I was always dreaming about building my very own aircraft from scratch. I've started doing paragliding and powered paragliding recently, but the idea of my own aircraft was still waiting somewhere in there. It's clear that creating my own design is out of my current capabilities, I'm an electronic engineer, not an aircraft designer. Therefore I've started browsing available designs that would meet the legislation in the Czech Republic, had plans-only option available and wouldn't cost me a kidney and a liver. The legislation limitations are:
My dream plane should match these requirements:
As I found many interesting planes on the way, I've decided to do a little overview of what I found and liked. Btw, if you are starting with the homebuilt airplanes, check following links:
Interesting modern construction resembling the SPAD S.XIII. It was calculated for some basic aerobatics (+6, -4.75 g). It's all wood and plans are available! The disadvantage is a limited pilot weight, if you are heavier than about 80 kg, you are out of game or at least the engine mount needs to be extended to fix the center of gravity.
Material - wood and steel tubing
This one is very interesting biplane, the construction is not that complicated and it's just the right plane for flying fun. The plans are available on the facebook group.
I really fell in love with this aircraft. It's an open cockpit biplane with a really nice and simple riveted construction and folding wings. They sell kits, but no plans. Building from scratch would be quite cheap, but the kit is expensive for what it offers...
This is an airplane I was really seriously considering. The construction is very simple and cheap, it's just bunch of aluminium tubes and tons of rivets. There's a live community of the Kiebitz builders and owners.
The plans are readily available from the Michael Platzer, he doesn't speak english very good, but the german emails together with english translation were good enough to realize some other drawbacks of this plane. Michael sent me an agreement with the common clausules (only one plane to be built from the plans, no modifications to construction are possible,...), unfortunately he requires to check the plane personally before putting the fabric only, also the first flight must be done by the Michael himself according to the agreement. He would make a German paperwork afterwards. This ruled out this plane from selection, the modification to the wing spars that would increase MTOW is not permitted and by the local laws, the LAA assigned test pilot has to fly the plane first. Therefore I would need to haul the plane ~400 km away to German borders for Michael to fly it and would get the German papers for the plane, which would need to be converted to the Czech ones afterwards.
Another biplane to the selection, the Murphy Renegade looked very promising, the plans are available, it has a simple riveted construction. But after closer look and some googling I found out the front cockpit requires some serious gymnastics to get inside and the plane doesn't fly that well when flying with two normally sized guys. It's more like a single seater with second seat suited only for your kid or dog... I still really like it, it looks gorgeous, but it's not the one.
The Fisher Flying Products offers multiple interesting airplanes with both plans and kits options. I've heard some rumors about not so good flying characteristics of the R-80 Tiger Moth replica, but the celebrity should be OK.
The construction is all wood, which promises a low price of the material and the construction looks interesting, this could be the right way.
The Marquart MA5 Charger is a very interesting biplane known for excellent flying characteristics and simple construction. With +6 -4 g design load it can even perform basic aerobatics which is great! It was sold as plans for homebuilding only from the beginning and after death of the original designer, the plans were published for free. The only disadvantage is the empty weight, it's almost 150 kg heavier than the local legislation requires, but after shrinking to like 90 % of the original size...
The are other interesting plans-built biplanes from the same era with very similar characteristics and construction, e.g. Starduster Too SA300 (plans for 275 USD), Pitts S1, Steen Skybolt,...
The Airdrome Fokker DR.1 is one of the Airdrome replicas of the first World war airplanes. It's build from riveted aluminium tubes and flies with 100 hp automotive conversion engines. Unfortunately only kits are available, no plans build option, however the kits are priced reasonably, though some builders note the documentation could be much better.
The Pietenpol Aircamper is the most classical homebuild you can find, plans are still available and there are thousands flying with various engines and modifications. The parasol configuration is quite interesting and there are several different options in the plans, like a wooden or metal fuselage, one piece and three pieces wing,... There is also a modified version, the Grega GR1 with metal fuselage and some other updates.
I was seriously considering building this due to the huge community and interesting vintage look. However the useful payload is way too low for the Czech legislation (modification of the main spar would be needed).
The Team MiniMax airplanes are well know among the homebuilders, all of their MiniMax types can be build in a HiMax high wing configuration. The wooden construction is really simple and straightforward, the build time should be below 1000 hours. The Hi-Maxes are using the same push-pull cables for ailerons and elevator control as the MiniMaxes.
