Popularity (or lack thereof) of Sport Planes

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by RhinoDrvr, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. RhinoDrvr

    RhinoDrvr Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Why are so few pilots interested in aircraft that are aerobatic, cross country machines? I come to that conclusion based on the lack of popularity of these machines on the market compared to “spam cans” that seat 2-4 people (in reality, not how many chairs are installed) and fly straight and level only.

    On the certified side, the Citabria/Decathlon series are the only IFR capable, aerobats I can think of, and they barely do the IFR XC role. Airplanes such as the Micco SP20/SP26, F33C Bonanza, and LoPresti Fury seem to have no success on the market, whereas C182’s, Piper Archers, Mooney’s and the vaunted Cirri are flying off showroom floors?

    I don’t understand it. The Vans RV series, with over 10,000 flying seems to point to a market for aerobatic, XC capable airplanes, but why aren’t there any certified options outside of former military machines?
     
  2. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I think plenty of people are interested and migrate that direction if that’s what they want.

    An awful lot of flight instruction these days isn’t about really flying in three dimensions. It’s about systems management and cockpit gadgetry.

    See: FAA changing the Commercial certificate regs to dump retracts and add “Technically Advanced Aircraft”.

    And removing (a long time ago) spins and things that would get the aircraft into attitudes other than normal turns, climbs, and descents.

    For better or worse, pilots starting out today have to actively seek stuff that’ll truly utilize
    three dimensional flight. And many don’t care to do it.

    I asked someone the other day, “Have you ever even seen a Commercial step turn demonstrated at 60 degrees?” Answer was no. Not that they wouldn’t have minded seeing one and doing one, just nobody ever said “Give this a try...”

    That person has flown safely for more decades than I have been old enough to fly. So there’s nothing “wrong” with the approach of keeping well inside the edges of the envelope. But I think you’ll find a LOT of pilots have never been much past 45 degrees of bank and maybe 10 degrees nose down, in their entire aviation life.

    I don’t see much of a trend of that going the other way, either.
     
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  3. Brad Smith

    Brad Smith Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Cross-country planes like the aerobatic Bonanzas are very clean and pick up speed fast and can get a pilot in trouble when performing aerobatic maneuvers. A pullout above the redline speed can result in a bent airframe (or worse.) A fast cross-country ship is going to be clean and this does not a good aerobatic ship make in the hands of an inexperienced aerobatic pilot. Biplanes have a lot of drag to help counter the speed buildup but make poor cross-country machines due to their being slow. Ships built for a single purpose are good for one thing and everything else is usually a compromise.
     
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  4. skier

    skier Pre-takeoff checklist

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  5. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    You can call it a lack of "popularity", but isn't it more like a lack of availabilty? None of the aircraft that you mention have a large group of planes built, the F33 is probably the largest group built.

    But then lets look at the stats. The F33 is a 3400 lb airplane running a 540 engine while most aerobatic airplanes are under 2000 lbs and some under 1000. My guess is that not a lot of people choose it as an aerobatic airplane because it big and heavy and just not that good of a choice. Jack of all trades, master of none.

    It may be that what makes an airplane a good IFR machine make it bad for aerobatics and vice versa
     
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  6. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man Pattern Altitude

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    Availability is the key! It cost more and is more difficult to certify an airplane for the aerobatic category. A Beechcraft Sport is about the only affordable 4 place aerobat there is.
     
  7. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man Pattern Altitude

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  8. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    I wanted an RV, but Mrs. Steingar doesn't like canopies, and there is nowhere in one to put Ms. Steingar's luggage. She didn't like the Mooney much at first, but getting back from DC in two hours sure changed her tune. An aircraft with no back seat also has limited utility to anyone with children.

    Experimental aircraft with a back seat are mostly more expensive than certificated ones (though the experimentals will certainly do more). Many are unsuitable for long distance travel. Many, if not most are toys. Most of us cannot afford toys of that expense and caliber.
     
  9. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    I think Nate has it right. So few pilots are interested in aerobatic airplanes, because so few pilots are interested in even trying anything even remotely "aerobatic". I think it starts with CFIs who thing 45 degrees is a really steep turn, then you get pax who freak out when the airplane does anything the last airliner they were on didn't do, and just gets worse from there.

