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ToddK

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It occurred to me a few days ago, that much of what I thought I wanted going into aviation has turned out to be either foolish, or just not really desirable.

1.) I thought I wanted to build an airplane and learn to fly it. That turned out to be the dumbest idea on the list. Flight instructors, schools, DPEs are all geared largley around a few easy to fly, reliable, and stable aircraft, from Cessna and Piper. That eco system works for a lot of good reasons, and trying to operate outside it would have been difficult to nearly impossible. Add to that the risk of damaging something you have sent years building, and it's just not worth it.

2.) Folding wings. I think a lot of people have this idea that they will trailer their airplane to the airport, fly it, then trailer it home. To save money. I have never actually seen it happen. Why? Most of the time, the folding and un folding requires dissconecting flight controls, and the removal of fairings, which is a hassel. Typically it seems that most people figure out fairly quickly that the extra time involved in loading and unloading, extensive pre and post flights, and associated rash are just not worth it, and either end up leaving the wings fixed, or keeping then folded inside a hanger.

3.) 4 seat airplanes capable of huge loads, and long range. Lets be honest very few of us will ever fly to alaska with the family and full baggage. In fact most of us will fly alone or with 1 person most of the time. 4 seaters are also much more complicated to build, and require much more power, both of which equal time and money. Why when its going to be just me and the little woman, or one kid? We decided early on that it was a bad idea to fly just me and both kids. Its either all four of us in a rental, or me and one kid.

4.) A high tech EFIS panel. (This is subject change) I really thought I wanted all that. Now, I only see the value in an electronic artificial horizon, and DG, as vacume systems suck... I much perfer the mechanical gauges, where I see the whole envelope at once, vs ribbons.

I have a few others, but am curious about the experiences of others. What have you all learned along the way
 
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trimtab

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Item 1. It's about the journey, and rarely the destination. Aerodynamics and design can only give one the thinnest of margins in terms of performance, and those margins have to be really important to justify the effort alone. Otherwise, making things overlong periods can be satisfying by itself. And there are the (very) rare exceptions: punctuated leaps in performance that only a homebuilder can achieve.

Item 2. Agreed. Few people bother with using their folding wing capability. It's a feature in search of a mission.

Item 3. Agreed. Perhaps half of all homebuilts even see a second occupant during flight aside from satisfying curiosities. Perhaps 90% of flying for 90% of GA pilots is done solo.

Item 4. Really agreed. Nothing to be gained in the panel but pride that the thing looks more fashionable. It's a nerd exercise. People spend all that money for IFR capabilities that 80% of them will not actually even need to use once, another 10% will rarely use to the extent that it will cost thousands of dollars per use amortized out over the life of the vanity panels, and the remaining could do just fine before but again, want to seem fashionable.
 

BJC

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It occurred to me a few days ago, that much of what I thought I wanted going into aviation has turned out to be either foolish, or just not really desirable.

1.) I thought I wanted to build an airplane and learn to fly it. That turned out to be the dumbest idea on the list. Flight instructors, schools, DPEs are all geared largley around a few easy to fly, reliable, and stable aircraft, from Cessna and Piper. That eco system works for a lot of good reasons, and trying to operate outside it would have been difficult to nearly impossible. Add to that the risk of damaging something you have sent years building, and it's just not worth it.
Completely agree. Build for the enjoyment of building.

Would add that the ideal way to learn to fly an airplane would be to go and stay with someone like Greg Koontz or Joe Spencer and fly full time, starting in a tailwheel airplane and progressing through fairly advanced aerobatics. http://www.gkairshows.com/

Learning instruments, navigation, and regulations is a different skill set from learning to fly the airplane.

2.) Folding wings. I think a lot of people have this idea that they will trailer their airplane to the airport, fly it, then trailer it home. To save money. I have never actually seen it happen. Why? Most of the time, the folding and un folding requires dissconecting for controls, and the removal of fairings, which is a tassel. Typically it seems that most people figure out fairly quickly that the extra time involved in loading and unloading, extensive pre and post flights, and associated rash are just not worth it, and either end up leaving the wings fixed, or keeping then folded inside a hanger.
Completely agree, and I own an E-AB with easy-to-fold wings, although that was not a factor in selecting that design.

