# So, what's my kit plane REALLY gonna cost when it's all done?

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by Timstertimster, Jul 19, 2015.

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1. Jul 19, 2015

### Timstertimster

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I'm lolling around to see what budget I should expect for building a Sort-of STOL bush plane.

I want to do this kind of stuff:

But in reality, I will probably spend more time landing on, errr, more traditional landing spots. If I can get over the fence in 500' I'd say that'll do just fine.

So I looked at Just Aircraft, Zenith, a smattering of Cubs, and wonder again and again: how do I come up with an accurate estimate if I have never built a plane before and thus have no experience?

The carbon cub is well marketed. But the idea of spending $120,000 after its all said and done does not appeal to me at all. Zenith also posts very enticing videos, makin me feel like I could put together one of these things in a long weekend (hee hee), their kit is so pristine and orderly looking. Then I start looking at the details: add an engine, avionics, and poof, another$40,000

So I started working backwards. I like simple things. But I also do appreciate modern technology. For example I like UL power. And I like MCL Avionics iEFIS lite.

To my inexperienced mind, these types if things seem sensible. Not overkill. Not bottom barrel either (I'd like to get back home after my escapade, not be stranded and hiking out for 5 days).

So, if I figure: kit, engine plus mounts, sensors and so on for avionics, and I should be done, right? Do I absolutely have to paint it?

I gotta admit, for a newbie this kit plane hobby is a steep leaning curve. Been reading up on stuff for a while now and still feel utterly uninformed.

Thanks for any replies.

2. Jul 19, 2015

### don january

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better count on a few thousand buck's to even get a project looking like a plane in the shop..

3. Jul 19, 2015

### dcstrng

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If you're planning on new, top-dollar parts, few of them are very inexpensive... those days are gone... however if you have the ability to shop and scrounge then you stand a reasonable change at bringing the price down somewhat ( except for any full-size Bird with "Cub" anywhere in its name). Check out Barnstormers or Tradeaplane, not to mention Craig's list of eBay and shop for projects... good luck...

On the other hand... you should be able to find an early Avid Flyer or 2-cycle Kitfox project, or one already flying in need of refurbishment, for substantially less than many "name" kits, or as was suggested, build from scratch... WagAero or any of the Zeniths can be built from scratch and many are -- Bearhawk Patrol or LSA, also... for the truly adventurous you could get a set of Raven-Mohawk plans and build your own "Avid...". you can save as much money as your imagination is nimble, depending on the skills you have or are willing to learn... but if you need to be flying by next month, bring cash, lots of it...

Last edited: Jul 19, 2015
4. Jul 19, 2015

### mcrae0104

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Timster, have you considered a Corvair as a way to trim down that extra $40k? It's not for everybody, but it's a proven combination on the 750. 5. Jul 19, 2015 ### TFF ### TFF #### Well-Known Member Joined: Apr 28, 2010 Messages: 11,702 Likes Received: 3,311 Location: Memphis, TN It is all about how much prefab you want to buy. You can build a Cub airframe, stock. like a Wag Aero for$5000 if you build from scratch; you do everything from raw materials. Start adding prefab stuff like welded fuselage, probably add $15,000; add prefab wings another 15K. Everything else in between. Covering can be done for 3-5K depending on how shinny. Engine flyable but at TBO 0-360$5000; Factory overhaul $35,000. Prop 2K for fixed. Those tires are$700 each. Add what STOL kits you want to add.

6. Jul 19, 2015

### Pops

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Or you can scratch build on of these for less that 10K with a 2180 cc, 80 HP, VW engine and do the same thing with a little bigger tires. Almost all off field flying, airplane has been on a paved runway 2 times in 8 years.

Dan

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7. Jul 19, 2015

### JamesG

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So, what's my kit plane REALLY gonna cost when it's all done?

