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Choosing a homebuilt

Posted By:
Brian Donley
Homebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
4
Posts
1
#1 Posted: 8/18/2010 12:24:06

I'd like to get some input.  I want to build a homebuilt.  My requirements are 2 seater - 120 knots and up - not too hard or expensive to build.  I have confidence I could build a vans, but by the time the project is done, that adds up.  I'm confident in woodworking and metal working (except welding), and think I could learn composite without too much problem.  What do some of you recommend?

bjd



Joanne Palmer
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
276
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#2 Posted: 8/18/2010 12:29:38

What sort of budget?  Don't include engine and avionics at this point as those may change.

 



Carl Orton
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
87
Posts
16
#3 Posted: 8/18/2010 12:57:23

What's your mission? Short hamburger hops? Cruisin' around the local area? Hard IFR cross-country?

My neighbor just finished an RV-12. It was about $60K, but went together in no time at all.  Of course, it's an ELSA, so it has to be built the way Van's says. I've got about 200 hrs left on my Sonex; it's taken me 2.5 yrs, but I work full time and this past winter was working some SERIOUS overtime, so it can be done in less time. I'll be around $33K for mine, but I have to have a transponder, and I went with a color EFIS, so the little things add up.

The Zenith high-wings are a bit ....er....unusual looking, but they supposedly have great performance and are easy to build. Same with the Ran's S-7. Some of the Ran's birds go together in 400 hrs or so.

All kits basically assume you know nothing about construction, so you're OK there. You need to figure out if you want all metal or if you want to go tube & fabric. Or composite, for that matter. Glasair has a nice high-wing that can be ready for taxi in two weeks if you have the $$$ and participate in the factory program.

-Carl



- Carl
Joe Norris
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
328
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137
#4 Posted: 8/18/2010 14:47:43

Brian,

Before you get down to deciding what specific design to build you may find some value in EAA's Homebuilt Aircraft Buyer's Checklist .  This checklist will help you to better define your mission and answer other questions that need to answered when deciding what to build.

Cheers!

Joe



Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
Dave Prizio
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
118
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29
#5 Posted: 8/19/2010 18:32:10

Take full advantage of the resources available from EAA for sure. Also the Kitplanes Magazine Buyer's Guide is a great resource for information on currently availabel kits. Check it out at http://www.kitplanes.com/aircraftdirectory/

For sure you should check out the RV line of airplane kits from Vans http://www.vansaircraft.com

There is a reason why Vans sells more kits than everyone else put together.

A kit that is no loger sold but is often available in unstarted or partially finished states is the GlaStar. For more information see the GlaStar & Sportsman Association Int'l. web site http://www.glastar.org/GSAI/Welcome_to_the_Glastar_%26_Sportsman_Association.html

The Arion Lightning is a fast and easy to build kit that is fairly recently on the market and worth a look, unless you are extra large like me, in which case it is probably going to be a bit cramped for you. Check it out here http://www.flylightning.net/

Once you define your mission and your budget I think you will find that there are a number of interesting choices. Best of luck with your search.

Dave Prizio



Dustin Lobner
Homebuilder or Craftsman
1
Post
0
#6 Posted: 8/19/2010 22:02:24

If you want a really versitile two seater, check out the bearhawk patrol.  You'd have to learn how to weld, or just buy the kit from AviPro.



John Johnson
Homebuilder or Craftsman
14
Posts
2
#7 Posted: 8/20/2010 00:03:21

I'm the old curmu;dgeon on the hill!  I have been in the EAA for over fifty years and been a Technical Advisor and Flight Advisor since the programs started.  My first homebuilt was the Mechanix Illustrated Baby Ace!    My recommendations are simple.

1. Go out and buy some small, inexpensive airplane.  The 15 to 20 thousand dollar range is about right.  This will allow you to go fly on nice days and stay reasonably current while you are building your new super airframe.   Then, when you get the airframe all finished and ready for an engine you sell your small inexpensive airplane that has kept you piloting skills up to snuff and use the money to get a suitable engine for your airframe.  The airplane is worth the price of an engine now and it will still be worth the price of an engine when you are ready for one.  Then you don't have to worry about "pickling" your engine until you are ready for it and you also get to fly while you are building.   It is a "win-win" deal.

 

2. Do not even think about building any airplane until you have seen one and flown it.  That is the ONLY way you can ever be sure that your dream plane really IS your dream plane!  It is also a pretty good way of ensuring that the airplane you want to build really does exist and isn't someone's bright idea of the kit they are going to market as soon as they get enough venture capital! 

 

Over the years I have seen quite a few people burned because the airplane they started to build never materialized completely and they would up in the position of either scrapping several years of effort and money or trying to finish the design job that was never completed.  It may even be the case that it cannot be completed into a reasonably safe aircraft.  I have seen kits that could not easily be made safe to fly.  I won't mention any names here,  but if you look back on the history of homebuilding you will see several well known and popular airplanes that many people bought and then you will count very few of them flying.  You really do not want to join those folks.

The other mistake I have seen repeated over and over during my years in the EAA is people building an airplane that they cannot fly!  Frequently they discover this on the first flight when they wreck the airplane.  Unfortunately they sometimes wreck themselves in the process.  We really want to avoid that eventuality.  The best way is to fly an example of your dream ship before you plunk down the bucks and commit to actually building it.   While it is true that most anything that looks like an airplane can be made to fly, we would like to fly well.  I remember a homebuilt that I once bought and rebuilt.  It was a cute little airplane and tough as all getout.  The only problem was it had a top speed of only 110 miles per hour.  What really made that bed was the first indication it gave of an approach to a stall was a sudden snap roll to the right.  What was really bad about that, was that it happened every time you let the airspeed get below 100 miles per hour.   It was the only plane I ever flew where my landing approach was a full power dive at the end of the runway so that it wouldn't stall until I got the wheels on the pavement!  I tryed everything I could think of to try and never got that darned little airplane to fly decently.  Sure did great snap rolls though!

John  EAA #9135



Spencer Gould
Homebuilder or Craftsman
32
Posts
1
#8 Posted: 8/20/2010 01:37:43

 

The other side of the equation that few people think of is where you are going to build it. This should be the first thing you think about before settling on a specific design. If your serious about getting your project done in a timely manor you need a working environment where there are little to no excuses on why you cant build. Getting this right will be the biggest ace up your sleeve when taking on a project. With out this you can stretch a 500 hour project into 15 years before you know it. Here is a list of what to look for when your thinking about a work shop.

 

Less then 30 minutes away from where you sleep & shower on a nightly basis (aka your main home), the closer the better. Ideally into a 2+ car garage or across the grass to a steel building / barn. Rental space to built a project is available in some areas, just make sure it’s approved for what you are doing & the monthly cost doesn’t over shadow your aircrafts cost. Note in some parts of the country finding a place to build can be a bigger challenge then the plane its self: New York City, LA, or in my case South Florida.

 

Insulated & climate controlled. If your sweating or freezing all the time it will cut down on your productivity big time!!! & could lead to you disliking working on your project. Your attitude needs to be “I’m going out to work on my project” NOT “I’m going to serve some time in a sweat shop” Also some materials like composites and wood glues need warmer temps, you may be able to work with a coat on but it doesn’t mean the glue will to.      

 

Can you get what you build out of where you are building it?. Sure you can pop together a sonex in a 3rd floor apartment but try getting the wings and fuse out of there.

 

Decent amount of space, avoid trip & head room hazards. Organization of materials & tools is critical for a cost effective & timely build (its easy to buy the same part over and over if you keep forgetting you already have one). Remember building a RV tail kit in a bed room is one thing, building the wings / fuse / sand / paint & hang the engine is a different story when it comes to space required.

 

Decent electrical power, running a generator doesn’t count.

 

Have a radio and or TV in the shop, have the game on while you work on your project rather then sitting on the couch watching the game. Note if it’s a distraction to you or a safety hazard (running saws, mills or other power tools) then turn it off.  

 

Willing to buy the right shop tools to take on the job & the space to store them. Jerry rigging parts can gobble a lot of time as compared to having the right tool to start off with. If you only need to do a few of a thing then barrowing is ok but if there is a ton of stuff to do you don’t want to wear out your welcome.

