Homebuilt Aircraft

Homebuilt Aircraft

Table of Contents

Homebuilt Aircraft: An Overview
By Brian Peterson, AOPA Aviation Technical Specialist

With the rising cost and limited variety of new production aircraft on the market, an increasing number of pilots are turning to homebuilt aircraft as an alternative. From the joy of flying your own unique creation, to the pride of completing a difficult construction process, building your own airplane can be one of the most rewarding tasks in aviation.

Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft
Advisory Circular No.: 20-27F
9/26/2003

1. PURPOSE OF THIS ADVISORY CIRCULAR (AC).
a. This AC gives you information and guidance on how to —
(1) Fabricate and assemble an amateur-built aircraft,
(2) Register your aircraft,
(3) Identify and mark your aircraft,
(4) Get your aircraft inspected and certificated,
(5) Flight test your aircraft,
(6) Operate your aircraft,
(7) Receive certification of an amateur-built aircraft purchased outside the United States, and
(8) Become a repairman for your amateur-built aircraft.

Commercial Assistance During Construction of Amateur-Built Aircraft
Advisory Circular No.: 20-139
 4/3/1996
This advisory circular (AC) explains current Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) policy for the fabrication and assembly of amateur-built aircraft. It provides information and guidance to persons involved in the construction of amateur-built aircraft, the manufacture of kits designed to be assembled into aircraft by amateur-builders, builders of aircraft fabricated from plans for certification as amateur-built, and persons providing assistance to amateur-builders.

Airworthiness Certification of Aircraft and Related Products
FAA Order 8130.2
Chapter 4, Section 9
April 18, 2007
Chapter 4, Section 9 covers the certification process for an aircraft intended for operation as an experimental amateur-built aircraft.  This section includes the flight test requirements, and a list of possible operating limitations that may be included in the aircraft's airworthiness certificates.

FAA looks at redefining homebuilt 51-percent rule
July 21, 2008

The FAA is scrutinizing "fast build" homebuilt aircraft programs and with that may come policy changes that affect future kit designs. The FAA has released several draft documents to clarify the regulation of the homebuilt aircraft segment. The biggest potential change is to the definition of the so-called 51-percent rule.

Articles from AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training

Aerocomp Comp Air 8: Build to Suit
A kitbuilt turboprop, as you like it
By Julie K. Boatman
AOPA Pilot, March 2006

The Merritt Island, Florida-based Aerocomp is making a niche for itself in the kitbuilt market with a buffet-style inventory of airplanes, from the two-place Merlin (the first kit it offered — now classified under the new Experimental Light Sport Aircraft category) to a very light jet currently in flying prototype. The Comp Air 8, the company's do-all midline model — powered by a Walters 601D free-turbine engine driving a three-blade Avia V508 (or optional five-blade V510) propeller — is a tough airplane for the do-it-yourself buyer.

Get Up and Go
Shooting cross-country in the Lancair IV-P
By Julie K. Boatman
AOPA Pilot, April 2005

We're at 16,500 feet and looking down at three states. I glance over at Steve Lackey, who built the 51 percent of this Lancair IV-P that homebuilders are required to complete themselves. He's smiling too. Lackey and partner Mike Moffitt have reason to, because there aren't a lot of piston-powered airplanes out there, production or kit, that can do what the IV-P does — and what theirs does particularly well. And that is fly fast and fly high.

Kitbuilt-Bush Fun
GlaStar Sportsman 2+2 takes off
By Steven W. Ells
AOPA Pilot, June 2004

As we unloaded the gear, the sounds of the chuckling river, the swish of the wind in the leaves, and the click-and-slide of our feet on the rocks made us grateful that we live in America in the twenty-first century — when dependable airplanes are commonplace, and the freedom to fly them still reigns. The airplane we flew onto that gravel bar in October 2003 was a GlaStar Sportsman 2+2. It's a mini-SUV of an airplane that is assembled from a kit.

Pilot Briefing: Firms ready for Light-Sport Aircraft initiative
By Nathan A. Ferguson
AOPA Pilot, May 2004

Imagine you were getting ready to run in a glorious footrace that had been talked about for a decade. The stands are starting to fill with people, but the judges haven't told you when it will start. They also haven't told you what the exact rules are, but you have a good idea.

Fly It, You'll Like It
A pilot should never run out of things to try
By Budd Davisson
AOPA Flight Training, September 2003

Did you ever notice how a private pilot certificate that's only a few hours old feels as if it's an inch thick and alive? You can almost feel the document throbbing as you carry it around. Don't lie: How many times did you take it out and look at it to make sure the whole experience wasn't a dream? You actually do have your ticket. You're officially a pilot! Now what?

