AVmail: June 19, 2003

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Reader mail this week about kit vs. production aircraft, the real birthplace of flight, insurance and more.

Question of the Week -- Kit Planes vs. Production

Better reasons for factory-built aircraft:

  1. Best Insurability
  2. Best Research Facilities
  3. Best Funding Options
  4. Best After-Market Support
  5. Best Re-Sale Value
  6. Best for Over-All Economy

You can probably think of more!

Doug Nichols

I notice I joined a good bunch of voters in selecting "None of the above" for this week's question regarding ownership of aircraft: kit vs. factory. For me, there should have been a choice of "Do not have the skills, or space, or patience, etc." to build a kit plane (or something like that). When I read once that about 80% of kit planes never get completed by the original purchaser of the kit, I knew I'd NEVER be able to build an airplane.

Woody Rupp

Dayton Named Flight's Birthplace; Kitty Hawk Protests

It appears from your brief note that the hundredth-year anniversary of flight is turning into yet another public squabble, probably over profits from celebrations of the event. Itís too bad that the two areas cannot cooperate and share in the status of being the birthplace of aviation.

Practical aviation was born in both places. The Wright brothers used their home facilities to test components in their wind tunnel and to manufacture the gliders and the Flyer. The environment of the Outer Banks was ideal to do continuing tests along the way from the first kite to the Flyer. All of this work, and the advantages of both places, contributed to the knowledge and experience necessary for development of the 1905 Flyer, the first practical airplane.

Kelly Blosser

7E7 Mostly Composite

In this news item, you posed the following question:

What does Boeing have in common with Lancair, Cirrus, Liberty and host of other light plane and homebuilt manufacturers?

I don't think the Raytheon-built Premier I and Hawker Horizon business jets are what most people think of as "light planes," but they are also constructions that use composites for major structural components of the airframe. Also, in the military realm, the F-117 stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber use substantial amounts of composite materials in their airframes. The Global Hawk UAV, winner of the Collier Trophy in 2000, also is built using composites in its construction, most notably including its wings, wing fairings, empennage, engine cover, engine intake and radomes. Both of the newest fighter aircraft designs recently bought off, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter, will incorporate substantial amounts of composite materials in their airframe constructions.

Composite materials can offer significant advantages over traditional metal constructions in weight savings, manufacturability (reduction in number of piece parts required) and strength. All materials design decisions involve weighing advantages and disadvantages, compromises and trade-offs. Composite airframe constructions have found widespread acceptance in many more venues (and many more demanding venues!) than light plane and homebuilt constructions. Perhaps the AVweb item on the 7E7 should have noted this.

Karin Cozzolino

AVweb Responds:

Thanks Karin. We, of course, know that composites are an important element in all types of aircraft but our readership is predominantly GA so we try to make our coverage relevant to that sector, thus the examples we cited. We should have mentioned Diamond as well, one of the leading makers of composite aircraft. We were merely giving relevant examples, not providing an exhaustive list.

Thanks for writing and for using AVweb.

Russ Niles
AVweb Writer


I retired in January after 15,000 hours without an accident or flight violation. After buying a Cessna 172 which I planned to instruct with imagine my surprise when I couldn't find an insurance company which would even talk to me.

A friend who instructs with his Cherokee 180 has been in the 135 business for many years and his insurance is about to force him out of flight instruction. The basic rate of $7,000 per year for a single engine plane used for instruction leaves little room for profit.

There is a solution. I believe there are enough Mom and Pop outfits with one or two aircraft to make it feasible to start a cooperative insurance program. I've watched and talked with AOPA with the hope that they could run with the idea but no luck. Does anyone have an idea on how to start this program?

Bob Nye

FAA Launches Graphical TFRs

The FAA service is extremely poor so far. First, as you noted, there is no difference from their old system because it does not list all TFRs. Second, it doesnít have graphics for all the ones it lists. Third, the depictions it does have are not uniform. Their depiction of FDC3/4616 at Kennebunkport is on an IFR chart, for Peteís sake! Fourth and perhaps most important, there is no "link", no method to enter feedback to get their service to meet the needs of the flying public.

Michael P. Muetzel