EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame
The EAA’s Homebuilders Hall of Fame was started in the fall of 1993 to honor the outstanding contributions for the advancement of homebuilt aviation.
Wes Schmid —An active EAA member since 1956, Wes Schmid was involved in the preparation of Experimenter and redesigning EAA Sport Aviation magazine in 1958. He also prepared EAA's advertising programs and developed a variety of special publications such as data books, how-to manuals, brochures, and other educational and promotional materials.
In 1959, Paul Poberezny appointed Wes to the position of forums chairman, which he held until 2009. During those years, the forums grew from the one tent at the Rockford, Illinois, fly-in convention to the 11 buildings currently used at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He continues to volunteer with the forums operations to this day.
Wes had been a member of the EAA board of directors for 33 years, serving as the association's secretary. He is co-author of the Golden Age of Air Racing, which has been considered the "bible" for pre-World War II air racing fans.
Ed Fisher—A member since the late 1960’s, grew up in an EAA family, and by age 12 he was helping his mom and dad build airplanes at Birdland, the family airstrip in Thompson, OH.
Ed’s first completed homebuilt was Sonerai 1 Blueberry, which he started in high school, and was to be the first of 18 homebuilts he completed. His first “original” design was the Zippy Sport, which placed third in the 1983 Western Flyer/EAA ARV design contest.
His company, Raceair Designs, was formed in 1990. Designs such as the Skylite, Micro Mong, Flitplane, Zipster, and Lil Bitts have all come from Ed’s hands and mind. Five of his designs have been made available as plans, and two of these designs, the skylite and Zipster prototypes, have been Oshkosh grand champion award winners and regional winners in the Ultralight category.
In the early 1990s Ed purchased the Mong Sport design rights and has continually tweaked and promoted the design with plans. Currently there are three prototype aircraft in the works at the Raceair Designs facility.
Ed’s other contributions to aviation are as co-founder of EAA Chapter 860, and former newsletter editor.
A former Formula One race pilot, Ed has been a volunteer for the United States Air Racing Association, the Society of Air Racing Historians, and the Formula V Racing Organization. In addition, Ed formed the Midget Biplane Association, the Goodyear Midget Association, and the Supervee Air Sports.
Throughout his life, Ed has written numerous how-to publications and history-oriented articles for various aviation publications. He is an advisory member of the Sonerai Web support group and the Affordable Air Racing website, and currently works in the design consulting field, specializing in ultralight, experimental, and light-sport aircraft. He is an A&P mechanic and does restoration and fabric work.
Dean Wilson-- Dean first flew in a J-2 Cub when he was 3 years old and he was hooked. He went on to earn his A&E (airframe and engine, now called airframe and powerplant) certificate before he bought his first car. The first aircraft he owned was a 1937 40-hp Model A Taylorcraft. The next year, he built and flew a hang glider from plans in a 1913 Popular Mechanics article called “How to Build a Glider for $10.” Dean’s homebuilt airplane experiences started when he converted a1934 UMF Waco into a spray plane. He went on to design and put into production a type-certificated biplane sprayer, the Eagle ag plane.
In the 1970s, Dean bought and restored 43 different aircraft. In 1983, he designed and put into production the Avid Flyer kit airplane, and later built the twin-engine Explorer and the single-engine Private Explorer, which went into production in Canada. Throughout his career thus far he has owned, flew, or designed 80 different aircraft and an Indy racecar. He said he was born at the right time and place – in the U.S., 32 years after the Wright brothers. “I learned from pioneers and now I’ll help anyone who asks.”
Lance A. Neibauer--Lance is the founder of Lancair International Inc. and the designer of its line of aircraft. He began his career as a graphic designer, after receiving his degree from Michigan State University in 1971. Neibauer gravitated toward aviation in the late 1970s when composite structures began to appear. He already had a strong family background in aviation through Meyers Aircraft, where his uncle had collaborated with the company to build the Meyers 200, and put his design skills to work on planes.
Neibauer’s first aircraft, the Lancair 200, was test flown on June 26, 1984, in Chino, California. In 1994, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed a Lancair in its lobby as a design work of art. Other honors he has received are the August Raspet Memorial Award for the advancement of light aircraft design form the EAA; Top Ten U.S. Designers/Engineers, Designer News; President’s Award, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association; Top Ten Entrepreneurs, entrepreneur Magazine; and numerous others.
