Make It, Fly It
May 4, 2009 8:58 PM   Subscribe

It has lately been popular to make stuff. But few have made an airplane. A great variety of homebuilt/amateur experimental aircraft can be made, some speedy, some aerobatic, some quite popular. Some folks have even made a blimp.

Before building, it would be wise to consult a professional. Powerplant options include an air cooled Volkswagen engine, diesel, and conventional small aircraft engines.

As an alternative to starting from scratch, there is restoration.

Plus, airplanes can be a fun way to fly somewhere (though some routes require advance preparation).
posted by exogenous (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I must needs tag on the valiant hobbyists of Independence, Oregon's EAA 292 Noon Patrol, 13 ultralight 7/8 scale Nieuport 11's.
posted by mwhybark at 9:11 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The author without peer on the subject of homebuilt aircraft was Tony Bingelis.
posted by Tube at 9:14 PM on May 4, 2009

But few have made an airplane.

Is this a bad time to point out that the kit built aeroplane market is enormous and a worldwide industry that supports many thousands of people in the various manufacturers of kits, engine suppliers and ancillary components sectors.

It's hardly few, and it is a very old industry.
posted by Brockles at 9:19 PM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you're into this sort of thing, I highly recommend watching Plane Crazy about Bob Cringely's attempt to build his own plane under some insane timeline. Review.
posted by pwb503 at 9:48 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Even fewer have eaten an airplane.
posted by Rumple at 9:48 PM on May 4, 2009

You know, when I first found this, I wanted to run out to my garage and start on a SPAD just so they had something to chase. Unfortunately, I have no garage.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:52 PM on May 4, 2009

My most favorite place to spend the Labor Day weekend... every year for, oh, 25 years or so....
Antique Airfield- Blakesburg, Iowa
posted by drhydro at 10:11 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've had the pleasure of watching the Red Bull Flugtag firsthand, at Chelsea Piers a number of years ago (my friends and I were wandering through the West Village and stumbled across it.)

Suffice to say, it was a day full of people who had made their own flying machines, none of which worked.

It was kind of awesome, though. Gilbert Gottfried announced for it.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:59 PM on May 4, 2009

There was a *-Is-Born series on building a kit plane. It was fascinating, probably one of the better shows I can remember seeing on Discovery in the last decade. Well worth hunting out if you're into passive DIY.
posted by Kyol at 11:02 PM on May 4, 2009

If aerogels ever become affordable, I wonder if they will be strong enough to make balloons and blimps that have vacuum inside instead of a gas.
posted by XMLicious at 11:40 PM on May 4, 2009

Lawrence Hargreaves, early aviationist, open-source pioneer.
M. Hargrave takes out no patents for any of his aerial inventions, and he publishes from time to time full accounts of them, in order that a mutual interchange of ideas may take place with other inventors working in the same field, so as to expedite joint progress. He says:
"Workers must root out the idea that by keeping the results of their labors to themselves a fortune will be assured to them. Patent fees are so much wasted money. The flying machine of the future will not be born fully fledged and capable of a flight for 1000 miles or so. Like everything else it must be evolved gradually. The first difficulty is to get a thing that will fly at all. When this is made, a full description should be published as an aid to others. Excellence of design and workmanship will always defy competition."
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:46 PM on May 4, 2009

Ha, you think you're so smart making that blimp.

Watch me take it down with this $1 torch I just learned to make...
posted by rokusan at 3:17 AM on May 5, 2009

I highly recommend watching Plane Crazy about Bob Cringely's attempt to build his own plane

I unrecommend it. I watched until the point where he was literally weeping over something related to his father and then said enough.
posted by DU at 5:14 AM on May 5, 2009

the valiant hobbyists of Independence, Oregon's EAA 292 Noon Patrol, 13 ultralight 7/8 scale Nieuport 11's

Amazing! I've decided I will build a plane some day, but it will have to wait until retirement.
posted by exogenous at 7:27 AM on May 5, 2009

My father built an all wood plane (cavalier) in our garage. When it was about 80% done we moved to the east coast where he had it stored in barn with some other stored antique cars. The barn burned down.
posted by xjudson at 9:35 AM on May 5, 2009

No Pietenpol love? They've been around for some time.
posted by edgeways at 11:37 AM on May 5, 2009

Hmm, yeah the Pietenpol would have been good to include in the original post.

I just saw that a 14-year-old is building a plane in his backyard:
The task was all-consuming, said his mother, who recalled Josh often sitting in the cockpit of the plane in the driveway pretending he was in the air.

"We couldn't get him out of there. He ate lunch in there a few times," said Stephanie, as she remembered family cookouts where Josh would be spotted hunched in the cockpit of his plane eating a hamburger.

posted by exogenous at 1:40 PM on May 5, 2009

Oh, Cavaliers are extremely hard to build due mainly to the long scarfing of the skins. What a tragedy that it never was completed.

I have been around homebuilts/EAA people all of my life. My father has built two Pitts S1-S from scratch and has rebuilt several other aerobatic aircraft including a Stephens Akro, Stearman, Christen Eagle and a Pitts S2A.

It is a way of life for many people. Now getting harder to find due to sky-high hangar rents and hampered by the Homeland Security nonsense going on at small airports around the US, there used to be thriving communities of homebuilders and rebuilders all over the place. The Walnut Creek, CA airport, for example, used to be filled with people rebuilding their beloved Global Swifts. Nut Tree airport near Sacramento was a nexus for EAA activity and exotic aircraft of all kinds. Arlington airport north of Seattle is still a bit of a mecca but it is dwindling away.

posted by bz at 1:44 PM on May 5, 2009

(What I mean by "dwindling away" is the community feel of small airports where builders turned to each other and non-aircraft folks could wander aimlessly around and gawk.)
posted by bz at 1:46 PM on May 5, 2009

Blimp building skillz would be good to have once the zombies attack.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:32 PM on May 5, 2009

Slightly larger scale building efforts. This is an excellent piece of writing about building an airplane and it won the author a Pulitzer.
posted by bz at 3:29 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

bz, every summer I fully intend to hit the Arlington fly-in and every summer I do not. I did make it all the way up to the Darrington bluegrass scrum once though, so I have proof that it can be done!
posted by mwhybark at 7:57 PM on May 5, 2009

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