3 factors have many more sub-categories but when you boil it down these
are the most important to the potential homebuilt airplane kit buyer.
Let's dissect each one and go into greater
detail. This is by no means the final list or authority but hopefully
beginner in the right direction. I always welcome comments and
encourage any builder to research, research, research.
money were no object...would you still be considering a homebuilt
airplane kit? Price is very often the deciding factor in building an
airplane. Most new aircraft are way out of the price range of pilots.
Seriously, who can afford $500,000 for a new 4-seat piston aircraft or
even over $100,000 for a new Light Sport Aircraft (LSA)?
can build an airplane for less...that is true...but you have to ask
build one? Remember, if you buy a kitplane and don't complete it,
which current industry statistics say you will not, then
that "cheaper" kit aircraft isn't very cheap at all.
remember, this "homebuilt airplane kit" is an aircraft you are
building. Is it a good idea to go
for the cheapest one? A homebuilt airplane kit will hold value only if
it is constructed
well. Airplanes can be a great investment but I've met many a homebuilt
airplane kit that will never hold value because it was cheap to begin
with and poorly manufactured and constructed. My best
advice...really research whatever kit you are interested in and make a
list of which ones you would like. Do not factor price into that list
until the very end. In essence, research the various kits available and
pay no attention to price. Pay attention to quality. If you like the
kit then put it on your list. Pretend, at least for the time being,
that money is no object. When you've finished with your list, narrow
the kits down by what you can afford. Again, remember you will be
flying in this homebuilt aircraft that you built, possibly for the next
50 years. Investing a little more
for a higher quality aircraft kit can yield you a better investment in
the end, not just in dollars but possibly with your life.
good rule of thumb for a finished and flying price...double or triple
the kit price. This is not always the case but if your budget is still
within this price then you shouldn't have any surprises to your wallet.
homebuilt airplane kit can have more performance and more safety than
any certified aircraft. However, that's not always the case. I've
grouped performance and safety in the same category because I think
should be evaluated together. A high performance homebuilt airplane kit
aircraft that is
unsafe shouldn't be considered but unfortunately I often see buyers
persuaded by the alluring temptress that is performance alone.
My best advice
for this category...research the kit thoroughly. What materials is it
made of? Research the incidents and accidents at NTSB.gov
and run your own statistics. You might be surprised at what you find
out for yourself. Just because a homebuilt airplane kit hasn't been out
doesn't mean it's unsafe but you should ask the right questions.
Essentially you want to know how well the company tested the aircraft.
Were there computer, ground, and flight tests performed?
important to note that no aircraft kit company can be held responsible
for the safety of you or the aircraft. This is due to the 51% rule. A
kit manufacturer has no culpability to the consumer when it comes to
the safety of their kits. Making and closing the sale is
the first and only priority of some kit manufacturers. That's
to say all or a majority take this approach, but you would
be surprised at how some companies, even big ones, could care less
about you and the problems you are having with the kit they produced.
I met one builder who built a very popular model aluminum
kitplane. He had a problem that he could not fix no matter what he
tried. The problem: water poured in at the main windshield canopy which
in turn poured water into the cabin. Not a good thing during flight or
sitting on a ramp.
This person did some research and found this was a common issue and
that no real solution was offered by the company, nor was it addressed
by them. The builder sought out the company and actually caught the
founder at Oshkosh and explained the problem. The company founder's
exact words as to the
solution: Don't fly in the rain. The kit manufacturer then
actually laughed in the builders face. Performance is nothing without
proper product support, especially for defective products, of which
most companies offer virtually no support but actually rely on their
customers to provide the support through third-party entities like
forums, websites, and magazines.
Your aircraft's performance is zero until the
aircraft is flying and flying in a safe condition. Don't factor the
amount of kits sold by a company as a primary reason to buy that kit.
Do factor the percentage of kits sold to kits built. If a
company's kits sold to kits flying ratio is less than 50% then be wary.
