A aviation & planes forum. AviationBanter

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Go Back   Home » AviationBanter forum » rec.aviation newsgroups » Home Built
Site Map Home Register Authors List Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read Web Partners

Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old May 1st 04, 07:29 PM
Ron Wanttaja
external usenet poster
Posts: n/a
Default Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Last revised on October 6th 2002. Updated information on

This document attempts to answer common questions asked by newcomers to
the rec.aviation.homebuilt newsgroup, or those curious individuals
unfamiliar with the domain of homebuilt aircraft. It assumes that the
reader already possesses limited familiarity with aviation in general.
It is not meant to answer any and all questions, but it is intended to
give the reader a foundation upon which to learn more on their own. The
article is laced with the author's perception of "conventional wisdom",
which does tend to change as time passes.

The following questions are answered in this FAQ:

Q301: What is the Experimental category, and what types of aircraft are
classified/operated in that category?
Q302: What is a kit airplane versus a plans-built airplane?
Q303: What separates a homebuilt from an ultralight?
Q304: Why would someone want to build and fly a homebuilt when perfectly
good certified aircraft are available?
Q305: What is the 51% rule, and how does it affect me?
Q306: What are some common experimental types, kit-built or not?
Q307: What are the tradeoffs of metal vs wood vs composites?
Q308: What types of engines can I use?
Q309: Why do pilots get so upset over the choices between two and four
stroke engines?
Q310: Can I use non-certified props?
Q311: How do I license my completed airplane, and what inspections are
Q312: How are registration numbers assigned, and can I choose one?
Q313: Can I type-certify my airplane?
Q314: If I sell the airplane, am I liable for it later?
|Q315: What operations are illegal in my homebuilt that might not be
in a type-certified airplane?
Q316: What happens if I buy a homebuilt that I didn't build?
Q317: Can I insure a homebuilt airplane?
Q318: Am I safe flying a homebuilt airplane?
Q319: What health hazards might be involved while building?
Q320: What design should I choose?
Q321: Where can I see one of my choices, and can I fly one?
Q322: How long will it take to finish?
Q323: How do I know if I can afford it?
Q324: What tools and facilities will I need?
Q325: Will my marriage survive?
Q326: How do my maintenance costs compare to a certified airplane?
Q327: Who is the EAA, and what do they offer me?
How can I join, and are there any local builder clubs?
Q328: Where can I find parts or materials for my project?
Q329: Can I find more written info?
Q330: [Deleted]
Q331: Is there anyone on Usenet who knows about the GarageRocket 432?
Q332: I'm having trouble with construction, where can I get help?
Q333: What financing is available for building a plane?
Q334: Can I take lessons/get my license in my homebuilt?

The core of this FAQ was written by Steve Cornelius (formerly at
) with updates by Ron Wanttaja
). Comments, corrections, or suggestions always
welcome, please forward them to

Vast helpful assistance and input was provided by:
(Steve Cornelius)
(Randy Stockberger)
(Corky Scott)
(G A Venkatesh - "venky")


Subject: Legal category

Q301: What is the Experimental category, and what types of aircraft are
classified/operated in that category?

A: The Experimental category is essentially an "operating
classification" that has a legal bearing on the operation of the
aircraft, just like Normal, Utility, or Aerobatic categories have.
There are several sub-classifications in the category, such as
Amateur-built, Racing, Exhibition, Limited, R & D, and others.

Experimental/amateur-built aircraft are the primary emphasis in
this newsgroup. It refers to non-type-certified aircraft that are
built, maintained, and flown by individuals, thus the term
"homebuilt". Amateur-built aircraft are intended by the FAA to
serve as educational "vehicles" for their builders and pilots.
(sorry 'bout that pun...)

The original justification for making the category legal was that
it increased the pool of individuals knowledgeable in the area of
aircraft production. Thus the nation had "experts" in aircraft
production to draw upon in times of national emergency. Silly as
this may sound today, it was taken seriously in the mid '50s when
the category addition was being proposed.

Note that a type-certified airplane may also be re-categorized as
experimental if it's modified in a form such that the FAA will not
approve on a standard 337. This is often the case for prototype/
modified certified aircraft, or for highly specialized
applications (although these are often categorized as "Restricted"


Subject: Kit Airplanes

Q302: What is a kit airplane versus a plans-built airplane?

