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Thread: Any Kitplane Enthusiasts here?

  1. #1
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    Any Kitplane Enthusiasts here?

    For various reasons, I've decided that my new hobby is building kitplanes. I love the idea of building an airplane in the garage and using it as my own personal Millennium Falcon. "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts. I've made a few modifications myself."

    Obviously, this can be an expensive endeavor. I see some simple ultralights have a build cost of only a few thousand dollars, but a jet can run half a million.

    I really like Zenith's CH 750 Cruzer, and they seem to cater to first-time builders, even holding workshops at their factory to teach the construction basics.

    Anyone else out there have any experience in this area?

  2. #2
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    Helped my cousin with his " Kit Fox " . Quite a nice design. Has been through some important modifications (flaperon attachment points upgrade)
    and perhaps a few others. Sparkling performance. Quite a lot for the money.
    My dream would be a " Long EZE " , a Burt Rutan design . Nice stuff.
    Best regards,
    Dan

  3. #3
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    something I have always wanted to do.

    Built a load of RC model aircraft and a good few gliders. (some very large scale 3 metre wingspans)

    I looked into building a self build myself. Two things to watch out for. Make sure you know what will be the total cost before first take off, and be absolutely sure of the total time needed to get to first take off. More often than not the prices and times quoted are for the most basic model ( minimal interior comfort, often no doors, dashboard and electronic, additional time required for options such as cowling's etc)

    The costs though of a real aircraft (even self built) are more than I could ever afford at the moment. The problem with all self build kits is the costs are far more than you expect. Add the engine loads of bucks (especially if you want one that's going to give reasonable performance) . Then you find the engine needs additional ancillaries such as pumps, alternators/generators, etc which are not included in the standard engine price. Add to that the tools that you will inevitably have to buy and the running costs, inspections, certification etc, and although far cheaper than buying something like an old Cessna its still a considerable outlay each year. The advantage of self build is that you can spread the cost over a two year period if that how long it takes to build.

    If you do the research, you will know exactly what its going to cost in total, they dont hide this information, but often you have to ask. Definitely go to a few shows or a local club before parting with a single cent, though.
    And if you do go for it, good luck, if I could afford it I would definitely be doing it.
    Its never too late to have a happy childhood

  4. #4
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    You will also be qualified to do your own annual inspection . You'll be able to do your own repairs and maintenance as well as fashion some of the parts
    required for it by yourself.
    It will be a great advantage to find a local chapter of the EAA (experimental aircraft association ). Building under their wing will put you in with other builders, possibly of the same type, where you can truly build on their experience and avoid any pitfalls , often sharing exclusive tools ( not to be found elsewhere ) and advise and instruction on how to employ those little necessities . It is from the EAA that we see so many wonderful examples of
    excellent aircraft people can be proud of and have faith in . There is much to learn and many people to meet . It might even be a good excuse to
    lose some weight.

  5. #5
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    Definitely, as Dan says, hook-up with the EAA. Lots of expertise in construction and the regulatory hoops.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  6. #6
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    Thanks, everyone. I've subscribed to Kitplanes magazine, which is filled with lots of great articles and an annual buyer's guide.

    It's been educational. I've never known much about how my car engine works above the basic two-stroke combustion principle. But this month's issue has an article on aircraft engines. And now, for the first time, I understand how a carburetor works.

    I've read testimonies from people who say they built their own kitplanes but never changed the oil on their own cars, and I think I'm going to fall into that category. I know one reason is that if I spend a lifetime building a plane that never flies, well then, nothing ventured nothing gained. But if I try to change the oil in my car and can't do it right, then I might not be able to drive to work tomorrow. Since that's unacceptable, it's safer to just have the garage take care of it.

    I know that makes me look like the fool to most gearheads, but there it is.

  7. #7
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    Actually, much of what you need to learn can be viewed on YOUTUBE when it comes to cars, and you can save yourself enough money to pay for your subscription to Kitplanes Mechanical confidence and horse sense go hand in hand. I should say they are essential. If you have doubts about your ability, perhaps a demonstration flight at your local Flight Base Office will be instructional. In winter, the flight is a little smoother, with the thermals of summer in the recent past.
    Good job reading Kitplanes. It's an education in itself.

    Dan

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    jamesabrown, you're a brave man, jumping in at the deep end, but fair play to you.

    Something you might find useful, is to build a model aircraft first. Not one of those ARTF kits (almost ready to fly), but a good old fashioned balsa kit.
    They are pretty cheap (less than $30) , easy to build, but more importantly you will learn a lot about aircraft structure and aircraft terms and parts (eg ailerons, wing dihedral, struts, braces, leading edges, wing flare, etc etc) terms that you are probably going to encounter when building your real kit aircraft)

    the first kit I built was a balsa pipercub, it wasnt RC just a rubber powered free flight model, but it gave me the confidence to go on to bigger and more complex builds.
    http://www.guillow.com/pipersupercub95.aspx

    Unfinished

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    and finished
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    Obviously the materials used, and final finish will be totally different to a full size self build, but basic aircraft design and structure is more or less the same in all aircraft be they models or full size.
    Its never too late to have a happy childhood

  9. #9
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    Aircraft Modeling has taught us all a great deal about aircraft design, construction, weight distribution, torsional strength, trim, load distribution,
    flight envelope, finishing systems, and the courage to try to learn something you haven't done before....by instruction. It sharpens your learning curve
    and builds character. And.....balsa really does fly better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesabrown View Post
    Thanks, everyone. I've subscribed to Kitplanes magazine, which is filled with lots of great articles and an annual buyer's guide.

