Airplanes, Amateur and Factory-Built


Amateur-Built aircraft, my thoughts.

I thoroughly enjoy flying everything from taildraggers to turboprops, and just about everything in between. I am expecially fascinated by the relatively recent surge of activity in the homebuilt aircraft market. If someone is willing to put in the time and effort to build their own airplane from plans or a kit (or, the other way to look at it: if someone is willing to figure out what to do with an airplane once they finish building it, they get to build it from plans or a kit), they can own their own airplane. This airplane can cost only a fraction of what a new (or even used) factory aircraft costs, and can offer the owner combinations of features that don't co-exist in any factory airplane.

Vans RV-4

Of course, the safety issue becomes exceedingly important in these types of aircraft. On the one hand, the builder is aware of exactly what kind of construction practices went into the construction of his or her airplane. Depending on the skill and vigilance of the builder, this can be cause for great peace of mind, or great discomfort. The same can be said for the selection of an aircraft design. Many people have successfully flown their own aircraft designs, and others have found design problems long after the fact. Unless you really know what you are doing, you are probably best off building from a kit, or at least a set of proven plans. There are a number of aircraft on the market that have withstood the test of time, and these are excellent places to start. Personally, I don't feel comfortable with the thought of flying around in a brand new design, or one with a very small number of examples flying. The design just hasn't had enough trial by fire. Good designs tend to stick around, and that's also good news. A company with good builder support that will there through the years of the product, and offer safety enhancements and modifications long after the project is flying can be an enormous asset. Building a proven design also means that you will have a better chance of finding an experienced builder when you are in the middle of your project and having difficulties. The decision to build an airplane is thus one must be made with great thought and care, but at the end of the road, when you get into your very own, brand new airplane, right out of flight testing, you'll kow whether you made the right decision.

Personally, after giving it several years of thought, I have come to the conclusion that there is a homebuilt airplane in my future. Specifically, there is a Van's Aircraft RV-series airplane in my future. This is still in the dream stage, but when I made all the comparisons, cost vs. performance, construction materials, and all the intangibles, I came to the conclusion that this is the way to go.

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This page copyright 1997 by Michael Zenner( Last modified March 25, 1997
This page is in no way connected with the Van's Aircraft company.
RV images on this page are from the RV-list Homepage.