A: Kit airplanes are aircraft designs that are sold as a package of
parts and subassemblies to be assembled by the owner. They are
primarily a market response to the lack of new and affordable
type-certified production aircraft. The kit attempts to strike a
balance between those desiring a finished airplane, versus those
wanting to build. They also allow people to build a new aircraft
when they may not possess the time or ability to build from
scratch. Cost of a kit airplane is generally higher than that of

The "plans-built" aircraft is scratch built from a set of
engineering drawings only, the builder makes most all of the parts
from raw materials. This was the "original" form of homebuilding.
These take longer to complete than a kit airplane, but can also be
less expensive and more rewarding to those who enjoy building. For
the popular designs, quite a few prefab parts do exist, especially
the ones that are too difficult or costly to fabricate yourself.

The term "kitplane" is commonly used for kit aircraft, but the
term itself is trademarked by KITPLANES magazine.


Subject: Homebuilt .vs. Ultralight

Q303: What separates a homebuilt from an ultralight?

A: Ultralights and Experimentals may both be built by the owner, but
the ultralight may carry no passengers (except for instruction).
It also has limits on weight, speed, and fuel, which the homebuilt
has none of (outside of operating restrictions in part 91).

Often, licensed ultralight owners have chosen to obtain
airworthiness certificates so that they can overcome one or more
of these restrictions. This reclassifies the ultralight as an
experimental, and the pilot certificate, medical, and currency
requirements become effective.


Subject: Homebuilt .vs. Certified

Q304: Why would someone want to build and fly a homebuilt when perfectly
good certified aircraft are available?

A: In a sense, Cessnas & Pipers can be compared to older Chevys and
Fords, in that they attempt to be "all things to all people". Such
compromises may be acceptable for most, but not all pilots.

One of the remarkable things about homebuilts is the sheer
diversity of designs & intended purposes. There are some compact
aircraft that store in your garage and fly off of any short field.
Right next to it might be another that carries 4 people 300mph at
18,000 ft. Next to that one is one that cost less that $10K to
build. Another could be flown in unlimited-class aerobatics.

Note that your garden variety Skyhawk can't do any of these
things, but it's still a quite a useful & desirable airplane. It
all depends on what you want it to do.


Subject: FAA 51% Rule

|Q305: What is the 51% rule, and how does it affect me?

A: In order for an aircraft to qualify as amateur-built, at least
half the fabrication and assembly must be done for recreational
and/or educational purposes.

A common misconception is that a single *builder* must perform 51%
of the work. That is not the case. To quote FAR 21.191, "...the
major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by
persons who undertook the construction project solely for their
own education or recreation."

Note the plural..."persons." You can buy a partially-completed
project, finish it, and get it certified as amateur-built, even
if you, yourself, didn't do 51% of the work. However, you will
still need to prove that "amateurs" did the majority of the work.
If you buy a partially-completed project, get the previous
builders' photos and builders log.

The definition of "the major portion...fabricated and assembled"
has been undergoing changes over the years. Currently, the
FAA has been taking more of a "task" orientation on this issue:
The builder might have to construct a rib, for instance, to learn
how to do that task, but the FAA is not currently requiring the
builder to repeat that process on the remaining ribs. This logic
has resulted in the approval of a number of "quick build" kits
that would have been unthinkable in the 70s or 80s.

The original genesis of the "51% Rule" (the FARs don't define
a percentage, they merely say "the majority." The FAA interprets
this as 51%) came back in the early days, when people would
perform modifications to production aircraft and apply for
certification as amateur-built. Before the promulgation
of the "majority" clause, you'd see J-3 Cubs converted to
mid-wings, etc. certified as homebuilts.

The first major update to the 51% rule came with the original
Christen Eagle. An FAA official insisted that Frank Christenson's
biplane kit was too complete, that the builder didn't need to do
enough work. Frank went to some length to prove to the FAA that
this wasn't true.

Now the FAA maintains a list of "approved" kits that have been
proven to comply with the 51% rule. Note that a kit does *not*
need to be on the list to be legally sold, it just serves as proof
to the FAA that the type complies with the rule. Some kit
suppliers opt not to put their products on the list, the reason
being that once approved, any changes to the product require
reapproval by the FAA. If your kit is not on the list, you will
have to prove 51% compliance at inspection time.

The inspector does his job based on a set of guidelines published
in the "inspectors handbook" issued by the FAA to their field
inspectors. The guidelines for the 51% rule are established in
this handbook. All decisions made by the inspector are effectively
determinations "by the Administrator" (if you're familiar with the
FARs, you'll understand the phrase immediately .

