Home built aircraft may be the ultimate in recreational flying.
Home built aircraft offer an interesting a varied option to the mass produced and far more expensive group A aircraft. While you need to hold a PPL(A) licence to fly one you can do much more in the way of maintenance yourself without having to shell out for a licenced engineer.
These aircraft are designed and built for recreational flying and often have fairly startling performance, especially from short or rough airstrips. The BD10 was a kit built design that used a Lear Jet engine and was capable of supersonic speeds!
Home built aircraft are often found mingling happily with the microlight community and have many of the same advantages. Unlike the microlights though they can be flown into the bigger airports and hours flown can count towards commercial licences etc.
This is perhaps the ultimate balance between comfort, performance, price and practicality.
Aircraft can be supplied as plans and a box of parts or as partially constructed kits. Some glass fibre composite designs will have the fuselage and wings moulded already. Many tubular steel airframes will come pre welded as do those with an aluminium monocoque fuselage.
As long as the kit is less than forty nine percent complete when supplied it it classed as home built.
Some people are put off by the fact that the aircraft has been made by an amateur, but that does not always mean they were built by a novice. As the constructor is usually the pilot, a great deal of care is taken as there are personal consequences to mistakes. Many home builders have an engineering background and every step has to be signed off by a qualified examiner.
Most are made to an exceptionally high standard as they have a great deal of personal pride poured into them. They are invariably a hobby project so pride in a job well done replaces production schedules as the main motivation for completion.
Accident rates are in fairness slightly higher than with the rest of the general aviation fleet but there are a few factors to consider and the difference is only a percentage point or two. Aircraft involved in accidents are not generally flown by the builder but a subsequent owner, make of that what you will. It may also be relevant that as they are recreational aircraft pilots may be less experienced and operating from smaller fields and farm strips.
We all know you can do anything with statistics and I would be more than happy to own one.
These aircraft are given permits to fly by the Light Aircraft Association, LAA, who undertake the work on behalf of the CAA. The LAA are committed to the promotion of recreational flying and offer a vast pool of advice, experience and support.
These permit aircraft are one of the categories exempt from the new EASA regulations under article two along with vintage and ex military aircraft. As a result there is more latitude in the rule book and they are governed by a body who have a mission and passion to support aviation rather than the government which is driven by other factors.
Do not be fooled into thinking this means that there are not clear rules which are enforces to compromise safety. Quite the opposite is true in fact. It is more a case of being looked after by a wise old teacher who will support you rather than a policeman with a duty to nick you.