Experimental/LSA to build time in?

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dwalker

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This thread feels a little like deja vu.
As has been said, mission is an important starting point. I started out looking for VW powered stuff because of, well, limited funds. The Sonerai and the KR2 were a couple of models that were initially high on my list, until I sat in a couple (and I'm much smaller than you). While I was still a student, I bought a Dragonfly that only had 3 hrs on it, and moved it on a trailer (and the roof of my car) to my local municipal airport. Got it reassembled on the ramp (different days), and an instructor acquaintance made the new 1st flight. Around the pattern once and back on the ground with a melted piston. After Viking (the original) rebuilt it, a different CFI acquaintance did the next 1st flight. Another melted piston, but this time 3 porpoises and a broken canard on landing. I lucked out and because the original builder sold to me so cheap, I was able to recover almost all my investment when I sold the wreck.

Obviously not a pleasant experience at the time, but things actually worked out better for me. I ended up buying a 1/3 share of a Luscombe 8A for less than I'd paid for the Dragonfly, with the seller (a CFI) ultimately becoming a good friend and taking me all the way to my private ticket without charging me. Even bigger, it opened up another entire universe of flying for me. If I'd been able to continue with the Dragonfly, I would have missed out on grass strips, which have become more frequent destinations than paved airports. It more than doubled my options when flying purely for fun. It also greatly opened up the number of options for my 1st homebuilt purchase, since *many* of the great deals we're likely to find on the homebuilt market have the little wheel in back. My 1st homebuilt was a Thorp T-18, and the Luscombe was great prep. After about 60 hrs in the Luscombe, the T-18 was a no-brainer to fly. Still good for grass strips, and the strip where I first flew it is now where I live & keep my planes.

Your goals are your goals; just be aware of all possibilities before you make a choice.

BTW, if you have to tie down outside, a fabric covered a/c may do ok for a short period but I'd plan on long term issues, especially if you're in the south. And as much as I like alternative engines, I'm honest with myself that they are statistically likely to require much more 'fiddling' and maintenance than a typical traditional a/c engine. Most of the smaller traditional a/c engines can be operated at roughly the same fuel burn as a VW or Corvair, if you're willing to pull the go lever back after takeoff. ex: I fly my 180 HP RV6 locally at ~5.3 gph. A small Continental in a relatively clean light airframe will be well under that, and not be always on the edge like a VW. The downside for any of the old certified a/c, of course, is the need for an IA at annual time and the ever present risk of ADs on those old designs. A homebuilt with the small a/c engine lets you use an A&P for the annual, with little AD risk.

Metal Luscombe, metal C120/140, and of course the batch of metal nosedraggers, if you decide you want to stick with Dragonfly/VE/etc type aircraft in the future.
Well I am definitely going to finish out the Dragonfly and I am pretty set on the Long EZ, although the way prices of materials and shipping are going it is just about cheaper to buy a flying plane than purchase the materials! My "original" plan was to finish out the Dragonfly with the Corvair motor and fly it as much as possible. As I get closer to the checkride I am revising that plan. In fact I purposefully cut back on working on the Dragonfly as I am aware of my proclivities and know full well if I had both a flying plane and the certificate in my hand temptation would get the better of me and I would start flying it before I probably should.

As far as the VW engine, I have a fair amount of familiarity with it and will not need to run to an A&P to fix or sign off on issues an old airplane will surely have.
 

dwalker

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If you must tie down outside, a metal plane is definitely the better choice. Another option is a plane with quick folding wings (Kolb and Kitfox come to mind), then you can keep it in an enclosed trailer on a tiedown spot at the airport, or you can trailer it home. But if you have to take it home all the time, you won't fly much, it's just a hassle (securing the plane for transport can take longer than the actual unfolding process). When I had my Kolb, I kept it in the trailer at the airport during the flying season, and brought it home for the winter or if it needed any extended work.
Oddly, I live less than 2 miles from the airport I fly out of, about 6 minutes door to door without traffic, and my warehouse is another 10 minutes away. I also own a 21ft trailer I bought to be able to transport the Dragonfly with wings removed but so far has managed several other aircraft. Knowing the drawbacks of assumption, a folding wing aircraft like a Sonerai or Kitfox would literally just roll right up on the trailer with wings folded, tie it down and be gone. In theory transporting and unloading the plane to the airport would take less time than taking the boat to the lake and launching it, something I do fairly regularly, sometimes twice a day. Of course boat-launching would take a backseat to flying at that point.
Now that is NOT the way I want to go, but it could be the only choice.
 

