+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    I posted this on another forum a few days ago, but considering that this forum is dedicated to homebuilding and seems reasonably active I thought you guys might like the info as well. I am also adding pictures that I haven't posted before:

    I went to the Sonex builder's workshop in Oshkosh this past weekend and had a blast. The weather was great Saturday and they did flyby demonstrations of several Sonex aircraft before the start of the workshop and during lunch. There was also another flyby demo on Sunday morning, but I missed it.

    The workshop was a combination of several things. We covered how to read the plans, and organizing our build as well as a history of the Sonex (and all other Monnett aircraft) as well as a history of the aerovee engine. John, Betty, and Jeremy Monnett as well as Kerry Fores and the rest of the Sonex crew were very welcoming and answered all of my questions. There was a lot of hands on metal work in the class. We did everything from cutting aluminum angle and forming wing ribs from sheet metal to riveting our pieces into a small spar subsection. One of the interesting aspects of it is that the workshop not only covers assembly of the kit, but it also covers the basic skills needed for scratch building the aluminum components of the airframe.

    To give you an idea of my background I have NO metal working experience. In fact, IIRC the Saturday in the workshop was the first time that I had ever used a drill for anything, let alone a band saw for cutting angle or a drill press for making lightning holes. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to use a band saw without slicing my fingers off. It was a lot of information to get thrown at me. The conclusion I came to was that after this workshop I am very comfortable cutting aluminum angle and turning that into parts. I need a little more practice cutting sheet metal and I was so busy focusing on the basics that I didn't do any riveting.

    That is quite alright with me, though. The aluminum angle will take me 200 hours to complete alone. I estimate that when I start building in November that it wont be until mid January or February before I finish the angle stock and move on to cutting ribs and other parts out of sheet metal. I wouldn't be doing any riveting until April 2009 at the earliest (and that is best case scenario). Between now and then (most likely January) I am going to attend the EAA Sportair metalworking workshop. I also will repeat the Sonex builder's workshop, since they are only a 3 hour drive away and I can go again for free.

    My favorite part of the workshop was when they had an insurance agent come in and give use info about getting the Sonex insured. He gave some great strategies for lower time pilots to get insured in experimentals. I also really liked getting a closer look at the Aerovee engine and having a chance to see it perform in a Sonex. The opportunity to build it myself seems like great fun. If I have the money come purchase time I will buy the Jabiru 3300 for max performance, but I know that I can afford the Aerovee with no strain on my budget and will be very happy with the results.

    The last point I would like to make is that if you are building your first plane, it is VERY beneficial to attend one of these builder's workshops if they are available for your model of aircraft. I know Zenith, Van's, and IIRC Lancair have them, probably others. I am sure there are points about the workshop that I left out. If you have any questions, let me know and I will try to answer them as best I can.

    Here are some of the pics I took:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Sonex Builder's Workshop Review-100_0315.jpg   Sonex Builder's Workshop Review-100_0316.jpg   Sonex Builder's Workshop Review-100_0318.jpg  

    Sonex Builder's Workshop Review-100_0314.jpg   Sonex Builder's Workshop Review-100_0323.jpg   Sonex Builder's Workshop Review-100_0324.jpg  


  2. #2
    Registered User Mycole's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Mid-state Illinois
    Posts
    3

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    "My favorite part of the workshop was when they had an insurance agent come in and give use info about getting the Sonex insured. He gave some great strategies for lower time pilots to get insured in experimentals. "

    Can you expand upon this a little for me? What exactly did he have to say about this? This is one thing I'm a little worried about, being a new pilot and wanting to purchase an experimental, especially a tail dragger.

    Many thanks, md

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lakewood, CO
    Posts
    97

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Yay! Thanks for the write-up!

    re: Riveting a Sonex: Don't worry about it. Anyone can do pull rivets, it's not like you're banging together an RV or a Mustang with blind rivets. Be sure to check into the flush rivet option before you get too far into making parts. I think the Sonex looks great with the flush pull rivets.

  4. #4
    Site Developer Jman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Pacific NW, USA!
    Posts
    2,387

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Excellent write up. It's another data point in the positive column for Sonex. Thanks for taking the time to post it here on HBA!