This is the most classic aircraft you can ever imagine, bright yellow color, teddy bear on the rudder, docile flying characteristics, tandem seating, pilot sitting on a back seat, thousands has been made,...
The plans are available on the internet, although the licensing is unknown and the quality is bit lower. There are many copies of this legendary aircraft and you can take the original plans as baseline for your own custom build. There's also the PA-18 Super cub plans available for free and dozens has been built from these drawings, but the PA-18 won't meet the local legislation requirements.
The Fisher Dakota Hawk is an interesting high wing double seater, it's missing some elegance of other high wing aircrafts, but it's built from wood with an interesting geodetic construction. It also has a folding wing option and plans are available! According to few flying reports it seems to fly well.
The Falconar Maranda is a high wing all wood side by side seating aircraft derived from more popular (and heavier) AMF-S14 Super Maranda, with it's 117 cm wide cockpit, it's one of the most roomy aircraft in this list. Unfortunately only one aircraft has been finished to flying condition and not much is known, two other aircraft are built from scratch in the meanwhile. The ownership of the plans was transferred to Manna aviation.
Everybody knows Kitfoxes, these planes are sturdy, nice looking, have some STOL capabilities, nice wing folding system and there's a lot of clones of the earlier models (Avid Flyer, Eurofox, Raven,...).
Unfortunately the cost of the modern kit is quite high - around 35k USD per kitfox 7 kit (wasn't able to find out if kits for older variants are still available), the Eurofox only sells finished planes (63k Eur), the Avid has a lower MTOW (speedwing has MTOW of 1050 lb),.. I wasn't able to find plan option for any of the foxes, with the exception of the Raven, but there's not much info about this particular clone.
The Tulák is quite popular (at leas here) Czech aircraft, the original design was built in dozens of pieces, today an improved version with higher MTOW is available. The plane is known for it's nice flying characteristics and almost STOL capabilities. The original Podesva's design was modified by Drahoš adding a better landing gear and wider and higher cockpit. You can ask Mr. Drahoš to build it for you for about 35k USD or you can buy the original plans and build it for yourselves.
The SkyRanger is very interesting aircraft from the UK, the fuselage is riveted from the aluminium tubes, very simple construction, folding wings, reasonable performance, nice flying characteristics...
What I don't like is the covering, the fabric is sewn into a pockets that slide over the construction and are tensioned by a rope. This is very clever solution, it's easy to inspect and repair any part of the plane without ripping off the fabric, just loosen the tightening system and pull it off, do the work and put it back. Simple and elegant. The problem is the fabric has a lifetime limited to around 5 years, after this period it has to be replaced and it's not the cheapest one, around 1000 GBP for the covering, that's about the same as the ordinary fabric that is glued to the construction and is airworthy for ~20 years.
They don't sell plans and the kit is quite expensive - 16k GBP. That's quite a lot for a bunch of aluminium tubes, rivets and few extras. If plans were available, this would be the best choice for my purposes.
The CH701 is the plane that everyone thinks of when hearing STOL. The plans are available for a reasonable price and the sheet metal riveted construction is not impossible to do at home. The plans even contain drawings for all the rib forms and other pieces needed to make the parts from the raw stock material. The flying characteristics are almost unbelievable, the stall speed is mostly non-existent, just pull the stick up to your stomach and wait, it will slow down to walking speed and start to drop a bit, nothing else. The CH701 design is pretty old, there are updated, bigger versions like CH750, but the construction simplicity is a bit reduced and it's more expensive, also a 100hp+ engine is must for this version, so let's stick with much lighter and smaller CH701.
There's also a wing folding option, but the mechanism requires tilting wings vertically and as the wing tanks are located in the wings (surprise, right?), it's not possible to do it with full tanks, so with exception of long term storage, it doesn't really make sense to use it. And for long-term storage, it's easier to take the wings off.
I've visited a local guy who built the plane from the kit, had some chat about it, looked into the plans and decided this is the plane I want to build. From scratch! So I've ordered plans from the Zenith company, after two days, I've received refund together with email "We don't sell plans to Europe, USA only". And that was is. The kit cost is not much cheaper than older second hand CH701 with automotive conversion engine.