Dana

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I typically go flying after work. The added hassle of going home, hooking up the large trailer, towing it to the airport, and then dealing with unsecuring / securing the plane inside was significant... as opposed to keeping it at the airport, where I could just roll it in, close the door, and go home.

But, another aspect of folding wings is that you might be able to squeeze into a hangar next to another plane if you can find somebody willing to share theirs.
 

Aviacs

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I like RV7Charlie's choices of metal wing airplanes for outside tie-down if it has to be done.
A Cessna 120/140 with C90 engine is usually faster than a 150, other performance data are similar.
Many do have "metalized" wings which was an aftermarket option.
(Though the fabric wing 140 flies nicer. :))
Have the centersection/spar carrythrough thoroughly inspected if the airplane already spent a lot of time outside.

Per the note about RV3's - like early Sonerai 2's, the early RV3 wings had a problem with bending when overweight, doing aerobatics.
So Van's issued a memo ("AD") about limiting flying to utility category unless the wings/spars are up-graded to B-models.
I have not much (window) shopped since covid; but for a while, RV3's with the early wings, minimal avionics, and higher time or older engines like o-290's occasionally appeared on Barnstormers for not much more than a Sonerai 2. Well under 20,000 for a couple. With B wings, nice paint and a few upgrades, they are double that.

smt
 

rv7charlie

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In theory transporting and unloading the plane to the airport would take less time than taking the boat to the lake and launching it
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is. (Yogi Berra)
I've had a boat, and I've had a plane. A rational person will spend more time preflighting a ready-to-go a/c than they'd spend launching the boat.

I have a fair amount of familiarity with it and will not need to run to an A&P to fix or sign off on issues an old airplane will surely have.
No A&P needed for maintenance/repairs if it's a homebuilt, but you'll need one (or the original builder with Repairman's Cert) at annual time. You might be able to get away with repairs to a certified a/c, too, as long as no one sees or reports you and you're smart enough to not log the work. (Picking up on the hinted illegality yet?)
 

rv7charlie

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So Van's issued a memo ("AD")
In the interest of avoiding confusion among posterity, it's a Service Bulletin. No ADs are ever issued by a manufacturer. And I'm not aware of any AD ever being issued a homebuilt by the FAA, either.

A non-B RV3 would be an amazing deal on an a/c, if you can refrain from acro and you can live with one seat. The RV4 is the best flying design I've ever flown, and those fortunate enough to have flown the -3 say it's better.
 

Aviacs

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In the interest of avoiding confusion among posterity, it's a Service Bulletin. No ADs are ever issued by a manufacturer. And I'm not aware of any AD ever being issued a homebuilt by the FAA, either
Thanks for catching that - should have left it at "memo" rather than attempting to clarify the intended force of the memo.

Agree about RV4 being wonderful to fly; but can't afford one. :(

smt <----still thinking of putting rv3 B wings on Sonerai 2
 

TFF

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I would bet there are more non B wings than B wings. There was 25 years before the B wing came out. Any RV3 would be a great plane to own. There use to be three of them at my airport.
 

gtae07

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In your decision tree don’t forget the cost of hangar rent, maintenance (can do it yourself but parts are parts) and condition inspection.
Whatever you buy, fly it as much as possible. Avgas is cheap compared to insurance, annuals and hangarage.
Hangar/tiedown and insurance are big fixed costs. Flying 100 hours a year--which is on the high end for a personally-owned airplane--they will make up something like 60% of your annual costs. Fly less than that, and they'll make up even more.

My dad's figures for his RV-6 (and my estimates for my RV-7, with lower local hangar rent but higher insurance for me) come to about $10k per year in operating costs and maintenance/upgrade reserve, at that 100 hours/year usage. So, roughly $100/hour, and that doesn't include the initial capital investment to build/buy.

One thing you might do is look at your ownership/operating costs for various options--homebuilt vs. certified, hangar vs. tiedown, etc. Get a good estimate of how much flying you'll realistically be able to do budget-wise and schedule-wise. Turn that into a cost-per-hour estimate. You may find that renting and/or joining a club (if one is available) is a cheaper option just on operating cost alone.

At that point you need to weigh the intangibles--how much is it worth it to you to have your own airplane, to fly on your schedule? How much is it worth to get certain capabilities in a homebuilt vs. certified options (e.g. aerobatics, cruise speed, etc.)? If you're going homebuilt, how much of the maintenance are you willing to take on yourself?

