- Sat Feb 23, 2019 6:29 pm
There's much more of a market for training Light Sport pilots to fly powered aircraft, compared to tandem hang glider training. Tiki can teach Light Sport in a trike without needing a separate tug. That keeps the revenue flowing and makes the business viable. If there aren't any student pilots, she's able to switch to being the tug pilot and towing up locals. Doing only HG towing isn't a viable business. Whether it's Wallaby, Quest, Cowboy Up, Discover PG or otherwise, the bulk of the revenue comes from tandem discovery and training flights, not from recreational towing. Wallaby and Lookout have the broader base of equipment rental and sales, cabins and so on, but tandems are still a major piece of the revenue pie.
I originally got into my trike in cooperation with two other HG pilots as a way to get some aerotowing going here in the Willamette Valley. The rules changed during that time, and we all got trained and licensed in the transitional period. Before the rules took effect, I even got to spend a couple of days as a tug pilot, and successfully towed some pilots into thermals. But under the rules, you must have a private pilot ticket, plus endorsements, to tow a hang glider. And I don't.
Our HG pilot and trike instructor, John Beaman, was the one guy who was legal to do towing, but he died of cancer. We have not had anyone since who's got the credentials to do towing, and meanwhile some of the guys who were most interested in it have dropped out of the sport or moved on to other aircraft. (sailplanes, powered, etc.) So I fly it for fun now, and it's nice to be able to grab an hour or two of flying, park it in the hangar and still make it home for dinner without taking an entire day or a weekend away.
Long term, I think Tiki's looking for somebody who can jump into the job that Bart has been doing; mechanic, tug pilot, instructor. That's a tall order. It would help if that person wasn't also getting on in years, so they'd be around for a while. For the short term, she can make a viable business out of trike training, but for that she needs a Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA), not an Experimental LSA like the one I fly. My bet is that most of the used trikes out there on the market are ELSA, not SLSA, quite apart from the maintenance hassles associated with used equipment.