Jump to content
Touring Motor Gliders Association (TMGA)

Are TMGs a cheaper entry point into flying?


Recommended Posts

Hey all I'm new here and have been trying to find a more affordable entry point into flying as a hobby. I'm over 50 and am not looking for a new career path, just want to fly for fun. There are a lot of programs out there to help younger people get into flying, but that is not me. 

A couple of years ago I took over a Glastar kit and have been working on it. But the economics to complete that kit are going to be taxing for me. 


I have been flying remote controlled aircraft most of my life. We host 2 slope glider events each year, one of them is pretty large. We have a great time!! The large event is at sea level the other is at Mammoth Mtn, about 10,000 feet. 

I have wanted to fly full scale since I was a kid, but never put things together. My wife finally said I should just do it, but the costs for a Private or even a Light Sport was more than I was willing to take away from the family budget for something my wife really does not share a love for.

Recently I discovered TGMs as a less expensive entry into full scale aviation. I've always known about them, and would always check them out when I ran across one at an airport or event, but did not understand the possible savings they appear to offer. I am very much on the discovery curve on this side of things to see what the reality is and actual costs.

Recently I ran across a youtube video that talked about motor gliders being an inexpensive route to getting airborne. The video showed a Florida operation that uses a Pipistrel to get people a glider license and total costs was about $3,000. They cited the low time of 10 hours minimum and all that stuff. My question is just how practical is that? Is any insurance company going to cover me if I only have 10 or 15 hours?

So, is it at all practical? Can a student with low time earn a licence, continue to fly within the class and log hours affordably and if they like move onto a private license using the same plane? I'd love to setup a small flying/training club using a TMG.

There have been a few pilots I have run into that really stand out as better pilots then the average, ALL of them started off with a glider license! Even the guy that flies a T-28 credits his glider rating for giving him a better skill set and understanding of the weather around him.

Sorry, I know this was super long. But I would love to discuss this and see if there is a possibility here or not. You all are the experts in this arena, it is pretty new to me. The other silly question, what planes in this category might I fit in at 6'4" tall? I've found a low time Taifun 17E that could be had pretty cheap as it needs a LOT of work, probably not practical, but opened my eyes.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Wayne, I'm 75 and own a Pipistrel Sinus Flex Max.  I have a commercial certificate glider plus ASEL and Instrument.  My insurance this year is just over $3000 and I pay $330 per month for a hangar, so my monthly out-of-pocket is almost $600 before I have even rolled the aircraft out of the hangar.

Your least expensive way to fly is to earn a PP SEL with a local flight school and then rent an aircraft from them.

Sorry to burst your bubble.  Richard

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If Right Rudder can guarantee to get you a Private Pilot License, Glider Rating with a Self-Launch Endorsement, for $3000, in a brief period of time, that is a great option.

It is my understanding that the Right Rudder training is conducted in a Pipistrel ship that is certified as a Glider, with a motor, aka a motorglider. If you obtain your Glider rating in a motorglider, becoming competent with operating the engine and engine-related avionics and gauges, you will likely have the experience required to exercise the Sport Pilot privileges of a Glider-rated Private Pilot. Sport Pilot privileges are slightly limited compared to full low Private Pilot Airplane privileges, but those limitations are not significant for most recreational pilots.

What this means is that after you finish obtain your Private Pilot Glider Rating and glider Self-Launch Endorsement, you can get a Sport Pilot Airplane Endorsement by working with Sport Pilot rated instructors. That involves flying with an instructor, and an oral or written test. The Endorsement requires interaction and sign-off of two instructors, but does not require a Practical Exam with an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner.

With the Sport Pilot Airplane Endorsement you can exercise Sport Pilot privileges which could allow you to fly an airplane that meets Light Sport Airplane criteria, including (relatively inexpensive) vintage ships like most Cubs, Champs and Luscombes among others, as well as homebuilt and the newer generation of composite LSA ships. Of course if you later want to fly gliders towed into the air by a winch, auto or towplane, you must earn one or all of those endorsements working with a Certified Flight Instructor Glider (CFIG).

In summary, this path provides the best of both worlds: licensed to fly gliders and light sport airplanes. And in my experience, you will be insurable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks guys for your responses. 

The insurance and monthly storage are a known expense. Not worried about those, but putting out 10 to 15,000 to gain a PP via the rental fleet just seems like a waste of money. No physical asset at the end of the training.

For example a buddy of mine started with the rental path, then bought a pretty nice C model Mooney to finish his training and being a complex single helped build time and ratings in. Worked out well for him as he piled up a lot of hours in the first few years and now flies for an airline. He still has the Mooney, but it flies a lot less. (He should probably sell it.) It has been a great investment for his training.

I have a number of people I work with that would be interested in getting into flying as a hobby or career choice. I had good response when I floated the idea of buying an older motor glider and putting it into a club based on the EAA model. Lots of hoops to jump through to make this idea work out, but at least there is interest. 

I have found an old Tailfun that is need of a lot of work. It is very tempting. Oddly enough one of my bigger hangups is the motor. Since this is a certified plane, it seems I'm pretty much stuck with the 80hp VW based Limbach motor. Even though I am building an experimental airplane and been in the EAA a long time, I am not a fan of auto based engines. Seen plenty of reasons not to trust them. What are your thoughts? Seems a popular engine for motor gliders of this era. 

