Before you buy a kit aircraft�
|We’re very enthusiastic about kit (experimental) aircraft. Building and flying a kit plane can and should be a very rewarding hobby and a great source of pride and enjoyment, and building and flying your own aircraft can also save you a great deal of money. But before you buy any aircraft kit, please consider and understand the following important points. We want you to be happy with your purchase and one of the best ways to do this is to make sure your expectations are realistic.
|First, ask yourself some basic questions…
- How familiar and comfortable are you with basic tools and blueprints? Do you know some of the basics about simple aircraft systems, engines, and how they work? Have you worked on an aircraft before (building or maintenance)?
- Do you enjoy working with your hands and simple hand tools? Do you use common sense and have good problem-solving skills? Do you enjoy learning and developing new skills, and do not get discouraged with occasional frustration?
- Do you have the time and space to build an aircraft? Will your family be supportive of your new project?
|Don’t be discouraged if you’ve answered No to some of the above questions, but be realistic with your capabilities and expectations…
|We believe that nearly everyone can build their own aircraft …if they have the desire and realistic expectations. Our experience in the kit industry has proven this time after time. The quality of the kit and the accompanying drawings and manuals can make this a project that you’ll successfully finish and fly, and be proud to own for many years. But we have a lot of experience with first-time builders, and we want you to have an honest appreciation that it takes time and effort to successfully build your own aircraft.
|Realize that you are the builder (manufacturer) of the airplane.
|As the builder of a kit airplane, you are the manufacturer of your aircraft, and as such, assume full responsibility for its construction. An amateur-built aircraft, by its very definition, is “experimental” and has not been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) like a certified production aircraft has. While a specific kit design may have a great track record with hundreds of successfully flying aircraft, don’t think of a kit aircraft as a certified production plane. The aircraft, as built and equipped by you, becomes a unique “one-of-a-kind” aircraft in its design and construction. While others may inspect your aircraft, you are ultimately responsible for assuring that your aircraft and its systems have been constructed and assembled properly and that it is airworthy.
|Recipes for frustration (if not disaster):
- Putting a deadline on the time to complete: Schedules are made to be broken, which just cause frustration when they are broken. Most builders have a family and/or career that often takes priority over a kit project.
- Modifying the design and construction: As the builder of your aircraft, you have the opportunity to modify or customize your aircraft. However, do so only with the full understanding of what you are doing. Most modifications are a lot more work than builders originally anticipate, and may have unforeseen affects on the performance, characteristics and/or structural integrity of the design.
- Installing a custom powerplant. Most custom engine installations require a lot of work and “troubleshooting” to properly install, and often don’t provide the expected performance and reliability.
- Getting advice from others. Many onlookers are so-called experts in how an aircraft should be designed and built (and flown), and will probably offer you all kinds of “expert” advice on what you should be doing differently. Qualify this advice, and have confidence in yourself and the design.
- Building your airplane on too-tight of a budget – We all want to cut costs, but don’t cut corners.
- Also, prioritize costs and put them in context (an inexpensive engine may cost you less to purchase initially, but may not provide the reliability and performance you expect, and may need to be replaced a lot sooner than expected).
- Building your own aircraft is probably going to be one of the most challenging and rewarding undertakings you’ll ever accomplish. But, occasional frustrations are part of overcoming any challenge: Don’t become discouraged with the first frustration you encounter.
- Not being current – remember to keep current while you’re building and don’t flight test your aircraft unless you’re current and have developed a proper flight test program.
- Not taking the time to maintain your aircraft and assuring that the systems are all functioning properly.
- Showing off / trying to impress others: Show off the aircraft on the ground and leave the airshows to professionals…
- Not being properly prepared: Prior to the flight test, make sure that both you and the airplane are ready. We highly recommend the use of EAA’s Technical and Flight Advisor programs.
- Just because the aircraft is capable of off-airport STOL (short take-off and landing) flying does not mean that you (the pilot) are.
|To learn more about the project before buying, we recommend:
- Factory Workshop: Attend a factory workshop or order a “starter kit” to learn more about the type of construction, tools, reading the drawings and manuals, etc. A factory workshop also gives you the opportunity to visit the factory (and see what the full kit looks like), meet the staff, and go up for a demo flight in the aircraft
- Demo Flight: Go up for a flight in the aircraft to experience first-hand the flight qualities and characteristics of the aircraft, cabin comfort, visibility, etc…
- Talk to other first-time builders who have “been there and done that.”
|I hope you find these thoughts and recommendations to be helpful. We look forward to working with you…. We believe we sell great products, but we want to make sure that you have realistic expectations so that you will enjoy both building and flying your aircraft.
|Sebastien Heintz, president,
Zenith Aircraft Company