You can download the list of kits approved under the 51% rule
http://av-info.faa.gov/dst/amateur/ama-kit.pdf. This is
an Adobe Acrobat file; free readers are available from a number
of sources.

Subject: Types

Q306: What are some common experimental types, kit-built or not?

A: Sorry, the list is just too long for the scope of a FAQ.

Keep an eye on the many magazines which cater to homebuilders;
any book magazine stand should carry a wide selection. All
run advertisements by both designers and builders, so try to
follow them for a while.


Subject: Materials

Q307: What are the tradeoffs of metal vs wood vs composites?

A: This can be a heated subject amongst builders, we'll try to
approach the subject generally and gracefully.

Metal construction has the widest acceptance by the non-aviating
public. It is relatively simple to work with, and is inexpensive.
A metal structure is strong and of moderate weight and cost. But
with improper care it corrodes, and events (like the Hawaiian 737
that lost its top) have reminded us that metal does have a finite
fatigue life.

Wood is the oldest aircraft structural material, but has a poor
public acceptance. The strength-to-weight ratio and fatigue
resistance of wood is excellent, the problem is simply its
susceptibility to rot. Properly protected and stored, a wooden
airframe will last decades. But if not cared for, it will be
destroyed in a few short years. Wood also tends to be expensive,
and the supply is erratic.

Composites, "compost" jokes aside, have received much attention
recently from private and commercial builders alike, largely due
to work done a few years ago by Burt Rutan. Composite aircraft can
be quite strong structurally, and be built at very reasonable

The airplanes have very low drag figures and beautiful finishes.
It is easy to work with. But there are concerns about longevity of
the material. Most resins create an airframe that must be painted
white to prevent excessive heat buildup in the sunshine, since
epoxies and vinylesters soften significantly with an increase in

All methods are perfectly viable. Which one you choose all depends
on your preferences, abilities, and your needs for the airplane.


Subject: Powerplants

Q308: What types of engines can I use?

A: Literally any! For years, homebuilders have relied on certified
engines. But as the cost of these engines rises, alternatives have
been found. Several companies are building specialty engines
specifically for experimental use, and others are hard at work
adapting automotive engines.

The Rotax engines have received lots of attention. There are both
two and four stroke geared engines for experimental use and most
are water cooled. All are fairly reasonable in cost compared to
their certified counterparts. These products develop power in the
40 to 100hp category.

Some builders are enthusiastic about auto conversions, some are
not. Early on, a few builders were pulling engines out of junked
autos with poor results. Untuned engines were not ready for such
high-manifold pressure operations and suffered burnt plugs, blown
pistons, etc. But other builders have taken the time to customize
and tune auto engines to the application, and the results are
improving. The all-aluminum small-block Chevrolet is becoming the
poor-mans "Mini Merlin" and produces excellent power (not to
mention sound!). Some are also experimenting with Wankel-type
rotaries, as their power-to-weight ratio and physical compactness
make them excellent candidates for aircraft use. Power in auto
conversions can run from 80 to 400+ hp.

Water-cooled engines aside, builders have used air-cooled
Volkswagen conversions for years, and several companies are now
producing parts and completed engines. One company
actually had one of their VW Type IV engines certified in
Australia. VW engines sound similar to their Lycoming or
Continental counterparts but rev higher, in the 3100rpm range.
Modified stock crankshafts seem to show a tendency to break, but
the custom cranks do better (and cost more). Parts are usually
reasonable (but notice I didn't say "cheap").

If you are looking for an IFR cruiser to carry passengers, it may
be best to stick with certified engines and swallow the cost. But
if your purpose is a VFR weekend toy with good forced-landing
options and you like to tinker with motors, you might consider a
conversion. Again, your choice really depends on the mission.

A word of warning: When choosing a certified engine, the engine
must be equipped and maintained as it normally would be for a
certified aircraft. This means that all AD and bulletins must be
complied with. This can have some impact on your flight test
period. If you make any mods to such an engine, it will be
considered a non-certified engine for all intents and purposes by
the FAA, which will increase the test period from 25 to 40 hours.
It will also reduce the market value of an otherwise expensive


Subject: Powerplant types

Q309: Why do pilots get so upset over the choices between two and four
stroke engines?

