LSAs vs. Cessna 150s

There’s been a lot of debate in the aviation community over the value and challenges of LSA as flight trainers compared to old standards like Cessna 150s. I’d like to weigh in on some the questions being raised.

Are LSA harder to fly — specifically, are they harder to land? The best way to respond is to say that they are different. In fact, that’s what Cessna’s top demo pilot says about Skycatcher compared to Cessna 150s and 172s.

Here are some reasons why: LSAs are lighter, so they tend to be affected by wind eddies more than a heavier airplane; LSAs generally have more responsive handling and commonly use joysticks versus yokes which, due to increased leverage, means pilots can more easily overcontrol them. Many are lighter in pitch than a Cessna 150, which can cause pilot-induced oscillation (PIO).

Cessna's LSA, the Skycatcher

Some say the lighter handling makes a better pilot and, if you learn in a LSA, you won’t notice any great challenge. LSAs perform better, especially in glide so they meet the runway at shallower angles, which demands somewhat more finesse. All this can mean some extra time is needed to convert from a Cessna 150 (or other GA airplane) to a LSA.

Cessna 150

However, LSAs also offer several advantages. The newest Cessna 150s and 152s were manufactured in 1985 — 27 years ago — which means the average age of the trainer is well over 35 years old, often much older than the students who come to fly them. The oldest LSAs are seven years old and most folks agree that new is nice. Think about it: Would you want to rent a 35-year-old car from Hertz?

Cessna 150/152s almost never have modern avionics, where nearly all LSA sport glass screens and more. LSA are much quieter. C-150s use more fuel, certainly so compared to the new fuel-injected Rotax 912 iS and most cannot use auto fuel at one third less cost (although STCs are available so 150s can burn mogas). LSA are roomier, often having a lot more interior space. They have better visibility. Many come with airframe parachutes.

Another point is the durability of LSA in a flight school. Here the Cessna 150 is a tried and true workhorse. Many have well over 10,000 hours. Some feel LSA cannot match this. None have passed that number of airframe hours, but we have several examples with more than 3,500 hours on them and they seem to be holding up just fine.

The downside for LSA: They aren’t as well known, they cost a lot more (new always does), and the mechanics don’t know them as well.

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  1. Rod Beck says

    OK – lets REALLY do the numbers! Take a good “pre-owned”, are there any other kind, 1971-77 C-150L-M model low/mid-time SMOH, 5K AFor less,VFR avionics (of course) good recent annual for a capital cost of about $18,000.

    Now, find 100 “willing’ fractional owners: “what, you can find your check book?, Oh, Ok, your wife SIGNS the checks, at least your honest – (take her to dinner first) then ASK her if you can invest $180 in a “stock” offering (DON”T mention airplane) and at worst, “it” will retain it’s prinicipal, kinda like a good annuity, and you can “sell ” it even if Washington ends Social Security, not likely if your over 60+, so stop sweating and have another beer or glass of wine!

    Here comes the math:

    1. Insurance Liability & Hull (annual)     $600.00 (maximum) $6/ stock holder
    2. Tie-down (annual national average)   $480 or $4.80/                “       ”
    3. Annual inspection (national average)  $1,000 or $10/                “       ”
    4. Reserve for MOH  (1,100 hrs to go x $13/hr)= $14,300 or $143/ “      ”
    5. Reserve for miscellaneus repairs (avionics, etc)  $500 or $5/      “      ”

    Total “fixed” cost: $168.80/ stockholder (50 hrs/yr + $3.38

    Now add “varible” costs (fuel-auto gas?) $3.50pg X 5.5 gph= $19.25/hr

    Total /hr cost: Only $22.63/hr! NOTE: No longer a need to pay for “lounge time” since Vern’s Flying Service installed the Hobbs Lounge Hour Meter! Note: Rumor has it several SAA (Social Aviation Association) members tryed disconnecting it.

    Can the “middle classes” NOT afford to fly – if not, try watching re-runs of
    “Baa-Baa Black Sheep on Netflex”.  Forgot; annual cost $7.99 x 12= $95.88
    AND you can tell the “Mrs” she can get all the Boggie,Grant, and Lancaster films too, OR you can invite the other 99 members for further saving assuming you don’t have to rent out the local VA hall for sceening!

  2. Mark C says

    The handling characteristics sound much like those of the Champ I took my first lessons in, which by the way, it’s quite easy to find replacement parts and service for, although instructors may be a little harder to come by. An aircraft that’s a little harder to fly can only make you a better pilot in the long run, and if LSA’s rent for less than certificated trainers, that would be great. But they don’t, because they cost so darn much up front. It doesn’t really matter what you learn to fly in, unless the rest of your flying career consists of renting that same trainer and flying it, you will at some time have to pay for transition training and checkout in different airplanes. However, there are a LOT more steam gauge aircraft around than glass panels, so unless you know you’ll fly mostly glass panel planes, you need to plan right up front to take additional training on flying steam gauges. Worse, while steam gauges are steam gauges and going from one plane to another takes a minimum of adjustment, glass panels operate VERY differently even between models from the same manufacturer, much less different makers, so knowing how to fly with the G300 in a Skycatcher is of little value if you get into a C172 with a G1000 or a club plane with an Aspen panel installed.  

  3. Whiskers says

    Bought a 1968 150 with 1700 hours in 1990 for $6000. Earned my license after an 18 month medical delay. I sure loved that 150. Wish I had it back. Own a 172 now and it drives like a truck at 9 GPH. The 150 used 5 GPH. Being retired, I can’t afford a LSA. For that matter, I have a hard time affording 9 GPH in the 172. I will be looking for another 150 soon.

  4. Mike Arman says

    The Cessna 150 is sby far the most cost-effective trainer around. You can buy a decent 150 for under $20,000, which means if it is financed, the payment will be one sixth of the payment for a $120,000 LSA. Aviation is expensive if you pay retail, but retail is for OTHER people. $100,000 buys a LOT of fuel, paint and training. Nobody joins the army as a general. If you learn to fly in a club or rented 150, you can get your license for around $5K. If you buy a $120,000 LSA, add $2,000+ a month just for the airplane payment, you do the math.

  5. Steve says

    It doesn’t matter what aircraft you put forward for training characteristics. The fact is that airplanes are expensive way, way, WAY beyond their benefit. Look at the price of an “entry level” Cessna 172. A quarter of a million dollars for an airplane that will only do, what? 140mph? LSA’a are a lot cheaper, but only relatively speaking.

    Now throw in the cost of flight training. $5k MINIMUM! I keep wishing I can resume and complete my flight training, but coming up with all the cash I need is just really prohibitive.

    My point is LSA’s as a training platform is just another bandaid on the sever wound of trying to get more people in to aviation.

  6. Skydad says

    I guess the old Cubs, Champs, and etc. were harder to learn in too.  That’s what I learned in 60 years ago.  To my way of thinking those old planes had the same problems with wind eddies that the author says the new ones had.  They did make a student learn to “stay on top” of the airplane though.

  7. Kmisegades says

    Lardo140 – Dan was clearly referring to new S-LSAs, not the older aircraft that qualify under LSA rules.  I love those old birds, but try getting replacement parts and try finding an instructor who will teach and solo you in a ragwing taildragger these days.

  8. Lardo140 says

    “The oldest LSAs are seven years old…”

    That’s strange. I earned my Sport Pilot certificate last summer… in an Ercoupe 415-C. Built in 1946. The local flying club has a J-3 Cub, built in 1941. I’m pretty sure both airplanes have been around longer than 7 years.

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