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- The definition of “best” will vary from person to person. Ultimately, the “best” means that it fits the desires of the owner more than anything else.
- There are not many canard aircraft available as kits, but AeroCanard is available if you really feel the need for one.
- If you want a copy of the first-ever kit plane, then the Ace Aircraft Baby Ace is still on the market.
- A jet-powered kit plane is available in the form of the Sonex SubSonex, the only one of its kind to be mass produced
- The Thunder Mustang is a ¾ scale version of the P-51 Mustang from World War II, and it’s still the fastest piston-powered kit plane in production.
If you want an airplane that’s airshow or STOL competition worthy, you have to build it. But what are the best kit planes out there?
Kit planes are relatively easy to come by these days. And there’s something special about building your own airplane. The best kit planes out there will include some of the biggest names in the kit building world like Airdrome, Aeromarine, Thunder, Sonex, and Lancair.
There are slight variations between every aircraft, but ultimately they are the same. That’s why it’s so cool to have a completely homebuilt airplane. One that you can say is unlike any other aircraft in the whole world. Seriously, how many aircraft out there have your initials written on the innards of the airplane? And if you didn’t do that, then open it up and do that now.
What Makes a Kit Plane the “Best?”
There are a lot of factors that must be accounted for when determining what the “best” kit plane is. It’s really going to boil down to the individual that is building the kit plane to determine what makes their particular airplane the best.
Some folks may be after the most fuel-efficient aircraft out there. Other people are in it for the speed. Then there are some real nerds out there that like to see how much speed and distance they can get on the least amount of horsepower, which is such an exciting metric and extremely hard to tailor to.
Regardless of your parameters, there is only one person that can truly determine whether the kit plane they are building, or going to build, is the best for their specific needs.
Instead of just forcing my own parameters onto the lovely readers here, I’ve decided to give a few different options. The ultimate factor that I came to though, is the “cool” factor.
“Cool” is a specific thing that only I can define. Sometimes, it’s because it’s a jet; other times it’s because of the vintage vibes it brings. Really, I feel like the “cool” things about the aircraft make it the “best.”
What it boils down to though, is what you deem to be the most important factors in owning an aircraft. If you value speed over all else, then that’s the best for you. Same for safety, or versatility. As long as you are pleased with your kit, then nobody else’s opinion matters.
I think that what might make any aircraft the “best” is what you know about it. Some people will say Cessna 172 or a Piper Arrow is the best airplane. Others may deem the Piper Cub as the best kind of aircraft.
When you are building your own aircraft though, you will know that aircraft better than anyone else. The slight differences that come from having two different people instead of machinists build an aircraft, make that airplane specific to you.
No other builder can build the same kit the way you built it, no matter how closely you both follow the plans (or don’t follow as the case may be). That makes it unique and special. It makes it the best airplane for you specifically.
But of course, we can’t neglect how the aircraft was designed to perform within specific parameters. Therefore, the platform you’re building from still does matter. That’s the whole reason this article exists.
I’ve done the research to see which aircraft are the best. The specific “best” may be slightly different when defined from pilot to pilot, but these 12, all make a case for that number one spot.
So, join me as we explore the best kit planes on the market today.
12 Best Kit Planes
1. Ace Aircraft Baby Ace
When you start talking about aviation with almost anyone that’s not already in the field, they will simply assume those that participate in it are wealthy. This is most definitely not the case, but it’s a justifiable belief.
I mean, when it comes to even paying to learn to be a pilot, it’s not cheap. So, it makes sense that people assume all aviators are wealthy.
When you look back at the history of aviation though, you see that it kind of became a rich man’s hobby after the Wright Brothers. This belief has just trickled down, reasonably, to the current sentiment of today.
But shortly after aviation started taking off, a man by the name of Orlando “Ace” Corben decided it was time to try and change this by creating the first-ever kit plane: The Baby Ace. Shortly after that the two-seater version was created known as the Junior Ace.
What’s so insane is that these models of aircraft are still available to the public. These kit planes are incredibly unique in this day and age, so they have that cool factor in them. They also are basically the same kit plane that Mr. Corben came up with, just beefed up to modern standards.
2. AeroCanard FG
Alright, so we’ve all decided that airplanes are cool and kit planes are even cooler. But how about a kit plane that’s pretty much backward?
Normally, the elevator of an airplane is on the tail. A canard is when this elevator is on the front of the plane. AeroCanard has decided to create a whole company of kit planes that operate with canards instead of typical elevators.
The pride and joy of AeroCanard are the AeroCanard FG kit planes. The elevator on the front is only the beginning of the weird too because instead of a propeller that pulls the airplane forward, it has a propeller on the back of the plane pushing the aircraft forward.
So basically, the AeroCanard FG is a completely backward airplane, which is SO freaking cool. A canard aircraft is so unique, but when combined with the fact it’s a kit plane and you built it yourself, that makes it one of the best kit planes out there.
On top of that, the AeroCanard FG has incredible stats. A top speed of 225 mph and a cruise speed of 205 mph give this thing some numbers that aren’t easily achieved by many other aircraft.
Couple those speeds with a range of about 1000 statute miles and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet, putting this aircraft in a special class by itself.
Oh, yeah. It’s also a four-seater, so you don’t need to go alone.
3. Wittman W-10 Tailwind
Something interesting about my aviation career is that my discovery flight was done in a 1942 Aeronca Champ. It was made of wood and fabric, sporting a vintage tailwheel. Knowing that bit, I think it’s easy to understand why I instantly fell in love with aviation.
That’s why I think everyone should at least get the raw feeling that comes with flying a vintage airplane. But, because they’re vintage, it gets a little worrisome with the age and quality of the material. So, instead of worrying about someone else’s ability to take care of the airplane, build it yourself so you know it’s high quality.
This is where building your very own Wittman W-10 Tailwind comes into play.
The Tailwind was introduced in 1953, and the plans for it have remained relatively unchanged since then. What else would you expect when a legend like Steve Wittman comes up with the design of an aircraft?
A Tailwind gets its name because this thing has some serious speed for such a classically designed aircraft. It typically cruises around 180 mph, but it’s been known to hit speeds of 230 mph. Those speeds put it ahead of the much newer design of the AeroCanard, but it doesn’t have the four seats to take a big passenger load with you.
Honestly, the 35-gallon tanks giving a range of about 690 miles, don’t really lend themselves to crazy adventures with your friend group anyway. It’s more for cruising and showing off with just one buddy along for the ride.
4. Airdrome Aeroplane Fokker Dr-I
I know that I was literally just talking about how great the vintage feel of a Wittman W-10 Tailwind is, but this might be outdone. There’s a super cool company out in Holden, Missouri that sells some seriously vintage kit planes.
They have many different models for all the aviation history nerds, but none carry the “cool” factor I talked about earlier better than their ¾ scale version of the Fokker DR-I.
It’s a rarity to see a biplane in today’s market, but it’s even rarer to come across a triplane. That uniqueness is precisely what you get when you get an Airdrome Aeroplane Fokker DR-I. It’s a triplane made in the ¾ scale to the original from 1917.
The Fokker triplane, though not as popular at the time, has become the most recognizable and popular aircraft of World War I, as the triplane of the war we most associate with the Germans and the aircraft type the famed flying ace the Red Baron made his last 17 flights in.
Really, the only downside to this modern take on a classic aircraft is that it’s so old. In an attempt to be as close to the original as possible, the Airdrome Aeroplane Fokker DR-I is not designed for modern performance. Its top speed is a mere 78 mph, whilst its maximum cruise speed is 64 mph.
My car goes faster than that down the freeway.
But, it does what it says on the tin. It’s historically accurate, cheap and really freaking cool looking. Plus, getting one of these bad boys puts you in very unique company; not only because the most famous fighter ace of the 20th century flew one just like it, but because of how rare the Airdrome Aeroplane Fokker Dr-I is today!
5. Murphy Aircraft Moose
I’m an aviator through and through. My dad and my father-in-law though, they’re boaters. They both love being on the water and fishing and whatnot. So, I wanted to make sure my dad and father-in-law would really want to go flying with me. That’s why I decided to find a seaplane that could be built to appease them and myself.
I discovered a very interesting company that calls just north of the United States their home. Murphy Aircraft is a Canadian company that builds some seriously high-quality kit planes, maybe even the best kit planes (depending on your goals) on the market.
The Murphy Aircraft Moose is truly an all-terrain vehicle as it has floats for the water, wheels for the land, skis for snow, and of course, wings for the air. It’s often known by the nickname the “Mini Beaver” in reference to the famed de Havilland Beaver, which was similarly known for its versatility.
Seriously, the Moose is one of the coolest airplanes in the world. It has the most versatility out there. It also comes with two possible engine options to give you a little more flexibility in performance. The Lycoming O-540 or the M-14P radial option. They give you the same stall speed of 58 mph and the Vme of 189 mph.
The biggest differences come in horsepower and cruise speed. The Lycoming offers 300 horsepower and an average cruise speed of 143 mph, while the M-14P has 360 horsepower and a cruise speed of 150 mph. Interestingly, the radial engine adds about 100-200 pounds of weight and gives 200-300 pounds less useful load than the Lycoming O-540.
While it may seem smarter to get a little more speed, it’s not always the right choice for you. Regardless of the engine you choose, you’re getting one of the best kit planes on the market that has some of the most versatility of any aircraft on the market.
6. Van’s Aircraft RV14/14A
When I started my flight training, my goal was to do it as cheaply as possible. That means I was searching for an easy-to-fly and fuel-efficient airplane. I started looking at the Cessna 152 as my desired primary trainer aircraft.
Then I sat in one.
I’m not a huge person, but I’m not small either. I’m a hair over 6 feet tall and walk around between 185 and 200 pounds depending on the time of year (thank you Christmas for the delicious home cooked meals and chocolate adding a few extra pounds).
So when I sat in a Cessna 172, I felt considerably more comfortable to learn a new skill in that aircraft.
That reasoning is exactly why I like Van’s Aircraft RV-14/14A over their other models. If you look at a lot of airshows, you will see many RV kit planes on the list. They’re a pretty popular platform for aerobatic flying.
The downside is that they’re usually kind of small and not very roomy. So bigger people weren’t super into these little airplanes. Whenever Van’s Aircraft announced that they were taking the crazy popular RV-10 and making it for someone that is 6 ft 4 in to comfortably fly, I got excited.
The RV-14 and 14A show up and offer the incredible performance that Van’s Aircraft are known for, but makes it comfortable for larger pilots to take control and get into an aerobatic-style kit plane.
Just to clarify, the difference between an RV-14 and the 14A is simply to do with how the landing gear is set out. The RV-14 sports a tailwheel configuration and the RV-14A is a nosewheel.
The RV-14 platform is a side-by-side configuration for two larger pilots to get in on the fun of an aerobatic aircraft.
The size of the RV-14 is what makes it one of the best kit planes out there. It takes one of the already most popular kit planes and makes it more comfortable for larger pilots. It’s one of the top choices of kit planes available today.
7. Thunder Mustang
Remember earlier in this article when I was kind of gushing over how cool the Fokker DR-I by Airdrome Aeroplane is? Well, this is in the same vein of cool, but maybe better.
The Thunder Mustang has entered the chat…well, the article anyway.
When you get a bunch of pilots together at least 3 or 4 of them will bring up the P-51 Mustang and how amazing of an aircraft it is. Even by today’s standards, it’s pretty impressive.
Instead of getting a vintage World War II airplane, you can get a ¾ scale kit plane that is essentially the same thing. The Thunder Mustang is how to get a brand new version of the P-51 that is so incredibly iconic.
Being powered by a Falconer V-12 power plant, the Thunder Mustang is still able to claim it is the fastest piston-powered kit plane ever made. On top of that, because of the power-to-weight ratio, it statistically outperforms the original P-51 which is so well-known and iconic.
I mean, with a cruise speed of 340 mph, it’s one of the fastest kit planes on the market in general. Plus, there is the guarantee that when you take it out to any airfield, everyone will be taking a peek and wanting to talk to you about it.
Honestly, the fact you’re able to take home a Mustang for a fraction of the cost of an original P-51 makes this worth it. Then you add in the fact that you build it by hand, and that makes it absolutely worth it (yeah, ok, maybe I’m geeking out a little, but hey, it’s always been my dream to own my own P-51!)
8. Lancair Mako
Search “kit planes” in Google and you’re sure to find the name Lancair on pretty much every list. They’re known for being one of the best kit plane manufacturers in the world.
That’s why it likely doesn’t come as a surprise that the Lancair Mako, their current four-seat kit plane, is on this list.
The Mako is a kit plane version of everything that the Cirrus SR22 is, but you can build it for a considerably lower price and it comes with the benefit of having built it yourself. Building an airplane helps you know the inside and outs of it.
Lancair knew what they were doing with this kit too. Instead of just offering the normal Mako, they doubled down and created a turbo version as well. The turbo version takes you from a 300 horsepower to a 350 horsepower engine.
The turbo engine also moves the cruise speed from 200 knots to 225 knots. All the pilots flying a Lancair Mako will be really booking it through the sky.
When Lancair created the Mako, they weren’t really focusing on outperforming all the competitors. The main goal was to focus on creating an aircraft that would actually perform in real-world scenarios. It wasn’t about making the best airplane on paper, but creating one the easiest to fly airplanes that make for one of the safest and best feeling aircraft.
This focus on the aircraft for the pilot instead of performance made for one of the best kit planes you can get.
9. Sling Aircraft Sling TSi
It might be a crime to create a list of the best kit planes and not mention a kit plane that created an entire community around it. For that reason alone I’m including Sling Aircraft on the list.
To make it more specific, I think the four-seat option is the best option out there. So, the Sling TSi has made the list as one of the best kit planes.
Not only is the Sling TSi a four-seater, but it has a cruise speed of 148 knots, and a max range of 880 nautical miles.
So, the TSi has some pretty good numbers. The main reason to be so excited about this aircraft though is that it’s basically a luxury vehicle in the sky. Equipped with some of the highest quality avionics on the market and the most luxurious interior you can get on an aircraft, the TSi takes the things that made the Sling 2 and Sling 4 so popular and improved on them.
The TSi isn’t known for being the best at anything because the designers refused to sacrifice anything. The TSi is actually the MOST well-rounded aircraft out there. The handling characteristics put it in the top tier for all categories. It’s extremely easy to fly, responds well, has some of the most high-technology avionics, and is just downright gorgeous.
Pretty much, if you’re searching for a kit plane that is just great at everything, then the Sling TSi is the perfect one to pick up.
10. Fisher Flying Products Horizon 2
Maybe this is just me, but I doubt it: One of my favorite things about flying is the absolutely breathtaking views that come with it. I mean, usually, people have to spend thousands of dollars to get a view from the top of a mountain. I just hop in a general aviation aircraft and climb to 3,000 feet in the air and absorb the beauty.
The views are why I typically prefer flying in a high-wing aircraft. Especially when I’m just cruising around. So, when I was looking for kit planes, it made sense that I was so drawn in by the impressive 360-degree view that is offered by the Fisher Flying Products Horizon 2.
Keep in mind, I’m not a tiny person. The massive flight deck offered by the Horizon 2 is another point that really caught my attention because it was designed to comfortably seat two 6’6” (192 cm), 280-pound (125 kg) pilots.
It’s not the fastest kit plane on the market. It only has a cruise speed of between 95 and 100 mph. But the incredibly short take-off and landing rolls of between 250 and 500 inches help you get in the air quickly to start enjoying those amazing views as quickly as possible.
The Horizon 2 was really designed to be one of the easiest-flying airplanes that you can build. It’s got really great control at higher speeds, but it is just as controllable at slower speeds. This makes the Horizon 2 a very good aircraft for short-field take-offs and landings. It also makes it extremely useful for light aerobatics with an envelope of +4/-2.5 Gs. That’s better than some purpose-built aerobatic aircraft!
All around, the Horizon 2 is perfect for anyone who does most of their flying out of grass strips, but it handles extremely well on hard surface runways as well.
11. Sonex SubSonex
Sonex is a brand name that comes to mind quite often when people are discussing kit planes. But what if you don’t just want a typical kit plane powered by a boring old piston engine? What do you get if you’re after a jet instead?
I mean, that dude on the Pepsi documentary on Netflix almost got a freaking Harrier jet, so why can’t you get your own personal jet in a less ridiculous manner?
Luckily, Sonex asked a similar question and designed the SubSonex, a personal jet. With a retractable tricycle landing gear and equipped with a TJ-100 turbojet engine, the Sonex Subsonex is the perfect platform to have a personal jet.
The only downside of the SubSonex is that it only has space for the pilot. The plus side is that Sonex is in the development stage of a side-by-side version. So, exhibit some patience and you can get one to show off to your friends.
Until then, you have to settle for a personal jet. The tragedy.
However, will you settle for building a kit plane that cruises at 230-240 mph, an aerobatic envelope of +6/-3 Gs, and a crazy cool Y-tail configuration?
Not quite a STOL plane with a take-off distance of 1200 feet and a landing distance of 2000 feet, but the range of 412 nautical miles makes this plane perfect to get you places quickly and the ability to show off with some aerobatics along the way.
12. Aero Adventure Aventura II
I was talking about seaplanes earlier when I was discussing the ever-capable Moose aircraft. But what if you take something that kind of looks like a fan boat, but put some wings on that bad boy?
You end up with the Aero Adventure Aventura II amphibious aircraft.
Okay, so the only thing that makes this look like a fan boat is the fact that it has a push propeller instead of the typical pulling one. It does not have a canard like the AeroCanard I was talking about earlier, but this thing is super cool.
It’s not the fastest aircraft on the list with a top speed of 105 mph and an average cruise speed of between 75 and 85 mph, but that is still faster than most boats and cars these days, so the Aventura II, lovingly dubbed the AVII, is still better than most other forms of travel.
Plus you get the flexibility of taking off from the local airport and landing at the local lake for some fishing, swimming, and fun. It really can’t be beaten by any amphibious aircraft on the market today.
Additionally, it currently boasts a perfect safety record with absolutely zero accidents to date. Yep, you read that right. Zero.
This perfect safety record is made possible by the incredibly high-quality, American-made parts that you would be using to build your kit plane. The Rotax 912 power plant is known for being the most reliable engine for light sport aircraft (LSAs), so Aero Adventure packed that beast into the AVII.
The Rotax 912 powers the three-bladed Falcon series propeller that pushes the AVII at 100 horsepower. It also offers the fuel efficiency to make a 23-gallon tank push out a 300-nautical mile range, making it one of the longest-range kit planes out there by fuel tank size!
Finally, a take-off distance of 250 feet on land and 350 feet on the water, and a 200-foot landing distance makes the AVII able to take you on adventures just about anywhere in the world.
This versatility makes the AVII one of, if not the absolute, best kit planes in the world. Now, excuse me while I go pitch the idea that my dad, father-in-law, and I all go in to buy one.