Did you know? Experimental amateur-built aircraft are the fastest-growing segment of new aircraft in the United States today. While the idea of building your own airplane may seem ambitious, people have been “homebuilding” since the dawn of flight. After all, even the Wright Brothers worked on their first airplane in their bicycle shop, not a factory!
Choosing, building, and flying a kitplane is one of the most rewarding experiences in general aviation. But as any builder-pilot will tell you, homebuilding is not without its challenges. Successfully building an airplane requires a high level of dedication, patience, and perseverance — all things you won’t find inside the kit!
Are you thinking about building your own airplane? Here are a few signs that homebuilding is a good fit for you:
You don’t need construction and engineering skills or mechanic experience to put together an airplane kit. If you enjoy working with your hands and the challenge of do-it-yourself projects, you’re already cut out for homebuilding. Best of all, today’s airplane kits are designed to be simple and straightforward, making homebuilding possible for anyone with a desire to build and a willingness to learn. As the EAA puts it, “If you know what the pointy end of a screwdriver is for, you can build an aircraft.”
Homebuilding gives you the freedom and flexibility to make your airplane uniquely your own. From the kit itself to the engine, kitplane propeller, avionics, interior, and paint scheme, it’s all up to you!
When choosing a kitplane to build, a good place to start is by defining your mission. Do you want to take weekend trips with the family or solo cross-country adventures? What performance characteristics are you after? Remember, one airplane can’t necessarily do it all. Capacity, speed, cruise efficiency, aerobatic capabilities, and STOL performance are all factors to weigh when selecting a kit and other components or modifications.
Building an airplane is a significant time commitment. Depending on the kit design and your available free time, kit aircraft can be built in as little as 500 hours to upwards of 2,000 hours. Completing a project plane often takes several years, and some homebuilts are never finished at all.
To avoid getting discouraged, go into your project with a realistic plan. How many hours can you dedicate to building each week? Include some wiggle room in your timeline for things like family or work demands, travel, holidays, illness, correcting mistakes, shipping parts or materials, and other potential delays. Another tip is to make your workspace comfortable year-round. Climate control and a padded workbench and floor mats can make a world of difference!
Building an airplane doesn’t have to be a solo activity. In fact, you should expect to need help along the way! The EAA was formed to provide valuable tips, tools, and resources for homebuilders in every stage of the process. Likewise, there are plenty of online forums where you can find advice and support from fellow homebuilders who have “been there, done that.”
Before embarking on a kitplane project, make sure you have a support system. This might include your spouse, children, friends, extended family, neighbors, or your local flying club or EAA chapter. Building an airplane can be even more fun (and less overwhelming) when you involve the important people in your life!
If you’re hoping to cut down on build time and get into the skies quickly, consider a “quick build” kit or builder assist program. To be eligible for an amateur-built certificate, the major portion (at least 51%) of the tasks needed to make the aircraft airworthy must be completed by unpaid amateur(s) for their own recreation or education.
Choosing a kitplane propeller is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when building your airplane, which is why it’s worth getting an early start! If you have questions about aircraft propellers for kitplanes, the experts at Hartzell Propeller are happy to assist. We’ll help you compare the options and make the best kitplane propeller choice based on your design, mission, flying goals, budget, and timeline. Contact us today!