A: The four-stroke air-cooled engine has been the mainstay of light
aviation for over 50 years and this shows no immediate signs of
change. Yet some two-stroke designs have attracted strong
followings in recent years. Why has this happened?

The two most obvious factors are probably cost and weight. A 65hp
Rotax costs and weighs roughly 60% of its certified Continental
A-65 counterpart. For the newer generation of "portable"
lightplanes, this reduced weight is an obvious design advantage.
The owners of these types often have to be conservative with their
flying dollars as well, so the Rotax wins over many of them. When
they consider that it can be majored by the owner in his garage
for a few hundred dollars in an afternoon, the decision is easily

Yet there are pilots out there who think of the idea of a
"chainsaw" engine as anathema to a proper aircraft. Improper
mixture control in a two-stroke can damage the engine quickly. The
vibration through the airframe is of a higher pitch. The higher
operating speed of the engine requires a geared speed reduction
system. Probably the worst offense: the sound of two-stroke
aircraft is simply unpleasant to some eardrums.

The reliability questions of two-strokes may have some basis. Then
again, it is often found that problems resulted from improper
installation, operation, or maintenance. Possibly there is truth
here, since the $10,000 certified engine understandably gets
"fussed" over considerably more. Its care and feeding are well
understood by most pilots since we are usually trained behind
such engines anyway.

Should you choose a two-stroke? Again, it all depends on your
preferences and requirements. If you need more than 65hp, your
decision is essentially made for now. But if it's a consideration
for you, study your options and carefully evaluate your needs.
Ride behind both and see if you're comfortable with them.


Subject: Propellers

Q310: Can I use non-certified props?

A: Absolutely. You can use certified, original, or modified props.


Subject: Licensing

Q311: How do I license my completed airplane, and what inspections are

A: You *did* document the construction, didn't you?

Before you are issued an airworthiness certificate, an FAA
inspector will require an inspection of the aircraft and all
documentation of its construction. They used to require a
"pre-cover inspection of the internal structure, but no longer.
Now they prefer that in-progress inspections are done by an EAA
Technical Counselor, and the inspector will look for his/her
comments in the construction log. When the FAA inspector arrives,
they expect the aircraft to be ready for inspection (all covers
removed), all taxi tests done and logged, and all documentation
ready for review.

When the inspector is satisfied that your airplane is ready for
inflight testing, they will issue a restricted airworthiness
certificate that describes a test period and testing requirements
(or they may insist on changes or repairs if deficiencies are
noted). The testing period is usually 40 flying hours (often 25 if
you use a certified engine & prop), and limits you to a fixed
testing area, normally a 25 mile radius from the home airport and
over unpopulated areas. Passengers are not allowed during the
testing period. While testing, keep a *detailed* log of all
activities, repairs, and changes.

The inspector will evaluate your testing at the end of the
test period, at which point he or she will issue a permanent
airworthiness certificate. At that point, you are free to carry
passengers and fly most anywhere you like.

If any major modifications or repairs are done later, the airplane
may need a re-inspection and retest. Call your local FSDO before
doing this to find out what they want to see.

You can also be issued a Repairmans Certificate for your airplane
only (*not* the type in general). This allows you to perform all
repairs, inspections, annuals, etc. on the airframe, since they
figure if you built it, you should be able to fix it. Note that in
FAR part 45, an "annual" is referred to as a "condition check",
which is legally different from an "annual inspection", even if
both actions are intended to accomplish the same goal.

Please note that the above information is valid only in the USA,
other countries usually have very similar requirements, with some
slight differences. Check with your local authorities before
committing any large sums of money or time to a project.

Also note that this procedure is the general case. It is entirely
possible that you may experience variations in the procedure. For
instance, one netter commented that his inspector waived the
second inspection and allowed standard experimental privileges
immediately after the test time was flown off and logged. As FAA
policy often varies between regions, expect some slight


Subject: Registration

Q312: How are registration numbers assigned, and can I choose one?

A: N numbers in the US are assigned by the FAA Aircraft Registry in
Oklahoma City. You must get one assigned before you have your
finished airplane inspected. It's sometimes suggested that you
wait until about 6 months before estimated completion, since they
will charge you an annual fee for reserving a number.

Requesting an assigned number will cost $5. If you want to request
a special number, it costs $10. If you request one, they suggest
you submit a list of choices, like 5 or so in order of your


Subject: Certification

Q313: Can I type-certify my airplane?

