Inexpensive Homebuilts... Why?

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by Topaz, Sep 9, 2016.

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Which is the closest reason to why you're interested in "inexpensive" homebuilts?

Poll closed Oct 12, 2016.
  1. Have some discipline, save, and get something really nice later.

    1 vote(s)
    1.3%
  2. I don't make much money. I can barely afford a used ultralight.

    15 vote(s)
    20.0%
  3. I have a pilot license, but everyday expenses mean I can't afford what's out there.

    17 vote(s)
    22.7%
  4. I need to get my license, and can afford that or an airplane, not both.

    2 vote(s)
    2.7%
  5. I'm just a cheap bastard. Aviation costs too much. It should be less.

    31 vote(s)
    41.3%
  6. I CAN afford many offerings, but can't get the (performance, looks, etc.) in my price range.

    9 vote(s)
    12.0%
  7. Have some discipline, save, and get something really nice later.

    1 vote(s)
    1.3%
  8. I don't make much money. I can barely afford a used ultralight.

    15 vote(s)
    20.0%
  9. I have a pilot license, but everyday expenses mean I can't afford what's out there.

    17 vote(s)
    22.7%
  10. I need to get my license, and can afford that or an airplane, not both.

    2 vote(s)
    2.7%
  11. I'm just a cheap bastard. Aviation costs too much. It should be less.

    31 vote(s)
    41.3%
  12. I CAN afford many offerings, but can't get the (performance, looks, etc.) in my price range.

    9 vote(s)
    12.0%
  1. Sep 12, 2016 #101

    Little Scrapper

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    Where is this thread going? Haha. They always end up with the same conclusion.

    I will say this, the older I get the more unsure I am of life. Lots of people close to me just up and dying, diseases etc. Life is crazy regardless of income.

    The older I get the more I understand that a man just needs to enjoy himself and find balance. Time keeps moving along so even if you don't fly or never fly you can still enjoy this hobby. Building ribs can be just as much fun as flying for some people. I think that's pretty cool......and affordable. Sometimes a fella just needs hope that he might fly it one day, that's enough to keep you busy and having fun. Flying can be affordable for most people if they learn to sacrifice something to get it
     
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  2. Sep 12, 2016 #102

    Topaz

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    If we all try to speculate about how to make "inexpensive" aircraft, or what "inexpensive" means, then yep, we'll end up in the same place we always do.

    My point here is to simply find out why people are interested in "inexpensive" homebuilts, regardless of what that word means to each person. I'm not after solving the formula of what constitutes "inexpensive". I'm answering other questions entirely, and am entirely pleased and surprised with the answers coming forth.
     
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  3. Sep 12, 2016 #103

    Little Scrapper

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    I asked that question kinda tongue and cheek to keep the car discussion away. Lol.

    Funny thing about the poll question. Every single person has a threshold they call affordable, regardless of income. A customer bought a brand new King Air this summer. I suppose a brand new Cessna 2 seater would be affordable to him?

    The thing is, and this is what I always find interesting, how many people of the "whole" go the affordability route vs going for the "barely able to afford" route? Or, what percentage of people go for the affordable route but it's actually the expensive route as they later discover? Lots of 3/4 finished homebuilts sitting in hangars and garages. Unrealistic expectations? Sometimes people convince themselves something is affordable to make them feel good when the reality is they can't afford it.

    Many homebuilders spend 10 years building a plane. In 10 years jobs are lost, or family dynamics change etc.

    Interesting thread regardless.
     
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  4. Sep 12, 2016 #104

    Topaz

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    It's still running, and I welcome more responses, but I want to thank everyone for participating in my little poll here, and the follow-up poll on airplane usage. I'm happy to find out that I've been completely wrong in some of my assumptions regarding "inexpensive" aircraft (whatever that means to each individual).

    When I set up this poll, my expectation was that answer #3, whereby people are interested in "inexpensive" airplanes because the expenses of family, owning a home, etc., forced people away from flying or kept them from participating "now". And while that's emerging as the "number two" answer, the top choice caught me completely by surprise! Seems a significant proportion of the people who responded can afford an airplane that isn't necessarily "affordable", but that they simply don't see enough value in what's being offered to justify paying the money. I didn't see that coming at all.

    I wrote the follow-up question to further explore why that might be so. What are people doing with their airplanes that makes an airplane desirable, but the sort of purchase where there's little need for an product, and certainly where "economy" for its own sake can make the purchase decision. Again, I had a guess, and again, that guess was quite wrong. I had expected that, of the answers, the "take friends flying, airshows, $100 burgers" would be the leading answer, but "relaxation on weekends/after work, chasing sunsets" clearly is the most-common overall usage for an airplane in the sample I've gotten here. Another surprise!

