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Homebuilding of experimental aircraft? Answered

Hello Instructables

I am a professional aerospace engineer who homebuilds aircraft in my garage when not doing so for work.  I live and work at the Mojave Airport which is a hotbed for aircraft homebuilding stretching all the way back to the 80's.  The experimental aircraft community does not have anything like what you all are doing on this website.  When I found your site the first thought was that I had finally found the place to talk about buillding airplanes.  But I see no such topics on the site.  While fundamentally I assume the problem is only that the channel has not yet been created or there is a liability problem, I wonder if there isn't more to it.  Is the thought of designing and building and flying your own airplane not as awesome for others as it is for those of us who live in Mojave?  Is there something that can be done to make this exciting world more exciting to people (like yourselves) who take such pride and make such investments in doing cool stuff in your garages?

Elliot Seguin
Wasabi Air Racing
Nemesis Air Racing
Scaled Composites


Hi Elliot.

I'm a flight instructor and I've been putting up 'ibles for aircraft related stuff (restoring old aircraft parts, changing aircraft oil) and generally trying to broaden the (non existent) aircraft category here at instructables. I have a few more that need finishing regarding aircraft landing gear mods and bush wheels.

I follow new homebuilt designs, fan of Rutans work, I keep tabs on sonex , bought plans for a sonerai and sold them. Did some gliding, had a dream to glide across Canada.

My thesis project for my degree was designing a HALE UAV for sale to canadian and american military for surveillance and equipment delivery. The project included choosing form factors for reasons suiting the design, materials, calculating total drag to find thrust required, selecting powerplants based on required criteria, estimating costs per unit for a production run , and putting together a "sales pitch" slideshow for "investors".

I sometimes feel like I'm the only person at my airport who wants to build to fly.
I'd love to hear your story and how you got started, what you're working on, some hurdles you've hit along the way in terms of design and construction, and maybe see of the stuff you've done.



I had not seen your airplane 'ibles, very cool!

Putting on my recruiting hat, you should really check out Mojave. It is the mecca for the homebuilder aviation enthusiast. I have not seen more one off homebuilts on a single airport (even without the Scaled stuff) anywhere in the USA. I know exactly how you feel about wanting to build and fly and thats what brought me here and I am consistently impressed by the work that goes on here.

Are you going to Oshkosh? The Wasabi/Scaled/Nemesis/Mojave talk is on Wednesday this year, and we'll probably be there thursday as well. Let me know if you'll be around it would be nice to get together and chat.

Thank you for your response,

Hi Elliot,

Just found this thread. I'm a longtime EAA member and closing in on starting my own build. Curious if you've thought more about doing any I'bles?

Thnx, Mike in FL


Thanks for the interest!

We have certainly been thinking about it. I wonder how interested people are in the topic. The cowling I'ble got alot of interest but I wonder what people liked about it. We'll see if we can pull something together in the not so distant future.


Hi again Elliot,

I've just read the cowling I'ble. I wasn't aware of it before and it looks quite nice.

I'm an A&P myself (though not active) and gearhead in general, and always wanted to earn my aero engineering degree. Life got in the way and I spent nearly two decades with the carriers in 24/7 flt ops management.

My passion is in sport and experimental aviation. I'll admit it is with a bit of envy I read of your job with Scaled. Prior to aviation, my work history was in manufacturing, production and design though I'm lacking in any hands on experience with composites. Earlier this year, there was a SportAir Workshop's composite class held in Orlando but I simply couldn't attend.

My planned build is my own rendition, or tribute, of a 'Golden Age' seaplane using wood, fabric and some composite construction. I suppose it might be good to create I'bles of the construction of the basic structures, might generate some interest.

Best Regards, Mike in FL


Thank you, sounds like you get to do fun stuff as well. Scaled and Mojave are pretty cool. After a while you forget that to a lot of people building an airplane is pretty bizarre, which is why I wonder about the cowling write up. Are people interested in the particular project or is it the novelty of home-built aircraft?

