Being practical with the homebuilt.vs. certified decision

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Peterson

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So I've considered what I want in a plane verses what I need in a plane, and while not necessarily the most fun sounding option, I think in the long run I'll be happier letting practicality be the number one priority in the decision process. What I've come up with is :

What I need
-affordable way to build hours
-forgivable flying characteristics but capable of helping me advance my skills
-something comfortable enough to bring my wife
-possibility of providing commercial services to offset expense

What I want
-four place, or at least enough space to take one plus baggage
-Mazda rotary power
-able to take off and land from 3500-4000 foot grass runway
-gentleman's aerobatics capability but simple to fly cross country or in the pattern

I'm thinking a Piper Tomahawk is closer to what I need, while the Falconar F12A is what I want. I'm about half way through private pilot training, and the Tomahawk is supposed to be pretty roomy for a two place while having a similar feel to a larger plane, making it great for transitional training. It's not an aerobatic machine, but will handle and recover from spins all day. After licensing, I could rent it to a CFI (or become one myself) or use it for aerial photography. Low time models cost about the same as an economy car. Still trying to find one to rent but it has a lot going for it.

The Falconar is a bit larger, flies very well behind a 13B, can't tumble but can handle all the aerobatics I could do without killing myself, and would let me get to build what has always been described as a great plane. I'll probably still order plans and piece it together, but having a flyer already would help keep me from being tempted to rush anything or cheap out to get flying sooner. No doubt I would enjoy it more, but the practical plane first will probably save me time, money, and headache. I love fine craftsmanship and working with my hands, but I also know that as a low hour student pilot wanting to get in the air as soon and often as possible, I may end up rushing a detail that causes my plane to fail its airworthiness inspection (or fail in flight) .

Am i missing anything?
thanks
 

don january

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Build, fly. rent, fly. buy, fly. Sound's like fly is the key word. Thing's you may be missing is who repair's your plane? does annuals? Price$$, engine? Hanger space/ rental? runway? Wow the list goes on. I ask you do you have the faith in your ability to build your own bird? Do you have the patience to do the build right? Take what you need and also what you want and try and meet in the middle. 100_0282.jpg
 

TFF

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Beech Musketeer. Get lucky and find an aerobatic one. Airframes not different, just a piece of paper. Personally I would get a cheap Bellanca Viking or Cardboard Connie, or a wood wing Mooney. Not for aerobatics but good for getting use to high performance airplanes. Lots of good cheap 2 seat biplanes for light aerobatics.
 

radfordc

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According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Foundation, which published a Safety Highlight report on the Piper Tomahawk, the Piper Tomahawk has a one-third lower accident rate per flying hour than the comparable Cessna 150/152 series of two-place benchmark trainers. However, the Tomahawk has a higher rate of fatal spin accidents per flying hour. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimated that the Tomahawk's stall/spin accident rate was three to five times that of the Cessna 150/152.[2]

Spin testing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzFgqtPVCZ0
 

TFF

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Get a Cherokee for the same money. Tramahawks are not bad, but roomy? 150s, Thawks, Grummans, RV7s 172s all these size planes are the same width within a inch. The Tomahawk is a hair more fragile; dont push on the wings and before an AD got people to look, tails would come off.
 

Wanttaja

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So I've considered what I want in a plane verses what I need in a plane, and while not necessarily the most fun sounding option, I think in the long run I'll be happier letting practicality be the number one priority in the decision process. What I've come up with is :

What I need
-affordable way to build hours
-forgivable flying characteristics but capable of helping me advance my skills
-something comfortable enough to bring my wife
-possibility of providing commercial services to offset expense
Don't forget that you can't carry people or cargo for hire in an Experimental. So if commercial operations are what you want, stick with certified.

And even then...well, it's a hassle. You can't just stick a "for rent" sign on it. At a minimum, you're going to need 100-hour inspections in addition to annuals.

I'd push the "make the airplane pay for itself" caveat back to the bottom of the stack.

What I want
-four place, or at least enough space to take one plus baggage
-Mazda rotary power
-able to take off and land from 3500-4000 foot grass runway
-gentleman's aerobatics capability but simple to fly cross country or in the pattern
Don't know of an homebuilt four seaters where the designers encourage aerobatics. There's the aerobatic Bonanza, but that's certified and pretty rare.

You can fly aerobatics in any aircraft (see Bob Hoover) and *legal* aerobatics in any homebuilt. But what positive and negative G-limits constitute "Gentleman's aerobatics"? Until you get to some of the uglier maneuvers, most can be performed by just about any aircraft. The Citabria doesn't meet the modern +6/-3G requirement, it's got +5/-2, because its built on an older type certificate.

The whole purpose of the aerobatic G-limits is *not* to permit aerobatics, but to supply margin. You can do loops, rolls, and spins all day with most aircraft, but the problem arises if you botch a maneuver. THEN you want that ability to withstand three or more additional Gs.

