I guess almost every person who starts a PPL has the desire to own their own plane at some point. I was always in denial about this but I discovered very soon after achieving the PPL that ‘hire and fly’ is a pain in the butt.
This was especially true at the flight school where I trained – they have 5 aircraft but at least one is almost always in maintenance and they have many students training for various ratings. You book a two hour slot and if the weather is dodgy, or someone is late bringing the plane back from their slot then sorry for you, you lose out.
While the financial aspect of owning v renting an aircraft is not clear cut, from a practical point of view, owning is the way to go. Weather lousy for a planned flight? No problem, we go later, or tomorrow. Want to go away for a weekend? No problem – no minimum daily rate to pay. That idiot who runs wide open throttle and never touches the mixture control? Not an issue if you’re the only person flying your plane.
The search for an aircraft initially looked very difficult – there are lots of planes for sale but most are very old and would need significant avionics upgrades. I came close to buying a Mooney M20F, a Cherokee 235 and a Cessna Cardinal C177RG. On a whim I test flew a Sling 4 which is a locally designed and built experimental/non type certified aircraft. I was hooked immediately and that is how we ended up with ZU-IBM.
ZU-IBM is a very yellow Sling 4. She was manufactured by The Airplane Factory in March 2014 and carries serial number 009. The Rotax 914 powered Sling 4 is a 4 seat aircraft with an empty weight of 490kg and a MAUW of 960kg which gives a very useful useful load. It is a true 4 seater with full fuel (Mogas of course) and while it is no Mooney in terms of cruise speed, the 125kts I plan for gets us where we want to be.
We plan for 25-26litres per hour at 85% power which is around 6 and a half gallons per hour. So far I’ve done one long cross country to Cape Town from Johannesburg (5.5h each way for 680nm) and we’ve made a number of smaller local trips around 150-175nm.
Maintenance wise we have had a few teething issues but nothing that has kept us on the ground. First oil change is coming up and we’ll see how that looks.