Riverside’s Light Sport Aviation celebrated their grand opening in August 2011 with much fanfare. This new flight school and demo flight (AKA scenic flight) center features these new light sport aircraft, which were launched just a few years back as a method to increase interest in aviation by lowering the barriers to entry for new pilot. The school features a new Cessna C162 Skycatcher.
The demo flight begins on runway 27, a one mile long, 100 foot wide runway, making it longer and wider than many other airports in the Inland Empire (with plans to make the runway even longer). After hanging a sharp left, we flew over the 91 Freeway and above Lake Mathews, a flight school hot-spot due to the lack of residents to complain about the noise from this single engine propeller airplane (and large body of water below, just in case).
The flight took us over the 15 Freeway and above Lake Elisnore, where boaters could be seen enjoying their weekend on the water. After turning right to head back to Riverside, the pilot began the descent by pulling back on the throttle. We then passed about 1,500 feet above the 91 Freeway, with little envy for the traffic and slow speeds that plague this commuting nightmare.
Off to the left, the Riverside airport could be seen in the distance, which signaled our last turn to the left back to runway 27 at Riverside Municipal Airport. The pilot grabbed the controls and brought the plane down smoothly and with little effort, as he has with planes large and small for 22 years and counting. Watch the full video of the flight below, captured from the plane’s buil-in camera.
After the flight, the pilot was glad to send me on my way or explain the options ahead if I was interested in pursuing my passion for aviation by gaining a license to fly on my own, with passengers or for hire.
The ground operation also includes a flight simulator based on Microsoft Flight Simulator. With 6 screens covering the horizon, the future pilot is placed right inside the cockpit as they take off from Riverside Municipal Airport and land at March Air Reserve Base (or many other locations). Unlike playing this game at home, the pilot faces a virtual cockpit with every control found in an airplane, creating the feeling of being in the air (minus the G-forces) and at a far lower cost, but without any of the danger.
Should you choose to embark on the journey of becoming a pilot, the benefits are many. Given the reduced number of hours required to become a light sport pilot, many students gain their license in just a couple months, though some stretch it out longer as your schedule and budget permits. As long as you complete three take offs and landings every 90 days, you’ll be certified to take a passenger in the co-pilot’s seat, which always makes a fun date or day out with a friend. This also gives you easy access to a last minute flight to Las Vegas, about a two hour flight away.
Every hour the propeller is running will set you back about $100, making this last minute trip about $400 (gas included, or “wet” as the pilots call it). Daily minimums apply, so the cost may be higher if you decide to let the plane sit at an airport in Vegas all weekend. Nonetheless, the planes are efficient, traveling about 100 miles per hour at about 25 miles per gallon. Rather than drive to the Ontario airport only to stand in a security line and take off an hour later, then wait for your baggage on the other end, just book these planes ahead of time online through Light Sport Aviation or one of the many flight schools or aviation clubs in the Inland Empire, show up and take off. Plus, you’ll at the helm of an amazing airplane, adding an amazing thrill to your travel.
Adjacent to the new flight school is Riverside’s new Premium Flight Services, a city-sponsored resource for pilots and their guests visiting Riverside. The setup features a free concierge to ensure air-bound passengers enjoy thier time in the Inland Empire, a lounge and snooze rooms for pilots to wait while their passengers take care of business or pleasure in the city, and other resources for pilots. This FBO (Fixed Base Operation) includes maintenance and fuel services as well.
Priced at less than $100, demo flights make a great gift for the aviation nuts that you might have among your friends and family.
Light Sport Aviation is located at 6741 Gemende Drive, Suite C, Riverside, CA 92504.
For more information on scenic flights and flight schools at other airports in the region, check out our review of demo flights and flight schools in the Inland Empire.