It's unlikely you would finish their homebuilt airplane kit. This ratio
is the most crucial performance number that I believe you should
pay attention to. Get in touch with a few builders of the
you like prior to purchasing. A reputable kit manufacturer will give
you a list of builders and those builders will give you the most honest
answers as to actual performance and the build process. Just remember,
the amount of people who actually finish and fly a homebuilt airplane
kit are about 1 in 6.
is nothing without safety, so choose a homebuilt airplane kit that will
for you and the passengers you plan to take with you, which are usually
your closest loved-ones. Do not sacrifice safety for performance. I've
seen many manufacturers knowingly use inferior materials to build their
kits because they could sell more kits at a lower price point.
For example, in the world of composite aircraft, research the properties of vinyl-ester resin versus epoxy
resin. Vinyl-ester is cheaper, both in price and quality. So
would you buy a homebuilt aircraft kit that is of poor quality?! Yes,
you can use
vinyl ester resins to build an aircraft. But, of the kits I have seen
that are built with vinyl ester systems, the overall quality, from
design to the finished manufactured product, is less than those that
use epoxy systems. Why? My simple theory is that a kit manufacturer
chooses vinyl ester for no other reason than to lower the price to
manufacture and thus who knows how many other shortcuts were taken to
further reduce the cost of building their homebuilt airplane kit.
The quality, or lack of it, shows in the final product and is
often represented by a low price.
Usually builders do choose the cheaper price
thinking they are getting a deal. I have inspected most of the
"cheaper" homebuilt airplane kits and you know what they say...you get
what you pay for.
Again...performance is nothing without safety. Spend a little more and
protect the many investments in your life.
what is your time worth? If you had to pay yourself during the build
process, what would your salary be? Be wary of what kit
manufacturers claim as the build time.
I was at Sun N Fun at a
competitors booth. I asked what the build time was. They said 800 hours
(a 4 seat composite aircraft) and claimed the lowest build time in the
industry. I asked them "how many people to build it in that time
frame?" The answer "uhhh....2 to 3 really good guys that know what
they're doing." They were clearly embarrassed and my point was not to
do so. Rather, I just wanted to know how much time it would actually
take to build it because most people are building by themselves. That
800 hour build time quoted requires 2 to 3 really skilled workers to
come in at 800 hours. The average person building by themselves will be
at least double or triple! Not very fun to find that out the
Keep in mind the industry statistic is around 12 years to
build an aircraft from start to flying in the experimental world. Much
of that is due to the nature of homebuilt aircraft kits. Most kits were
designed to be built by the average person. Finishing
aircraft kit is much like getting a degree. It takes work, time,
dedication, intelligence, and money.
rule of thumb is to double, triple, or quadruple the manufacturers
quoted build time and you may have a realistic time frame for your
homebuilt aircraft kit. Again, talk
with builders, but take inventory in your own skills and the time you
have to devote to the project. It is a massive undertaking and most
homebuilt aircraft kits are simply too complex for the average person.
I firmly believe
anyone can build any kit currently on the market but it's always a
matter of how much time they have to devote to learning how to do it.
After all, this is supposed to be for education and recreation...but
most people just want to fly and they want to do it
pretty simple. This company was founded after I spent a few years
looking for a homebuilt airplane kit to buy, build, and fly around the
world. Obviously I was looking for a high-performance complex aircraft.
My initial searches left me with these major concerns.
After this first
search I decided not to settle. A simple SWOT analysis left me unhappy
with what was available from large and small kit companies. I found
myself waiting for the right product to come to market...and it never
really did. Of course there are always prototypes in the news that
make it much past a few kit sales. I simply wondered "why not?". I
figured that a company could represent companies like this whilst
working to solve many of the problems builders have, especially with
new kit aircraft companies.
The bottom line for our company is
to treat our customers the way we wanted to be treated and to offer
great products that are safe and priced correctly. Some of the things
that we are pioneering...