New Ultralight and LSA Trainer design PAIR

Discussion in 'Aircraft Design / Aerodynamics / New Technology' started by Rienk, Aug 1, 2010.

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What is your interest/input in such a project?

  1. I would like to offer professional services to help.

    12.0%
  2. I would like to be involved informally.

    24.0%
  3. I would like to offer feedback and/or design ideas.

    56.0%
  4. i would like to be kept informed of any progress of such a project.

    52.0%
  5. I have no particular interest in such a project.

    4.0%
  6. I think that this is a pipe dream, and you're wasting your time.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $20k.

    12.0%
  8. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $16k.

    12.0%
  9. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $13k.

    24.0%
  10. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $10k.

    32.0%
  11. At the price chosen (if design/safety goals are met), I would be very interested in buying the UL.

    32.0%
  12. At the price chosen, I know other people who would be very interested in buying the UL.

    32.0%
  13. Even at the price point chosen, I would not be interested in buying the UL.

    20.0%
  14. To be successful, the retail price of the LSA/trainer must be below $30k.

    32.0%
  15. To be successful, the retail price of the LSA/trainer must be below $25k.

    12.0%
  16. To be successful, the retail price of the LSA/trainer must be below $20k.

    24.0%
  17. At the price above, I know other people who would be very interested in buying the LSA.

    12.0%
  18. At the price chosen, I know other people who would be very interested in buying the LSA.

    12.0%
  19. Even at the price point chosen, I would not be interested in buying the LSA.

    24.0%
  20. I am God's gift to the aviation design community, and should be heading up this project :)

    32.0%
  21. I would like to offer professional services to help.

    12.0%
  22. I would like to be involved informally.

    24.0%
  23. I would like to offer feedback and/or design ideas.

    56.0%
  24. i would like to be kept informed of any progress of such a project.

    52.0%
  25. I have no particular interest in such a project.

    4.0%
  26. I think that this is a pipe dream, and you're wasting your time.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  27. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $20k.

    12.0%
  28. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $16k.

    12.0%
  29. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $13k.

    24.0%
  30. To be successful, the retail price of the UL must be below $10k.

    32.0%
  31. At the price chosen (if design/safety goals are met), I would be very interested in buying the UL.

    32.0%
  32. At the price chosen, I know other people who would be very interested in buying the UL.

    32.0%
  33. Even at the price point chosen, I would not be interested in buying the UL.

    20.0%
  34. To be successful, the retail price of the LSA/trainer must be below $30k.

    32.0%
  35. To be successful, the retail price of the LSA/trainer must be below $25k.

    12.0%
  36. To be successful, the retail price of the LSA/trainer must be below $20k.

    24.0%
  37. At the price above, I know other people who would be very interested in buying the LSA.

    12.0%
  38. At the price chosen, I know other people who would be very interested in buying the LSA.

    12.0%
  39. Even at the price point chosen, I would not be interested in buying the LSA.

    24.0%
  40. I am God's gift to the aviation design community, and should be heading up this project :)

    32.0%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Aug 6, 2010 #141

    Rienk

    Rienk

    Rienk

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    Okay, this thread (like so many) is in danger of going sideways quickly...
    and since it's my thread, It's going to be ME that takes us over the brink (insert evil laugh)...

    Seriously though, I lay claim to most annoying... I am not truly an engineer, but I often think like them (I even keep a calculator next to the bed, in case I wake up trying to sort things out).
    I am not truly a marketing guy, though I've made (and lost) several small fortunes being able to get a sense of what a particular niche market needs.
    I'm not a good businessman, as I rarely follow the bottom line, as I really just want to have fun, and profits are simply tools for being able to build new/better things and chase down my ideas.

    I am mildly OCD, which is actually great for an entrepenuer - but it often drives other people crazy! And I'm really good at pissing people off, because I'm usually too blunt.

    Okay, I understand the need for marketing research - which I've been doing casually for the last twenty years. But I don't care how many focus groups you have on this particular subject, you won't get the answers you need, because people don't tell you want they want/need - they tell you what they "think" they want/need.