    It's been educational. I've never known much about how my car engine works above the basic two-stroke combustion principle. But this month's issue has an article on aircraft engines. And now, for the first time, I understand how a carburetor works.

    I've read testimonies from people who say they built their own kitplanes but never changed the oil on their own cars, and I think I'm going to fall into that category. I know one reason is that if I spend a lifetime building a plane that never flies, well then, nothing ventured nothing gained. But if I try to change the oil in my car and can't do it right, then I might not be able to drive to work tomorrow. Since that's unacceptable, it's safer to just have the garage take care of it.

    I know that makes me look like the fool to most gearheads, but there it is.

    You don't say where you live, but there are fairly active kit plane movements in most countries, and the builders I've met (a small, and not scientifically chosen, sample) were colleagial and showed themselves helpful to friends who were building (for medical reasons, I cannot get a pilot's license, so I long ago decided not to build a kitplane). One group, in a Chicago suburb, were doing a mass build of V-stars. My suggestion -- for what little it's worth -- is to look into a moderate performance single -- and avoid the high-performance aircraft, like the BJ-520.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  11. #11
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    Listen to Swampyankee, That is real good advice.

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    Indeed. I just found a local EEA chapter, and I've contacted them by e-mail to see if they're still active. Their chapter website hasn't been updated since 2012.

    I agree that the BJ-520 looks to be beyond my needs, although Wikipedia says that the original designer has passed away, so support for this model is practically nonexistent.

    My basic requirements in a kitplane are two seats and a cruising speed of at least 120 miles per hour. If I'm going to use it to visit family out of state, I want to fly at least twice as fast as I can drive.

  13. #13
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    Don't figure on an aircraft's top speed. Knock 25 kts off that, and you usually have the practical cruise speed , a reasonable speed the aircraft and more importantly.. the aircraft engine will comfortably sustain at it's more efficient fuel consumption without coming unglued. At $20,000 a pop,
    you want that engine to last a long, long time. After a certain point, you put more and more power into making more and more noise.
    Aircraft designs are optimized for the billet intended , and that represents an amazing amount of time, sweat and tears ; especially mating the very best style propeller for the job. My friend Swampyankee can tell you volumes about that chore.
    Aircraft are one of the most interesting subjects you will ever find. Enjoy the ride.

  14. #14
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    For a first plane, try to pick a design where there have been lots of them built. Right now, that looks like one of Richard VanGrusven's aircraft.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  15. #15
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    If you buy a bunch of parts, fabricate some more, put them all together, get FAA approval, and fly it, is it a kit plane? If so, this is the kit plane I helped build.

    Ok, sorry.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    If you buy a bunch of parts, fabricate some more, put them all together, get FAA approval, and fly it, is it a kit plane? If so, this is the kit plane I helped build.

    Ok, sorry.

    I don't think they can be that big. I helped build these, but I don't think they follow the rules for kitplanes, either.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  17. #17
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    Those sure are some purdy aircraft. I'll have to get into my blueberry money to afford one of those.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    For a first plane, try to pick a design where there have been lots of them built. Right now, that looks like one of Richard VanGrusven's aircraft.
    Good idea, swampyankee. Van's Aircraft is certainly the industry leader, so it's a safe bet that they'll still be around for the long haul when it comes time for me to get started. On the down side, however, is that their planes tend to be rather pricey. I ran through a cost estimator on their website, and the basic two-seater RV-9 runs from $82,000 on up. Ouch.

    Going the other direction, I've seen in my Kitplanes Magazine Directory that I could get started for around $4000 to $8000 dollars. That might be a good way to get started, get some experience, decide if doing this is really worth my time, and if it doesn't pan out then I've not lost very much. On the other hand, for that price range, my choices are basically one-seater ultralights, suitable for only local fly-arounds at maybe 40 to 60 mph. Plus I'd be building from drawings, not an actual kit, and with my lack of experience in making and shaping fiberglass, etc., I'd more than likely never get started. Either that, or I'd race through the build--making sloppy mistakes and shortcuts--so that I can get started on a real airplane.

    Fortunately, I've got lots of time to make a decision. I doubt I'll get seriously involved for at least a couple of years, but for now I'm enjoying learning everything I can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I don't think they can be that big. I helped build these, but I don't think they follow the rules for kitplanes, either.
    Hah. The FAA has a rule that at least 51% of an airplane has to be amateur-built in order to qualify as "for education and recreation," often referred to as the 51% rule. The certification requirements are lower for the category, but you're not allowed to carry passengers or cargo for compensation or hire.

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    Another possibility would be to build an inexpensive kitplane and then sell it to someone else in order to fund the next purchase, laddering up to bigger and better builds.

