The Business side of Homebuilt Aircraft

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Floydr92

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Hi all, wondering who on here is on the business side of the homebuilt aircraft industry?

I'm tempted to start a business based primarily around the most simple of my designs: the modular SDDR/pt103/microlight/possibly motor glider design. The design has not gone through detailed design and is all so far preliminary design, but i am thinking of employing a couple of engineers at this stage to help speed up the process and leasing an industrial unit to get started.

The problem here is obviously that the business will be a money pit for the first few years, and wont turn over a penny/cent. Having engineers on the payroll obviously could help matters doing consulting etc, but i still expect this venture to cost several hundred thousand.

Just generally looking for some advice regarding this, it's difficult to compare to other industries and the typical 'start your own business' government websites have little relevant information...i've started a business with their assistance in the past (joinery and property development) but would be looking to sell it if and when my aircraft engineering business starts turning a profit.

Should be noted that i have more business experience than i do engineering experience, and although i'm not yet a qualified engineer, i can employ one (or 2) to do the detailed design and production design work rather than waiting till i'm fully qualified to start.

All help and advice is greatly appreciated.
 

timberwolf8199

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If you're talking about selling a whole aircraft/kit/plans (as opposed to a support or component product)...it's a saturated and mature market so you need to have either a niche product or a disruptive product to expect any large success. Otherwise, I hope you're doing it for the love of it and are content eeking out a living.
 

cheapracer

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...it's a saturated and mature market
Yeah and? What product isn't? Yet many new start ups succeed (intelligent ones).


have either a niche product or a disruptive product to expect any success.
Niche can work but you usually have to be "somebody" to bring it along, or employ somebody who is somebody. Lots of hard yards ahead of you.

Disruptive is the one, either simpler and differently better or cheaper - or all 3. Disruptive is also a lot cheaper for marketing as you will be noticed, if you're disruptive enough.


Frankly, if you're an engineer with business saavy you'd be far better served looking at another market (i.e. non-aviation). :)
I see more holes in aviation to be filled than nearly any other market I've investigated. there's huge opportunities.
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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Every market has opportunities. Gotta do the cost analysis and see if the risk is worth the reward.

Assuming you were to go ahead, I'd hire an engineer to consult on the primary design side, come up with the views and some structural outlines, but then hire a CAD designer for a few months long contract to do the detailed nuts and bolts side of the modeling or drafting. While plenty of engineers are familiar with CAD, and some are quite capable at using it, my experience says the smart money is hire a guy who lives and breathes modeling to actually do the CAD, even if he or she doesn't have a lot of aircraft experience. We don't charge engineering prices usually, and we are quick to boot.

I'm not trying to start any kind of profession war, so lets just not get into it. Obviously many people with various titles and experiences can be quality CAD jockeys and do quality engineering work and so on. But there's a reason at most any firm, the CAD jockeys are a completely separate role from the Engineers.

In my view, an engineering trained individual may start to agonize over details in the CAD stage (I know I do); a draftsman will model exactly what you want without going off and second guessing it, and then you just have to go back and forth with the details and your engineer to find a solution.

That'd be how I budget it anyway.

Might be able to go other ways about it.
 

Twodeaddogs

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quite often, it's the business of supplying parts or services that make money in aviation, not the manufacture and sale of whole aircraft. It's a bit like with car manufacture; mass production of cheap cars means that the base car is relatively cheap to build and sell but it's the estimated ten years of spare parts and associated services for all of those cars that really makes money. Look at all the peripheral industries that supply parts and services for GA aircraft, such as after -market seats and trim, maintenance, flying, ferrying, painting, airfields, tourism, parachuting, banner towing,etc,etc...
 

Floydr92

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Appreciate the responses so far.

The aircraft is to be cheaper than a similar class (composite fixed wing light single seater) due to the modularity. Using 90% of the same components throughout all itterations. The high wing and low wing all use the same fuselage and inner wing sections. 3 landing gear options...tri gear, tail dragger and floats. High wing Tail dragger with bush tyres and it fits one persons preference, others might want a sporty tri-gear low wing, or a high wing on floats.

All the same core components, meaning higher production levels of each individual component (in theory).

All to come stock with a serial hybrid 4 stroke, the batteries and placement of them actually allows the same fuselage to be used for boh high and low wing with both looking nice, as the wing is further back than normal giving better vertical visibility in the high wing version and better ground visibility in the low wing.

