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Open Source Transportation News

Makerplane Aims To Create the First Open Source Aircraft 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the peoples-plane dept.
cylonlover writes "MakerPlane plans to do for the aviation industry what Firefox and Linux did for computers. By adopting open source design and digital manufacturing, MakerPlane's founder John Nicol hopes to overcome the frustration and disappointment that most kit plane builders encounter. Over 60 percent of all kitplanes started end up collecting dust and those that are finished must overcome the challenges of complicated plans, the need for special tools and thousands of hours of labor with little or no manufacturer support. Nicol believes that a more community-oriented design approach will overcome many of these obstacles. Israel-based aeronautical engineer Jeffrey Meyer is leading the MakerPlane charge to develop a safe, inexpensive kitplane that can be built at home or at a 'makerspace' through the efforts of people volunteering their efforts and ideas. MakerPlane intends to make the plans and avionics software for the plane available for free, but will sell parts and support services to fund the project."
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Makerplane Aims To Create the First Open Source Aircraft

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  • EAA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:17PM (#41186033)

    There's a group called the Experimental Aviation Organization [eaa.org]. They have a whole bunch of local chapters full of people who are obnoxiously willing to help you build an airplane. There are dozens of kitplane manufacturers out, including my favorite Airdrome Aeroplanes [airdromeaeroplanes.com] which has an awesome kit for building a replica (full size or scale) of the Red Baron's DR-1 [airdromeaeroplanes.com] among others. The build time is on the order of 400 hours, vice 2000-3000 for the modern composite designs, and this design needs no tools beyond those from Harbor Freight.

    Enjoy

    • I worked with the EAA in Oshkosh for several years, and we built most of a plane each summer from raw materials. Wood and fabric, all the way. Last one I worked on was an AcroSport II [eaa.org].

  • by sinij (911942) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:18PM (#41186037) Journal
    Making airplanes isn't about technology, it is all about regulation and certification of components and complete product. Open sourcing wont help you with that.
    • by joelsanda (619660) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:23PM (#41186059) Homepage

      Making airplanes isn't about technology, it is all about regulation and certification of components and complete product. Open sourcing wont help you with that.

      Not necessarily in the United States, where the Federal Aviation Administration [faa.gov] "... does not certify, certificate, or approve aircraft kits. Also, the FAA does not approve kit manufacturers." Though I'm sure there are regulations for the person piloting the aircraft.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Actually kit built airplanes have to be 51% built by one person. It's the main governing rule in the space. Already it's being skirted with quick build kits and with factory assistance where you build the plane using the factory's space and tools, but it's likely been pushed about as far as it's going to go.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Not 51% by one person. 51% by amateur builder. Hired help / factory cannot build majority of the plane, but there is nothing stopping you from making a party of the build experience with as many of your friends and family as you can gather, joining in on the build.

          You can also purchase a partially completed plane, and finish it up, as long as you nor the previous owner used professional assistance to build the majority of the plane. Here, you may run into issues with being able to do your own annuals, if

      • Not necessarily in the United States, where the Federal Aviation Administration "... does not certify, certificate, or approve aircraft kits. Also, the FAA does not approve kit manufacturers." Though I'm sure there are regulations for the person piloting the aircraft.

        The FAA is in charge of certifying all planes for flight. Your own direct quote doesn't say they don't do the very thing their name implies they do, it says they won't do it for kit planes. No kit plane will ever be certified by the FAA. Now I haven't read the law too closely, and maybe you can get a license to fly a sports plane, or some kind of personal-use plane, but anything that carries passengers or cargo? Forget it.

        • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

          Not to mention that most of us live near some controlled airspace.

          The legal places you can fly a kit plane are the same you can legally fly an rc plane. And I imagine we are only 1 accident away from even THAT changing.

          Piloting is one of the few vestiges of the feudal system left in the egalitarian world. When the common masses start flying, the "big sky, small plane" theory will get regulated away.

          • Nope.