How much you got? :gig:

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8. Jul 19, 2015

### TJay

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In My opinion if this is the only plane you will ever build buy a kit. My reason is to scratch build you need to spend alot of money on good tools. Some say not, but they are usually not in a hurry to get it finished. With the right tools you can cut your time in half, you builders know what I am talking about, I picked up a 30 year old Model 1 Kitfox last winter that had never been touched. You can find them fairly cheep. I figure by the time I have it set up to be the baddest kitfox 1 I have ever seen, I will have around \$20,000 stuck in her.

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9. Jul 19, 2015

### cluttonfred

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Used aircraft, whether factory-built or experimental, are always going to provide the opportunity to get in the air for the lowest possible investment. I say opportunity because, buyer beware, some such projects can become just as much of a money pit as a new one.

To avoid that, and those two situations at the top, I suggest a modest-performing, light two-seater built from plans and powered by a 2.1-2.4 liter VW conversion. Sonerai II, Jodel D.18/19, Viking Cygnet, Fisher Dakota Hawk, Leger Patatuplume 2, Nicollier Menesterl II, maybe even an Evans Volksplane VP-2.

10. Jul 19, 2015

### djschwartz

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If you haven't already done so, join a local EAA chapter. There used to be several good ones in the Bay Area, I was a member of both 62 and 338 way back when. The national organization is pretty useless, all about big money like most corporations these days, but the chapters are usually full of great folks actually doing the kinds of things you're interested in. Try to get to some fly-ins. I think Watsonville is still going on and there are a couple out in the central valley. Talk to actual builders, even if the types they've built are somewhat different from your interests, to get a better feel for what the building process entails in the way of time and money. People selling kits or plans are usually, shall we say, optimistic in their claims. Van's has a well deserved reputation for being the most realistic with their claims and that's a big part of the reason they can get the money they do for their kits and why there are so many of them completed and flying. The homebuilt industry pretty much goes down hill from there. But there are many decent planes as long as you take the claims with an appropriate grain of salt.

And +1 on the comments about buying rather than building being the least expensive way to get in the air, and also with the caveats on buying a partially completed project. If you decide to go that way you will definitely want a local experienced builder to help you evaluate a potential purchase. There are some good deals out there, and there are also some really bad ones too.

A non-standard engine of any kind adds considerably to the project time and effort. This is a controversial statement but it has been my experience in over 40 years of being around homebuilding that none of the auto conversions are as ready-to-fly as the sellers and proponents claim, and most fall short of the claims for power and reliability as well. If you enjoy tinkering with engines and are looking for that sort of a project it can be fun and it may even save you some money. But don't let anyone fool you into thinking they're bolt on and fly away.

Dave

11. Jul 19, 2015

### blane.c

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Look at BELITE cubs, they might work for you, Nestor Slepcev's Storch if he is still making them, watch his video's reall cool a man is running faster than the plane is flying in one of them.

12. Jul 20, 2015

### Battson

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My experience is this, take your best estimate from the back of the napkin and almost double it. Seriously.

If you want to go into it eyes wide open, then you need to think about the little things. Sure you'll hear "engine - 20 grand, avionics - 7 grand" or something similar... but don't forget brand new hardware could run 5 grand, wiring and terminals will go into the hundreds, control cable into the hundreds, and the list literally goes on for a page or so - possibly another 10 - 20 grand depending what you build, assuming all new aircraft quality parts. Then you bring in shipping, FAA costs, etc etc etc and the costs keep growing.

Yes you can do it cheap and nasty with worn out parts and scrapyard salvage, but the idea of flying "on the cheap" in the backcountry is a bit like driving a motorcycle without any protective gear.
It's equally safe while all things are going well, but you're taking a huge risk...

13. Jul 20, 2015

### Battson

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I think I know, but this is food for thought:

In the backcountry circles you NEVER see any of these sorts of planes... Why is that?

14. Jul 20, 2015

### mcrae0104

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I agree with much of what you're saying, but where do you draw the line for "non-standard?" Some auto conversions have been thoroughly proven and standardized to a degree that approaches certified engines. The topic has been discussed plenty already, so I don't want to hijack this thread. If you go with an auto conversion, you need to know what you're signing up for, and this varies widely depending on what you choose.

