Airplane for the Common Denominator

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Tiger Tim

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Alright, it turns out the ‘common man’ is an impossible target to pinpoint so how about boiling it down to a common denominator. The most affordable practical airplane that tosses out all special lifestyle cases. I think it needs to at least do the following:

-Comfortably seat one pilot
-Travel faster than driving
-Use a common enough reliable engine that’s mogas-friendly and not a never ending science experiment
-Be easy enough to fly, capable of straight-forward pilot transition from a common type
-Be resilient enough to survive outside tie down in any US state without needing major refurbishment
-Designed for scratch building using common tools and ordinary raw materials and hardware

Does that sound about right? The idea is that making it is very much pay-as-you-go, and keeping and operating it once finished are reasonably straightforward. I can actually think of three designs off the top of my head that probably fit the bill but I’m curious what input others may have.
 

Vigilant1

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The Thatcher CX4 comes to mind first. Seems to check all these particular boxes.
ETA: If it must be able to survive out in the elements, that rules out a lot of good planes, IMO. I'd probably buy a "doesn't-look-too-good" C-150, C-152 or a Cherokee 140 if that was going to be its fate.
 
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Toobuilder

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I'm assuming "comfortably seat one pilot" does not mean "single seat only". In that case, Tailwind still comes out very near the top of my list. Checks all of your criteria anyway. Wood and fabric are going to be a downside in some states, while aluminum would be even worse in others. Other examples would be Wagabond, VP, Flybaby, or similar. All share the same construction materials and overall effort to build, but the Tailwind is a much more capable airplane on the same power, so in my mind thats a big edge.
 
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What do you mean by "travel"? Do you mean it goes faster than a car, or that it can be used for traveling, and the trip, to your destination, is faster than driving?
 

Tiger Tim

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What do you mean by "travel"? Do you mean it goes faster than a car, or that it can be used for traveling, and the trip, to your destination, is faster than driving?
I guess that part means whatever you want but the idea is you can take off in one place and arrive in a different place all while making it an attractive option compared to driving.
 

Tiger Tim

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The Aerosport Quail, by Harris Woods, would seem to fit these criteria pretty well.
That was the very first one that I had in mind when I started the thread. The Mini Coupe was another, and I believe there’s a Pazmany that satisfies the same.
 

cluttonfred

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Some of these criteria are pretty subjective. Do you exclude all fabric-covered planes? How about partial fabric covering? Is the outside tie-down an absolute requirement? What about wooden aircraft which can last a long time if well-built with drain holes and ventilation? What if only the wings are wood?
 

TFF

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Tailwind, Pitts, Flybaby, Cub. Not original. All somewhat derivative of Cubs, except of course the Cub. Tailor the style of flying you want. They are all about as cheap a real plane you can build that’s not going sub real airplane engine. If you want to be really picky, they have all been powered with 65 hp, and except the Flybaby, up to 200 hp. You can make them different flavors. I can’t really see one costing more than another. Of course you got to make all the bits and pieces and not buy prefab parts to get the discount. Even better planes aren’t really; they are just derivatives of these in different materials.
 

Dana

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I guess that part means whatever you want but the idea is you can take off in one place and arrive in a different place all while making it an attractive option compared to driving.

That leaves room for almost anything. I flew an ultralight to an overnight fly-in 100 miles away once, and I fly my Hatz to the cabin several times each year, which including the drive to the airports at both ends takes just about as long as driving assuming no traffic... but it's a lot more fun. I was going to fly the Hatz CT to WV for a camping fly-in this past weekend, but the weather didn't cooperate.

But neither are what one would think of as traveling machines.
 

J.L. Frusha

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Alright, it turns out the ‘common man’ is an impossible target to pinpoint so how about boiling it down to a common denominator. The most affordable practical airplane that tosses out all special lifestyle cases. I think it needs to at least do the following:

-Comfortably seat one pilot
-Travel faster than driving
-Use a common enough reliable engine that’s mogas-friendly and not a never ending science experiment
-Be easy enough to fly, capable of straight-forward pilot transition from a common type
-Be resilient enough to survive outside tie down in any US state without needing major refurbishment
-Designed for scratch building using common tools and ordinary raw materials and hardware

Does that sound about right? The idea is that making it is very much pay-as-you-go, and keeping and operating it once finished are reasonably straightforward. I can actually think of three designs off the top of my head that probably fit the bill but I’m curious what input others may have.

Define "Comfortably seat one pilot"
Are we talking cushions, or lawn-chair, here?

Travel faster than driving where?
Big differences between Lake Charles, LA and I-35 in Austin, TX., or even the mountains in Colorado.

A common enough reliable engine that’s mogas-friendly and not a never ending science experiment?
Are you only choosing 4-stroke, here, or are proven 2-strokes included, just add 1-Mix?

Easy enough to fly, capable of straight-forward pilot transition from a common type.
The easiest planes to fly overall include the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, Beechcraft Skipper, Piper PA-28 Cherokee, Cessna 150/152, Diamond DV20/DA20 Katana, Ercoupe 415-C, and Diamond DA40 Star. The easiest commercial plane to fly is the Boeing 747 and the easiest military aircraft is the F-22 Raptor.

Be resilient enough to survive outside tie down in any US state without needing major refurbishment.
Metal-skinned, or what? In what weather conditions? Alaska is far different than Texas...

Designed for scratch building using common tools and ordinary raw materials and hardware.
 