            Basically, when you complete a kit plane, you get it certified by the FAA as an experimental aircraft. Those can be flown anywhere that's permitted by their equipment and your licensing; for instance, the plane has to have its minimum equipment list to fly at all and navigational aids to fly in IFC. The major restriction on an experimental aircraft special airworthiness certificate is that it can't be used for commercial cargo or passenger operations.

            • Nope.

              Basically, when you complete a kit plane, you get it certified by the FAA as an experimental aircraft. Those can be flown anywhere that's permitted by their equipment and your licensing; for instance, the plane has to have its minimum equipment list to fly at all and navigational aids to fly in IFC. The major restriction on an experimental aircraft special airworthiness certificate is that it can't be used for commercial cargo or passenger operations.

              Unless an FAA bureaucrat feels otherwise:

              "The Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) has prohibited experimental flight tests and normal operations (Phase 1 and Phase 2 flights) at Burbank, Van Nuys, Whiteman, and Santa Barbara airports."
              http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/newsitems/2006/060118experimental.html [aopa.org]

            • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

              Chapter 16.32 UNLICENSED AIRCRAFT

              Such as ultralights.

          • Only Ultralights are restricted to E and G airspaces. Kit planes, particularly the sleek, modern, fast ones, are used in normal airspace all the time. I have flown the EAA's Vans RV-6A around Whitman quite a bit, and that is full-on class C airspace, even taking off from Pioneer Field.

        • by kimvette (919543)

          No kit plane will ever be certified by the FAA.

          That just isn't true; you still need a flightworthiness certificate from the FAA in order to register and (legally) fly the plane. The exceptions are for ultralights, sport aircraft, and aircraft which remain tethered to the ground (see: moller Skycar) or never leave ground effect (see: hovercraft and ground effects planes such as the Ekranoplane - which would be registered as boats).

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by icebrain (944107)

            That just isn't true; you still need a flightworthiness certificate from the FAA in order to register and (legally) fly the plane. The exceptions are for ultralights, sport aircraft, and aircraft which remain tethered to the ground (see: moller Skycar) or never leave ground effect (see: hovercraft and ground effects planes such as the Ekranoplane - which would be registered as boats).

            That isn't certification, though. A certified aircraft (anything factory-built, basically) has to meet very particular standards for performance, function, reliability, etc. That takes a lot of paperwork and testing (I know this because I am an engineer at an aircraft manufacturer). It also requires very tight control of the manufacturing process, and requires that any modifications or deviations be approved.

            Homebuilt aircraft are given airworthiness certificates, but that is expressly not a certificatio

            • by Shotgun (30919)

              And yet, I have right here in my grungy little hands, "FAA Form 8130-6, Application for U.S. Airworthiness Certificate". Section II has check marks in B,4 and 2 for "Special Airworthiness Certificate", "Experimental", and "Amateur Built".

              In the US, it is illegal to lift out of ground effect without this form being accepted by the FAA.

        • You need to read the direct quote as "the FAA won't pre-approve an aircraft kit or kit manufacturer, as the quality of the build is paramount in the certification process - the FAA will approve built aircraft".

          There's no point in approving a kit or a kit manufacturer if the kit is being built by someone who has no idea what they are doing.

      • by Arker (91948)

        They dont approve kits. They do have to approve the finished airplane before you fly it. And you do have to be licensed, although the 'light sport' licensing is significantly easier.

        None of this is specific to this particular project. People have been selling, building, and flying kit planes for many decades now.

      • Making airplanes isn't about technology, it is all about regulation and certification of components and complete product. Open sourcing wont help you with that.

        Not necessarily in the United States, where the Federal Aviation Administration "... does not certify, certificate, or approve aircraft kits. Also, the FAA does not approve kit manufacturers." Though I'm sure there are regulations for the person piloting the aircraft.

