View Full Version : Home built aircrafts
Wright Air CEO
11-20-2004, 12:16 AM
I got several questions about Home built aircrafts or (kit) aircrafts.
1. What are the pros and cons?
2. What is the budget for a kit?
3. What is the average fuel range for kit built aircrafts?
11-20-2004, 12:30 AM
Wow - there's a VERY broad range there! ;-) Here I go though...:
1. - Pros: You built it, know how it is assembled, and can continue to work on it (less the annuals). They are much less expensive than a pre-built, certified aircraft. They can at times, have much better performance than a standard certified bug-smasher, such as a 180mph EZ powered by the little Lycoming 200 c.i. 4 banger.
Cons: You built it, and work on it. So, you need to have some degree of mechanical skills and trust with yourself. They are required to carry an "EXPERIMENTAL" badge on them, which can be decieving to passengers.
2. - Budget: There are very small, almost ultralight type homebuilts that go for around 10 grand, and I have seen a turbo-prop Lancair that goes for about 300 grand or so.
3. - Fuel range: Small homebuilts powered by either little conversion motors like the VWs, or the automobile GEOs, and whatnot can consume quite a bit of gas for a 4 cycle. Some small homebuilts may even be powered by the popular 2 strokes of Rotax, which get pretty lousy MPG, but not terrible GPH rates.
What plane exactly are you looking at?
Wright Air CEO
11-20-2004, 12:53 AM
I do not know exactly. I want an aircraft that can go at least from Charlotte, NC to Charleston SC, and maybe to New River VA, without fuel stop. I also want an aircraft that can have an IFR panel and can land on short fields. I dunno, I just want to have something unique ya know? lol.
Wright Air CEO
11-20-2004, 12:58 AM
Right now I'm looking at Velocity aircraft website.
11-20-2004, 01:38 AM
KylePrestwood answered your questions pretty thoroughly, so I'll add some other/extra comments...
I'd like to throw in that the amount of work and time needed to build a kit-plane is often underestimated. I know of four people who've started kitplane projects and three have yet to finish... that said, I think it's a great alternative to buying a conventional (assembled) plane. I would just make sure you can commit to a time consuming project. It really comes down to ambition to get into the air. The fellow I know who finished his plane just couldn't wait to fly it. While that may be a bad thing in that you might want to rush the project, it will also keep you from quitting.
Do you have your certificate now? If you plan on using this plane for any kind of regular travel, I would just like to point out that without an instrument-capable plane, it's very easy to get stranded at another airport. I remember the day after I passed my checkride I flew to a nearby class C airport with a rental... By the time I was taxiing back out for departure, ground informed me that the weather at my destination had just gone IFR (I wasn't instrument rated... and neither was the plane). Long story short, I checked the WSI weather in the FBO frequently and decided to wait it out. I was lucky enough to have the weather improve a few hours later, but it could easily have stayed IMC. I don't know what the regs are concerning equipping an experimental plane for IFR, so it might not be possible.
I probably just went too in-depth, but like I said it's food for thought if you plan on using this for more than just leisure flying. If you are instrument rated etc. and I'm preach'n to the choir, please forgive my reply.
11-20-2004, 01:54 AM
I have a friend who I fly with to build time, and all he talks about is building his own airplane, a Glasair. I am in, but all I say is, $HOW ME THE MONEY!
Good luck to you!
11-20-2004, 03:31 AM
The RV10 looks like an incredable little aircraft.... someday I'll have one of those parked in my hanger :)
11-20-2004, 12:53 PM
Do people who build their own aircraft usually have a degree in engineering? If not, how do they get the knowledge to put the whole aircraft together?
11-20-2004, 01:43 PM
I think that I should add a couple of things. If you are going to build one yourself, expect to take from a year to several years to get it built. Recognize that it will take extreme dedication -- many use every spare minute for years to build one. Of course the time required depends upon the aircraft, the kit, the facilities and/or assistance available to you, etc. Also, it is painstaking work -- if you can't be rather finicky about your handiwork (and patient), it might be better to not build -- after all, your life (and that of any passengers) will depend on that workmanship.
Also, you can get expert advice (and often assistance, as well) from the folks in your local EAA chapter. In fact joining the EAA and getting to know some of those folks should be your first step. They can help you determine the type of aircraft that best suits you, whether building is right for you, good sources for materials, etc.