Consider, too, how much time that plane of yours is going to be performing "Gentleman's aerobatics." Once every two weeks? Once a month? Once a year? That's a bit of excess capability that you're using pretty rarely.

We've had a lot of discussions about auto engines here, so I won't restart them. However, if you decide to put a Mazda in your homebuilt airplane, expect to at least double the construction time. You now have two projects, you're building an aircraft and you're building an engine.

The 3500-4000 foot runway will be plenty for just about any single-engine aircraft. However, grass runways will mostly leave out the canard types.

My advice? Get the Traumahawk. It covers most of your practical needs, if few of your desires. But you're buying a machine, not marrying it. Fly it for two years, learn what it takes to own an aircraft, help your A&P on the annuals so you get a handle on the mechanical work required. After a year or so, re-examine your needs and desires. Start shopping for a four-seater, if that's where you're headed. Look for a Citabria or Skybolt if the hankering for acro is still there.

With the GA market in the tank right now, you can probably by that Tomahawk for much less than building an airplane. And, if the market is still in the tank two years from now, you can sell it at about the same low price you bought it for.

Ron Wanttaja
 

Battson

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New Zealand
Get a dirt cheap Cessna 150 / 152 and rent it back to a training organisation when you're not using it.
 

cluttonfred

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Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA
I just took a look on Controller.com for aircraft for sale in the $10,000-20,000 range in Missouri and any neighboring states. Found nine aircraft from single-seat homebuilt Sky Raider up to a very high time but one owner 1980 Piper Warrior. Best of the bunch appears to be this 1967 slant-tail C150 in Oklahoma, if an inspection turns up no issues then it's about the best plane you could get for money. Take care of it and you can sell it for what you paid for it.

1967 CESSNA 150 Piston Single Aircraft For Sale At Controller.com
 

BJC

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Yup, all of the above, plus two additional comments.

Aerial photography will be a challenge from the low wing airplanes.

There is nothing practical about owning a small airplane. Decide what you want, and if you can do it without penalizing your family, do it.


BJC
 

Peterson

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May 25, 2014
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160
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St.Rober, MO
I've been renting a 150 for private pilot training, and while it's a great trainer, things get a bit uncomfortable with me and my instructor (a "big" guy) both in the cockpit. While I like the slight level or discomfort for training as a guard against complacency, Thawks are just a bit wider, and it would give me some log book variety. They also have a touch more power. For my first 1000 hours, I probably want to keep aerosols limited to spins, 4 point rolls, and various stalls. I like Grumman Cheetahs too, but fuel and maintenance on a O235 is better than O320 - O360 variants.
 

Dana

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Some other things to consider:

With an experimental, you can do all your own maintenance (IF you have the mechanical skills); with a certified plane you have to pay an A&P.

There's a wide variety of baggage capacity in 2 seaters, from nil to lots.

If you're interested in aerobatics, you'll probably find the handling of most factory built 4 seaters rather sluggish and boring.

4 point rolls are negative g, which takes you out of the realm of what's usually considered "gentleman's aerobatics".

Look at the RV line of aircraft.

Dana
 

Hot Wings

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I started out with certified planes. I'll never again consider a certified plane for personal use. The only way I'd buy a certified plane again is if the spread sheet says I'll be making money. With certified It's just too much hassle to upgrade, the cost of parts is outrageous, and the risk of some future AD making your investment worthless is too great. I was working on getting my A+P to help change some of this. I now have an IA in the family that will sign off my work and I'm still not interested in certified.

If there is an Experimental that will perform your mission buy it. If there is an RV model that fits - even better because you have a fair chance of finding a well built one and good resale value. Fly that until you get your license and sell it when it's time to buy the engine for your future ideal homebuilt.

**********************My opinion only*******************
 

TFF

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I agree about upgrades. Im a A&P IA and I hate even trying to do them. If you can be happy with 70's avionics these cheap planes are great. If you want the latest upgrades. A full Garmin glass cockpit is $50,000, Dynon $12,000. This is where you cant beat a homebuilt. I know I have a friend who wants to turn his Grumman into a RV. He will spend less buying a used RV than what he will spend in upgrades. On a $15,000 airplane. 4 seat homebuilts are big projects and expensive. A Bearhawk build will be worth it, but its a ten year build if you do it scratch and have a day job; its a $40,000 build airframe if you buy the kit. It will cost you your time or money. A C model Mooney can be had for $30,000 all day long with good engine and prop. I have seen many in the low 20 range that I could deal with for little extra cost. It not going to be happy flying 4 250 pounders, but none of the 4 seaters really will; you need a 6 seater for that.
 