    Recognizing that the sample sizes are very small, and are among people who have self-selected for an interest in homebuilding (they're here on HBA), it paints a picture that makes a lot of sense in context of what we're seeing in sport aviation today:

    Van's has the "transportation homebuilt" market locked up, and rightfully so - their aircraft are seriously very good at that mission statement. But if a lot of people are flying most often to simply relax and burn off the pressures of the day, and once in a while taking a friend for a $100 burger, then it's easy to see an RV-x simply being too profligate an expenditure for that kind of purchase. People have that kind of money available, but don't want to spend such a large fraction of their funds on such a limited use-case. They'd like some left over for vacations, other hobbies, motorcycles, etc.

    That's really interesting. It helps explain the strong interest we see here on HBA in "inexpensive" aircraft, informs some guesses about what sort of aircraft those really need to be, and why people are walking away from flying - or at least not walking towards it.

    Again, thank you all. I learned a lot from this.
     
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  5. Sep 13, 2016 #105

    VFR-on-top

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    That's the killer right there. I only work part-time (2-3 days a week), but I monitored PPC flyable weather (afternoons) over the summer vs days I got called into work. There were 20 "perfect days" and I had to work on 15 of them. PPCs are permanently off my list because of this revelation.
     
  6. Sep 13, 2016 #106

    Little Scrapper

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    It's important to remember the data here is somewhat biased. This is just one forum and many here do not fly. There's popular social sites for flying where 90% of the members fly frequently and don't build airplanes. Most are certified. There's a lot of members here but less than 30 people are commenting. I'm not so sure the data is reliable.
     
  7. Sep 13, 2016 #107

    skier

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    As with any data, you have to take it for what it is. You're right these polls represent one very small group involved with aviation. To broaden the research, I reposted one of Topaz's other poll over on Pilot's of America. Let's see how it turns out differently:
    https://www.pilotsofamerica.com/community/threads/you-have-an-airplane-you-use-it-for.98112/
     
  8. Sep 13, 2016 #108

    Little Scrapper

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    Good idea! Keep us posted.
     
  9. Sep 13, 2016 #109

    Raceair

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    Pops...Yes ! And for me, not currently flying anything, Living with my shop and airplane projects on an airport allows me to still get my aviation fix every day...I watch the other guys have fun with their champs in the evenings.....
     
  10. Sep 13, 2016 #110

    Topaz

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    Good lord, I hope so! :gig: There's a little madness to my method here.... wait... Anyway, I'm not looking for the "general pilot population" answers. That is to say, people who fly mostly type-certificated aircraft and have little or no interest in homebuilts. Whether or not they're currently flying a Cessna or whatever, it's important to my purposes here that the people answering have a strong interest in homebuilts, and posting the question on this forum deliberately biases the pool of people answering to those who do.

    Similarly, if I wanted to sample answers from people who are interested in homebuilding, but whom I know have a preference for faster airplanes with longer cross-country legs, I'd go post the questions over on Van's Airforce forum. Since we're examining "inexpensive" airplanes for this series of questions, that wouldn't really be an appropriate pool of people to ask the questions.

    Admittedly, the sample size I'm getting here is very small (VERY small!) and easily distorted by just a few answers "out of left field", especially if the numbers for each answer were pretty close. But again, I'm doing this as much out of general curiosity as anything else. No survey is 100% "accurate". This'll be close enough for me, especially since strong trends are emerging.

    It'll be interesting to see how Skier's poll over on the largely-type-certificated Pilots of America site comes out. I'm guessing it'll skew towards the "burgers and short vacations" end of things, more so than the population here.

    In the case of this particular poll, it might actually be better if someone doesn't already fly or own an airplane - but wants to fly and own one. What's holding them back? What holds their interest in "inexpensive" aircraft? Why aren't they buying one of the current offerings? This poll and the "what do you do with your airplane?" poll have already provided a fairly strong answer to those questions, at least for this group of people.
     
