No matter how you slice it, flying is expensive. The most common recreational airplane, the four-seat Cessna 172, retails for $289,500 new. Want to get in the air on the cheap? Build your own. A number of companies sell sophisticated kits, with many pieces already shaped and ready to be fitted together. The FAA enforces what it calls the "51 percent rule," meaning that so long as you do more than half the work, you can call your airplane home-built. The FAA applies looser rules for the category, so manufacturers can design and sell the machines at a lower cost. The latest trend is called "builder assist," meaning that you can show up at a factory and highly trained employees will show you just what you need to do and even pitch in when necessary. One manufacturer, Glasair, offers a program called "Two Weeks to Taxi" that will take you from a standing start to the owner of a functioning but unfinished airplane in a fortnight. Price: $189,250.
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