2.) 4 seat airplanes capable of huge loads, and long range. Lets be honest very few of us will ever fly to alaska with the family and full baggage. In fact most of us will fly alone or with 1 person most of the time. 4 seaters are also much more complicated to build, and equire much more power, both of which equal time and money. Why when its going to be just me and the little woman, or one kid? We decided early on that it was a bad idea to fly just me and both kids. Its either all four of us in a rental, or me and one kid.
Partially Agree. I have flown with three aboard several times. To me, that has not justified the seating capacity. Have also flown coast to coast and have very much appreciated the ability to easily load 250 to 300 pounds in the back.

1. A high tech EFIS panel. (This is subject change) I really thought I wanted all that. Now, I only see the value in an electronic artificial horizon, and DG, as vacume systems suck... I much perfer the mechanical gauges, where I see the whole envelope at once, vs ribbons.
Have previously opined on this in earlier threads here. I like the EFIS. It is cheaper, lighter, and, if you are basic IFR, more reliable. I accept that others disagree. I fly with a VFR-only round gauge panel too.

I have a few others, but am curious about the experiences of others. What have you all learned along the way
If you want to fly, buy. If you want to build, build. If you want to fly for minimum cost, buy a flying homebuilt.

There is no justification for owning an airplane. Do it because you want to, and can do it without negatively impacting others.

Until you have spent some amount of time flying a particular design, you won’t know whether or not you will really like it. The way to find out is to buy what you think that you want; you can sell it later and get something else.

Ignore the aero-snobs who say that they never would own a (name it; tricycle gear airplane, Cessna 150/152, spam can, etc.). They are being honest; they never will own an airplane. Buy that 150 and go flying.


BJC
 

TFF

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It’s the only hobby I know of that participants think they need to offset costs by being useful. They don’t take it at face value as a hobby. It’s an expensive hobby and it’s one of a few that are almost like drug addiction. We also think it needs to be on demand like a service. No time for issues. To me this is like owning a race car, with all those ups and downs. Way more people would be doing it if it was easy to put up with.
 

don january

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ToddK. I thought I'd stop in and give my opinion. Through the years on the Forum I have seen many future builders and pilots debate on just what plane to build or buy. In some cases this went on for months and even years. As a builder I run into the problem of waiting for material that usually boils down to waiting for money but I have learned that there is many many small projects on the build that can be done while waiting. I have seen many builders give up and sell or hang there plane in the rafters because it's true that the waiting at times is overwhelming. It is in my opinion that building a plane is much like a marriage and you must be willing to compromise and to say the least have patients. Many persons say I'm going to fly as fast and cheap as possible and this can be a fatal decision rather a UL or a plane such as mine. As a person who first flew in a plane before I could walk I asked myself is it the thrill of flight I seek or the joy of creating ? If it's just the thrill of flight your after then I would put the thought of building on the back burner and head to the local flying school and get upstairs. It saddens me to see the amount of unfinished aircraft that have been started and then abandoned. To me it all boils down to a soul search of oneself and a hasty decision could be the mistake of your life. FWIW
 

Dana

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I'll disagree about folding wings. When I had my Kolb, I unfolded and folded the wings every time I flew it. Took 10 minutes. I kept it in its enclosed trailer at the airport at the outside tiedown rate, 1/4 the cost of a hangar, not that there were hangars available anyway. In the winter I towed it home and kept it there for free until spring.

There are three other folding wing planes at my home airport, another Kolb, a Kitfox, and an Icon. The Kolb and the Kitfox are stored with wings folded sharing a T-hangar, they wouldn't fit otherwise, I'm not sure about the Icon.

4 seater, not necessarily more complicated but yes, needs a bigger engine and associated operating cost.

Panel, it's about what you want, which is not necessarily what you need.
 

Hephaestus

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Never seen a folding wing system get used other than for retrieval from off airport excursions.

Even the couple that I know fold easily live in hangars. I don't think most people are comfortable or capable when a trailers connected to their vehicle.

4 place is nice but my next aircraft will be single seat. It's 90%+ of my flying...

