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Building an Airplane

Building your airplane can be very rewarding. Regardless of how small or how simple the aircraft is, chances are you will spend a minimum of two years building it. Quick build kits usually take longer than the claims are. This is especially true if you have little or no experience. There are always exceptions, but you will find that people who can build that project in the shorter periods are typically those who have the knowledge and experience combined with sheer dedication.

Be ready for a challenge regardless of the route you are going to take. Every successful builder I know will tell you that the only way to "git-er-done" is to do something with your project every day. Building from only a set of plans means you will need to research and specify materials. It takes a lot of extra time and effort. You will be cutting and forming most of the pieces. It is a good way to minimize costs and stretch them out over a longer period, but it may not be the best choice for a first time builder. Progress may appear to be so slow that the entire project becomes daunting. One person I know has been working on his plans only project for 9 years and is just now getting close to being finished.

I believe the first thing anyone should do before building is to join a local EAA Chapter. Spend some time getting to know the members. Look at the completed projects that members have. Look at projects underway. These local chapters are generally loaded with people who have been where you are right now. I have found that a large amount of the progress made on building is due to conversation, education, encouragement and help from my local chapter members.

People have many reasons for building. The most common reason is financial. While in the course of learning to fly, the student pilot often discovers the cost of owning a certified aircraft such as a Cessna or a Piper. Certified aircraft need maintenance and inspections done by FAA certified mechanics with FAA certified parts. The costs can be overwhelming. Amateur builders can inspect and maintain their own aircraft. To fit into the Experimental Class, the homebuilt must be made at least 51% by the amateur builder. It used to be that the only aircraft that you (yourself) could perform inspections and maintenance on was an aircraft that you (yourself) built. New FAA rules now allow the owner of experimental aircraft that fits within the Light Sport Category to maintain it even if they were not the builder by simply attaining an FAA Light Sport Repairman Class and passing a test. I mention this only because it is another option to consider if you are more interested in maintaining and flying a previously built and registered experimental model.

Some people want to build an airplane just to know they can do it. My friend built and sold three experimental models in three years. One of them was an EAA Grand Champion. Since then, he has "zero timed" a 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ. I am not aware of a single flaw. He will tell you that buying certified (Yellow Tagged) parts for the Champ cost far more than pieces and parts for the experimental models.

Experimental aircraft may require a private certificate if the aircraft does not meet weight, speed and horsepower requirements. If the aircraft you will be building falls under the umbrella of the new Light Sport Category, you will be able to get by with a Light Sport Certificate, which costs much less to obtain and requires much less training.

When it comes to safety, we must first consider the position of the FAA. Their overall duty is to protect the general population. It includes making sure things do not start falling out of the sky and result in personal injury and property damage. In order to accomplish this, the administration needed to establish a framework of control. This meant they needed to address the fundamental questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. What followed was a collection of facts and engineering guidelines defending who could fly and what could be blown, along with when, where, how and why. You may here of people concerned with the safety of homebuilt aircraft. The FAA Permissions actually make builders install a statement in homebuilt aircraft. THIS AIRCRAFT IS NOT BUILT TO FAA STANDARDS. You will find that homebuilders usually have much higher standards. They build their aircraft with love and dedication. They are increasing awareness of safety factors during the building cycle and take corrective action. An ironic thing about this is that FAA safety records show that regular factory built airplanes are no more safe than homebuilts.

The KIS Principle is extremely important when it comes to building aircraft. Keep your project light and simple as possible. When it is finished, you will know everything about it. It is hard to beat the feeling when you combine this with your flying skills.

My project will be ready to fly someday. All of the time and effort will suddenly become worthwhile as I get to enjoy something that very few people ever get to experience.

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