Buying New vs. Used

The Hidden Costs of "A Great Deal"

We recognize building an aircraft is a major commitment of time and money. We continually upgrade our kits to reduce their build time while keeping your budget in mind. The Matched-Hole Formed Parts recently added to the Sonex and Waiex airframes is a good example. This standard addition to each kit raised the price slightly, but eliminated 100 hours of build time for the average builder and assures quality parts are going into each airframe. Still, understandably, projects are sold before being completed.

The Sonex product line enjoys excellent resale value when attention is given to workmanship and adherence to the plans. Occasionally a deal is struck and a great aircraft is sold under its market value. Very often a “great deal” becomes less so after you have swapped your cash for a project or low-time aircraft. In the Experimental Aircraft world there is no production standard so there is no construction oversight guaranteeing compliance to the Sonex plan or compliance to standard (best) construction practices. The responsibility for a thorough inspection falls completely on the shoulders of the buyer of an Experimental-Amateur Built project or flying aircraft.

Sonex fully supports second-hand owners who complete our ownership transfer process. However, support is limited to building the aircraft per the Sonex documentation and we do not help undo modifications or provide “work-arounds” for substandard work. Often, second-hand owners need to buy major components to correct existing errors, to change the aircraft’s configuration to the engine, landing gear, or control stick configuration of their choice, or to upgrade an engine or engine installation.

The list of potential problems in assuming someone else’s project is limitless, but here is a brief list of real-world experiences from our tech support files:

  • Aircraft had a fuel tank “sloshed” with an unapproved sealant, resulting in a fatal forced landing.
  • “Extra” items added to the aircraft reduced useful load, diminishing the outstanding performance Sonex Aircraft are known for.
  • Aircraft licensed above Sonex’s published gross weight. This permanently removes the aircraft from the light sport category!
  • AeroVee crank assembled incorrectly – resulted in broken crankshaft.
  • AeroVee internal components substituted with unproven components.
  • Readily available architectural aluminum extrusion substituted for correct, structural 6061-T6.
  • Incorrect weight and balance method used resulting in dangerously incorrect data.
  • Thousands of dollars spent with an A&P to get an engine to run. Neither owner nor A&P familiar with simple AeroVee or Jabiru installations.
  • Buyers found they could not exchange unused motor mount for desired motor mount – Sonex does not accept returns of second-hand parts.
  • Hardware store hardware found in the main wing attachments of flying aircraft.
  • Unfamiliarity with aircraft complicates maintenance/ inspection.
  • Horrendous workmanship required almost total rebuild of the aircraft structure.

If you do not feel you have the skills to build an aircraft, you most likely do not have the skills to maintain a homebuilt aircraft and may find ownership a very costly and frustrating experience. A&Ps charge by the hour and often you are paying them while they educate themselves about your aircraft.

If your desire is to build an aircraft there is no greater reward and peace of mind than having built the entire aircraft yourself. If you find you cannot make the commitment to build the entire aircraft but lust for the Sonex experience, we recommend you look for a finished aircraft that adheres closely to the plans and has been flown well-beyond the 40-hour Phase I flight test period, an indication it is a well-built aircraft.

Sonex wants to see every kit we ship become a flying aircraft, whether completed by the original owner or not, but even more so we want each flying aircraft to be well-built in adherence to the plans, and each Sonex pilot to enjoy the performance and margin of safety a properly built Sonex airframe can deliver.

About the Ownership Transfer Fee

Our ownership transfer process does include a $100 administrative fee. This formal ownership transfer process and fee is becoming more of an industry-standard, and something you will likely see more of from other manufacturers not currently charging a fee. The Non-Builder Owner (NBO) portion of the nation’s Experimental Amateur Built fleet is presenting a major challenge to kit aircraft companies, most of us very small businesses, in-terms of support resources.

Recommended Reading

The Non-Builder Owner’s Guide to Amateur-Built Aircraft was created by EAA including contributions from Sonex and other industry participants via the EAA Safety Committee and EAA Homebuilt Council to help address the increased safety risks of owning and operating an amateur-built aircraft that you did not build.

Vic Syracuse’s Pre-buy Guide For Amateur-Built Aircraft contains over 200 pictures illustrating common problem areas, along with a checklist for both the seller and the purchaser.

The FAA’s Plane Sense publication is also a great resource covering the topic of aircraft ownership as a whole, including the process of purchasing a used aircraft.

Additionally NBO’s present an urgent safety issue in the EAB fleet for all of reasons outlined on this page. There is much effort via manufacturers like Sonex, organizations like EAA and public/private partnerships such as the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee to develop standards, programs and guidance to increase safety in the NBO fleet specifically, as-well as the entire EAB fleet at-large. Our $100 fee not only helps to cover a portion of the administrative costs associated with the transfer and the hours of technical support staff time that is given at no-charge to kit and aircraft owners that never purchased a kit from Sonex, but it also helps defray our costs in participating in some of the safety-oriented committees and organizations mentioned above.

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