Inexpensive solo cross-country machines?

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cluttonfred

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Most of my interest in homebuilt aircraft is low and slow flying for fun. Still, I do sometimes daydream about long cross-country adventures, maybe a trip around the circumference of the USA. I am not looking for transportation on a schedule and don't want an IFR machine, just a fun flyer that can cross long distances and make good time with one hefty pilot and baggage including lightweight camping and survival gear. What are some existing homebuilts that could be suitable for solo cross-country adventures on a budget. Off the top of my head I am thinking *minimum* performance like this, though more payload and speed would be desirable.
  • Total budget (flying and fully equipped to night VFR levels) under $25,000
  • Cruising speed at least 100 mph (162 kph)
  • No-reserve range at that cruising speed at least 500 statute miles (760 km).
  • Payload with fuel for that no-reserve range at least 300 lb (136 kg)
My first thought is something like a Sonerai II set up as a single-seater from the rear cockpit complete with short canopy and the front 'pit given over to fuel and baggage with no provision for a passenger. Published specs show it with 300 mi range at 16 gallons fuel and a 2180cc Aerovee but since operating at a lower gross weight I bet I could manage close to 500 mi with 20 gal of fuel, an 1835cc VW, and the right prop. Other suggestions welcome, but let's keep this thread to existing homebuilts not idea designs.
 
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103

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Most of my interest in homebuilt aircraft is low and slow flying for fun. Still, I do sometimes daydream about long cross-country adventures, maybe a trip around the circumference of the USA. I am not looking for transportation on a schedule and don't want an IFR machine, just a fun flyer that can cross long distances and make good time with one hefty pilot and baggage including lightweight camping and survival gear. What are some existing homebuilts that could be suitable for solo cross-country adventures on a budget. Off the top of my head I am thinking *minimum* performance like this, though more payload and speed would be desirable.
  • Total budget (flying and fully equipped to night VFR levels) under $25,000
  • Cruising speed at least 100 mph (162 kph)
  • No-reserve range at that cruising speed at least 500 statute miles (760 km).
  • Payload with fuel for that no-reserve range at least 300 lb (136 kg)
My first thought is something like a Sonerai II set up as a single-seater from the rear cockpit complete with short canopy and the front 'pit given over to fuel and baggage with no provision for a passenger. Published specs show it with 300 mi range at 16 gallons fuel and a 2180cc Aerovee but since operating at a lower gross weight I bet I could manage close to 500 mi with 20 gal of fuel, and 1835cc VW and the right prop. Other suggestions welcome, but let's keep this thread to existing homebuilts not idea designs.
Add a aux tank and transfer pump added in baggage would give you what you are looking for in a CYGNET SF2A baggage and gear in the right seat. $15K flying or under $10K your budget may still need lights. +$400 if on Barnstormers it is still for sale as of 1/10/21 it is. It does Low and Slow local well too! If fuel budget is not an issue hit the coals!

Matt
 

cluttonfred

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That's cheating on the budget, Matt, I was talking buildable from scratch for that price. The Cygnet is an interesting option, though, quite clean for what it is and does.
 

Vigilant1

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Most of my interest in homebuilt aircraft is low and slow flying for fun. Still, I do sometimes daydream about long cross-country adventures, maybe a trip around the circumference of the USA. I am not looking for transportation on a schedule and don't want an IFR machine, just a fun flyer that can cross long distances and make good time with one hefty pilot and baggage including lightweight camping and survival gear. What are some existing homebuilts that could be suitable for solo cross-country adventures on a budget. Off the top of my head I am thinking *minimum* performance like this, though more payload and speed would be desirable.
  • Total budget (flying and fully equipped to night VFR levels) under $25,000
  • Cruising speed at least 100 mph (162 kph)
  • No-reserve range at that cruising speed at least 500 statute miles (760 km).
  • Payload with fuel for that no-reserve range at least 300 lb (136 kg)
My first thought is something like a Sonerai II set up as a single-seater from the rear cockpit complete with short canopy and the front 'pit given over to fuel and baggage with no provision for a passenger. Published specs show it with 300 mi range at 16 gallons fuel and a 2180cc Aerovee but since operating at a lower gross weight I bet I could manage close to 500 mi with 20 gal of fuel, an 1835cc VW, and the right prop. Other suggestions welcome, but let's keep this thread to existing homebuilts not idea designs.
Yes, the Sonerai 2 with a little more fuel would probably do well, and be faster than your minimum speed. I'd keep the 2180cc engine if I was planning to load it up and fly out west where it can be hot and high-- they are great planes, but there's not a lot of span on any Sonerai. You can always throttle back to fly slower and save gas with the 2180cc if desired.

