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Buying Home Built Airplanes

So you want to buy a Home Built?

You found the perfect Long Eze for you. Only the owner has it for sale at 52,000 bucks. Hummmm.

We will use the Long Eze as our example throughout this article. Yea, this will be centered around the Canard airplane since it’s what we deal in and see the following event here you go.

The perfect Long you found has a IO360....kinda high time, but it’s not using oil and has really good compressions with dual electronic ignition and fuel injection. It’s IFR with a IFR GPS WASS nav com unit, second comm, EFIS, auto pilot, standby attitude indicator, engine monitor which does everything, really good paint and interior and has less than 150 hours total time maintained by a A&P and built by a A&P. Not to mention it goes like stink. 192 Knots true burning 9 gallons per hour. It needs nothing and comes with a spare prop.

So the call I get goes like this.........I found this Long Eze, the one above, but I find some Long Ezes listed for 35,000. I’m thinking of one of them instead. “Really”. Tell me about your second choice.

Well, it’s in California, has 800 hours on it, has not flown in 7 years. The engine, a O235, was just overhauled when the airplane was built, 15 years ago. It has the latest electronics which were available in 1984......360 channel radios and no transponder with Stewart Warner gauges. The widow only wants 30,000 for it because it has new paint. Owner succumbed to cancer 4 years ago.

“Ok”. So Robert, can you get it back up to speed and flying? Can’t be hard, it’s a flying airplane. And after you get it in your shop would you put a EFIS in it and a new radio and transponder?

Sounds easy...huh? Let’s break this down. I have to drive from Tennessee to California and back with a trailer both ways, there’s a week shot. So you’re looking at 2 grand to RECOVER the airplane. Yea, it’s a recovery. It will be covered in dirt, hopefully dissembled, with flat tires and have to be dug out of the back of a garage.

The project....yep in my shop in Tennessee. First thing you wanted was new radios, a nav comm and a transponder. You did not want a gps able nav since you are going to use your iPad, ok. But you do want one of those snarky small EFIS units. And can I move these switches from here to there? Oh, and put in a replacement instrument panel, you know, one of those carbon covered aluminum panels we do. And can you install an autopilot too?

Right after we pull the current anchors out of the panel, yep they are trash, we find the wiring is composed of code compliant house wire throughout the airplane, complete with the copper tube down the side of the fuselage for a ground strip. So let me guess, you want to use the existing wiring and plug in 8 grand of new radios? Ain’t gonna do it. And to be honest it is faster (read cheaper, lighter and safer) to re-wire the whole airplane. By the time I figure out how it’s wired it easier to start over. So just to wire the new radios together is close to 10 days of radio guy work......and he’s paid by the a buck a minute. However he IS good.

No I can hear you already......”it doesn’t happen like this”. Well sorta.....usually it’s worse. By the way, don’t forget you need new tires and tubes and bleed the brake system after the brakes are rebuilt. What, you expect O rings to last forever?

Remember the current 1984 Stewart Warner gauges you have? Yea, half don’t work.....which is cool because you want a EIS engine monitor system installed.....yea, they require new sensors and wiring too.

Finally we get to run the engine. So let me ask a serious question. This carburetor has not seen fuel in 7 years. What are the odds it will work? What are the odds I would want to fly in front of it? Both about 0%. But we’ll try anyway. Who knows. So we dump in 10 gallons of fresh fuel and poof, the fuel selector in the front seat leaks....minor O ring, lets start it. Yea, we already replaced the dead battery. Bang, cough, backfires later it kinda runs. Oh man it’s sick. Forget a mag check, can’t get that high in rpm. Pull the mixture to shut it down and nothing happens. Turn the mags off......yea, it dies.

Compression check shows one cylinder at 65 and the other three between 42 and 55. I’m not making this up y’all. It’s actually happened. Bore scope the cylinders and yep, all kinds of pitting and corrosion. No surprise there. Engine overhaul time. Let’s say it goes well for a O235 and you get out for 5 grand. Oh, the carburetor? Send it out too and get it overhauled. 800 bucks. This will only take 2 months to accomplish.

While the crank was out being checked it was found to have a crack. Crap. You as the new owner say, “can you put in a O320?” Yea.....but.......

So this O320 shows up which is half run out but reliable. Cool. Wait, the prop is bent the wrong’s for a tractor type.....880 bucks for a Sturba wood prop. 2 more months.

You do realize the O320 WILL NOT fit under your O235 cowling? Right? Dump the fuel, only 10 gallons and take the wings and canard back off and flip the fuselage over and make the lower cowl. (Short version of explanation). Then back upright and make the upper cowl. Sand and fill then do have the exact paint numbers for a match with your fresh paint job right?

Hey Robert, since you had to make a new engine mount and all, can you put dual electronic ignition in it? Yep. Oh, the O235 exhaust pipes won’t work either.......

All put back together it’s ready to tweek. ........EFIS has to be calibrated, engine sensors brought up, and flight tested. Guess what, it’s out of rig....common. So two days of test flying at 500 bucks a day for the test pilot later you have a 155 knot cruiser. No gear leg fairing or wheel pants take off about 13 knots. Oh, you wanted those too..........

So here is your airplane a year after you bought it for 30,000. You only paid 73,000 for it in the end.......

You have a choice, fly now or fly later and pay more money. The 52,000 dollar bird may have seemed expensive, but was it really?

Please understand, doing all the upgrades is one of the things we do, so I’ll do what you want because I want the customer happy. Which way makes you happy?

This scenario plays out regularly at the shop. None of it is made up. It applies to Velocities, Cozy, Longs and Vari Ezes. It’s really up to you.

We make your bird fly ~ give us a call ~ Jet Guys 901-475-3686


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