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How many hours to build a GA piston aircraft?

Figures posted on a US forum are

2500hrs for an SR22
6000hrs for a Beech

I don't know which "Beech".

It seems outrageously high i.e. 2 man years to put together say a Bonanza. Is that really feasible, in a factory where they presumably have jigs and tooling already done?

I know every corner of my TB20 and there simply isn't 2 years' worth of work in there.

Looking at it financially, the total cost of employing 1 "qualified" worker in the West is of the order of $100k/year, and 6k hours comes to $600k, which is obviously more than the whole plane sells for.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

It seems outrageously high i.e. 2 man years to put together say a Bonanza.

To me as well. Probably, they do not only count the hours required to put the components together, but also those for manufacturing the components. Down to the time required to feed the cows that provide the leather for the seat covers...

EDDS - Stuttgart

For kit built aircraft the given figures tend to be around the 500 hour mark and for plans-built aircraft they say 1500-4500 hours is realistic. I agree that those figures are very high for a production process that should be streamlined compared to building single aircraft in a converted garage. Perhaps the problem is the move away from metal aircraft (whose construction could be automated for volume production) towards composite layups (not yet...)

In the radio-control world everything seems to have gone to expanded foam - they pop the wings and fuselage out of a mold. You glue a carbon spar down the wing and fuselage, spend a few hours installing the electronics and that's it unless you're keen and spend a few hours coating it with fiberglass. When you crash it, you send away for a replacement wing and that's that. A few hours of work gets you quite a reasonable scale model that would have taken hundreds of hours to build in balsa. It won't look quite as nice, but will probably fly better. An aside to the original question I often wonder whether there would be any equivalent way to reduce the build times of kit-built aircraft... Even 500 hours of aircraft building is a life-decision unless you're retired/divorced already.

Manufacturing work in an industrial setting is one thing, but I fail to understand how amateur builders count their hours.

What's defined as a building hour, is a timer rigorously used, does staring at your project and thinking add up, etc.?

It takes 20-40 hours to build a car, by the way.


I have to say that if I was selling aircraft kits I would first get myself genetically modified to grow a very thick skin.

The range of competence among customers is going to be huge.

This still leaves the "mystery" of factory build times. I bet Socata were doing it in a few hundred man-hours to assemble the parts, wire it up, etc but they had a lot of tooling behind that. If Beech are hand-beating curved panels then all bets are off...

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I can't really see that the hour-count really matters, but it's useful to have a rough idea. We'll probably try a sign-in / sign-out system, just out of interest, but it's unlikely to last. I like the idea of knowing almost every part of your own a/c.

I'm sure there's a very wide range of competence, but the 'Foxes I've seen so far have all been very professionally finished. The UK LAA keep a close watch on each stage of the build, which I guess makes a difference.

Panel wiring skills looks complex for the beginner - I was surprised to see the expertise and patience needed when I attended one of the LAA courses recently.

Swanborough Farm (UK), Shoreham EGKA, Soysambu (Kenya), Kenya

I've read that one of the big drivers behind glass panels is that they're so much cheaper to install than the traditional avionics.

Certainly on LAA permit a/c here in the UK, there's a dazzingly array of glass panel avionics kit available, at a fraction of the cost of installing in an EASA a/c.

We're torn between state-of-the-art glass panel and 100% basic, authentic, traditional, analog. We've seen both and can't decide which to go for.

Swanborough Farm (UK), Shoreham EGKA, Soysambu (Kenya), Kenya

This is an interesting question.

I own an Audi A2, the famous or infamous aluminium body that cost too much and didn't sell enough. In any case, it has always intrigued me how a car manufacturer can build a car in 20-50 hours while the likes of Cessna seem to spend hundreds of hours with rivet guns, files, sanding paper, metal clippers and what have you.

Surely, an aluminium body, like the one of the A2, welded and riveted by a bunch of "need no pay" robots, should be a feasible manufacturing alternative also for a small light plane? I know that Eclipse tried to escalate manufacturing with their friction stir welding process on their 500, although that didn't appear to improve the manufacturing cost enough.

But, if one were to weld/rivet the fuselage, tail sections and wings of a typical 2 or 4 seat light plane using robots and receive everything in modular sections like the auto industry does, a manufacturing time of less than 50 hours or maybe even on par with cars should be possible.

If anyone has ever looked at the structure of the A2 you'll know that the entire side of the body is one piece. You could press the whole side of a fuselage in one go and weld it down the middle...

ESSB, Stockholm Bromma
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