The Sonex is a two-seat aluminum aircraft designed by John
Monnett and sold in kit form by Sonex Aircraft. Like most of John’s
designs, the aircraft is aerobatic, easy to build and fun to fly. Today a
complete Sonex kit costs $27,670. That includes an 80 hp Aero Vee
engine kit. There are two other powerplant options: the 80 hp Jabiru
and the 120 hp Jabiru.
Knight wrote out a check
for his Sonex kit in the
(it can also be ordered
as a trike), he opted
for the 120 hp Jabiru.
He also went for a
complete glass panel. In
the end, he estimates
his project came in just
over $50,000. That’s
considerably less than any
new, two-seat factory-built aircraft out there including the LSAs and that’s what convinced him to build his
own. “The used airplanes out there didn’t have exciting features or performance. I realized that some of
the homebuilt designs offered wonderful benefits at a fraction of the cost if you were willing to build it, so I
finally decided that was what I had to do.”
Before ordering his kit, Aaron visited numerous websites, talked to owners, ordered literature,
studied specs and thought for a long time about what he was looking for. He narrowed his considerations
down to several designs. “Some of the kits would have taken up to five or six or more years of my life
with the time I had available.” In the end, he zeroed in on the Sonex…it was fast, had good range, it was
Aaron Knight added a smoke system to his Sonex to enhance his aerobatic routines.
aerobatic, could be built in a short period of time and
was the lowest priced of the complete kits. Aaron
signed up for one of the Sonex workshops, held at the
Sonex factory in Oshkosh. He brought his checkbook
and when he’d completed the workshop, he signed a
contract for a Sonex kit.
Knowing his basement was inadequate, he put up
a barn building large enough to accommodate the
fuselage and wings. He dove into the project with
fervent determination, working on Saturdays (often for
16 hours) and Sundays after church (for 4 to 8 hours).
His kids aged 7, 10, and 12 worked with him almost
every weekend. They deburred rivet holes, inserted
and removed clecos, polished metal, helped position
parts and rivets, and handled hundreds of simple
items. While Aaron was enjoying quality time with his
kids, his wife was freed up on the weekends more than
usual, and as a result the homebuilt project produced
virtually no strain on the family.
The most challenging parts of the project for Aaron
arose in the fuselage, which has some of the most
complex systems. The motor mount slowed him down;
he wasn’t too happy working with fiberglass and trying
to make the cowling and composite components fit
properly; and though the all-glass instrument panel
took him a long time, he was pleased and proud of
what he put together, gleefully declaring “it’s the best
panel to be found in any Sonex”. In the process of
assembling his aircraft, he adhered to the plans with
precision, but went on to add a smoke system for shock
and giggles, enclosed the baggage compartment and
created a highly functional, low-profile panel. “That was enough customizing to satisfy me.”
He finished the exterior with
what he calls a copper chameleon paint job
that glistens with different metallic colors in
the sunlight. While building, Aaron went out
to a nearby airport, earned his taildragger
endorsement and learned to do aerobatics at
the same time.
On June 13, 2008, at age 35, he climbed into his airplane and experienced the kind of white fear Melville
described so poignantly in Moby Dick. It was the day of his first flight. “It was the scariest moment of my life. I kept
wondering: ‘what have I done…what have I gotten myself into?’” However, once Aaron fired up the engine and
began to taxi, the fear was replaced with focus and an eagerness to put the finishing touch on his accomplishment.
Once airborne, he was relaxed and thrilled with the performance. He loves doing aerobatics in his Sonex and
has logged some long cross country flights with his kids and his wife. He’s flown from his home in Norwell,
Massachusetts, to the Grand Canyon, to the Turks and Caicos Islands, to Niagara Falls and numerous other tourist
destinations. He’s logged nearly 600 hours in his Sonex and never experienced any major problems or had to
Aaron’s copper chameleon metallic paint job glistens in the sunlight.
Aaron’s two screen “glass” panel. It doesn’t get much simpler than this.
change anything but oil.
Aaron has his own website with a number of videos taken to document his longer cross country flights
and some of his aerobatic flights. You can watch those videos at: www.aaronknight.com/sonex.