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If I were to scratch build a helicopter, as the manufacturer, would I need a pilot's license to fly it while its in the experimental stage? This is in the USA, but I'd be interested in how it plays out in other countries which are different

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    $\begingroup$ Depends on how big it is and how big of an engine. There are certain classes of ultralight that don't need a license. But let me say this... flying something you've built yourself without any training what-so-ever is asking for a page in the local obituary, or a Darwin award, especially when it comes to helicopters. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Apr 4 '17 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate your concern. Could you provide the different engine size classifications for the different classes? Nothing I've read has indicated a helicopter can be classed as an ultra-light. This is more of a feeler question however I cannot ask the related questions to this one until this has an answer. $\endgroup$ – Rowan Hawkins Apr 4 '17 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ For example, the Mosquito XE is about the largest ultralight helicopter that does not require a pilots license to fly. Basically it has to be single seat and weigh less than 254lbs. You can read about the requirements in 14 CFR Part 103 Section 1 $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Apr 4 '17 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ In EU you'd need a license to fly anything that has an engine $\endgroup$ – gusto2 Apr 5 '17 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ If I am not mistaken, no ultralight helo kit manufacturer will sell you all the parts you need to finish it without evidence of a minimum number of hours of flight training... There must be a good reason for that. :) $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Apr 8 '17 at 7:24
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Depends on what you build. It is possible to build a helicopter that qualifies as an ultralight, and thus no license needed.

If it exceeds the weight and power restrictions for an ultralight, then it is an experimental aircraft, that requires at least a solo ticket.

I would strongly suggest that rather than scratch build your own, an experience you might not survive, you take a look at what I'm currently lusting after:

Mosquito Helicopter

In kit form (which technically makes you the builder), it can be had in ultralight form, with limited range.

Or in experimental form with a more powerful 2 stroke engine and larger fuel capacity.

And finally, the (sigh) gas turbine powered version.

One advantage of building the experimental kit is: as the builder, you can perform all maintenance and the annual inspection yourself.

Another advantage of going the more capable experimental route is: you can log the hours.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for finally answering the question. I'm not looking at the ultralight class either. I am interested more in the utility of the craft and a single seat with next to no cargo capacity doesn't do that for me. $\endgroup$ – Rowan Hawkins Jun 14 '17 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ As long as you do understand that a true helicopter is a very complex machine. The penalty for failure during testing of self designed components is often death. $\endgroup$ – tj1000 Jun 14 '17 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ I believe that Darwin sorts out the people by the choices they make. I have no problem with this as long as they are the only people sorted. I think Our society pushes the risk out of everything and as as result people jump off of bridges with rubber bands tied to their ankles. $\endgroup$ – Rowan Hawkins Aug 25 '17 at 0:14
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In Germany you cannot just start to build man-carrying aircraft. First you need to certify your development office with the LBA, the local version of the FAA. They will check if you have sufficiently trained experts on hand and that your processes are appropriate. For homebuilts, this responsibility is devolved to an association, the Oskar Ursinus Vereinigung, which will send experienced people over to check every step of your work. Also, the first flight has to be performed by a trained test pilot. They will put many roadblocks in your way to become an aviation martyr.

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