The I.C.P. Savannah started as a CH701 clone, there was even a lawsuit about this if I remember correctly, but today, it's a completely different plane which is even more capable. Additionally, the shape is much more rounded and there's no strange cutout in the wing over the cockpit, so the plane looks much better than the CH701, also the stall behavior is better.
The construction is similar to CH701, riveted sheet metal. With it's MTOW at 560 kg, it can haul more payload than the CH701 (the empty weight is almost same). However the cruise speed is much higher and the airplane is much sturdier. It's definitely superior to CH701, but again, only kits and finished planes are offered and the complete kit price is around 30k EUR, it's even more expensive than the CH701.
The RagWing RW19 is a very interesting airplane. It looks like a Fiesler Storch, flies like a Fiesler Storch, but it isn't the Fiesler Storch. It's all wood construction with incredible STOL characteristics. There are actually two options, one with tandem seats, one with side-by side, the only difference is the width of the fuselage. And there's a folding wing option similar to original Storch!
With empty weight around 250 kg and MTOW at 550 kg, it provides plenty of room for the crew and payload, the stall speed is supposed to be 32 km/h and it cruises at 75 mph (120 km/h), that's almost 4 times the stall speed! It has a lower wing loading than CH701, so the advertised stall speed seems to be correct, but I have some doubts about the cruise speed.
The plane was designed by a Roger Mann, who is still available to various questions regarding his designs. The plans can be bought for 25 bucks, build videos for 45. That's a bargain, so I've bought the plans immediately. After some time browsing through them, I realized this won't be a best first aircraft to build as the plans have many blind spots and a lot of details must be done by a builder ad-hoc. The basic construction is there - fuselage details, wings (there are two slightly different rib patterns, routed plywood and built from sticks, the shape is not equal by few mm), empennage, wing struts, landing gear. Rest is up to a builder (seats, engine cover, cockpit interior, fuel system...). There's also very little info about the hinges, tail wheel, the wing folding mechanism drawing is a single hand-drawn page. And there's no build manual, just a list of materials and few notes regarding the center of gravity and wing dihedral.
The Roger is not an aircraft designer and he mentions it on his webpages, the RW19 design is heavily inspired by the Mini/HiMax family of planes. Therefore I've browsed the internet, found minimax plans and used them as a reference when I hit something not that well documented in the original plans. Then I bought the build videos, that filled a lot of these blind spots in the plans. There are still some gaps, mostly related to controls in interior, but these can be solved.
I've redrawn the plane into the OnShape online 3D CAD tool (the result can be found here), found an inspector who would supervise the build process and do some basic calculations just to be sure about the design capabilities (I had some doubts on the MTOW after some initial calculations I made), unfortunately he passed away before I actually started building. In the meanwhile, I bought an old HiMax for a small restoration project and found another inspector who would check it's state, I had some chat about the RW19 with him and he discouraged me form building it as he knows the Rogers designs and had some issues with them. So I went searching for something else.
The Bearhawk LSA seems like a miracle, it looks like a good old J-3 Cub or maybe a Super Decathon - tandem seats, A-65 or equivalent engine, but here the similarity ends. The Bearhawk is a modern airplane in a retro suit, the cruise speed is around 190 km/h (at 5 gph), it can haul around 270 kg of payload by legislation and it's calculated for MTOW at 680 kg. And while the cruise speed is so high for a high-wing aircraft it has a pretty decent STOL characteristics too. Although it doesn't have any flaps (for simplicity and weight reduction), it can land on a few meters with skilled pilot.
The fuselage is welded from the CrMo tubes and cloth covered, the wing is riveted from the aluminium sheets. It doesn't have a wing-folding option and it requires a significant amount of welding, but the performance is really gorgeous, well beyond all the other planes mentioned here and they offer plans-only option for 300 bucks including shipping, that's just amazing!
The Groppo Trail is an interesting tandem seats aircraft supplied as a kit or RTF aircraft. The fuselage is a combination of a sheet metal and welded tubing, the wings are all sheet metal. The aircraft was designed with an interesting wing folding mechanism in which you don't need to drain the fuel tanks even with the wings folded upward. The flying characteristics are also interesting, the plane is quite a STOL machine.
The CriCri is a remarkable plane, it has two engines, so it won't fit the Czech microlight legislations, but it's worth mentioning here. I guess you won't find a smaller aircraft, definitely not with such performance. It's really tiny, using two tiny 15 hp engines (variants with electromotors or RC model jet engines exist).
