Is there a market for a volksplane 2 kit?

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JayKoit

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Hi All,


I've been inspired to write this since reading parts of the "21st century volksplane" thread....I know the mission of that thread was to do just that: gather thought and ideas on a modern volksplane type of aircraft. But, do any of you think there could already be a place in today's market for a Volksplane 2 kit, if someone were so inclined to invest in the materials, overhead, startup costs and CNC machine? .I know it's original specs showed anemic climb and poor useful load, but with a modern Hummel or Revmaster 85 hp engine (20 more than the original) and some weight saving/aerodynamic mods (perhaps some lightening holes like riggerrob suggested in the other threads, plus wing root fairings, etc.) I think you could have a viable and complete 2 seat aircraft kit, and I think it could be done for less than $10K -- at least that's my hope! I guess I'd just really like to see a 2 seat kit on the market for a truly affordable price, something that would get even more people into building and flying. Imagine having your own 2 seater plane built and flying for the price of a new Honda Civic, and it goes together in 200 hours (or something close to that)! That could really boost the industry. Thoughts?
 

cluttonfred

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I love the VPs and would like to built a VP-2 myself, but I think its appeal and potential market are limited. Performance is marginal, the cockpit is too small, etc. If looking to kit an affordable wood-and-fabric two-seater for VW power I would look to Europe, mostly France: Jodel, Nicollier, Leger and others all have proven two-seat designs on VW power. If I had to pick one for a commercial kit venture with CNC cut parts, then I'd look at one with fairly simple construction and tricycle gear like the Jodel D19 or the Nicollier HN 800 Week-End II or perhaps create a tricycle version of the Leger Pataplume 2.

22216.jpg nicol35.resized.jpg 28342.jpg

None of these will ever get down to 200 hours build time, but CNC cut parts, selective use of prebrication for the most time-consuming or tricky bits, and timesavers like Oratex prefinished fabric and a simple, integrated flat-panel display could bring the time required down under 1000 hours and the price with Great Plains, Hummel, Aerovee or Revmaster down to $20,000-25,000 Honda Civic territory.
 

bmcj

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How about a VP-4???

Just kidding (sort of).

To answer your question about the VP-2 kit, I would say no...

First of all, the VP-2 already has a bad rap for less than stellar climb and payload, so you will be fighting that reputation even if you have solved the issues.

Secondly, The VP's popularity was its extremely simple build... I doubt you will be able to improve that much with a kit, especially without adding to the cost. People can get the plans and easily build it without the help or added price of a kit (besides, Aircraft Spruce already offers a components and materials "kit".

Third, the VP is not a sexy plane, and having a kit does nothing to fix that. Again, the plane was popular for its simplicity, not its looks.
 

Vigilant1

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+1 to Matt's suggestions. A quick-build Jodel D-19 (or D-195) would be a hit.

Also: if going with fabric covering and wood, people will want to keep the plane out of the sun/weather. A folding wing design could make this much more economical than it would otherwise be. It seems counterintuitive to come up with a $20K airplane that requires $6K in hangar costs per year in many parts of the US.
 

cluttonfred

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One down side to the French designs I mentioned is that I believe that they all use a one-piece spar, tip to tip, which means you need a fairly large space to build one and, of course, the wings don't fold. Vigilant1 is absolutely right that foldable or at least removable wings for storage in a shared hangar or, better yet, a 20' shipping container or a trailer, would be a very handy characteristic.
 

dcstrng

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I would look to Europe, mostly France: Jodel, Nicollier, Leger and others...
I gather any plans are no longer available – I’ve looked and looked, but I’ve always like the looks of the GY20 MiniCab… not sure the concept could be adapted to VW power, but was a good looking aircraft I think…

Gy20 Minicab 13.jpg
 

cluttonfred

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Jodel, Nicollier and Leger plans are all still available as far as I know, I bought my Leger Pataplume 2 plans just two years ago. I have always like the Minicab, especially the elegantly simple forward-hinged canopy, but I don't know if plans are still available execept second-hand.
 

Turd Ferguson

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Apparently you can still buy plans for Bill Johnson's Minicoupe. They were at one time a kit so all you need is someone to re-invent a kit for it. Only one seat but that's more realistic for a VW powerplant anyway.

Minicoupe
 

Dan Thomas

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How about a VP-4???

