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Have you ever dreamed of taking to the skies piloting an airplane only for your dreams to be crushed after realizing how expensive it is to get a pilot's license and own or rent an airplane? You're certainly not alone.
Experiencing the power of flight anywhere other than the passenger seat is no cheap task. Getting yourself a pilot's license will cost anywhere from 5 to 10k, but getting a plane dwarfs that cost. A new Cessna Skyhawk will cost you roughly $400k. Sure there are airplane rental options, but nothing beats having the ability to say to a date, "Hey, you want to go up in my plane later for sunset?"
There's no getting passed the cost of learning to fly. Unfortunately, you're just going to have to stomach that one. Luckily you can spread the cost over about a year of training. However, the cost of a plane? You don't have too many options... unless, of course, you want to build your own plane.
Options for building your own plane
Building your own plane isn't like building your own car. If your car breaks down, then you just come to a halt on the site of the road. If your plane breaks down, well, you can't just leave it mid-air.
There are several DIY airplane kits that you can assemble yourself, likely the option with the best bang for your buck. However, they're still not cheap. One of the more prominent kits is that of the Sling TSi. The kit still costs anywhere from $200,000 to $250,000, and then after that, you have to build the plane yourself. It's estimated that the kit will take 1,500 man-hours, but you do save a ton of money.
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A plane like the Sling TSi might retail for $350k assembled, which means you can essentially make about 75 bucks an hour to work on your own plane – not a bad ROI.
At the heart of the TSi kit is a turbocharged 1.35l 4-cyl engine that can take you up to heights of 15,000 feet. It also runs fairly efficiently as 7 gallons per hour of automotive fuel. The plane as a whole seats 4 people and has a tank large enough to travel roughly 1000 miles without landing.
All that said, the TSi or other planes like it are going to require that you're willing to get your hands dirty in the process. Not to mention that you're going to have to trust your handiwork with your life at the end of the process.
The other option for building a DIY airplane is really doing it yourself. Take, for example, YouTuber Peter Sripol.
He built an airplane completely from scratch, and it's completely legal for him to fly as well. Granted, he has quite a bit of experience in the aviation industry and is quite handy, but it's certainly an option to consider if you want to do things more DIY and more on a budget.
What are the skills required to build a plane
If you want to set out on the path of constructing your own flying craft, then there are some classes you may want to take. You'll certainly need to be a little handy to build your own craft, but it doesn't really take a lot of specialized skills. If you want to set out to build your own airplane, you'll want to find an aviation community to get involved with.
Once you do that, you'll want to start getting comfortable with the task in front of you and figuring out where you're going to build your own plane. The TSi kit does have an option called build-assist where you can build the kit in their facilities along with a little help, all with an extra cost, of course.
One of the biggest benefits of the Sling TSi is the fact that it is built with a giant ballistic parachute. This parachute assembly, when deployed, can safely carry the plane full of passengers back down the ground. This is a pretty good thing to have on hand in case something goes wrong in the air, like realizing you forgot a part when you were building the thing yourself.
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All that said, the biggest benefits of building your own plane aren't really the cost-saving. Sure, saving a few hundred grand is nice, but it can be a pretty life-altering experience. Not only do you get the experience of building a significant bit of machinery from the ground up, but once complete, you get to reap the rewards of your labor.
Being behind the controls of a plane that you built yourself is like nothing else you've ever experienced, according to the people that have done it.
One thing you might not take into account with building your own plane is that after you're complete, you have to take it through a series of test flights and trials. Some of these trials involve taking the plane up to altitude and stalling it out. Needless to say, that can be a nerve-wracking experience on a plane you built by hand.
If you want to learn a little bit more about building a kit plane or building your own airplane, take a look at the video that details a lot of the specifics below. In fact, if you're at all interested in DIY aviation, the MojoGrip is a great YouTuber to follow along with.