You may already know about the benefits of building an airplane, whether from a kit, pre-made plans, or an original design. But before you take the next step and start planning your build, it’s important to determine if homebuilding is the right decision for you.
Here are a few key questions to answer before you build:
There are plenty of good reasons to build an airplane, but it’s essential to know why you want to start the project. What will keep you motivated when you run into challenges? Maybe you’ve always wanted to fly a one-of-a-kind airplane. Or, maybe you’re drawn to the problem-solving aspect of building itself. Defining your “why” early in the process will help you overcome the occasional frustrations and setbacks that come with any building project.
It’s true that building an airplane can offer a lower acquisition cost, but you’ll still need to budget carefully. In addition to the kit, you’ll need to factor in the cost of tools and anything not included like the engine, propeller, avionics, interior, and paint. It’s also a good idea to give yourself some wiggle room in your budget in case you need to replace any parts or materials. Building an airplane is not the project to cut corners. Remember, your safety is on the line!
Completing a project plane usually takes several years, and some homebuilts are never finished at all. Many kits require upwards of 1,000 hours to complete, and homebuilders often need to schedule building time around family and work obligations. Instead of putting a firm deadline on your project, try to plan out how many hours you’re willing to spend building each week. It will give you a more realistic idea of when you can expect to complete your project.
Finding the right workplace can make all the difference in your airplane building experience. As the name suggests, most homebuilt aircraft are built in people’s homes, usually in garages, basements, or sheds. What matters most is that your workplace is comfortable and convenient. The closer you are to your project, the easier it will be to plan short, effective work sessions and make progress. Many homebuilders will tell you it’s well worth it to invest in comforts like anti-fatigue floor mats, a quality workbench, and climate control to make building more enjoyable.
Perhaps the biggest factor to consider when deciding to build an airplane is whether you will have support from the important people in your life. Before undertaking such a large and time-consuming project, discuss it with your support system and make sure they’re on board. Building can be even more fun with help from loved ones! Every year, aircraft are built by friends, spouses, siblings, and parent/child teams.
Outside of your family, explore online forums and reach out to experienced homebuilders. They can provide a wealth of information, support, and advice throughout your project.
Ready to take the next step in the homebuilding journey? Check back next week when we’ll talk about what to ask and research when choosing a kitplane. And be sure to check out EAA’s first online Homebuilders Week, taking place now through January 30, 2021!
Homebuilders Week features free and interactive webinars with experts from the homebuilt aircraft community on topics including workshops on sheet metal, welding, and wood; aircraft designs from a variety of industry leaders; part selection when building; buying secondhand; and more. Find out more here.