A Retirement Hobby? or A Retirement Business?
by Bernard Mayoux
(5201 Ivy Drive, The Colony, Texas, 75056)
There is little doubt golf is the biggest retirement pursuit for both men and women. It provides shared interest companionship through golf club memberships, provides a great form of exercise, and access to some of the most “beautiful scenery” in the US.
My problem is that I was never into golf. Last time I attempted to “play” with my son, an avid golfer with a handicap of -2, he politely suggested that my skills could be better applied if I drive the cart. At that point I was made very aware that we had brought up a fine young man with both sensitivity and tact!.
My bag is flying. I have been flying since I was twenty. During my working life I was able to afford my passion, but had to quit my last plane when I retired from gainful employment (a Bonanza V-tail) To me this was like having major surgery. Not being some one who is happy sitting at home, I tried a couple of business opportunities, but they did not meet my comfort factor.
About six months ago my wife suggested that I re-evaluate what was it that made me really tick ………… of course it was flying!
I have kept myself fit, but I was concerned at the age of 67 about passing my flight medical to re-establish my pilots license. This lead me to my “how to fly again” research.
I had not flown for seven years, and I discovered that FAA rules had changed in many flight areas. None of these changes were something that good refresher training could not overcome. What I did find, which gave me my momentum, was the recent FAA flight regulations defining a new Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category.
You are able to gain pilot privileges so long as you have a clean State Drivers’ License which will substitute for your class 3 medical. However, my initial reaction was that this was for parachutes with lawn mower engines. Not that there is anything wrong with this form of aviation, and it has many devotees, …. but it was not what I was looking for.
Then I discovered that LSA also covers a more traditional type of aircraft. LSA is a growing segment in US aviation, particularly as we “baby boomers” enter retirement. To meet my personal objective, the LSA I settled on to refresh my flight skills, is the "PiperSport." (picture - www.pilotattic.com)
As you can see, this is a real aircraft! It is like a two-seater sports car. It's sleek all metal design allows you cruise all day at 110mph. (max level cruise speed 135mph) The PiperSport uses low cost AutoGas, much cheaper that General Aviation 110LL fuel. The PiperSport also only burns an average of 5-7 galls of fuel per hour at these high cruise speeds, including allowance for a full throttle climb out.
Although the PiperSport is my particular preference and all-round favorite for my re-entry into GA flying, there are several other LSA options available. I am able to rent this aircraft at $110 per flight hour including fuel, which is again a lower cost than the traditional flight school equivalent offering, the ubiquitous Cessna 172.
You get a full “glass cockpit” featuring paired Dynon EFIS (Electronic Flight Information System) screens, a Garmin GPS and Navigation screen, and a linked Auto Pilot. This is a great package of the latest technology in avionics for a General Aviation aircraft. ( for picture - see - www.pilotattic.com)
So, this is my retirement hobby. It is well suited to retired aviation buff, who has reasonable health, as demonstrated by his/her valid Driver License. Obviously to maintain your pilot privileges, you must keep your license clean, i.e., no DUI’s, unpaid tickets, etc.
A business opportunity?
As I become more involved in my retirement hobby, it became clear that there are many retired folks who have a “bucket list” that includes learning to fly. What they don’t realize is that this is an achievable objective, now that the LSA regulations allow substitution of a clean State Drivers’ License for the class 3 medical.
With this in mind I saw a training market and consequently took my FAA certification as an Advanced Ground School instructor (AGI). I now teach the Aviation Knowledge portion (often referred to as “Ground School”) required to pass FAA pilot certification. This provides me with an enjoyable income, which I intend to grow by becoming further certified as a Flight Instructor for LSA aircraft. I concentrate on the Dallas area, and no doubt financial demographics are good in Texas. But I feel this opportunity is more based on retirement desires and acquired disposable income, than just the concerns of our overall current economy. Having worked and saved hard all our lives, we baby-boomers are not going to retreat from enjoying our retirement……nor should we! I believe we are tired of hearing perpetual doom and gloom and need to enjoy the efforts of our working years.
Obviously, should you wish to jump to leveraging the LSA market as a business opportunity, you would realistically require prior aviation knowledge. An essential value you would bring to the table, in training your students, is previous flying experience. Achieving your Ground School certification is a low expense effort. You can stay at this level and offer first step Aviation Knowledge training, in preparation for their next step Practical Flight training, to be done by other already qualified Flight Instructors. As an “AGI” I am qualified to give covers FAA qualification for both “Private Pilot” as well LSA.
Similarly, you can offer your services without being tied to any particular flight school. Remember the typical Flight instructor likes to fly, not sit behind a desk teaching the required ground school portion. So I fly LSA, but as an Advanced Ground School Instructor, I can teach for any flight review except for training required for an instrument rating.
Should you later decide to set up a club dedicated to LSA, I can introduce you to programs available to acquire a club aircraft. All LSA club aircraft are typically factory new. These programs cover the necessary local maintenance mandated for club/training aircraft, insurance suggestions and keeping the FAA required records.
I would be happy to talk with anyone who sees this as a retirement business, either as a ground school only training scenario, or expanding to starting a LSA flight club. (You are not going to get rich, but you can gain real retirement satisfaction from your efforts ….. and no, I am not discussing an investment in a franchise!)
From a personal desire, I would just love to see a developing national network of LSA clubs, offering shared benefits for those who wish to explore this great country of ours!
Thank you for your time…………Do not hesitate to call……..