Everyone has that uncle or knows someone that’s an adrenaline junkie. If you’re working on a kit plane for speed, what’s the fastest kit plane you can get?
There are many options when it comes to kit planes. Of course, a lot of people opt for something that’s more affordable. Which doesn’t really lend itself to speed though. When you want speed, the Lancair Legacy, Sonex Subsonic Jet, Thunder Mustang, Berkut 360, and BD-10 are the big names.
I’ve been looking into kit planes for quite some time now. As a tinkering aviation nerd and pilot, I started researching potential kit planes that I might want for personal use. The thing is, I’m also a speed junkie, so speed is a priority for any kit plane I want to buy. Without further adieu, and in order of speed, here are the fastest kit planes you can find.
Factors For Airplane Speed
Airplanes are really interesting machines. The engineering that goes into them is absolutely insane. I mean, simply the fact that human beings created a machine that is heavier than air but can still fly, is miraculous.
We have observed that Bernoulli’s principle is one of the driving forces in how airplanes are able to fly. Making an airplane move fast, makes the air over the wing move fast. This speeding air gets a higher pressure than the air under the wing which kind of causes a suction force to pick the airplane up into the air.
That’s a very dumbed-down explanation, but it still gives a general explanation of aerodynamics.
The thing is, there are really four forces acting on an airplane. There’s lift, the suction I described a second ago, and its inverse, weight. Then there is thrust and its inverse, drag.
These four forces are what make airplanes work. The engineers behind the aircraft manipulate these forces with the design of the airplane and the power of the powerplant getting the airplane to move.
A common thing with kit planes is that no two are exactly alike. Even when you have two people get the same parts and put them together the same way, the fact that these are not machined together allows for slight variances.
That said, the variation of the aircraft will not really change that much because the designs are pretty set in stone. So when we see a listed cruise speed, that was done under perfect conditions with everything installed as it was designed. The individual variance might change the exact performance.
All these airplanes are pretty small. If they were bigger, they would need to be engineered at a plant and not put together in your garage. The smaller stature means these airplanes will all be a similar weight.
Which leads to the question: If they are similar in weight, how does one perform better than the other?
I’m glad you asked because I’m pretty infatuated with the design of airplanes and how they get different performance capabilities.
Since the weight isn’t really manipulatable, the engineers for these kit planes are also limited in engine choice because of the limited size and weight of the airplanes. This gives them a much smaller envelope to work with.
Instead of playing around with fighting an uphill battle, the designers are challenged to overcome drag. But the challenge is that there are two different kinds of drag to fight. There’s parasitic drag and induced drag.
Parasitic drag is the drag any object gets when going through a fluid. And aerodynamics is just an airplane moving through a fluid, but the fluid is air instead of a liquid like you would expect.
Induced drag is the drag that is created as a byproduct of lift. When there is lift on a wing, then drag is induced. And that’s where it got the name “induced” drag.
The challenge when creating an aircraft is that the entirety of the airplane creates lift; therefore, the entirety of the aircraft creates induced drag. With that in mind, the goal of the designer is to create an airplane that is sleek and cuts through the air with the least amount of drag possible.
Then there’s the powerplant.
With new technology, science has made faster and fancier power plants available to create more and more thrust for these aircraft. Some of these kit planes have some seriously crazy power plants nowadays.
There used to not be any sort of turbine small enough to power a personal airplane. Now there are a few different options for kit planes with a jet engine.
One of the coolest things about humanity though is that we are constantly pushing the envelope. There are a ton of people working to make these aircraft even crazier and faster than ever before. Who knows, in a few years this list might be outdated because we will have unleaded engines aplenty and maybe even a few electric airplanes on this list. There might even be an EVTOL!
But till then, these are the fastest kit planes on the market today.
Fastest Kit Planes You Can Buy
1. Wittman W-10 Tailwind
This is for sure the slowest airplane on this list, but it’s debatably the coolest though. Specifically, because it’s a vintage wooden plane, but like, brand new.
The legendary Steve Wittman designed and created the original Wittman W-10 Tailwind. It was originally introduced at the first-ever EAA AirVenture fly-in back in 1953. Since then, it has become one of the most popular homebuilt airplanes out there.
The W-10 Tailwind has a cruising speed of 180 mph and maxes out at 230 mph. The slower speed, although 180 mph isn’t anything to sleep on, is primarily due to the fact that the fuselage is made of steel tubing, but the wings are wooden with fabric coverings.
Something about aviators is that we literally love vintage stuff, but we also are constantly looking at improving and advancing the field. That’s why having a vintage build but throwing in modern avionics is a dream come true. It’s like a Super Cub but you build it from scratch, which is way cooler.