        I think all that quote is saying is that the normal certification and approval process does not apply. My understanding is that kit airplanes fall under the category of experimental aircraft and a different large body of regulations do apply. Including regulations limiting where an experimental aircraft can be flown. Of course things may be quite different from long ago when I became acquainted with such things.

        • by icebrain (944107)

          My understanding is that kit airplanes fall under the category of experimental aircraft and a different large body of regulations do apply. Including regulations limiting where an experimental aircraft can be flown.

          The limitations on where you can fly have been eliminated, at least once you are out of the flight-test phase (7 hours for E-LSA, 25 for E-AB with certified engines, 40 for E-AB with non-certified engines). The prohibition on flying for commercial purposes is still in place.

          • by perpenso (1613749)

            My understanding is that kit airplanes fall under the category of experimental aircraft and a different large body of regulations do apply. Including regulations limiting where an experimental aircraft can be flown.

            The limitations on where you can fly have been eliminated, at least once you are out of the flight-test phase (7 hours for E-LSA, 25 for E-AB with certified engines, 40 for E-AB with non-certified engines). The prohibition on flying for commercial purposes is still in place.

            When googling around last night I found that regional FAA officials can and have prohibited normal operations in certain areas.

            "The Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) has prohibited experimental flight tests and normal operations (Phase 1 and Phase 2 flights) at Burbank, Van Nuys, Whiteman, and Santa Barbara airports."
            http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/newsitems/2006/060118experimental.html [aopa.org]

      • The FAA actually does certify the aircraft in the form of an airworthiness certificate and aircraft license/tail number, but only once you have assembled the kit. The aircraft needs to be inspected many times throughout the construction of the aircraft so they can see and sign off that it is being built properly. The experimental/kit planes cannot be mass-produced and sold(as complete aircraft). They can, however, be built one-off and flown by the builder or any appropriately-licensed pilot they certify to

    • by mschaffer (97223)

      Making an airplane is about not killing yourself.

    • Making airplanes isn't about technology, it is all about regulation and certification of components and complete product. Open sourcing wont help you with that.

      Making planes is also about getting sued. Lawsuits destroyed the private light aircraft market in the U.S.

      You do not even have to make an error to lose a lawsuit. A lawyer merely needs to convince a jury that a "better" design choice could have been made. Your choice may have been the better choice in a broad overall sense but the lawyer just needs to argue that in a specific narrow sense something else would have been better. For example a fuel injected engine vs a carbureted engine. In a specific narro

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Making airplanes isn't about technology, it is all about regulation and certification of components and complete product. Open sourcing wont help you with that.

      For experimental aircraft (of which homebuilts/kit builts/etc are a part of) the regulations are far more lax - basically it's just a sequence of inspections to make sure you're doing things "the right way" and avoiding obvious faults. I.e., you plane has a decent chance of flying and you used parts that are strong enough to withstand the rigors of s

      • by Shotgun (30919)

        For experimental aircraft (of which homebuilts/kit builts/etc are a part of) the regulations are far more lax - basically it's just a sequence of inspections to make sure you're doing things "the right way" and avoiding obvious faults. I.e., you plane has a decent chance of flying and you used parts that are strong enough to withstand the rigors of such flight.

        The inspection requirements are no longer enforced; though, highly recommended. There is only one official one at the end.

        After that, it's mostly hands off - you build it how you think it should be built. It's basically anything goes to encourage innovation in aircraft. You're allowed to design your own completely from scratch, buy a set of plans and build it yourself (following as much or as little of the plans as you desire), buy a kit and build it, etc.

        It is nothing at all about encouraging innovation; though, it does do that. It is about freedom. Do I get to live and die as I choose? Or does the government get to direct my every step to "protect" me? In this particular case, liberty won.

        Definitely not sure what open-sourcing gives over traditional experimental plane building. Other than perhaps you don't have to buy a set of plans and can instead download them? Or are forced to document all your modifications and publish them?