Recreational flying is totally irrational, but at least going through the above exercise can help you rationalize your decisions to your spouse ;)
 

dwalker

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Hangar/tiedown and insurance are big fixed costs. Flying 100 hours a year--which is on the high end for a personally-owned airplane--they will make up something like 60% of your annual costs. Fly less than that, and they'll make up even more.

My dad's figures for his RV-6 (and my estimates for my RV-7, with lower local hangar rent but higher insurance for me) come to about $10k per year in operating costs and maintenance/upgrade reserve, at that 100 hours/year usage. So, roughly $100/hour, and that doesn't include the initial capital investment to build/buy.

One thing you might do is look at your ownership/operating costs for various options--homebuilt vs. certified, hangar vs. tiedown, etc. Get a good estimate of how much flying you'll realistically be able to do budget-wise and schedule-wise. Turn that into a cost-per-hour estimate. You may find that renting and/or joining a club (if one is available) is a cheaper option just on operating cost alone.

At that point you need to weigh the intangibles--how much is it worth it to you to have your own airplane, to fly on your schedule? How much is it worth to get certain capabilities in a homebuilt vs. certified options (e.g. aerobatics, cruise speed, etc.)? If you're going homebuilt, how much of the maintenance are you willing to take on yourself?

Recreational flying is totally irrational, but at least going through the above exercise can help you rationalize your decisions to your spouse ;)
Oh I have done a lot of this! :)

When I broke down the cost of buying a certified plane vs rental with insurance, hangar (not that I will get one but figured it in) fuel, 100 hour maintenance, and annual it came to around $120 per flight hour to own, while a rental through my flight school right now is $145/hour, and I believe that is minus fuel used. Renting I am at the mercy of available aircraft and at the end have spent slightly more per hour and have nothing to sell or keep.
The local flying club I would like to join as they have both more aircraft- a 2003 Tiger AG-5B, a 1970 C172K, and a 1977 C182Q, and a limited membership number, the hourly rate ranges from $110 an hour to $145 wet, with a minimum monthly charge of 2 hours @ $118/hour, regardless if you fly or not. Monthly dues are $138, and the initial cost of membership is $1000 non-refundable fee if you are approved to join. So, $1000 up front, $374 minimum a month, flying or not. Per hour, ignoring the $1000 membership fee, in the cheapest aircraft it costs me $138 an hour if I fly 10 hours a month. And again I am at the mercy of available aircraft, scheduling, and own nothing in the end.
The alternative flying club is cheap. $100 to join, $60 a month in fees. It has a single aircraft, a 182P. Hourly rate for members is $120 dry. If this aircraft was closer I would have already joined, but it is an hour and a half each way driving. That means a 2 hour flight eats up 5-6 hours a day, which can be a tough deal.
There are a couple of other clubs I have not as yet gotten replies back from, but for now a flying club seems a viable alternative.

Schedule wise I am a retired guy with a fair amount of time. Flying 2-4 hours a week is no issue at all right now when aircraft and instructor are available.
Budget wise I feel like the cost is less important than the hours in the air, and I would like to do at least10 hours a month total, which could include weekend fly-ins, weekday pattern work, cross country trips, etc.
 

rv7charlie

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How 'well connected' are you to aviation activity in your area? EAA chapter(s) Sat morn coffee clubs, etc? If you've got the up front financial ability, perhaps a C172 or P140/180 could be the better path, because you could start your own 'club'; though it would likely be just a partnership of 2 or 3 pilots to start with. I mention C & P not because they'd be my choice of planes to fly, but because they'd be much more likely to attract partners.

Your 1st example sounds not so much like a club, but a major profit center for someone. Monthly dues, plus 2 hr minimum/month? I know this is fairly common, but come on. Insurance, even in today's market shouldn't be more than $150/mo/plane. Outdoor tiedown fees should be insignificant. An actual 'club' would have a couple of A&P/IA members who maintain the a/c legal paperwork in exchange for their membership, with the other members all chipping in labor for the actual work (under A&P supervision, of course). Pretty hard for me to find $374/mo/member in that, unless they're paying off short term loans on all three a/c. Even then, at that $1k non-refundable membership fee, a bit of turnover pays a lot of bills, too.
 

dwalker

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How 'well connected' are you to aviation activity in your area? EAA chapter(s) Sat morn coffee clubs, etc? If you've got the up front financial ability, perhaps a C172 or P140/180 could be the better path, because you could start your own 'club'; though it would likely be just a partnership of 2 or 3 pilots to start with. I mention C & P not because they'd be my choice of planes to fly, but because they'd be much more likely to attract partners.

