The Decision to Build my Own Plane

When I was young my older brother Jason loved airplanes. My mom found out about an older man who was building an airplane in his garage. My mom arranged a visit and we got to go tour his garage. He was building a kit plane similar to a Steerman. I remember being in awe that he could build an airplane in his garage. Fast forward 20+ years and I find myself about to embark on building my own airplane in my garage.

Flying an airplane can be expensive, a new kit plane allows you the thrill of building and owning a plane at a fraction of the cost. Many aviation engines like the Rotax engines run on high octane automobile fuel and burn one third of the gas which makes flying for fun more affordable. For instance, a Cessna 172 burns between 10 and 12 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel an hour.  Right now 100LL fuel is going for $4.50 to $7.00 a gallon which is $45.00 to $54.00 of fuel burn per hour.  A Rotax engine burns 91 Octane automobile fuel and only burns 4 to 5 gallons per hour. Right now Premium 91 octane fuel is selling for $2.00 to $2.25 which puts fuel burn an hour at $8 to $9 dollars and hour!  I can fly from Salt Lake to St. George Utah in under 4 hours for $32, and when I get there I can stay as long as I want because I don’t have to get it back to the rental facility by a specific time. The new freedom will be amazing!  The cheaper price of the airplane coupled with the cheaper maintenance and fuel burn allows pilots like me to fly for fun and not just when they need to travel.   (Above) The cost of 100LL aviation fuel in the western United States (using Foreflight on the IPad)

(Above) The current cost of Premium automobile fuel using an online pricing tool.

I did a lot of research into the cost of ownership. I analyzed how I would likely fly. How many seats I needed, what type of flying I would be doing. I also analyzed the different types of kitplanes for over a year. I kept coming across the Rans S7 kit planes.  They were two seater tandem airplane with big bush wheels. As luck would have it I stumbled on an airport by Eagle Mountain where they actually build and sale this model of airplane. What are the chances?…slim to none.

I took a tour of the facility and was amazed at the process. I was excited! Mark, the owner, offered to take me flying in his S7 Turbo. I of course took him up on the flight and I think it was one of the funnest flights I have been on. Mark let me take the stick and test the plane out. I attached some video of me sitting in the back seat (that is what tandem means, front seat and back seat). It was a nimble plane and I could see so much and we could really dial back the speed and fly low and slow. We did an off airport landing down a dirt road, it was a blast.

 I kept researching and realized that I probably wanted to go with side by side seating so when I take my kids I can see them and talk to them. It is easier to keep both people warm when they are both up by the heater, and they are less likely to get sick sitting in the front.  As luck would have it Rans released a new model the Raven S20. The S20 has the tail and wings of the S7 but they made it so the airplane has side by side seating. I read the reviews about the plane and everything I read said it was even better than the S7. It has a large baggage space for camping gear and it can be set up as a trike or a tail dragger.  Tail draggers are better for back country landings and trike or tricycle gear are more forgiving on touch down and taxi.

So from all my research I think this plane is everything I want to get into the sport of flying more often. It is a two seater side by side that I will start as a trike landing gear (three legs in the front like a Cessna) but that I can later convert to a tail dragger when I am ready to start flying off airport more.

The Rans Raven S20 with Tricycle Landing Gear  The Rans S20 Raven set up as a Tail Dragger

 Two seats side by side with the new Glass Cockpit instead of the old steam gauges. This means nice GPS and synthetic vision so flying becomes safer and fun for techies like me.

The kit is ordered and should ship out soon. I have never built anything like this before but I am confident that it will be an amazing experience for me and my boys to build together. Luckily we also have the master builders 30 minutes from our house that can give advice if we get stuck.  The count down begins!

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