        Open source adds nothing. I bought my set of plans for $250. A small price to pay the designer/engineer who put literally YEARS into creating t

  • by msauve (701917)
    If it's not a flying car, I'm not interested.
  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:37PM (#41186121)
    The OpenEZ was to be an "open source" version of the LongEZ. Last I checked, people were making various modifications and there was really no "official" release of plans. The problem is that many people will not build a plane and bet their life on a design that has not been built and tested "as designed" by someone else - nor should they.

    Going for open source avionics is a waste of time - you can get a full 6-pack (equivalent) from Dynon for $1500 and install it as a unit.

    Kits have been getting better all the time. I know many many people with different backgrounds who built and fly kits from Vans [vansaircraft.com]. There are many plans [aircraftspruce.com] and kits [velocityaircraft.com] available from other sources [murphyaircraft.com] as well - many with support forums and such. If you want a successful open source plane it will have to be easier and/or cheaper to build than anything out there and you will have to build and fly one first. Open source or "free" plans are not the issue. More time and money is spent on parts, supplies, and actually building the thing. For plans-built planes, the cost of an engine usually dwarfs the cost of tried-and-true plans.

    So how is this going to be better than what you get from your local EAA [eaa.org] chapter [eaa.org]
    • by type40 (310531) on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:18AM (#41186591)
      I saw Makerplane at Oshkosh. I wasn't impressed. Not because it isn't a good idea or isn't full of good intentions. It's just nothing new under the sun in WI. Their basicly reinventing the VP1 Volksplane with CNC machines. For under $100 you can get plans for a Pietenpol Aircamper, Volksplane, or Legal Eagle. Designs that have been around for 90, 40, and 20 years respectively. The cost of materials alone on those fairly basic easy to build designs will easily crest $5000.
      Their not doing anything Bernie Pierenpol wouldn't have done if he had a 3D printer and CNC machine.
      +1 for good intentions, 999,999 to go till you reach the high score.
      • by dssq (2719999)
        Really? You would say that getting really vague and badly detailed plans for a VP1 or Piet and having to build umpteen ribs and parts by hand is better than free plans and files to allow you to build on a CNC? OK. BTW, Bernie Pietponpol is dead and no-one else appears to be doing what MakerPlane is doing.... sooooooooo what is your point again?
    • by dssq (2719999)
      Umm... 6-pack is the only avionics in your aircraft? Other folks probably have radios, transponders, ADS-B receivers, glass cockpits, intercoms etc. Lots of room for open source avionics there. What has the local EAA chapter got to do with it? Have you been to one lately? How many people under the age of 60 are there? How many have 3D printers or CNC machines?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Having spent many years envolved in building experimental aircraft I will agree that open source could potentially solve some problems. One barrier still remains however. An inexpensive engine. Any engine manufacturer that has any plans for remaining in business very long will have to insure themselves for liability. This ends up being almost half the cost of the engine. I am not award of an open source solution for greedy stupid people and their lawyers.

  • ...will be getting their build past CAA inspection, which is mandatory before you even get to roll the aircraft onto the apron. Then you got static avionics tests, static engine tests at idle and full power, then you got taxiing tests, takeoff-circle-approach-waveoff-approach-landing and testing systems all the while, while making sure you don't wrap yourself around a building... you'll probably spend more time running tests to satisfy the inspector than you will have done building the thing (IIRC there's a

    • by strangeattraction (1058568) on Friday August 31, 2012 @12:26AM (#41186615)
      There is no minimum hours. Your have to build %51 of the project yourself to meet the requirements fo experimental certification. If the total project is 10 hours your have to build 6 hours yourself. Even if the kit manufacture sets up a factory to do assembly in 5 hours that would take you as an individual 3000 hours. Your are correct that people under estimate the effort involved in most kits. However you as the builder are the licensed mechanic and assume the liability as such. The FAA will happily let your plow yourself into your own grave aslong as they are reasonably sure no one else will get hurt in the process. There are some basic flight test you must perform to certify your aircraft, High speed taxi - run the aircraft down the runway without taking off and see if the gear falls off an the engine maintains power. Fly the plane a brief period in ground effect to to see if it is controllable in flight. In is called opening the envelope (go read the "Right Stuff"). All in all the requirements are probably scarily minimal when it come down to it. Nad if you are smart enough to build the plane in the first place probably a process you would see as prudent. And for amazingly small amounts of money private test pilots will risk testing your aircraft. After you personally fly your aircraft within 50 or 100? miles of your base airport for 50 hours you are then allowed to be certified as experimental. Engines are the tough part. You cannot manufacture them yourself and they have to be reliable. Liability is an issue for manufacturers so they are not cheap.

