Experimental Aircraft

There’s little reassurance when the first thing one notices in a vehicle designed to travel at 3,500 feet, and at speeds of 200 miles per hour, is a prominently displayed warning:

This aircraft is amateur built and does not comply with the federal safety regulations for “standard aircraft.”

But for Bob Veit, and others like him, the thrill of building and flying experimental aircraft outweighs the risk.

Veit, a retired ConocoPhillips occupational health specialist, is one of a handful of Green Country residents who have taken to the skies in homemade planes.

“I spent 2,200 man hours building this plane,” Veit said, grinning. “And that doesn’t include all the hours my wife spent operating my pneumatic rivet gun.”

Veit’s plane, an RV-6A, was made by Van’s Aircraft in Aurora, Ore., and assembled by Veit from a kit at his home in Bartlesville. The plane now calls a hangar at the Bartlesville Municipal Airport home.

The plane has a wingspan of 23 ft. and is just over 20 ft. in length. It sits empty at nearly 1,600 lbs. and has 110 SF of total wing space. The plane is powered by a 200 HP engine and gets 20 to 22 miles per gallon of high-octane fuel commonly called “avgas.”

The Federal Aviation Administration considers Veit’s homebuilt RV-6A and other, similar aircraft “experimental.” The designation was originally intended for designers who wanted to do research or for home inventors who wanted to learn about aerodynamics as they built their own piece of equipment.

Because these aircraft were barred from commercial use, the FAA never considered it necessary to put them through its exhaustive process for certifying a new type of plane.

This doesn’t mean the aircraft isn’t fun to take on a Sunday drive, Veit said.

“This plane, as compared to a Cessna, is like hopping out of the family station wagon and getting into a Corvette,” adding that “the plane is recreational aerobatics capable, but the pilot is not.”

According to the Experimental Aircraft Association, there are more than 25,000 planes similar to Veit’s cruising the American skies. While the aviation industry, in general, has had its ups and downs over the past 25 years, the homebuilt aircraft segment of the industry has shown continuous growth and comprises more than 15 percent of the single-engine piston-powered general aviation fleet.

The EAA also states about 1,000 experimental aircraft are registered each year and that in some years the number of newly registered homemade aircraft surpasses that of preassembled aircraft of a similar size.

The cost of experimental aircraft is the reason people like Veit are drawn to the homebuilt, rather than a factory built, models.

“The Grumman Tiger is the nearest thing to what I fly, and those can cost $200,000 new. Mine was built for around $45,000.” ?

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