A: Not recommended. The costs are extremely prohibitive (which is
often why the designers refuse to do it), and there is little
benefit. Remember that the only major restriction on experimental
operations is use of the aircraft for hire.


Subject: Liability

Q314: If I sell the airplane, am I liable for it later?

A: Unfortunately, there is potential for a liability problem. Even
though "free" legal advice is often available on the net, I advise
you to contact your attorney if you find this issue troubling.

Some advocate having the buyer sign a "release form", which
would be promise not to sue if anything goes wrong. These
are essentially worthless... the buyer can't sign over his or
her *spouse's* rights, nor those of any one he or she sells
the airplane to.


Subject: Legal operations

Q315: What operations are illegal in my homebuilt that might not be
in a type-certified airplane?

A: Operations for hire are *expressly* forbidden - no paid cargo or
passengers are permitted. You cannot "lease back" the aircraft
to a local FBO.

This is not as restrictive as you might think. Often clubs are
formed around homebuilt aircraft, and it is legal for you to pay
an instructor to give you a checkout or BFR in your airplane. The
also now allows homebuilt to be rented as part of a pilot checkout.

Formerly, operations over "congested areas" was also forbidden, but
the FAA is now issuing operating limitations that do not include
this ban.

So in general, you can do most anything with your homebuilt that
you can do with normal private pilot privileges.


Subject: Purchase

Q316: What happens if I buy a homebuilt that I didn't build?

A: You get poor, like all airplane owners Anyway, you will not
be able to obtain a repairman certificate, since you didn't
build the airplane. The airplane can be inspected and maintained
by an A&P... an Inspection Authorization is not required. Also,
if the original owner retains his or her Repairman Certificate,
they can continue working on your plane...that is, if you can
talk them into it.

You, as the owner, are allowed to perform all the maintenance
and repair of the aircraft. Whoever performs the next condition
inspection (the builder or an A&P) will essentially sign-off your
work at that time.

In other words, the A&P's annual inspection not only covers the
inspection of the airplane, but it counts as the yearly signoff
for work done by the owner in the past year. An EAA article on
this agreement can be found at


Parts for kit airplanes may or may not be available depending on
the source. For either kit or plans-built, one thing to insist
upon is having the plans in your possession or available. This way
should a part need to be fabricated later, you still have the
specs to do it by.


Subject: Insurance

Q317: Can I insure a homebuilt airplane?

A: Yes you can. The insurance company may have their own requirements
above the FARs, but they normally will insure one. You may find
lower limits on passenger liability coverage though.

However, there is a growing problem with higher performance
kit airplanes such as the Glasair III, Lancair IV, 320, and 235. A
significant number of pilots have bought into these designs since
they offer performance levels in excess of that available from
Wichita. In an unfortunate few cases there has been poor
construction, and little to no training in aircraft that fly far
ahead of the average 172 or Cherokee pilot.

One example of changes: Where fast kit airplanes are concerned, a
major aviation insurance company is insisting on periodic
construction inspections by company reps, and thorough checkouts
in type (+10hrs) before they will underwrite a policy for that
aircraft. Check this out before you make a commitment.


Subject: Flight safety

Q318: Am I safe flying a homebuilt airplane?

A: You are as safe as you want to be. Little definitive data exists
comparing homebuilts to certified aircraft. One set of opinions
holds that accident rates are about the same for both certified
and homebuilt aircraft, once the test period for the homebuilt is
complete. Certified aircraft seem to have more unintentional IMC
accidents, while homebuilts fare worse in accidents resulting from
over-stress from aerobatics, forced landings, etc.

Safety is still a function of the pilots ability to make
intelligent decisions, as with all aviation.


Subject: Builder safety

Q319: What health hazards might be involved while building?

A: The most obvious hazards are those involved with common shop
practices, such as wearing protective lenses, handling power tools
properly, etc. Follow common sense in shop practice, and you
should be just as safe as if you were building household

However, a more subtle danger exists where chemicals are
concerned. Composite structures require handling of chemical
resins that are more exotic that simple adhesives. Paint systems
also require extra care. Epoxies and Polyurethane finishes pose
the worst problem.

Epoxies emit fumes that, while annoying, seem generally harmless
at first. But after exposure, your body builds an allergic
reaction to the substance. Once that threshold has been crossed,
you will be "sensitized" for the rest of your life. The isocyanate
content of polyurethane paint can trigger severe respiratory spasms
once you become sensitized to them. Again, the reaction potential
never goes away. Some paint and primer products also have
carcinogenic potentials as well.

