Homebuilt dream sheet

I like homebuilt aircraft the same way I'm intrigued by homemade beer. It's sort of going back to the way things started, perhaps even the way they're supposed to be. Just like Charlemagne himself is supposed to have brewed his own concoction, the Wright Brothers (by necessity in their case) also began from scratch to build something--anything--that would fly.

Except in homebuilding an aircraft, throwing away a "batch" when you jack something up is costly, in time and money. This is something both home brewers and homebuilders do routinely.

I’ve tried my hand at both, and have found that I will never brew again but might try building again. Brewing is too fussy for me, and apart from only turning out apricot flavored beer whether porter, ale, or IPA, it feels too scientific anyway. The homebuild that I tried was a Wittman Tailwind which I tried almost as much as a cure for boredom as a love of the design. Teaching myself to weld was fun but scratch building a plane I had never flown just didn’t feel right, and I abandoned the certain 10-year project before I really got down to measuring and cutting some really nice German steel.

Indeed, I think one reason homebuilders enjoy their craft is akin to the reason homebrewers have a love of theirs--your passion, your way. And then there’s the issue of the selection, which is fairly scant if you are looking for something other than a four-place, Lycoming-powered, Cessna or Piper, don't want to spend half a million bucks to get it, and almost as much to maintain it. Still, if money was no option, these days a nice 210N would fit the family bill just right. 

After my abortive project, I think my next attempt would be composites or covering a nearly-finished project, or even scratch building a one-off design. EAA’s Solidworks access might make that feel like a breeze compared to what Steve Wittman or John Monnet went through to make their iconic designs.

So, then, the options are about as limitless as someone's imagination. I'd love to meet the guy who designed something like the Dyke Delta, and then to everyone who has built one and pick their brains about what they love about it.

Then there are the warbird replicas, and I'm not just talking about the Thunder Mustang and the like, but rather World War I warbirds, perhaps the most detailed of which are the Sopwiths and Fokkers by the Vintage Aviators (simply awesome). The Pietenpol Aircamper is a great, inexpensive flyer with those vintage bloodlines. 

EAA's nearly exhaustive list of experimental types runs the gamut of Cubs, jets, turboprops, bush planes, and amphibious types, not to mention the host of ultralights that I have never before considered flying (although many do). Truly there is something for every mission.

Me, I love the Rutan designs and the Glasairs. The former are just look awesome and are amazingly fast yet sip gas. Many places on the Cafe 400 winner board are a VariEzes clocking in at over 150 mph and as much as 49 mpg!! Talk about fuel efficient.

With a large and growing family, I would need a six place, but alas, those are rare birds in the homebuilt world. Compair’s turboprop is intriguing but not as fast as I’d like to go on that consumption, and the Epic LT looks to be forever out of my price range. The Stallion would have been awesome but they’re defunct, and the Morrison 6 would be likewise great if they can really make something of it (and who actually uses an IO-720??). 

If not a family hauler, then, there is always the Glasair III. More expensive to build and operate, it nevertheless offers a ridiculous 260 knots, is fully aerobatic and has racing blood, both things I would love to incorporate into my mission set. I know a kid or two who love tooling around with me...

I know I've only hit my highlights, and there are many, many others, and truly this is the greatness of homebuilding--pick a design or make a design, there is almost surely something to suit your tastes and needs. Meanwhile, I’ll keep buying my beer at the store. 


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