Trike Weight Shift Control Light Sport Aircraft Ownership and Rental

There’s nothing quite like being a trike weight-shift control (WSC) light-sport aircraft (LSA) owner. But before diving into the complex world of ownership, make sure it’s right for you.

Often, the question of whether to own a trike LSA comes down to primarily a financial one. Is it cost-effective to buy? What will it cost? How can I predict expenses? These are just the beginning of what is a long list of questions to ask yourself on the path to ownership.

If you’re in the position to buy your first trike, you’re probably in training or fresh out flight school. Or, you have been renting from a local flight school or fixed-base operation (FBO) and want to potentially save some money, or perhaps have more flexibility.

A good rule of thumb to use when deciding whether to continue renting or to buy is, “If you rent more than 100 hours a year, buying may save you some money.” It’s very similar to deciding whether to rent or buy a house – ownership expenses are much less predictable than those associated with renting.

If you are in need of a bit of information on the option of renting a craft, click here.

With a trike, not only are there the basic maintenance requirements, but also annual inspections, or unexpected repairs.

Luckily, there are many options when it comes to owning. If money is an issue, consider taking on a partner or joining a flying club. Trike flying clubs are often quite inexpensive and more flexibility than traditional rental situations because clubs are often times chartered to not make a profit thus keeping the overheads low.

Some frequently asked questions on trike ownership

  • How much does a weight-shift control trike LSA cost?

  • How long does a weight-shift control trike LSA last?

A low-end, used undercarriage, engine, and wing can cost a minimum of about $15,000 or more. $10,000 for the engine and undercarriage and $5,000 for the wing are typical approximations. You can spend up to $80,000 for the top of the line with all the bells and whistles.

There is a large price range, similar to automobiles. After about 1500 hours of exposure to UV light from the sun, a trike wing may be in need of replacement. This, of course, varies with how you use it and how you care for your wing. It’s easy to test your sailcloth for strength and thus determine your need to replace your trike wing long before it becomes unsafe. Engine maintenance is crucial to long life. The undercarriage should last indefinitely with good care.

Good, used trike LSA are often available for half as much, though it will have a shorter lifespan. In addition, because the sport is evolving rapidly, newer trike LSA can have significantly better performance and behavior than older ones. You will need expert help in determining the suitability of the used aircraft for your needs and how airworthy it is. Good deals exist, but you will need to be able to carefully evaluate what you are looking at.

Equally important is how well the used aircraft was cared for. This trike LSA is going to take you high into the air so you will want to be sure of its condition before you buy it. Unless you know what you are looking at, you should have expert help in deciding before you buy.

Once you have your aircraft and have completed training, your main cost is for fuel and oil. These consumables are not very expensive. A few gallons of gas and some two or four cycle oil will not break your budget.

You will also need a helmet and a few other small incidentals. These can add an additional $300 to $500 to your bill. For well under $20,000 you can become the owner and pilot of your own personal and portable aircraft. Most pilots who get into the sport also purchase a two-way radio for an additional $500.

An annual condition inspection by a qualified professional is also required to assure the trike is in good shape for flying. This is a good investment for your safety.

  • Can I rent or share expenses?

Yes. You can share ownership expenses of a WSC trike LSA. You can rent one from another owner, or rent to others if you own a WSC Trike S-LSA.
  • Can I maintain my own weight-shift control trike LSA?

No matter where you buy your trike LSA you must consider service after the sale. Mechanical devices will have parts that can, and do, fail. There is also the reality that as part of your learning curve you may damage something. This is not uncommon. Where the parts will come from, how much they cost, and how long it will take to get them may play a big role in your purchase decision. So too will be the actual work of replacing them.

S-LSA must be maintained by FAA certified mechanics, with the exception of some preventative maintenance such as changing oil, spark plugs, tires, and minor maintenance.

E-LSA is completely different. Anyone can do maintenance on an E-LSA. This may be a reason to get an E-LSA if you want to do your own maintenance. If you are sufficiently mechanically adept, you can, with training, do many of the maintenance and repairs yourself. You may also have all the tools necessary to do the job. If you are not comfortable with this type of work, you will need to consider how you will get this service and maintenance accomplished if needed.

When you buy a new WSC trike LSA you can usually have this work performed by the dealer. When you buy a used trike LSA you may be on your own as warranties are seldom transferable and the original dealer usually has no obligation to support you.

All Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) require an Annual Condition Inspection every year by FAA certified repairman. For E-LSA, you can do this yourself if you take a 16-hour class for your category of aircraft (WSC trike). If you elect NOT to take the class, then you’ll need to find someone qualified to do this annual inspection, such as:

      • An appropriately rated A&P mechanic
      • An appropriately rated repair station
      • A Light Sport Aircraft repairman with a maintenance rating

The two FAA LSA repairman certificate ratings are: Inspection and Maintenance.

Inspection (16 hours) rating allows you to conduct the annual condition inspection on your own WSC trike E-LSA. It requires the successful completion of an FAA accepted 16-hour course for the specific class of LSA.

Maintenance (107 hour) rating is a commercial rating allowing the annual condition inspection on the owner’s or others WSC trike S-LSA and E-LSA. It requires successful completion of a 107-hour course on maintenance requirements.

  • What do I need to know when purchasing my first weight-shift control trike LSA?

First, it is best if you know how to fly. No would-be pilot should purchase a wing before learning at least the basics of flying a WSC trike. A reputable dealer should make certain you are properly trained before he will let you take position of any equipment. Many cases the dealer who sells it to you can provide the training when you buy one.

In most cases the dealer is or has access to a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). Or he will refer you to a CFI who can properly train you.

It is your instructor’s job to understand the trike systems to help you select your first trike. Different trikes have different characteristics and require different skill levels. Your instructor can help you match the trike LSA to your particular interests, strengths, weaknesses, and skill level.

Develop a solid relationship with an instructor you trust before purchasing equipment. “Good deals” generally end up costing the naive new pilot a great deal of money later.

Most instructors rely on referrals and repeat business, so they are very determined to help you make the right decisions. When purchasing equipment, a responsible dealer will always require some proof of certified pilot rating.

It may be necessary for you to purchase the aircraft that you will train with. There are some advantages to this. Training on the equipment that you will eventually fly eliminates the transition time that it will take to get used to flying different gear. While most trikes function in a similar way there are differences in technique required for different models. Different makes and models usually have both advantages and disadvantages over the other.

    • When that time comes that you are ready to purchase a craft, you will want to know something about insuring your purchase. You will need a bit of unique knowledge to obtain the right type of insurance for this type of ownership/purchase. We can help you here.
    • At the same time as educating yourself regarding the purchase and insurance for your new craft, you may be contemplating financing for your purchase. For more on that topic, please click here.