And finally, don't forget that, as with any new aircraft, there must be a test pilot -- who will it be? If the aircraft deviates in even what seems to be small ways from the plans, it might not handle or fly as well as the design should.
Before you lay out the bucks for a kit (or plans), it would be best to do some research and find out whether it really is something for you. It's definitely not for everyone -- witness the many, many unfinished kits that have been languishing around various garages for years (and check Trade-A-Plane for partially completed kits).
11-20-2004, 03:54 PM
>Do people who build their own aircraft usually have a degree
>in engineering? If not, how do they get the knowledge to put
>the whole aircraft together?
Hundreds of pages of plans, third party video tapes, and many dedicated websites on the internet; as well as lot's of help from other builders. Also helps to belong to the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).
I'm in the sheetmetal (HVAC) business myself, which at least helps for building an all aluminum aircraft.
11-20-2004, 07:07 PM
You don't have to be a genious either, to build your own plane. Now maybe to design and build one...
All you have to do is tighten the bolts down, follow the plans set-forth, and you'll be fine. Besides, an IA is requried to sign off your newly completed experimental if I am correct.
11-20-2004, 07:33 PM
>You don't have to be a genious either, to build your own
>plane. Now maybe to design and build one...
>All you have to do is tighten the bolts down, follow the
>plans set-forth, and you'll be fine. Besides, an IA is
>requried to sign off your newly completed experimental if I
In addition to bolts, I had 12,000+ rivit holes to be drilled, deburred, primed, and flush rivited. Then there is 300+ feet of wire with many connections that need to be done to aircraft standards. A lot of metal also needs to be cut & shaped.
It's a whole lot of work, but some people seen to build three or four. At least the newer Van's kits have holes pre-punched to a slightly smaller size, which can be clecoed together & avoid a lot of jigs like I used. BTW -- A cleco is a spring loaded fastener to hold parts together until rivited.
Once all the paperwork is done & plane signed off by an FAA designated examiner, you have to fly either 25 or 40 hours in a designated area, which is usually a triangle of three airports. To get by with 25 hours, the engine & prop need to be certified.
My Lycoming engine & Hartzell C/S prop are both certified. I can do all inspections & repairs to the airframe, but I'll need an A&P for engine repair/inspections to keep them certified. They're worth more..... that way.
There are also "quickbuilds" offered by several kit manufactures. These are about 49% done by someone else, and 51% by the owner. This still gives you the right to do inspections & repair.
edit---- typical building time is 2500-3000 hours. Some glass kits are more than that.
11-20-2004, 08:38 PM
I guess the snappy answer for building a full size airplane is that if you are unable to build a radio control model, don't bother with a full size one.
There are a number of excellent programs on the Discovery Wings channel that show what goes into building your own plane. As far as being a mechanical genius just have a talent for working with tools or the willingness to learn to use them. Don't settle for "good enough."
If you are serious, I would first join the EAA and find a local chapter where you can pick the brains of people who have actually finished a homebuilt and flown one. Also, if you don't have your pilots licence now, go out and get it from a regular flight school A 200 knot plus airplane is fun to fly, but I sure wouldn't want to learn on one.
11-21-2004, 03:34 PM
>Wow - there's a VERY broad range there! ;-) Here I go
>1. - Pros: You built it, know how it is assembled, and can
>continue to work on it (less the annuals).
If you are the original builder (and apply for the repairman's certificate when you apply for the rest of the airworthiness stuff) you can perform annuals on _that_aircraft_alone_. Did one with my dad on our RV-6 last year, and about to do it again when I go home for Christmas/Thanksgiving (2nd anneversary of its first flight is today).
I agree with the other poster; the RV- series is great. They fly very nice, fast, and maneuverable. They can run a little pricey though, especially if you build it like one guy we know (glass cockpit, fire extinguishing system, FADEC, autopilot, ##### warmers...). It took about 6 years to build ours, but that was before the quickbuilds and the prepunched parts.
11-21-2004, 10:08 PM
The two biggest budget busters with a homebuilt are the avionics and the engine. You can spend up to 16 grand for 180HP certificated engine. There are less expensive alternatives, but remember that the only thing keeping you flying is that mill on the front of the plane.
