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Sunday October 05, 2014 12:09
















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Piece by Piece TM



Home Kit Aircraft Building and Flying






Building and Flying a Texas Sport Cub





In the United States, homebuilt aircraft may be licensed Experimental under FAA or similar local regulations. With some limitations, the builder(s) of the aircraft must have done it for their own education and recreation rather than for profit. In the US, the primary builder can also apply for a repairman's certificate for that airframe. The repairman's certificate allows the holder to perform and sign off on most of the maintenance, repairs, and inspections themselves.


A composite construction Cirrus VK-30

From a historical perspective, Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first to offer for free construction plans, publishing drawings of its Demoiselle in the June 1910 edition of Popular Mechanics. The first aircraft to be offered for sale as plans, rather than a completed airframe, was the Baby Ace in the late 1920s.


A Rutan Long-EZ homebuilt in 1984 (UK)



Homebuilt aircraft are generally small, one to four-seat sportsplanes which employ simple methods of construction. Fabric-covered wood or metal frames and plywood are common in the aircraft structure, but increasingly, fiberglass and other composites as well as full aluminum construction techniques are being used, first pioneered by Hugo Junkers as far back as the late World War I era. Engines are most often the same as, or similar to, the engines used in certified aircraft (such as Lycoming, Continental, Rotax, and Jabiru). A minority of homebuilts use converted automobile engines, with Volkswagen air-cooled flat-4s, Subaru-based liquid-cooled engines, Mazda Wankel and Chevrolet Corvair six-cylinder engines being common. The use of automotive engines helps to reduce costs, but many builders prefer dedicated aircraft engines, which are perceived to have better performance and reliability. Other engines that have been used include chainsaw and motorcycle engines.


In 2003, the number of homebuilts produced in the USA exceeded the number produced by any single certified manufacturer.









In an article written by Dave Martin  for KITPLANES Magazine, titled: "Here's how to maximize your chance of success", he listed the following ten points:

1. A type of aircraft being built by others in your area. EAA chapters and other builder groups offer a chance to see work in progress and to participate before committing to a kit purchase. Doing this in advance also reveals the drawings and manuals, the quality of materials, and how well the parts fit.

2. An aircraft that can be built at home. If you lack a garage or a large workshop, consider building a temporary structure at home for the project. The time saved commuting and the motivation of a home project can be critical to achieving the goal.

3. Construction techniques you already know or want to learn. If you have woodworking tools and skills, seriously consider building a wood airplane. Modern glues and wood-preserving techniques allow wood aircraft to be as durable as those built of metal or composites. Or maybe you've always wanted to learn welding. Take a junior college or technical school welding course before committing to tackle an aircraft that will require welding skills.

4. An excellent construction manual. These days, most kit manuals are adequate, but it's best to review a set or at least sample pages before buying the kit. Construction photos are often helpful, but exploded-view drawings are usually even better. Construction videos may also be of interest, but they should not substitute for clear drawings, blueprints or text in a manual.

5. A reputation for good factory support. The kit manufacturer should be willing and able to provide names and phone numbers of current builders and customers who have completed the company's aircraft. Among the many questions that should be asked of builders, an assessment of factory support should be near the top.


A non-typical wood construction amateur-built, the IBIS RJ03

6. An aircraft you have flown. Considering the investment that homebuilders have in their aircraft, a fly-before-buy policy is close to essential before writing the big check. Budget enough time and money to go where you can at least watch an example being flown. If the aircraft has two or more seats, arrange with the kit factory for a demo flight. Most companies find a way to charge for these flights but many count the cost toward kit purchase.

7. A project you can afford without straining. Make a realistic budget including tools that you will need. Some builders are surprised to find that an engine often costs as much as the airframe kit. And some builders?even first-timers?spend as much on instruments and avionics as they do on the airframe or the engine. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn't create personal or family tension.

8. Family support including help with construction. Sports and hobby widows are common in our society where husbands and fathers (and in some cases, wives and mothers) too often sacrifice family time to pursue other passions. Some first-time homebuilders have anticipated the problem and have countered it with a specific pact with the family. Example: "I'll work on my plane no more than four weekday evenings and one weekend day each week." Many have enlisted the family's help in building the aircraft. These techniques help preclude the well-known AIDS hazard: aviation-induced divorce syndrome.

9. An aircraft in which you are physically comfortable. Complying with Item 6 should preclude building an aircraft in which you don't fit...providing you pay careful attention. The excitement of sampling a gorgeous airplane has clouded the vision of more than one potential kit buyer who?when making engine noises in the cockpit of his partially complete dream?found that there was too little space for cross-country comfort. Especially if you can't fly an example (maybe because it's a single-seater), find one somewhere and ask permission to sit in it a while. Can you stretch out, open a chart, and avoid touching the canopy with your headset or hat?

10. One you will be pleased to fly. This summary category is more subjective than the others and relates to all of them. If your aircraft looks good and you are happy to be identified with it, that is a positive indicator. A few builders, however, have found that they chose the wrong airplane. It's too slow to keep up with friends in the Saturday $100 hamburger fly-out. Or more likely, it is too fast or too slippery for the builder's comfort as a pilot, especially in challenging wind or weather. If the owner enjoyed the building experience, the solution is to sell the aircraft and pick another project more carefully.







There is an incomparable joy and reward that results from building and then flying your own aircraft. If you believe that you have what it takes, you should really consider this option. If you need help in locating information that may help you, do not hesitate to contact us here at The Texas Pilots Association, and we will do our darnedest to be there for you, including at your maiden flight!



An American Legend Aircraft Cub built from a kit




Sources of images:

American Legend Aircraft. Wikipedia.








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