      Actually for boats the requirements are quite rigorous and enforced mainly because you can usually pile more people on a boat than a home built aircraft.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Engines are the tough part. You cannot manufacture them yourself and they have to be reliable

        How much do those Subaru conversions cost? They seem like the sweet deal. Those motors are fantastic.

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Since the CAA was shut down in the 1950's, I guess that will be an issue.

      The rest of what you typed is completely misinformed nonsense.

  • There's an old saying, "If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization."

    Buildings, at least, don't fly. You won't catch ME in that airplane!

    • by daid303 (843777)

      And somehow you assume it's Open Source programmers that make this. As someone involved in the Ultimaker, which is partial OpenSource 3D printer. This 3D printer is developed not by software engineers, but by mechanical engineers. This might sound odd to you, but OpenSource (or OpenDesign) extends beyond software, and thus beyond the software profession.

  • by Mostsigbit (799407) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @11:59PM (#41186523)
    I'm gonna shamelessly plug my own open source project http://sourceforge.net/projects/pbfthunderbolt/?source=directory [sourceforge.net] here. I'm looking to connect with anyone that might be interested in this. It is an FAR103 legal aircraft, for the sole purpose of flying for enjoyment or pleasure, not necessarily intended to be used as a means of transportation. I really hope to put some time and effort back into this project again in the near future. I have flown this aircraft, and it did exactly as I expected; http://www.pbthrust.com/ [pbthrust.com] I've tried to drum interest from kickstarter and various open source hardware oriented cliques like The Open Source Hardware Association and OpenDesignEngine.net, but no interest from them- I'm admittedly not good at marketing...
  • I wish this effort well, but I don't think it answers any problems. I don't believe I would be tempted. Building an airplane is just too damn much work to not be certain of the results.

    There are many excellent kits to choose from. Like anything else, you have to finish the project to reap the rewards. If your main goal is to fly (and not to build) then just buy a nice used airplane. I expect to have spent over $100K (plus labor) to complete my RV8. In the current depressed market, $100K will buy a very n

    • Nor should you be tempted. An RV is a completely different type of aircraft, satisfying a different set of goals. As stated, the PBFThunderBolt's goal is simply to create plans for an aircraft that is for recreational purposes only.
  • The Gyrobee (http://taggart.glg.msu.edu/gyro/gbplans.htm) was open source long before the term became known in combination with other things than software. They are at least 10 years too late for the first open source aircraft.
  • This post is misleading. Nowhere on the MakerPlane site does it say they are aiming for the worlds first Open Source Aircraft!!!! They don't claim that at all!! This from their site if anyone has actually bothered to read it: MakerPlane Aim “The mission of MakerPlane is to create innovative and game-changing aircraft, avionics and related systems and the transformational manufacturing processes to build them. As a result of this aim, aircraft can be built with consistent, repeatable and highly a
  • Has anyone here flown or know anything about the Mountain Goat? Stall speed 26 mph, top cruising speed over 175 mph, and able to take off on flat ground in less distance than the length of a 747. That and able to carry over half a ton in cargo safely. I just want to know this isn't too good to be true. I saw a film of this thing flying over cow pastures on the Monterey Coast at about 20 feet, then floating at about 2,500 ft. as it hovered over a hilltop in a 30 mph headwind. Weirdest thing I've ever seen a

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