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Thread: Picking up where someone left off?

  1. #1
    SaltedTailfeathers's Avatar
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    Picking up where someone left off?

    Unfinished kits frequently end up on eBay. Projects finished by someone other than who started the aircraft are featured in this months magazine. There is a lot of difference between " Kyle's Falco (page 98vol 67,#2 of Sport Aviation magazine) and the $5000 Sonex with some dents on eBay that some guy wants gone last year.

    To me buying an abandoned kit looks like very dangerous territory. Are there successful builds from long forgotten projects that weren't family projects?

    There has to be lessons to learn from stalled and abandoned projects, is anyone doing post mortem analysis?
    Last edited by SaltedTailfeathers; 03-13-2018 at 11:05 AM.

  2. #2

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    There are quite a few, actually.

    Often folks will start up a project and not realize the true amount of money and time it takes to build an aircraft and cut their losses.

    Let's take for example the very popular RV series of aircraft. While I like to engage in a little bit of reverse snobbery and call them assemblers rather than builders, the truth is that even if stuff is pre-cut and pre-punched, that's a lot of dimpling and rivets to buck, and the kits don't come cheap.

    A guy might decide that after doing the tail feathers and laying out the cockpit that it's just too much for him, especially as he looks at the crate that holds the wings. So he puts it up for sale.

    The nice thing is that RV's have a great set of instructions, a fantastic support group, pre-cut and punched parts, and while it does lend itself to customization is pretty straight forward in how it's constructed. Another builder can come along and grab it for less than new, inspect it, and continue the work.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

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    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Giger View Post
    Let's take for example the very popular RV series of aircraft. While I like to engage in a little bit of reverse snobbery and call them assemblers rather than builders, the truth is that even if stuff is pre-cut and pre-punched, that's a lot of dimpling and rivets to buck, and the kits don't come cheap.
    On the other hand, half-completed JAFTHA* kits are easier to inspect and assess. They use conventional construction understood by every A&P out there, even at a high degree of completion it's relatively easy to examine the interior for the quality of the work, the kit quality and documentation are top-notch, a lot of the critical parts were done by the kit manufacturer, and there are literally thousands of builders out there who can inspect a project and give advice.

    (* JAFTHA= Just Another Freakin' Tin Homebuilt Airplane)

    It's different for plans-built airplanes, especially using other modes of construction. You can look at a weld, and note how smooth the exterior is. But the builder get full penetration? Is there something wrong inside that carved-foam wing? Was the T-88 and surfaces warm enough when the builder laminated that spar? One doesn't really know, and many of those kinds of questions are hard to answer.

    I occasionally get photos from potential buyers of partially-completed Fly Babies. Don't really have much to tell them...I can note whether the plane appears to be built to plans, the hardware included, whether it's been properly protected...but it's impossible to truly judge the quality from a photo (and I'm not the right guy to do it, in any case).

    The price is often very good...the owner of this one is looking for about $3000, including the A65.


    I bought a flying Fly Baby with ~80 hours on it. Still plenty of opportunity for builder error to bite, though I haven't encountered much in ~22 years of ownership.

    Ron Wanttaja
    Last edited by rwanttaja; 03-13-2018 at 11:45 AM.

  4. #4
    EAA Staff Joda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaltedTailfeathers View Post
    To me buying an abandoned kit looks like very dangerous territory. Are there successful builds from long forgotten projects that weren't family projects?
    The key to buying a partially completed project is build records (often referred to as the "builder's log"). Current FAA policy on certification of amateur-built aircraft places high importance on build records. The records must be sufficient to verify that amateur builders (plural) completed the major portion of the fabrication and assembly tasks.

    It's important to note that the FAA policy refers to builders in plural. It doesn't have to be any one individual who completes the major portion. It's the sum total of all amateur builder efforts that adds up to the major portion (aka "51%"). So the previous builders' efforts are added to your own to meet the major portion requirements. When purchasing a partially completed kit, make absolutely sure that there are sufficient records to verify what tasks the previous builder(s) completed. The better the records, the easier your life will be when it comes to certification time.

