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Home Built Airplanes

June 14, 2011

Home-built Airplanes


The first home-built aircraft airplane that flew in 1903 was created by the Wright Brothers, as the sport of flying begin to grow people were building their own amateur airplanes that were in the National Air Races. Varies material can be used to construct an airplane such as wood with fabric, wood with composite, metal, full composite material could form a plane, also some important advances of home-built airplane would be the lower cost to build verse buying, reduce maintenance fees, upgraded avionics that do not have to be certified, premade kits that can be purchased to reduce build time, design errors. Due to time that it may take to build airplane people may sell prebuilt kit planes for lower cost that the kit may have cost, as long as the kit is less than 49 percent completed you could request a repairman certificate that will allow you to perform inspections, maintenance, major overhauls without paying a licenses mechanic. Burt Rutan built, flown, and funded the first home-built aircraft to enter space. There a lot of different types of amateur aircraft most of the high wing taildraggers are modeled after the J-3 Piper Cub.


Two brothers in the early 1900’s decided to that they wanted to fly through the air like the birds they observed daily. They were just two guys that owned, sold, and repaired bicycles for a living, much like the aircraft home builders of today. On December 17, 1903 was the first successful flight of an airplane that was the birth of aviation. As more and more people began to achieve the goal of flight, around 1930’s aircraft builders wanted to have a competition for the fast plane. The National Air Races brought more to discover aviation which was the beginning of the factory built aircraft. At that time in age only the rich could afford a civil aircraft, so amateur airplane build began to decrease. It wasn’t until the middle 1950’s that home-built airplane started to gain popularity with the general public. Between the 1940’s and 1950’s new groups began to form such as Ultralight Aircraft Association and Experimental Aircraft Association. “Ah, but there’s something in the air. While airplane factories were in decline, the kit plane industry was taking off. Kit planes, because they are owner-built, are not subject to the same liability and certification constraints. Leading companies now offer kit models that vie with factory-builts in terms of quality and features” (Gaffney, T. March 1995. Kit planes take off.  Popular Science, 246, n3. p.90).


Over the years from the first home-built airplane the material has changed to suit the builder and design of the aircraft. The Wright Flyer was constructed from spruce wood and fabric. Experimental aircraft still use this material because the cost is relatively cheap compared to all other materials. It is one of the easiest way to produce an aircraft. You would build the frame of the aircraft, then wrap the airplane like mattress on a bed, sew the fabric to make one tight piece, and apply epoxy resin to harden it. Due to Fabric airplane deteriorate in the weather wood and composite airplane started to be built. The aircraft framing would still be Stika spruce, or Douglas fur just like the earliest airplane. Instead of wrapping with fabric you would use different types of fiberglass, or carbon fiber for its strength. Today Cub Crafters manufacture copy of the J-3 Piper Cub that are fully carbon fiber. Building a wood and carbon fiber airplane requires more skill than a fiberglass aircraft, therefore making most composite home-built fiberglass. Home builders want airplane that look more like modern aircraft, so metal airplane are popular with builders. Builders sometimes weld or purchase a welded birdcage the frame of the aircraft as metal, then they will wrap the plane in the desired material. A fully metal airplane are on of the most durably aircraft for the cost of production. Metal airplanes are easier to repair if the builder makes a mistake during the constructing phase. The builder will have to purchase more expensive tools, learn harder trade, but that is the price for an airplane that will out last the builder. A full composite airplane is probably the lightest, and strongest type of materials available to the civil public today. A lighter airplane mean more climb performance, longer range of distance, less fuel burn, faster top speed, and cruise speed. The full composite airplane is the most expensive airplane to build and proves to very safe to fly in instrument weather condition. “Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft inc has introduced the Glasair 3-LP, a private kit-built airplane with verified lightning protection”(Aviation Week & Space Technology. 139.7. 1993). The innovative safety design’s many components include a thin conductive aluminum-foil layer covering the composite airframe On an average the initial cost increase about four times. When purchasing an aircraft you will have the material chosen by the manufacture.