Along similar lines, you can find flying Sonexes for $25k. It would meet all your requirements if you were willing to carry a few extra gallons in a tank behind the seat, pump it into the main tank when there is room.
 
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cluttonfred

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Not sure about the build cost of the Kitfox, DangerZone, but I don't think it would have the speed or range. You're probably right on the larger engine, Vigilant, better to have the power and not use it than to need it and not have it, the weight difference is negligible.
 

BJC

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Other suggestions welcome, but let's keep this thread to existing homebuilts not idea designs.
A couple of thoughts, Matthew.

I prefer high wing for sight seeing as well as for camping. It is nice to have the wing shelter the cockpit from rain while loading / unloading the tent, etc., and tricycle gear is better than conventional. Any HBA that could match my former Cessna A152 would meet your criteria except for the range. Long range tanks would fix that, but I have found that stopping and visiting along the way is more enjoyable than just making miles.

If you plan to spend much time out in the Rockies, give some thought to high density altitude performance. Some of the low powered airplanes that otherwise might meet your criteria would be very limited with a camping load, pilot and fuel at 7,000 + foot density altitude.

I’ve seen a green 701 that has done lots of traveling. Might be worth considering.


BJC
 

DangerZone

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Not sure about the build cost of the Kitfox, DangerZone, but I don't think it would have the speed or range. You're probably right on the larger engine, Vigilant, better to have the power and not use it than to need it and not have it, the weight difference is negligible.
The Kitfox MK4 has a laminar flow airfoil, it can cruise at 110 mph (98kts).
You can build it with long range fuel tanks and have a 10 hour endurance, that's 1k+ miles.
The stall speed is less than 40 mph, you can land almost anywhere.


There's one on Barnstormers asking $15k for it:


 
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blane.c

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What does one of Pops airplanes cost to build? Because it likely makes all the salient points.

 
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103

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That's cheating on the budget, Matt, I was talking buildable from scratch for that price. The Cygnet is an interesting option, though, quite clean for what it is and does.
Yes it is my plane cost $25K to build in 1987 dollars and it would be a stretch to stay within 20K today. Fundamentally you will likley need to make use of a aero VW to keep budget in line. Chris-Teena Mini-Coupe — Tillamook Air Museum comes to mind with extra fuel operated in the Standard catagory MiniCoupe & Teenie Specs
 

103

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You could maybe snag a Sonex or Onex for that price, if you found a good deal...
A Zig Berzins built fast build kit Sonerai that matches my paint scheme is available very reasonable except in Canada on the left coast. Make it a single seat dream! Mighty tempting stablemate for my Cygnet even if built to 1/2 the standard my Cygnet is made you will have an excellent ship
 

Victor Bravo

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Sonerai 2L is likely at the front of the list, as you guessed. Can you scratchbuild a Sonex? KR 2 may be an option. Tailwind would do it very well if you pay attention to minimalist cost, and gives you real performance. Scratchbuild VariEze may be possible with a runout O-200.
 

103

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Sonerai 2L is likely at the front of the list, as you guessed. Can you scratchbuild a Sonex? KR 2 may be an option. Tailwind would do it very well if you pay attention to minimalist cost, and gives you real performance. Scratchbuild VariEze may be possible with a runout O-200.
Scratch built Zenith 601/650/750 is in the same space with a low time 0-200 or Corvair Fight Motor. Zeinith used to sell plans that coudl be scratch built from but it is not obvious now
 

cluttonfred

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I guess I didn't specify that I was looking for suggestions of aircraft to build, not second-hand bargains, since obviously the latter is dependent as much on what you can find as what you are looking for.