    I don't want to beat a dead horse, or come across totally obstinant and clueless, but it's obvious that the status quo isn't cutting it, yet no one is sure what is going to resonate with nexgen. What we do know is that, in spite of the current economy, there is still a lot of money being spent on big-boy toys.

    I disagree that a proper marketing plan will help us come up with the wonder cure (design) - because there isn't one.
    If someone was willing to plunk down a big chunk of cash to do a little research (gosh, universities get tons of grant money for studying the weirdest things - why not us?) we might be able to get a tad bit closer, but I would give good odds that the results would be vague and most of the time would be spent chasing tails.

    Frankly, I believe the answer is to produce the best UL we can that will retail for under $15k (you can option it to death, later), and $12k would be awesome (though such a number will likely only be possible with a sales volume that is probably not feasible).

    I really love Orion's picture of the 'Rasp', and a flying wing like that would probably generate serious interest from the general public. Even a reincarnation of the Quickie might do the trick.
    But most of our neat ideas, shapes, and materials are going to be useless given the limitations of 103.
    So I continue to stress that we be as creative as we can with this pair, and then let others (including designs from this group) be the "next step" for affordable aircraft.
    I for one see an awesome potential there.

    Here's our marketing plan for the Solo and Duet.
    • Build inexpensive sport planes.
    • Sell them as S-LSA to the bulk of the people.
    • Sell them as nearly complete E-LSA's to others who want to modify them.
    • Sell them as Kit -built to those who want to take the same design to the extreme (200+ kts).
    • I'm actually hoping that people will be able to buy the E-LSA, but use it as the basis for their hotrods, so all they have to do is buy a ready to mount firewall-forward package, an appropriate instrument panel - and their off to the races (figuratively and literally).

    Follow the same concept if you like, or share a potential iteration!

    The advent of this proposed UL/LSA pair will do nothing but help the sales of our aircraft, as well as similar craft from other designers/manufacturers.

    You can smirk all you want, and ridicule my name forever in a few years, but I fully expect to be able to sell as many of our Solos and Duets as the rest of the 'current' industry combined... and I intend to 'put up', not shut up :)

    The UL/LSA we are proposing here is nothing more than a "loss leader" for our other aircraft offerings, but here's the real skinny - - -

    I intend to be a part of building such a UL regardless of how many copies end up being built, because I LIKE designing and building, and because I want (at least) one!
    And though I'm struggling financially right now, I'm confident that we'll eventually turn that around (again), and so I'm not worried about throwing some time and money into this - especially if others want to join the ride. And frankly, I'm getting old enough that I don't have anything to prove by being a lone cowboy, so being a part of a team has great appeal to me.

    Yes, this probably all proves I'm OCD, but I already let that cat out of the bag.
    SOOO, can we get back to designing a plane, or do we need to continue with the naysaying and endless prognosticating?

    I move (and second) that we get on with it... all in favor? vote aye... :ban:
     
  2. Aug 6, 2010 #142

    Inverted Vantage

    Inverted Vantage

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    TOPAZ! It's been ages, where have you been? :)

    There were some earlier comments in the thread (mostly by you, Monty. :) ) about how even if we do this, you'll never capture the 1% of the mainstream market that everyone wants. Honestly, that's fine - to me, that's a lofty goal.
    I think one of the main things bringing down the price would do is to bring the many, many people who WANT to fly but can't afford to, into the fold. Streamlined training would keep them there, and events would make them want to learn more.

    So it's not just for the mainstream (which I doubt we'll ever hit). It's for the people who always go "I've always wanted to learn to fly".

    I guess a more realistic goal and reasoning is to produce a cheap enough ultralight that looks nice enough that it'll pull these people in, and by extension, any of their friends will at least get interested in what they're doing and maybe want to try it too.
     
  3. Aug 6, 2010 #143

    Rienk

    Rienk

    Rienk

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    I totally respect where you're coming from on all this, and appreciate the honesty.

    So, to comment on your list...

    Engines. Four stroke is a given (for this project).
    I firmly believe that industrial engines are the way to start, but I continue to look for other options; I doubt any design in the 103UL category will paint us into a corner if we eventually find a lighter package for not much more cost.