Neibauer has been president and CEO of Neico Aviation Inc., a manufacturer and marketer of kit aircraft; Lancair International Inc., the distributor for the product line; Advanced Composite Technologies, a Philippine manufacturing company formed to build composite components and preassemble kits; and Pacific Aviation Composites LLC, which was the first company to design and certify a new generation of general aviation four-seat aircraft in more than 30 years. All of his companies were sold in 2003, and the Lancair legacy remains today, as an advanced composite line of Cessna Aircraft Company.
John W. Dyke--was born in 1931 and grew up on a farm in southeastern Ohio, where he established a niche for aviation design and construction after building a prop-driven bicycle using his mother’s Maytag washing machine engine. His love for aviation grew when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1955, attending the Navy airman preparatory, aircraft mechanics, and aircraft navigation schools.
During Dyke’s service in the Navy, he met Dr. Alexander Lippisch, father of the delta wing, at the national Advisory Committee for aeronautics (NACA). Dyke traveled to Germany to study Lippisch’s work and then later studied NASA delta wing experimentation work. Dyke has built several Delta models and tested them in a wind tunnel he built. His first was designated JD-1, and in 1963, he flew it to the EAA fly-in convention in Rockford. He later designed the JD-2, which first flew to Rockford in 1966 and is still flying today.
Dyke has received numerous awards for his outstanding designs, knowledge, and contributions to aviation including the EAA President’s Award and the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Dyke’s contributions to aviation continue through his support of the Delta Builders Network, and his dedication to EAA AirVenture, which he has attended for more than 50 years.
Randy Schlitter--For Randy, designing and building airplanes and bicycles has been part of his life since childhood. In 1974, Randy began designing and building “sail trikes,” a tricycle with a sail attached, and demonstrating them around the Wichita and Hays, Kansas, areas. Over time, he designed seven different models of sail trikes. In the early 1980s, while demonstrating the sail trike, or land yacht as they were nicknamed, Randy was encouraged by his hang gliding friends to build an ultralight. The RANS Coyote was his first flying machine to go into production. The prototype aircraft led to the launch of a company and allowed Randy to create and build the designs he had always dreamed of.
Since that first airplane, Randy has designed 18 more aircraft, including the RANS S-7S/LS that holds both primary category certification and special light-sport aircraft approval. RANS current manufactures kits for five aircraft—the S-6ES Coyote, S-6S Coyote, S-7S/LS Courier, S-12XL Airaile, and S-19.
Edgar Lesher--Ed, a longtime member of EAA Chapter 113 who died in 1998, was a distinguished aviation teacher and engineer. He joined the University of Michigan's Department of Aerospace Engineering in 1942. Edgar's Teal made numerous world-record-setting flights for speed, and won many awards. His dedicated service as an educator and engineer advanced the science of aircraft design.
Bill Schramm--Bill was the founder of Rotor Way Aircraft, and creator of the Scorpion and Executive kit helicopters. The Scorpion became the first successful kit helicopter, incorporating affordability and simplicity. In 1980, Schramm unveiled the Rotorway Executive, a reliable helicopter as an achievable goal for the homebuilder. Schramm was very active in the homebuilding community until his death in 2004.
Robert Bushby--As a high school junior, Robert skipped classes in the afternoon to hitchhike eight miles to the Joliet, Illinois, airport for a flying lesson, arriving home after school with no one the wiser. He earned money for lessons by working for neighboring farmers at $3 a day. Two days’ work was enough to rent a Cub for an hour, and by 1945 he had his pilot certificate. Three years later, Bushby graduated from the Lewis College aircraft maintenance course as an A&P mechanic, and later added an IA rating.
In 1958, Bushby and a friend purchased the rights to the single-place Midget Mustang. The prototype made its first flight on September 9, 1959. Performance capabilities of the speedy little aircraft led to a demand for a two-place version, so Bushby designed the Mustang II in 1963. Two years later he trailered the first Mustang II to the EAA convention in Rockford, Illinois. After more than 30 years of developing and supporting the Mustang II and Midget, Bushby sold the design rights to Mustang Aeronautics in 1992.
Bushby joined EAA at the inaugural meeting as member number 26. He has attended every annual convention since 1953, and brought homebuilt aircraft to the event for 33 straight years.
Pete Bowers-- Pete, who passed away in April 2003, was a Boeing engineer and an EAA member since the 1950’s. In 1962, his “Fly Baby II” design won an EAA aircraft design contest and became extremely popular. The airplane’s simple design led to extensive innovation and evolution by later builders. Bowers also wrote hundreds of aviation articles over the last half-century.
