This year’s printed Buyer’s Guides will follow a new format designed to give our readers a different, and we believe better, way to review offerings from kit manufacturers and plans providers. Additionally, KITPLANES® staff have been arduously working on updating the Online Buyer’s Guide to supplement the print product, designing new layouts and features. We hope you’ll like it. The complete aircraft specifications are now presented exclusively on the KITPLANES® web site, giving us more room in the magazine for an editorial review of the developments over the past year in the field of Experimental aviation.
Not only is the online version easier to read, but we’ve added a “compare” feature that allows users to look at several designs side by side. This will make it much simpler to evaluate designs in an apples-to-apples fashion when making a decision about a homebuilt that will fit a desired mission and a specific budget. The updated Online Buyer’s Guide can now display discontinued models alongside the current ones to help buyers decide if it makes more sense to look for a secondhand project or to spring for a current design. Previously you could only search for current designs or for discontinued ones, but not both at the same time. This should be an excellent resource for folks looking to possibly purchase a “used” homebuilt.
Until a few months ago, the KITPLANES® web site ran on an outdated platform that limited our options for improvement. Specifically, the Buyer’s Guide database was well beyond “TBO,” and we were unable to make modifications. But earlier this year the web site was moved to a new software platform and the Online Buyer’s Guide finally got a much-needed overhaul.
One of the things we focused on when developing the new aircraft database was standardization whenever possible. Before the upgrade, the Buyer’s Guide data had many redundancies (which is not a good thing in databases, unlike in airplanes). There were many variations for the same engine name, for example, and similarly inconsistent values in other fields across the board. We’ve cleaned those up and added safeguards such as standardized pull-down menus for data input to improve data integrity. This will minimize errors and should also improve any search results. We also eliminated any unnecessary fields which added nothing of value to users.
Searches of the Online Buyer’s Guide can be made in three ways: by browsing by the first letter of the design name, by entering a full or partial name into the quick search box, and via the advanced search form where readers can set up to 19 parameters to create the query. Rather than pigeonholing aircraft into different LSA standards, which may or may not change, we’ve simplified that designation based on whether a Sport Pilot can fly that aircraft. Two search fields, engine and manufacturer name, now have an auto-complete feature to speed the search process.
Over the years, our updating process was tackled once a year because of the cumbersome design of the old database and the difficulty in extracting and then re-uploading the current data, but now it will be an ongoing process, and as a result the data will be more dynamic and up to date. For example, if an aircraft that was in development flies and the kit becomes available, we can note this almost immediately once we receive word of it. If a price changes, this can be noted right away. Of course, we still rely on the designers and manufacturers to report new developments and on our readers to spot missing or incorrect information.
We are still working on enhancing the individual aircraft listings by including links to flight reviews and other articles KITPLANES® has published about that particular model. This useful feature will present readers with a lot more research material in one location and allow us to leverage the great archival material we have housed on the web site. This, too, can be updated dynamically so that if we add a flight review over the course of the year, it can be linked to the design in the Online Buyer’s Guide.
We’ve put considerable thought and energy into this update and are excited about its launch. We hope you find it a useful and relevant tool as you research a project that is already in progress or search for one to begin building.