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Thread: Looking for plans-build suggestions

  1. #1

    Looking for plans-build suggestions

    Greetings and thanks for all the helpful information available on this site!

    Senior-hood is descending upon me so Iím planning to 'change careersí in one year. Licensed in 2000, about 95 hrs in C152. Last flown in 2001. Flew from Boulder Municipal (CO) and along the Colorado Front Range. Medical issue: deficient vision in one eye and 'color blindness' required extra night check ride, but ultimately the only restriction was must wear glasses. Itís a hassle I expect to be repeated annually for a ppsel. I can see red and green just fine, my only worry is spotting traffic, though am 20/20 in one eye. I have since had cataract surgery both eyes, so probably improved. There may be a strategy to getting an easier Medical, but Sport Pilot license and LSA a definite possibility!

    My mission: travel around the country by short hops, without strict itinerary, not limited by schedule, two people with light baggage. (maybe then I will begin to appreciate the airlinesÖ) Want to be able to operate from shorter airstrips, grass and gravel, fly low and slow, try to take it easy. At the elevation where I live, STOL characteristics should be a big benefit as well as a general safety feature.

    I want to build a high wing taildragger for the joy of building - and at least a few years of flying before I get too old. Then sell it, knowing that the engine and a few items will have the most value - not necessarily my craftsmanship.

    High wing, because I like to look out at the ground - not the wing. Hard to pitch a tent under a low wing. More suited to off-field landing if necessary.

    Taildragger, because itís more aesthetically pleasing, more aerodynamic looking. But there are disadvantages and I may live to regret it.

    According to current projections, Iím not able to buy a kit. Must go the plans route and start the project with smaller expenditures which will keep me busy for quite a while. Will have far more time than money, not concerned with calculating my hourly rate. Gives me time to budget for the engine and propeller. Starting out this way gives me an easier escape route in the event that I fail as a builder.

    Limited work space and skill set. But hoping to get help from local EAA chapter and from this forum. A brother is highly experienced Pitts pilot who wants to build a Vans. My best assets are patience and nimble fingers. I am accustomed to attention to detail.

    The Bearhawk LSA is my first choice for the project. But I have been advised that this may not be the best choice for a first-time builder. (would there be a second time?)

    My impression is that the main difficulties are:

    1. Reading and understanding the plans, and formulating a set of step-by-step set of instructions.

    2. The wing is complex and requires skills I have yet to acquire. Reading other buildersí stories are daunting. (But itís such a beautiful wing!)

    3. The fuselage also complex and difficult. Will have to practice welding a lot and do destructive testing until I know what Iím doing.

    So what would be a better choice for first-time plans-built aircraft?

    I've been looking around and there are maybe some possibilities. Many projects donít really look any easier than the Bearhawk LSA, though you might think they would be.

    Wag-Aero Sport Trainer and the Wagabond both are similar to the Bearhawk in that you can start with plans and buy factory fabricated components as needed. But still complex for the first-timer. The only part which might make it easier are wood options and fabric covered wings.

    All wood construction is a possibility. Fisher Dakota Hawk or Horizon 2 are interesting in some ways.

    Another possibility is the Pober Junior Ace or Pober Pixie. From the sound of it, these were designed for a novice like me. They look like fun projects with an historical appeal and could be made to be very attractive. Could almost conceivably be used for travel. But open cockpit?

    If I abandon the idea of a two-place airplane, then more possibilities are out there.

    The Zenith 750 looks like something only itís mother could love and violates one of my main criteria. But probably the best alternative.

    But I want to learn welding and I want a solid metal wing, a roomy cabin and a comfortable back seat for my passenger, great performance on a certified 100 hp engine. I want to land slowly yet cruise economically at 100 mph.

    Thatís the Bearhawk LSA or am I wrong?

    Sorry to be so long-winded but Iíve been thinking about it a lot and need to start making preparations!

    Frank Forney

  2. #2
    Sam Buchanan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Hi Frank, and welcome to the EAA forum!

    I'm going to throw a 'hold' on your building plans and suggest you regain your medical and currency before driving down too many stakes on a particular aircraft. In the course of getting back in the air you will gain a better feel for which type aircraft is best suited for you given your physical challenges. If for some reason regaining flying privileges proves more daunting than anticipated, you won't have a pile of aircraft parts staring back at you.

    You stated "I want a solid metal wing, a roomy cabin and a comfortable back seat for my passenger, great performance on a certified 100 hp engine. I want to land slowly yet cruise economically at 100 mph." That would certainly be a nice aircraft and the Patrol would fill that role. However......I have a good friend building a Patrol and it is a very involved and labor-intensive endeavor that will probably eat up $60K or more and several years by the time it is finished. And he has already built two beautiful RVs.....

    I suspect one of those ugly Zenith kits will fit your needs much better......but get back in the air first!

    Best wishes whatever path you take,
    Last edited by Sam Buchanan; 11-08-2018 at 04:30 PM.
    Sam Buchanan
    The RV Journal RV-6 build log
    Fokker D.VII semi-replica build log

  3. #3
    DaleB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2015

    Don't know what to tell you. For two people with light bags, plans built and presumably LSA, you have to be careful about additional restrictions you impose. Maybe check out the Christavia also. I have seen a Daokta Hawk, and I didn't notice anywhere to stow bags - but maybe I missed it. The Fisher planes are all wood, of course. One thing I discovered is that you may well die of old age waiting for aircraft quality spruce to be cut and delivered... and that assumes you're young when you start building.

    If you want to build, then by all means build. For the type you're talking about, though, you will probably find that you can buy for far less money than it will cost you to build. Champs, Chiefs, and various others are cheap, and some (Pietenpols for example) are ridiculously cheap. You can buy a flying Aeronca Chief for less than you'll spend building, and spend the next few years flying instead of not flying. I have a build project in progress (Fisher Celebrity from plans), but in the mean time I'm flying. I'd look more toward Experimentals for a number of reasons, including the cost of maintenance and repairs.

