A blog post on recent flying and operational experiences of owning a general aviation aircraft. We’ve received many inquiries and questions about ‘what is it like’ and ‘why did you buy an airplane,’ ‘what are the opportunities and challenges?’ Well, here goes answering some of these questions and giving you an owner’s direct experience!
Why aircraft ownership and what are the advantages and downfalls from an owner’s perspective? What’s so great about the LibertyXL2?
With the month coming to an end and some of us finally getting a little break from the heavy travel and industry show schedule, we can spend time with family, take necessary rest and recoup before the next big show: EAA AirVenture, July 24-30 in Oshkosh, Wis. This month has been interesting in aircraft ownership. I knew this feeling was coming, and experience, yet I tried to avoid it!
What experience you may ask? Well, our airplane is based in Daytona Beach, FL at KDAB with Sheltair, and we are currently based in Raleigh, NC. The general aviation (GA) community is facing several challenges, much of the same in our business jet sector. Little to no hangar space. Aircraft parts and supplies delayed, backordered. Higher insurance and operational costs due to the current climate and inflation. Limited crew and specifically a talent workforce shortage.
However, the benefits completely outweigh these challenges. Let’s get into it a bit.
Why is Lady Liberty living at KDAB? Early in our aircraft acquisition, we did not have a vacant hangar to house the plane nearer to our Raleigh base. Sheltair was generous enough to open a spot for Lady to have a home as long as she needed at KDAB. That location makes complete sense, given much of the events she could display, as well as unique flying experiences, are best suited for that region and the Florida weather! However, the aircraft is getting a bit more popular and requested at other displays and shows up the east coast. When hangaring an aircraft, location is so important, yet also being adaptable.
What do I mean by the ‘feeling’ I referred to earlier? Sean and I had a plan this week to relocate Lady Liberty to a dedicated GA airfield near Raleigh able to accommodate the plane. We planned the route, logistics, and knew we had one minor fix to the airplane before the trip. We even had my dear friend and very seasoned flight instructor, Elayne Humphrey, ready to receive us at KFAY – Fayetteville Regional Airport, Tuesday early evening.
Unfortunately, the part ordered for that minor quick fix was scheduled to arrive Monday morning to our maintenance shop on the field at KDAB, leaving us a chance to test and troubleshoot before the trek to NC. As I sit here writing this blog, it’s Tuesday late afternoon. No part arrived, no chance to fix in time for our planned departure today, leaving us a bit frustrated given our other commitments and schedules. She was to display at a small aviation day for girls on July 8th at 2GC (private airfield) near Fayetteville, NC.
Elayne and I had plans to give ‘wings’ to a few lucky gals in Lady too. Sadly, this won’t happen. I know I am to think logically and accept what we cannot control, however, losing an opportunity to inspire and engage our young people with hands-on STEM/aviation experiences hurts! It just hurts! I was so stressed about this issue, I woke up sick today. I know, I know, calm down, it’s not that serious. I will get over it. We already know, everything relies on maintenance and weather! We are at their mercy.
So why did we get the LibertyXL2? Lady Liberty has a way with youth. She’s great to fly and uniquely designed to create a fun and engaging ground and flight experience. That’s why we bought her, that’s why we operate this particular aircraft. She doesn’t just serve a way to get from point A to B, to an airshow, a business meeting, etc. She’s an active ‘outreach’ platform. Young people love her! We were on the hunt for a practical aircraft that could both serve from the business and outreach side of our operations. Lady does just that, and more. Plus – and I have to correct many folks when they see her – she is instrument certified in the normal category. She IS NOT an experimental aircraft. There is no ‘priming’ with her either. She’s equipped with a Continental IOF-240-B FADEC engine system. Oh yeah!! She starts right up! More on this system in a future blog.
Costly or affordable? While owning any aircraft comes with unexpected costs and operational challenges, Lady’s hourly fixed operational costs – for us (every operation is different) – is roughly $130. Understand that is factoring in paid crew, hangar rent, maintenance, fuel and oil. Not every operation has the same fixed costs or what they label as fixed operational costs. She burns close to five gallons of avgas an hour, with a cruising speed of 125 knots. Why people compare her to a Cessna 150 or 152 is beyond me. She is nothing like one! Faster, wider, low wing, better engine, more efficient and well, can make it more fun to fly. She’s a great touring and sightseeing bird. Her canopy butterfly doors, or ‘clamshell’ as some describe it, open on both the pilot and passenger/co-pilot side. You have windows that wrap around you! Her cockpit is wider than that of a Piper Saratoga.
Can an aircraft have a personality? Ummmm…yes! Lady has her own soul, her own personality. Trust me! She does have a personality, and can be a bit sarcastic at times. I think she likes Sean more than me, and I am ok with it. He knows it too and takes FULL advantage of such a bond. Don’t let him tell you otherwise. Before acquiring the Liberty, I recall telling Elayne, who is responsible for getting me my ticket, ‘I will never own an aircraft that has a free castering nose wheel…’
Haven’t we learned NOT to say “never” and “always?” Well, guess what, Liberty has a non-steerable nose wheel, the very assembly that annoyed me. But, I would not have it any other way, now. I’ve been able to overcome my discomfort and thanks to Sean, became more confident managing such a type after hours of dual training, testing in slight crosswind, and what happens when you land on the nose wheel too soon! (FYI, don’t do that!) It’s a must to keep the pitch control in a nose-high position on the ground. Gosh, there is so much to this aircraft. I could write forever, and will leave the rest to a next blog coinciding with a ‘flight experience’ video, hopefully with Elayne and me. Let’s just keep you guessing and curious, because there is something about her braking different from most every other aircraft too. To be continued…
Check out Simon’s (former owner) video flying Lady from Apopka FL to Venice FL for only $20: Venice in 1 Hour : On $20 of Fuel
Are we happy and do we love participating in the GA community? This is a no brainer. YES! Flying privately – for one – brings us happiness, over and over. GA is freedom. And we are very open about celebrating our freedoms and civil liberties! GA gives us the opportunity to move about when sometimes, most cannot. It provides us means to get someone somewhere, when maybe that is not their reality in the general sense. COVID times were an eye opener for many.
When your freedoms are in jeopardy, you take action as true Americans. Many in the GA community banded together to keep people employed, safe, supported, flown to their medical treatments, and safeguarded when a majority was against them for their valid opposition to wearing a mask, or not wishing to produce their private health information. During that time, the GA community – over any other aviation sector – performed the most humanitarian efforts.
Also, many of us owners and operators volunteered our own aircraft and time to aid individuals and families in any way possible. We kept freedoms alive, when some tried to stifle them. So yes, GA is our happy place, and a wonderful opportunity to express freedoms!
As I advance this themed monthly blog with Sheltair, you will become more intimately involved in special projects FAC has oversight. Some of these, just to give a teaser, involve WWII aircraft, a presidential aircraft restoration, global flight missions, female flight training scholarships, and more! FAC is now a team of 10 and growing. We love to have fun, we all enjoy the freedom of flight, engaging with industry, and supporting this sector with everything we have. We invite you to learn more about us here: FunDAvConsulting.com
Stay tuned for the July blog!