The Team MiniMax airplanes are well know among the homebuilders. These are very cheap and easy to build as it's wood and fabric construction is simple and straightforward. They are not the top performers, some call them factories for drag, but hundreds of them are flying worldwide and nobody is complaining, Wood, open cockpit, low and slow flying, maximal fun!
For the sake of simplicity, the aileron and elevator controls are designed to use the push-pull cables, I really don't like this solution, although it's simple and maybe a bit lighter than the conventional design, the internals of the cable cannot be checked for wear and corrosion, you have to overcome a lot of friction in the controls, etc... There are some MiniMaxes with custom push-pull controls out there I guess.
The ULF-2 is an interesting single seat motor glider based on cheap Citroen Visa 24kW engine (quite similar to the engine from the well known Citroen 2CV). Over 40 ULF-2 are already flying, the plans are reasonable price and the all wood construction is quite simple. The design also includes a simple wing folding mechanism for easy transportation (probably not suited for folding between flying to save hangar space).
The PIK26 Mini-Sytky is a neat little single seater. It's been around for a while and there are few dozens of them flying. It's small and fast, so not for a beginner pilot I guess. The construction is wood only, but the reported build time is around 2000 hours, so it's not that straightforward as some other planes of this category.
The aircrafts from Spacek are pretty capable, high cruising speed, very light, interesting construction with foam ribs, etc. The build process is well documented and the Spacek company is located not that far from my place, so it's not a problem to discuss issues that would appear during the build process. The various kits are available, from plans+composite spars, material kit, 51% kit to finished plane.
The aircraft looks really small, especially if you see it in a real life, but when I saw it first time, a quite tall guy crumbled out from it, it's really roomy, I had a chance to sit in one and really lowed it. A roomy cockpit with a fighter-like view outside. The construction is simple and cheap. The flying it is quite fun from what I've heard, but some experience with faster airplanes is advisable.
The second aircraft from the Spacek production is double seat SD2 sportmaster. It looks like a modern laminated construction but it's still built from wood and foam. The plans are not available unfortunately, only kits or finished plane can be bought. The kit price is close to metal aircrafts, like CH-701.
The Turbi is a very interesting aircraft, there are quite few of them flying, it can be built in both closed cockpit (this way it looks like the famous Zlin Z-226) and open cockpit. The plans are available on the Manna Aviation, but the webpages haven't been updated for many years, so I have some doubts if it's still available.
The construction is all wood, but I wasn't able to find much info about the flying characteristics and owners reviews of the aircraft, that probably because it's a French design, so most info will be in French that I don't speak.
I really like this aircraft, classical old school trainer with tandem seats and open cockpit and a lot of fun flying it. It's basically a 95% replica of the Ryan ST. The construction is all-metal, reasonably simple, with a good construction manual. Unfortunately, the plans are not available and the kit is way too expensive.
The ALTO from DirectFly can be sold as a kit for a reasonable price. I've flown this plane in my pilot license training and I must say I'm impressed, the stall characteristics are pretty amazing, it's quite hard to stall it intentionally, event in steep turn, when you reach the stall, the nose drops a bit and it continues to fly, it also slips very nicely. The cockpit is quite roomy. It's a modern workhorse aircraft, ideal for schools, glider towing, etc. The kit is made using match hole technique, you just rivet sheets of metal together. It's one of the cheapest kit aircraft with such performance, but if you order one, expect several months of waiting before they event start manufacturing your kit, the demand is pretty high.
The KR2/KR2S is a classical american low wing homebuild. The S version is a improved version of the classical KR2, but you can still tell it was designed many years ago. The cockpit is still only 0,86m wide, no way you can fit two grown up men inside comfortably. The airfoil used is 100 years old, etc. The builders usually do a lot of modifications to the design, from widening the fuselage, complete wing redesign with more up to date airfoils and much higher MTOW to making it a single seater. However it's still a quite nice and capable design with many of them flying nowadays.
The Jodel D11 is a all wood side by side two place French designed aircraft. It was first flown in 1950 and since then over 3000 pieces were built. The plans are available. Very similar type (actually based on the original design) is the Falconar F-11A which has a bit larger cockpit and better stall characteristics. The spar is build as a single piece, therefore Jodel requires a lot of space for build and transportation in disassembled state will be complicated (8m long trailer for the wing...). Also the cabin width is slightly over 90 cm, not much space for two grown up men...
