An Affordable 4 Seat Homebuilt Aircraft in 5 Weeks for Under $100K

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JayKoit

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I have been working my way through the massive threads "Affordability of Aircraft" and "Cheap Aircraft are Simply Impossible", and I saw this quote and it got me thinking:

Posted by gordonaut:
"The fact still remains that there are many thousands of active pilots who would like to buy a brand new airplane but cannot afford the sticker price...so they buy a 30 year old Cessna or Beechcraft or whatever...or they buy a kit and build their own...and there are more amateur-built airplanes added to the rolls each year than factory built...

A lot of these people would just go out and buy an airplane if you could buy a 4 seater for say $70,000 to $100,000 which is what a lot of middle income families can afford...and what a lot of people spend on other hobby type pursuits..."



So I wanted to discuss this option: a Zenair/Zenith CH 640 (CH 640 Four-Seat Kit Airplane)


I studied this plane for a while because this is what I wanted to build before becoming a father of three -- now we won't all fit so I'm out of luck!


It's all metal, Cherokee-esque, quick build, 4 seat, AND its the only kit plane on the market who's parts -- fuselage, wings, ailerons and flaps and stabilator are assembled on the same jigs as the FAA type-certified CH2000 aircraft. In fact, it's basically a stretched 4 seat version of the CH2000 , a part 23 machine. As a bonus, it's also Amsafe seatbelt airbag compatible. I checked. BRS even said it's possible to outfit the craft with an airframe parachute system if they're supplied with the drawings / C of G information.


I think this is a pretty decent solution for a family hauling four-seater with low purchase price and cheap operating costs. It's all metal so it can be tied down, if built with an ECI Titan engine it can burn mogas, insurance I hear is reasonable, and if you're really motivated to save money you can do your own annuals and maintenance.


Now, I know this is a kit build, but they offer a FAST factory build assist program like Glasair's "Two Weeks to Taxi", albeit a little more time consuming. Let's call it "Five Weeks to Taxi", because that's what it is (here's the link: Aircraft Manufacturing & Development Company). Basically, you pay for 50% of a fast-build kit, $19500, then spend four weeks building the plane with Zenair factory builders. Then you take two weeks off while they do the electrical, cabin upholstery, avionics, and FWF installation, then you go back for a week and fit the wings and tail to the fuselage and do the test flight. Then you fly off your 25 hours. The cost for the program is a MAXIMUM of $85,000, plus $800 for facility usage (on top of your $19500 deposit), and that includes everything: The Quick-Build kit, firewall-forward kit, electrical system kit, basic flight and engine instruments, ELT, and a factory-new Lycoming O-360 engine, and Sensenich metal propeller with spinner.


That puts the total at $105,300 for a brand new, mostly factory built plane, that's basically a 4 seat clone of a Part 23 aircraft. Much more affordable than a Skyhawk/Archer for all the active pilots out there who need 4 seats and want a brand new machine -- and in only 8 total weeks. I've heard that it can take months to get a factory new plane from Cessna, etc. so it might actually get you flying even sooner than going with a brand new ready-to-fly craft...


Now, that overshoots the 70-100K mark that Gordonaut mentioned in the quote above, but that's an easy fix: Attaway Air, for example, (and I'm sure other places around the U.S.), will build you a ECI Titan O-360 Lycoming clone for $20,800. And it can burn mogas too. That should knock a solid $15,000 off the price, bringing you in around $90K.


Does this sound appealing to any of you out there who want an affordable 4-seater? I'd like to hear anyone's thoughts and feedback. Thanks!
 

Tom Nalevanko

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You would be better off buying a Cessna 182. You would have a much better plane and it would cost less in the end. Prices are very reasonable these days. Builders delude themselves into believing that they will save money on a homebuilt.
 

cluttonfred

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I would have said a Cherokee Six, but otherwise Tom is right. There is the difference of buying an old plane vs. building a new one, so maintenance will certainly be hire on the old one, but you'd still likely be ahead financially in the end.

If, on the other hand, it's the building experience that you are after, I think there are less expensive, if much longer to complete, homebuilt options from kits or plans. The Compair series, for example, if you want to go composite. The Christavia Mk IV if you want to go steel tube and wood. The Jodel Mousquetaire if you want to go all wood. And the Murphy Moose if you want to go all metal. There are many more.

You would be better off buying a Cessna 182. You would have a much better plane and it would cost less in the end. Prices are very reasonable these days. Builders delude themselves into believing that they will save money on a homebuilt.
 

TFF

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I dont think that would be a better airplane than an equal priced Bonanza, Saratoga, or 182; just new. Although the fuel would be horrendous, you can buy an Aztec or Baron 55 and take the kitchen sink. If you have to have new do what most do which is buy everything for a RV10 and have someone build it for $50k and put your name on the certificate. For 100K i would have both a Pitts S2A and Bonanza v35; one for me and one for family.
 