Toobuilder

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I think the idea with this thread is to leave it open enough to provide a basis for discussion about the relative merits of multiple types as they apply to a perspective owner's flying mission. I'm fairly certain the intent is NOT to narrow the critera down so tight that the only possible answer is a one off single seat 103 biplane.
 

J.L. Frusha

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I never said my solution was for everyone, or even for anyone else, but it might work for others, as well.

Thing is, everyone seems to think I have narrowed myself to a special case, when it's rather common, as I have tried to show. What's uncommon is the actual desire to fly, not just the means to do so.

Finding the path to follow is the hard part and it requires a disposable portion of ones income, then narrowing the choices to the one that should work in each particular case.

It hasn't been about 'rejecting advice', it's been about 'this won't work for me' and why. As I reiterated numerous times before: for me, any registered aircraft is out because I cannot pass the medical and I cannot afford the added expenses that come with such a plane. With that in mind, for me, the only viable solution is a homebuilt ultralight. My choice at this point is to build what I want, and try to keep it within FAR Part 103, rather than build/repair something I will not be happy with.

I think it boils down the same for every would-be pilot. What can 'I' afford? What are the long-term costs? How do I get started?
 

Tiger Tim

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I think the idea with this thread is to leave it open enough to provide a basis for discussion about the relative merits of multiple types
Basically. So often we see people posting a simple mission of, “I just want to be able to afford to fly,” followed by a fifty page long thread of reasons X can’t be done. My attempt here is to boil it down to as close to a ‘no excuses left’ solution as possible. Yes, the criteria are wide but trust me a bunch of thought went into it to try and keep a comfortable distance from any extremes.

For example, a powered parachute probably costs almost nothing to fly and can be stored in a big closet. You can ride the bus with it. Many of us are also limited in where and when it can be used. Out my way they’re not welcome at airports and this really isn’t a place to begin establishing a national network of powered parapets. It also basically has to be purchased all at once. Put that together for a flying machine that may be easy to own but has significant restrictions on operation and acquisition. It’s about balance and I believe this is almost certainly something Bud Evans looked at when he started dreaming about the VP-1.

This thread is, however, specifically not a design challenge. It’s more about what exists right now today that someone could conceivably buy plans tonight and start building the weekend after next. And again, the ‘mission’ is purposefully aimed at the middle of the one-person envelope to cut out conflicting extremes.
 

J.L. Frusha

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I never said my solution was for everyone, or even for anyone else, but it might work for others, as well.

Thing is, everyone seems to think I have narrowed myself to a special case, when it's rather common, as I have tried to show. What's uncommon is the actual desire to fly, not just the means to do so.

Finding the path to follow is the hard part and it requires a disposable portion of ones income, then narrowing the choices to the one that should work in each particular case.

It isn't about 'this advice won't work', it's about 'this won't work for me' and why.
 

cluttonfred

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Despite the outdoor tie-down requirement, I think the Sonerai I and II are worth consideration here if you don't need to operate out of short or rough fields. Wings are all aluminum, fuselage and tails are steel tube covered in fabric, but Oratex has a 10-year guarantee and and even an aluminum plane is going to need sprucing up after that long outside. The Sonerai II trigear and trigear stretch would be the best option for ease of piloting, plus the flexibility of taking a passenger or stuff for a cross-country but probably not both at the same time.
 

Daleandee

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Despite the outdoor tie-down requirement, I think the Sonerai I and II are worth consideration here if you don't need to operate out of short or rough fields. Wings are all aluminum, fuselage and tails are steel tube covered in fabric, but Oratex has a 10-year guarantee and and even an aluminum plane is going to need sprucing up after that long outside. The Sonerai II trigear and trigear stretch would be the best option for ease of piloting, plus the flexibility of taking a passenger or stuff for a cross-country but probably not both at the same time.

Agreed. Sonex now handles the Sonerai plans. Also keep in mind that a Sonex "A" model can still be plans built. Not long ago one was built by a scrounging master for $8500. He found some used instruments and many folks actually donated parts and pieces to his effort.

A fine gentleman (recently passed on) built himself a Corvair powered Pietenpol for $6500 or so. Carved his own prop. Took him a bit of time to build it but he eventually got it done and gave a bunch of people rides in it.

The dream of flight is a precious thing but people need to learn/know their limitations. Some believe that anyone can accomplish anything if they desire it enough. I've never fallen into that trap. Many that have been taught that sometimes are surprised to learn that all of us have limitations and we cannot do everything we want to. Now this is where some synergy i.e. gathering sage advice and information from those that have gone before is a very prudent and wise thing to do.

No man is an island ...
 

TFF

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Most airplanes can be outside. No airplane should be. Yes you can rot a Bellanca wing out leaving it outside. What makes it rot is leaving it wet for months at a time. If it rains on your plane for a week, you need to go fly it for an hour and dry it out. The issue is the “I don’t have time.” No, you have a responsibility to take care of your stuff. Most people are not letting it rain in their house every time it storms. They maintain the roof. You have to maintain your plane fly it or not. Might as well fly it. Old cars are the same. You leave one for ten years and there is a good chance the carb is gummed up , no brakes, and mice have eaten the back seat foam. It always goes back to the no one wants responsibility just to do stuff when they want. Talk about a poster child for renting, yet those are the ones who say they never will too expensive. No, it’s usually the accounting is off. If you own it, you can pretend you didn’t spend money on something, where renting you see the real cost. You might think it only cost $60 to go fly your 150 when it renting is $150. You still are pretending the big bills are not there at $60 but the truth is the other$90 is being spent if not more and you have to care about it.
 
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