  11. Sep 14, 2016 #111

    dcstrng

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    Expensive means different things – for me things seems expensive when they creep above $10K, that has crept up to $12-15K over time, but my cars were all purchased used at around $10K (no clunkers, thankyou – late-model Ford and Chevy mid/full size that are reliable enough to jump in and drive across the continent – that’s my standard). F150 -- $6K ten years ago when it was only three years old (stick – 6-cyclinder, no urban-cowboy stuff). Harley geezer-glide, Evo $9K… 100K miles on it now, still going nicely… My conclusion is that you can find a lot of very, very nice things out there if one is patient and doesn’t fall into the gotta-have-it-now, glitz-trap. Our sailboat – goodness, $600 bucks plus a couple years of elbow grease, a “project” that is never done… without disclosing family income, it was north of $200K until my Better-Half retired a while ago, so affording “it” wasn’t a huge issue… I’m building my little plane (project) just because I always wanted to, and pretty much carry my mental picture of how to go about it from my youth when a store-bought hamburger was really a big deal in our house – I suspect we were actually poor, but us kids never knew it… I do spend extra money if I must to save time (especially when I run out of talent or patience…), but I like the idea that I can have my fun in the shop without bankrupting my grandchildren – and now great-grandchildren … certainly not the only way, maybe not the best way either, but it is my way (for now at least… )
     
  12. Sep 14, 2016 #112

    BJC

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    I'm interested in inexpensive homebuilts for two primary reasons.

    First, I believe that an inexpensive, reliable, safe, reasonable-performance HBA would be good for all aviation, not just HBA aviation.

    Second, I still harbor a childhood dream of just such an aircraft. I don't need to draw it; it is just as clear in my mind's eye today as it was when I was 10 years old. Think of a Smith Miniplane fuselage sitting on a Colby Starlet wing.


    BJC
     
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  13. Sep 14, 2016 #113

    TFF

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    You want a small Kraft Super Fli.
     
  14. Sep 14, 2016 #114

    Victor Bravo

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    Bringing this back to relevance for the "average Joe" for a moment... it seems to me that these "inexpensive" airplane discussions have three obvious target audiences:

    (please forgive any rude general characterizations or stereotyping, it's only to paint a quick and easy to digest picture, not trying to limit or pigeonhole anyone!)

    1) The current airplane owners and BMW drivers with decent or higher income, who would be interested in a second "toy" airplane (or the idea of building something themselves), but it has to be cheap enough to not interfere with their other "regular" airplane.

    2) The "Popular Mechanics" Jeep and well-used F-150 drivers who are not in aviation already, but might possibly be tempted to try it if they could get their feet wet on the cheap, and are DIY/makerspace type people.

    3) The more modest income people (1998 Toyota, one fender is a different color) who desperately want to have an airplane, but do not have the income to just buy something, and who just might barely be able to jump in by taking advantage of the "automatic financing" of a kit that can be built in sub-assemblies over time.

    The smaller, simpler, and less complex airplanes that we have been discussing on HBA across several threads... VP-21, Flying Flea, Flying Motorcycle, and others... can possibly appeal to one or more of these three target audiences.

    So that's my answer to why the title of this thread is particularly relevant to the homebuilt community. Identifying the target audiences, if and what and why they could possibly be interested in building, and how "inexpensive" does it have to be to attract them.

    My reasoning for this is that the target audience for a Van's RV, Lancair, Highlander SuperSTOL, Falco, and even Sonex are already defined, with one or more competitive product available in the market, and there is a pipeline of customers. So as I have said before, you're not going to out-Van Mr. Van Grunsven in his own target market, and you're not going to out-speed Lancair or Glasair in the fast glass market. But one or more of us on HBA has half a chance to come up with something that can out-cheap Sonex, or perhaps out-cheap the Mini-Max. One of us might out-simplify the Graham Lee/Baslee method.

    For inspiration, Chuck Beeson and HBA participant Cavelamb definitely out-simplified and out-cheaped the Heath / Baby Ace / Pober Pixie.
     
  15. Sep 15, 2016 #115

    don january

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    It seems the price of FWF is holding alot of folks back "IMO" I hope that we get a run on new cheap power plants with a billion spare parts and a man can go out and get his FWF done within 2 grand on a HBA :cool: but your right that is not going to happen some time soon, Dang it.. even a $400.00 Corvair core will be 3 times 2 grand when finished if your wrenching your self and following the upgrades. Would be awesome to get flying down to a price all can afford, There would be more flying and unfortunately probably more dying!!
     
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  16. Sep 15, 2016 #116

    Victor Bravo

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    But it is happening soon... like yesterday.

    For the absolute minimal cost FWF, using the $2000 benchmark in Don January's post, the Briggs & Stratton V-twin engine, direct drive, has been shown to work safely and reliably on more than one aircraft in Europe and one in the USA. It really works, and it is pretty reliable. And you can do it for under $2000 if you are minimalist about it, like the direct firewall mounted one on the SD-1 Minisport in their videos.

    If you buy a used engine instead of a new one, you will have a little money left over to incorporate some of the power increase modifications... the LP fuel hi-comp pistons, better carburetion, etc. If you decide to spend a few hundred more, you can get or build a super-simple belt reduction right onto the engine using the existing threaded bosses that come with the engine. But this is shown to be not necessary for low drag airplanes.