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nerobro

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This does beg the question of flying cheaply. I wonder what the minimum cost of a part23 airplane would be.
 

JayKoit

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You would be better off buying a Cessna 182. You would have a much better plane and it would cost less in the end. Prices are very reasonable these days. Builders delude themselves into believing that they will save money on a homebuilt.
I completely agree the 182 is a better plane, and one of my favorites. However with the bigger engine drinking more fuel, you have to budget 3-4 more gallons per hour ($18-24/hr), which if you fly 100 hrs a year that an extra $1800-$2400, plus an extra annual reserve of $1200, plus the cost of an a&p for fixes and maintenance, plus the cost of certified parts. In "Brian's Flying Blog", he mentions that his well cared for 1974 182P costs him $1200 for the annual inspection, plus about $2000 in parts/fixes/maintenance at annual and throughout the year. Adding those totals that's $5000-$5600 per year difference, less the cost of parts you'd fix/replace yourself on the CH 640. As a homebuilder you can (I know, many don't choose to, but you can) do your own annuals and maintenance, and save a lot of money there. However, not having owned either plane Tom, you may be correct. It just seems to look on paper that the CH 640 would cost less year to year -- if you do the work yourself.

By the way, speaking of awesome homebuilt family haulers, is that a Stallion in your avatar? I've heard that's a pretty sweet machine.

I would have said a Cherokee Six, but otherwise Tom is right. There is the difference of buying an old plane vs. building a new one, so maintenance will certainly be hire on the old one, but you'd still likely be ahead financially in the end.

If, on the other hand, it's the building experience that you are after, I think there are less expensive, if much longer to complete, homebuilt options from kits or plans. The Compair series, for example, if you want to go composite. The Christavia Mk IV if you want to go steel tube and wood. The Jodel Mousquetaire if you want to go all wood. And the Murphy Moose if you want to go all metal. There are many more.
I agree, and let's not forget the CH 640 WITHOUT all the fast build options. If you buy a standard kit and FWF and put it all together, you could do it for $65K. Less if you buy a mid-time O-360. The Murphy Moose likes REALLY sweet as well, but 3500 hours to build....ouch...

I dont think that would be a better airplane than an equal priced Bonanza, Saratoga, or 182; just new. Although the fuel would be horrendous, you can buy an Aztec or Baron 55 and take the kitchen sink. If you have to have new do what most do which is buy everything for a RV10 and have someone build it for $50k and put your name on the certificate. For 100K i would have both a Pitts S2A and Bonanza v35; one for me and one for family.
Again I agree, the Bonanza, Saratoga, 182, all I think are arguably better than the 640, and maybe some disagree, I have only flown a 182 and not a 640 so I can't even compare. However I have seen a couple vids from 640 builders who LOVE their planes -- but the point of this thread was to discuss a brand new plane that carries 4 people for under 100K, and it's built in less than 8 weeks. And since it's homebuilt you can save costs with maintenance, etc. As for the Aztec/Baron, yes the fuel would be horrendous, and the maintenance, and the insurance, etc. etc. so I think that's in a different league altogether.

As for the RV-10 idea, first off having someone checkbook build and put your name on it is not a good idea, but regardless, if you did pay someone 50K to build it you're still looking at $109K-$117K in materials on top of that, making your total cost a good $70K MORE than the CH640 -- and I doubt they'll have a 1800 - 2000 hour kit built in 7 weeks either...


The cheep est 4 seat airplane all around is a Tri Pacer.
Agreed -- to purchase, but not overall cost to own and operate necessarily. and it's a fabric covered plane, so add about $3000/yr in increased storage costs to hangar it as oppose to tying it down -- at least that's the difference in costs between the two options at any airport here in So Cal. Then add a $1200 annual reserve, costs of Piper parts vs. Zenith, etc.
 

TFF

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I love homebuilding; I love homebuilding. Making something yourself. When it comes to the $100K for what you get on the CH640, I would not be getting enough for my money. Not when I could bank $40K and have a 182, an old one from when they were not made by crack babies, with 200lbs more gross that is stronger and safer. $40K in the bank will hedge most any maintenance issues. A 182 is a simple airplane. If you are willing to work on the homebuilt, then a owner assisted annual would be easy for you. That would drop most maint. costs to next to nothing. Insurance, I bet is cheaper too. A 182 can have an auto gas STC so cheap gas can be had. When it comes to selling your plane when the day comes, its not going to hold its value.
 

Mark Z

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My personal opinion... The 182 is the best handling of the Cessna fleet. The Bonanza is the easiest airplane that I've ever flown and will do anything and more than the 182. A mechanic once told me that if there were only Bonanzas out there they would be looking for a job. A man needs a slow airplane, a fast family hauler, and a hotrod aerobatic toy. Again, just my opinion. Oh I might add one of them needs to be a taildragger. ;)
 
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