One of the first things that crosses the mind of a newly minted pilot is owning an airplane. But what would that airplane be? Factory-built or homebuilt? A factory-built, certified airplane must have major work performed by a certified mechanic but a homebuilt can be maintained entirely by the builder. Also, a homebuilt, or amateur built as it is properly designated, can be assembled to the owner’s specific requirements. So, you get an airplane built just for you.
Build an airplane from a kit or plans?
So, you’ve decided you want to build your airplane but will it be from a kit or from plans only? With a kit-built airplane, most, if not, all of the parts are fabricated for you. You just have to assemble the airplane and add you own personal touch to it. With a plans-built airplane, you are provided with the blueprints and instructions only. It’s up to you to source the materials and fabricate each part. The plans-built airplane will definitely be a lot less expensive than the kit-built but you will have to do all of the work.
An option that may be available to you if you choose to go with the kit-build is that you can choose between either a quick-build or slow-build. A quick-build kit has much of the airplane assembled for you and the remainder that you have to assemble still satisfies the 51% requirement for the amateur build category. With a slow-build kit, all of the airplane must be assembled by you, the builder.
What’s your flying mission?
Now you need to decide what kind of airplane to get. That depends on how you intend to use the airplane the majority of the time. Do you want to travel or just go on local, leisurely jaunts? How about setting speed records or getting into aerobatics? If you want to travel, you’ll want to consider the airplane’s range and comfort. Aerobatics will require an airplane that can handle high G loading. Obviously, you’ll want to choose an airplane that is suited for the activity for which you will most likely use it.
Construction material – what’s your airplane made of?
Something else you may want to consider is the material that the airplane is made of. Airplanes can be constructed from aluminum, wood, fiberglass or a combination. Working with aluminum or wood is relatively easier than with fiberglass because fiberglass involves working with toxic chemicals. However, fiberglass is also very light, strong and lends itself well to very fluid designs and may allow very unique features that would be impossible to create in aluminum or wood.
As you can see, there is lots to consider if you’ve decided to build your own airplane. While there is a lot more to think about versus getting a factory built airplane, the rewards of custom building your very own personal airplane could very well be priceless.