Panel depends on use. My Mooney just got a massive panel update, but its intended as a IFR cross country machine. No fiki or anything - but fairly reliable way to to get from a to b. I keep saying I'm probably going to grab a challenger next - it wouldn't be useful (however dropping 10-20lbs of old instruments and radios for 2-3lbs of modern electronics is hard to ignore)
 

Topaz

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My ¢2.

Flight training: Yep, don't try and buck the flight-training system. Use their trainers, learn to fly. Then worry about flying your airplane. Or having your airplane at all.

Folding/removable wings: The vast majority of sailplanes in the world live in their trailers. A lot of them go home at the end of the day or the weekend, others live in their trailer at the airport as Dana described. This isn't the exception in the soaring community, it's the norm. And since the removable wings have nothing to do with having an engine, it's not something that has to be specific to soaring. In fact, sailplane wings are generally larger than powerplane wings, which means it ought to be harder on sailplanes, and yet it's still the norm. What's wrong is that so very few powered airplanes have a decent wing-folding or removal mechanism. There's exactly zero excuse for controls that aren't self-connecting, or having to put on fairings after the wings are on, and take them off again when going home. No excuse at all, it's just bad design. If the sailplane community can make use of folding/removable wings and trailers on a "normal" basis, so can powered airplanes. The only difference between them is that you have the towplane bolted to the nose, instead of 200' away on the end of a rope.

Four-place: Never saw a need, myself. It'd be nice, once it a while, I suppose, but it seems a better way to simply rent for the occasional usage, unless you're doing it a lot.

"Glass" panel: I absolutely see that a basic EFI panel, today, is cheaper, lighter, and probably more-reliable than "steam gauges." And yet by far the most enjoyable flying I've done has been with a panel that has steam-gauge ASI, Altimeter, Vario, compass, a short piece of yarn taped to the middle of the canopy, and a hand-held radio. That's it. There are plenty of objective advantages to EFI at this point in time, especially if you do a lot of cross-country flight. But it's by no means necessary if you just want to enjoy flying.
 

Toobuilder

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Autopilot.

When l was learning to fly, my instructor would go on and on about flying a C-210 for long distances on autopilot. I thought he was nuts. That distain stuck with me into my first airplane -my Hiperbipe. This example had a full IFR panel and an autopilot, believe it or not. I promptly stripped the panel down to essentials and the AP was among the first to go. Flew many, many miles hand flying that beast cross country. I'd typically land exhausted due to the noise and sheer effort of maintaining level flight in a nervous, high strung aerobatic biplane -but at least I was doing it like a MAN!

Then the RV-8 showed up with it's full glass panel and very capable autopilot. One ride cross country was all it took to see the utility a good AP delivers. It was an epiphany. So much so that I dug the discarded Hiperbipe AP out of storage and reinstalled it!

I spend most of my flying time straight and level, going somewhere as fast as possible. I consider a good AP almost an essential piece of equipment today.
 

Hot Wings

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. There's exactly zero excuse for controls that aren't self-connecting, or having to put on fairings after the wings are on, and take them off again when going home. No excuse at all, it's just bad design.
To add to this I'd submit that the other step in the procedure - the trailer - is just as much, or maybe more, to blame for not taking advantage of folding wings more than is done. Glider trailers seem to be pretty well thought out but the power plane and ultralight examples are little more than converted boat trailers with some Rube Goldberg additions.

It needs to be a package deal.
 

TFF

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One disconnect on glider and regular plane with folding wings is the airport. Gliders end up going to their club for launch. With TSA and other garbage, you are not going to drive up to any airport and say let me in and they will. Through the gate you are a potential security risk or thief or some fool who might think all he has to do is buy and fly with no training. Unless a tenant or known person, they are not letting you through. It’s like the old Mc D’s commercial. Keep the hot side hot and cold side cold. Keep airplanes on one side and cars in the other side. Unless rural, doubt there are many just will let you in. UL strip is like a a glider club. When you venture away from the club setting, the rules are more strict.
 

gtae07

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1. Agree--unless either (a) you're enough of a wheeler-dealer to buy a certified trainer, do your training, and "flip" it, or (b) you have nearly-free access to someone else's airplane (e.g. friend or family member), in which case maybe use that one. I do intend to eventually do my instrument rating in my RV, but that's because it's what I'd be flying in anyway. And I did my tailwheel signoff in Dad's RV.

