A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

March 2006

A Homebuilt Worth Looking Into

Anyone reading articles like this has seen his or her share of homebuilt airplanes by now. If you think back to the early examples you’ve inspected, you may recall how initially you were intrigued that aircraft could actually be built in someone’s garage or hangar. After getting used to the idea, you could pick apart and even be critical of projects that were a little sloppy or had that “not quite finished” appearance. They looked amateur built. Cessna, Beechcraft and Piper products had the professional market cornered.The instruments were matched and new, the upholstery and paint perfect, and all the lights, bells and whistles fit. They were not just add-ons

Occasionally an immaculate, well equipped example of a homebuilt kitplane comes along, and the production models take a back seat. Such was the case when John Richardson of Kamloops, British Columbia, rolled his Turbo Pelican out of the hangar in November of 2003. He’s a perfectionist when it comes to details in his projects. Although this is his first full-size airplane, John’s interest in building began several years earlier with models. After completing and customizing a few which required the production of all the inner parts, ribs, spars, stabilizers and coverings, he thought “what could be so hard about simply scaling up and building a full size model ?”

It was in the late 1990’s when he researched designs, with primary consideration for fuel economy, side by side seating, and the freedom to customize and finish the aircraft to his own likings.  John chose the Pelican with the Rotax 914 engine and constant speed prop.  The advantages of economy, good speed and performance, the seating arrangement, and the fact there was a Rotax dealer in Vernon, just 60 miles away, all figured in the decision.  Some of the component work was completed at the Ultravia factory in Quebec.  John states that the wings were quite simple and straight forward. Much of the non structural details and finishing are left for the builder.  A creative mind is required.  Some of the credit in that department goes to Rick West, another Kamloops pilot with plenty of advice and hands-on building experience.  His assistance was extremely helpful in the last six months of the building process. 

John will admit to six figures when discussing the final cost.  A large portion of that involved all the electrical work which was done by Inland Communications of Kamloops.  It sounds high for a two place homebuilt, but much of it is wrapped up in the instrumentation, the engine and turbo monitoring devices, radios, prop and superb finishing.  He’s worked out some cooling problems that seem to plague many homebuilt airplanes, and now regularly flies above 10,000 feet (there’s an on board oxygen system) with ease and comfort.  It’s a smooth ride, such as a passenger in a Dash 8 would get with a big turbine engine out front.

It took almost four years working “bankers hours” to complete the aircraft. In February of 2003, it looked virtually complete and visitors would remark that the inaugural flight appeared mere weeks away.  John privately figured on late spring.  In actual fact the maiden flight didn’t occur until the end of November that year. The last ten percent seems to take ninety percent of the time.  His approach throughout the project was to set goals to complete one small component or part each day.  He always set the standards for the daily goal at a very low level so there was every chance it would be achieved.  Every day then became a success, and anything accomplished over-and-above that was a bonus.  He says that if you’re constantly thinking of the completed airplane, you’ll just be overwhelmed and discouraged much too often.  

This is one homebuilt that is definitely worth a look. John can be contacted by e-mail j_richardson100@hotmail.com       State PELICAN as your subject.

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