Kit Aircraft

I've long been interested in building my own aircraft and still hope to do so someday. I've always had a shop, and I have a long history of working with my hands. I've learned a wide range of skills over the years and building my own aircraft seems like a logical culmination of these skills and interests.

Here is a brief list of the top homebuilt / kit aircraft that are most interesting to me to build based on a combination of design, mission, quality, price and value.

This is a very interesting all metal, high-wing, tail-wheel or nose-wheel, side-by-side aircraft. A lot of thought went into the baggage area so that it is truly usable (a good way to bring along my folding eBikes and/or my hiking and camping gear). It also supports a range of engines ranging 100 to 180 HP. The most attractive engine from my perspective is the turbocharged Rotax 915iS. The end result is a very capable yet affordable backcountry aircraft that is also a decent cruiser. This is my idea of the perfect complement to the typical 4-place nose-wheel rental aircraft since it is suited for missions that are not usually possible, or allowed, in rental aircraft (namely, fly in and out of very short and/or non-paved backcountry strips).

(I have not had the chance to fly this model of aircraft yet. But I was able to take a very close look at the aircraft at Oshkosh 2019. And from what I've seen I am very impressed with the design and implementation.)

With over 10,000 kits flying Van's Aircraft is clearly the kit aircraft industry leader. They make solid, well-proven kits that perform well. I believe that the 7A and 9A best fit the type of flying that I would expect to do in a Van's.

(I have not had the chance to fly this model of aircraft yet.)

The VL3 is a very sleek and efficient 2-seat aircraft. It manages to squeak out incredible performance using either the Rotax 912 ULS or 914 turbo-charged engine. With the Rotax 914 engine it claims: 490 feet for takeoff or landing ground roll, 1200 FPM climb rate, 18,000 feet maximum operating altitude, 165 kts cruise speed, and a 29 kts stall speed.

(I got a chance to fly the VL3, with the 912 engine, out of 51WI during Oshkosh 2019. I was impressed by its performance, efficiency, stability, and soft/short field capability. It's a very interesting and compelling combination.

Update: March, 2020: The Rotax 915 iS engine is now an option for the VL3. This results in a nearly 200 KTAS cruise speed at 12,000' burning approximately 9 gph of 91 octane car gas.)

When I'm in the mood to fly rotorcraft I dream of building and flying one of these fine aircraft. You can build one for about the same price as an airplane kit, and the maintenance is similar as well. This makes them much more affordable to own and operate than a helicopter. And the fact that they are always in autorotation mode makes them safer too.

Just announced this week at Oshkosh 2019, the Cavalon has been granted a type certificate by the FAA and may now be sold as a production aircraft in the US. It is also now being built with the Rotax 915iS engine and constant speed prop. This greatly improves the performance of the aircraft, which is always welcome in gyros since they present considerable drag.

(I have flown the Cavalon a number of times. I even passed my gyroplane proficiency check — for my sport pilot gyroplane privileges — in a Cavalon. As of Oshkosh 2019 the Cavalon is now available as a certified aircraft and it comes standard with the Rotax 915iS engine and constant speed prop.)

This is a 4-place helicopter kit based on a certified design, with a host of features typically found on much more expensive helicopters. I would really like to visit the factory to tour their facilities and to take a demo flight in this aircraft. It sounds like a very appealing kit and it would be interesting to experience it first-hand.

(I have not had the chance to fly this model of aircraft yet.)

[Although intriguing, both variants of this aircraft are out of the running for now. See notes below.]

The SubSonex is an affordable homebuilt jet! It will cruise at 200 kts, and will do aerobatics (when in the appropriate W&B range, of course). One of its biggest drawback is that it is a single seater. But hey, it's an affordable jet. How cool is that!

But wait ... this just in as of July 10, 2019 ... Sonex has announced the JSX-2T, a two-seat version of the SubSonex! This addresses the single-seat problem. Now you can take a friend with you in your private jet!

(I have not had the chance to fly either model of this aircraft yet. But I did attend talks about both versions — and had the opportunity to speak with a very experienced owner/builder of the single-seat version — at Oshkosh 2019. Unfortunately, the owner/builder confirmed that although the jet is truly fun, it serves no practical purpose given its current design limitations. Mainly, it's extremely limited flight time and range due to it's limited useful load and therefore limited fuel capacity. I'm hoping that these and other issues will be addressed over time.)