2. Topaz covered it well. Folding wings would be nice from a hangar storage aspect but even if I had them it wouldn't save me from the airport drive...

3. I'd sort of like having a four-place around, but I think a multi-way partnership might be a better approach. Should funds permit, wife has already authorized a partnership on a four-seater after the RV is done. That said, I know several people with four-seat homebuilts who really do use the capability regularly.

4. I've flown minimum VFR steam and decent VFR glass in the same airplane (and written about it here a few times). For purely local day VFR flying, not much advantage at all over a tablet with ADS-B. Cross-country is where it really shines, especially with an autopilot, or if you intend to make use of engine monitor capabilities. The data recording abilities are a nice plus as well, if that's important to you for test flying or using something like Savvy Analysis.

The advantages of a modern EFIS and autopilot in cross-country flying are big enough that even my (non-pilot) mom recognized them and demanded the change after a particularly stressful and nerve-wracking trip in deteriorating weather and crowded airspace...
 

Pops

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I know a man that lives 30 miles from the nearest airport and has a Kitfox in a trailer. When he has a weekend free, he takes it to the airport for the weekend and flys as much as he can and then folds the wings and takes it home and put it in the garage. He's happy.

Learn to fly and take the training at least 2 times a week. If needed, save money until you can.

Don't build an airplane to have something to fly. Build because to want to build. Buy an airplane to fly. Don't buy all the airplane you can. Buy an airplane that you can easily afford, so its not a financial burden . You will enjoy it a lot more and your wife will like it a lot more, Win, Win. The reason I don't own a twin. I always liked the Piper Aztec, and if I could afford that, I would like a Beech 18, if I could afford that, I would like a DC-3, etc, etc.

My wife and I are not small, a four seat airplane is a good traveling 2 seat with lots of baggage airplane for us. Have owned four, 4 seat aircraft, (13 total). We have done a lot of traveling all over the U.S. together and she loves to fly. ( She doesn't have a drivers license ). For long trips, an auto-pilot is a must if you don't want to end the day very tired. (Any thing over 8 hrs of flying a day). Its not a decent cross country airplane from A to B unless its at least a 150 mph airplane.

For local flying, anything that will go around the pattern makes me happy. Like the SSSC. Pull it out of the hanger and fly around local and watch the sun set. 3 gph is easy on the pocket. End the day with a smile on your face, and thank God for being able to do it.

Most airplanes are better airplanes than the pilots are pilots. We all are just learning.
 

choppergirl

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You just can't park your airplane at an airport without paying rent through the nose. That's the problem.
Not only do you need to build an airplane, you need to buy some land, grade your airstrip, build some huge buildings to park them in, and then pay taxes on it every year. At $11/hr, it would take me forever (5 years of paychecks at a job I absolutely loathe) to buy some land and hangers and build an airport, because of the aforementioned folding wing PITA which I agree with and don't want. In fact, after thinking on it a long while, I came to the conclusion, you should probably build your airport first, *before* you build an airplane.

Build an airstrip and hanger, have a friend fly in to visit and give you a ride in his airplane, and then buy a used flying ultralight or airplane or fixer-upper or paramotor trike.

Or get a paramotor and a truck bed/little trailer to carry it around in, park it in your garage, and fly it out of parks and random airports or at random locations.

In 5 years, I never flew any of my airplane projects. Building airplanes sux. You lose interest in it fast. I did. Bleh. As thousands of unfinished garage airplane projects probably atest to, I'm not an outlier in that regard.

After I dove deep into researching UAVs, an internet friend bought me an el cheapo $80 gps quadcopter off of Amazon, and now I fly almost every day. Go figure.

He was unsucessfully trying to build airplanes for the last 15 years, and never flew any of them :-/ He bought us both quads at the same time after I got stoked on them, and now he flies almost every day too. I like to think, he's tickled pink now, but wait until we upgrade to something more cutting edge, immersive, punchy, aerobatic, and banging...