    The one and only "key" to flying cheaply with this engine is that you have to build a light, small, somewhat low drag airplane... the Moni, the Minisport, the PIK-26, the SD-1, a Marske Monarch derivative, etc. etc.

    When you go to a traditional high drag ultralight, or parasol, or open cockpit, then you either need the reduction unit or you need a larger V-twin engine (puts you in "Backyard Flyer" territory).
     
  17. Sep 15, 2016 #117

    Topaz

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    What makes this even more interesting is that "typical high-drag ultralight, parasol, open-cockpit" isn't what people are describing when they think of an "inexpensive" aircraft, based on my poll results so far.

    The V-twins are really suitable for single-seaters, and very light single-seaters can be covered for $1100-1200 with the VC460/PSRU combination coming together on the Low-Budget Ultralight Aircraft thread.

    I know you see it, VB. With Pete's engine at the higher end, and these engines mid-range and lower, there's some really interesting possibilities here. Not suitable for a cross-country cruiser, but on the lower end of homebuilt aviation. At least until electrics mature and change everything yet again! :gig:
     
  18. Sep 15, 2016 #118

    Victor Bravo

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    Yes and no.... A clip wing Moni like I always seem to bring up, equipped with a 30HP V-twin using fuel injection and some kind of ignition box, would make an incredible cross country cruiser albeit a single place machine. You could vault across several states on 10 or 15 gallons, with high reliability and not a lot of noise.

    Yes I definitely see the range between the O-100 and the V-twin as being ripe for several new designs.
     
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  19. Sep 16, 2016 #119

    litespeed

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    For those with a fetish for speed, endurance and extreme ground covering in one tankfull and still meet the FAI definition of microlight ie; sub 300kg MTOW............


    And be potentially buildable at home by a fussy builder in composite for a under $15000 or even $10,000 if you scrounge.............

    Some want a fast cross country machine
    Some want aerobatic capable
    Some want a good view
    Some want distance to do very big distances
    Some want a sexy looking thing
    Almost everyone wants to be able to trailer it home
    Or have it survive the weather
    Some even want retractable gear (me)
    Everyone wants to have that Wow factor on the ramp and in the air
    Some even want to fly as high as Everest

    And no bugger wants to pay much to build or run it.

    And I want all of the above

    ...........................The Facet Opal.

    With specs to dream of and it actually did all that was claimed and had multiple world records to prove it.

    VNE 150 knts
    Economy cruise of 136knkts
    Horsepower 40hp rotax
    range on max normal tank of 180 lts a huge 2,275 nm
    climb rate 2000fpm and will continue to climb to over 30,000 with 40 hp and 3000fpm with a 532 rotax

    Stressed to plus 7g

    Empty weight 110kg
    pilot -Scott Winton 73kg
    fuel 180lts - 117kg
    total weight 300kg or 660lbs

    It was a absolutely amazing machine and still is.

    With a airframe consisting of basically a beautifully smooth plank and a glider like pod on front- it would not be a huge deal to build in composites and since ready to fly only 110kg the weight without engine would be quite small- hence cheapish to build.

    Lots of engines are suitable and we don't have to have 180lt so smaller tank and more engine could be done.

    Hell with that much payload it could even be hybrid electric or just electric.

    And to trailer- you stick it on sideways at a angle- none of this wing folding malarky

    The only downside is Scott is no longer with us and no plans exist- but the aircraft still does. facet opal.jpg opal 2.jpg opa; 3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
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  20. Sep 16, 2016 #120

    Victor Bravo

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    Absolutely an extraordinary achievement. If you took that layout and concept, and addressed the small deficiencies that were built into it, and incorporated modern elements into the design and construction... you would have a "wow!" airplane for sure. But it would not be suitable for average pilots.

    I'm sure this has been hashed out by all of us before on HBA a hundred times, but:

    The upper and lower surface wing molds would be simple hot wire foam beds with thin mylar film spray glued onto the beds. If you're clever, you can make the entire wing skin mold as one piece, an open "taco shell" with a hinge at the apex, where the foam sandwich cores end about two inches behind the leading edge, allowing the very front of the leading edge to be flexible, and the wing mold closes like a Venus fly trap onto the ribs and spars.

    There are better two stroke engines now (Simonini, Polini) that use far far far less fuel than the Rotax. This alone could allow it to set new records.

    This is a natural for a low-tech / high strength C-channel; spar using the Marske method and the carbon strips.

    IMHO a significant improvement could be made, simplifying the systems and making more room in the fuselage, by putting the main landing gear mechanism in the wing with flush gear doors. The existence of the wing mold will allow you to make light, strong gear doors that fit perfectly.
     

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