Your 1st example sounds not so much like a club, but a major profit center for someone. Monthly dues, plus 2 hr minimum/month? I know this is fairly common, but come on. Insurance, even in today's market shouldn't be more than $150/mo/plane. Outdoor tiedown fees should be insignificant. An actual 'club' would have a couple of A&P/IA members who maintain the a/c legal paperwork in exchange for their membership, with the other members all chipping in labor for the actual work (under A&P supervision, of course). Pretty hard for me to find $374/mo/member in that, unless they're paying off short term loans on all three a/c. Even then, at that $1k non-refundable membership fee, a bit of turnover pays a lot of bills, too.
Pretty much my exact thought regarding the club.


I am gaining connections in the local EAA groups and have started to make appearances at the local events. I originally had intended to just purchase a P140 when a budget of 25K would have gotten me a reasonable one. now I need to double that. This is what has me looking at just buying a flying EA-B to build time in until the proficiency is there to move into the canards.

I have to say, locally advice to this question has run from "Just suck it up and buy a Cessna/Beech/Piper/whatever certified aircraft and be done" to "just do some high speed taxis, maybe try and find someone with a D-Fly who can give you a couple hours time in thier plane, then just go fly your plane" which has not been as helpful.
I am in no immediate hurry or need, I still have a few things to check off before the checkride happens and that can take a few weeks or a few months depending on scheduling and weather. This allows a fair amount of time for searching, contemplation, and a lot of hangar flying.
 

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A certified plane you can tie down is the best way to go, early on. It would be nice if someone would squeeze you in their hangar if the winds really kick up. Unless the engine is iffy, you just don’t have to worry if they are ready to go or not.

These clubs with 182s would be ok if you needed a 182 like flying a car engine somewhere, but they are a little much early on to fly solo. They want some bags in the back for CG. The Tiger is the same. Now getting a taste of them would be worth it. Heavier faster planes help build judgment.

Another 100 hours of flying in what students fly and pushing those boundaries is best. Flying to airports you have never been to by yourself is a big deal in air management. Go fly into C or B airspace, correctly. Make yourself uncomfortable a little bit. Even flying something you fly well gets stressed when having to comply with instructions. More and more crosswind angles.

100 hours is not a lot of time, even then. 200-300 hours is more like knocking around in the minor leagues. If you want the challenge, you could go for the commercial license. Not that you are going to use it as such, but the challenge of the disciplines will keep the skills growing.
 

rv7charlie

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I'd think that 'just go fly' would be terrible advice for the Dfly, especially at your experience level. Both the pilots who had issues with mine were highly experienced CFIs with a lot of time in both trikes and taildraggers; the one who broke the canard is the person who later taught me to fly in a Luscombe.

The Quickie/Dfly configuration really is different from all the other stuff flying; once the mains touch, you have no pitch control. This is unlike anything else I can think of; even the EZ designs still have pitch authority during touchdown. Speed management near/at touchdown seems much more critical than with other a/c. Might be a little easier if yours is converted to tri-gear, but I'd still worry about being pitch limited.
 

dwalker

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I'd think that 'just go fly' would be terrible advice for the Dfly, especially at your experience level. Both the pilots who had issues with mine were highly experienced CFIs with a lot of time in both trikes and taildraggers; the one who broke the canard is the person who later taught me to fly in a Luscombe.

The Quickie/Dfly configuration really is different from all the other stuff flying; once the mains touch, you have no pitch control. This is unlike anything else I can think of; even the EZ designs still have pitch authority during touchdown. Speed management near/at touchdown seems much more critical than with other a/c. Might be a little easier if yours is converted to tri-gear, but I'd still worry about being pitch limited.
Mine is on tri-gear with differential braking, all Grove gear and wheels/brakes.

I have no doubt "just go fly it" was terrible advice, but then the point I was trying to make here is the advice and input seems several levels better than what I have been getting.
 

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BJC

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When I broke down the cost of buying a certified plane vs rental with insurance, hangar (not that I will get one but figured it in) fuel, 100 hour maintenance,
Just for clarification, 100 hour inspections are not required for personal use aircraft. Most maintenance between TC annual inspections can be done by the owner.
Budget wise I feel like the cost is less important than the hours in the air, and I would like to do at least10 hours a month total, which could include weekend fly-ins, weekday pattern work, cross country trips, etc.
If hours in the air is a priority, ownership is the better option, unless you have an extraordinary rental opportunity.


BJC
 
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