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    RE: Insurance.
    My fear was that the broker would require dual training before allowing me to solo, effectively destroying my chances of doing my own phase 1 testing. The basic theme of the insurance strategy given by the broker was to plan ahead. Don't just show up at his office the day before you want to start your phase 1 flight testing and expect him to write you a policy.
    1) use the EAA flight advisor program and work with your flight advisor to develop a training plan.
    2) Get transition, or at least "orientation" training from other folks that fly your model aircraft. Essentially, orientation training is nothing more than some right seat time in the same type of aircraft. It doesn't count as PIC or anything to the FAA, but it does matter a lot to the insurance agency.
    3) get some flight time in a similar aircraft. For instance, no one rents Sonex aircraft, but the Zodiac 601XL can be rented as an SLSA and that will be seen as useful flight experience.
    4) Pick an established design. This broker stated that insurance companies like RVs Zenairs' and Sonex's (also, IIRC he mentions Rans). There are a lot of them flying and they have a good safety record. If you pick some aircraft that doesn't have another one flying besides the prototype, expect higher rates.
    5) Tell the agent about ALL of your flight and flight training experience. He cited a case where a seemingly "inexperienced" pilot is given a lower rate because he had 1000+ hours ultralight time, even though ultralight time doesn't count with the FAA.

    Something else he mentioned. He created some mythical "average" pilot and gave some general numbers he could expect for insuring his experimental. $500-$700 liability and 1% hull value annually.

    Thats what I remember right now. He talked about a lot of things. If you have any other questions, ask away.
    Last edited by mcjon77; November 11th, 2008 at 03:51 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Quote Originally Posted by smoore View Post
    .... Be sure to check into the flush rivet option before you get too far into making parts. I think the Sonex looks great with the flush pull rivets.
    I am STRONGLY considering going the flush rivet route. It is only $200 more, and from everyone I have talked to (including Jeremy Monnett at Sonex) will only add about 50-100 hours to the project (one guy said it was only an extra 10 hours for him).

    I know I am going the polished route, instead of painting. I plan on polishing the parts as I make them, rather than assembling the whole aircraft then polishing. Every guy who polished that I put the question to said that if they had to do it again they would polish first, then assemble.

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lakewood, CO
    Posts
    97

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Quote Originally Posted by mcjon77 View Post

    I know I am going the polished route, instead of painting. I plan on polishing the parts as I make them, rather than assembling the whole aircraft then polishing. Every guy who polished that I put the question to said that if they had to do it again they would polish first, then assemble.
    I have seen Dennis Burton's Sonex and he polished the skins before he assembled. The difference really shows near the rivets.

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Just a quick update:

    I bought my Sonex plans and have started building. Well, sort of.
    I am actually waiting for my aluminum angle to arrive, and in the meantime, I am making templates for the sheetmetal pieces I am fabricating. It is actually quite fun making a template and seeing how that piece is going to connect with the rest of the airplane. I am hoping to have all of the templates finished right when the aluminum angle arrives. I'll keep giving updates as I go along.
    Jon McDonald
    Building Sonex #1287

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Posts
    1

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Jon, care to share regarding the purchase of the materials? (Did you shop much? Calculate savings over kit pricing? ...)

  10. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Sorry for the late reply. I just saw your post. I shopped a little for the metal. I ordered my aluminum angle from an online source and the aluminum sheet will be purchased locally. I (and most of the other builders I know) have found that puchasing aluminum locally as opposed to aircraft spruce or wicks can create a nice savings. My estimate is that all of the aluminum for the plane will cost ~ $1500. it would easily be close to $1000 more if I ordered from aircraft spruce/wicks.

    As far as overall savings, compared to the kit, there is a bit, obviously depending on how much you do. Here is my cost comparison
    complete sonex kit: $13,995

    buying the kit as subkits $18,400 (this includes the premachined angle components by default)

    scratch building the aluminum parts that do not need a large bending brake/buying the rest of the parts from sonex: ~ $10,700

    scratch building ALL of the aluminum parts (using your own bending brake)/buying the rest of the parts from sonex: ~$9,800

    scratch building all of the aluminum parts AND doing all welding except the motor mount (I may go this route): ~$8,000 (maybe less)
    scratchbuilding all aluminum parts and ALL welding (including the motor mount) ~$7,200

    All of these numbers could be $1,000 higher or a little lower depending on where you buy your raw materials. For example. The guys in texas are getting their aluminum sheet for about HALF what Wicks/Aircraft spruce sells it for, plus they aren't getting killed with shipping.

    If you REALLY wanted to scrounge you can shave another $1,000+ off by making even more parts like the lead weight to balance the alierons, the titanium gear legs, fiberglass wingtips/wheelpants, and even the cowling.
    Jon McDonald
    Building Sonex #1287

  11. #11
    Registered User Kmccune's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    167

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    The sheet metal brake is not a big deal, I built one known as a "Daves Sheet Metal Brake" you can search and find the plans, really just 3 pieces of angle and some bolts. Mine has bent .032 6061, I have not tried the.040 yet. Put duct tape on the clamping surfaces, because it will slip. Slipping will give you a warpped part.

