This website promotes a focus on affordable aviation, but the word “affordable” means different things to different people at different times.
For some “affordable” may include Special LSA selling for more than $200,000. After all, that’s a fraction of a loaded Cirrus SR22, for example. For others, even $20,000 is more than they wish to spend.
Fortunately, you have a wide variety of choices. Our April 2020 series was composed of ten articles about used light aircraft you can buy for less than $10,000.
We also continue work on our Part 103 list. From the current count of 57 producers, most have choices that are affordable to most pilots plus you get the benefit of almost no regulatory authority over your flying activity (no pilot certificate, no N-numbers, no medical, plus you can buy ready to fly and maintain any way you wish).
Any design so named seems to fit our mission perfectly. Have you ever seen an Affordaplane? Don’t feel bad. Neither have I, and I am constantly on the prowl for light aircraft I haven’t seen.
Naturally, this fact also highlights that the lightest, most affordable airplanes may often be flown in and out of places a Cirrus SR22 owner will never see. Many Part 103 ultralights seem invisible to much of conventional, legacy aviation. It’s their loss.
To become more aware, I explored Affordaplane’s website and looked at their Facebook page. I also approached developer, Dave Edwards. Those with specific questions or seeking more information before placing an order can email Dave.
Another Facebook page, a private group with more than 5,000 followers administrated by Terry Adair, is called Affordaplane Ultralight Adventures.
When communicating about Affordaplane on the Part 103 List, I told Dave, “I will accept plans from producers like you but I will ask for the number of aircraft that you (and other plans suppliers) believe have taken to the air in those years, as ‘delivery’ doesn’t mean the same thing.” Fully-built Part 103 producers will be asked to tell me their deliveries for 2019 and 2020.
I added, “My request only applies to aircraft that comply with FAA guidance to be conforming Part 103 ultralights. Any of your [Affordaplane] aircraft requiring N-numbers will be counted via our main market share reporting. The Part 103 List and my surveying of the industry is an attempt to address the lack of knowledge about 103 ultralight numbers.”
Regarding my market questions, Dave wrote, “I am not sure that I have accurate numbers, as there is no earthly way for me to know if someone has actually built one for Part 103.” I understand his message.
However, he added, “That [Part 103 category] is what the Affordaplane was originally designed for, and many hundreds are flying. Now, a lot of people do [Experimental Amateur Built], but I have witnessed an explosion of new people into the sport, in the past five years.”
Affordable airplanes like Affordaplane are indeed reflecting the refreshed interest in Part 103, “Our facebook group has over 7,600 people in it,” Dave indicated.
“I think it is great what you are doing [with the Part 103 List] and I will be more than glad to help. I am very interested in your efforts,” Dave finished adding, “By the way, you know who lives about two miles from me here? John Moody, the father of Ultralights!”
Affordaplane — The Beginning
“I designed and flew the Affordaplane ultralight airplane starting back in 1999, and my life’s dream and mission has been to help people to fly,” remembered Dave. “For over 20 years I have helped a whole lot of people build and fly their own airplanes.”
“To me, ultralights are the ultimate expression of freedom,” he expressed. “You don’t need a license to fly them, but you do need training.”
“Give me a grass strip and a couple of bucks’ worth of gas, and I can go flying any time I want. I don’t need a radio, don’t need an expensive transponder, and I do not need an annual inspection. I do all the inspecting myself. When you build it yourself it gives you invaluable experience and confidence in the air that you just do not get by buying a completed airplane from someone else.”
“Most of the materials to build the Affordaplane you can buy locally. Nowadays you can get all your metal locally, even the windscreen came from Home Depot,” observed Dave. “Aircraft bolts you buy from an aircraft supply house. Your motor can come from many places, like Ebay or Barnstormers.com. The fabric to cover the wings and tail comes from Aircraft Spruce.”
Dave said, “The biggest ‘secret’ is that building an airplane like mine is easy …really easy, like building a large model airplane. You just have to pay attention to details, and … follow a good set of plans, step by step.
The Affordaplane Plans package now contains 173 information packed pages, and everything you need to build your own Affordaplane aircraft is included.
The Construction Manual is 68 pages of detailed photos and step by step instructions. For those who prefer, the plans can be delivered on a CD or digitally.
Affordaplane’s fuselage is [based on] square aluminum tubing with flat plate gussets bolting it all together. “I designed it this way for a number of reasons,” noted Dave. “One is that it’s extremely strong but light. Gyrocopters have used this method for decades. Two is you can cut it with a chop saw or jigsaw, drill it, and it is basically done. There is no welding involved at all with this airplane. You do not have to have welding equipment, and you never have to worry if your welds will hold. Plus, everything is out in the open, there is nothing hidden that can cause problems. You don’t even need to paint it.”
“I have helped many people build their fuselage in one single weekend,” boasted Dave, “and that is unheard of in homebuilt aircraft construction. That just shows how simple this airplane really is to build.”
Affordaplane wings and tail are built from round aluminum tubing, the same type of construction as many other ultralight airplanes. Those surfaces are covered with Dacron, shrunk with a clothes iron, and painted with house paint. Dave reports that this method looks great and holds up for years. The airfoil used yields the most performance out of 40 horsepower.
“The stall is gentle and straightforward,” Dave claimed. “I designed full-span ailerons for the wings. Crosswinds are no problem at all. She goes where you point her.”
“If there is one thing I am most proud of, it’s how Affordaplane flies,” Dave said enthusiastically. “In a word: Great! All the pilots that have flown her say she is a very sweet flying airplane.”
Affordaplane appears to be a solid, proven design, one that has been flying for over 20 years and has logged thousands of hours. “If you build it as an FAR 103 legal ultralight, it comes out at 254 pounds,” Dave reported. “But many people now build it as a Experimental Amateur Built because they can log hours in their logbook. So it’s your choice.”
- Empty Weight — 254 pounds
- Gross Weight — 540 pounds
- Wing Span — 27.5 feet
- Wing Area — 117 square feet
- Length — 17.25 feet
- Height — 5 feet
- Engine — 35 to 40 horsepower
- Never Exceed Speed — 75 miles a hour
- Maximum Speed — 63 miles a hour
- Cruise Speed — 55 miles a hour
- Stall — 27 miles per hour
- Range — 150 miles
- Fuel Capacity — 5 U.S. gallons
- Rate of Climb — 1,000 feet per minute
- Takeoff Roll — 150 feet
- Landing Roll — 150 feet
- Build Time — approximately 250 hours
An average price to build Affordaplane ranges from $4,000-$7,000 for a flying, complete aircraft. Yep. I’d say this one certainly deserves the name affordable.