You can buy an absolute top of the line quadcopter system for under $1000, take it on the road or on a trip to almost anywhere in the world, in a small ruggetized suitcase, and fly it dang near almost anywhere. Punch the throttle and go straight up and go...~!

Unless you live in an archipeligo or the Alaskan outback, for going between places, use a car. It's cheaper, and there are restaurants and bathrooms and sights to see along the way.

I thought long and hard about it - what do I want to get out of flying? Why do I want to fly? Do I really need to be in the seat of it? Is that absolutely necessary? Do I really need to risk my neck? Do I really need to manhandle around something with a 40 foot folding or detachable wingspan like an ant struggling alone carrying a leaf?

I came to the conclusion that the real reason I wanted to fly, at the very core, was not just to be in motion (you can do that in a car), but was to get out of my comfy zone box and "see more of my planet". All the videos I watched of flying, the guys who were flying in the most stunning gorgeous locations, doing the most bleeding edge crazy flying, were capturing all that footage with a quadcopter. And I was like WTF, why can't I travel and do that to? I got planes and I am not flying, and they got toys and are flying every frigging day.

Instead of thinking about how to scheme and bootstrap and build my way into an airport and an airplane, now I have to completely switch up the mental paradigm to spend my time instead, brainstorming in a notebook of what possible aerial playground I want to adventure to and expedition to to fly it... next... for example, what about that cell tower or water tower 3 miles down the road, or under the local bridge, or down the river, or around an old railroad coaling tower, or along the side of the Army Core of Engineers huge dam? Yeah. I want to do all those.

Stick my quadcopter in the luggage compartment of my motorcycle when the weather is warm, and just... go! Get out of the house, and go...! And don't forget to press record before you fly (which I always do), so you can watch it all again on your home computer when you get back home.

January's paychecks for me will all go into buying the most high end advanced quad system I end up researching and can afford. My thought is, get it right the first time as a late adopter (quads have been out now 5-10 years already and are pretty mature), and you don't end up wasting a bunch of money on incremental quads you'll fly and quickly outgrow. I told myself, if that happens, keep your favorite, and give the ones you don't fly any more away, and this week I held myself to it and gave my first (non-gps) quad away to a kid to introduce him to flying. Over Christmas, he's coming back over and I'll teach and let him fly my gps stabilized quad, it's dead simple to fly and so much easier to learn on.
 
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Tony Spezio

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I have to disagree about folding wings. I could have my Tuholer ready for flight in about ten minuets. I towed it to the airport from my house on it's gear. I could not afford hanger rent.49898440_1243269885820231_1662474732387172352_n.jpg , flew and took it back home in the garage.I used to fly almost every weekend the 16 years I owned her. Would make it a point to fly on New Year's day each year.
 

Saville

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Regarding folding wings:

Why hasn't the old Grumman folding system where you fold the wings along the fuselage, caught on?
It didn't seem as if you has to disconnect the aileron controls. Is that because they were cables?

Heavy?

Expensive?

Complicated to build?
 

BJC

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If you mean this one
518385DD-D8BE-4AFE-BAAA-BB68181C68B1.jpeg to do something similar in an E-AB, would be complex to build, heavy, would requires hydraulic (or electric) power, and would complicate the fuel system.

There are systems, such as used on the T-18/S-18, that manually rotate the wing and fold it back along the fuselage. Those turn the LE up, which eases the fuel system issues. T-18’s, per design, use a fuel tank in the fuselage, but some have been built with wing tanks. BTW, if you want to see what drawings of a professional airframe design look like, get a set of T-18 plans.

There are various schemes for connecting controls. Look at BoKu’s HP-24 to see a clever way.


BJC
 

Hot Wings

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to do something similar in an E-AB, would be complex to build, heavy, would requires hydraulic (or electric) power, and would complicate the fuel system.
Disagree on the power. Agree on most of the rest.
I've worked through this for a part 103 wing and the big complicating factor is the out of plane hinge points compared to a normal vertical "I" beam type spar. Works out a lot better with a wide box spar.

It is a very attractive fold design from the operational and packaging points of view.
 
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