The solution is skin and respiratory protection, and good
ventilation of the shop. *All* paints require at least filter
respiration, isocyanate based paints require a fresh-air system as
well. Wear protective gloves and eyewear. Above all, put an
exhaust fan in your shop and use it, so as not to affect the whole

Before you open an unfamiliar substance, read *all* the supplier's
warnings about protection. If you don't understand them, the
supplier should be happy to explain the requirements. Whatever you
do, *please* don't ignore those precautions.

You may invest years and thousands of dollars in your airplane.
Make sure you're still healthy enough to fly it when the time


Subject: Choosing a project

Q320: What design should I choose?

A: It's all up to the individual, but I'd highly suggest that you pay
particular attention to the following 2 items:

(1) Your desired mission for your airplane.
(2) Your available resources (money, space, ability, etc.)

Once you've a realistic and unemotional (!) handle on these items,
start checking out designs until you find 2 or 3 designs that fit
your situation best. Then go ahead and start checking out
differences between them. Don't dwell too much on factors like
"I've never done any welding" since you're going to have to learn
to do lots of things you never considered before. Also, designers'
claims for performance are often "stretched" a bit, so wait to
talk to owners before making any final decisions.

When you're at this point, it's time to start checking out real
aircraft. This is where the fun begins....


Subject: Evaluating types

Q321: Where can I see one of my choices, and can I fly one?

A: Oshkosh is great place to see virtually everything side-by-side,
but it's not the best place to take a ride because of traffic. If
you do go to OSH, there will be builders' forums, dinners, and
parties for type-specific gatherings. Make sure you take advantage
of these. Same thing goes for Sun'n'Fun if you can make that

Smaller fly-ins may be better for taking a ride *if* your favorite
type shows up. If your pet design is a little more obscure, it may
take some effort.

Once you've expressed interest in a type (usually by buying the
$10-$20 "info pack"), the seller may provide you with the
addresses & phones of customers who are willing to demo. This is
not as unusual as one might think - builders often love to show
off their toys! But if the design is a single seater, forget the

For most popular kit airplanes, the companies usually keep a
demonstrator around. You will probably have to go to them unless
they are "touring" your area giving demos.

Some people do actually build and fly aircraft without ever having
seen or ridden in one. But if there's a way to avoid that, do!


Subject: Completion time

Q322: How long will it take to finish?

A: Always longer than you think! A well-known writer in homebuilt
topics is often quoted as saying "Firewall-forward is half the
work", and "The jobs you thought were simple take forever, and the
jobs you thought were tough turn out to be easy".

Designers often try to minimize their estimates of completion time
for obvious reasons. And time varies significantly with builder
skill and experience. So the best way to estimate this is to talk
to other builders who have finished their projects.

For simple fixed-gear kits, 500-1500 hours seems common. For
complex kit airplanes (such as retractables) 1500-3000 is more
realistic. For plans-built airplanes, anywhere from 1000-8000+
hours are involved. All of these numbers are highly dependent on
the type, and on builder skills.

Don't be too dependant on "goal fixation", take the time to do the
job right. Above all, don't push it to try and get finished for a
major fly-in. The risks aren't worth it. Besides, the better
attention you pay to small details will make you feel all that
much better when you do fly it to a big event.


Subject: Completion cost

Q323: How do I know if I can afford it?

A: Well, if you have to ask....

The "nickel & dime" costs in construction can really add up fast.
Generally, if the cost of a kit is already a real stretch, you
have a problem. Sometimes the finished cost of a kit airplane will
exceed twice the cost of the kit itself.

Plan for this. Add up all the costs you can think of, then add 20%
for the stuff you *didn't* know about. Plan for contingencies: if
you make a mistake covering a wing, you may have to redo it (the
price of learning how). Be realistic with your estimations.

Scratch building is a little easier in that your expectations have
to be lowered. You expect a certain monthly amount to be spent
towards supplies, so you simply buy what you can afford, and hope
that it stays ahead of your building speed. You know that you're
trading time for money, and since completion is so far away it
doesn't seem so obvious.

Again, talk to other builders, and be honest with yourself about
what you can afford. An awful lot of projects never get finished
because the money supply ran out.


Subject: Builder requirements

Q324: What tools and facilities will I need?

