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Thread: The best hombuilt ?

  1. #1

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    The best hombuilt ?

    I was looikng at a Sport Aviation ariticle about rebuilding a RV-1, Richard's first airplane. I got to thinking and it dawned on me WHICH IS THE BEST HOMEBUILT? and I think the anwere is the RVs. Not just one RV, but the total of them. Now before you go off the deep end and tell me how stupid I am and how great some exotic product of a discontented and demented another would- be engineer is, stop and think. Sure everyone might have their personal favorite, there's no accounting for taste, some might say some weird looking Rutan design is best, or whatever is the fastest at Reno, or which runs on electricity.

    But if we accept sort of a general category for judging homebuilts: that the design needs to result in a real airplane, one that actually has been built by many if not most people,and really flies and does so with a reasonable degree of safety and usefulness, and maybe retains some major part of it's value if and when the owner is ready to sell it.

    I think the RV s have done this better than anyone, there are about 6500 flying. I am not really a homebuilt expert, so what do you guys think? And if the RV is first, as I feel it is, then what are the next 3 0r 4 best? Perhaps Lancair, high performance, good looks, but harder to build and fly. Glassair the same. And I think some Pitts were homebuilt, were they not, so those would be up there since there are a lot of them and it is such a foundation of acro. There's all the gorgeous baby fighters. but often hard to build and not easy to fly. Of course, everyone drooled over and admired the Hughes H-1 racer, but it would not fit any of the broader crtiereia.

    I 'd like to hear others ideas, but please stay in the spirit of the premise, not as far out on a limb as you can go. And I am only asking about homebuilts, either from kit or plans, that are actually flying, not the next wonder whiz desgn.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 03-29-2012 at 12:54 PM.

  2. #2
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    I would agree with you on the RV series, even though I've never had the chance to get behind the controls of one. I think they are quite neat little planes and their success is a testament to the utility of the design and relative ease of the build. Like anything else, there's room for improvement but for what they are, they are probably the best design currently on the market. Now once I start selling plans for my KA-1 Vireo, we'll see about that......
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  3. #3
    Eric Witherspoon's Avatar
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    No doubt the RV series has the most sold / most built at this point, but consider every model except the -12 was available before LSA entered into the picture. Of course, being the leader before a new "class" is developed is arguably the best position to be in to be able to capture that new / expanded market.

    But I would say, hold on, give it some time -there's some LSA-compliant designs that are pretty popular. And the determination of "best" might need to include a couple more criteria aside from "market leader", especially given the creation of the LSA category, the aging of the pilot population, the increasing costs to build an RV, the decline of the economy in general (and resulting reluctance of the flying population to 1) make as many flights 2) have so much resource tied up in an airplane) - so as time goes on, LSA-compliant designs may become the market leader. In terms of type-certified deliveries over the past few years, this is already most certainly the case.

    However, it is interesting to note that the RV's were available before the Rutan Revolution and ensuing flood of composite-based airframes entered (and largely departed) the market. So I'd say, in the big, long run that metal designs are the overall winner for all time. In addition, the additional skills to cut tubes, weld metal, and apply fabric, though I believe these can result in more weight-efficient airframes in the 1 to 2-seat size range, keep a lot of people from pursuing those build methods.

    As such, not only are metal designs the all-time winner, but riveted metal rather than tube-and-fabric are the overall winner.

    As far as RV's creating a market for related businesses (custom seat makers, an RV-specific kit delivery service, panel makers/designers, aftermarket parts suppliers, RV-centric tool companies, etc.), the impact can not be denied. There is no other line of aircraft that has created such an economic force behind it. Oh, and don't forget RV-specific transition training. Probably no other design offers so many with the LODA (permission) to hire out their homebuilts for transition training.

    So right now, today, I'd say RV falls into categories of most out there, most influential, most economic impact. But longer term, keep an eye on those LSA-compliant designs, in particular those working in riveted Aluminum. More specifically, blind riveted aluminum. Why? Because not only are there going to be a LOT of pilots in the future either "working their way up" by way of a Sport Pilot certificate, but also a LOT of pilots "easing their way down" by way of Sport Pilot operating privileges. Why do the LSA-compliant designs use blind rivets rather than driven? In no small part, because the performance of the aircraft doesn't justify countersunk driven rivets. But a BIG additional benefit of this type of construction is speed, tooling, and skills. No bucking skills necessary. No rivet guns, rivet sets, or bucking bars to buy and learn how to use. And blind rivets are quick. Sure, driven rivets can be quick as well - so speed may not be such an advantage.

    But blind riveting is a MUCH QUIETER activity - leading these to be easily built in a garage without disturbing the rest of the house (ok, there's still air compressor noise, but there's ways to make that work). Also, blind riveting does not require a second person for either bucking or driving - it's all single-sided, easy for one person to handle alone.

