For a long time I’ve looked at and rejected kit planes – they are a great way to get a very capable new airplane for a relatively low cost, but by the same token they’re also a hell of a lot of work and it seems like anybody I’ve talked to who has built one has spent years on it, even if it’s the only leisure time activity they did for those years (and consequently they end up with the test flight being the first time they’ve flown a plane in X years, which isn’t good). Add to that my lack of work space, and a little anxiety that I might do something wrong in a crucial and hidden part of the aircraft (like I did in the canoe I built all those years ago) and it didn’t really look like a good option for me.
Enter Glasair Aviation’s Sportsman 2+2. Here’s a plane that is equally at home on tricycle gear, tail wheel gear (and tundra tires if you want to get out to the boonies) and floats. It’s basically a 2 person plus a lot of gear plane, although they have optional back seats. The specs and reviews look very impressive. But it’s still a kit. So why the change of heart?
“Two weeks to Taxi”. That’s why. You buy the kit (and it includes everything from the engine to the tires), and you go to their “Customer Assembly Center”, and after two weeks of intensive hard work, you have a plane that you can taxi out of their hangar. I’m not sure what else is requried to fly, but the pictures in the brochure make it look so complete that it might just be a matter of painting and getting FAA approval. During that two weeks, you’re working with their factory experts there to help, and to make sure you don’t fuck it up. Plus you’re using their space, their tools, and their jigs. Not only that, but because you’ve got a better than normal chance of getting a plane built and flyable, the finance companies are more likely to want to lend you money.
Now I don’t have the money to run out tomorrow and buy this kit, so I’m sure other kit builders will be offering a similar program by the time I’m ready. But in the meantime, I’ve got this as my goal to aim at. So now my three pronged goals for the next year or two:
- Become a more proficient pilot, especially in using the rudder.
- Get float training.
- Start a kit plane fund. Maybe I can start to put all my overtime money in it.
I can’t wait to talk to these guys at Oshkosh. Maybe I can cadge a test flight out of them.