A Cygnet From the Golden Era

The long wheelbase, easily seen dihedral and generous wing span give visual testament to the type’s gentle handling.
Todd Loes and friend.

Definitely from the golden era of plans-built homebuilts, Todd Loes’ Cygnet SF-2A embodies all the down-on-the-farm ingenuity and patina of that era. While it hardly comes close to the detailing we take for granted from today’s kit planes, it highlights the found-object artistry earlier generations accepted as givens when getting everyman aloft.

Originally built by Henry Olsen in 1980 the Cygnet was always un-hangared and thus hammered by “the wind and snow until it rotted away.” Loes, of Waterloo, Iowa, bought the forlorn 2-seater in 1996, giving it a major rebuild while preserving its original essence. The overhaul was so comprehensive it’s far easier to list the remaining original parts than note the extensive work Loes performed. The wing, for example, boasts its original spar, but that’s all. There’s not much more original in the fuselage, either. The wing struts, firewall, tail struts and seat cushions—“an homage to grandma’s couch”—along with the complete landing gear are all that remain.

Sighting from tip to tip is the best way to spot the Cygnet’s signature forward sweep. Cockpit access is through the hinged windshield.

Loes was careful to retain the original N-number and called his restoration a repair to continue Olsen’s presence in the airplane.

Performance is modest, with a friend of Loes saying, “It does what a buck and half (Cessna 150) will do but using a VW engine.” Loes reports a 90 mph cruising speed, 102 mph at full chat and a solo rate of climb in the 500 to 600 fpm range. He keeps a Cessna 172 in his hangar for flying Young Eagles and other crew-intensive flying, saving the purely fun stuff for the Cygnet.

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Tom Wilson
Pumping avgas and waxing flight school airplanes got Tom into general aviation in 1973, but the lure of racing cars and motorcycles sent him down a motor journalism career heavy on engines and racing. Today he still writes for peanuts and flies for fun.


  1. Well-written Tom. Thank you for connecting my “project” back to the older era where aesthetics were back-seat to functionality.


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