Sunday, September 30, 2012

Returning to a Challenger II

For much of the last 12 years I had been flying gliders with Iroquois Soaring Association. First with their ships, then purchasing my own Pilatus B4 PC11, followed by Glasflugel Libelle 201B. Great aircraft, both of them. Decent glide, low sink rate and easy to fly. I averaged 3 hours per flight from a 25 dollar tow!

A few years back I had the opportunity to purchase a Cessna 150 with my friend Kate. I saw this as an opportunity to fly without the need to assemble/disassemble or to be dependent on tow pilots or soaring weather. Now I could cruise places.

At the time, fuel was about $4.00/gal so with a plan to throttle back to less than 5 gph I could keep flying costs low.

Almost immediately I found that our little Cessna's engine didn't like lugging around at 2200 rpm. Plugs were fouling, and at run-up we were seeing excessive rpm drops. On advice from our mechanic I kept the rpms up. This solved the problem with plugs but brought fuel burn up to over 6 gph. Over the  past couple years fuel prices have risen to over $6.00/gal.

At this rate flying wasn't unaffordable, but I wasn't feeling like I could just go up for no reason other than 'it was a nice day'.

About 6 weeks ago there was a note on my hangar door with a phone number. One of the local pilots had bought a Challenger and wanted me to ride along with him until he was feeling comfortable. I instructed in a Challenger back in the 90s but hadn't flown in one since 2000. They aren't at all difficult to fly, but they do fly a little different from regular aircraft and it takes some getting used to.

We took a few flights together and he did just fine. However for personal reasons he decided he would take a break from flying and wanted to know if I was interested in buying the plane. At first I said no, but after a couple flights alone I knew buying the plane would be a good decision for me.

I immediately felt at home in this plane. Though quite a bit heavier than the Challenger I built, it still had the familiar feel of the plane I had spent 600 hours in.

With the doors off, my camera has an unrestricted view to the lakes and farmland of Central New York. Fuel burn appears to be extremely low and I think hourly cost for fuel and oil might be between $10-15/hr cruising at 70+ and under $10/hr when lazily floating along at 45-50 mph. My last flight a few days ago was for 1 hour with 2 takeoffs and a climb to about 3,000'. During this flight 1.7 gallons of auto fuel was drawn from the tank. Not bad at all!

Looking south over the village of Skaneateles and Skaneateles Lake beyond

My home base, Marcellus Airport

Can't help smiling when flying a Challenger!


Spook said...

Keep 'em coming, George!

Spook said...
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