Frequently asked questions answered by
Michael Bowes with help from the entire build crew.
Check back often for new answers to new questions.
When considering the purchase of any kit
aircraft what things should I be concerned with?
Selecting the type is going to be your personal decision based on such things as intended mission, reputation, personal finances, piloting skill level, etc. Once you select type, I would say the three biggest considerations are time, money and insurance. Carefully examine all three.
What about time considerations when
building an experimental aircraft?
Generally speaking, it always takes longer to build the airplane than manufacturerís literature claims. In some cases up to 100% longer is not unheard of. Think about where this time is going to come from. The larger, complex fiberglass planes take four and five thousand hours to completely finish. 2000 hours represents full-time work for one man for a full year. If you build it yourself and hold down a full-time job, the airplane is going to devour many evenings and weekends. Can your social relationships withstand that kind of impact? Something like 50% of aircraft starts, are never completed by the original purchaser. Too many of these go down in the flames of divorce. When it comes to the time factor, this is where we can provide a real service to you. You can be flying your new airplane a year from now and still have her sitting beside you.
How do you charge for your services and
what costs are involved in the build?
Like many assistance shops we simply charge by the man-hour. The more you do, the less we have to do. The cumulative monthly total for each employee on each airplane is recorded and invoiced for labor cost on a month-by-month basis. Materials and other items like resin, paint & supplies, for example, are tallied and invoiced each month as well. Rule of thumb with kit planes is double the cost of the kit and that will approximately cover the cost of the items that donít come with an airframe kit. Major items like engine, prop, avionics, flight instruments, paint, upholstery, wiring, breakers and switches are not usually included with kits. We can provide a tremendous service here in directing you to reliable and correct sources of supply. If you are serious about having a kit airplane built for you in this shop, call us and we'll talk about a time line and the shop rate.
I hadnít thought about insurance, yet.
What is the issue here?
There is a very big issue here. Be aware that only a handful of companies will even write a policy on an Experimental and all are becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to deal with. You will find on many types that hull insurance is no longer available or outrageously expensive. Liability coverage may be limited too. Many owners are placing the aircraft into an LLC. If you canít get insurance it means you canít get a loan. If you canít get insurance, it means that a prospective buyer of your finished airplane canít get a loan either. This makes the commodity extremely difficult to sell. Just a word of caution. Donít rely entirely on manufacturerís claims. They tend to paint you a picture of blue sky and roses. Ask them for a list of other owners so that you may contact them and get the perspective from ďdown in the trenchesĒ. This view is often vastly different from the polished spinner, everyone in matching uniforms, trade show impression that some buyers might base their purchasing decision on. Building shops, like Planemakers,Inc., scattered all over the country, are another great resource when you seek the inside story on what ownership of a particular type is really all about. There are some really great airplanes out there, hence the spectacular growth of the entire Experimental industry. Alas, there are some roaches on the flight line, too. Obviously, there is a limit to what can be said on a public website such as this. Practice some due diligence before pulling out the old checkbook. And make some phone calls. If I canít answer your question, I can probably direct you to someone who can.
What is the difference between
custom-built and amateur-built?
I would say no difference at all. Both kit and plans-built aircraft go by many names interchangeably. Experimental category, amateur-built, home-built, custom-built all mean pretty much the same thing. By regulation they all require the owner builder to do at least 51% of the construction work. If this basic requirement cannot be met, the aircraft may be subject to certain more restrictive FAA documentation that essentially limits the final use to display and exhibition purposes only. We have never had an incident of this type of airworthiness restriction happening in our history. I have heard of it happening elsewhere. Be careful who you deal with.
If I buy a kit airplane that has been
started by someone else, what is the FAAís position on the work already
Letís face it, this event happens every day. The reasons why people stop building their dream and sell it to the highest bidder are many, varied and personal. The reason doesnít matter in the eyes of the FAA. Basically, you assume the work done by others, and the FAA simply accepts it as done by you. Plain and simple, it is the easiest way to deal with this common situation from a less-paperwork standpoint. You donít have to bribe, explain, convince or document. And, so long as the aircraft has not been previously inspected and documented under someone elseís name, you can apply for a Repairmanís certificate for the finished airplane after the 25 hours of testing have been flown off.
If I donít have a Repairmanís
certificate for the airplane, how do I get it inspected?
Perhaps you donít know one end of a wrench from the other. If you donít have it because you just donít want to have It, or canít have one because you bought a plane completed by someone else, you have few options. You can get the original builder to inspect it, only if he/she bothered to get a Repairmanís certificate for the aircraft. Failing that possibility, your only alternative is to have a licensed A&P do the annual condition inspection. You may have to look long and hard to find such an individual. Many shy away from Experimentals citing liability issues and lack of a properly written maintenance manual as the reasons they will never have any interest.
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