Building your own airplane: What is it like?

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Building your own airplane? This question rarely gets asked, most pilots (or even layman) go right for the jugular, “How long did it take? Was it hard? How many years? How much did it cost?”.

They skip right over the more important question – “What is it like to build an airplane?”

The experience of making an airplane and flying it rates up there with top 5 experiences of a lifetime!

It is severely under-estimated how much of a “life-event” building can be. Most people will spend more time, and sometimes more money, building the airplane than getting an undergraduate degree. It’s a big deal!

No wonder many airplanes are started and only a percentage of those are completed by the originator. It requires tibetian-monk-like commitment to make an aircraft. Although this varies greatly between different builders and different airplanes, almost no one can build an airplane in under 2 years and many go as long as 10 or 15 years.

How to make airplanes: Surprisingly skill has a minor role in building an airplane. Patience, commitment, and willpower are all much more important. Curiosity and detail-orientation are also highly regarded traits for a builder. The rest you’ll learn. There are tons of great resources out the for home built aircraft wannabe.

Statistically there isn’t much data out there, but you probably aren’t surprised that most builders are 40 and over. What does a 40 year old have that a 20 doesn’t – money and time predominately. Personally as a young man I didn’t have money, but I had time. My biggest hurdle was lack of patience when I was younger – ironic huh? It wasn’t until my 30s that I started to take my time on projects – definitely a requirement for airplane building!

It’s not like setting a goal of running a marathon and then training for 12 mos and doing it. It’s a much longer process to build an airplane and the committement is also financial.

My answer to the question is:

For me, building my RV-8 was setting a goal that I wasn’t completely sure I could do (physically, mentally, or financially), working my butt off for 5 years to get there, and then seeing it happen – it’s almost magical!

So what’s next? Would I do it again?

I don’t see my marriage or wallet putting up with another build for a long time. I would love to do another airplane, but right now I’m having a blast enjoying the fruits of my labor!


to see my complete build journal go here


If you are contemplating building your own airplane post a question below in the comment section. I’d be happy to help in any way I can.


Please rely to this post below with your comments, feedback, or questions.

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