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OK, we all quest for the "perfect" airplane, but what is it that fits the bill? When the kitplane market is viewed, the majority of aircraft available are 1 or 2 place, which leaves pilots who need more room with a much thinner selection. Many pilots seem to feel the "need for speed", to borrow a movie quote, and the kitplane venders follow the market demands. Knightflyer's tastes? Big, Fast, and really cheap. A build time of under a thousand hours would be nice too. Did he mention easy for a low time pilot to handle? Heck, just add World peace, and we've got a deal!
Ah, but the decisions don't end there. Composite, rag & tube, wood... what to build from? As Knightflyer has never seen a wood 6 place, maybe he can throw that out the window, and simplify the problem. Composite has that nasty fume/smell problem, but shouldn't be eliminated out of hand. Rag & Tube has a certain old-fashioned charm, but it's hard to get those smooth sleek lines that composite produces. On the other hand, having a steel frame around the occupants probably provides a level of protection that composite is going to be pressed to match.
Knightflyer had considered building a two-place, but his wife has put her foot down, and insisted that (at minimum) a four place would really be a better idea (Knightflyer & his lady, plus squirmy kids, and the possibility of future expansion...) So it would seem that we're really looking at a 6 place. There-in is the rub; how to afford a 6 place aircraft on a (really cheap, wimpy) beer budget. Pinching pennies & nickels & dimes until they scream and beg for mercy, Knightflyer figures that he can come up with a 15k airplane budget. Maybe 25K, if the engine and instruments are purchased near the end of the build cycle (which seems to make sense). Maybe. If he's lucky, and starts building before the need for braces, weddings, etc. catches up with him.
Update! And the winner is...Bearhawk! Well, Knightflyer didn't move near quick enough, and orthodontics have caught him. Neverless, he remains undaunted in his quest for the skies. Getting a small raise at work didn't hurt either... Also, after talking with Bob Burrows (designer of the Bearhawk), it appears that it could hold six place club seating. Eureka! Looks like the Bearhawk has won the fly-off by default. Bob is a real down to earth (so to speak) guy, not some salesperson that would tell you anything if they thought it would sell another kit. Been there, met those, don't want to go back. Also, by the time Knightflyer gets the silly thing done, he may well be down to 2 or under kids again. Anyone seen any college scholarships for 14 year-olds?
The Bearhawk is a big chunk of airplane, and the airframe cost has been estimated at an affordable $6000. Knightflyer will still have to learn to weld, but that seems like a small hurdle, compared to coming up with $28k+ for a 6 place kitplane. Heck, he always wanted to add a welder to his toy, err, tool collection anyway.
Lets take a look at some of the other aircraft that have been considered:
The Aerocomp Comp Air 6 looks nice, and as big composite kits go, it's about as cheap as they get. Problem is, it still costs $28,000, before an engine is added. ::whimper:: Nope, can't go there, can't do that. Other would-be builders are still advised to take a close look at this one. It has a build time of under
Cozy Mk IV. Fast, sleek, and cheap. Subkits for the various airframe parts are available from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty. Here again, Knightflyer runs into that 4 seats / 5 bottoms, problem however. Has anybody heard of anybody stretching one of these things? The other thing is, Knightflyer is a low-time pilot, and this is an awfully slick airplane. Visions of whistling over the field, going around, trying again, missing the runway, going around again fill Knightflyer's mind. Maybe a Cozy MkIV owner/pilot could add some comments on this?
The Clydsdale concept has crossed Knightflyer's mind before, and this budget vs needs thing is bringing it back into his brain. What's the Clydsdale concept? A big, cheap, workhorse of an airplane, capable of lifting 6 (plus all the two little girls' Barbie dolls - they number Legion). A ready-to-fly price of under $25k. "Way under" adds Knightflyer's lady. Ya right, just because she keeps the house books, she thinks Knightflyer should spend as little as possible, but we digress. A Cozy-type pusher might be the ticket, but stretch the wings (got to get those Barbies off the ground!), and what if, instead of one big honking engine, we strapped two 100HP Subaru conversions just far enough out on the wings to clear the body of the fuselage? That would provide 200HP, plus a degree of redundancy. Not that 100HP is going to keep this thing in the sky. But it might make it a really nice glider; enough so that Knightflyer can still find a clear spot to land if an emergency occurred. Sort of a Beech Starship, that got shrunk in the dryer. The price was wool, and shrunk a LOT too. Comments are not only invited, but encouraged.