Just kidding (sort of).

To answer your question about the VP-2 kit, I would say no...

First of all, the VP-2 already has a bad rap for less than stellar climb and payload, so you will be fighting that reputation even if you have solved the issues.

Secondly, The VP's popularity was its extremely simple build... I doubt you will be able to improve that much with a kit, especially without adding to the cost. People can get the plans and easily build it without the help or added price of a kit (besides, Aircraft Spruce already offers a components and materials "kit".

Third, the VP is not a sexy plane, and having a kit does nothing to fix that. Again, the plane was popular for its simplicity, not its looks.
Got to second all of those. The VP was a marginal, unappealing airplane and I think many potential builders, once they took an honest look at materials cost and time and so on, decided that there were better choices for their time and money.

I find this a bit hilarious. There are often criticisms here that the certified-aircraft industry has a lack of forward thinking and progress, still selling 50- and 60-year-old designs with fancy panels.

Yet some here are enamored with clunky homebuilt designs from the distant past.

Why the disconnect?

Most homebuilders are trying to find ways to fly cheaply. Newer, faster, fancier, more powerful designs tend to cost a lot more time and money to build and own.

Certified aircraft makers are trying to find ways to keep making airplanes that are affordable. New designs cost many millions to develop and millions more to achieve certification, and once liability is added in, the end result is way too expensive for the vast majority of the flying public.

Cessna and Piper and Beech and Mooney and American Champion and Maule and Husky and Continental and Lycoming all face exactly the same things homebuilders do: obstacles like money and government and lawyers and insurance companies and a fickle market.


Dan
 

Wanttaja

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The problem is, there have been a large number of light two-seat aircraft on the kit market. Avid, Kitfox, Zenith, Thatcher, Sonex, Murphy Maverick, etc. etc. etc. Are there THAT many potential customers who are awaiting a kit VP-2, or a kit Mini-Cab, or a kit Jodel? Note that a lot of companies... Avid, Protech, Murphy, etc. have been unable to stay in business. How much pent-up demand is out there?

The other aspect is that most of the planes mentioned are wood...and wood doesn't lend itself to kit aircraft. Sure, you can laser-cut things like ribs. But if you're going to sell anything like a "quick build" kit, you're going to need a lot of custom, skilled, hand-touch labor to build the airplane. That's not cheap.

Someone interested in lightweight aircraft is probably looking to not spend a lot of money. Parts for aluminum airplanes can be cranked out with a CNC machine in a few minutes, and construction is well-suited to moderate skills. Hence, the kit prices are cheaper. If you had a VW engine, would a VP-2 or a Thatcher CX-5 be a better pick? How about a Sonex? Because that's your competition.....

VPs and Fly Babies and other small wood airplanes are good picks for builders on a budget, because they end up doing the "heavy lifting" on their own rather than paying the employees of a kit company to build it.

Ron Wanttaja
 

dcstrng

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Yep… just an observation, but I think many of us ol’goats simply pine for an era that may not some again for quite awhile, if at all… The 1950-1970s was the era of the backyard handyman – boats, cars, airplanes, motorcycles (etc., etc.) were labored over by the hundreds, many folks (mostly guys, but some ladies found their way to the shop as well -- my wife is a prime example, I think her shop is more sophisticated than mine ) built there own homes – imagine that – some built from plans, some built from kits and many never finished, but they were esteemed and honorable hobbies that were pursued for years…

Besides the fact that current hectic lifestyles don’t seem to permit hobbies that take more that 20-30 minutes, there is the skill factor – assuming you can find a high-school graduate, when was the last time you knew one who took a shop-class or similar... there is a wide gulf between what modern folks want to do and what they think they can do…

A few like Sonex and Zenith have (thankfully) bridged the gap with unintimidating kits that (at least appear) cost about what a serviceable used car costs – then the price jumps to the “kits” we all admire (Lancair, SuperStol, Carbon Cub, etc.), but probably will never build.

