Let's say I want to build an aeroplane completely from scratch (not downloading some blueprints on the internet, I mean really designing it myself). The goal is to create a flyable aeroplane from scratch, that can safely fly.

What would I have to take into consideration and where are good resources for it? I don't want to depend on a wrong formula, and have the wing break off the aeroplane in mid-flight, because there was an error in the equation. So what resources are free (or cheap) and trustworthy?

I know, that the aeroplane should be reasonably aerodynamic and the wings should create lift. How do you test it, when you don't have a wind tunnel?

How can you compute the necessary wingspan and wing area and how do you test and analyze your design? They don't have to be that big, as you can see with the "jetman", who has a relatively small wing strapped to his back.

What programs would you use to run simulations? Are there free alternatives, that could be used instead and are they any good?

The design phase shouldn't cost much, except time. However, if there have to be certain precautions taken that cost something, that's OK.

What materials should be used (fiberglass, wood, carbon fiber, metal)?

How do I get the proof of airworthiness (on a design)? After this is done, I might actually go and build it myself.

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    $\begingroup$ You have too many questions in one post. Maybe you should try to breakdown each issue into its own question. And what do you expect from the plane? How heavy the load it must carry etc. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend building a kit airplane first, something somebody has proven as a design, like a Vans RV Series. After that, you'll have much more knowledge of how these things work. Given that it is pretty easy to kill yourself building your own airplane, I would highly recommend against going into this blind. Maybe take some Aerodynamics courses at the local college, do an A&P mentorship, etc. Get some experience first. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, the question is extremely broad. But if you're interested, have a google for kit planes, such as Van's RVs. $\endgroup$
    – falstro
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ This is a huge topic and I don't think we can give a single, good answer here. I don't know what country you're in but if you're serious about building any kind of aircraft yourself then if possible you should join the EAA and go along to your local chapter meetings. That's a great way to meet people who have built - and even designed - their own aircraft from scratch. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jan 2, 2017 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ way too broad, and why flag the question as "faa regulations"? The FAA doesn't regulate design processes, they just have requirements for the end result of those design processes... $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Jan 3, 2017 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


Take the example of Ed Swearingen: He never went to engineering school, but spent years working with airplanes, gradually moving from handling to repair to improving them. In the end, he was a successful self-employed consultant who helped with a number of airplane designs and created some of his own designs, too.

So here is what I propose to do:

  • Hang out at a local airport (ideally one with lots of hardware passing through the local repair shops)
  • Don't shy from getting your hands dirty and from asking questions until you are satisfied with the answer.
  • Try to find experienced engineers and work closely with them.

Do that for 10 years and you will be hard to beat as an aircraft designer. If you happen to attend University in Germany, be sure to become a member of one of their Akafliegs - that is the best start into an aviation engineering education.

If you have already some idea how your design should look like, build it as a model first. Models can give you valuable lessons in aerodynamics and flight mechanics.

  • $\begingroup$ ...and the Swearingen Merlin and Metro lines as well! $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Jan 2, 2017 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @acpilot Yes, I know. The linked article mentions them, too. But this is incidental information for this answer, which I wanted to keep short, so I had too few words for all possible links. $\endgroup$ Jan 2, 2017 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ I have voted to reopen as the accepted answer has missed a great resource for learning about and building aircraft: The Experimental Aircraft Association, or EAA. The OP should join immediately and download all the information he can, and also attend the EAA hands-on construction seminars, etc. -Skip Miller $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2017 at 17:43

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