Neglected homebuilt niche?

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cluttonfred

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Earlier in this thread we talked about how the key to attracting builders in the face of stiff competition from well-established companies was to either offer more performance for the money, less money for the performance, or something significantly different in the style of the plane or the construction. There is nothing wrong with the Song UL except that it doesn't really look like a jet trainer.

As the Loehle 5151 showed despite wood-and-fabric construction, a two-stroke engine, and J-3 performance, fantasy does sell. A light pseudo-jet trainer, even with the modest performance that a 100 hp two-seater implies, is all about selling that fantasy/ It doesn't even have to look like any one particular aircraft, it just has to look vaguely like a jet and then you pick your choice of color schemes: Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, Red Arrows, Snowbirds, Patrouille de France, Frecce Tricolori, etc. Plus, with basic EFIS and EMS systems now actually coming in cheaper than whiskey gauges, something like this could be a way to make a basic kit plane both affordable and sexy.

Much as I love unusual aircraft of all types, I am no Burt Rutan or Henri Mignet or any other great innovator, I am a middle-aged guy with a passion for light aviation I know I am not likely to come up with anything truly revolutionary, just incremental, or perhaps a throwback to an earlier time when other folks are making things more complex and expensive. This Fantrainer idea is just one concept, of course, but I think it could work.

saini flyer, by all means please do kick off a new thread, I think the idea of stretched RV-9 four-seater is very appealing--a homebuilt Grumman American Cheetah!

PS--The butchered image of the Electraflyer was purely a visual aid for how you might make a pod-and-boom design look more jet-like, not at all a suggested starting point.
 

Little Scrapper

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Mathew. Why not take a scratch built design that currently exists that closely represents what you want and start building it with the intent of learning. So, as you build this airplane you're busy thinking about the next "phase" which is what you really want.

There's hundreds of airplanes on the market to pick from, I'd imagine there's at least one that comes close. Use it as a test bed and make the transition from typing to building. Imagine what you'd learn, even if the only thing you built was a rudder.
 

Himat

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I think that there would be interest, but not enough demand for a sideline business to recover material costs selling kits. There might be an initial batch of plans that could be sold, but they would go primarily to plans collectors rather than builders.

But, if you have a design in mind that you really like, you could build it, sell plans, and enjoy the process as a very satisfying hobby.


BJC
The trouble is that I like to design and get far too many of my designs on the like list!
Like this low wing, side by side “Snark” inspired airplane.
LowWingSnark.jpg
 

cluttonfred

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Mathew. Why not take a scratch built design that currently exists that closely represents what you want and start building it with the intent of learning. So, as you build this airplane you're busy thinking about the next "phase" which is what you really want.

There's hundreds of airplanes on the market to pick from, I'd imagine there's at least one that comes close. Use it as a test bed and make the transition from typing to building. Imagine what you'd learn, even if the only thing you built was a rudder.
I have done some building in the past but of boats not planes. My gypsy lifestyle keeps the aircraft building virtual for now. My current plan is to tackle an Evans VP-2 Volksplane once I get settled in one place long enough for that kind of project, purely for fun.
 

Little Scrapper

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I thought this was something you wanted to design and build. I'm sorry.

You'd have fun building something I think, you're certainly passionate and we need more passionate builders in this club.

I bet you'd like building a small rudder or something and hanging it on your wall.
 

cdlwingnut

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Having spent a lot of time on this and other forums, looking at webpages for kits and plans, searching different airplanes, dreaming, I can say if you really want to build something pick a plane no matter if its a kit or plans, and start cutting wood, metal, composite, or whatever. Once you make that first cut you are started. That I think is the biggest hurdle.
 

Topaz

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Earlier in this thread we talked about how the key to attracting builders in the face of stiff competition from well-established companies was to either offer more performance for the money, less money for the performance, or something significantly different in the style of the plane or the construction. ...
Those are three of the literally dozens of ways you can differentiate your prospective company from the competition. There are many, many, more variables than "airplane" and "price." Trying to compete on only those two variables is much simpler to visualize and write a business plan around, but also shaves your chances of success down a lot. Those are the same two variables that everyone else plays with, so most of the variations have already been tried, and niches filled or at least occupied.

Get creative. Compete in other ways.

... My gypsy lifestyle keeps the aircraft building virtual for now....
I cry "foul" there. Paul Poberezny (or was it Tony Bingelis?? Senior moment! :emb:) started his first airplane in a closet when he was in the military. Built all the wing ribs there, and many of the small parts. Shipped them around with him whenever his basing changed. When he finally got out, he had a a very goodly portion of the airplane done. Big step forward, and all with a closet for a "workshop".

Just a thought.
 