 

Appeasing the Family, try to keep the dust, noise & mess in the shop, aviation may be your passion but it may not be your spouses or Family, with the above mentioned it should aid on keeping them on your side.   

 

Its easy to not think about it and a workshop is a expense of time and money but with out a usable workshop its just a pipe dream.  

 

Hope this helps.

 

Spencer Gould

 

Tech Counselor # 5426



Brian Donley
Homebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
4
Posts
1
#9 Posted: 8/21/2010 09:34:22

Thanks for the input.  The advice so far has been great, and a lot of ideas I haven't thought of, despite 3 airventures and a lot of thought (and daydreaming?)  Sorry I haven't been able to post back for a few days.  Work and family...

Some of the questions asked I have answers to, and some I don't

Mission, or what want to do with the plane:  Fly for fun, go for a burger, occassionally fly 2-300 miles to see family for a day or a weekend.  I don't care about STOL - Prefer to know it's not going to take all day to get where I'm going.   I fly a few times a month 2-4 times usually, for 1-2 hours, but will increase that if I don't have the hassle of leasing.

Flying in the meantime I'm looking for a partnership in a 172 or cherokee to build time and minimize cost while allowing for the above.  

Budget - money and time, I have a family so dollars are not unllimited.  A sonex is in the price range, but too small for me and another person for a couple hours I think (I'm 5' 10" and 225), but might be what I build.

Space - limited.  My wife says I can have 1/2 the two car garage (I can use both sides for short periods of time, as long as everything goes back into my side and she can use hers - I don't know, I think she's being very reasonable and understanding, and the ability to go out in the garage and work for 1/2 hour without driving 1/2 will help.) 

I think flying in one before deciding is a great idea - I'm willing to fly about anytime the weather permits, with about anyone.  Just need to find some takers ..........

Thanks again,



Reiff Lorenz
Homebuilder or Craftsman
26
Posts
3
#10 Posted: 8/21/2010 18:01:21

Brian,

 

I plugged these criteria into a database of all available kit planes:

1.       2-place, side-by-side seating

2.       120 knots or faster

3.       Kit available for under $30,000, can be flying for under $50,000

4.       More than 100 kits have been finished and flown (proven design, lots of other builders to help you)

5.       Build time less than 2,000 hours

 

There were 3 results:

1.       Vans RV-7. 176 kt cruise, 468-pound capacity (full fuel), 783 nm range. $20,000

2.       Vans RV-9. 163 kt cruise, 534-pound capacity (full fuel), 713 nm range. $20,000

3.       Mustang Aero, Mustang II, 191 kt cruise, 490-pound capacity (full fuel), 670 nm range. $16,500

 

Hope this helps your decision!

Reiff Lorenz

 

PS I'm happy to run other criteria for you. If you want to play around with these yourself, Kitplanes.com has the best online database of homebuilt aircraft and kits. You have to pay for an online subscription, but it's worth it!



Carl Orton
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
87
Posts
16
#11 Posted: 8/22/2010 12:26:31 Modified: 8/22/2010 12:28:40

Hmmm.... I don't know why the Sonex doesn't show up in the list using only those criteria stated. It meets all of them. Yes, I am biased, but it does meet them.  ;-)

I looked at building an RV-9, and the build times seemed just a bit too long. As in, vansairforce.com discussion groups were citing 1400+ hours for builders that went so far as to opt for the quickbuild option (and they were still looking at significant time to go), which adds quite a bit of cost.

Avionics and engine are another big budget-buster, but I'll admit that you can make some compromises. As an example, you might find a used mid-time O-235 in the $6,000-8,000 range. Depending on where you live (like under a Class B mode C veil) will require a transponder.  My EFIS, comm, and xpnder were $4550. I could have gone monochrome display, and I could have gone with used avionics, but I wanted the compact form factor of the 2.25" avionics. My EFIS has built-in GPS and is color (MGL Enigma).

One thing you might find interesting; if I went with steam gauges, the cost was more for them than an EFIS. That's counting ASI, VSI, ALT, plus oil pressure/temp, fuel, tach, and some type of EGT/CHT. Mid-range quailty & price.