Costs and Kits

The most important thing to any one that plans on building or purchasing a plane would be cost. Besides the initial cost you will have to think about the operating cost, maintenance cost, storage cost, insurance cost and unforeseen events. “The number of companies that build quality home-made aircraft has grown in recent years as demand for the kits has also increased. Kits by H-1 Racer, Velocity Aircrat , Aeorcar, Microjet and Seawind allow enthusiasts to build their own planes, which cost between $13,000 and $185,000” (Calonius, E. Nov 9, 1998. Experimental Airplanes: On A Wing And A Prayer. Fortune, p.180). When building an experimental airplane, you as the builder has the last word on those different cost. If the builder builds a plane from scratch, purchase a kit, or buy an unfinished airplane that is less than 49% completed, the builder may apply for a repairman certificate. This certificate allows the builder/owner to perform inspections, major maintenance, and alterations to the aircraft without excruciating process that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) does for certified aircraft. A FAA certified airplane has to have an annual performed yearly on the engine, airframe, pitot static systems, electrical systems, and avionics systems. Theses inspections could cost from the lowest of 1,000 dollars up to 100,000 dollars depending on the aircraft. If the airplane does not comply with this inspection it will be ground until the deficiency are corrected. On an experimental has an annal inspection that is similar but not as in-depth. The inspection is called an annual compliance inspection, that is preformed by IA (inspector aircraft) that main looks at the safety of flight. Any maintenance discrepancies can be fix by the repairman of the aircraft. Home builders and kit-plane manufacture have designed an option of folding wings. This idea has been around since the earliest aircraft used on naval ship due to space. No certified airplane has this concept applied, because most people store their airplane at airfield’s ramp of in a hangar. S50 Auburn Municipal Airport fees for monthly ramp parking are 50 dollars, carport open hanger is staring 250 dollars monthly, and cheapest enclosed hanger 500 dollars monthly. Experiment aircraft with folding wing can be place on a trailer after use and transported to a storage facilities, or home garage for the lowest storage cost. If you location changes you will not have flown of ferried your airplane to new location, it can be towed anywhere. Depending on the type of aircraft the operational cost is predetermine by the manufacturer, can be limited to change by the operator due the rules set by the FAA. When deciding to build your plane, the builder has the choice of operational cost by the engine that, and airframe design. Most affordable home-built use auto engine, therefore reducing cost by, using auto fuel instead of low lead 100 that usually three dollars more a gallon, and auto engines are quarter of the cost of certified aircraft engine.


Overall experimental aircraft have a huge advance of factory certified airplanes, due to lower initial cost, operating cost, maintenance cost, and storage cost. Safety should be one of the major concern for all pilots, therefore the builder should pursue research on the plane that will be constructed. “The emergence of home-built planes is traced to the proliferation of enormous negative product liability judgments and wrong marketing moves that increased the price of mass-produced light planes. The number of home-built planes flying in the US in 1994 is more than double the number 10 years before” (The New York Times Magazine, p.40. Retrieved June 13, 2011). Setting goals, hard work, patience, will be some essential to your building process of your airplane. Overall the builder of an experimental aircraft has the all available resources that factory built aircraft manufacturers have, but this resources comes with a cost. Most certified airplane owners trade, lease back, or sale their airplane because the airplane does not fit them, but home builders enjoy their airplane for a lifetime.


Kit-built aircraft provides verified lightning protection.  August 16, 1993 v139 n7 p80(1)Aviation Week & Space Technology, 139, n7. p.80(1). Retrieved June 13, 2011, from Expanded Academic ASAP via Gale:

Meisler, A. (May 22, 1994 p40 col 2 (10 col). Build them, fly them.  The New York Times

Magazine, p.40. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from Expanded Academic ASAP via Gale:

Calonius, E. (Nov 9, 1998). Experimental Airplanes: On A Wing And A Prayer. (companies that provide kits for people to build their own airplanes).  Fortune, p.180(1). Retrieved June 13, 2011, from Expanded Academic ASAP via Gale:

Gaffney, T. (March 1995). Kit planes take off.  Popular Science, 246, n3. p.90(7). Retrieved June 13, 2011, from Expanded Academic ASAP via Gale:


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