It’s a Buyer’s Market for Recreational Flyers

By Scott Spangler on April 1st, 2009

Pete Bowers Until the 1980s, most pilot saw homebuilding as a lunatic fringe. Its stereotypical practitioners were older guys with rough hands and patched jeans rooting around in airport boneyards, looking for a deal. And then a funny thing happened: the production of store-bought airplanes tanked and new homebuilt kits, which reduced the number parts builders had to make from raw materials, delivered more performance for the buck.

The tradeoff was time, the sweat equity needed to build the airplane. And that wasn’t a bad thing, either, especially in the hard economic times of the early 1980s. The nice thing about a homebuilt is that you don’t have to pay for the whole thing at once. You can build it one section at a time, wings, fuselage, tail feathers, firewall forward, and spread out the investment. Consider it a 12-step plan for aviators addicted to immediate gratification.

KitAircraft Economic times are hard again, and recreational aviation — homebuilding, and its younger sibling, sport pilot and light-sport aircraft — is an even more viable fix for one’s aviation addiction. Pilots can still spread their aerial investment over time, and time is still the tradeoff for a beneficial return on that investment. And because times are harder than they were in the 1980s, it’s a buyer’s market as many companies offer new options and deals to keep order coming in the door.

Sonex_ST_0787 Take for example, Sonex Aircraft, a company led by John Monnet, who got his start with the Sonerai during the the 1980s. It now offers builders three options, start from scratch (using plans to turn raw materials into airplane parts), build a complete kit, and the newest option, build a two-seat Sonex or Waiex one sub-assembly at a time. (No matter the building option, the $6,495 AeroVee 2.1 engine is not included in the kit price.)

Without a doubt, getting the whole kit at once is more economical: $13,995 for the kit and $200 for dual sticks, for a subtotal of $14,195, plus a $150 crating charge, for a grand total of $14,345. Not bad, but not a a check many of us can write without searching out furtive financing.

When you add the cost of the five Sonex sub-assemblies and plans, the total is $18,650, and the crating charges add another $525. But you don’t have to pay it all at once. The sub kits run from the $1,750 tail kit to the $6,300 wing kit, prices less likely to need financing.

Two-Weeks to Taxi But you still have to build it. If you’ve never done it before, the idea of building something you are going to fly can be intimidating and overwhelming. And the buyer’s market has something for you, too. Glasair Aviation’s Two-Weeks to Taxi program, where for not too much more than $100K (depending on the engine and avionics options), you get a high-wing utility two-seater with an 1,100-pound useful load and a 180-hp or 210-hp Lycoming.  (And I’ve just heard — but haven’t yet been able to confirm — rumors of a limited, first-come, first-served deal that offers a double digit discount off the total.) The price includes building the airplane at Glasair’s Customer Assembly Center, which has all the necessary tools and jigs, under the tutelage of two guys who know what they are doing.

Legend Cub But if building just isn’t your bag, it’s also a buyer’s market in light-sport aircraft. I just saw that American Legend is offering an “Aeronomic Stimulus” deal on its LSA Legend Cub, $99.9K. So there you have it, options to ensure your flying for fun future, opportunities to take wing (sooner or later) and leave the world’s problems below. — Scott Spangler

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