This is the story of my dream to build and own an airplane. I’ve been obsessed with flight since I was a kid, and that obsession turned into a pilot’s license during my senior year of college. When I moved to NH in 2002, I flew rental planes mostly, getting my instrument ticket along the way. In 2007, I joined the Queen City Aero Club, an active group of recreational flyers with a 1973 Cessna 172 based at Boire Field in Nashua, NH (KASH). I’ve enjoyed being a member of the club, but I always wanted to have something a little faster, more modern, and most importantly, an airplane to call my own!
My search started with used production General Aviation (GA) airplanes (Beeches to Pipers and everything in between), but after two years of searching I concluded it is really difficult to locate an affordable plane in good shape with up-to-date avionics. Many of the affordable used planes were built before I was born, in the 1960’s and 70’s. The GA industry went through a collapse in the 80’s, resulting in a 10 to 15-year period where very few planes were built and prices skyrocketed. Today, piston-engine airplanes are still built by a handful of companies that survived the collapse, but they are outrageously expensive! For example: the 1973 Cessna 172M club plane I fly today sold for $17,890 back when it was new – or about $91k in inflation-adjusted dollars (2018). Today, that same airplane now has a base price of $369,000, and with options can easily cost over $400k! Along with the cost of acquisition, there’s the costs of insurance and maintenance, which are quite high even on a relatively simple and ubiquitous aircraft like the C172.
Unsatisfied with the used planes I was finding, I started looking at “kit planes”, which are formally called Experimental Amateur Built (E-AB) airplanes. These planes are designed similarly to normal production planes, and in many cases to the same standards as “certificated” planes, but they don’t go through the very costly process of getting the FAA to certify the design for mass production under the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). Instead, companies designing these kit planes manufacture the piece-parts and do some lower-level assembly, but the bulk of aircraft construction is carried out by the kit buyer following the manufacturer’s blueprints and assembly instructions. This saves a lot on the acquisition cost of the plane in exchange for labor — but a nice benefit is that as the builder of the plane, I’ll be able to do nearly all of my own maintenance, saving on recurring costs over the years. There are limitations on how you can fly an experimental plane – for example, I won’t be able to fly for hire – but I’m fine with these limitations, since my flying mission is typically cross-country travel for business and tourism.
The Sling 4 is one of these kit planes that comes from The Airplane Factory in South Africa. I chose this plane because of its capacity, speed, modern design, and generally good looks. I looked at several kit planes, including competitive products from the largest kit plane manufacturer in the world (Van’s Aircraft), but really fell in love with the Sling and was very impressed when I met their North America distribution team in Torrance, CA.
I hope to looking forward to the first test flights sometime in 2022. This blog journals my adventure!