    Sam does have a point about getting current first... but for heaven's sake, do NOT apply for a medical until you've consulted with an AME and are absolutely 100% certain that you'll get it issued. If you get denied, you're done. If you simply don't apply, you can still fly LSA if you're fit to fly. Spend some time with an instructor and knock off the rust, see if it's something you still want to do. No new license needed, you're still a Private Pilot, you'd just be flying with Sport Pilot privileges. If you aren't a member of your local EAA chapter, join. Make friends, learn from them, and of course bum rides in everything you can.

    Lastly... build or buy what you like, absolutely. But don't back yourself into a corner over things that you think you're going to want to do. Dreams of rugged remote gravel strips are fine, but what are the chances you'll actually do much of that? A gently used, tricycle gear low wing RV-12 will do the travel part with speed, style, and economy for less than the cost of a lot of new cars. Still good for grass strips, and the tent will fit just fine behind the wing. I was dead set on a two-holer, all wood design when I decided on the Celebrity. To be perfectly honest, in the time since I started building it... those two things have gotten far enough down my list that I really wish I'd gone with something else. If I had, I'd probably be flying a Nieuport or Fokker look-alike by now.

    Tempus fugit... so fugit before tempus runs out, know what I mean? Yeah, I know that's a stretch.
    Measure twice, cut once...
    scratch head, shrug, shim to fit.

    Flying an RV-12. Building a Fisher Celebrity.

  4. #4
    Many thanks for the excellent advice, Sam! You are right: I should do some flying soon! And I will get further advice regarding the medical, though the issue seems relatively minor. And I have noted occasions where even pilots with 'perfect' vision in both eyes don't see the traffic either. Doing some part-time study of theory and regulations, as well as 'Flight Maneuvers Handbook' but really expect to start from the beginning with my training.

    There is already a hold on my building plans. The soonest I could start to build is 14 months. If I go the plans route, the soonest I would purchase plans to study would be 8 months. The reason is I still have a couple of jobs and home work. It will likely be several months before I can even start to get the workshop together. And then I need to get my feet wet in relevant building methods for much the same reason you suggest I go flying before all else.

    I'm more interested in the Bearhawk LSA than the Patrol, which wants a bigger engine and constant speed prop.

    So, still in the formulation stage. And Zenith is good, they offer full kits to plans and everything in between. Plus extensive support.

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Thanks Dale!

    Your tips on weight restrictions and aircraft quality spruce are appreciated.

    And thanks for the heads up on the risk of being denied the medical. I will consult.

    Will continue to look at costs and kit versus plans perspectives.

    Just to be clear: I can fly LSA now with my Private Pilot and not need a Recreational certificate? (assuming I can find a plane and instructor)

    Looking forward to building at least as much as flying. (famous last words?)

  6. #6
    Can aircraft plans be bought and sold, traded?

    The reason I ask is that it might make sense to buy plans of a couple different designs, for comparative purposes.

    And then re-sell the plans of the rejected design.

    Do plans come with licensing terms and restrictions on re-sale?

    Not that a few hundred dollars is a bad investment in the big picture, just curious.

  7. #7
    DaleB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Forney View Post
    Just to be clear: I can fly LSA now with my Private Pilot and not need a Recreational certificate? (assuming I can find a plane and instructor)

    As for your plans questions... the commercial plans that I have seen (not that there have been many) have had a license to use them for building ONE airplane. I haven't seen any restrictions on resale, but I guess it all depends on the plans. So in general if you buy a set of plans but don't use them to build, you should be OK to sell them. Sometimes I've seen plans for sale that have been used to build an airplane. Whether it would be OK to use them for another or not would depend on the plans and the agreement under which they were sold, but they'd certainly be OK to look at for evaluation.
    Measure twice, cut once...
    scratch head, shrug, shim to fit.

    Flying an RV-12. Building a Fisher Celebrity.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Generally plans come with an aircraft serial number. Single build only, but no transfer restrictions before or after that build that I have heard about. Certainly not the common planes. ďProjectĒ kits in any stage of progress, including plans-only for scratch builds, are for sale all the time. Plans and a wooden tail kit might be a good way to try that out, and plans with an aluminum tail, and plans with a welded/fabric tail.

    I assume that builders keep the plans with the plane for maint and repairs, but if the plane was wrecked then plans should be available, and probably pretty inexpensively.

  9. #9
    Dana's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Ditto to Dale's point about the medical, absolutely do not apply for one until you're sure you'll pass. Flunk it and you can't even exercise Sport Pilot privileges. The medical section of the Pilots of America forum is a good place to post (you can do it anonymously) any questions or concerns you may have. But if you do get a medical, it's the last one you'll ever need to get as you can then continue to fly under the Basicmed program. There are also some changes in the works that will likely expand the definition of LSA to include larger heavier aircraft, but nobody knows what form the new rules will take so don't hold your breath.

    Regarding planes and cost, once you know what you want keep your eyes open for an unfinished build. Many if not most kits aren't finished by the original builder, and half built kits often sell for less than the cost of the raw materials.

  10. #10
    CarlOrton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    DFW Area
    One other thought you might check into..... I *think* (and that opens up a can of worms) that you *can* build a Zenith tail-dragger. I believe it has been done in the past. Best bet is to call the factory and ask.

    And, Sam, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I felt the same way about the Zenith appearance years ago. But now I'm building one (Cruzer). The bigger tail, no slats, and wheel pants kinda smooth things out. I said kinda.

    Carl Orton
    Sonex #1170 / Zenith 750 Cruzer

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