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How-To Build an Ultralight Airplane

Brian Churchman
April 12th, 2013
How-To Build an Ultralight Airplane

Working on that new bathroom this weekend? Build an airplane instead.

Everyone has seen videos from the 1800’s of some guy with what appears to be a broken wooden duck strapped to his back leaping from a cliff to experience the miracle of flight, then falling rock to rock down to a grisly question mark – because there weren’t sadist producers willing to show such violent Darwinian catastrophes back in the day.

You could be that guy! You know, minus the mangled limbs and stuff…

My point is, build an ultralight airplane and take to the sky! The Wright brothers were only bicycle mechanics, after all.


An Airplane??!! How Much is This Going to Cost me?

Depending on your pilot skills, probably an arm and a leg! Bu-dum-bum! But seriously, folks, most blueprints will cost between $25 and $300, depending on the level of ultralight you are planning. You will want blueprints – you’re not building a dog house to fly. Snoopy references? No?

Your ultralight will only have one seat unless you are using it for instruction, just a heads up.

That said, a kit will run you anywhere from $3,000 to over $100,000. Go it alone or share the cost with some other pilots to make it realistic, or take a look around for a kit someone either didn’t finish or realized was way out of their league. This could bring you down to the $3,000 mark, as should shopping around for a non-assembly kit. Assembly kits, in contrast come partially assembled and start at $6,000.

Oh yeah…the license. Minimum time to get your pilot’s license is going to legally be 10 hours, and if you get certified in under 20 hours for less than $4,000 out the door, consider yourself a swindler and a cheat.

I Have no Arms. Can I Fly Too?


How Much Time Until I’m High Above my Fellow Man?

Much like with the cost, it depends on your choice of ultralight. However, in addition to the training time mentioned above, you can have an assembly kit put together and flying in a few weekends. I am assuming you have some tools and a basic knowledge of how to read, here.

A raw materials kit can take months to more than a year. This is where the term “labor of love” comes from. It took the Wright brothers one year, two months and 22 days. Aim for that.

Where Should I Build This Thing?

The kitchen would be an inappropriate place to start. I also advise against the bedroom.

You’re going to need a garage to start and probably a barn or similarly large space to complete the project. If you are not going to store the aircraft at an airport hangar, you might be able to just keep it on your property and have your own runway! Assuming that there are no local restrictions, and that your neighbors are cool with the noise, a 1,000-foot runway should do the trick, provided there are no trees in the way. Many estimates give 300 feet as the space need for takeoff, and 350 feet for landing. Add a LOT of safety buffer onto that, and 1,000 feet long by 60 feet wide should do the trick. It will also need to be stored out of the sun, as the UV will kill the Darcon covering your baby.

This will be no walk in the park, but think of the benefits.

Airborne paintball matches.

Advertising banner income.

Zombie apocalypse escape pod.

Mass G.I. Joe airdrops.

The possibilities are endless!

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