A primary mission of EAA is to encourage the safe construction and operation of experimental amateur-built aircraft, known informally as “homebuilts.” One of EAA’s most fundamental elements in this mission is promoting informed builders and buyers.
The decision to purchase a homebuilt aircraft or kit can be a daunting challenge. There seems to be a full range of behaviors with which people respond to that challenge. On the one hand, the numbers of envisioned risks and questions to be explored might come to seem overwhelming, so much so that the task can become endless, never reaching a conclusion. That’s disappointing, and probably not really warranted. Not all questions can be answered up front; many will be resolved as a project unfolds.
At the other extreme (and perhaps more dangerous) is the chance that a potential buyer/builder will be driven exclusively by the emotional appeal of a given design to the extent that important practical issues are never addressed, much less answered. The answer lies somewhere in between – but how does one find the right formula for his or her own decision-making process, particularly when one may be new to the homebuilding movement? In general, it is a good start if one, at least, knows the questions. Answers will come and EAA is one good source.
Since its beginning in 1952, EAA has witnessed an explosive growth of homebuilt activity, and an expanding industry that now offers over 700 designs of kits and plans-built aircraft to eager customers. Most of the activity is now concerned with construction from kits, and more and more of the kits offer high performance, sophisticated designs. Prefabrication, reduced construction times, and ease of the building process have become advertising hallmarks for many kits. Significantly, an increasing number of these aircraft are being acquired second-hand from the original builders.
It is a very different climate for the prospective buyer/builder than could have been envisioned even 10 or 20 years ago. Two key measures of the continued homebuilt community success are the safety record (particularly the first hours of flight) and the completion rate. Both measures can be improved by all potential builder / owners carefully considering the advise in this material.
To keep homebuilding a safe and satisfying pastime, prospective builders and/or buyers of aircraft, plans, or kits to be registered as experimental amateur-built should be more than minimally knowledgeable as to the suitability, performance, and track record of the aircraft that attracts their attention. Buyers have the right to expect that designers and kit manufacturers will accurately and objectively aid them in developing the requisite knowledge.
The potential list of information to be gained during the decision-making process can be long and varies by aircraft design. The EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council has attempted to sort out those aspects that seem crucial and most applicable to the wide spectrum of customers and products. A generic checklist has been developed consisting of a series of questions, which should be considered while reaching a decision to embark upon the purchase of a given aircraft or project.
Fundamental to considering the purchase and/or construction of an amateur-built aircraft is an understanding and observance of the regulations in Canada, namely, Transport Canada Chapter 549 of the Airworthiness Manual together with attached Addendum: Standard 507-03 Appendix C, Exemption signed April 23, 2002.
1. Do I understand the legal and regulatory provisions under which experimental amateur-built aircraft can be constructed and operated?
2. Can I afford the aircraft or kit in questions?
Do I have adequate space and facilities necessary to complete and house the project? For example, will it require a machine shop, ventilated workspace, a heated garage, a hangar, a trailer?
Do I have family support for this undertaking? Do I really know the depth or durability of the commitment?
Can I build it?
Will I have confidence in this project and the resulting aircraft?
Can I fly it (and enjoy it)?
Finally, looking beyond the esthetic and emotional appeal of the aircraft (and that may take some discipline), are my needs, resources, and skill level honestly compatible with its mission design and performance profile (for example, cross country vs. acrobatic vs. local sport flying)?
Many more questions can and should be raised – often specific to a given type. However, EAA regards the above list as fundamental and critical. While this list appears large – the answers ARE available! Help is abundant. EAA members, staff, programs, information, and services are equipped and created specifically to help you address these questions at the outset and as your project proceeds.
Failure to engage in an adequate consideration for any one item noted above could result in a less than satisfactory outcome. Remember, this is the start of a process that is meant to be educational and recreational, not necessarily expedient. The focus should be on the process that will ensure a quality final product and a well-educated builder/pilot – not prematurely centered on just the product itself. Remember too that as the builder/learner of record, only you (not Transport Canada, kit manufacturer, or plans designer) bear responsibility for that product.
All this may seem somewhat intimidating, especially when one is anxious to purchase or start building the airplane of one’s dreams. However, in homebuilding of aircraft, the real joy and satisfaction generally come when one goes about each task in a project with care and precision – and that holds true for the planning process just as it does for any other phase.
EAA wishes you much joy, success, and safety as you undertake your project. Remember to use the EAA and its programs as your guide and resource.