If I were looking to buy used that Sonerai would be tempting, I would think it would be easy to reimport if I had already been registered as an experimental in the USA previously.

The Kitfox is interesting but I don't know how suitable it would be for scratch building, the current factory price list does not even list a price for plans.

Could a Tailwind meet the budget? That's an interesting notion, maybe with a modest auto conversion since the original W-8 only had a C-85, though I don't know how different the current W-10 is from the original. I like the idea of wood and steel tube covered in fabric much more than composites, no VariEze for me.

I wonder if there are any all wood designs that would work...a few European designs come to mind. The Léger Pataplume 2, plans for which I already have, would be a little floaty and slow for this sort of use, but maybe a clipped-wing version? Or something as simple as a Jodel D-18 (the original E-AB version, not the modified microlight version) optimized for speed and range?

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Tiger Tim

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I had put some thought a couple years ago into the same thing in what I viewed as a poor man’s baby bizjet. For traditional construction methods I think a Tailwind checked off my boxes the best though I’d happily trade range for speed; two hour legs are plenty for me in a small plane. The Sonerai II seemed close too and I imagine some sort of Davis may fit the bill as well. In my case I also appreciated that all of these airplanes are notable for having neglected examples for sale for well under the cost of materials if you’re willing to put in the time and critical eye on the workmanship you’re buying.

My original thought had been to build a Corvair powered DA-5 but in truth I never looked far enough into it to see if it could really pull off the range and load I had in mind... or if I’d even fit in the thing!
 

rv7charlie

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That's a tough $ target to hit these days when starting from scratch and building, when you're talking about a cross country plane with decent range and payload. If you're willing to buy instead of build, you could probably find a small engine T-18 for well under that budget. A bit harder to find (and probably harder to believe) would be one of the rare small engine RV4s. I sold my high time-O320 powered -4 (but a quality build) a year ago for well under $30K, and I've seen them from time to time for less than that. They'll be fairly ragged in appearance below your price point, but still solid, safe a/c. You might even find a Mustang II in that price range. Any of those, or a Tailwind, could hit your price point and be *much* more useful as solo cross country machines.

Your desires & comfort level may be very different from mine, but your numbers imply ~450 miles in the air, at 100 MPH. My math says 4.5 hours without a break; not something I have any desire to do, even in a really comfortable, quiet road car. I can't imagine it in something with the comfort level of a sub-$25K a/c.

Charlie
 

Vigilant1

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I guess I didn't specify that I was looking for suggestions of aircraft to build, not second-hand bargains, since obviously the latter is dependent as much on what you can find as what you are looking for.
Well, if building is a requirement, then a VariEze or Long-Eze might be the ticket. Among the highest cruise speed and range of the planes we've discussed, sips fuel, built from plans (so, inexpensive). To meet the price point you'd need to keep the panel simple and find a good used O-200 (VariEze) or O-235 or maybe a new Aeromonentum AM15 (been done yet? High adventure!)

At 165mph in economy cruise, you'd cover your 500 mile leg in 3 hours, and have enough fuel to go another couple hundred miles if desired (or a LOT farther in a Long-Eze). Wing loading high enough that you won't get beaten to death if the air is a little choppy. But don't plan on visiting any tiny rural grass strips.
 
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DangerZone

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The Kitfox is interesting but I don't know how suitable it would be for scratch building, the current factory price list does not even list a price for plans.
The current factory only sells parts in kit form for the Mk7 and ST7 versions. I might have some parts of the Mk4 version plans, but years ago I was interested in the Mk5 version and could not find these plans.

See the attachment for the wing A section of the Mk4, it had two options of 7 gallon tanks and 13 gallon. The Mk5 and Mk7 had the option of two 20 gallon wing tanks, if I remember well.

The newest STi7 is slightly overkill, it usually has the Titan 180HP engine and costs over $100k finished. The first smaller versions up to Mk4 with a MTOW of 1200 lbs are easy to fly and store in a trailer.


Kitfox 4 vs Kitfox 5 and 7


PS: If you manage to find plans for the Kitfox 7, please share, I am curios how much it differs from the Eurofox.

 

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