Let’s start off with the understanding that everyone has a different choice of aircraft. Ask any given person (pilot or otherwise) what their favorite airplane is and you’re going to get a variety of different answers. It’s obviously an easier choice and bigger airplane when it’s not your money on the line (or if you’ve got much more money to spend than I do), but when it’s being self funded critical thinking gets applied more narrow in scope. As I’m writing this the Megaball is sitting at $850 million and the Powerball at $730 million. No apologies if I have to change my tune on this build during the next edition.
In starting my evaluation and when considering my time working on one of my projects is effectively “free”, to choose a new experimental over a new certified it becomes a pretty straightforward decision. I previously outlined that a 4 seater is the base choice. There are a lot of two seat experimental options on the market, which are attractive, however four seats for us is a minimum. For certified aircrafts, the field of 4 seaters are revolve around the Cirrus SR20, a Diamond DA40, Cessna 172/182 series and possibly the Piper Archer LX. For the sake of space and the discussion I’m limiting it to the aircraft that closest match the SlingTsi’s performance. That drops out the Piper and the Cessna 172.
The numbers in the table below are what I could source out through a variety of sources for some of the most common metrics when looking at an airplane. There are areas that may slightly be off a bit. Please feel free to correct where I am off, but not all manufacturers publish all these specs, so I had to use a variety of sources.
Compare the cost of new certified to new experimental
Why not a used airplane?
As I eluded early on in the article, you can debate in circles about which airplane to get (or not get) based on personal preferences and completely irrational metrics. At the end of the day, you want what you want and will make any argument work. The numbers (as given here) tend to lend themselves more towards the SlingTsi from a purely financial perspective. One item you may notice is the insurance line item. Insurance has been a pain point for most pilots the past year or two and the Tsi is no exception. This is one area that could make or break the type of experimental being chosen. The early insurance quote I got for the Tsi was troublesome and is mostly based on the fact the Tsi is a new aircraft, so the insurance companies have little to base their estimates upon. I do expect this rate to come down as more aircraft start flying. There are a number of builds quite far along and in theory with every year that goes by rates should go down. If someone was to be considering a build insurance alone might be enough to sway people over to an RV which has a very robust history which should help keep insurance lower.
So there is only a slight advantage on fixed costs for the Tsi over the SR20. Now lets look at Operational costs:
Another thing to consider is the use of Mogas over 100LL. There absolutely has to be a realistic understanding that I likely am going to have to shuffle fuel to/from the airport locally when I fly around the immediate Colorado area as there are few options for Mogas on any air field. At the time I’m writing this I’m unaware of any airport in the state that offers this option. There are a number of websites which provide some reference material for mogas at airports, however most of them are outdated. Erie had mogas for a period of time, but when they redid their fuel station several years ago, they took it out. I don’t expect it to change anytime soon. I have a truck and there are options for moving fuel this way. If I were to go cross country I have some options for carrying some collapsable fuel containers and using the courtesy car to get fuel this way. That would definitely turn into a pretty big time consuming hassle, so that may not happen. Advantages of using mogas over 100LL include a longer interval between oil changes. When using strictly 100LL in the Rotax engines, your oil changes drop to every 25hrs - which definitely increases the oil change costs and not reflected on this table.
While the SR20 may be slightly more expensive in the hourly rate, the convenience is seen in the additional costs. The annual for the Cirrus has to be done by an A&P and my understanding with the Cirrus aircraft, is the annuals can be pricey. In my image covering the initial costs, I have down $4,000 for the annual on the Cirrus - which I would wager is a good middle ground expectation. Also when buying a used aircraft, deferred maintenance may be an issue which will keep annuals high as maintenance items are addressed over time. Having built the aircraft myself I will have the repairman certificate for this particular airplane. The cost of materials and my time are the two factors involved with the experimental build.
In an upcoming post I'll do a comparison between the SlingTsi and the RV10.