A: Many designers will specify the tools needed for construction in
their particular case. Again (sorry!) other builders are also a
good source.

Every builder will need a set of basic mechanics tools. Nothing
fancy, but cheap tools often cost you money and time too. Another
shop accessory almost everyone needs is a small portable (or
big :-) air compressor. For painting, to cleaning parts, to
driving rivets, to general shop cleanup, compressed air is a
welcome asset. A small variable speed power drill is another
virtual necessity.

A small grinder and a drill press are other useful items. For
wood, a small table saw and bandsaw are indispensable. An orbital
sander is needed for wood and composite finishing. Wood builders
simply *never* have enough clamps, or so it seems. There are many,
many other items which are often nice, but not necessarily

Builders often get quite carried away with tools, and it's true
they can make a job easier and faster. But if you're in a squeeze
for a particularly expensive tool, think about how often you will
use it. It's entirely possible that you're better off renting one,
or borrowing one from a friend.

It's often amazing to hear of the places airplanes have been
created. One grand-champion airplane from the '92 season was built
on the owners back patio! But the favorite shop by far is the
ubiquitous suburban garage. Most airplanes can have the majority
of the work done on components in the garage, usually moving to
the hangar at the final assembly stage.

Whatever space you use, make sure it's well lighted and
ventilated. Composite aircraft may require winter heat in order
for resins to cure properly. Above all, make sure you can get the
assembly *out*of the shop before you start. More than one builder
has had to "modify" his basement to extract a completed wing....


Subject: Marital discord

Q325: Will my marriage survive?

A: This is too often the sad joke on the prop-tags at fly-ins: "Cost:
$64000 plus Linda" or "Brenda's Nightmare" placarded on the panel.
We've also heard of cases where a choice had to be made between
the lover and the airplane, and the plane won. Such is the magnet
of aviation....

Discuss this at length with your significant other. Explain the
commitment and be truthful. If they fly, great! But if not,
seriously weigh the situation and enter with his or her blessing.

Talk it over well with the kids too, if you have them. Some of
them thrill at the idea of building "our very own plane". Others
will think you've lost your mind. Kids can be great helpers too.
What better way to prove to them the practical value of education?

Consider establishing a planned work schedule. This does two
things, it lets the family know when you will be available, and
it helps keep your work habits consistent (keeping you on track
to finish it).

Once started, don't forget dinners out, long walks, helping the
kids with homework, and bathing the dog. They all need you too.
Have the number of the nearest florist on the shop wall, just in

Then again, sometimes sanding the perfect finish on an elevator
can make a lousy day disappear in a hurry...


Subject: Maintenance cost

Q326: How do my maintenance costs compare to a certified airplane?

A: Probably lower for the homebuilt, but it's not an absolute
guarantee. Parts prices will be far less, and if you're the
original builder, labor cost is zero. But if your engine
installation or wiring has problems, expensive parts can break in
a hurry.

Take care of it, and it should take care of you.


Subject: Experimental Aircraft Association

Q327: Who is the EAA, and what do they offer me?
How can I join, and are there any local builder clubs?

A: The Experimental Aircraft Association was formed in the '50s for
the purpose of sharing information amongst homebuilders.
Originally regional in scope, the EAA rapidly grew in later years.
EAA headquarters in Oshkosh WI is the sponsor and site of the
annual aviation party now known worldwide simply as "Oshkosh".
The official term nowadays is "Airventure" but the term has been
slow to take hold in the EAA rank-and-file.

EAA's political involvement is somewhat different from the AOPA.
AOPA was formed in support of all types of pilots, and tends to be
more of a pilot aid and lobbying organization, while the EAA
focuses more on building and flying for sport. This is not to say
that they don't take a political stance for their membership,
however. They have been active in the area of simplified
certification requirements for new training aircraft, and they had
a part in the creation of auto-fuel STCs for certified light
aircraft. Frankly, if you're a pilot, both organizations deserve
your support.

The foundation of EAA's membership support is through the
organization of hundreds of local "chapters" where members get
together on a routine basis.

Some chapters have club-wide projects, some stress education, and
some are only social in function. Most have at least one
"Technical Counselor" that can help you with your project, or
provide inspections. Involvement with a chapter is not a bad idea
if you're just getting started.

I can't stress the function of the Tech Counselor enough. If
you're about to begin a project, you will need someone to check
out your work and sign the construction log to effect. The
sooner you get to know these people, the better off you'll be.

