Wife's Solo!

Solo'd 6/26/2009

Over the past few years, Andrea has always said she wanted to learn how to land the plane in case I was incapacitated in flight.  Of course, you do the obligatory "lets go show you how landings work", and people walk away thinking that they might be semi-competent to actually land the plane without the pilot's help.  Finally earlier this spring, Andrea finally got bit hard enough by the bug that she decided she wanted to get her pilots license.  I think she was additionally motivated by the idea that if I unexpectedly died, the airplane would have to be sold, and she fell in love with our Airplane from the moment they met, so rather than allow it to be sold to someone else, she wanted to be able to keep it for herself.  Interestingly, ever since starting this flight instruction, she has been trying to get me to eat more cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes, and fries...and has been asking me to please just lay back and watch TV instead of going out to get exercise.  I'm not quite sure what's going on here.

At any rate, the RV-10 is just too much airplane for a trainer, in many respects.  It's sleek, it's powerful, and it's fast....not to mention expensive.  As it turns out, there are currently no insurance companies that will insure a student pilot in the RV-10, and only a single, or maybe if you searched long and hard...a couple, underwriters that will write a policy on a pilot with less than 100 hours.  In fact, when I queried my own agent at NationAir, I was told that currently
Global Aerospace requires 300hrs to insure a pilot in the RV-10, and AIG requires 250hrs PLUS an instrument rating.  This isn't surprising, considering the hull values that are common on RV-10's.  Additionally, in checking with the agent, if I were to even obtain a quote for insurance on a 100 hour private pilot, I could easily expect to pay at least $1000/yr more for just adding that pilot.
From a flying perspective, the RV-10 just simply has too much performance to be conducive to easy flight instruction.  For a certified pilot, the RV-10 is commonly understood to be very easy to land, and very comfortable to fly.  But I have numerous examples from my own early days of flying that just show that it's easy to get behind an airplane, and the RV-10 would be as equally challenging as the complex retracts that I flew back when I was in my first couple hundred hours.  Just slowing down in the pattern takes more pre-planning in the RV-10.  So, we started out by putting her in the common Cessna 152, which she flew for a while.  The major downside was the very high rental rate that we had to pay for such a meager machine...at the local flight training center a 152 rents for about $76/hr and a Cessna 172 rents for near $120!  That's DOUBLE what I was paying to rent planes back just a few years ago.  These FBO's raised their rates when fuel prices went up, but never lowered them once the price came back down.
After training for a while in the 152 and knowing that it was something she wanted to continue, we made a big jump.  We have another very good friend who was also learning to fly at the same time, and she had been paying the same sky high rates, and after attempting but failing at negotiating a better block rate, we decided to check out other options.  We almost bought into a partnership, but then digging back into my memory I remembered I knew an aircraft leasing company and decided to check them out.  Well sure enough!!! We were able to lease a wonderful Piper Cherokee 140 Cruiser (160HP) for under $35/hr dry.  Considering that the fuel prices we pay are $3.70 or less, and the Cherokee sips around 6-7gph for our average flights, this ended up being a great way to not only save some money, but guarantee airplane availability.  The minimum lease is 10hrs/mo, which is not at all substantial.  The only requirements are that we A) hangar the plane, and B) we purchase insurance.  Well, I have a good friend with hangar space, so that was simple, and insuring a Cherokee 140 for 3 pilots plus an open policy for additional pilots ended up being under $915/yr.  So here we had a significantly cheaper way to rent, fly, and insure an aircraft for use for flight training by 2 people, and general flying by more, and guarantee much better aircraft availability!

With the Cherokee 140 in hand, we decided to also switch instructors to a more experienced instructor who also is a Cirrus approved flight trainer, knowing that she'd have the knowledge and experience to help guide Andrea along a path that could help prepare her for a future of RV-10 flying.  I queried the new instructor about doing initial flight training for students who want to actually learn in a plane like a Cirrus SR-22 and basically she confirmed my own thoughts...if you want to actually LEARN to fly in a Cirrus or an RV-10 for that matter, you should expect to add many more hours of dual to your flight training time, and cost.  Figure maybe 40 hours to first solo, and maybe a total of 80 or 100 before you're really fully ready to get the private cert.  Basically, my take on it is, if you go into training in a more normal "trainer" aircraft, you'll probably finish in just over 1/2 the time, and from that point on you'd take some additional "transition" training to prepare you for more high performance aircraft....learning about things like constant-speed propellers and things that get left out when flying more simple aircraft.  It's all about time and experience, and preparing to learn to fly in an RV-10 will involve probably more cost than preparing in a trainer and transitioning to the RV-10.  We had some interesting experiences after Andrea did some initial training and then we tried to go out and fly the pattern in the RV-10.  She found it climbed so fast on takeoff that it was just too easy to get behind the plane, and everything you did just came at you faster than you were ready for.

So on July 26th, on a sunny afternoon, we took the Cherokee up to KUBE for Andrea's flight lesson and after the typical 3 landings with the instructor, it was time for her first solo.  I watched from the grass as she lifted off, and came around for her first landing, and it went off without a hitch!  So now Andrea can move along at an even quicker pace and get her private pilot certificate, and we'll still keep the little Cherokee for the rest of the summer (and maybe even lease it again next season), so that even after her certification she can build some more time and work towards one day being able to fly the RV-10.  Our other friend also just passed her Checkride, so we're growing new women pilots up here in NorthWest Wisconsin!

Here are some photos of the event


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