    So, which design(s) fit the above? I'd say product from Sonex is a leader, though the Zenith line also is right up there. Ok, I'm biased (see the avatar photo), but another thing to consider with the Sonex product line (since I'm familiar with it) is completion percentage. Their completion percentage is EXCELLENT by homebuilt standards. I believe the CW on this is roughly 10% of a design eventually flies. Well, Sonex is already over 20% flying, and they are still actively selling many more, so it will be many years before that percentage rises - though as time goes on, and more and more partial completions, sets of plans, or unfinished kit builds find their way to the owners that complete them, maybe looking at completion percentage for a given (older) serial number range might be more informative. On the plus side, Sonex openly presents all this information on their website. It would take some digging to put together, but they list every completion (that is reported to them). So when they say 350 flying - there's names, locations, serial numbers, dates, and where provided, photos. It's not a made-up number like so many other designs that list in what's-their-names annual buyers' guide.

    What this speaks to is ability / skills / tools / resources required to complete. Sonex has done a great job in minimizing the special tools and skills required to complete their airplanes. I say this having plans-built two airframes (one to completion). Actually, the tools/skills required to plans build one of these is roughly the same as what's required to kit-build one, there's just more layout, cutting, and drilling involved.

    So I'd say, come back to this question in 10 years. It may very well come down to - those with a lot of money still build RV's. Those who can't / won't put as much $ into it will continue success of the Sonex designs. In addition, there are several interesting new power plants in the 80-120hp range on the horizon / just starting sales / entering the picture - that could lead to more weight-efficient LSA designs that we haven't even seen yet (or seen with these engines), which may deliver more performance for the money. And the possibility of no medical under 180 hp (which might also act to effectively work around the LSA speed limit) would likely result in some designs of RV-ish performance at significantly lower costs.

    "Best" could also be thought of in some simpler ways:
    1. Airplane meeting your personal mission requirements, which may not be anywhere close to what RV's excel at.
    2. The airplane that you currently have to build / work on (whether you chose it or it came to you some other way).
    3. The airplane that you were able to complete and get flying (whether your first try / first choice or not).
    Murphy's 13th: Every solution breeds new problems...

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  4. #4
    Dana's Avatar
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    I don't think you can meaningfully talk about what is the "best" homebuilt, since what is "best" for one pilot might be totally unsuitable for another. A Pitts is not a cross country traveling machine, an RV is not a STOL bush plane, a Lancair isn't affordable like a Volksplane, no faster plane can give you the low and slow experience of an ultralight, etc.

    That said, the RV series is probably the most successful series of homebuilt designs ever produced.

  5. #5
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    1. Airplane meeting your personal mission requirements, which may not be anywhere close to what RV's excel at.
    Not enough range, speed or payload are the major drawbacks to the RVs in my book. Lack of a pressurized cockpit is another one but that might not be as much of a concern to those who are into "hardcore VFR" flying.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  6. #6

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    Eric, you have some interesting things to say. Ist, the idea that, SOME DAY, GIVEN TIME, some LSA may take RV s place is really not part of my question. It's kind of like saying is "Who's the best NBA guy of all time, M J ,and you come back and say, let's wait 10 years and some Chinese guy may come along who is better, maybe even with new nutrition. And the idea that some new design may be use a quiter method of riveting seems vital to you, but I don't think that is tops in most pilots mind.
    I am not surprised that you or any EAA guy wants to go to another dimension, after all it is the EXPERIMENTAL group and that goes even to answers.

    I think the RV is the leader not just because it is the most done and flying, but all around it is a pretty good and useful airplane once done. It can go up for a local flight, do acro, or go L A to Osh in 2 days, even night or IFR, can take 2 people and some baggage.

    Now your Sonex is, seems to me a pretty good answer, not to beat the R V but to be one of the top few. Seems easy to build. I don't know how the completion rate compares with R V and what the performance is and is it acro rated or capable. And what is the resale market for Sonex?
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 03-29-2012 at 05:28 PM.

  7. #7
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    no faster plane can give you the low and slow experience of an ultralight
    Yup....nothing says "flying" like picking one of these....: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cicada_Chicago_USA.JPG

    ...out of your teeth on short final. That experience kind of ruined open cockpit flying for me....
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  8. #8
    steveinindy's Avatar
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    It can go up for a local flight, do acro, or go L A to Osh in 2 days,
    So can a car with two or more drivers switching out. Even having cut my teeth in the UL community, taking two days to go about 2,000 miles doesn't seem all that great of performance for a standard aircraft.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  9. #9

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    Dana, and Steve, as I expectected you have told me how my choic of the R V is wrong, but you haven't given another choice. What is the homebuilt airplane, actually flying other than on Steve's computer, that you think is better than a RV and why?
    And by the way, Dana what % of pilots do you think really need a bush plane, or Steve says a pressuized plane?
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 03-29-2012 at 06:25 PM.

  10. #10

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    Bill, the market says the RV's have hit the sweet spot. 200 mph, decent interior room and baggage capability, good range, and excellent flying qualities. In the same size and cost platform you can go faster, farther, use a shorter field, or have a more robust aerobatic platform. But at that point, you've switched from a do everything well design (the RV's) to designs optimized for a relatively narrow mission.

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