    Obviously build quality should be looked at carefully, but that's easy enough to fix (if the price is right to begin with). But you can't create records that aren't there, so if the work is not substantiated with records, you'll have to perform enough tasks on your own to meet the major portion requirements. That may or may not be possible, depending on how complete the project is when you get it.
    Cheers!

    Joe

  5. #5
    Dana's Avatar
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    I wonder what the percentage is of homebuilts completed by the person who started the build vs. a subsequent purchaser? Paging "Mr. Statistics" Ron...

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    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    I wonder what the percentage is of homebuilts completed by the person who started the build vs. a subsequent purchaser? Paging "Mr. Statistics" Ron...
    It's impossible with the normal information sources. The FAA registration database reflects only the designated "manufacturer" when it's registered...no way to tell if a succession of builders were involved. NTSB accident database rarely states if the builder had been the person who originally started the kit.

    Vans might be able to give us a better idea...they could compare the name of the original kit buyer with the owner when the planes were finally certified. But kit companies, very rightly, don't release lists of their customers.

    'way back in the pre-RV days, there was a rule of thumb saying that only one third of homebuilt project were ever completed, with one third of THEM completed by the original builder, and the rest by subsequent builders. But I've never seen any sort of statistical data, and this is from the 60-70s when abandoning a build wasn't that big of a financial loss.

    Ron Wanttaja

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    While I'll agree that a well documented build in the form of the builder's log is really important, I've seen more than a couple builder's logs and they can be pretty scant in description. "September 16: built ailerons," with no pictures or detail.

    An inspector can tell in about three questions if a fellow actually built his airplane (or a majority of it), so not a lot of looking at the log itself.

    Heck, mine actually rolled his eyes when I asked if he'd like to look at it, as if to say "It's an amateur built airplane. And you, sir, are clearly an amateur at building. Ergo sum, sir, ergo sum."



    I would factor in the quality of the builder's log in with any price I'd pay for a partially completed project.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

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    I agree with Joe, current FAA policy puts a lot of emphasis on record keeping,

    Nonetheless, I would not pass up a killer deal on a partially completed project because of no records if it fit my needs.

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    This is a very interesting thread for me as I'm on the hunt for a used kit. I go back and forth between getting a kit mostly done, to get closer to the flying part faster, or one that's far from completed, so that I know what work has gone into it.

    Aside from finding your closest EAA tech counselor, how do you evaluate work in areas that are closed off already? How can you tell if a person deburred before they pulled the rivet? Some advice I got previously was that if the person didn't deburr edges, then they probably didn't deburr holes.

    I guess the bigger question i have is how do you evaluate the build quality of the builder.

    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    I agree with Joe, current FAA policy puts a lot of emphasis on record keeping,

    Nonetheless, I would not pass up a killer deal on a partially completed project because of no records if it fit my needs.

  10. #10
    EAA Staff Joda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamP View Post
    I go back and forth between getting a kit mostly done, to get closer to the flying part faster, or one that's far from completed, so that I know what work has gone into it.
    The advice I always give is that, if you really want to fly, and are looking to get the project done so you could fly, maybe you ought to think about buying an already-flying airplane. If you really want to BUILD, and are looking forward to the building process, and the flying is just a bonus, then buy a project. Even a project that's well along still needs a LOT of work, meaning time, and you need to be willing to make that commitment before you dive into the project.

    Quote Originally Posted by SamP View Post
    how do you evaluate work in areas that are closed off already?
    You can't. This is one reason that very complete records (especially photos) are very valuable. That, and a thorough debriefing of the builder (if possible) to ask questions about how certain things were done. Also, what you CAN see is usually a pretty good indicator of the quality of stuff you CAN'T see. How do you think us DARs do it when we go to look at a ready-to-fly airplane? You have to be able to evaluate based on what you can see and feel. If you don't feel comfortable making that type of determination of build quality, then enlisting the help of a knowledgeable EAA Tech Counselor, experienced builder, or A&P mechanic with the proper background is important.

    Quote Originally Posted by SamP View Post
    How can you tell if a person deburred before they pulled the rivet?
    You can't. Again, you need to ask these questions when talking to the previous builder(s).

    Quote Originally Posted by SamP View Post
    I guess the bigger question i have is how do you evaluate the build quality of the builder.
    See my comments above!!
    Cheers!

    Joe

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