There are multiple places to get plans from - original plans from avionsjodel, english plans with build guide from Graham Clark, plans translated and redrawn by Frank Rogers, free and incomplete plans,...
The Menestrel II is another nice two seat french all-wood design build from drawings (in metric!). The design comes from Henri Nicollier who designed several other nice looking all-wood aircraft with the HN 700 being the most popular.
The wing spar is build as a single piece, similar to Jodel, providing a lighter structure, but it's harder to transport and you need to get a bigger workshop to fit the whole wing inside.
The Asso line of aircraft are a true marvel of what you can build from wood. There are several interesting design of which the Asso X Jewel is the most interesting one. It looks like a fighter jet and was a true inspiration for aircrafts like Shark UL or TL Stream. When you look on the plane, the speed is the first thing that comes to your mind, it can fly at 300 km/h, has a retractable landing gear and is build purely from wood.
Unfortunately the designer of this plane died few years ago and I was not able to find any reasonable contact to his wife that currently holds the rights for his designs. There are still people building and flying this plane, so it should be possible to find an unused set of planes on some second-hand website.
The Gaz'aile 2 is a very interesting French homebuild aircraft that evolved from the MC-100 BanBi. It's mostly wooden construction with foam ribs and semi-composite wing spar. The one thing that makes the Gaz'aile different is the engine selection. It was designed for the Citroen AX 53 hp diesel engine, later replaced with the PSA DV4 (78 hp) or DV6 (100 hp) diesel engines. Even with the original 53 hp engine, the Gaz'aile was cruising on 200 km/h with fuel consumption of only 7 l/h. The fuel economy of such aircraft is hard to beat and used PSA engine can be bought for few hundred USD and reconditioned by any car mechanic.
There are more than 50 Gaz'ailes flying and over hundred of builders currently working on their planes. The documentation is mostly in french, but the core of the build guide was translated to english of usable quality and there are thousands of photos of the build process and very detailed plans with many 3D assembly drawings. Also the diesel engines conversion guide is present. Hard to make parts (canopy,...) can be bought from France. The designer - Serge Pennec - reacts on emails immediately and is very helpful with any issues you may hit, there's also an internet builders forum (accessible after buying plans) with english section. The wing design was thoroughly tested (loading test of the wing spar,...)
The Cherry BX-2 is a very interesting aircraft. With retractable gear it provides around 280 kg of useful payload at 200 km/h cruise with 100 HP and less. It's built from wood (fuselage) and mix of wood, foam and composites (wing). The wing has a quick (un)connect mechanism and can be removed within 15 minutes which could be handy in today's world of lack of hangar space. Due to the small wingspan it won't take much space in the workshop and hangar. The disadvantage is a higher stall speed, but it still firts the local regulations.
Well, I'm not really considering VariEze as my next project, but it's so unique aircraft I had to share it here. The shape is very strange, the flight characteristics are a bit different from the conventional airplanes, but look at the performance charts. This plane is fast as hell, can fly over 1000 km on a fuel tank and is very economical. It's also the plane that brought the composite construction techniques to the homebuilders world. The plans for a modified version, the LongEZ can be found on the internet and it's still being build today. Unfortunately, the stall speed is to high for the ultralight to be legal in the Czech Republic.
The Ibis is quite similar to VariEze mentioned above with one difference, it's all wood design. The stall speed is still to high for the Czech Republic regulations, but the design is worth mentioning here, I guess.
The Verhees D2 is an interesting delta wing aircraft. Based on the specifications it outperforms most of the airplanes in this list, it's light, has a huge payload capacity, there's enough space in cockpit to sleep in or fit two sumo fighters inside, it has folding wings and travels insanely fast for a small homebuild,... However the plans are not available, the designer is trying to sell the design for kit manufacturing, but you may at least try asking him for the plans. There's also not much info, except the official webpages and few articles here and there. It seems only a prototype has been built so far.
The Dyke JD-2 Delta is similar to the Verhees D2, but unlike Verhees it gained a lot of fans and dozens of them were build and are flying up to today. The construction is welded from the 4130 tubing covered with fiberglass. It also has a folding wings for road transport and three seats for crew! The cockpit provides a lot of space for everybody and a lot of cargo capacity. Unfortunately the stall speed is way to high for local microlight regulations, but I couldn't resist to share it here.