2. Tarragon Aircraft
Sometimes you will have that need for speed that we are so heavily invested in, but you have to be reasonable and get something that has great gas mileage as well. Something like the new electric Ford Mustangs that have speed and are electric, but an airplane. Luckily, the Tarragon Aircraft exists now.
The Tarragon is very new to the fine folks of the US, but it’s a fantastic option for people that are wanting to have a fast airplane with the capabilities of pulling up to 4 Gs. The ultralight king, if you like the brevity of that nickname, can hit cruise speeds up to 193 mph and only burns 4.5 gph.
Honestly, I’m tempted to go try to buy one now. Being that they are new to the American market, they’re a little more difficult to find at this time. On the plus side, they are based out in Reno, so it’s not like they’re impossible to find.
Also, the design is just gorgeous. Something about it is just perfect. It’s so slick and has the neat design element of the tail stinger. It’s cool looking but also helps air move more smoothly over the surface and come back together after flowing over the airplane.
3. Sonex SubSonex Jet
Literally, everyone in the world has dreamed of having their own private jet. Especially with the Netflix show about when Pepsi promised the Harrier Jet with Pepsi points, people are all fantasizing about having a personal jet to hop the globe in.
Look no further than the Sonex SubSonex Jet. Armed with a max cruising speed of 240 mph, and a stall speed as low as 58 mph, the SubSonex is pretty much the perfect kit plane.
It gets even better because it has the ability to get the G-loads to put it in the aerobatic category. This means you can do some super intense barrel rolls while cruising at 240 mph for whatever personal reason you may have to do that.
Regardless of why you would do that, you have the ability. And you only have to worry about the safety of yourself because it only seats the pilot.
Seriously though, if you want a personal jet and one of the fastest kit planes, then the SubSonex Jet is the plane for you.
4. Lancair IV-P
It’s crazy to think there are propeller-powered kit planes that are still faster than the SubSonex Jet. The Lancair IV-P (P for Pressurized) is no longer in production, but you can still buy kits in the wild.
Honestly, the biggest selling point for this particular aircraft is that it has 4 seats as opposed to one or two, which is typical for the fastest kit planes. When you couple the passenger limit with the cruise speed of 253 mph, then you have yourself a real winner.
There are a few different variations of this aircraft. There’s the pressurized version, which is probably the best option because it can go pretty high up, up to 24,000 feet to be exact, and will make the passengers more comfortable.
The other variations include the Lancair IV which is not pressurized and the Lancair Propjet. If you opt for the propjet, then you are trading the 350-HP Continental TSIO-550 engine for a Pratt & Whitney turboprop that raises your cruise speed upwards of 300 knots and achieves altitudes of up to 30,000 feet. Which lets you say high to the airliners as you cruise by them.
5. Swearingen SX300
Ever wondered what happens when you give an airplane company to a Texan? Swearingen is the result. They literally sold more airplanes than they had landing gears for by 1989. Since then a new company took over, but the airplane is still there.
That incredible airplane is the Swearingen SX300, and it comes cruising in at about 275 mph. Going that speed with the 66-gallon tanks will get you a total distance of about 900 miles, which makes this perfect for those quick commutes.
The Lycoming IO-540-L1C-5 engine gets a solid 300 horsepower to provide this airplane with its incredible speeds. The load factor of +6G/-3G allows for some maneuverability and the ability to do a few twists and turns during your flight.
If you get your hands on a Swearingen SX300, you are for sure going to be in an elite group. The biggest downside, as is common with these speedy kit planes, is that it doesn’t have much payload. It’s only got about 404 available weight with full fuel tanks. Although, you likely won’t be carrying much, if anything, in a kit plane anyway.
Interestingly, in my opinion, at least, the current operation is being run by only two fellows out of Fort Worth, TX. This is so cool because these two guys, other than being near where I grew up, are running a fantastic program. They are very helpful and the group they have created from the Swearingen team is constantly updating best practices and helping each other out.
Literally, nothing is better than constant improvement.
6. Lancair Legacy
Here’s another airplane from the incredibly popular Lancair. The Lancair Legacy, much like the IV-P, is no longer in production. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a kit if you actively look, you just can’t get this specific kit from Lancair’s website.
If you are lucky enough to stumble across one of these aircraft, then you will get to see why it’s so popular. With a cruise speed of 276 mph and a range of 1,150 nm.
The downside of the Legacy compared to the IV-P is that this is only a two-seater versus a four-seater. But much like the Lancair IV, there are two different kinds. There is the RG-550 which has a retractable landing gear, and the FG-390 which has a fixed landing gear.
Sadly, the FG-390 has a bit more drag because of the landing gear and has a slower cruise speed of 215 mph. Not that these speeds are a slouch at all, considering a typical training Cessna 172 has a typical cruise speed of around 138 mph.
