Ill. man builds ultralight aircraft

Monday, August 14, 2006

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Victor Vicari of Goreville has found a way to beat the high cost of sport flying.

Instead of buying a plane, he built one in his garage.

"The main reason I built it is that the cost of owning a plane is so high," Vicari said at the Southern Illinois Airport in Carbondale.

He keeps his ultralight aircraft in a hangar there. He explained that even if you bought a used plane for a good price, you could spend $25,000 to get it out of the repair shop after a failed annual inspection.

It is the cost of labor by certified mechanics that sends the price so high.

"Some people find that working on them is more fun than flying them," he said. "For me, building it was half the fun."

He began construction of the plane in his garage in December 2004, and the aircraft was flown for the first time July 4. The pilot was the man who sold him the kit for the plane.

Vicari said the pilot must be licensed to fly a regular aircraft to fly his plane. In addition, the pilot has to be a licensed ultralight mechanic before he can fly.

Vicari said that experimental aircraft like his are limited to day flying and no instrument flying.

He must maintain the same altitude as regular airplanes. He can fly as low as 500 feet over unpopulated areas but must maintain an altitude greater than 1,000 feet over populated areas.

He said the top speed for the plane is 100 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 75 to 90 miles per hour.

The plane can take off in 100 feet of ground and needs only 200 feet to land. He said that it is built to land on either hard surfaces or sod.

The plane, which weighs 440 pounds empty, can be loaded with fuel and passengers up to a total weight of 800 pounds.

The basic kit for the plane cost $17,000 and the extras cost another $6,000. All totaled, Vicari has spent $23,000 to have a serviceable aircraft. But here is where the savings occur.

If the plane needs to be repaired, Vicari can do the work himself. No labor charges.

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