15. Jul 20, 2015

### djschwartz

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In all my years I've never seen a homebuilt conversion that comes close to being as thoroughly proven as a certified engine. Oh, yes, I've heard lots of people make that claim, usually people who've only read the publicity statements, and more recently web discussions, of enthusiasts or promoters. But every one I've seen tried was much more of a project than certified engine would have been by the time it was running reliably enough to be comfortably flown any distance from the home airport. There is a VW conversion on my home field that is a typical example. Supposedly one of those complete conversions it has had all sorts of teething problems and while it has been flown, it is still a project. There is a Subaru conversion on a neighboring field that a friend of mine, an experienced antique and experimental aircraft mechanic, has been helping with and it too has been a continuous project.

16. Jul 20, 2015

### Pops

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In almost 8 years, my little 1835 cc, 60 hp VW engine has been as reliable as a Cont- A-65. Lots of reasons why, first don't use cheap Chinese parts as some of the VW conversion sellers do, etc, etc.

Dan

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17. Jul 20, 2015

### TFF

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Using an auto conversion needs a good kind of hard headedness. If you are a tinkerer, or just have to be different at any cost, auto is great. If you want rode hard put up wet reliability then a certified type engine is what you need. A lot of those STOL bush planes use hot rodded engines that are as much a hand grenade as any other. I believe Barret engines goes by the premiss that each point of compression over 9-1 is a 500 hr subtraction to a 2000 HR TBO engine. If you are just flying around going into short strips a small VW is fine, but if you are trying to haul 500lbs of junk into the backcountry, dont kid your self.

18. Jul 20, 2015

### ekimneirbo

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First YOU have to decide what you want, and then if its possible to afford a plane that meets those requirements. The Carbon Cub is
an example. Who wouldn't want one of those. But, is it financially feasible for you.........

So now that you have performed a reality check, decide whether you want to be able to fly solo or want room for a passenger.

Now decide what type of materials you will be comfortable working with. Do you need/want a kit or would rather scratch build.

Pick something which has a range of engines that can be used and you can narrow this down as the build progresses.

Now that you have a few choices that you can evaluate, begin searching out people who have built the same airplanes and ask

their opinions. Go to Oshkosh and any other fly in you can make and watch firsthand.

Obviously there are many ways to build your airplane, so final cost can only be estimated over a range
of the choices YOU make. As you go through the evaluation process, you will probably come across

One other thing,many people make their initial selection based on the immediate cost to "jump in" and commit.
Some very good airplanes are often overlooked because the initial cost of buying plans is high. Don't let the
plans cost be the determining factor in your decision. The finished product and the amount of information provided
by higher priced plans may well offset the initial price difference. I have several sets of plans that I have bought
while evaluating airpllanes. I can resell the ones I don't use at a moderate loss. The most detailed plans I have
ever seen are for the Pazmany Storch. The detail and volume of the plans is almost unbelievable. Other good
plans sets include the Bearhawk Patrol and Pegazair. None of them are cheap but when you start building, you
want detailed information.

19. Jul 20, 2015

### ekimneirbo

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I'll never understand the illogical positions that it is acceptable to spend enormous amounts of time building an experimental airplane but unacceptable to power it with anything other than an overly expensive certified engine.....or that a certified engine is inheirantly more reliable than a properly built automotive engine.
Couple the two ideas together and then you have the illogical position that engines which routinely require very expensive annual maintainance in order to stay running are more reliable than engines which routinely operate in every extreme climate from the parched deserts to frozen tundras, often with minimal maintaince and seldom have mechanical issues. There are a whole myriad of problems which are inheirant to air cooled opposed aircraft engines but the proponents of those engines try to make it
sound as if they are the "holy grail" of mechanical achievement. They aren't.......Certified engines have more issues per mile than most any newer design auto engine......they just receive more maintaince to keep them going. All those replacement cylinders are a very lucrative market for the aircraft industry. It wouldn't be too far from the truth to say "if you have ever owned/operated a certified engine for any length of time, you have bought a replacement cylinder". I'm sure there are exceptions
but for the large majority of owners I believe there is some truth there.

20. Jul 20, 2015

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