Avionics can be as cheap and simple or as complex and expensive as your wallet can stand. If you want full IFR you are going to need good radios that are not going to be full of static in bad weather. You will want at least two com radios and one VOR head with glideslope and localizer. In addition I would toss out any idea of NDB and go with an IFR certified GPS. This can be used in any situation where DME and NDB are required. Hold on to your hat when you start to price these. Again, when your in the soup, trying to get down it is NOT the time to be wishing you hadn't bought a used NAV/Com from someone on Ebay. A couple of years ago I had an attitude indicator get funky on me during a missed approach in the clouds. All that partial panel work in FS helped me get on top where I could see if it was going to go totally south on me. It is amazing how your fast your heart can beat.
You don't want second hand avionics unless you will be strictly VFR.
11-21-2004, 10:30 PM
>The two biggest budget busters with a homebuilt are the
>avionics and the engine. You can spend up to 16 grand for
>180HP certificated engine. There are less expensive
>alternatives, but remember that the only thing keeping you
>flying is that mill on the front of the plane.
These day's, they are even more than that...
IF......................you buy the kit, an OEM price for a new Lycoming 180HP is a hair less than $24,000.00. Add a few thousand if not buying from a kit manufacturer. Other options are re-builts & un-certified engines from manufactures that build Lycoming type parts. Figure at least $5,000 for a constant speed prop, or a couple of thousand for a fixed metal one.
Without doubt, I really do want to add a two-axis auto-pilot, which for experimental aircraft is around $4300.00 but must be tied to a panel mount or newer hand-held gps. Newer units output (to the AP) every second versus every 2 seconds. These APs use minature solid state gyro's and actually work better than most certified units.
11-22-2004, 12:21 PM
Our club just had to overhaul the elder Skyhawk and decided to upgrade the 160HP engine to a 180. The quote we got was for 16 grand but that was taking into account that all the accessories would be airworthy. Shopping around for the engine on the C182RG I found a big difference in the price for the same engine from Mattauck and Penn Yann Aero. You get a better deal from either of these two companys vs Lycoming and the engines are as good or better with the Superior Cylinders.
Even after you have your bright shinny new bird sitting on the ramp, you have all the same costs that buying a certificated airplane entails. These include, hangar or tiedown, fuel, insurance, maintenance costs among others. If you are smart, you include a figure for overhaul of that brand new engine. Even if you sell this bird, you may buy one that has time on it and needs to be replaced.
11-22-2004, 02:20 PM
>Even after you have your bright shinny new bird sitting on
>the ramp, you have all the same costs that buying a
>certificated airplane entails. These include, hangar or
>tiedown, fuel, insurance, maintenance costs among others.
BUT... if it's a homebuilt, you can do the maintenance yourself. And if you were the primary builder, you can even do the annuals yourself too. No need to pay a mechanic.
Another benefit (some don't see it that way, but that's not the point here) is that you aren't limited to things that were certified for your airplane. For example, if you want to add a GPS or autopilot, you don't need to go to the FAA and get an STC or other approval. Just get your drill out and install it. We have some rather "goofy" stuff on our plane; the alternator came out of a Honda, the panel lights are the kind you see on ricers, floor panel carpeting is leftover from the living room, the landing light is a standard car foglight, and we use a throttle-body injector (like an R/C aircraft carburetor) instead of a normal carburetion system. The TBI is great; no icing problems, you can pull the mixture all the way out on the ground to minimize plug fouling, and it works in all attitudes.
03-18-2005, 08:01 AM
I own a Van's RV6A. Two place sliding canopy, all aluminum, 180 HP Lycoming with constant speed prop. Have around $70,000 into it, as engine & prop were bought new. Interior is not done & it isn't painted. These planes will fly over 700 nm on 38 gallon capacity of fuel.
Am currently getting a lot of cross country miles in a Van's RV9A. This plane has a longer wing than mine & is excellent for long cross-country (very stable & easy to land). Has glass panel, two axis auto-pilot tied to the panel mount GPS. I'll throw a pic of this one, which took about three years to complete. 150HP & C/S prop. IMO--- much more fun to fly than 172's. Perforamce is much better, but then it's lighter.
edit...... second pic is my plane. After flying the 9A, I also want a two axis auto-pilot tied to a color moving map GPS! :7
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