Any new “kit” will have to bridge both a skills gap and a psychological one – and for many of us, an economic gap as well after the past half-decade…

Although from an aerodynamic perspective, this is an exciting time -- I think the trend is actually running the other way – I see the KR “store” has at least temporarily good out of business, and many other aircraft (Teenie-Two, MiniCoupe, Sonerai and others come to mind) are maintained more as a labor of love, than as a profitable commercial venture…

My $.02 worth…
 

cheapracer

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A few like Sonex and Zenith have (thankfully) bridged the gap with unintimidating kits that (at least appear) cost about what a serviceable used car costs – then the price jumps to the “kits” we all admire (Lancair, SuperStol, Carbon Cub, etc.), but probably will never build.
Interesting the dramatic difference 300kgs of material can change in price with the addition of a brand name.
 

autoreply

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Interesting the dramatic difference 300kgs of material can change in price with the addition of a brand name.
That's about a hairwidth of that price jump. The rest is 300 hours of highly skilled labor, tools and considerable overhead.

The only substantial market I see is for a Sonex-like airframe with similar or better performance that's max 10K US$ more expensive, but can be built in a fraction of the time. Opinions aside, that's a awfully tough job to pull off..
 

Tiger Tim

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A CNC wood kit would have to be self-jigging, among other things, to be attractive to builders for what it is. I don't know if they still do, but Zenair used to build a plane during the week of AirVenture and fly it on the last day. If you can't come out with a wood kit that can do the same, you won't see the same market share.

At least that's what my gut says.

-Tim
 

FritzW

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It said a lot when Zenith built and flew a kit in a week but to be fair, I would guess, a whole lot of prep work by a whole lot of very experienced Zenith folks made that possible. I think the typical 601/701 build time is a couple of years, same as Volksplane. Some guys can build one in 6 or 8 months, some guys take decades.

A plans built VP-1 is a perfect candidate for CNC. (I've cut out several sets of VP-1 parts for people (wing, stab and rudder ribs and all the 1/4" bulkhead parts). Volksplanes just don't have a lot of custom "file to fit" parts, I've built two of them. I would imagine a VP-2 would be the same. $300 or $400 worth of CNC time can knock months off the build time.

The only down side is "plans built" VP-1's or 2's pay a weight penalty so they can be easy to make with typical 1968 handyman tools. ...but I've put my 2 cents in on that on the "VP for the 21st. century" thread:)
 

cluttonfred

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Just to echo Fritz's comments, I think a kit aircraft inspired by the VP-2 could make a lot of sense, just not the VP-2 as is. A wider, truly two-seat enclosed cockpit with a standardized turtledeck arrangement would make it more acceptable in terms of comfort, alternative tricycle gear in terms of ground handling and aerodynamic refinements in terms of performance. A swept rudder as was planned for the VP-3 would make it more attractive and, though a major change, a move to a cantilever wing with short-chord, maybe full-span ailerons would improve looks and performance. The end result would not be a VP at all but rather a new original design with some VP-like features.
 

JayKoit

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Wow, there's so much offered here, thanks. I must say it's given me lots to consider.


First off, I love the look of all those French designs, but kitting them would cost too much in labor and you still couldn't fold the wings. Now, I understand that "kitting" a VP-2 would have its challenges, but if the design were modified slightly to address some of them, like a stronger engine, lightening things up a bit to increase useful load, and figuring out a solid way to fold the wings or make them quickly removable ( which would be the biggest hurdle, but not impossible), I wouldn't be worried about the stigma of the VP-2 getting in the way of potential sales in the current market and here's why:


If it can be done for cheap enough, truly cheap enough, then "how it was" or even "how ugly it is" wouldn't matter. Nobody has a really cheap 2-place kit in the market right now.


If someone were able to get a firewall back kit for the VP-2 for say, $7-8K (plus it could be offered in component kits to ease the investment burden over the build), and the firewall forward can be had for even less, it captures a level of affordability that is unprecedented. And with the ease of build already FROM PLANS for the Volksplanes, adding the kit angle (which would include CNC cut ribs, bulkheads, plywood panels, cross members and longerons, plus precut/prefabbed metal parts and fuel tank, etc.) would make it even easier and MUCH faster, appealing to first time and veteran builders alike. (And yes, I have conceded that a super quick build kit would definitely not be possible for that price, but compared to plans only it would be a quick build!)


Now, I know everyone here's probably thinking I'm on crack for believing a kit could be made for that little, but I can't help but think if there's a will, there's a way...


