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raffaele grieco

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Ultralight planes: a possible future for medium to long distance mass trasportation?

Cheap, easy to pilot, easier to mantain.

ULM aircrafts are modern, two seated, car gas propelled planes, usually flown for leisure and turism. An entry level two seated plane can cost as much as a good scooter, costs a fraction of a general aviation plane to buy and mantain, can fly @200kmh at cruise speed, have an average of 500km range and can take off land anywhere from 500 mt grass strips (some can land on river shores and open sea, too). In Italy there are almost 150 privately held airstrips are available mostly free for landing fees, together with all the minor and medium airports open for general aviation planes.

So, why dont think of it as a means of personal and family transportation for medium to long distances? If we consider an average 4 hr car trip, depending of how far your nearest airstrip could be, and another one at your destination point, and commuting from these two places, it could be faster and cheaper to get there by your own plane.

What are the main problems against this idea, today? Weather, because they need good weather to fly; State endorsement: because, as it is, air transport belongs solely to air companies and thus airports and other facilities, even if airspace within a national domain are State properties properties, and also because car industry lead many countries economies like US, Germany, France, Japan and Italy. Security: in aviation, security is a scarecrow that keeps people away, make them spend much more, makes a tragedy of each and every event. The impossible of making a human activity riskless is killing personal aviation, leaving only the big players. If aviation security were applied to cars, they would cost tenfold and a fraction would ever hit the roads.

If proper investment were available, i think a cheap 4-seated all-weather ultralight plane, with a S-trasponder, and enough technology onboard to dumb piloting processes down to those required to drive a car could be within reach in a very short time

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  • Aug 2 2013: The pilots I've known feel that samll planes are dangerous. Wait i know several people who have beenkilled that way.
    • Aug 2 2013: I know so many people killed in cars, and many werent even their own fault!

      Seriously speaking, a small plane is not dangerous because it's small. Light plane incidents almost never happen because of a plane failure, but for human error. Learning to fly a small plane is not as easy as driving a car, it's far easier. Two identical pedals instead of three, a stick, way fewer buttons to click and manage than a car, and most of all far far far less traffic around you than when you drive on a street. And it's fun, it's exhilarating, and adrenaline kills (or adrenaline without skill and proper self evaluation does).

      Also, habit kills, the excess of confidence, the repetition of thoughtless actions . But it's not about the size. For one, several national aviation organization, like the FAA, require that commercial pilots (the one piloting your boeing or airbus) go back to basic stick and rudder skills without relying too much on automation and checklists.

      But what kills the most is flying too few, the lack of experience. If anyone flew as much as he's driving his survival chances would be equal to those of a habitual driver.

      In short, what kills you on a plane could kill you on a car, bar other people carelessness. If something happens, its almost always your fault, something you may have prevented or avoided.
      • Aug 3 2013: Are these radically different than small cesnas?
        • Aug 3 2013: not radically. they are cheaper, lighter, easier to mantain, two seated instead of four, but thats the idea.

          of course their price is connected to their semplicity: the more technology we add, the higher the final costs will build up.

          but thats the idea.
      • Aug 4 2013: Okay raffaele you are saying that they are safer than the old Cesnas
        • Aug 4 2013: Yep, by being cheaper to buy and mantain they allow you to build up more flying hours thus more experience and confidence. Safety is mainly about these two components.
      • Aug 5 2013: Good raffaele but still be careful. i have had several friends get killed flying. One was a retired Marine Jet Pilot who died flying a sail plane another was an accountant whose friend was flyhing an experimental airplane.
        • Aug 28 2013: i had two dear childhood friends involved in car accidents, one died the other one killed a man (a father of two) coming from the other direction.

          experimental flights are risky for definition, sail planes (you mean gliders? or ) are a means of transportation that dont have the mission of "bring you there" built inside... they are flown for the pleasure of being flown without an egnine and using your skill to harness the winds around you to keep flying farther and closer to where you need to go back to.
      • Aug 29 2013: True but now you've made me afraid of cars, too.
        Yes, a sail plane is a glider.
        Thanks.

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