Nickathome

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According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Foundation, which published a Safety Highlight report on the Piper Tomahawk, the Piper Tomahawk has a one-third lower accident rate per flying hour than the comparable Cessna 150/152 series of two-place benchmark trainers. However, the Tomahawk has a higher rate of fatal spin accidents per flying hour. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimated that the Tomahawk's stall/spin accident rate was three to five times that of the Cessna 150/152.[2]

Spin testing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzFgqtPVCZ0
Consider the fact that there are probably a third as many Tomahawks as there are C 150s out there. Hence the reasoning as to why the accident rate for the Tomahawk overall may be lower.
 

Nickathome

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Get a dirt cheap Cessna 150 / 152 and rent it back to a training organisation when you're not using it.
Yes and who pays for the parts when the leased back plane breaks?. Better get it in writing that the renter not the rentee does? If not then you may get stuck repairing and paying for a plane youre not even flying
 

Toobuilder

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So I've considered what I want in a plane verses what I need in a plane, and while not necessarily the most fun sounding option, I think in the long run I'll be happier letting practicality be the number one priority in the decision process. What I've come up with is :

What I need
-affordable way to build hours
-forgivable flying characteristics but capable of helping me advance my skills
-something comfortable enough to bring my wife
-possibility of providing commercial services to offset expense

What I want
-four place, or at least enough space to take one plus baggage
-Mazda rotary power
-able to take off and land from 3500-4000 foot grass runway
-gentleman's aerobatics capability but simple to fly cross country or in the pattern...

Am i missing anything?
thanks
Your requirements are very broad for the most part except for one that is razor sharp. There is a huge variety of airplanes that will do what you want, but why the focus on a Mazda right out of the gate? This is not likely to be your last airplane.

I'd also suggest that you look at overall lifecycle costs as a factor rather than trying to get the airplane to pay its way with commercial ops or leaseback. One thing that leaps to mind as an example is fuel burn. You can buy a Bellanca Viking all day long for dirt cheap, but you are going to burn 16 GPH. An RV-6 OTOH will go faster than the Viking on half the fuel burn (and as a bonus, you dont have to fold the gear). Resale is likely to be much higher on the RV as well.

You are on the right track though. Picking your first airplane should be a requirements based desision. You don't want to go with your heart and end up with an airplane that doesn't perform your mission. The challenge for a new pilot is the fact that you probably don't have a feel for your mission yet. You may think you do, but until you really start using the airplane you dont know what will be important. I sure didn't. I did my initial private flying in a C-177, so I had plenty of time droning across the country pondering what I liked about the airplane and what I didn't. The Cessna was comfortable and roomy, but slow and ponderous. Cross country comfort was important, but I wanted to add aerobatic and speed - so my first airplane was a Hiperbipe. After a few hundred hours, speed became more important so the RV-8 came along, followed by the Rocket.

Set your requirements, create a list of candidates, and see what bubbles to the top. Factor resale value however, because this is unlikely to be your last airplane.
 
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Topaz

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I've got time in Tomahawks. Despite the reputation, I thought it was a fine machine and, yes, the cockpit is quite roomy for a trainer. It's not fast, and no, don't plan on doing spins "all day" unless you have had thorough spin training in another aircraft. Both flying schools at which I flew Tomahawks prohibited spins in the aircraft (one of the instructors broke the rules, to at least show me what one was like), because it does have a tendency to flatten out and be more difficult to recover if you let it get wound up. And when it breaks into a spin, it really drops a wing - felt as if the airplane nearly rolled inverted.

As a trainer in which to build time, I can't think of a better option, even over the C-152, in which I always felt cramped and half-blind, despite it being a really nice-flying airplane.

As others have said, if you're looking to fly, buy a Tomahawk and fly. Building an airplane so that you can fly is a poor decision. You build an airplane because you want to build an airplane, or if there's no other way to get the specific airplane you want.
 

TFF

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I always give the Viking as an example because with my needs I either need 1 seat or 4. Got one seat covered if I get an engine. Yes 16 gal an hour is a bunch for putting around the pattern. Going somewhere it is just about equal to my Suburban and Tundra in fuel cost per mile. So if you have the family of 4 that will go with you somewhere, 16 gal is not too bad at 140kts. To the in-laws and back is a wash. 4 seats and you wont see me drive on vacation ever again unless it is camping. The best thing to do when looking at an airplane is to figure out your VFR longest distance with safe fuel. Take that distance to a map and draw a circle with that radius. Those are the places you can easily go on one tank of fuel. If the world is interesting in that range, you will use the plane. If you are two tanks form anywhere you want to go, it will get wary for the passengers who really only care about getting there. Stopping for a pee break is easy in a car, but in a plane, you kill the time/ money efficiency if you have to come down. You want to be able to truck for 3-4 hours with not stopping to make airplane travel work, or hope everything is 1.5 away. Other wise you may have to divert 30 min just to get to an airport you can stop at.
 

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