    I think the vast majority of people don't even come close to what their Normal category spam can will do. The most aggressive maneuvering I have ever done has not come within 50% of the limits of my lowly RV-12 (+4/-2 G). I thought I made a pretty hot shot turn one day, but the G-meter told me I hadn't even hit 2G.

    You really have to go way out of your way to get even spin training now, let alone anything aerobatic. I'm pretty sure every airplane I've flown -- all the trainers and now my own -- have been placarded against intentional spins. Tough to work past that unless you really want to fly acro.
     
  10. Non Compos Mentis

    Non Compos Mentis Pre-takeoff checklist

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    F33C gross weight is 3400 in utility category. About 2000 empty, and weight and CG is limited for flight in the aerobatic category.
    Not powered by a 540. They have Continental 520s.
     
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  11. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I think it's a pretty simple matter of business economics. It's enormously expensive and difficult to bring a normal category plane to market, and even harder to bring an aerobatic one to market. The need is tiny (maybe 1% of the pilot population?), so there aren't enough potential sales to fund the R&D money.

    Think about all the pilots you know. How many want to do aerobatics? How many do you think should be doing aerobatics? In my circle, that number is pretty small.
     
  12. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    In a lot of ways you're completely right... but also bush flying is DRAMATICALLY on the rise. CubCrafters, American Champion Scouts, Aviat Huskies, 170/180/185s and even STOL 182's and 206's are flying off of the "shelves". The romance and joy of recreational bush flying sure has grabbed tons of people. You can see this too with a greater availability of STOL mods and phat tahrs for airplanes that just weren't around even when I started flying 10 years ago.

    Bush flying is very much flying on the hairy edge of the envelope... just in a different way than aerobatics and "3D" flight. And very much "in" right now.
     
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  13. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    Following on Mtns2Skies comments: Yes, back country and bush flying is growing.
    However, that may also mean there is MORE of a decline in point-to-point transportation flying. Short of densely populated areas (think 'within 100 miles of the coast') it's often very difficult to justify GA as a practical means of transportation. Many factors contribute to this, including the growth of cheap airlines.

    I hypothesize a major reason for the growth in back country recreational flying is it is tons of fun, and people are choosing to do that instead of $300 hamburger or competing with the airlines to travel the historical GA sweet spot distances of 200-600 miles. Fun, not utility.
     
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  14. idahoflier

    idahoflier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I think the reason is more economics. Consider an analogy to a family car. If you could only have one car, would you get a sports car or would you get a minivan? In my case I ended up with the minivan - an aircraft that could haul the entire family. If I could justify owning a second aircraft it definitely would be one that is a bit more sporty...
     
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  15. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    And to tie this to the back country thing, you could modify an AWD mini-van to do mild off-roaring fairly inexpensively (putting larger tires on Cessnas and a big nose fork if it’s a nosedragger) but the sports car can’t easily do both on road and off.
     
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  16. RudyP

    RudyP Line Up and Wait

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    I think idahoflier is right. Most people end up prioritizing the travel aspects first if they can only have one plane and there are more/better travel planes than the ones the OP listed in the opener. I do happen to know a bunch of people who have both a traveling plane (Cirrus, turboprop or VLJ) and either a bush plane or an acro plane (eg citabria, extra 300, L39) for weekend fun. But of course, that is a lot more $$$ than a single “sport sedan (think BMW M5 or Porsche Panamera Turbo) type plane.
     
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  17. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I've been watching a lot of Trent Palmer videos on YouTube and the more I watch, the more I want to build a Kitfox.
     
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  18. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    Also - with fast planes people always want to go faster and there's ALWAYS faster and better out there so you're never satisfied. With bush planes? You can find exactly what you want usually within your price range. All without going down endless paths of speed mods and the likes.
     
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  19. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    Are people actually flying those Cubs, Huskys, etc. in the back country or are they in them for the same reason the highways are clogged with four-wheel-drive vehicles that have never seen so much as a gravel road? Granted, those planes are tons of fun even if you never leave the pavement, but I don't think their popularity proves that people are flying in the back country, just that people wish they were flying in the back country.