Also to fit several sets of legislation depending on where in the world the customer is...the only difference here will be the outer wing panels.

Now, nobody steal my idea! Haha
 

Floydr92

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I should also add that as i'm UK based, SSDR will be my primary focus, as far as i can see that market is not very saturated, given that there are only 3 or 4 companies selling SSDR's, and only one of which was built for that market, which my design will out perform in almost every aspect at half the price, or more. And i'll be bringing effectively 6 aircraft to that market.
 

D Hillberg

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lost it at 'hybrid' and multiple wing locations.

carry through structures are expensive if you use 3 different types tooling will eat your $$$$$$$

and an unproven power plant combination will kill the project. you need a simple proven engine , derated is best.

Keep it simple stupid - KISS rule.
 

TFF

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People love to window shop. Buyers buy tried and true. If you want your different airplane to be successful, you have to make it regular. It is what Pitts did with the Special, Rutan did with the Easys and it is what VanG did with the RVs. Glasairs, Lancairs, kit foxes, are the same. Cool designs do not sell. They have to be detoxed to be successful. it means you have to be the great PR person with your finished product. That or sell a number Icon to maybe one day get one.
 

Pops

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We had a aviation business for several years. It was growing each year and the last year we had a opportunity to expand the business by 3 or 4 times. I guessed correctly on the economy and sold out to another company just at the correct time. Gov wanted the company to expand and relocate to the southern border which was about 1/2 of the business before any expansion. I really miss the business, but we made the correct decision at the time.

Dan
 

fredoyster

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If you are to make it a business, you start from the business end. But the project you have described is not a few hundred thousand, it's a few tens of millions. You may intend to make multiple variants, but keep that a secret at first. You have fifteen seconds to make someone interested, pick one design and do that. And, if you have a serial hybrid design that will power an SSDR, that by itself would be an excellent market entry. Do you, really? You don't need to be a certified engineer, but you do need to start with some sketches. 300 kg max AUW, 100 kg for the pilot, means 200 kg for the airframe and powerplant, which you have defined as being a 4-stroke internal combustion engine, a generator, a motor, controller, battery system and batteries. Hm. We'd love to see that! Any engineering team that can produce that can probably name its price in the industry.
 

Floydr92

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If you are to make it a business, you start from the business end. But the project you have described is not a few hundred thousand, it's a few tens of millions. You may intend to make multiple variants, but keep that a secret at first. You have fifteen seconds to make someone interested, pick one design and do that. And, if you have a serial hybrid design that will power an SSDR, that by itself would be an excellent market entry. Do you, really? You don't need to be a certified engineer, but you do need to start with some sketches. 300 kg max AUW, 100 kg for the pilot, means 200 kg for the airframe and powerplant, which you have defined as being a 4-stroke internal combustion engine, a generator, a motor, controller, battery system and batteries. Hm. We'd love to see that! Any engineering team that can produce that can probably name its price in the industry.
With serial hybrid the motor is the generator, the alternator is now redundant and so is the starter motor. The electric motor in question weighs 4kg and provides peak power of 10kw, meaning a smaller 4 stroke can be used as the electric motor is like a buffer, it gives extra torque when required and takes it back when its not.
 

BJC

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Anyone here have a good figure for the cost in calendar time, total man-hours and total dollars for Van's to develop the RV-12?


BJC
 

Floydr92

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Anyone here have a good figure for the cost in calendar time, total man-hours and total dollars for Van's to develop the RV-12?


BJC
Might be a better idea to compare to something like a SD1-minisport, or minimax...similar size and flight envolope
 

BJC

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Might be a better idea to compare to something like a SD1-minisport, or minimax...similar size and flight envolope
The RV-12 is similar in many respects to other designs previously done by Vans, using known materials, methods, engine, propeller, instruments and accessories. It should have been very straight forward, but they missed a couple of performance parameters and spent more time and, presumably, other resources than expected. Their engineering investment would be interesting to know.


BJC
 

Floydr92

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How much thrust will your powerplant make? How much do you need?
Powerplant hasn't been developed yet, but will be an off the shelf engine with an off the shelf motor coupled to it.

Aiming for static thrust of 1300N, or approx 300lbs...estimate that to require around 40hp which gives a nice rate of climb. 12hp of that can come from the electric motor on takeoff so realistically need a 30hp engine.
 
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