An addition by the fixed base operator at Fulton County Airport has made it surprisingly easy for aviation buffs to take to the skies.
With the purchase of a lightweight Sport Cruiser aircraft, Naves Aviation Ltd. is giving residents of the county and beyond limited capacity to fly an airplane for sheer recreational pleasure. With just a driver’s license, they can soar to 10,000 feet after only 20 hours of flight instruction, five of those hours in solo flight.
The two-seat, 1,350-pound light sport plane the fixed base operator (FBO) purchased in August will give an opportunity to people who normally would not have the chance to fly, said Mike Ware, the Sport Cruiser’s flight instructor.
“It’s very popular. There are a lot of of people interested in light sport,” he said.
The six-year-old 100-horsepower Rotax plane was purchased by Naves Aviation owner Richard Naves for his wife, Rachel, who wanted to learn to fly for pure enjoyment. But rather than keep the airplane for her personal use, Naves decided to offer its use to anyone with a passion for flying.
A standard driver’s license and 20 hours of instruction will permit flying privileges in the light sport plane, which is housed at the airport at 9460 County Road 14. However, flyers are limited to uncontrolled air space up to 10,000 feet and solo flights.
Those who want to take on passengers after completing the flight instruction are required to earn a light sport license. Beginning Oct. 4, the FBO will offer a six-week, $300 Aviation Ground School which includes textbooks. The course will cover flight procedures, weather, and airplane systems, among other topics, each Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. It will be repeated each spring and fall.
Ware said the ground course being offered is designed for both people interested in getting a light sport license and those who simply have an interest in aviation. He said he’s eager to see such a course incorporated into vocational and high schools.
“I don’t know why vocational schools aren’t teaching aviation technology. The schools have got to keep us with what’s happening,” he said. “People today who want to get a pilot’s license are going to get a job. There’s a big demand for commercial pilots right now.”
Naves emphasized that, while flying the airplane may require ground instruction for some, it does not require the medical portion, the extended knowledge or the additional air instruction needed by pilots with private licenses. She has two hours of instruction under her belt, and is currently learning take-offs and landings.
“There’s a lot of skills to build on, a lot of rules to know. (But) the basics of flying are pretty easy,” she said. “The light sport plane is a perfect trainer for the community.”
She and Richard, a 10-year pilot who teaches aircraft maintenance at Toledo Public Schools Aviation Center, had previously contracted with Glass City Flight in Swanton for a single-engine, four-person Beechcraft Sundowner to use for flight instruction. The Sport Cruiser airplane they purchased is unusual in that it’s untypically constructed entirely of metal. Ware said it was built in Czechoslovakia “because they have excellent metal workers.”
Logged with only 300 hours of flight time, the primarily aluminum airplane has a glass touch screen control panel and a parachute recovery system, and flies cheaply on regular gasoline.
“That makes it very inexpensive,” Ware said. “You’re actually going to get better gas mileage in this airplane than you would in your car. It’s probably one of the most economical airplanes around.”
He said Fulton County residents are fortunate to have access to a light sport airplane because not many are in the area. Light sport aircraft have only become notable over the past 10 years.
And for an $80 fee, Naves Aviation offers anyone, especially those who have never flown before, an introductory 30-minute Fun Flight around the county. “That way, you can get a feel for (flying), and decide if you’re interested. We’re really excited about it,” Naves said.
She would like the business to purchase another instructional airplane in the future, more than likely a Cessna model.
“I do want to share the love, the passion for aviation,” she said. “I mean, that’s what we’re here for.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.