The membership office is at (800)322-2412. The general office
number is (414)426-4800. If you join, they will provide local
chapter info upon request. Their address is:

EAA Aviation Center
P.O. Box 3086
Oshkosh, WI 54903-3086


Subject: Parts and Supplies

Q328: Where can I find parts or materials for my project?

A. Grab any homebuilder's magazine and scan the advertisements.
There are plenty of outfits just itching to set you up.


Subject: Books

Q329: Can I find more written info?

A: First, join the EAA. Among other benefits, they have an
extensive catalog of books covering homebuilding. Anything
written by Tony Bingelis is a good start.

Available from the FAA (call your local FSDO) and suggested:

AC 20-27D - Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft.

AC 90-89 - Amateur-Built aircraft Flight Testing Handbook.


Q330: [Deleted as obsolete]


Subject: Other builders

Q331: Is there anyone on Usenet who knows about the GarageRocket 432?

A: A typical web search using Yahoo, Google, etc. will usually yield
extensive information on any given type.


Subject: Finding Assistance:

Q332: I'm having trouble with construction, where can I get help?

A: If you're having trouble with plans or type-specific details:

The first place to check is with the kit or plans supplier. They
may be able to assist over the phone, or direct you to someone in
your area who has been through this before. This also allows the
supplier to know where the weak spots in their documentation are
so that it can be fixed later.

The local EAA chapter may know of other builders of your type
nearby, or there may even be a type club in the area. Check with
these groups also, they'll be glad to assist.

If you're stuck on construction technique (welding, painting, etc):

Again, check with the local EAA chapter for someone who has some
experience with the technique causing you trouble. All of us end
up learning a few skills in the course of construction, so don't
be afraid to ask for help when it's needed. Remember, you'll be
trusting your life to the airplane, so learn to do it right.

Certain skills will require practice, so please don't run right
out and try things on a new airframe first. If you're learning to
weld for instance, sacrifice some tubing and practice on it until
the quality of your workmanship becomes acceptable. It will be
cheaper and easier in the long run. Save the samples also, the
inspector will feel better looking at a "destructible" sample.


Subject: Homebuilt Aircraft Financing

Q333: How can I finance my kit purchase?

A: The best way is to select a kit that either builds from scratch
or is available as subkits. Financing increases your cost quite
a bit.

Netters have identified two companies which have financing
available for homebuilders. Here are some of their terms, as
supplied in October, 1995:

NAFCO/EAA Finance Plan
(800) 999-3712

$10,000 minimum loan, no maximum. They'll fund 70% of the total
cost for up to five years, then will extend the loan until aircraft
completion. Loan rate is based on the prime rate and the amount
borrowed: 3% over prime for $10,000-$15,000, 2.5% over prime for
$15K to $25K, 2% over prime for loans $25K to $50K, and prime +1.5%
for over $50,000.

Green Tree Financial Corporation
(800) 851-1367 extension 3692

$5,000 minimum, no maximum. Finance 90% of the total cost for up
to 15 years. Interest rate for less than $25,000 is currently 13%,
$25K is 11%.

Other options include: Borrow from 401K finance plan
signature loan from credit union (the current rate at my CU is
11.75%), or home equity loan (~8.5%).
Q334: Can I take lessons/get my license in my homebuilt?

A. Like so many things in aviation, the answer is, "Yes, but..."

There is no regulations to prevent your taking lessons or your
flight test in a homebuilt aircraft. Your ability to do so will
depend on finding an instructor willing to instruct in a homebuilt,
as well as an Examiner willing to administer the test in the
aircraft. Neither is automatic, and you'll have little recourse if
they refuse.

If you would like to take lessons in your homebuilt, ask around at
your local EAA chapter. Many EAA members are instructors, and
would probably be more willing. My local chapters, for instance,
include several CFIs who administer BFRs in members' homebuilts.
[end of rec.aviation.homebuilt FAQ]

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Ron Wanttaja Home Built 0 April 5th 04 03:04 PM
Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Ron Wanttaja Home Built 2 February 2nd 04 11:41 PM
Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Ron Wanttaja Home Built 1 January 2nd 04 09:02 PM
Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Ron Wanttaja Home Built 0 October 2nd 03 03:07 AM
Homebuilt Aircraft Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Ron Wanttaja Home Built 4 August 7th 03 05:12 AM

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 12:35 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2024, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2004-2024 AviationBanter.
The comments are property of their posters.