Lucky Number

Les Laidlaw, after landing on the Green Dot for the first time in the Cozy Mark IV he built in only five years.

Some people have all the luck. Take Les Laidlaw, who flew his newly minted Cozy Mark IV to AirVenture on Saturday, two days before the show officially gets underway. Right off the bat, this beautiful Cozy sticks out on the flight line. First of all, how many Cozys are still being built and completed? Very few. Particularly striking is the Cozy’s bright candy apple red paint job with sleek (and not quite stock) lines. The real story, however, lies in the lucky numbers.

Lucky Number with the sleeker but roomier Dragonfly canopy.

Back in 2017, Les owned and flew a Dragonfly, a two place side by side version of Burt Rutan’s Quickie. He yearned for something bigger and something he could build himself, so he started looking for a Cozy. On Barnstormers, he found an ad for a Cozy Mark IV for sale, but it had the worst photos you could imagine. The foam molds had been sitting around for years and appeared dirty and a little degraded. Les decided to pass at that point.

The next weekend, Les entered the Brainerd Minnesota Jaycees “Ice Fishing Extravaganza,” a fundraiser contest. He won. The prize was a brand new Ford F-150 truck. The next week, he saw the same ad in Barnstormers, this time with a price of $2,500, or best offer. He offered $2,000 and was shortly thereafter the proud owner of a Cozy Mark IV project. Although the foam cores were a bit rough, Les was happy to find out that the project included over 90% of the hardware needed to complete the project, including things like gas caps and seat belts.

Les dove into the project, making major and innovative changes to the fuselage. The biggest change, and the one that defined the beautiful lines of the ship was converting a sleek Dragonfly canopy to the Cozy fuselage. The result was more room in the front two seats and a much sleeker look to the nose of the aircraft. Les also redesigned the canopy latch system to be actuated by a fail safe locking lever in the armrest. He used BMW trunk hinges to lift the canopy both upward and forward when opening. Les also redesigned the fuel system to include three gravity fed sumps, alleviating the need for a fuel selector valve.

Lucky Number’s custom interior, crafted by Les on a free industrial sewing machine after watching YouTube videos.

Les did all of the work to complete the Cozy himself, including paint and interior. After watching numerous YouTube videos, he took on the interior work by getting an industrial sewing machine from Craigslist (for free!), practicing on vinyl and then doing a handsome job in leather for his seats and trim. With the help of his brother in law, Les painted the Cozy with candy apple red and white paint, using shadow numbers in the red to suggest his ship’s name: Lucky Number.

Even Lucky Number’s panel has a story of fortuitous circumstances. While searching, he found someone replacing their legacy Garmin G3X (non-touch) panel. Les bought the entire replaced panel, a handsome setup with 3 G3Xs, a transponder, audio panel and autopilot, with servos, for the total price of $2,199. It all works perfectly.

Les’s bargain Garmin legacy G3X panel.

But the real reason Les named his aircraft Lucky Number arose from his luckiest circumstance of all, his marriage to the love of his life, Mika. Although they were both Kansas State Wildcats, they never met until after graduation at a professional event. They married 21 years ago on July 28. What kind of crazy pilot sets his anniversary date during AirVenture? Lucky Number’s N number is N823ML, Mika’s birthday and initials. Mika encouraged and supported Les’ aviation activists and homebuilding from day one. When the Cozy project was finished, after only 5 years of construction, Les made the first flight on Mika’s birthday, August 23, 2022. Lucky numbers indeed.

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Steve Ashby
Steve Ashby is a sometime lawyer and full-time aviation aficionado from Atlanta, Georgia. He learned to fly in 1980 and has adopted a 1968 Skyhawk (your Grandma could fly it). Steve is also working on a Van's RV-8A which he swears will be completed on (a) Thursday.


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