Just as we all build airplanes for different reasons, we fly them for many more. In this issue of Kitplanes®, you’ll see examples of all sorts of builders and fliers—inspirations for those building and thinking of building—or even those who are looking to buy an experimental aircraft.
Traveling in the airplane that you built is the dream of many pilots. Getting away from our everyday life, without having to spend hours or days in a car on the highway, is for many, the reason that airplanes exist. Whether you are making a day trip to a scenic venue, a longer trip in something fast, or having a true adventure like the intrepid SeaRey pilots in this month’s cover story, you will find that the earth is a magnificent place to explore by air. Taking a pair of 90 mph amphibians from Houston to the Dry Tortugas may not be for everyone, but for those with the time and desire to see the Gulf Coast from not far above, it might be the adventure of a lifetime.
But travel is not the only motivation for owning airplanes—if it were, they’d all carry great loads, have huge fuel tanks and go like scat. Some pilots simply want to have something that gets them aloft, never mind the speed or range. They want to tootle around the local area, looking for deer and jackrabbits, monitoring the progress of a crew building a new house, or checking up on the fall foliage. A slow, Cub-like LSA is perfect for these types of pilots, providing them with wings to view their world on a whim. For those, we offer the Bearhawk LSA: Light Sport wings that allow you to enjoy the pure essence of flight.
Others prefer to roam just a little further afield—for the hundred dollar hamburger. The Bearhawk will manage this feat, but so will something like a Quickie! Of course, the Quickie can take you vast distances as well, but imagine taxiing up to an airport restaurant in something that looks like it escaped from another planet. Lying nearly supine in this piece of composite sculpture, the hand falling comfortably to the stick, a pilot feels very much at one with the machine. The wing is almost out of sight—and therefore out of mind—as you soar across fields in the egg-shaped cocoon of a cockpit. It wasn’t long ago that “homebuilt” almost seemed synonymous with “composite canard”; and, while the statistics of recent years have changed that interpretation, there are still dedicated individualists who are willing to translate their dreams into reality using cloth and resin.
Do you want to jump transcontinental distances in a day? There are airplanes out there that can make that happen! In the final episode of a series about a husband and wife team and their Lancair Turbine Evolution, we look in on the Solesbees to see how their multi-year pursuit of an ultimate traveling machine turned out. We follow them through their test flights to see what the Evo will do, then reflect with the couple on their overall building experience to find out whether it was all worth it. I’ll give you a hint—their smiles of satisfaction show through on every photograph.
But airplanes aren’t just about flying. Many builders, in fact, find flying to be only the last step of enjoyment in a long string of experiences. There are flyers and there are builders (with a lucky few falling into both camps), and for the builders, we present this month several articles that can inspire in the shop. Whether you are making a mount for a handheld radio, maintaining a Rotax engine, or checking out the health of your Lycoming, we can help.
Last, let’s not forget that our passion is possible because we build for education as well as recreation. This month, we will explore the potential for reducing accidents by installing an angle-of-attack system. We’ll also look at the education that young men and women are getting throughout the country by participating in any of many airplane-building pro-jects as part of their school curriculum. These young people are getting lessons that extend way beyond the simple fabrication of an airplane—they are learning the character traits of precision, honesty, integrity—all of those things that allow us to trust one another with our lives when we go aloft.
Regardless of your personal reason for building and/or flying an experimental aircraft, we all share the passion of flight. Enjoy this month’s installment—we hope it will inspire those still building to keep on pounding those rivets, stitching those ribs, or sanding that glass.
Paul Dye retired as a lead flight director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He currently flies an RV-8 that he built in 2005 and an RV-3 that he recently completed with his pilot wife. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 4500 hours in many different types of aircraft. When not writing on aviation topics, he consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight testing projects.