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Homebuilts:Starting VS Finishing

Posted By:
Brad Strand
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#1 Posted: 10/12/2009 12:52:31

 I read recently that only 10% of homebuilts that are started get completed.  And that of those that are finished only 10% are finished by the original builder.  This means that only 1% of builders who start a homebuilt actually complete it.  Why do you think this is? 

We all begin with such hope, enthusiasm, and excitement.  What happens along the way?  I have heard some of the stories, but I would like hear from you.  If this is so common there must thousands of stories out there.  If you have bought or sold an unfinished homebuilt, or know someone who has, what happened? 

If there is enough interest I might even tell my story.


Adam Smith
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#2 Posted: 10/12/2009 13:16:58

If I might jump on Brad's thread here with a related issue, we're planning a feature for Sport Aviation on the subject of "Project Paralysis".   In addition to hearing from people that have got stuck in their project,  we're really interested to learn how people have found ways to get their projects back on track, stay motivated over a long period of time, etc. 

Dave Prizio
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#3 Posted: 10/12/2009 15:56:45

I think those numbers are a bit too pessimistic, but completion does vary quite a bit from kit to kit and certainly for kits vs. plans.  For instance, if you call everyone who buys a set of plans a kit builder, you start to get some pretty low completion numbers, but I would maintain that many, maybe the majority of, plan buyers never even start the construction process. Are they builders?  I would say no.

GlaStar kit builders, with whom I have a lot of experience, tend to finish their planes at a fairly good rate -- almost 400 completed vs. around 950 kits sold. Some took 10 years or more, but a lot of them finished.  Of these I would say that something like 75% were finished by the original builder.

My guess is that other well supported kits like RV series, Lancair, Glasair Sportsman, and RANS series get finished at a pretty high rate, and more often than not by the original builder.

On the other hand, I think that many planes that do not come as kits and especially those that do not have a large following, prove to be too difficult and/or time consuming for most builders and do end up collecting dust long before they are ever finished.

Good planes that perform well and have broad appeal that can be built from  good, complete, well documented kits, with good builder support groups lead to finished projects.

Ried Jacobsen
#4 Posted: 10/12/2009 21:04:29

Some people might buy plans, and discover in reviewing the plans that the aircraft is not the right fit.  One of the posts I saw suggested buying plans just for the educational value of seeing how an aircraft might be put together.  For those reasons alone, you cannot call every plans buyer a builder.

Steve Fabiszak
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#5 Posted: 10/13/2009 21:54:05

As said above, a kit with the greatest chance of completion is a well supported kit. That  would be one in which 100% of the necessary parts to complete the airframe are included with the kit. Thats why there are so many RVs and Glastars present at airshows. They are affordable to the average income guy and just about every part is included in the kit saving the builder downtime to shop for hoses and adele clamps. Thats not to say I didn't send ACS a bag of money while building my RV but it was a much smaller bag than I would've sent if I built a Hatz Classic or a plans built plane.


Brad Strand
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#6 Posted: 10/15/2009 00:10:23

I agree that the quality and completeness of plans and kits has increased dramatically since I first started watching the homebuilding movement in the late 80's.  These changes have made homebuilding accessable to many who would not have been able to build before.  Also, as more and more homebuilts are completed, the increase in grassroots builder support networks has made information more available.  I think these are good changes that have convinced more people than ever that "they can do it too"  It would be interesting see the results if that same survey were redone today.

Bill Evans
#7 Posted: 10/15/2009 19:41:19

My sense of the 10% rule is that it's more true for plans built aircraft than for kits. The more complete the kit is the greater the cost and thus the incentive to complete it.

I bought an aircraft that needed to be restored, a racer. It was advertised as being about 50 hours work from flight rteady. It looked that way too. A much closer look revealed perhaps a thousand hours of work to be done, requiring 2 years., and $7000.

The secret to completing any project is to do some work on it each day, to build time into it for each day. Even if it's just 10 minutes to order a part, it's important to allow the project to advance daily.

I think it's also important to start a project that will hold your interest until it's completed. I bought the racer for that reason. It was quite a bit ahead of me, so I spent $3000 on advanced dual. Better than than starting an aircraft in which I'd lose interest. That's also true for flying it. Every flight requires an hour's preparation and my A game. It's always a challenge to fly.

I expect that homebuilders who are part of an active chapter have a much better chance of success. If there are several similar projects underway, the probability of completion increases.  Further, if one member buys plans or a kit, that may be enough to encourage others to do the same.

I've bought a few things that others started with good results.

Bill Evans



Steve Pollina
Homebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#8 Posted: 10/15/2009 23:12:49

I don't really believe it is only 1%. I'm still working on my WACO Taperwing replica. It has been 19 years, but I have rebuilt 2 vintage aircraft. [Champ and a Stinson] I also started a Skybolt but sold that project at about 50% compleated. No one ever polled me. Where did the data come from? I personally know of 6 friends that have started and completed projects out of 8 that started projects, mine not included.