    Direct drive or Redrive. My opinion is to allow for the prop diameter that a redrive will allow, but also be able to work with direct drive. Even direct drive can be an issue with thrust loads, so neither is a clearcut winner. I personally favor a belt system, which have purportedly been used successfully on industrial engines for the last three years. But a redrive costs money, and should probably be an "upgrade" option (which may also be able to get more speed, and knock it out of the UL category - thus being one of the LSA options).

    Cooling. The Generac which we purchased is air-cooled, but I'm really intrigued with the Kawasakis - which have liquid cooling and FI options! Both are heavy in their stock format, but getting rid of all the stuff not needed for an aircraft, putting in performance parts porting, etc., will give an 'acceptable' power to weight ratio. (after all, what does a 503 weigh "all up", when everything is truly accounted for). 50 hp is reasonable, and 60 hp can be had with more performance parts. TBO either way will be acceptable, and rebuilding these engines is CHEAP!

    Since I already own the Generac, it makes sense to start with that for now. But if anyone wants to bail us one of the other engines mentioned, I'm perfectly willing to help develop alternate packages.


    I wish I could start a new thread to discuss each of the main issues at play (engine, tractor/pusher, configuration, building materials, etc). How should we handle this?
     
  4. Aug 6, 2010 #144

    Monty

    Monty

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    I'll never besmirch a person who puts their personal wealth, blood, sweat, and tears at risk chasing a dream. Especially a dream I share.:)

    Maybe just a bit different vision...

    Rienk, man.... I gotta hand it to you you've got vision and drive and that goes a long way.

    If I can help I will.

    (and no I don't think I'm God's gift to aviation...who checked that box?:tired:)

    Monty.
     
  5. Aug 6, 2010 #145

    Rienk

    Rienk

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    Gosh, I didn't even get to read the full posts before they were pulled :depressed
    (I don't know if that is a good thing or not).

    Here's all I will say about manufacturing offshore.
    First, it's too soon to even worry about this - if it can be competitive in the US, that's where I would prefer it to be done - most of the fun is in being involved, not sending it off to let others do it for us. But the goal is primarily low cost, so we will let that take us wherever it will.

    Pragmatically, that may mean that you are "given no choice" in the matter, right?
    If the only option is be involved regardless of where it ends up being made, or not being involved at all, and thus not being able to afford a plane like this - is it any different than any of the other products that you buy from China or elsewhere? And wouldn't you rather be a part of such a "noble" and "fun" project?

    I too can go into all the reasons, morally and practically, that this is a moot point, but the decision belongs to each of us - I fault no one for their consciencious objections (Rom. 14).

    But I sure would like to have as many as possible/practical be involved :cool:
     
  6. Aug 6, 2010 #146

    Inverted Vantage

    Inverted Vantage

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    The best thing to do first would be, like Topaz said, lay out the target audience, and work from that. Not the other way around.

    - 16-30 males, 16-30 females though the latter is most likely a much smaller group for this
    - Adventurous
    - Mid range incomes (>25 individuals have mid range parental incomes)
    - Generally not very welcoming of strong authority
    - Attracted to "edgier" designs
    - Possibly interested in X-Games/Red Bull Air Racing/that sort of thing
    - Digitally connected, comfortable with computers
    - Have always wanted to fly, or at least have an interest in learning to
    - Easily distracted, so require goals/milestones/achievements/etc
    - Competitive

    That's the sort of group you'd be looking at. Now it's late for me, but the next job is to build a couple possible "personalities" that might fit that. What are their jobs, where do they live, what's their income, what's their interests, what's their name? Stuff like that. Then you work from there and design an aircraft for them. Not yourself.
     
  7. Aug 6, 2010 #147

    Monty

    Monty

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    Auto D and I decided amongst ourselves that we like not having any politics here, and rather than run the risk of this degenerating into a flame fest in the middle of your airplane thread, we pulled our posts. Out of respect for you and the others here.

    Monty
     
  8. Aug 6, 2010 #148

    Topaz

    Topaz

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    Hi, UT. I've been out making marketing materials and books, mostly. :) Business has picked up a lot, which unfortunately means I don't have a lot of time left for fun things like this.