That seaplane concept sounds great. Have you seen the deal Kermit is doing over at Fantasy of flight? Seems right up your alley, maybe your even close enough that you could go help out?


Thanks again,

If you send over your address we could send you some Wasabi air racing stickers.

Hi there,

For some reason, I believe Kermit's project is the 3rd Benoist replica, though I can only account for sure of one other. Google for Mullet Skiff. My friend in Tampa area helped his father build it, and other seaplanes.

His dad was involved (I believe as the lead) in the Benoist replica hanging in the Clearwater - St. Pete airport. I'm fuzzy on the details, but I 'think' it was flown prior to being displayed. The local governments and civic organizations call on my friend and the Mullet Skiff on occasion when a "vintage" seaplane is needed.

I'm well aware that a seaplane was the world's first scheduled flight operation. In fact, I made a special trip to see that replica during one of our vacations prior to moving here.

Thanks for the YouTube link. Its been a while since I've been to FoF. Unfortunately they're 2-1/2 hr drive away so volunteering, at least on a regular basis, isn't feasible. I have been going to SnF the last three yrs, but have been missing the Thursday Spalsh-In at FoF. I WILL be there in 2013.

Our daughter is 13 and want's to learn to fly. She still remembers standing between my legs holding the yoke in a 172 at 4 and 5 yrs old. Because of her interest, we road-tripped to OSH and were able to spend all week last year, my first time since '97. That's also the last time we got to the Air Races. Won't make either of them this year... Can you tell I'm deprived... or is that depraved? LOL

I would love some Wasabi stickers and proudly display them. I'll contact you offline. (I love wasabi peas anyhow, I can taste the burn right now! <grin>)

BTW, from your pics, the "socks" definitely MAKE the Wasabi team uniform. LOL

Mike in FL

There have been a very few discussions of homebuilts on Ibles, though generally by people who can't imagine that it's any harder than a lawnmower engine and a couple of old bicycle frames.

Frankly, I think it's an issue of demographics. The main user base here is 13-18-year-olds, and the combination of knowledge, wherewithal, ambition, and funding required to build an airplane is quite rare in that age group. Paper airplanes, R/C models, and (ugh) K'nex guns are much easier material.

I'm hoping one of these days to get that "funding" part taken care of, that's the real kicker; sometime after I'm out of college (aerospace engineering high-five!) and hopefully working somewhere like Mojave. I like the Waiexes, but Symmetry up there sure is purty...

As far as building up the homebuilding community on Instructables, you could try posting a topic in the Feedback forum asking for an "airplanes" channel (or similar), but you're more likely to get a response from HQ if you use the service@instructables.com email at the bottom of the page. More immediately, post what you can. Ask questions and start discussions in the Forums, publish Instructables to share your knowledge, and invite other homebuilders you know to join you. I suspect that having knowledgeable people like yourself around would do as much good as anything.

Elsewhere, I think the Oshkosh365 site and the EAA Forums might be good places to chat, though I've hardly used either of them.

And will I see you at AirVenture next week?

Hello Cameron

I appreciate the thought out answer. I have a couple talks on race mods that we have given that I can whip into a instructible pretty quick I will see what I can pull together.

You mentioned osh365. I think the format that you all use which seems to be more hardware centric rather than only the discussion format commonly used.

We will be at oshkosh next week. We are speaking three times. Would love to get together with any of the instructibles folk and learn more about the communtiy. Check the Wasabi website for the dates and locations of our engagements, hope we can meet up.

Elliot Seguin

I personally think it would be extremely kool to see a homebuilt aircraft whether it was out of my financial range or not. My guess is the community would generally feel the same way and could come up with more affordable alternatives.


I found an Intertube to check your schedule, I hope to make your talk tomorrow. Is the pretty plane here?


7 years ago

This guy cut my shirt after my solo in Stead Nevada........ A


Is that a "lawyer killer?"

Much worse then that !!
He abandoned several Federal Congress men
on remote tarmacs in "fly over country"



(The plane...Isn't doctor killer and lawyer killer what they called Learjets?)