    But the liability of that would keep me awake at night.

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    I'm currently re-reading "Flight Of Passage" by Rinker Buck. Two teenage boys rebuild a Piper Cub and fly across America without a radio back in 1966.

    Very inspiring for aviation fans, but also very insightful. Rinker, the younger of the two boys, both admires and is perplexed by his older brother Kern, while both struggle to escape the shadow of their larger-than-life father.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesabrown View Post
    Hah. The FAA has a rule that at least 51% of an airplane has to be amateur-built in order to qualify as "for education and recreation," often referred to as the 51% rule. The certification requirements are lower for the category, but you're not allowed to carry passengers or cargo for compensation or hire.
    Well, aerospace companies want us to be amateurs. We keep insisting upon money.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  23. #23
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    Yes, and they shouldn't be allowed to argue unless they've paid.

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    If you do start to build one, I'd sure be interested to read about it here.
    ____________
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  25. #25
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    On Friday I met with the local chapter of the EAA, basically a handful of older men who are interested in aviation and building planes, meeting once a month at a local BBQ joint. The leader actually is a professional aviation engine mechanic, and he has a kit he's working on. Another one is working on a Zenith 601, a model I've had an eye on, and he lives about a five-minute walk from my house. He invited me to take a look at it soon. The group more or less meets once a week to work on a plane at the nearby airport, and they talked about connecting with a local high school to try to get some hands-on experience for students who might enjoy drilling holes or tweaking a plane engine.

    One thing, though, I'm not sure about. Apparently they collect annual dues of fifteen bucks, and the meeting opened with a Treasurer's report, and he said they have over $2,000 in the bank. There were seven people at the meeting, and let's say there's an equal number of members who didn't make the meeting. Call it fifteen members, times fifteen dollars each, which means they've got about eight-years' worth of dues in the bank. Hmm....

    After the meeting broke up, I chatted with the leader who had invited me, and I asked him about the dues, and do I need to chip in for this first meeting? He said, Nah, take care of that next time." They're obviously loose about collection methods. During the Treasurer's report, one guy asked, "Can you break a twenty?" and the treasurer gave him a five-dollar bill from his bank bag but no receipt.

    I asked the leader what they do with the dues? "Well we have a newsletter," he said. He then chuckled that it's been a while since the last issue came out. And that was that. Hmmm...

  26. #26
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    Often, a EAA club will collect and share specialized tools regarding specific types of popular aircraft most of the builders want, so as to purchase as a consortium. Special punches, special riveting tools, sheers, etc etc . Makes life easy and possible for builders. Tools cost money.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Often, a EAA club will collect and share specialized tools regarding specific types of popular aircraft most of the builders want, so as to purchase as a consortium. Special punches, special riveting tools, sheers, etc etc . Makes life easy and possible for builders. Tools cost money.
    That makes perfect sense, and it's something I could support. So I wonder if they're saving up for something (a $2,000+ tool?)

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesabrown View Post
    That makes perfect sense, and it's something I could support. So I wonder if they're saving up for something (a $2,000+ tool?)
    club-trip-to-oshkosh-tool, perhaps
    ____________
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    "Your right to hold an opinion is not being contested. Your expectation that it be taken seriously is." -- Jason Thompson
    "This is really very simple, but unfortunately it's very complicated." -- publius

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  29. #29
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    Another chapter meeting last Friday night. Same group of men, plus two wives who only chatted with each other because they probably didn't want to be left at home on a Friday night.

    One of the members is a teenager. He's the sort of person who is silent in a group of people. But, when given the nod of approval, will open his mouth and talk about airplanes for fifteen minute clips at roughly 200 words-per-minute. He clearly knows his stuff.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesabrown View Post
    On Friday I met with the local chapter of the EAA, basically a handful of older men who are interested in aviation and building planes, meeting once a month at a local BBQ joint. The leader actually is a professional aviation engine mechanic, and he has a kit he's working on. Another one is working on a Zenith 601, a model I've had an eye on, and he lives about a five-minute walk from my house. He invited me to take a look at it soon.
    Welp, for better or for worse, I am now the owner of a kit plane.

    I attended another EAA local chapter meeting. Before the meeting, Larry, the man I mentioned above, piped out, "Anybody want a Zenith 601?" I chimed in, "Me!" and we agreed to connect over the weekend. I went to his house, looked at the loose conglomeration of parts, then handful of pieces that he's already assembled, and whatnot. Finally, I asked the most important question: "How much are you asking for it?"

    I was prepared to wince, say that it was out of my price range, and regretfully decline. But he named a figure that blew me away. My heart started pounding, not believing what I was hearing. That evening I talked it over with my wife, and she agreed that if I really wanted to do this, then it was a no-brainer. On Sunday I rented a U-Haul and took possession of the kit.

    Of course, my garage is a mess now, so the first few steps will require some serious organization and a cataloging of the parts. I've also signed up for a builders' workshop at the factory next month to get some hands-on experience.

    But wow. I didn't dream that this day would come so soon. I'm gonna build me an airplane.

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