    You know my mind on this subject, and you know I fully agree that expanding the market away from the traditional already-licensed pilot pool is the long-term key to GA's future. No debate from me there.

    But time and again I see this discussion erupt on this board and immediately transition to a technical discussion, when the primary issues are not technical. Everyone chimes in with their favorite configuration or manufacturing technique, and I've been as guilty as anyone else in that. The experienced engineers point out the failings and do the typical 'We should stick with proven methods' engineering cautions, and eventually we find that nobody can agree about what's wanted or needed and we get nowhere.

    Reink, I'm not advocating focus groups or similar 'research'. As you point out, those are devilishly difficult things from which to get accurate data. Market planning and market development do require research, but there are other ways than focus groups and surveys, which are notorious for giving exactly the answer the company in question wants to hear.

    To both of you, though, I'll say this: The longer I'm in business, the more I understand that the product flows from the business plan, not the other way 'round. You CAN just build something you think is cool and slap a low price on it, but unless you've figured out beforehand what your real costs will be and what people really WILL buy at a price you can make money upon, your dream (to paraphrase one of our local experts) is little more than a wish. I agree completely that it's a lot more fun to toss technical ideas around here about the kind of airplanes WE like, than it is to work out the real issues of production costing, overhead, insurance costs, and market realities of selling airplanes to the non-flying public in a real-world, researched way. And having that technical discussion is a great thing to do. Have at it.

    But when you start talking about doing this as a business, the product you sell is largely irrelevant to the simple fact of running that business. You'll be a businessman that happens to build and sell airplanes, fundamentally no different than a businessman that happens to build and sell vacuum cleaners. Loving airplanes is great to keep you motivated when things get rough (and they will), but your love of running a business is what will make you succeed. If the focus stays on the product at the expense of planning and operating a viable business, you'll end up as just another of the myriad of little airplane company's that have come and gone over the decades. Lord knows there's been enough of those!

    We work before we play. Designing an airplane is the play part. The fun. You can't do it until you do the hard work of figuring out a solid business plan that will drive the design process in the right direction. Designing the airplane first and then figuring out how to sell it is a nearly fool-proof way to bankruptcy.

    As always, this is my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  9. Aug 6, 2010 #149

    Topaz

    Topaz

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    Somehow managed a double-post from my phone. Odd. Deleted duplicated version from above.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  10. Aug 6, 2010 #150

    lurker

    lurker

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    aye... :ban:

    i know it's shallow :para: of me, but the first thing i always want to know about an airplane is, "what's it look like?". then i look at the numbers to see if it will do what i want. would it be useful to throw a couple of quick, feasible (within the given cost and technology parameters) drawings out here and see what we have in mind? call it market research?
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  11. Aug 6, 2010 #151

    Topaz

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    Yes, exactly. After you've gotten some assurance (as much as it is possible) that those people will actually buy an airplane, under what conditions that purchase might be made, and what the realistic quantities you can expect to sell. A lot of that is going to be a little nebulous, but you can at least get it ballparked.

    Once you have a profile of a viable customer base (you know they'll buy roughly so many units at such-and-so price range for this-and-that set of capabilities/qualities) you can see if a realistic business plan can be built around that model. That process will give you targets for production costs, etc., to go with the performance and aesthetic parameters.

    Those detailed requirements make it possible to design an airplane to meet them, and drive the technologies and production methods chosen. You've practically got a blueprint of what the airplane should do and a short list of what ways it can be built.

    If you try and do the design first, you're just tossing darts in the dark. Someone's going to get hurt doing it that way, and the most likely candidate is you.
     
  12. Aug 6, 2010 #152

    Hot Wings

    Hot Wings

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    You're the Shepard. I'm just one of the cats!:cool:

    You may be right about the Generac. It's quasi proven and available, though I'd probably opt for the fuel injected Fuji Robin. It's only a matter of time before Generac has to move to injection as well. I haven't been able to get a price on the Fuji Robin injection parts but the system is simple, modular, and could be adapted to the Generac without too much work. I don't like carbs. But then I've been working with FI since '74.

    The Kawasaki liquid cooled are just too heavy, even stripped for 103. They may work for an Experimental or LSA. I came real close to using one for my personal project but I just couldn't justify the time to develop.

    All of the industrial engines will need a reduction to give us a reasonable prop diameters for part 103 speeds.

    Prop diameter is going to be another parameter driving the design of the plane. Large props need lots of ground clearance. This kind of dictates tractor configurations.

    Depending on how different you are willing to be, one solution to the pusher prop clearance problem might be to use a Spratt wing.

    Another way around the prop diameter is to use 2 smaller engines, which are legal for 103. This gets the prop diameter under 50 inches direct drive, but 2 engines are going to weigh more.

    You mentioned the Quickie. They developed the engine first, then the airframe. Even then, the Onan was marginal.

    The more I've thought about an inexpensive small light plane and the more I've tried to design one, the more convinced I am that the engine problem - is the problem.
     
  13. Aug 6, 2010 #153

    Autodidact

    Autodidact

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    Rienk, in the last line of my deleted post I stated that I was not blaming you. I am a "conscientious objector", but this is an extremely interesting thread and I will be following it. It was my choice, and I will not feel deprived of anything, after all, I'm here because I want to build one of the little airplanes I see flying around inside my head. But there a lot of smart people contributing and I will no doubt learn some things. You guys have fun.

    Topaz, it's great to see you back!
     
  14. Aug 6, 2010 #154

    Topaz

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    Thanks. :)
     
  15. Aug 6, 2010 #155

    Rienk

    Rienk

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    Hey Topaz,
    First, let me say that I am SO appreciative that you are willing to spend your limited time being even casually involved in this discussion. Marketing is important to me, but it is definitely not my strong point, and we would be honored to have your help on this project in that regard.
    But since your specialty is black magic to me, I'm not really sure how to proceed with your advice.
    As a reluctant businessman, I have seen both sides of the coin... product first, business first. At the risk of self-indulgence, maybe a little background is appropriate.

    I've started many businesses (my first was in highschool).
    I currently own and operate five different business ventures (down from a high of seven). Most have been great learning experiences (which is true, but also a euphemism for losing money). A couple have been spectacular successes (a relative term... my definition of such is $1M of annual profit)

    But I've also done some stupid things... I started a fractional airplane company on a whim (a friend of mine runs a national ministry to families, and I thought how cool it would be to have 7/8ths of a plane be paid for by business people, and the other 1/8th be given to non-profit and charity groups to help do their work). Well, I did it in my hometown because - gosh, that's where I live - knowing that it was not the best place to try (we're a mix of farming and defense), and sure enough I had fun watching almost seven figures disappear!

    Most of my success has come from my passion for learning, thus studying different technologies/businesses, and then later seeing a need and figuring out an effective way to meet that need. I also do a lot of 'consulting' work (much pro bono) to help groups develop solutions to their technical needs. Though I am fairly intelligent, my genius seems to be my knack to think outside the box, combined with my eternal curiosity about everything under the sun (jack of all trades, master of none). Though many consider me an inventor, I prefer the moniker "integrator". What I mean by this is that I see a neat product/idea in one industry, see a need in another industry, and try to figure out how to make the two (or more) line up to create a fairly simple yet ingenious solution. Not being an expert in any particular field, I tend to make more mistakes than successes, but I rarely give up, to my tenacity usually ends up paying off. I love taking risks!

    I also love life, and have a proclivity toward starting businesses based on my interests and hobbies!

    Okay, enough grandstanding (I'm almost making myself sick).

    UT's lists are something that I presumed was commonly accepted for this thread, and went without saying (but it's good to reiterate it).

    Still, I have no idea how to start a business without a product. My experience has only been:
    • see a need
    • conceive an idea (product) on how to meet that need
    • develop a business plan around the product (including limited research of product feasibility and business viability)
    • invest initial resources (time and money) to develop business
    • determine "go, no go" point of plan
    • pull in horns or jump off cliff.
    • Succeed or Fail... repeat.

    I may have it bass ackwards, but I have never wanted to be a "businessman." I've only wanted to turn what interests me into businesses (because I'm Dutch, and thus too cheap to spend money solely on hobbies).
    A friend of mine is doing the investment banking for the revival of the Grumman Widgeon, run by an accountant (literally) who saw the financial opportunity of such a product. He is doing it because of the numbers, not because he loves airplanes.
    Is this smart? Undoubtedly.
    I am doing the same thing with another industry right now.
    But I am involve in aviation for two reasons: I love airplanes, and I love designing and building things (and the list is incredibly varied and long).

    I don't actually love running businesses, but I do love having businesses as a means to pursuing my interests.

    What am I trying to say? I have no idea...

    I guess it's that this project is not because I need to make money - though believe me, I want to... I deserve to!!! (insert evil laugh again).

    I want it to be successful, but I'm doing it primarily "for love of the game."

    Nonetheless, if you are able/willing to keep us on the straight and narrow, I'm all ears, and humbly request - nay, beg - that you be a part of the team.

    What would it take to have you help with market development?
    What aspect is there about marketing a UL that is a prerequisite to working out technical issues?

    The way I currently see it, you can't even begin to consider a business plan without knowing what your product will cost and/or sell for, unless you have an idea of what that product looks like, what it's made of, and how it needs to be manufactured...
    Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

    To be honest, I am now tired and confused... if this post doesn't make sense, or is just plain meaningless or irritating, I'll figure out how to delete it in the morning.

    Waa! Waaa! Waaaah! I just want to build a plane!
     
  16. Aug 6, 2010 #156

    Rienk

    Rienk

    Rienk

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    Kind of how most guys look for a woman?

    Design sketches would be a fund exercise, but may be premature (?)
    Nonetheless, I would love to see what anyone may submit.

    I'll start with a model of my new ideal design - plagiarized from Orion.

    (this is the millionth time I've referred to it... see what I mean about OCD?)
     

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  17. Aug 6, 2010 #157

    Topaz

    Topaz

    Topaz

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    Well, it's late, I have a pile of work tomorrow and an early rise because of that, but anyone who's been here more than a year can tell you that I'm not shy about typing lots and lots of words. And lots, and lots, and lots... I'm about to provide a shining example of that. :gig:

    I'd say your 'my experience' list is spot-on. I just like to put a little extra effort into the "see a need" stage before jumping off into the "design a product" stage, and probably would flip "develop a business plan" ahead of "design a product", because doing so makes designing the product SO much easier and more efficient.

    All that said, I started my own business (a graphic design and marketing studio) without a lot of formal market research in hand. What I had was about seventeen years of doing it for other employers and having a sideline business in the field for most of that time. And even with all that experience and all the 'book' research I did before going it alone, I found that I was woefully unprepared for the realities of running a real business.

    I love graphic design, and while I had what I would now consider a skeletal administrative infrastructure in place when I hung out my shingle, I quickly found out that loving design wasn't the key. It's the key to doing great design, but not at making a living from doing so. You have to love running the business or all those pesky administrative/marketing/procedural details never seem to work their way up to the top of the priority list. The business founders under its own disorganization. In retrospect, I'm very thankful that my first year was very thin on actual work. I had plenty of startup capitalization and time to learn my mistakes before they affected my business and customer relations too much. If I'd been inundated with work right away, I probably would've folded through missing deadlines and not knowing which bills to pay in what priority.

    The point I'm slowly returning to is that so many people get into the kitplane industry because they love airplanes, and spend all their time on the airplane when they don't even know if the airplane is a viable product. And then, when the doors are open, spend all their time (and customer deposits) 'perfecting' the airplane and not shipping actual product. How many have we seen fail that way? Dozens, in my case, over the years.

    What's more important than the perfect airplane? An airplane that sells.

    What's more important than an airplane that sells? Getting paid.

    What's more important than getting paid? Getting paid more than you're spending.

    If you can't do that last one, you're not in business, and you're going to lose everything you put into the project. It's the be-all, end-all of even starting the project. Anything else is just losing your money and your life, one little bit at a time.

    I'm preaching to the choir with you on this: If you've developed $1M/annual businesses, you're devoting enough time and energy (or delegating attention) to the actual business, no matter where your 'real' interests lie.

    "What would it take to have you help with market development?"

    Honestly? $155 an hour plus billable expenses. Sorry, but much as I love this idea, I've gotta keep my own business alive first. I'll be happy to contribute casually now and again as I have time, but I can't take time away from my own paying customers. That sometimes means I'm away from this forum for months at a stretch. I happen to have some time right now because I'm between a couple of large projects, but I could disappear again at any moment. I personally believe you guys are generally on the right track, or at least one of the right tracks, and I'd like to see another good kit/lightplane company succeed, especially if it brings new people into aviation.

    But I'll donate what I can, when I can:

    "What aspect is there about marketing a UL that is a prerequisite to working out technical issues?"

    Start with the proposed customer base. IMHO, I think Unknown Target is pretty close to on-track with the customer profile he posted earlier, but just as it is with him, that's only a gut-instinct on my part. Go find out. How much discretionary income do they generally seem to spend on 'luxury' entertainment items, and what types of items are those? Do those purchases reenforce the idea that they might be amenable to an aircraft purchase if the marketing message (as yet undefined) was able to properly target and communicate the personal value to them? Are they already buying 'thrill' vehicles (probably yes, sportbikes are coming back into vogue)? In what quantity annually? At what price points? Where's the price break where you start losing them? (A lot of this information can be gotten from industry profiles and demographics - boating, motorcycles, cars, etc. Industry associations love to publish that stuff as a major justification for their existance.)

    In short, will the customer you're looking at really buy something like your general idea of a product ('sporty' UL), how much can you realistically expect to charge before there's a big drop-off in units-sold numbers, and how many units can you realistically expect to sell in a year/quarter/whatever period? Find out what they're already doing. People tell you what you want to hear on surveys, but what they do never lies. Again, industry associations are good resources for this data.

    If the answers you get for the proposed customer profile aren't viable, go looking for another one until you find a better match. You may end up changing your basic product definition in the process - LSA instead of UL?, UL instead of LSA? - but hey, if what you have in mind won't sell to enough people, there's no point going into business with it in the first place, right?

    Your goal is to find out what some-or-other large-enough group of people want to buy, in what quantity, at what price. Not a specific configuration, construction method, etc., but what characteristics are they looking for? What will they do with it? With whom? Where? How often? What's having that capability worth to them, compared to doing something else? Why is it important to them? What do they get out of it? People are rarely sold anything, but they buy what they want all the time.

    The point of the entire exercise is to match up what you'll build to what they want to buy.

    Once you have a viable customer profile, start looking at other barriers to entry that don't pertain to the competing products - flight training is a big one for aircraft, even for an ultralight (only a fool takes one up without flight training, and a company that provides a product used that way will die of liability lawsuits). How do you turn that around into a positive or at least a non-issue? Look at other barriers. Insurance costs (the customer's, not yours). Storage. Maintenance. Wife/girlfriend's fear of flying. Large number of them having babies. Try to think up (and then verify with your target market) anything that might contribute to them saying, "I think I'll buy a motorcycle/boat/jetski/sportscar instead..." List 'em out and make sure you can provide some viable answer to that objection. If you can't, you're not going to sell as many units. Or enough units, possibly.

    Some rough guesses at overhead costs for the business need to be made. Paying back the startup money. Product liability insurance for the company. Facility costs. Human resources costs. Taxes. Fees. Electricity. Garbage pickup. Divide this overhead by the number of units your customer research says you'll likely sell and subtract the per-unit amount from the sell-price figure you've already found that your market will bear. Then subtract a rough guess at production costs, based on other products in the market. Maybe you'll do much better on production costs, but it's not wise to count on that at the beginning. This is business-plan stuff. You can ballpark a lot of it without knowing a lot of technical details of the airplane. Later, as the airplane refines in the design process, you can plug in more-accurate numbers. A business plan, like designing an airplane itself, is an iterative process.

    Does the answer still make sense, or are you going to lose money on every sale and try to make it up on volume? ;)

    All these answers tell you what a viable product needs to be like. It sets requirements for product performance and production costs for the engineers to meet in the design process. Let the prospective customer tell you how many seats, how fast, how far, how it will be used, and what sort of styling they're looking for. You can develop the entire general set of specifications just by listening to the potential customer base.

    When you have all that in hand and it still makes sense to move forward, NOW it's time to start designing the airplane to those requirements your customer gave you. Designing the airplane they want to actually buy.

    The engineers should be able to tell you whether something that meets your requirements can be built for the cost you're suggesting, and what risks (technological) may be involved in developing it. If it's not going to work... Well, it's round the robin once more...

    A lot of businesses don't need this kind of complication, and it doesn't have to be as formal as I've made it out here. But you DO have to be able to answer those questions in some reality-based form if you're going to build something that will really sell.

    Personlly, if I were going to go into the kitplane business myself, I'd see if the following scenario was realistic, using the methods above: Find out how much it would take to get Ken Rand's widow to sell me the rights to the KR-2 line, buy it, develop a new 'KR-3' kit based on all the already-proven builder-group modifications over the years, and then market the hell out of it. Make my mistakes when the new company is still small and relatively under-the-radar. Build up enough of a name, experience, and war-chest in the process to start developing a complete Cessna-like airplane-and-flight-training program for a wider, not-currently-a-pilot marketplace. Where, IMHO, the real money is.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  18. Aug 6, 2010 #158

    lurker

    lurker

    lurker

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    exactly. but i've learned (the hard way) to avoid fashion models and ballet dancers :dis:
    that's a beauty, no doubt about it. very unorthodox, which may be a problem. see my comment about models and dancers above;)
     
  19. Aug 6, 2010 #159

    Inverted Vantage

    Inverted Vantage

    Inverted Vantage

    Formerly Unknown Target

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    Rienk, one of the reasons most people have failed at this is because they approach it like you do (like an engineer does - I don't know if you're an engineer, but that's how you're looking at this): Need, Solution, Sale. People in this thread keep saying that we need to "think outside the box", but in the end you're staying in that same box, nomatter how many crazy designs you come up with - Need, Solution, Sale. What you want to do is create an ARTIFICIAL need for the user - you have to make them WANT the product, even if they don't NEED it in their daily lives. That's why you have to pick a target audience, and design the product in such a way that they will desire it simply because it's something that appeals to them - not because it fulfills a "cheap aircraft need".

    So basically, put down the design book, and follow my example. Let's think of who, exactly, would have the resources to buy this thing, what price point they might come in at, what they would like, where they live, etc. Then go from there. It's been mentioned before, but it needs to be codified and followed almost exactly - again, if you really want to think outside of the box, we need to get out of this Need, Solution, Sale mindset and think like every other industry does - User, Product, Desire, Sale. Don't leave it as some nebulous concept where you say "well the person will most likely be this, we'll worry about it after we get a design done" - you need to define who you're selling to FIRST, then design it for THEM.
     
  20. Aug 6, 2010 #160

    Monty

    Monty

    Monty

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    Rienk,

    Topaz-Business owner with corporate marketing experience.

    Me-Business owner with corporate product development experience.

    We are both telling you the same thing. Friends tell you what you don't want to hear. Everybody else tells you what they think you want to hear.

    You are getting world class advice for free. In fact anybody who wants to start a business or develop a product of any kind should read this thread.

    Every product I have been in on from day one never looks the same after doing all the things Topaz suggested. When this isn't done it fails.

    An airplane is a product like any other, same process applies.

    If the business plan is a good one, you will be able to obtain funds and hire the right people to make it happen. If not then you still learn something, and it's better to find this out before you spend the kids college fund.

    If all you want to do is build some ultralights with some volunteers then that is great...do that and have fun. Just don't expect to make it a business.

    I also think it is a little unrealistic to think you are going to get experts to work for free on a business venture. They have families, jobs, and hobbies too. Don't expect them to be that in love with what you are doing....we all gotta eat and pay bills.

    The old saying about not mixing business and pleasure is very instructive...it's bad for both.

    I'm not going to pontificate anymore, and I'm in the same boat as Topaz. I think what you want to do would be great, which is why it needs to be done right. If I have time and I can contribute I will.

    Just my .02

    Monty
     

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