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Inexpensive solo cross-country machines?

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TarDevil

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Jun 29, 2010
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Coastal North Carolina/USA
"Camping" puts me in the mindset of something larger than Sonerai. Though a tad slower and short on range, the Wag-A-Bond would be high on my list of scratch-built, camping capable aircraft. Better plane for getting into spots where I'd love to camp.

In my teens, I met a young fella at our home field traveling the USA in a little parasol aircraft. I didn't know much about homebuilt aircraft at the time but if I had to guess from memory it was a Baby Ace. Wish I remembered more about him
 

mcrae0104

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You could buy a "slightly assembled" Onex kit and get there. There is one on Barnstormers now not too far from you Matthew.
 

rv7charlie

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Nov 17, 2014
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Jackson
There's a Kolb Mk3 driver that's flown it from Alabama to the Black Hills several times, but I won't be duplicating his flights...
 

Victor Bravo

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There's a Kolb Mk3 driver that's flown it from Alabama to the Black Hills several times, but I won't be duplicating his flights...
There's a Kolb Mk 3 driver named John Hauck who has flown his 912 powered Kolb from Alabama to !)(#*$# Alaska and back more than once!

Matthew, I do have one additional idea for you to consider, based on this discussion so far: I still think the W10 Tailwind airframe is a natural for this mission, assuming you are not trying to fly into STOL river sand-bars and river rocks. It has plenty of room for a pilot and a bunch of gear, makes very good speed, and has a "classic" aspect to it that will likely resonate with you. It is very well known to be able to be scratchbuilt without significant problems. Between the stuff developed by Jim Clement and Jim Rust on their Tailwinds, you could easily have equal performance to the RV style airplanes, but with a classic look and legacy.

Now... instead of the standard 100-150HP airplane engine normally associated with most Tailwinds... maybe think about what is happening these days with the Yamaha Apex engines. Apparently they are starting to make a good name for themselves, and apparently they are significantly more fuel efficient, and apparently they make good power for their weight. I know zero about these engines, but I do know they are getting a good name a lot faster than most previous auto/motorcycle/sled engines have developed good reputations.

I have no idea if the running complete Yamaha engine will come in at a competitive price with an O-320 or not.
 

One Sky Dog

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Jan 9, 2021
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I bought a Dragonfly in 1995 for $9,000 flying. I put 500 hrs on it (2VW engines) flew it over 2/3 of the USA. Example Ogden,Utah to Sullivan, Mo 1015 miles, 3 fuel stops, 39 gallons, 10 hr 15 min. I fly solo so that gives me room for camping gear. I put a Corvair on it in 2011 and have 75 hrs behind a Corvair.

Dragonflies are cheap no support airplanes if you can work with composites.
I have my registered Dragonfly; A project that flew but needs an engine and canard.; A complete Trask Builder assist Dragonfly molded fuselage with canopy and all fairing bits, bolts, tubing etc. ; Last an abandoned Trask molded fuselage bulkheads and gas tank installed. Willing to reduce inventory.
 

Doran Jaffas

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Jun 25, 2019
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315
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.
there are a whole bunch of them out there especially if you're looking at two seaters that you're only going to use one seat.
Immediately what comes to mind, and I am a little prejudice here is a Tailwind W8. Powered by a Continental 0-200 it more than meets your requirements. You can pick these up for well under 25,000. I have $20,000 invested in mine.
 

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BlueRidge

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Jan 8, 2016
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Charlotte, NC
CluttonFred,

I made a similar tour of the US a few years ago, on a modest budget, flying a low and slow airplane for 400 hours. A couple things I learned:

The simpler the airplane the better - simplicity aloft is the surest guarantee of happiness on a long unsupported trip.

You'll need and want more baggage capacity (volume and weight) than you think.

You'll want more fuel capacity than normal cross country flights. A lot of interesting places are remote and you'll need out, around, and back fuel.

Camping gear is a must - most of the fun places are remote. But in a surprising number of county owned airports I was able to sleep inside the FBO after hours.

Half way through the tour I bought a full size touring bicycle that broke down into two pieces using S&S bicycle torque couplings.

This was an incredible addition to the tour. I used the airplane to get me into an area and travelled out and back to many places by bike. A great combination that expanded the enjoyment of the trip exponentially, and lowered my costs a surprising amount.

Couplings here: Folding Travel Bikes using S and S Machine Bicycle Torque Couplings™ (purchased a travel bag to store the bike in, it contained dirt and prevented punctures in a fabric airplane). You can add these couplings to almost any bike.

Surprisingly, on such a long trip I didn't mind the slow cross country speed. Many times I'd fly a zigzag flightpath, flying from one point of interest to another. Speed is not your friend, a simple airplane is.

The trip was one of the most fun things I've done. I took four months and wish I had planned for longer.

You will enjoy this trip more than you can imagine.
 
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PixiePilot

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Jul 30, 2014
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19
Location
Houston, TX
I have a friend who passed away last month. As a welding engineer he did nice work. With about $ 8,000 his fully welded fuselage, completed wings, and "factory" new and assembled and tested 2180 CC engine VW conversion among other needed parts this project becomes the cross country aircraft to be finished a lot under $25 grand!
Pixie Pilot
 

Tailwind_Fan

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Oct 13, 2020
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28
Location
Southern California deserts....
I’d definitely think a Tailwind of either W8 or W10 varieties would be a wonderful solo x-country machine.... cruise is faster than most light twins with the same or better fuel economy of a Cherokee/Warrior/172 trainers....

-Alana
 

Protech Racing

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Jul 10, 2020
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355
Slow and easy gets it for me. I like my RV with a moped rack. Pull into site, unload the scooter and visit the local "diner."
For an aircraft , a simple trike/kite wing with a bicycle crank set driving the front wheel . Fly in, dismount the wing and tie it down, Fire up the trike with bike strobes/headlight on it, drive into town to the diner/motel . The trike is now a motor assisted bike .
 

ragflyer

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Apr 17, 2007
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308
You could buy a "slightly assembled" Onex kit and get there. There is one on Barnstormers now not too far from you Matthew.
You could, but of course that would mean Mathew is serious about building an airplane to meet this mission in the near term or if at all :)
Sorry Mathew could not resist ..... nothing wrong with dreaming that is part of the fun and threads of this sort are good and bring out a lot of participation.
 

cluttonfred

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Feb 13, 2010
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Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA
Touché, ragflyer, but I will get to building one of these days (knock on wood). There are any number of used planes that could work, factory-built or amateur-built, but this is a group about homebuilt airplanes after all. ;-)
 

karmarepair

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United States
After listening to John Monnet talk about the Sonerai on Tuesday, I don't think you'd be happy with it (any of them - I, II, IIL, IIILTS) as a cross country steed; he's unapologetic about their neutral stability (the IIL has a SLIGHT degree of roll stability) on all axis's. And you won't fit in the back seat without modification if you're taller than about 5'10", and raising the turtledeck REDUCES stability even further.

You should be able to build a Hummel H5 for the sort of money you have in mind, even starting from a kit. The Thatcher two place, possibly with a Corvair, would be another thought. RV-9 with a Corvair? Not sure if the plans are detailed enough to allow a scratch build, and kit would blow your budget. As others have noted, a two place flown single place will allow for greater vagabonding flexibility. A scratch built T-18? It was designed for the O-290-G that was starting to become available from first generation jets start carts; a big Corvair conversion might work if you keep it light.
 
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