Reading accident reports for different motor gliders I don't see a trend of motor failures reported. So that is a good sign.

While I'd prefer to get a running plane that is in annual or shortly out of it. A project plane is not out of the question. I do have an AMP that works for me and is one of the folks interested in getting a plane into a club.

The Taifun with the tri gear, retracts and prop makes it rather attractive package. I'm also a bit of a fan of composite aircraft. With this said, if a nice little Grob 109 should pop up... Or maybe a Lark 28M2A that seem to be in the lower price range but sound like they have a good reputation..?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Time and money are inversely proportional. Flying for 'cheap' cost a lot of time. Flying conveniently costs a lot of money. Advice is free however ...

The more owners, the lower the costs, so pretty much the cheapest way to go is with a glider club. The downside is the amount of time required; but is it a downside? While it might take all day and $100 to get 3 instructional flights totaling an hour, is that $100/hour or $100 for 8 hours? If you enjoy socializing on the ground, the latter is closer to the real cost and it's cheaper per hour than going to a movie. Plus some have families that enjoy the outings. And, being plugged into the aviation world this way, you learn a lot from the more experienced aviators, including partnerships and planes for sale that never get advertised.

A far bigger question to answer is not which airplane, it's the ownership method: Club < partnership < sole.

As a sole owner, it will be very difficult to run any aircraft cheaper than an FBO will rent it for, unless you're flying 200+ hours per year, which of course, drives total costs way up.

Don't expect any TMG to violate the time/money equation, at least not for long. Most have low hours for a reason: it's a pain in the rear, unless you have a hangar with a 60' door opening, to deal with unfolding the long wings. Some deal with that by parking outside, which destroys gel coat (Taifun, Grob), fabric and eventually, everything else. Others let them sit on the ground for long periods of time, which also isn't good. Rotax and LImbach engines and parts, especially certified, cost every bit as much as an O-200 or O-235. The Taifun, besides being very rare and very complex, is long out of production making for difficulties in finding parts. At annual time, you will also be paying a lot of money to educate the IA. Like a Vegas exotic dancer, easy to look at, but hard to life with. An Fourier RF-4 or Scheibe SF-25, might be comparable in cost to own to an old Champ or Pacer, but not a Taifun. And such 65 - 100 hp classic planes are going to be about your best bet in terms of overall costs, plus be ideal for your training purposes. Or, finish your Glastar, which is a fine airplane. The guys 3 hangar doors down from me, bought an unfinished kit together, finished it and are flying it heavily.

But cheapest, easiest and likely best next move before committing serious money is a glider club. Remember, and I know this from experience, owing an airplane that one can't afford to fix, is a feeling far worse than not owning one at all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you very much!

I was discovering that I could not find much info about the Taifun maintenance and parts availability in the english language. 

If anyone is interested in a really rough Taifun, it is listed on Barnstormers along with 2 other TMGs in similar condition.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone here has given you accurate and good advice.  Find (or create) a good flying club and you can't beat the cost as an individual just wanting to train or accumulate hours.  Networking in a club pays big dividends to setting up your future aircraft ownership.  Individual aircraft ownership should come after you have a license and have zeroed in on type of flying you want to do.  After I had my PPL SEL and no access to rentals, I bought a $6000 experimental Baby Ace and built tail wheel time until I could afford more (Warm months only!).  Today I partner in a Phoenix Motorglider but don't recommend that purchase expense for most people.  The more afforable TMGs are good flyers but poor climbers and the Limbach motors are not easy to find knowledgeable repair for, so only buy if you know of such experts.  BTW: I too fly RC gliders and have done some homebuilt aircraft building.  Due to limited time and money, I always had to choose just one: build or fly.  I wish I would have spent more time flying than building, but that is just my hind sight.  Good luck with your adventure!  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't disagree with the advice above.  However, let me just add the instructor into the equation.  Having ready access to an instructor that has the availability to support your  availability model is critical.  Most people will tell you that the minimum flight and instructor hour costs can be achieved by completing your ratings in near minimal time (weeks rather than months).  As it stretches out over time the number of flight hours required goes up.  Taking an extra 10 to 30 hours sort of blows any cost optimization analysis.

Ownership is a 'feel good' objective and unless heading to the airlines it will not be the cheapest method of getting to any reasonable finish line.  Clubs are the best way to make progress in the early days of being a pilot.  It also helps to reinforce your flying model and if ownership will factor into it.  What you want for training may well be different than what you want after achieving your certificates.  Your friend knew he had to build up time for the airlines.  Most of us have other missions in mind.

Finally, I caution anyone going into flight to be careful about being pre-occupied with minimizing cost.  I would rather have that person be pre-occupied with safety first followed by fun, utility and other related parameters.

I hope it comes together for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They were hoping for $27K for the one photo'd above. Think a good current plane is $40k, so think the $27k price was too high as I see a lot of work and details it will need to get back into annual. It will also need to be trailered from its current location in rural GA. It does have a zero time prop, fresh rebuild.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...