While the Experimental world has matured greatly in the last few decades, we’re no longer seeing the rapid rate of change experienced in the 1970s and through the ’80s, when wholly new airplanes seemed to pop up every month and each trip to Wisconsin in summer had us chasing leads from one end of Wittman to the other. Even so, there is still new stuff on the horizon. But because we wanted to keep this year’s expanded 2024 Homebuilt Aircraft Buyer’s Guide as focused as possible, aircraft and rotorcraft designs whose manufacturers are considered still in the development phase are no longer listed in the main story. (Likewise, designs that are no longer available do not appear at all in the issue.)
Let’s talk a little about these future aircraft. There are currently 19 designs listed as “in development” in our database, information based on yearly check-ins with each company selling kits or plans. Of those, a few date back decades—I won’t embarrass them by pointing out they’ve been “in development” for a very long time—but most promise much more rapid returns. Hot takes on a few of them to follow.
Yeah, yeah. We keep yakking about the most-talked-about airplane from AirVenture 2022. But it’s an important design from the most successful company in the kitbuilt world. In October, Van’s engineering was continuing flight tests of the first article aircraft while preparing a second set of wings that will more accurately represent the final kit components. It’s still expected that the new wings will fly on the original fuselage first, with changes necessitating a new fuselage to be completed in a step after that. With the new fuse, the wing will (probably) move back approximately 4 inches and the engine will move forward and down. (The current airplane has had the thrust line altered slightly, but this will be a more significant move.) It’s expected that the new wing and the new fuselage will come together in 2024 and start their own test program.
We’ve been told that Van’s won’t start selling kits until they’re happy with the airplane in the final configuration. But while the upcoming changes will make the design as a whole more adaptable to lighter engines, Van’s has no plans to move away from the 215-hp Lycoming IO-390 currently flying in the test mule, in part because so much baseline testing has been completed with it that changing now—especially to a significantly lighter and less-powerful engine—would further delay the program. Will Van’s explore other powerplant options in time? Almost certainly, but finishing the RV-15 as you have come to know it is the first priority.
Sonex JSX-2T and High Wing
Sonex continues work on both its two-seat version of the SubSonex jet and the High Wing. The JSX-2T was seen in mockup form two years ago at AirVenture and it is moving gradually through build-up but has not yet flown. Given the winter weather in Wisconsin, it’s likely to be a next-summer thing.
As for the High Wing, Sonex continues the design work for the two-place utility aircraft but has not begun construction on a prototype. The factory, which has been busy with defense projects and supporting the existing Sonex and Waiex, has had to allocate its resources carefully. The High Wing is probably not even a 2024 project unless Sonex reassesses its priorities.
Comp Air’s huge, high-wing composite single was first seen at Sun ’n Fun 2023 and reappeared a few months later at AirVenture with a full paint job and a mock-up of a turbine-powered version as well. Flight test continues on the piston-powered airplane. At AirVenture, the 6.2 was flying behind a 350-hp Lycoming 540 and sporting a 4500-pound maximum gross weight. Comp Air says the piston version will go 185 knots true in this configuration, giving up 15 knots (and, no doubt, some climb performance) if you opt for the bottom end of the power range, 300 hp. There’s 100 gallons of fuel on board the all-composite ship. Comp Air is looking to finish flight testing and finalize kit components in early 2024.
Saurenman Aero Works REVO
We covered the REVO in our June 2023 issue. Work continues preparing the single-seat aerobatic kitbuilt for sale in 2024. As we said in the feature story, “Today’s aerobatic airplanes are economically out of reach for most young pilots, but a kit like the REVO could be a game changer. ‘If someone really wants to get into aero the way I did,’ said Eddie [Saurenman, the designer], ‘the REVO gives them a way to do it. If it’s successful, it’ll create a new market without taking away from the current one.’” The prototype is running on a Rotax 912 but it’s likely the UL Power UL350 will be considered.
Timber Tiger Kay’s Speedster
Here’s one a bit out of left field. Timber Tiger, the company responsible for the gorgeous Ryan ST replica and the adorable Jenny (called the Early Bird), launched a unique design at AirVenture this year that it’s planning to have flying in 2024. Timber Tiger has done well turning dreams into actual airplanes so this one could become an actual kit next year.
In short, it’s a non-braced, low-wing design with a folding option, normally an open cockpit (though an enclosure is planned) and otherwise traditional tube-and-fabric construction, although the wing is planned to be all metal.
Up front, power from a Lycoming O-320 or O-360 should provide cruise speeds around 130 knots. The company is also planning to accommodate the Verner 9S radial. While the first article is expected to be a taildragger, the company says it plans to develop a tri-gear version. They’re aiming for an empty weight of about 1000 pounds against a design max-gross of 1700. Initial estimates were for kits to come in under $30,000 with completed prices below $75,000. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one.
If you’re curious about the other aircraft we have listed as “under development,” step over to our Aircraft Buyer’s Guide. In the right rail, you can select “Under Development” from the Status menu to see the others. You can also select only “Current” designs as well as other sorting characteristics to help you find just what you’re looking for as an airplane project in the coming year. Enjoy the journey.