    (That's not a criticism. I've spent plenty of money on gear to fulfill dreams that I know I'll never use to anything resembling its full potential. It's just an observation that people tend to prioritize what they dream of doing over what they'll actually do, especially when airplanes are involved.)
     
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  20. jstro

    jstro Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I don't know the hard numbers, but I imagine a small percentage of GA pilots are interested in flying acro. I bought the 8KCAB because it seemed to be the best compromise (for me) of a cross-country and a passenger-friendly aerobatic machine, and just because I like them. But I can't fly my family in one like I could a 172. That's the downside. But I fly more local acro than cross-country with the family, so it's still the best compromise.
     
  21. whifferdill

    whifferdill Line Up and Wait

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    True, I flew this a couple days ago and it did 172 MPH at 25/25 w/ a 10:1 Lyc IO-360. :cool:
     

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  22. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    I loved aerobatics. I’m so glad I took the Aerobatics course. It really transformed my flying and comfort level. If I had more money I’d do more of it. Eventually I’d love to do a bush flying course and get into that.
     
  23. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The Aerobatic Bonanza and the Siai Marchetti SF260 come to mind as the best examples of four-place, cross country + aerobatic aircraft.

    There's multiple reasons why there aren't more, though:

    1) Certification costs
    2) Useful load. That extra structure for the higher G loads is going to reduce it.
    3) Operating costs. Aerobatic engines usually have a TBO of 1000 hours (or less).
    4) Not enough people interested in aerobatics, which makes it harder to recoup (1). And harder to sell with lower (2) and higher (3).

    Also, up until recently, the mechanical spinny gyros used for IFR in most planes would be damaged by aerobatics. Glass panels are helpful here... So maybe this will go somewhere. Unfortunately, the GA market is too darn small. The GARA got us a few new entrants into the market (Cirrus, Diamond, Lancair/Columbia) but I don't think there have been any other new GA traveling planes since. Hopefully Pipistrel's Panthera makes it. And I hope it's aerobatic. ;)
     
  24. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    Yessssss dude lets get a new Kitfox with the 914 turbo and send it! We can land on mount lemmonnnn
     
  25. ktup-flyer

    ktup-flyer Pattern Altitude

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  26. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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  27. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man Pattern Altitude

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    I get a chuckle out of all the Carbon Cubs and other super STOL planes on the east coast. We don’t have that many places where you need one of those if any at all. You might could take advantage of landing on someone’s private property but otherwise the only places you will be landing is a grass strip that pretty much any old taildragger could handle.
     
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  28. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Bentonville Arkansas? That's a Walmart airplane!!

    And although its cool, its isn't exactly a cross country machine unless you plan on buying all your clothes and stuff when you get where you're going.
     
  29. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I'd go with the Titan engine.
     
  30. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Isn’t that what a credit card and Walmart is for? :)
     
  31. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    There are a bunch of taildragger pilots hereabouts that fly into short occluded little turf strips. The funny thing is I suspect everywhere they land has long unoccluded asphalt runways within 10 minutes of flight.
     
  32. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    I think you're missing the point. The point is to be at the occluded place. As @G-Man said, it's about play, not practicality(Except Skywagons, they're the best plane made ever ;) ). Different strokes for different folks.
     
  33. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    If you say so. Sorry, I can't help but think of them as posers. The folks doing this on the gravel banks in Alaska are the real deal.
     
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  34. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    I think of Mooney pilots as posers. The pilots flying Lear 45's are the real deal. :rolleyes:
     
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  35. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    heard of them don't know much about them tho
     
  36. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    What’s “unreal” about the skill set and capabilities of their aircraft with the locals? Your Mooney can’t do it, and neither can you.

    Not saying you couldn’t learn, but saying they’re “posers” when they have a skill set you don’t possess comes across as a bit much.
     
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  37. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    POSER!!!!!
     
  38. Mtns2Skies

    Mtns2Skies Super Moderator Management Council Member

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    Yep.
     
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  39. CC268

    CC268 En-Route

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    OHHHHHHHH BURNNNN!!!!!

    tenor.gif
     
  40. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    LOL. I wasn’t trying to be mean, just honest about how it came off.
     
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