Is a Homebuilt Aircraft Project For You?
Do you have the mental
needed to complete a homebuilt airplane? Is it more
Should you build or buy? There have been lots of
articles, blogs, and forum
discussions about this by a lot of people who are smarter than me. But here are my two cents
There is no way you can
you can buy a new airplane for the same price you can build one.
experience, to get
the same performance from a new production aircraft
you will spend two to three times what you will for a homebuilt. But the expense doesn’t
stop there. When
repairs are needed, unless you’re an A&P,
you will be shelling out a lot of money.
Labor is running over $50 an hour at most
shops, and parts have gone out of the roof.
for example, the alternator. If
you own a
Piper Cherokee with an O-360, you will shell out $450 for a rebuild
alternator. If you
had a homebuilt
aircraft with the same O-360, you could go to Autozone and buy an
same holds true for all the parts, from
recovering the upholstery to loading up that new panel with the latest
digital technology. I
put my entire IFR
panel with GPS
and two-axis autopilot together for under $10,000.
Check out the chart below
for a side by side
comparison between experimental and certified (TSOed)
instruments. I used
what I installed in
my plane for the
Experimental column, and the cheapest instrument I could find for each
||STEC System 50
||Avmap EKP IV
||Bendix King KMD-150
has a built in
GPS/moving map, so if you don’t mind sharing the one display between
moving map, you can lower the cost by $6,500, for a new total in the
"Certified" column of $18,894.
didn’t include radios and antennas because you have to use
the same radios in both airplanes.
aren’t any experimental only radios out there yet.
Could Never Do It"
I have talked to many
building my kitplane. I
lot of reactions like
“I could never do it” and “I don’t know anything about building.”
I always ask
the same two questions, “Do you own a set of
craftsman tools?” and “When
breaks, what’s the first thing you do, call a plumber or pull the cover
see if you can fix it?”
you have your own tools, and you lift the cover before calling the
build a Vans kitplane. These
kits are put
together with the first time builder in mind.
Vans suggests you start with the tail kit,
then move on to
the wings and
fuselage for a couple of reasons.
parts are cheaper, so if you mess one up, it isn’t as expensive to fix. And they have written the
directions with this building order in mind.
you perform an
operation, the directions
spend a lot of time explaining everything.
Then the next time you do the same operation
different parts, the
directions remind you of the last time, but spend a little less space
describing the procedure. Slowly,
amount of direction and description is reduced as you progress, until
eventually they say "just do it".
this, you get the direction and help you need in the beginning, but
aren’t slowed down by having to read through stuff you already know.
This point may be
debatable. If you
don’t like working with your hands, then a
you. I find it very
relaxing to get to the airport
and work on my project. I’ve
called lots of things like “escaping to your man cave.”
That’s exactly right.
If I have had a hard day/week or am feeling
stressed, I can build a part or buck a few rivets, and everything is
the world again. Of
course, I also get
that feeling when I fly.
Here is a biggie that, in
most people get
wrong. Usually I
hear “I would never
trust a plane that I built,” or “Your wife is going to fly in something
built?” Let me tell
you, I feel much
safer in my homebuilt than in a factory built.
know the guy who primed the parts, and I know he didn’t take any
shortcuts. I know
the guy who bucked the
rivets, and I know he drilled out every single one he messed up. He never once said “That’s
going to be covered
up anyway, no one will ever know.”
didn’t show up for work hungover, he wasn’t distracted from his work by
plans for Friday night.
The other half of the
piece of mind
is in knowing your
aircraft. I am
intimately familiar with
mine. I think I’ll
notice anything wrong
sooner because I built it and know what it is supposed to be like.
love talking about airplanes, and I especially love
talking about mine. Relating
to other homebuilt kitplane
builders about the difficulties, and how we overcame them. Showing off the personal
saw this sign "For Sale" once. Go figure.
Is For Me
all these reasons, a homebuilt aircraft project was exactly what I
wanted to do. Read here why I chose the
RV-8 from Van's Aircraft.
course, my wife has a few things to say about this whole idea of
building my own airplane. Check
out her thoughts