you think that Cubs are old or outdated, think it twice, for they are still being used and modern technology allows us at any rate to come up with something newer and even better, but with similarly low costs.

To learn to fly you need just an altimeter, a tachometer, a radio, engine indicators (oil pressure and temperature), a ball (not the whole turn indicator), a compass, and a battery/generator indcator. Forget about everything else! Later on, you may use other nifty gadgets, but not as as student pilot on your first course.

Flight Schools and Clubs would do a great contribution to us all if they would begin to improve - and I mean it - their fleets with either 'oldies' like Piper Cubs (J-3, PA-11) or something new, built around 65-85 HP engines costing much less than what usually goes by four-place aircraft that at any rate are overkill for flight instruction in every sense.

By the way; I got my private pilot's ticket flying a PA-11 for about 30 Euros per hour in Argentina, about one third to one fourth of what you pay in the E.U. (I am an European citizen too, as you are). You could easily travel abroad, pay the whole course, your hotel stay and air fares to go and return, get to know another country and possibly learn another language, and still spend less.

I suggest that if schools and clubs do not begin to revamp their costs and fees, you do the same, and hey, at any rate, hand-propping a PA-11 is as much fun as doing the same thing on a toy plane.




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