Into the beginnings of a slow economic recovery we have some good news from the homebuilt-aircraft front. At 320 available designs, were actually up seven from last year. The word from those manufacturers we talked to-make no mistake, we pick up the phone and actually speak to a human being-is that business, after taking a hit in late 2008 and 2009, is starting to rebound. The bottom did not fall out, as many anticipated, and a good number of these kit manufacturers are predicting-also hoping for-steady, slow growth.
The ins and outs: A few new designs have joined the ranks. CubCrafters Carbon Cub EX has been out for about a year, the Dakota Cub Super 18-180 is new to our list as is the fine-flying Bearhawk Patrol. The KR line, though not technically a returnee, comes to us from a new kit manufacturer in nVAero. No fewer than 13 companies have new models.
Deleted designs include Tom Peghinys Flightstar line, sold to the Yuneec company, which wont be selling kits for the short term. And a few companies failed to return any of a half dozen calls for information. They are-Culps Specialties, Higher Class Aviation, Light Miniature Aircraft, Sportair Aviation and Weedhopper. If you think any of these companies is still in business, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We do our best to make contact, but our thinking is that if we cant reach them, you probably cant either.
On Light Sport designations. Unaccounted variables can take some borderline aircraft and include or exclude them from the LSA category. Our philosophy is that if the basic design can meet the chief LSA requirements-mainly for maximum gross weight and clean stall speed-without modification, well mark it as LSA Legal. In some cases, the designs are too fast; there is a 120-knot/138-mph (at sea level on max-continuous power) limitation. Some designs are capable of going faster but can be restricted by choice of prop (or setting of prop pitch for ground-adjustable units) to meet the rules. Prices: We do our best to coerce the companies to give us achievable estimated completed costs, but remember that these may or may not be feasible in the real world. To meet some of these, you’ll be purchasing a used engine and doing a lot of scrounging. For a certain kind of builder, thats fun; for the rest of us, think of the middle to high end of the range as realistic.
Did you know that the KITPLANES Kit Aircraft Buyer’s Guide is the only place where you can find comprehensive specifications and photos for over 300 aircraft kits? Look for our Plansbuilt Aircraft Buyer’s Guide in the January 2011 issue, the Rotorcraft Buyer’s Guide in February and the Engine Buyer’s Guide in April. All Aircraft Buyer’s Guide information is also available online for subscribers at www.kitplanes.com.