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    Actually "Dave's sheet metal brake" is the exact brake I plan on building. Thanks for the tips on exactly how to use the brake. He switched projects from a Zodiac to a Sonex and has been a great resource on the list. It is good to get another positive review for his brake. I'll probably put it together and start forming those pieces in July or August. I tend to monitor the Sonex, Zenith, and CX4 mailing lists, since, for the most part, we are all using the EXACT same building materials and methods (6061-T6 aluminum and pulled rivets).

    I figure that after I finish the Sonex, a 701 is on the horizon for me.
    Jon McDonald
    Building Sonex #1287

  13. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
    Posts
    66

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    John,

    Why build the sonex vs the zodiac? I know there is no right or wrong answer, but since you have been reading the various lists, what are the pros and cons of the two designs/why builders pick one design over the other etc......

    I am looking to scratch/plan build in aluminum myself and right now I am trying to decide low and slow vs LSA then which design etc...

    Thanks
    Sean

  14. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    205

    Re: Sonex Builder's Workshop Review

    I actually considered the Zodiac before the Sonex. To tell the truth, I had completely discounted the sonex without looking at it closely. After looking closely at the sonex, I realized that the airplane fix my mission and my resources (financial, time, building and piloting skill) about as perfectly as I could find.

    1) the plane fit me physically. I'm a big guy and I found that sitting in the sonex center stick gave me more room than any other aircraft I sat in in oshkosh, including the Zodiac. Sitting in a sonex with the center stick between your legs feels like sitting in a Lazy-boy. The Zodiac would be more comfortable for 2 people than the sonex, but 95% of my flying will be alone(I'm single,with no children). So why trade comfort in 95% of my flights with comfort in 5% of my flights?

    2) The sonex is SIGNIFICANTLY faster than the Zodiac. Don't go by Zenith's speed numbers, check on the Zodiac forum for builders' speed numbers. I am seeing anywhere from a 20-30mph speed difference between the 80hp Aerovee/Jab 2200 Sonexes and the 100hp Covair/Continental Zodiacs. With both planes running the 120hp Jabiru 3300, reported speed differences are in the 30-40mph range.

    This makes sense, considering the sonex is a smaller, lighter, more aerodynamiclly clean plane compared to the Zodiac. The tradeoff for the speed is cabin size (see point 1 above) and some would say looks (I personally think the tri-gear sonex is ugly, but the tailwheel sonex looks like a sexy bullet)

    3) The airplane's safety record. The sonex safety record is impressive, to say the least. Over 200 flying in the U.S. and we just had our second fatality (suspected fuel exhaustion). The aircraft's fatality to accident rate (13.3%) is on par with or better than a Cessna 172 (14.7% over the past 25 years). There is some suspicion that the 1st fatality was a medical issue. There have certainly been accidents in the sonex, but no structural failures. The times people have had accidents, what has impressed the heck out of me was that in several cases these folks came back on the sonex mailing list to praise how well the airframe took the hit, and how well it kept them from getting killed. Many folks (not just sonex builders) have used the same words "built like a tank" to describe the aircraft's durability.

    I really don't need to go into the the safety issues of the Zodiac XL. There has been enough press about it. Suffice to say that when I did a comparative analysis of accident rates and fatality rates for several different models of homebuilts, the Zodiac XL (not the earlier HD and HDS models) had a fatality to accident rate of 50%. That higher than almost all of the other homebuilts I checked, except the Lancair. I highly recommend that ANYONE thinking of building a particular homebuilt check the NTSB reports to see how they fair (and what types of accidents are common).

    3) The plane is capable of aerobatics. I don't know if I want to do aerobatics, but it is nice to have the option.

    If I was going to be doing more than 50% of my flying with another person, AND I did not plan many trips more than 200nm, I would probably be looking more toward the Zodiac.

    There are some mods I will be making to the sonex. The most definate is to add an aux fuel tank (several builders have done this). The 17 gal fuel tank just won't cut it for the cross countries I plan on doing. Also, I am working on a stick mod that will allow a person to switch from center to dual sticks, back and forth(not in flight of course). This will give me the best of both worlds.

    Incidently, just so you know that I am certainly not against Zenith. My next plane will, with 90% certainty, be a STOL 701. I think having a Sonex and a 701 would perfectly complement each other.
    Last edited by mcjon77; May 27th, 2009 at 05:40 PM. Reason: spelling
    Jon McDonald
    Building Sonex #1287

+ Reply to Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts