Plans, kits, licensing, IP....

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by Pacha, Dec 11, 2019.

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  1. Dec 11, 2019 #1

    Pacha

    Pacha

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    What gives a person the right to build a plane of a particular design? If you buy the plans to a kit plane, say a Vans RV or a Zenith, you have the right to scratch build that airplane right? Do you have the rights to build two airplanes from the same set of plans? You can build part of an airplane, say an enpennage, from either a kit or from scratch and sell it. But you can't pay for someone else to build it. How many enpannages can you build and sell before you are a professional builder? If you can't build multiple assemblies from one set of plans do you just need to buy the plans for each set you build?

    It looks like the plans for a Zenith CH650 are $495. But the plans for the Van's aircraft are only $55. Do these plans give you the same rights? Are the Van's plans not as comprehensive, forcing a builder to buy kits instead of scratch building?

    I would imagine if you started cranking out cloned kits of the aircraft working on one set of plans (or even a separate set for each new kit) that the kit manufacturer would take issue with that.

    How does all this work? (I'm just curious.)
     
  2. Dec 11, 2019 #2

    BoKu

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    It depends; you have to read the fine print. Some yes, some no.

    Usually not.

    Not necessarily true. The rules say that the major portion must have been built for the purposes of education and entertainment. You can pay someone else to build the remaining portion. That's generally how quick-build kits work. Depending on the kit, the remaining portion might be a lot, or it might be almost nothing.

    Probably as many as you can afford. Finished tail kits usually sell for around what the original tail kit cost, sometimes a little less.

    It depends on whether the cost of the plans includes a licensing fee for building the airplane. Some do, some don't.

    I think that those are the preview plans, and don't license you to build the airplane. But it's kind of moot; there are so many formed, punched, trimmed, machined, molded, fixtured, and pre-assembled parts to the modern (RV-7 and later) Vans kits that it is a practical impossibility to build one from scratch. You can do it, but the overall cost would far outstrip the kit price.

    There are a few hired guns out there who something like what you suggest, starting from kits and selling basically finished airplanes. They have the fixtures and tools, and they have the process wired enough to make a little money at it. They are also breaking the law, so they have to tread carefully.
     
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  3. Dec 11, 2019 #3

    Pacha

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    The Major Portion rule is that is has to be built 51% by an amateur right (FAR 21.191[g])? Not necessarily the same amateur. We see partially complete kits for sale on this site and others all the time. Those are still eligible for airworthiness certificates aren't they? In other words, you can't pay someone to build most of a kit for you then finish it up, but you can buy a mostly finished kit then get it FAA approved, right?
     
  4. Dec 11, 2019 #4

    BoKu

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    Just so, within reason. For amateur-built status, the FAA doesn't care who built the aircraft, they care about the _why_. Group builds, builds with sequences of owners, builds with some commercial assistance, they are all eligible so long as the major portion of the construction was undertaken for the purposes of education and entertainment, and not for profit or commercial gain.
     
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  5. Dec 11, 2019 #5

    Pacha

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    So can it be both? If you really like building wings in your spare time can you do so and sell them when you're done?

    I also assume if you are really into building planes you can do it one right after another, always selling the previous one, and not run into any trouble with the FAA. If that is the case, how much can you do that before the FAA starts getting irritated?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer all my silly questions!
     
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  6. Dec 11, 2019 #6

    Dana

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    I think you're confusing two completely separate issues. First, intellectual property: when you purchase a set of plans, your purchase (usually) includes the right to build one airplane from those plans. Probably nobody will come after you for building another one unless you're setting up a business around it, but the designer may not offer any technical support. Most plans are marked with a serial number tying them to the original purchaser.

    Kits like the RVs usually come with assembly manuals, not drawings sufficient to scratch build from.

    As far as being paid to build planes or parts thereof, that's a matter of the FAA's interpretation of building for "recreation or education" as a requirement for an amateur built registration.
     
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  7. Dec 11, 2019 #7

    cluttonfred

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    The short answer is that, besides being illegal, there are very few people in a position to make money by building homebuilt airplanes "on commission." The labor in homebuilt aircraft is what makes them relatively affordable, so unless you are shooting for very high end homebuilts (jets, museum-quality replicas, exotic types), it's just not workable. For example, Van's says that a minimalist RV costs $45,000 (used engine, VFR instruments, DIY paint, etc.) and takes 1200-1400 hours. If your time is worth just $10 per hour, then you need to sell the finished plane for almost $60,000 cover that. Make it a new engine, IFR glass panel, custom paint/upholstery, etc. and you're up to $85,000 or more just to break even including your "salary." There are certainly "serial builders" that manage to subsidize their hobby, but I don't think there are many that turn a profit.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2019
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  8. Dec 11, 2019 #8

    BoKu

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    That falls into a gray area that nobody really wants to ask the FAA about. One of the reasons that they don't seem to care much is probably that in most cases partially-completed kits and parts sell for little more than the kit or materials costs, and often less. So there's rarely much in the way of commercial gain taking place, and more often a loss when you factor in the time spent.

    So far as I know, there are only a few cases where the FAA has looked askance at a serial offender who finishes an airplane, gets the experimental amateur-built (EAB) airworthiness certificate in their own name, sells it, and then builds another. There are certainly folks who have built five or six airplanes like that without issue. I think as long as you don't build a long string of exactly the same type of airplane, you'd get away with that for a long time. You just wouldn't make much money at it.

    The big difference between such repeat offenders and the hired guns I mentioned earlier, is that hired guns usually get an airplane done or nearly done, then hand it off to a buyer who then falsely asserts the major portion of the construction was undertaken for fun and learning. The buyer thus obtains amateur-built status for their aircraft, and the rather lenient operating limitations that go with it, under false pretenses. That's bad because the basic philosophy under which the FAA allows amateurs to build and fly their own aircraft is that the reward follows the risk. The FAA lets us do this crazy thing because they trust us to act prudently in our own best interest, because if something goes wrong we'll be the first ones at the scene of the accident. It is that self-interest that they rely on to protect persons and property over which we fly. Hired guns, on the other hand, get all the reward but none of the risk.
     
  9. Dec 11, 2019 #9

    Pacha

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    I'm not confusing them - sometimes they are the same. I asked about that in my first post. From what you said it sounds like Van's doesn't allow you to build planes from scratch. Zenith supplies drawings that would allow you to scratch build the plane. I imagine this is why there is such a large difference in the price. Does that sound right to you? You could essentially "pirate" a Zenith design. But not a Van's design - the manual is useless without the kit.
     
  10. Dec 11, 2019 #10

    ToddK

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    Or do what other people do, and add an inch here and there, a different nose bowel, and a few other mods, and call it the Pacha-1 Sky King. I am not saying it's ethical, but it happens. Nesmith Cougar, the Grega GN-1, the IPC Savannah, the list goes on an on. As for money. The only home built I can think of the typically commands a premium price is a well built Bearhawk. Even then I bet that once the materials and labor gets added up you would come out ahead flipping burgers at the McDonalds.
     
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  11. Dec 11, 2019 #11

    Turd Ferguson

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    Vans did sell complete plans sets in the early days. I had RV-4 plans that had every part drawn with dimensions so the entire plane could have been built from plans. There were a lot of pages, much more than the "assembly plans"

    While some planes include a license agreement to built one plane, if I decided I wanted to build a second plane I would not buy another set of plans. Sorry but that's the way it is.
     
  12. Dec 11, 2019 #12

    Himat

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    It depends, also on your whereabout. You do not state where you live, Canada have different rules and regulations than USA. In Europe every country does have different laws or at least interpret EU regulations different. Go Great Britain and you may learn that what you think is one country is not. Some parts have their own laws, if that extend to homebuilt aircraft I do not know.
     
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  13. Dec 11, 2019 #13

    Turd Ferguson

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    I have heard that as well but Jim Clement has built >10 Tailwinds and sold every one of them. I have not heard of the FAA asking any questions.
     
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  14. Dec 11, 2019 #14

    Pops

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    Like I have said before, the SSSC is really a Fisher Super Koala construction, ( SK prototype is in a hanger next door), but narrowed the fuselage down to single place and built to the dimensions of the Koala 202 for the Cub look. I bought a wrecked 202 mainly for the plans , and was able to use the rudder, stab and elevator and some of the hardware ( pulleys, turnbuckles ). Bought plywood, etc from Fisher. At the time I talked to the owner of Fisher to make sure it was OK. So it was really a rebuild with mods.

    I have an old set of plans for the RV-4. Many sheets of plans.

    I know of one person that sales plans and after buying a set of plans, charges a small percentage if you make parts and sell to other builders in addition to parts for your build, like landing gears, rudder pedals , seats, engine mounts, etc. I don't have any problem with that. Its his design, and the plans that is bought has a serial number and the buyer has permission to build one airplane of parts from the plans.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2019
  15. Dec 11, 2019 #15

    BJC

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    How many E-AB Epics were “homebuilt” before they certificated the airplane? I’ve heard 42, but never verified it. A company employee, back when they were E-AB, told me that the “builder” assembled the pilot’s seat, which stayed in the airplane until the airworthiness certificate was issued.

    https://epicaircraft.com/company/


    BJC
     
  16. Dec 11, 2019 #16

    Dana

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    It's not that Van's doesn't allow it; by not providing drawings they don't make it possible. They sell the instruction manual cheap to potential builders because they make their money on kits which are harder to copy than plans. But if you did clone a Van's design the FAA would have nothing to say about it if you show that it was indeed amateur built.

    OTOH, if a pro builder builds a plane from a single unique set of plans (serial number) and sells it, or the buyer of the plans pays the pro to build it, and the new owner registers it as his own build, the FAA might care but Van's won't.

    Many plans sellers let you "register" your plan set. They will support the registered owner. If you build a plane from the plans and then sell the plans, the next guy who tries to build from the plans won't get any support. If you don't build the plane, you can transfer the plans "registration" to the person who buys the plans and then they get support. Yeah, the system has holes, but it's a small enough community that word gets around. If somebody builds a single unauthorized copy, it's probably not worth it to go after him. If a pro set up to build clones, it might be worthwhile, but there aren't many people who have figured a way to make that profitable.

    Finally, the FAA may ignore the pro builders on the theory that the build quality will likely be better than what a first time amateur could accomplish.
     
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  17. Dec 11, 2019 #17

    bmcj

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    You’re such a brown-noser! ;)
     
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  18. Dec 12, 2019 #18

    Wanttaja

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    This is actually pretty simple: You have the rights that the owner assigns to you.

    If the owner says you can build only one airplane from a set of plans, they may object if you build two, or built one and sell the plans to someone else for them to build one.

    Fly Baby plans, for example, don't include any restrictions, so you can build as many airplanes per plans set as you want. Fly Baby building instructions were included in EAA Sport Aviation magazine, so if you're an EAA member, you don't even have to have access to a regular plans set.

    Whether a more-restrictive owner of the rights takes action against you if you violate their limits is another thing. Doubt you'd get sued or even threatened if you built a second airplane from most plans sets.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
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  19. Dec 12, 2019 #19

    cheapracer

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    You need to be 15% different to claim it as yours.

    Gaging what constitutes 15% can be difficult, you want to make sure nothing is directly interchangable, that's a big help to your cause, and easily accomplished.



    Yup, I have a full set of build plans for the RV6. But you wouldn't, dang complicated, no wonder they take so long to build.


    Thing to do is to find out what IPR the particular plane has. Then there's 'Manufacturer's Historic Icon' rulings, you wouldn't get away with a Mooney tail for example. But no one likes a copy'er at the end of the day, and coming out of China, I have been particularly careful.


    But one thought I have had is that someone could buy plans from Zenith, and, as a business, build/sell the craft with the individual serial numbers.
     
  20. Dec 12, 2019 #20

    Dana

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    I have never heard of such a rule.
     
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