Pursuit of a new airplane

It looks like I won’t be able to fly the RV-7 (barring a major change in medical certification requirements).  I can still fly with Sport Pilot privileges, as long as I can self-certify that I’m fit to fly.  Since both my regular doc and the cardiologist agree that there’s no reason I can’t fly, I’m looking forward to getting on the air again.

The problem?  There are no light sport aircraft around here to fly.  No one rents them, and as yet I have not found any clubs or partnerships that offer one.  My attempts to get my own flying club to look into LSA ownership were met with considerable resistance…  odd, given that we have lost or are losing at least three memberships due to lost medical certificates, and there is at least one other member who hasn’t flown in quite some time due to – yeah, you guessed it, no medical.  Still, the average pilot who does NOT have to fly LSA knows virtually nothing about light sport aircraft.

Anyway, it looks like if I want to fly again in the foreseeable future, I’m going to have to either own outright or form a partnership or club.  I’d looked into forming a partnership to purchase an RV-12, but we were only able to get two partners together — wed need at least 4, preferably 5.  After exploring all other options, I have pretty much settled on an Aeronca 7AC Champion, commonly known as a Champ.

Why a Champ?  There are a number of reasons.  Cost is a big one.  Champs are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.  With tandem seating (front & rear seats) they’re roomier than, say, a side-by-side Taylorcraft or Luscombe.  They’re faster than a Cub, and are flown solo from the front seat instead of the rear.  They also generally cost less than a Cub.  If equipped with a (slightly) upgraded engine, say an 85 HP C-85 instead of the original 65 HP A65, I’m told the climb and cruise performance is quite good for the type.

There are plenty of flying Champs out there for sale.  I’m chasing one or two “projects” that will need to be restored.  Why do that, when I can get a flying aircraft for about the same cost?  Simple.  These planes were built in the mid to late 1940s.  If I’m going to fly it, I want to know that every single tube, weld, fastener and part is sound and airworthy.  While rebuilding I can use all new hardware and replace or repair any part that is not 100% up to snuff.  I can also take the opportunity to do some updates to the plane — better brakes, for example; newer fabric, better seat restraints, etc.  How far i take that depends a lot on what kind of deal i can get on an engine, since either of the ones I’m looking at will need the engine replaced.  Of course it’s also a balancing act — literally — to put what you want in it, but keep the empty weight as low as possible.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider a flying example if the right airplane comes along at the right price.  I would not complain about a year spent flying instead of building.