I have 890 hrs build time in my Sonex, and I estimate I have about 200 to go. I estimate development projects for a living, so while I don't expect my numbers to be spot-on, I am relatively confident that it'll be close. I find it interesting that Sonex says "average" build time is about 1200 hrs. Some have done it in 500 (no idea HOW they did that....), some have taken 2000+.

I'm bigger than you, and my wife is about average. We can both sit in the Sonex. Yes, it's tighter than a 182, but not much tighter than my 172. Even in roomier planes like the RV-12, you're gonna want to get out after 2 hrs anyway. (data source: neighbor just finished one and flew it to AirVenture. the RV-12 has LOTS more room than my Sonex, but he was *still* itchin' to get out after 2 hrs.) Of course, the RV-12 is about $63,000; I'll probably have about $33,000 in mine when done.

I'm building mine in 1/2 of my garage. If you have space to store the wings somplace once complete, your goal of having one car parkable will not be an issue. I built the EAA-spec wing rack, so right now only about 1/2 a car could park in my garage. Lots of builders hang them from the rafters, which frees up the space. I simply chose not to.

The Sonex website has a "find a builder" feature. You can type in zip / state / etc and find builders near you. I'd be surprised if other kit companies don't have a similar function. Best bet is to narrow-down your list of kits, then contact a builder and ask if you can see their project. If completed, most will give a ride. I've had at least 10-15 folks call me up out of the blue to see my project over the past 2 years.

 



- Carl
Reiff Lorenz
Homebuilder or Craftsman
26
Posts
3
#12 Posted: 8/22/2010 13:16:52

 Carl,

I hear lots of great things about the Sonex. It didn't make the cut because its cruise speed ( 113 – 117 kts, or 130 – 135 mph) is just under the 120-knot criteria that Brian had requested.

Here are the specs that I have for the Sonex:

=>  Sonex: 113 kt cruise, 384-pound capacity (full fuel), 548 nm range. $25,500 includes engine!

This could be a great option for Brian if he's flexible on the speed requirement. One caveat: the lower range and full-fuel payload mean that he isn't going to himself and an adult passenger more than 400 miles with reserves.



Carl Orton
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
87
Posts
16
#13 Posted: 8/22/2010 14:19:51

Y'know, I could have sworn that that speed was just a skoatch faster, but you are correct according to the Sonex website. ;-)

In my original post a few days ago, I noted that it was all about what Brian's mission was, and he clarified.

Like everything in life, the ideal airplane is a compromise. Given ANY airplane's fuel burn, for example, one could fly with a few gallons less fuel if they're right on the edge of the W&B envelope. Another variable is final overall weight. The numbers you cite are Sonex' "standard" build weights of 620 lbs. Very few come in at that weight; some add transponders, landing lights, autopilots, lift reserve indicators, additional paint, etc. Some builders increase the stated gross weight by 50 lbs since that is within their purview (note that the Jabiru 3300 option bumps the Sonex numbers up, too.)

Having an LSA-capable plane was important for me. I can pass the medical today, and given my family genetics, I'll be around awhile, but I'm old enough to plan for the future. MY mission is small local trips, along with 2-3 longer x-c's per year. I don't want to build a plane only to have to sell it a few years down the road because I later decide to not renew the medical. Brian and others may decide that night flight, higher speeds, or greater gross weight are more important for them, and THAT is what they should build.

-Carl



- Carl
David Darnell
61
Posts
18
#14 Posted: 8/23/2010 18:46:03

  Just a thought, while you are contemplating what you will get, take a class on welding (or for that matter, any other area you feel you are weak in) IMO that alone will open up your options on what you can build, and is a skill that is usuable on almost every project.



Eric Marsh
Homebuilder or Craftsman
49
Posts
7
#15 Posted: 8/27/2010 22:03:46

John,

I really like your suggestion about buying an older airplane while building to get those hours in. I can't do it right now but I'm going to see if I can come up with a way to do so down the road.

From what I could see an RV-6 or 7 appeared to be the right choice. One nice thing about them is that there are a lot of unfinished projects out there that can be had inexpensively. I found mine (fuselage, wing kit, two emp kits) on Barnstormers for $6500. Finding a good deal might go a long ways towards making the dream more of a possibility.