Vigilant1

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Those are three of the literally dozens of ways you can differentiate your prospective company from the competition. There are many, many, more variables than "airplane" and "price." Trying to compete on only those two variables is much simpler to visualize and write a business plan around, but also shaves your chances of success down a lot. Those are the same two variables that everyone else plays with, so most of the variations have already been tried, and niches filled or at least occupied.

Get creative. Compete in other ways.
I submit for consideration a few other areas that are ripe for setting an E-AB airplane company apart:
-- Ease of construction ("tab-in-slot" composite, etc).
-- Group build--ease and speed of construction. The idea is that the builders come to the company site (or the company comes to them, renting an abandoned KMart for a few weeks) with all the supplies, jigs, molds, and supervision needed to assure the major structure of the plane is built in 2-3 weeks.
-- As above, but include a powerplant conversion. Do something like William Wynne's "Corvair College", but with a modern auto (motorcycle? small industrial engine ) engine as the starting point. Have the conversion parts on hand, testing equipment, etc.
 
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Vigilant1

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Remember the BeetleMaster ? Hey, how about the BeetleMaster. The BeetleMaster is different enough. I like the BeetleMaster.
Yes, Beetlemaster! Safe single-engine performance can (apparently) be achieved as well as some very spirited flying with both engines humming. Sell the sizzle (climb rate, good cruise speed), sell the safety. Offering a simple way for builders to get the "multi-engine, centerline thrust" rating would be a big plus.
 
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Turd Ferguson

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I cry "foul" there. Paul Poberezny (or was it Tony Bingelis?? Senior moment! :emb:) started his first airplane in a closet when he was in the military. Built all the wing ribs there, and many of the small parts. Shipped them around with him whenever his basing changed. When he finally got out, he had a a very goodly portion of the airplane done. Big step forward, and all with a closet for a "workshop".
Tony Bingelis built his first Emeraude in a "clothes closet" workshop. There's a picture of that workshop in one of his books.
 

rotax618

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I think it would be possible to build Heuberger Stinger without a long transmission shaft by using a lighter engine (Rotax912) with a 6” prop extension and reducing the chord of the wing centre section a bit. The nose could be made more jet fighter like to improve the looks.
Food for thought ???
 

Topaz

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I submit for consideration a few other areas that are ripe for setting an E-AB airplane company apart:
-- Ease of construction ("tab-in-slot" composite, etc).
-- Group build--ease and speed of construction. The idea is that the builders come to the company site (or the company comes to them, renting an abandoned KMart for a few weeks) with all the supplies, jigs, molds, and supervision needed to assure the major structure of the plane is built in 2-3 weeks.
-- As above, but include a powerplant conversion. Do something like William Wynne's "Corvair College", but with a modern auto (motorcycle? small industrial engine ) engine as the starting point. Have the conversion parts on hand, testing equipment, etc.
Good! Go even farther. You all know an SLA kit doesn't have to conform to the "51% Rule," right? So design an airplane that can be plans-built, certify to SLA consensus standard, sell the plans for next to nothing (also discourages piracy), then offer every part on the airplane that you can manufacture at a profit. Make it really easy to buy one part or a whole section, online, desktop or mobile. Let human nature take over. Given the option, even if they start out meaning to scratch-build the entire plane, what do you think most people will do if given quick and easy access to every part in it? You'll never get poor betting on the fundamental fact that most people are lazy and want the end-product more than they want the build.

Cut the retail price of your kit (or your plans, or the margin on your parts) by not offering build-support for free. Offer one, three, six, or twelve-month subscriptions. Let the user decide how much support they need, and only pay for that. You get to charge less for the kit, because the kit price doesn't have to cover the cost of providing build-support, and you get to make a better margin on the support, which is always labor-intensive.

Say someone pirates your plans and doesn't pay you for them. Sell parts and build-support to them anyway. Give them an easy way to "go legit." That's why you practically give the plans away - even the pirates have to buy some special parts from you, and they're human, too: They'll probably buy a lot of the non-special parts if you give them half a chance. Don't discourage that, encourage that, because you're in the business of selling kit parts.

You guys gotta stop thinking only in terms of the airplane and the sell price. Above are two ideas for differentiation that have nothing to do with the airplane, and very little to do with the price. Nobody on the homebuilt market (that I know of) is doing them, and they'd be obvious to a blind man once you take the airplane out of the picture.

You're not selling an airplane. You're selling a means to get whatever the airplane can provide, embodied in a set of plans and pieces that help the builder "get there." Every kit company so far - except Van's - has done what you guys are doing: "Make the airplane exciting" somehow, or cut the price. That set of options has been flogged to death. You're going to have to be different if you want to start up a new business now. The business is going to have to be different. The idea of pushing group builds (Vigilant1) is very clever. Multiple sales at once, overlapping build support because helping one builder in the group is helping all of them, and the build-support costs per-kit to you drop. That's the kind of thinking - going beyond the airplane - it's going to take to be more than another "also ran" in the homebuilt market. Van's has marketed hard on how easy their method of building airplanes really is. You'll note they haven't really marketed anything about their airplanes as being "different" or "remarkable". In fact, they've instead pushed that their airplanes provide somewhat more performance than type-certificated airplanes, and otherwise are stable, reliable, and utterly unremarkable airplanes. The strength of Van's marketing is that they've made getting an airplane that's as bland as any certificated airplane and made that a plus, along with "anyone can build this airplane our way really easily." Lots of lessons to be learned there. "Making the RV-9 more exciting" or "Making the RV-9 cheaper" really isn't among them.
 
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Vigilant1

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A person would really have to do a thorough, dispassionate business plan, with lots of quality market analysis, before going down this road. And can any of us be dispassionate about aviation? I know several people who started businesses based on their love of a hobby, and none of those cases ended well. This would be a high-risk venture, and be all about the business (not building airplanes). One would have to honestly assess if this was the best way they could use their time to earn money, of if they should be doing something else and keep their aviation pursuit as a hobby only.
 

Turd Ferguson

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A person would really have to do a thorough, dispassionate business plan, with lots of quality market analysis, before going down this road. And can any of us be dispassionate about aviation? I know several people who started businesses based on their love of a hobby, and none of those cases ended well. This would be a high-risk venture, and be all about the business (not building airplanes). One would have to honestly assess if this was the best way they could use their time to earn money, of if they should be doing something else and keep their aviation pursuit as a hobby only.
lol, I like how you talk about icon without mentioning them by name
 

Pops

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I like Topaz's idea in post #313 and Vigilant1's post in #314. Both Awesome.
 

TFF

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The reason most any Nesmith Cougars were finished was because Steve Wittman would help " fix" the flaws pro bono. It's why most flying Cougars are Wittmanized. Nesmith thought it was a ripoff Wittman charged so much for his plans so he made bootleg ones with small changes. Cheap and cool will sell the first batch, but any hiccup in that batch being finished and you can't fix it, you're the next junior BD, Polywagon, Bradley Aerobat. There are a lot of smart people who could pull it off and they run away from it. It is only a market for success.
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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So the thing with dispassionate is that it might help in developing that optimal business plan but the result of that is never going to touch this market segment. I think there just isn't any sound business investment proposition within 500 miles of personal aviation at the level we're engaged in. Closest thing might be people who are pushing for some form of autonomous air taxi program. Nothing to do with homebuilding or pilotage just pure gizmo-driven transportation via app.

So it leaves people with the right mix of "this is interesting to me, I have the skills, the opportunity, and this where I want to spend my time and money resources, and hopefully somehow earning an income" which requires some level of passion in there.

I might be as dispassionate about what I'm doing as can be and still keep pushing on it. For me the goal is "I need to quit my day job and I'm inevitably going to end up doing my own thing one way or another, so may as well be this" (In truth it's far more complicated than that, but this works for now.) I am not a pilot. I am not an engineer. I'm a designer, and I want to design stuff. I have an interest in planes, I appreciate them for a bunch of reasons but if tomorrow we said "you know what we need to stop working on this plane and shift to this crazy idea making CNC-routered novelty doghouses" if there's a compelling numbers game behind it, I'm in. Now that I type this, I almost guarantee this dumb example is also very true. But keeping it in airplanes, we started out doing a Hellcat. And for my father, that's the grail if not the goal. He wants that airplane in some form or another. For me it's one of 20 options that I could back. If someone has a better idea, I'm all for pivoting. But the decision isn't 100% mine so that's why we didn't switch to making kayaks when someone offered to invest in that vs the airplanes. For me, I'm thinking "why not, it's just another product" but for an airplane guy the idea is insulting, I guess.

For what it's worth we've figured out a potential model that could work. It has a shot, and we have a trajectory. We've figured out how to get the capabilities and to me that's the critical part. Like with design, machine tools can make airplane parts or motorcycle parts or widghets to sell online. Having the tools is more important than the particular application as long as one is willing to use them that way.

AT the end of the day I want to make products, regardless of the form. The current idea is this P36, and I'm all-in to make it work. Because based on all the factors that is the direction that makes sense now. But as the factors change, I'm willing to adjust, because I'm a designer not an aircraft fanatic who has to make this specific product.

So if I can develop a compelling business model now that would leverage our current situation to let us make money from doghouses, I should probably get on that.
 

Turd Ferguson

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Bob Nesmith's honestly thought his Cougar was an "improved" version of the Tailwind. His plans were cheaper because he had access to a printing press. Too bad his plans were sparse on details and only experienced builders who knew how to improvise could finish the plane. There was a lot of crossover, Cougar builders added flaps, some Tailwind builders incorporated the taller rounded Cougar tail - even Wittman 'cougarized' the tail on his W9L Tailwind. The Daphne is really the cooler of the spinoff's.
 
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