Sonex Kitplanes - Affordable Aluminum Aircraft That Mere Mortals Can Afford
By James Grahame
Sonex Ltd. is the brainchild of businessman and kit designer John Monnett and Mechanical Engineer Pete Buck. Monnett's industry credentials are legendary -- he was inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association's Homebuilders Hall of Fame in 2001. Buck, on the other hand, draws up the plans for Sonex designs "in his spare time." Scared yet? Don't be. Buck is a lead Engineer at Lockheed Martin's famed Skunkworks. He's worked on the F-117 Stealth Fighter and X-33, among others.
The Sonex was introduced as a plans-built aircraft in 1998. It met with immediate success because of its simple, rugged design and affordability (yes, I'm a big fan of aluminum aircraft. They're incredibly easy to build when compared to the challenges of carbon composites or tricky doped fabric). Builders were soon clamoring for a kit, and Sonex obliged with a $12,995 quick-build kit that features laser-cut skins, along with pre-formed ribs and welded and formed aluminum components. It's possible to build a decently equipped Sonex for around $25,000, and there are currently 108 flying around the world.
More pix and info after the jump.
[Thanks to builder Randy Shelnut for letting me use these pics. His plane first flew in December 2005.]
How does it perform? Respectably. Its sea-level cruise is 135 mph (217 kmh) with a 120 HP Jabiru 6-cylinder engine. It can manage a 2000+ ft/minute climb rate, and offers a reasonable 400 mile range while remaining easy-to-fly. The design can handle +6 / -3 G's, so can be flown aerobatically, as well.
Not sure you've got the technical chops to build your own flying
machine? Sonex has scheduled hands-on workshops in February, May and
October at their Oshkosh, Wisconsin factory. It gives prospective
owners the chance to check out the facility and various Sonex designs
up-close, while Cleco-riveting real aircraft parts together.
Sonex sport aircraft (The Sonex, Waiex V-tail, and Xenos motorglider)