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Thread: Newbie stupid questions about restoring a vintage tail dragger

  1. #1

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    Question Newbie stupid questions about restoring a vintage tail dragger

    I have been learning about my building/restoring options over in the homebuilder forum. I have arrived at the conclusion that I an a restorer that likes to fly rather than a flyer that likes to restore. I am 63 years old and have run out of interesting cars and motorcycles to restore. Why not a cool old airplane? I am anal about my restorations and all my projects are more reliable than new. I am retired, have time, and a modest portfolio. If I could sit on Santa's lap... what would I want for Christmas? Given my wish list below... what models should I look at?

    1. It has to be a significant aircraft, worthy of being returned to the air. Piper, Aeronca, Champion, Bellanca, Stinson, Taylor, Luscombe, etc. - Upper-wing tail-draggers seem like a lot of fun, significant aircraft milestones, and affordable.

    2. I want to do much of the non-technical work myself with the over-sight of a certified FAA mechanic. That being said, I don't want to spend the next three years building a kit from scratch.

    3. My shop is at my lake house. I need to be able to trailer the finished plane to the air field.

    4. Airplane specific user forums, plans, and documentation will be important.

    5. I want to fly low and slow, but want good STOL and climb performance. (Local IFR flying with a few cross country trips.) Mild aerobatic capability would be nice.

    6. I need cockpit room and carrying capacity to carry myself and an instructor or occasional passenger. Open to tandem seating. What's the catch? I am 300lbs, 6' tall, with wide shoulders (4x shirt).

    7. The plane needs to be easy to fly. I flew with my father when young and have had lessons, but will be completing my pilot's license while working on the plane. I'm a newbie. A forgiving plane is on my wish list.

    8. The plane needs to be a reasonable financial investment. (stop laughing) All the flying members of my family spend stupid money on very nice production planes built by somebody else. They fly all over the country. This is not me. I usually come close to break even on my vintage sports cars and motorcycles. Even my boat is a 16 year old COBALT that will never be worth less than I paid for it. I would like to restore a vintage plane for $25-30k that is worth at least what I put in it.

    My apologies if any of this sounds like pie-in-the-sky. It's always been this way. I get an itch to restore something and then start learning everything there is to know about it. It's a process.

    Any suggestions for specific aircraft and models I should check out?

    Thanks
    Brock
    Last edited by bbutler455; 12-23-2017 at 02:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Old Citabrias might fit.

  3. #3

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    cabin width on a Citabria is 30", useful load is about 600#, full 39 gallon tanks = 234#, your 300# means no passengers.....or an instructor. Perhaps a Cessna 172 or similar 4 seat craft would work out better? Not as 'significant' an airplane perhaps, but at least it can easily carry you, an instructor and some luggage with full tanks.

  4. #4

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    As a solo pilot, an Aeronca Champ would work. None of the side by side legacy aircraft are likely to be wide enough for you and a full sized passenger.

    A light Citabria might be the ticket. With you at 300 lbs, any of the two seaters are going to be gross weight challenged.

  5. #5
    Auburntsts's Avatar
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    The aircraft market is not the same as cars, motorcycles, or boats. While it is possible to make money on a sale, don't count on it. Restorations cost money and it's difficult to recoup anything beyond market value. IOW the cost of restoration can easily exceed what the market will bear.

    As others have stated, frankly, your mission parameters have some mutually exclusive elements based upon the aircraft listed.

    Go get your medical and complete your training--IMO it's better to get this out of the way up front rather than trying to do it concurrently, although it really helps you are retired. Getting back to flying will really help you fine tune your mission requirements which will in turn help you narrow down your aircraft search.

    Getting an A/P to come to your house to oversee your project may or may not be problematic-- just depends on who you know and how remote your house is.

    In many ways restoration can be way more challenging and time consuming than building from scratch--just saying. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss building a kit or from plans as it can expand the airframes that could meet your stated mission requirements.
    Last edited by Auburntsts; 12-24-2017 at 10:56 AM.
    Todd Stovall
    PP ASEL - IA
    RV-10 N728TT - Flying
    My builder's log (which is woefully out of date): www.mykitlog.com/auburntsts
    WAR DAMN EAGLE!

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  7. #7

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    I am glad that no one took a video of me trying to get my 250# carcass into a high wing two seater at AirVenture 2016. lol

  8. #8

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    A Vintage Cessna 175 with a geared engine and 90" prop will lift off in about 300 feet solo.
    About the cheapest to buy also. Parts and maintenance are a bit more than a Vintage C-172. More fuel also.
    The C-170 has a tailwheel but will cost double and won't match a C-175 for climb and takeoff.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Auburntsts View Post
    The aircraft market is not the same as cars, motorcycles, or boats. While it is possible to make money on a sale, don't count on it. Restorations cost money and it's difficult to recoup anything beyond market value. IOW the cost of restoration can easily exceed what the market will bear.

    As others have stated, frankly, your mission parameters have some mutually exclusive elements based upon the aircraft listed.

    Go get your medical and complete your training--IMO it's better to get this out of the way up front rather than trying to do it concurrently, although it really helps you are retired. Getting back to flying will really help you fine tune your mission requirements which will in turn help you narrow down your aircraft search.

    Getting an A/P to come to your house to oversee your project may or may not be problematic-- just depends on who you know and how remote your house is.

    In many ways restoration can be way more challenging and time consuming than building from scratch--just saying. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss building a kit or from plans as it can expand the airframes that could meet your stated mission requirements.
    Well presented. You make several valid points. Do I expect to make money on a restoration? No. I tend to over-restore my projects and seldom break even. Do I want to have a finished project that holds it's value with the possibility of appreciation? Yes.

    Secondly, I started out looking at kits hoping to find an unfinished project I could finish. Seemed like a Kitfox IV with a 100hp Rotax and the wide cockpit might be an affordable option. I will keep my options open regarding vintage and kits until I can get some flight time and enjoy many more conversations. I am also not locked into a tail-dragger.

    I also need to decide if I will ever have a passenger in this plane. My lovely wife has never been on the back of one of my motorcycle and a plane won't be much different. Thinking about it, I hate hauling passengers on my bikes because it ruins the performance of the motorcycle. Again, extra weight in a plane is even worse.

    I guess it is time to get back in shape. Every pound I lose will show up in performance for a light plane. Thanks for the candid advice. Please keep the suggestions coming.

    Brock

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by joen6171b View Post
    Good suggestion. I assumed that Piper Cubs and derivatives would be out of my budget. A PA-12 with the right engine would fit my requirements nicely. Thanks

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