BCnF: build, certify and fly your own homemade airplane


BCnF (build, certify and fly) hobbyists make their own airplanes from scratch or out of kits, extensively customizing them, and then get them certified by the FAA and take them into the air. The US has more than 32,000 registered homemade airplanes. BCnF makers produce everything from racers to fabric-covered biplanes. This post is a good introduction to the fascinating world of BCnF, and is a great place to start if you're thinking of kit-bashing your own flying machine.

Old-fashioned plans-built airplanes take thousands of person-hours to build: wood has to be cut, sheet metal has to be bent, steel tubes have to be welded, fiberglass has to be laid up, and so on. Kits with pre-formed, pre-welded, pre-molded, and/or pre-machined parts then brought the build time down to the range of approximately a thousand hours. These are the most popular today, and include the Glasair 2 being built by the ONE BCnF team. The most modern (and most expensive) “quick build” kits, however, come with pre-drilled holes and other features that make it possible to assemble the airplane in just a few hundred person-hours. The creators of these kits sometimes even allow customers to visit the factory to build their airplanes under professional supervision. (Thanks to Lean manufacturing principles, Glasair has managed to get their build process of their latest kitplanes down to two weeks of full-time work. To the many thousands of people who have spent years putting together a homebuilt airplane, two weeks is nearly unbelievable).

Because they are not built by professional mechanics/machinists, these kit-based (or made from scratch, based on plans) home-built airplanes are certified by the FAA as “Experimental, Amateur-Built”, or EAB.

There are currently about 32,000 homebuilt airplanes registered with the FAA.

The largest manufacturer of airplane kits is Van’s Aircraft, creators of the RV series. There are over seven thousand RVs flying out there, over a third of which are RV-6s like mine, the most popular EAB out there. Next on the list is Glasair, who has delivered over three thousand kits. The Glasair 2 is the most popular, with over 1,200 flying. Many other kitplane companies each have several hundred airplanes flying, built in garages and basements and small airplane hangars around the US (and in a few other countries).

ONE BCnF (Thanks, Airshowfan)

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  1. dobby says:

    Kit planes are incredibly cool for aviation geeks, I want a one seater (maybe a jet!) for aerobatic flight, I would rather a proven design where you can find a variety of certified A&Es for passengers though. They fall under the experimental rules so you register them as such, don't think you can certify a home built for use by a non-pilot certified passenger though(without ridiculous inspection and probably a sample for the FAA). The manufacturer kits where you drive a few screws under the eye of an engineer is mostly a fun route to a legal waiver of liability so it is harder to sue a manufacturer while still being fully certified for passengers.

  2. I took 11 years to build my plane and it had its first flight in 2012. The term "homebuilt" and "experimental" is a bit of a shame because it makes it sound like an "oh, gee, I think I'll build a plane this weekend" thing. It's a tremendously intellectual exercise in which you are challenged to persevere and learn. You're going to put the people you love the most in the plane so you're not going to do anything haphazard or stupid.

    Minnesota, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest seem to be the hotbeds of this activity.

    Most everyone I know who's built an airplane are anxious to explain the process to anyone who's interested in knowing how it can be accomplished.

  3. Every time my car stalls, and drifts safely to the side of the road, I'm reminded that my shoddy maintenance habits mean it's a good thing I'll never pursue idle dreams of piloting my own plane.

  4. Great to see this topic popping up here - I'm completely and totally biased, as I work for the Experimental Aircraft Association (www.eaa.org), the organization dedicated to supporting the homebuilt aircraft world.

    We have an RV-6A in our staff flying club, and a group of us are building a Zenith CH 750 on evenings and weekends. Here's our blog if anyone wants to have a look: http://zenith750project.com

    And lava - I got to fly a Falco F8L (terrible designation, if you pronounce it!) a few years ago, and it was every bit as smooth as you could imagine!

    @daemonsquire - bear in mind that, by the time you do actually fly, you're far, far better trained to deal with emergencies than we ever are as drivers... smile

    @stjohn - congrats on the first flight!

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