Also, thank you Dan for the insight. I am not enamored with an antiquated design, I'm enamored with saving money and saving others money, that's why I started "what-iffing" this whole idea in the first place, plus I've wondered for years: "there has to be a way for more people to have access to cheap (kit built) flying that's not limited to ultralight or lsa single place aircraft". I think the one thing everybody has missed so far is that NO ONE in the 2-place kit industry has been able to put out a kit for less than 10K. Autoreply says its a tough job to pull off, and it is -- with virtually every other design out there. Even the Double Eagle, due to the fact that welding up the fuselages and making stick ribs would drive up the labor hours and subsequently the cost of the kit. Not an issue with the VP. That's why I'm stuck on this design, it's the only possibility I've seen so far that can potentially bring dirt cheap 2place easy and quick kit to the masses.




Bottom line for me is, (and this is why I started the thread in the first place), if someone offered a 2 place, super easy to build kit that could be completed spinner to tail for 15-18K, how could there not be a place in the market for that? Builders who were too intimidated or just plain didn't have the time to invest in plans building could now kit build for the same price as plans building other 2-place designs....and other builders who just didn't quite have the 30-40k to build a Zenith or Sonex kit etc. could now get in the game...just seems like a win for many pilots out there who currently can't make it happen either time-wise or money-wise.


I guess another (extremely simple) way to approach all of this is to ask a simple question: if you found out tomorrow that firewall back VP 2 kits were being sold for $7995 complete (or heck) $16,995 complete with engine prop and basic VFR instruments), Would you seriously consider purchasing it?
 

autoreply

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I think the one thing everybody has missed so far is that NO ONE in the 2-place kit industry has been able to put out a kit for less than 10K. Autoreply says its a tough job to pull off, and it is -- with virtually every other design out there.
Note that my 10K US$ is 10K over a Sonex, so about 40K total build cost. ;)
I guess another (extremely simple) way to approach all of this is to ask a simple question: if you found out tomorrow that firewall back VP 2 kits were being sold for $7995 complete (or heck) $16,995 complete with engine prop and basic VFR instruments), Would you seriously consider purchasing it?
Sure, there'd be a market. But it's the wrong question. The first question should be "can I offer a 17K US$ complete kit without loosing big money".

If you answer that one with a no, the answer to your question is unfortunately irrelevant.
 

cluttonfred

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JayKoit, I admire the enthusiasm and have gone down this road myself, and I hope to do so for real one of these days, but I do think some of your numbers need a reality check. You're not too far off, but you do need to come up some. For a close approximation of what you have in mind, take a look at the TEAM Minimax Aeromax.

The Aeromax kit includes removable wings, fiberglass wingtips, wheels/tires/brakes, fuel tanks, prefabricated metal fittings, CNC laser-cut and -marked plywood parts, electric elevator trim and the necessary bits to install a Hirth F-23 two-stroke. That's on top of the usual TEAM kit which already includes the necessary plastic and fiberglass parts, all hardware, shoulder harness, fabric and cement and T-88 epoxy. All that for $8,500. They do not include the engine, prop, instruments, primer or paint, which will at least double that price with a new engine and accessories, basic instruments, etc. That's about $17,000 for the plane itself, call it $18,000 when you factor in shipping and maybe some extra wood and metal for when you make a mistake. And, except for the expensive two-stroke engine, I'd call that a great deal.

For a very light, minimalist, enclosed two-seater, say a trigear with a 70-80 hp VW at about 600 lbs empty, 1100 lb gross, in a kit provided to the same level of prefabrication and completeness, I'd suggest that 50% over the Aeromax price is a reasonable guess, moving up to 75% over if you include Oratex fabric and cement to save time. That would be about $13,000-15,000 for the kit, plus another $10,000-12,000 for a minimalist engine, prop, instruments and final finishing. That's $23,000-27,000 all in for a flying aircraft.

For comparison, Sonex estimates that a minimalist Aerovee-powered Sonex can be built for $26,000. Even if that is a little low, under $30,000 is certainly doable. So that's your competition. Personally, I would truly LOVE to see a modern VP-2 in spirit offered in kit form, a minimalist two-seater, but unless you can get price all in for a flying aircraft under $20,000 then I can't see such a project really taking off, so to speak.

PS--Here's another French design that might provide some inspiration, the Druine/Rollason D.60/61/62 Condor series. This is the original 65 hp prototype D.60, put a nosewheel on it and go with constant-chord wings and you've have a good sketch of a modern VP-2!

19-1.jpg
 
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