More to the point why BUILD an aircraft.

I moved to Bathurst in 2003 with the intention of retiring and spending my days immersed in my passion for Amateur Radio. After settling in, I discovered two airfields within minutes from home, and having had a lifelong interest in aviation and relatives dispersed around the state, I decided to investigate. I approached Ward Air and Sally Anne took me up in VH-YHY A Cessna 152, I was hooked! Flight training began immediately, and the more I flew, the more my thoughts moved to the purchase of my own aircraft. This proved not to be a simple process. However, with so many categories, structural configurations and engine options decisions had to be made.

The first decision, (General Aviation or Sports Category?) was solved over the issue of maintenance. GA aircraft MUST be maintained by a licensed maintainer which adds up to BIG dollars over the life of the aircraft. Sports category aircraft may be maintained by the builder, providing they have completed more than 51% of the airframe. With a lifetime of experience performing motorcycle and motor vehicle maintenance, the second option appeared the most financially appropriate, and of course, the most fun.

The next decision was in regard to aircraft construction and performance. With my range, cruise, and payload requirements two kit- built aircraft caught my eye. The Jabiru J160, a composite high-wing design, built from Australian- made components and the Sonex, an all metal low- wing American design capable of utilizing the Australian Jabiru engines were top contenders. A thorough investigation of the Jabiru followed, starting with builder websites, then onto local owners, and culminating with a visit to the Jabiru factory in Bundaberg . The deciding factor in the negative for the composite design was the mountains of fibreglass dust I encountered at every turn. The process of sanding and mixing and sanding and temperature control and sanding and more mixing was also daunting for someone who is an Electrical Fitter by trade and has only ever worked with metal. The Sonex moved to number one.

During Easter 2004, I travelled to Natfly and saw Lynn Jarvis's prize winning Sonex, which had won best overall Aircraft at Natfly three years in a row. After speaking to Lynn at great length, I was hooked! The Sonex can be registered Ultra Light or GA experimental depending on the licence you have, PPL or an Ultra light flying certificate and as I have both I can decide either way. I was also drawn to the use of rods in activating the elevator, ailerons and flaps with only the rudder operated via cable. I spoke by phone to Jeremy Monett at the Sonex factory in Oshkosh Wisconsin the next day and twelve weeks later, a 4ft by 4ft by 14ft box was picked up at Botany container terminal and driven to Bathurst on a friends car trailer.

In ordering the aircraft, several more decisions needed to be made in regard to the many configuration options made available by Sonex. For up-front power I chose the six cylinder Jabiru 3.3 litre engine. This all alloy, direct drive, dual magneto ignition, electric start engine was the largest of the options available at 120hp and should produce a cruise speed in the vicinity of 140 kts. The tail dragger option was selected because of the considerable savings in weight and drag, savings on the purchase price but mostly because it looked a whole lot better. First things first! For control I went for central stick, having by then flown a Jabiru with this configuration and finding no difficulties. Finally I have decided to install a Stratomaster all- glass instrument panel with all flight instruments and a very comprehensive engine monitoring system.

I am hoping to have the basic airframe airborne in 2008 but the project will be ongoing! It is my goal to be forever flying, fiddling and fine tuning the design.

Things you need to build a Sonex:

First and foremost... a very understanding wife! I have one in Margaret, who has encouraged me every step of the way. I love her dearly. A shed to build it in , ALL Australian boys need a shed! A 4ft by 12ft walk-around table, which I built while waiting for the kit to arrive. A bench drill, portable power drill, compressor, pneumatic rivet- gun and a few hand tools. The rest comes with the kit of parts from wicks aircraft supplies.