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      Choosing a Homebuilt Aircraft (# 62)

 
Choosing a Homebuilt Aircraft
Choosing a Homebuilt Aircraft

Is your partner in agreement with you in making such a large investment in time and money to build an aircraft? In nearly every case, it will take at least twice as long as the manufacturer suggests and be more expensive.

Why do you wish to build? There are many completed aircraft out there at a fraction of the cost. You could be flying instead of sweating!

What is your mission? Do you wish to do aeros, just fly the patch, visit private airfields, go places fast; how many people do you really want to carry? Many aircraft, for instance will take you a long way fast, but need a long smooth runway. There are ´horses for courses´.

Do you have a place to build and hanger your aircraft? Most homebuilts hate being left outside.

Are your flying skills up to operating an experimental aircraft? Certified planes have to comply with very strict performance requirements. This is not the case with homebuilt...things can happen very fast! Consider taking additional training to bring you up to speed.

Do not pay a deposit fee straight to the supplier. The company may go broke and take your money with them. This has happened a few times. Reputable companies operate a deposit scheme where the money is placed in a protected bank account and is only released when the goods are delivered and signed for.

It is a bad idea to buy stages of an aircraft at a time. It might seem clever if money is tight, but what happens if you have spent hundreds of hours building wings and then the supplier closes his doors? Do not consider a brand new type. There are always problems and time consuming retrofits. You want an aircraft to fly. and not to do the development and test flying for a manufacturer.

Are you good at building things? Many manufacturers suggest that any one can build an aircraft with a small set of household tools....if only! Roughly 75% of projects are never completed. Remember this. Have you got the staying power? You are talking about a major involvement here and your life will depend on the work you do

Have you contacted builders and heard what they have to say about the aircraft? If the manufacturer is reluctant to give you this information...there is a reason!

Have you test flown an example of the aircraft. NEVER buy before you fly!

Some types of aircraft may not be permitted to be built and flown in your country. Check with the regulatory body first. They are there to help you and give good advice.
USA the body is the EAA

Unless your name is the Wright Brothers, try not to pioneer. Do not be the first in your country to build a type. Help from your peers can be essential. Try not to modify the design. You are getting into aircraft development then, and that is an open ended contract in time and money. Even small changes can have a big effect on the flight envelope.

You will have an inspector who will oversee your work and sign off the various stages of construction. Remember he is there to help you and may save your life. Is a suitable inspector available in your area?

Choosing a homebuilt is as difficult as choosing a partner. Take your time and give it due diligence.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT

WHAT ARE AMATEUR-BUILT/HOMEBUILT AIRCRAFT?

Amateur-Built (also known as homebuilt or custom built) aircraft are built by individuals and licensed by the country´s civil aviation authority as “Experimental.” The Experimental designation has been in existence for more than five decades. It defines aircraft that are used for non-commercial, recreational purposes such as education or personal use. In general, if individuals build at least 51 percent of an aircraft, it can be registered in the Amateur-Built/Homebuilt Category. They are available in kits (where some of the airplane is already fabricated), or plans (where the builder manufactures all the parts and assembles them). These airplanes are also commonly known as “homebuilts.” Currently, more than 23,000 amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft are licensed in the USA alone. They represent proven aircraft designs that have been flown safely for many years.

WHO CONSTRUCTS AMATEUR-BUILT/HOMEBUILT AIRCRAFT?

People from all walks of life, including astronauts, airline pilots, military jet pilots, machinists, welders, professional people and others.

WHY DO THEY BUILD THEM?

A variety of reasons - a personal challenge; education; performance; or to invest “sweat equity” into the cost of an airplane. Costs range from under $5,000 to more than $100,000 based on desired performance characteristics and optional engine and avionics packages. By comparison, a new factory-built Cessna 172 costs more than $150,000. Many amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft utilize composite materials that help create airplanes that are lighter, faster and more fuel efficient than similar production aircraft.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

An average amateur-built/homebuilt aircraft will take between 1,000 and 3,000 hours to complete. Some individuals build their airplane in less than a year; others may take a decade or more.

HOW ARE THESE AIRCRAFT REGULATED?

All Amateur-Built/Homebuilt airplanes must be registered with the civil aviation licensing autority. These airplanes must be inspected by Designated Inspector before an Airworthiness Certificate can be issued. This is a fairly rigorous process. The builder(s) must provide logs of when, where and how construction took place, along with supporting documents and photographs. If the aircraft passes this inspection, a pilot must fly a series of test flights in specific non-populated areas to make sure all components are operating properly. Only after that test time is flown may passengers be flown in the aircraft.

In addition, an amateur-built airplane is subject to major condition inspections every 12 months, the same as small production aircraft.

DOES A PERSON HAVE TO BE A LICENSED PILOT TO FLY THESE AIRPLANES?

Yes. Pilots of Amateur-Built/Homebuilt aircraft must earn and maintain the same pilot training and ratings as those who fly production aircraft (such as Cessnas, Pipers and Beechcrafts). They also must follow all appropriate civil aviation regulations during each of their flights.

HOW SAFE ARE AMATEUR-BUILT/HOMEBUILT AIRCRAFT?

Studies by FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) show that Amateur-Built/Homebuilt aircraft have an accident rate less than one percentage point higher than the general aviation fleet. In fact, the accident rate for Amateur-Built/homebuilt aircraft is dropping. The total number of registered homebuilt aircraft is increasing by about 1,000 per year in the USA, while the total number of accidents has stayed virtually the same. Another good barometer of safety is insurance rates. Companies that insure both homebuilts and production aircraft charge about the same rates for owners of either type of airplane. That indicates a similar level of risk

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