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Sport Pilot - Looking into building Kit aircraft

Posted By:
Gerry Thomas
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#1 Posted: 10/19/2010 07:50:10

 I am considering building a light sport airplane (all metal) from a kit aircraft manufacturer - would like any feedback from anybody that has built an airplane from a kit. I have pretty fair mechanical abilities, but have never taken on a project of this magnitude. Would like to hear the pro's & con's of building from a kit. Does anyone regret starting a kit project with the prospect of nevering finishing. I like the Vans RV-12 & Rans S-19. Thank you for any comments!

Dave Prizio
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#2 Posted: 10/19/2010 17:58:30

EAA and other sources have dealt with this question before in a general way. Check the EAA web site for more info. There are also some books available on the subject.

There are certainly many people who have started kits and never finished for any number of reasons, but that does not mean you will fail to finish your project if you decide to build a plane from a kit. You need time, money, patience, and support from friends or family to be a successful builder. If you are missing one or more of these ingredients, getting to the finish line will be harder.

The kits you mention are not particularly hard to build, in fact they are probably easier to build than most. That makes them a good choice for a first-time builder. That said, you will probably need about 2 years of free time to complete either one -- that's at 10 hours per week. If you can work more than that, you probably don't have a regular job or you don't sleep much. If you work on your project less than that it will just take longer. If you have a friend who can work with you, the schedlue can be compressed and the probability of successful completion can be increased.

I am not sure I understand your question about the pros and cons of building from a kit. As opposed to building from plans? As opposed to buying a completed airplane?   Building from plans will take longer and is really for people who enjoy building a lot. If you are not sure if you are one of those people, building from a kit is probably the way to go, asuming you have the money.  If you are someone who just wants an airplane, and preferrably right away, then you may be a better candidate for just buying a completd airplane.

I personally think building airplanes is very interesting and rewarding, but I also like to fly, so I prefer kits to plans. But different builders have different priorities.

 If you aren't sure if you could be a successful builder, join a local EAA chapter and spend a little time with some builder members. If you enjoy doing what they are doing you will probably make a good builder, too.

Donald Morrisey
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#3 Posted: 10/19/2010 19:46:24

Hi Gerry,

If you're looking for all metal, consider a Bushcaddy.  The R-80 is light sport.  The plane I just finished is model R-120.  Building a plane was an amazing adventure for me...nothing had ever given me the self satisfaction I got from building my own airplane.  Like you, I was fairly handy but had never tried anything of this magnitude.  It was well worth the effort.  I ended up with the exact airplane I wanted and I know it like the back of my hand.  I'll never forget the first flight.  The reward is great.  Persistence is key.  You will meet great people throughout the adventure, they will become lifelong friends.  Check out my website, (link below) it explores the why and how of my adventure.


All the best,




N2C; BushCaddy R 120 w/O235-L2C; http://www.donsbushcaddy.com
Andy Gamache
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#4 Posted: 10/19/2010 21:01:43 Modified: 10/19/2010 21:08:32

Pros: Tend to get done quicker. You know parts are made correctly (at least YOU know you didn't make any mistakes anyway).


Cons: Tend to be more expensive than plans built. Depending on the kit and whether or not you got outside help, you could run afoul of the FAA in regards to the 51% rule (at least it's easier to do so). You may be surprised to find out that a complete kit doesn't necessarily include everything (think nuts, bolts, rivets, etc.)


If you want to go for it, then go for it. Both Rans and Vans have good reputations.

Carl Orton
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#5 Posted: 10/20/2010 12:49:39


There are several options out there. I can only comment on those with which I have some experience.

Rans S-19. Sat in the first one just after first flight (so I didn't get to fly in it). VERY nicely done. Nice features. I believe, however (and this is based on conversation with Randy Schlitter at AirVenture 2009) that Rans would prefer to sell them more as completed aircraft. I have heard (w/only one builder's confirmation) that kit parts were slow in being shipped, since the parts were being used on completed craft.

Vans RV-12. Helped my neighbor / CFI build it, and have flown left seat. VERY nicely done; nice features like power ports, and a jack to port your intercom/comm content to a video/audio device for recording. Roomy. A bit slow; anything over 110 kts gets very noisy. Decent handling; optional autopilot is VERY nice for going anywhere, as you must continually fly it otherwise. I'd say it's on the expensive side; my neighbor's in for over $60K so far. Great plans, great support. He had several of us helping, and he was always waiting for Vans to start shipping the next kit part (he's s/n 75 or so, so he bought the wings before the tail kit was finalized, tail before the fuselage, etc.).

I'm building a Sonex with the AeroVee engine. I have purchased everything I need except for final little sundries etc., and I have about $33K in mine. Of course, I'm under the DFW Mode C veil, so I have to have a transponder, etc. You  *can* build one for somewhere around $25-26K. Quite a bit of fabrication involved, but for me, that's enjoyable (regardless of some parts I screwed up!). Meets LSA, but will cruise faster at altitude. Aerobatic capable (but not prolonged inverted). GREAT builder support, both from the factory and online builder forums. I've never had an issue that someone else hasn't already provided a solution.  A bit tight for two people; lots of people buy them with the center stick option and fly from the center of the seat. Two can fly somewhat comfortably if you don't mind having your arm being on the crossmember behind the pilot's back. Very straight-forward build sequence. Lots of folks say the plans are the best in the business. Very nice folks to work with as well. The performance claims on the website are spot-on with customer-built completions.

I budgeted 13 hrs / wk (3 during week, 10 on wkends), and at 2.5 years that would put me at about 1200 hrs, which is an average build time. Some have built in 700 or less hours - how, I'll never know. Some (the minority) have over 2000 hrs in theirs. I budgeted my time to allow for some trips each year (we travel out of state during college football season quite a bit, AirVenture, visiting son who's attending school out of state, etc.). Have to keep the wife happy. This month is the 2.5 year part for me, and I just have to hang the engine and finish wiring. At this point, I have 950 or so hrs in mine. 4Q2009/1Q2010 were killing me at work, so didn't get much build time in during that time, otherwise, I would have been well within my budget. (I'm not a slave to schedule, but in my real job I have to quantify things, so it's just natural I guess that I try to bound other things....)

I'm just saying, as have others, that if you approach it realistically, it can be very rewarding. The first assembly you make that looks like an airplane part has such a great deal of satisfaction and "wow" factor from the neighbors that it makes it all worthwhile. I may just build another one!


- Carl
Anh Le
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#6 Posted: 10/23/2010 17:40:00

Hi Gerry,

I settled on the Zenith CH650 after extensive research although I'm very curious about the Onex from Sonex Aircraft.    I considered the RV-12 and S-19 too.   The RV-12 has to be built as an ELSA, which means that you have to buy everything from Vans for them to certify it: no flexibility with engines and gauges.  

I'm going with the Experimental Amateur Built route.  I'm going to use the Aerovee with turbo charger and outfitting the panel with a steam gauges + a Garmin 496.

You can save some money by checking out Barnstormers for unfinished kits for sale.  Actually I saw an ad of a professional builder who builds RV-12s for sale.

Let us know when you have made your decision.

Anh Le