7. Questair Venture
There are a couple of fellows at Questair that designed one of the sleekest little kit planes out there. Oh yeah, it’s also pretty crazy fast.
Introducing the Questair Venture. A low-wing airplane with a constant-speed propeller makes this little two-seater look really cool. Then the 280-horsepower Continental IO 550 engine powers this little airplane like a beast.
The Questair Venture is pretty small. With a max weight of 2,000 lbs and a maximum fuel capacity of 54 gallons, this little booger still flights crazy fast. A 276 mph cruise speed helps keep things speedy.
Then the crazy airframe stress maxing out at 6 Gs solo will guarantee that you will be able to pull off some pretty crazy stunts while speeding through the skies. Coupling that with a take-off distance of only 1,000 feet and a landing distance of 1,600 feet means that you will be able to take your neat little plane to the most remote airstrips safely.
8. Advanced Aero G3 - Heritage
This is a bit of a confusing one because Advanced Aero used to be Glasair. It took me quite a while to find this because I kept searching for the Glasair G3, but I kept getting the results I didn’t hope for.
Luckily, Advanced Aero has not only kept the kit plane game alive, but they’ve upped the ante by making one of the fastest kit planes available: The Advanced Aero G3 Heritage. The max cruise speed is 283 mph and can hit a crazy 335 mph true airspeed.
The impressive performance gets matched with some impressive range. 1480 miles on a full tank in the 68-gallon tanks. And there are wingtip extension tanks available for certain kits so you can hit those really long cross-country flights.
But at the speeds this baby can hit, they still will take less time than my 50-mile cross country to get my private pilot license.
9. Velocity V-Twin
I don’t think I’ve put another twin-engine aircraft on this whole list. So let’s talk about this one! The Velocity Aircraft V-Twin is a twin prop aircraft that, when equipped with the Deltahawk Diesel power plants, can cruise at a crazy 288 mph.
Though it’s not the fastest kit plane on the list, it might be the safest. It’s got that weird canard thing that some people like but actually helps improve safety in this specific aircraft considerably.
The way this canard is designed, it will stall before the main wings. If it stalls first, then the nose will dip, which will increase airspeed again, thus increasing lift enough for the pilot to get a little further of a glide for a safe landing.
On top of that, it has enough space for 4 full-sized adults, or two adults and three kids. So, this might be the perfect kit plane for someone with a family who wants to build something for everyone to fit in.
Ok, I’m going to harp on this for a moment. Having two power plants is so much safer than a single engine. The most obvious reason is that sometimes engines fail. When you only have one engine and it fails, you have to glide to wherever you can to attempt an emergency landing as safely as possible.
But if you have two engines and one fails, you still have enough power to climb.
If you can keep climbing, then you can guarantee that you will be able to make it back to the runway for a safe emergency landing.
The safety factor alone makes this kit plane a very smart choice for safety-first pilots. It’s a must on many pilots’ list of requirements for flying over water for extended periods. Like island hopping in Florida, a twin-engine is a much safer option.
A potential downside to this though is that you are required to get some extra ratings to legally operate a multi-engine airplane. Which costs a bit of money, but can you really put a price on safety?
10. Nemesis NXT
Want some side stick controls like an Airbus A320 or Cirrus SR20 series, but also want that bad boy to be a two-seater with a cruise speed of 325 mph? Then the Nemesis NXT is the speedy little kit plane for you.
The Nemesis NXT is a slick-looking airplane. It’s made of molded carbon fiber, so it’s lightweight to assist with its speed. The smooth carbon fiber is cool looking, but the fact that the top-down view looks like a Batarang also adds to the cool factor.
Equipped with a Lycoming TIO-540-NXT engine to crank out 350 horsepower to move the whopping 1,600 lbs empty weighted airplane at these insane speeds. The downside is the useful load is only 1,100 lbs. That means fuel, passengers, and a bit of baggage will just barely fit.
On the plus side, the tanks are a massive 90 gallons. And the G-loads are +6 and -4, so it can be used for some serious aerobatics if you’re feeling froggy with it.
11. Legend Aircraft Turbine
If I had to choose the best name for any company ever, then Legend Aircraft probably takes the cake. Legend Aircraft has a very interesting model for their kit plane too. Instead of making multiple aircraft, they just have the initial one and issue parts for tweaks to make it a little bit better as it ages.
The Legend Aircraft is so cool for that reason. The design philosophy reminds me of the tale of how F. Scott Fitzgerald died with a copy of The Great Gatsby next to his bed where he had underlined certain passages and notes in the margins for edits of the next edition.
Legend takes this concept and consistently improves upon its already legendary design, which is known to have a cruise speed of 334 mph. It has G limits of +6/-4 so it’s very capable of performing some aerobatics if duty calls.
The Walter M601 Turboprop pushes 724 horses for the powerplant in its current state. This gives a service ceiling of an incredible 35,000 feet. So, you’re allowed to welcome your Aunt Sally as she flies in with a wing rock as you fly past.
That’s a joke and you should never be that close to an airliner. As the FARs state, you’re only allowed to fly in formation with prior scheduling. It’s too dangerous otherwise.
Seriously though, if you have the time and money to continually tinker with your aircraft, it might be worth looking into getting the Legend Aircraft. You will be able to make upgrades nonstop to impress your friends because that’s the biggest reason to get a kit plane.
Actually, the constant upgrading of this aircraft helps increase safety and efficiency. It’s always smart to stay on top of improvements. I’ve always heard that if you take good care of a piece of machinery, such as a car or airplane, then it will take care of you for many, many years.
12. Thunder Mustang
Question: What is one of the all-time coolest airplanes to exist in the history of the world? Answer: The P-51 Mustang.
I hope you read that in Dwight Schrute’s voice because that’s how it was intended.
On a more serious note, there really is a way to get P-51, kind of. The Thunder Mustang is the right choice as it is a ¾ scale of the vintage warplane the P-51 Mustang.
The slightly smaller scale doesn’t mean it slacks. The Thunder Mustang is one of the fastest kit planes out there. It has a cruise speed of 340 mph and can hit a top speed of 390 mph. These speeds are achieved because of the 640-horsepower Falconer v-12 power plant.
The Thunder Mustang gives you some serious clout with vintage avgeeks because of the cool history, and it also gets you some serious performance. With roughly a 1,000 nm range and a service ceiling of 24,000 feet, you get an extremely useful version of the classic airplane.
13. Berkut 360
Sadly, Berkut Engineering closed its doors in September 2001 and never reopened. Still, in their short time existing, Berkut created one of the fastest kit planes out there.
It’s with a heavy heart we, as pilots, must search out for the few remaining kits out there of the classic Berkut 360.
I mean, we still crave this backward airplane. The Berkut 360 is equipped with a push-style propeller instead of the typical pull, and a canard instead of a typical elevator. This beautiful machine was still able to have a max speed of 304 knots, which is about 350 mph.
The Berkut 360 was designed for speed and looking weird, but not much else as the useful load isn’t too high at only 890 pounds, 542 with full standard tanks, and 446 pounds if you built the extended option.
There are two things guaranteed with the Berkut 360: You will go very fast and you will get a lot of pilot attention for your oddly built plane. Super worth it though.
14. Lancair Evolution
Hey, it’s that one brand again! Lancair is truly a dominant force when it comes to the fastest kit planes. This time, they have a new entry with a turboprop-powered airplane. The Lancair Evolution is near the pinnacle of the kit planes, maybe even at the top.
This beautiful machine has a cruise speed of roughly 330 knots, that’s about equal to 380 mph. Cruising. Almost 400 mph. That’s just insane.
Lancair is a kind of crazy company. They had the idea that they already had a really fast kit plane, but they wanted to make it faster. They already did the turbine thing and realized there was a smarter way for them to do it. So, they threw a Pratt & Whitney PT6-140A turboprop on it and made it even better.
Then they doubled down and made the interior insanely beautiful with leather and powerful avionics. Honestly, it’s like a luxury sky vehicle with crazy speed. A great purchase if you want to build an amazing machine to show off and get you places quickly.
15. Bede BD-10
Alright, the Sonex SubSonex is technically a personal jet, but Bede Corp took that idea and multiplied it by 10. They created the most insane kit plane with the BD-10. This is EASILY the fastest kit plane on the market, as it’s a personal fighter jet without any weapons.
Founded by certified genius/crazy engineer Jim Bede, the Bede Corp impressed themselves with this bad boy’s performance. With a cruise speed of 593 mph and a top speed of Mach 1.4, which is over 1000 mph, this thing blows the other aircraft out of the water.
Bede utilized the power of a turbine engine by putting a General Electric CJ-610 to push the limits of kit planes.
Honestly, it’s kind of crazy because Bede took the base of an airplane that was used by the military and made it a kit plane for the general public. This is a crazy idea, but it really paid off with the insane performance of the BD-10.
But it does take the same issue the Sonex SubSonex has by only having room for a single passenger, so not much space to move a lot of people. But with this speed, you easily make multiple trips in a day.
One of the coolest things about the BD-10 is that it comes from the base of a literal fighter jet. This is basically the civilian version. It’s a similar idea that was used for the Thunder Mustang, but a crazy fast jet version.
Although it’s not the most necessary, the service ceiling is 45,000 feet. This gives you the opportunity to fly right over most passenger airliners, and probably just as fast, if not faster than they can go. This gives you a range of 1,550 nm, so you can travel across the continent pretty quickly. Only a few fuel stops would be required.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood