AVmail: June 23, 2003

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Reader mail this week about kit vs. production aircraft, Sport Planes, GPS jamming and more.


Question of the Week -- Kit Planes vs. Production

A previous AVmail listed advantages of factory-built planes over homebuilt planes, including:

5. Best Re-Sale Value
6. Best for Over-All Economy

I disagree at least in part with both of these assertions.

It isn't fair that a builder might spend 3000 hours on a plane and sell it for 2/3 the cost of the parts, but after this initial depreciation, homebuilt aircraft are very good invetments. They appreciate in value at a rate that meets or exceeds factory-built planes.

Homebuilt planes do not need to be expensive to maintain, either. I purchased a Long-EZ almost six years ago. I pay about $100 a year for a condition inspection. In the last six years, I've spent about $300 making an optional improvement, $80 for a replacement battery, and about $40 in very minor maintenance. Other than that, only avgas and oil. The composite structure does not corrode like aluminum. I doubt the average factory-built plane is this cheap to keep.

While we're talking about economy, let's also add performance. I get about 160 knots at 6.5 gallons per hour. Other Long-EZs do better than that. Plenty of room for two people with a useful range of 450 nm and 45 minute reserves. Solo range is an incredible 1200 nm.

I once saw an FAA mandated warning placard that informs passengers that an experimental airplane does not meet standard aircraft certification standards, and below that the proud builder had added his own placard advising passengers that no factory airplane meets his own high standards.

For performance, economy, and style, it's very difficult to beat a good used homebuilt.

Bruce Layne


Sport Pilot

Just a short opinion of sport pilot!

I have been in the ultralight and experimental aircraft business since 1984. I am an old timer in this biz.

From what I can see on sport pilot sport plane is that the sport pilot part will be more, or as, expensive as getting a private pilot certificate. Certainly way more expensive than getting a recreational certificate.

As the rules are now you can use your own experimental plane for all of your recreational pilot training and also use it to take your FAA flight test. As I write this, one of my Challenger customers is at the Boyceville airport taking his FAA check ride!

For the sport pilot, the rules are not yet set in stone, but as things seem to be there will be lots of new rules on both the instructors and the planes. That is never a good thing. More rules and regs always mean more money! There will be no SEL for the sport pilot, but it will be single engine, Challenger, or Hawk, or Ace, or Rans S-6, or champ, or Cub, etc. Hundreds of models. And the instructor for that will have to have all these ratings or be unable to instruct! A terrible waste!

Sport airplane will make the planes that are built -- or mostly built -- by a factory very expensive indeed. And, of course, open and vulnerable to all the stinkin' liability lawyers we have here in the U.S! Most of the sport airplanes will probably come from Europe and or the old eastern bloc countries, because of that reason.

Also this new legislation will nearly shut off all ultralight activity. I wonder if this was not a lot of the reason things went this way! It was/is difficult for special interests to bleed money from the ultralight industry, so certain orgs, such as the EAA, USUA, and ASC tried mightily to invent a way to install control. And, therefore, build in fees for themselves. It sure looks that way to me. What other conclusion can one come to? Certainly the very easiest thing to do would have been to just give the recreational pilot certificate a no medical rule! That would completely take away the need for sport pilot!

Sport airplane could have been totally separate from that. Or even just revisit the primary category rating and make it less expensive to comply with. Maybe by using an industry standard rather than FAA certification. Certainly two much easier, less expensive solutions to sport pilot and plane! Without the need for layers of new bureaucracies and regulations.

I predict that any U.S. manufacturers that supply ready-to-fly sport airplanes will be sued out of existence within 5 years.

Don Zank
Zanklites Sport Aircraft


GPS Jamming

People using VFR GPS units may also want to be aware of the possibility of GPS being jammed by the avionics on board the aircraft, intermittently or otherwise. I have seen a portable VFR GPS unit go from normal functioning to a display of "no signal" in a few seconds, simply when a nav was switched to the localizer frequency for an approach. When subsequently tested, the GPS ran normally with the nav on any VOR frequency, but, in effect, turned off immediately when the nav was set to LOC.

Wayne Cochrane


Civil Air Patrol, Brought To You By ...

Does anyone else see the irony of the Civil Air Patrol asking for corporate sponsorship's to cover their expenses after the Civil Air Patrol paid for a NASCAR sponsorship? I wonder just what that multi-year NASCAR sponsorship will end up costing the Civil Air Patrol?

Jim Lewman