Diamonds in the rough or headaches in disguise?
WHO DOESN’T DREAM OF stumbling across an unfinished or derelict
homebuilt that can be bought for a song? In our mind’s eye we see
ourselves playing Geppetto for a few months (or so we think),
breathing life into an inanimate object. As it sits there, covered in
dust, a river of adrenaline courses through us so our grip on reality
begins slipping. This is when a cold shower or hard dose of realistic
thinking is called for. Or both.
The day is gone where we could drag a bedraggled homebuilt
airframe home, finish it, and call it our own. The homebuilt game
changed radically when the FAA revamped the 51 percent aspect of
certificating a homebuilt. Unless the project
includes builder’s logs or a photo backup
that prove at least 51 percent was amateur-
built (no commercial help involved), it can’t
be certificated in the amateur-built category.
It will have to go into experimental/air
show/exhibition with the attendant
restrictions (which aren’t very onerous). The
airplane may have been sitting in the barn
covered with pigeon droppings since before
you were born, but without that backup, it’s
not a homebuilt candidate unless there is a
Buying an unfinished project can be
one of the best decisions you make because:
You’ll be buying it for less than the cost of materials.
The craftsmanship is laid bare so you
know exactly what you’re getting.
It puts you further down the road toward completion.
It already “looks” like an airplane so
you’ll be more encouraged to work on it.
However, it’ll bite you if:
You don’t approach its acquisition in a methodical fashion.
The airplane under construction is of
questionable lineage design-wise.