Pilots: Ray Stits
By Steven W. Ells
AOPA Pilot, October 2000

Ray Stits is an aviation renaissance man. What else could you call a man who designed 15 airplanes, built up an aircraft homebuilder's supply business that predated the huge parts operations of today, and created a nonflammable aircraft covering system — all without a day of advanced formal education?

Sky Arrow: Yes, It's a Real Airplane
Your scenic tourmobile
By Alton K. Marsh
AOPA Pilot, March 2000

The Sky Arrow is a fully certified airplane in Italy under JAR/VLA rules — and has FAA VFR certification by international agreement. It is made by Iniziative Industriali Italiane SpA, better known as "3I."

Form and Function: All about Composites
A primer on plastics
By C. Hall "Skip" Jones
AOPA Flight Training, April 1999

Composite materials, long used in the construction of recreational boat hulls, were first widely used for primary aircraft structures by the homebuilt-aircraft community. Composites gradually are finding their way into production aircraft. One of the most successful new composite-construction production aircraft is Diamond Aircraft's two-place trainer, the Katana.

Boosting Builders
SportAir workshops make the homebuilding decision easier
By Peter A. Bedell
AOPA Pilot, August 1997

Homebuilt aircraft offer a tempting ticket into aviation — where else can you get more bang for your buck in an aircraft? Perhaps a simple, low-cost SkyStar Kitfox is the way to go. Or how about a turboprop-dusting Lancair IV-P? Maybe the on-the-spot convenience of piloting a Rotorway helicopter is your dream. Regardless of the type of homebuilt that appeals to your mind, wallet, or ego, one major hurdle stands between you and soaring through the skies in a steed of your own craftsmanship — the construction.

In Training
First-Flight Experts
By Amy Laboda
AOPA Flight Training, August 1996

Although my husband and I had mentally rehearsed the moment a thousand times, trying to cover every possible problem and its solution, we were both tense when the day of our homebuilt's first flight arrived. We had a plan of action, a ground crew, even a chase plane, but it didn't seem to matter. We both were aware of the statistics: Nearly one in five homebuilt first flights ends less than favorably.

Instructor Report
Professional CFI: New Horizons in Experimental Airplane Training
By Earl C. Downs
AOPA Flight Training, April 1999

Are you prepared if a prospective student asks for primary training in a brand-new SkyStar Kitfox? How about transition training in a Van's RV-6A? These airplanes may look similar to the Piper Cub or Grumman trainer that you're familiar with, but they are different. Different flight rules may apply to certain amateur-built aircraft, and their flight characteristics are unique.

A Turbine in Every Cowling?
Czech this out
By Michael Maya Charles
AOPA Pilot, August 1999

The homebuilt, called a Turbine Legend, sported one of those surplus Walter turboprops on the end of its graceful, pointy nose. Originally introduced at Oshkosh in 1996 with a 600-hp Chevy V-8, the Legend had experienced a lukewarm market reception because of the uncertainties of the new engine package. The turbine option transformed the macho pocket rocket into a whole new airplane, attracting the attention of buyers who never would have bought a V-8.

Instructor Report
Professional CFI: New Horizons in Experimental Airplane Training
By Earl C. Downs
AOPA Flight Training, April 1999

Are you prepared if a prospective student asks for primary training in a brand-new SkyStar Kitfox? How about transition training in a Van's RV-6A? These airplanes may look similar to the Piper Cub or Grumman trainer that you're familiar with, but they are different. Different flight rules may apply to certain amateur-built aircraft, and their flight characteristics are unique. For example, some experimental airplanes are restricted to day VFR operations. Also, unusual aerodynamic configurations such as canards, pusher propellers, or big engines and little wings, make these airplanes fly and handle differently from certified production aircraft. Can you do it? Should you do it? Following are some of the most common questions about homebuilts and answers to those questions.

I'll Take One of Those, Please
How To Find Out What Airplane You Need
By Robert I. Snow
AOPA Flight Training, February 1997

If you want to start from scratch or from a kit, an armada of homebuilts awaits to meet any flying need. If you need speed, for a given horsepower, homebuilts generally outperform manufactured aircraft. If you want to fly distances, but like to fly aerobatics, maybe one or two production airplanes meet your need. However, a much larger number of homebuilts can fit the bill.


Updated Friday, July 25, 2008 2:01PM