What about the engine?

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Do you build the engine too?  What about the instruments and radios?

The majority of builders purchase a new or used, standard air-cooled aircraft engine that is easily bolted onto the engine mount.  It is then connected to the various wires, hoses, and cables that are necessary for operation.

You can also buy an engine as a kit to build yourself.  Or, you can buy a worn-out engine, and rebuild it with new parts as necessary.

Most people are surprised at how much an aircraft engine costs.  Because there isn't much economy of scale, and liability insurance is an issue, a new engine usually starts at about $20,000.

There is some variation in engines with respect to horsepower ratings, carburetor or fuel injection, electronic or standard ignition, but the basic installation is about the same.

Aircraft engines are fairly simple, tried and true designs that have withstood the test of time.  They are air-cooled, usually have a carburetor and manual mixture control, and a simple fixed timing ignition.  They really can't be compared with a modern automobile engine.  Many aircraft engines are now fitted with electronic ignition, fuel injection, and even FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control).

Some people use automotive engines, with belt or gear drive reductions (because a propeller can't spin at the 4-6 thousand RPM range where an automotive engine produces peak power) but these installations can be more complex, (they have liquid cooling systems) reliability is still a question for some, and it can mean pioneering a new design on your own.  However there are some well designed automotive conversion packages that could start to make this option more attractive as reliability is determined.

The instruments and radios can all be purchased from the kit suppliers or from other sources (new or used) and can be completely customized to fit the builder's taste and budget.  Some people install a basic VFR (Visual Flight Rules) panel, while others choose complete IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) instrumentation.  It is also possible to install some of the very latest technology, such as a "glass" panel with all of the flight instruments on a computer screen.  This is one area home-built aircraft can enjoy the latest technology at an (almost) affordable cost.

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