If you are considering building a new homebuilt aircraft from a kit — or are thinking of buying someone’s completed homebuilt—this series maybe the most valuable hobby-related information you will ever read. That is because the hobby of building and flying your own full-size aircraft is likely to be a highlight of your life. Thousands of builder/pilots report that the process ranges from exhilarating to daunting, and at times from exciting to discouraging. But those who finish and fly their own aircraft know a satisfaction impossible to describe in words.
The commitment of time, money and work space dictates a dedication seen in few hobbies. Yet if the only goal is ownership of a custom aircraft, building will be drudgery and the chance of completion is reduced. Most homebuilders, however, know before they begin that they like building things, and others discover it early in the process. For most, working with their hands on a fascinating project is at least half of the fun. And some find to their amazement that they like building even more than they like flying. Members of this group find themselves flying the new creation for a while, then selling it to finance another build-it-yourself aircraft.
Our objective in this series, however, is to tackle some of the issues that should be addressed before investing serious time or money. Here is the list of topics:
- Deciding whether to build
- How to pick a design
- Choosing the right kit company
- Getting help and keeping it legal
- Licensing the aircraft
- Flight testing
- Getting insurance
- Liability and selling a completed aircraft
- Staying married
Choosing the right kit company.
- Visit the factory for a first-hand impression. As noted above, a demo flight option often accompanies this move.
- The number of aircraft completed and flying. We list this number in each of our annual KITPLANES aircraft directories. To be listed, at least one example of each aircraft design must have been completed and flown. The more examples of each type flying, the better. Popular designs are usually supported better and longer by their kit factories and by other sources such as independent newsletters and builder groups.
- Proximity of the factory. Although relatively low on the priority list for most builders since the advent of the Internet, distance and language differences may pose problems in obtaining parts, shipping logistics or currency exchange. In an effort to alleviate those problems, we require kit manufacturers to have a support facility in North America to be listed in our printed directories.
- The company’s age and reputation. Current longevity is no guarantee of future survival, but it’s an indicator.
- Flexibility. Some companies offer both complete and partial kits. The advantage of complete kits is that with a good manual and everything needed for the airframe, you should be able to finish the project even if the company or its major vendors has problems. But the partial kit allows spreading the cost of building. It’s nice to have this option.
- Other builder options. More kit makers are offering builder assist and test flight assist as options. Some builder assist programs are located at the factory, and others are at distant facilities authorized by the factories. Several companies will send a test pilot to your hangar for an initial test flight for a reasonable fee.
To learn more about choosing the right company for your homebuilt, visit Kitplanes.