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Builder Spotlight

June 2017 Issue


Builders share their successes.

Densil Baker's Sonex

The airworthiness certificate for my Sonex was issued on October 8, 2016, and the first flight was eight days later. It took me about four years and three months to complete it. The airplane is powered by a Hummel 2400 VW engine, and the prop is a Prince carbon fiber P-Tip.

Sonex N783JB was painted with Interlux Brightside marine topside paint, which was rolled on.

Hager Hill, Kentucky

Bruce McElhoe's Bearhawk LSA

Three-and-a-half years after the quickbuild kit was delivered, my Bearhawk LSA flew the week of elections and Veterans Day 2016. It was the first customer-built Bearhawk LSA to fly.

I found a low-time Continental C90 engine that I installed without a generator (to avoid the requirement for a transponder and ADS‑B). A small lithium battery drives a lightweight starter. The propeller is composite from Catto Propellers. The fuselage and control surfaces were covered using the Poly-Fiber system.

My first flight went very smoothly. The airplane was off the ground much sooner than I expected—I barely had the throttle full forward. I did a few steep turns and stalls at altitude to get the feel of the airplane. Stalls are docile at 30 mph with no surprises. I'm very pleased and excited! I now have a beautiful airplane, along with a few skinned knuckles, some paint-stained clothes, and a big grin.

Reedley, California

Rob Ray's "Born Again" Sonerai II

After selling my second RV aircraft last year to facilitate a home remodel, I was at a dilemma. Build another airplane? Buy one? If so, what could possibly compare to the utility, fun, and overall bang for the buck of my RV-4 and RV-6"X," the exception being the F-16, but I digress...

I needed a low-cost, high bang for the buck personal sport plane that could perform sport aerobatics, operate off my grass strip at a low cost, and fit in my garage. It needed to be a proven design, with an accessible parts trail and fun! The answer came in the form of the Sonerai II.

I began searching in earnest and found, arguably, one of the nicest of the model ever built, very close to home. As it turned out, N994SP had been crafted by a dedicated, meticulous builder over a 10-year period. After a large amount of encouragement from my wife, I purchased N994SP. After getting it home, my "tinkering" would begin in earnest, eventually becoming a six-month "extensive inspection," including a new engine and weight-reduction program. To keep it in line with the original model, minimum frills for maximum performance was my goal.

The end result was a new empty weight 32 pounds less than when I bought it, a dialed-in CG, and an extremely smooth and strong-running powerplant. The flight characteristics are, in a word, stellar. It's much like a very light RV-4, albeit on a much smaller scale—and I mean small. The S2L is definitely not for big dudes but typifies the expression "strapping it on." Sport aerobatics on a budget is an understatement, but the best part for me is the simplicity and efficiency. Four gallons per hour at 120 KTAS is hard to beat. A lightweight, very low cost, high bang for buck, aerobatic, grass-strip capable aircraft? Say it isn't so!

It's so…

Sanger, Texas

Allan Bilodeau's Kolb Firefly

I purchased this Kolb Firefly, on Craigslist for $6,000 after the previous owner passed away. It was a partly covered quickbuild kit, and it took me 12 weeks to finish. The engine is a Rotax 447, and it's equipped with a ballistic recovery 'chute. With my name being Al and an Air Force vet, I figured Al Force One would be a great name!

I taught myself to fly in an MX Sport. This is my second aircraft, and being a taildragger, it took some runs up and down the runway to get rudder control down—then off I went! It has been a dream come true and such a great flying machine.

I'm at X49, south of Lakeland, Florida. Come out and say hi, meet the group, and join in on the fun! This is my first build, and I hope you all like it!

Lakeland, Florida

Nevada Dream Tundra

The journey began about 11 years ago when Jim Kinninger and his wife Georgia (second and third from left) took delivery of the Dream Tundra kit. Paul Dye (far right) and his wife, Louise Hose (second from right), became partners in the project in 2015. About a year later, with a fresh airworthiness certificate in hand, preflight inspections complete, and gorgeous spring weather (cool with no winds) in Nevada's Smith Valley, there was nothing left to do on the Tundra but take it up for its maiden voyage. Paul made the first flight, with Louise orbiting overhead as safety chase in the RV-3. Also helping with the effort was professional pilot Manny Puerta (far left). The Tundra broke ground quickly, with good control and a decent climb rate. There were a few minor squawks, but the Superior IO-360 was smooth as glass and the Tundra handled fine. The day ended with two good Phase 1 flights and a satisfying feeling of accomplishment for the entire team.

Wellington, Nevada

Bob Way's Bearhawk LSA

I flew my quickbuild Bearhawk LSA for the first time the week of Thanksgiving 2016. The flight went very well, and I'm extremely pleased with the handling and performance. At 24 inches of manifold pressure and about 2700 rpm, indicated airspeed is 116 mph at 4500 feet. Climb is great and the airplane is very easy to handle for takeoff, maneuvering, and landing. I flew for about 45 minutes and explored the slow flight regime in preparation for landing. Handling when slow is benign and normal. The airplane glides very well, so if you are building one, it would be wise to brush up on slips.

I installed an O-200 engine with Ly-Con high-compression (9:1) pistons swinging a three-blade Warp Drive propeller. The aircraft has a full electrical system using B&C components and avionics from MGL. CHTs on all four cylinders are moderate and pretty even, but the real test will be in summer hot weather.

Northport, Alabama



CompletionsSubmissions to "Completions" should include a description (a few paragraphs only—250 words maximum) of the project and the finished aircraft. Also include a good color photograph of the aircraft. Please include a daytime phone number where we can contact you if necessary. Also indicate whether we may publish your address in case other builders would like to contact you. Send submissions to with a subject line of "Completions." Photos must be high-resolution—300 dpi at a 3 x 5 print size is the minimum requirement.

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Homebuilder's Portal by KITPLANES
Photo by Richard VanderMeulen
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