Never heard that, in all my flying years....
I did find a Beech Aircraft epithet "fork-tailed doctor killer"
What northern country are you in ?? I don't really need to know.

The Learjet is a scaled down Swiss fighter of old.
Bill lear went to Switzerland to build the plane pre-computers.
Bus Swiss aircraft designers work ethic was never to leave their drafting tables.
Ultimately Bill got fed up told VP B.N. to close up and went home.
Instead VP B.N. went to Wichita got a loan started using American designers
and called Bill to come and assume the building of his plane..... A


That's you? Great photo...

A pilot told me the "lawyer killer" thing...Said that small, hi-performance jets were often bought by professionals, guys very capable--in their day jobs. But the planes required a bit more experience than your average weekend pilot (and over-confidence was a factor, too).

I usually think of 8-tracks when I see Bill Lear...

Yea.... so long ago, I lost the original.

Surprised about killer thing. Makes sense though, insurance has stiff pilot
qualifications.  When I knew Bill he was required to have a fully rated
co-pilot anytime he had any passengers.  Though Bill had a lot of pilots
over the years they all had very different ways to keep the old man from
landing on highways or interrupting a long approach pattern,  Some
would slap his hand off the yoke, others would overpower him on the
dual controls, ultimately Bill sent his man-servant Gunther to Jet training
school to become his co-pilot. 
This was a thing to see, Gunther would never touch Mr Lear,
instead he would wave his hands in front of Bill's face to direct his gaze
into the correct Left, Right, Up and Down direction with polite extolling
verbiage.  They never crashed so it was a working pair.

Yes... Bill was the inventor, he came up with the first aircraft ( not a VOR )
but a four quadrant spatial detection device improvement on the ADF.
But because of his personality behavior with the signal corps pre-cursor
to the US Air Force the government chose to buy an inferior guidance
system instead.


Mad inventor...flying a plane he designed...with a man-servant...

It's Dr. Quest and Race Bannon... (from Jonny Quest).

Great story.

Yes... Like Dr. Quest ( I enjoyed that cartoon especially Jonny's turban friend )
Bill Lear had a great deal more personality then the mild Dr.Quest.

I would like to see more detailed web sites covering home builds. Alas I suspect such a project would be out of my and most peoples financial reach.

I have some gliding hours and love the older string and canvass gliders. Most of my flying is now restricted to kites and models.


Nothing wrong with kites and models. I certainly didn't mean to downplay modeling or powerless flight. Just trying to get a feel for what you guys are into.

What types of gliders do you have time in?


Mostly in a K21 2 seater and a Blanik a couple of times in a Slingsby T31 (ex RAF glider trainer).

I have 100's of hours flying the microsoft flight simulator and built with students a couple of motion platforms whilst teaching.

6th Form Project.JPG

I have some blanik time. Never flew a slingsby or a K21, it all sounds like fun tho.

Way cool! Is that a race car seat?


It;s a retrofit Cobra car seat, I like the Blanik - especially the way the rivets creak when you do aerobatics.

I think its not so much the site as it is the people that come to it. I would love to see some stuff on DIY planes, hang gliders, ultralights and other stuff. As much as I would love to build my own plane, it just not in the cards for me. The cost is prohibitive as well as time and space. With the format that ibles has I can guess that a step by step to build your own plane would be quite long and intensive. Not to mention any liability issues. I don't want this to discourage you from posting, or getting others that build planes, but as of now there isn't enough posted to create a channel as you stated. Please post some, get your friends to post some, hell get people you don't know to post some. Then maybe we could have a channel for it. I can't wait to see what you do post.


Thank you for your post. We will see what we can pull together.

In general it seems like builders with a great cross section of experience on the site. Being a builder focused almost exclusively on aircraft I saw a void here and got curious as to why. I hope to be able to contribute.



7 years ago

That is a beautiful airplane. I love aircraft but unfortunately, the only ones I have ever built were made of either paper or balsa wood.