Bob Whittier--Bob is a mainstay of EAA’s publications. Despite a childhood illness that robbed him of his hearing, he authored 2,500 articles and 10 books on a wide range of topics. Whittier began writing for the original Experimenter magazine (now EAA Sport Aviation) in the 1950s and contributed to EAA Sport Pilot & Light-Sport Aircraft Magazine.
William Chana—William first connected with aviation by building more than 100 model aircraft during his youth, which led to his election as Illinois State President of the Future Craftsmen of America when he was in high school. From 1948 to 1950, with Ken Coward and Karl Montijo, Bill Chana built and flew the Wee Bee airplane, the “world’s smallest plane.” He made the first flight of his second design—the Honey Bee—in 1952 and contributed to the third aircraft design in the series—the Queen Bee—a metal four-place aircraft.
Bill’s involvement in aviation didn’t end with the “Bee” series. During the 1970s he was part of the “skunk works” team that designed and built a two-place, composite delta-wing ducted-fan triphibian. He also helped build a working reproduction of the 1903 Wright brothers’ engine, and after years of involvement with Convair’s delta-wing aircraft, Bill flew Mach 1.3 in a TF-102.
Bill served as president of the San Diego Aerospace Museum and International Aerospace Hall of Fame from 1996 to 1998 and fulfilled a fellowship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Ken Brock-- Ken loved transportation, especially in its unusual forms. As a young man, he dabbled in several occupations until he purchased a machine shop in Long Beach, California. Keeping his full-time job until his business blossomed; Ken often worked 19-hour days, seven days a week. Somewhere in between he learned to fly. He also became interested in gyroplanes and taught himself to fly one he built.
With business improving, Ken spent more time with gyroplanes. In the late 1960’s, Ken and a friend flew their gyros to Las Vegas, landing alongside roads to refuel. In 1971 he became the first person to fly a single-seat homebuilt gyro across America. In 10 days he flew 3,400 miles from Long Beach to the birthplace of powered flight, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
By the end of the 1970s, Ken Brock Manufacturing was the leading manufacturer of metal parts and components for homebuilt aircraft and the nation’s largest producer of gyroplane kits. Ken’s gyrocopters and air show performances took him around the world, a long way from his Oklahoma roots. Sadly, he died in October 2001. Marie, his wife, remembers her husband as one who loved every minute of his life and lived it to the fullest. She added, “If friends make you wealthy in spirit, he was one of the wealthiest men I know.”
Jack Cox-- Interested in aviation as a boy, Jack soloed a J-3 Cub in 1956, just as he started teaching high school, with a break for a hitch in the U.S. Navy. In 1970 Jack moved to Wisconsin with his wife, Golda, to start working at EAA. By 1972, Jack became editor in chief of EAA’s publications. A second-time Hall of Fame inductee (Vintage 2000), Jack is credited for his vast knowledge of experimental aircraft and his communications abilities. During his tenure, he introduced just about every new homebuilt design—and its designer(s)—to the aviation world.
One of his notable achievements was breaking the false notion that homebuilding was strictly for aviation professionals. He accomplished this by writing articles about homebuilding that blended biographical information with technical material. Another achievement was his comprehensive coverage of the Voyager—from its construction to its world-record nonstop, non-refueled flight—that garnered him a national journalism award from the Aviation/Space Writers Association in 1987.
John Monnett--Like most aviators, John Monnett has had airplanes in his blood since he began building models at age 6. As he progressed from simple box kits to radio-controlled airplanes, he discovered a talent for designing and building his own models, and he often rushed home at lunch and after school to work on a newly designed masterpiece.
In 1964 John took to the air himself and earned his private pilot certificate. He purchased his first airplane for $400, and it served John, and his new wife, Betty, well over the next few years. Soon he wanted an upgrade; he sold his airplane for $1,100 and bought a 1939 Piper J-4, which he restored.
Moving on to other airplanes, John eventually obtained a Jeanie’s Teenie and started building. Partway through the project he realized he wasn’t happy with the design. He began a number of modifications, which included changing the tail section, the canopy, and the engine.
At the 1970 EAA Fly-In Convention John met aviation legend Steve Wittman, who introduced him to the Vee-Witt, a Formula Vee racer. What John saw inspired him, and he designed his own Formula Vee racer. Eight months later the Sonerai was born, and it earned the Best Formula Vee trophy at EAA Oshkosh ’71. The airplane survived many modifications, including more than 100 propeller changes, and it grew into the two-place Sonerai II.
A full-time art teacher, John quit teaching and dedicated himself to the airplane business full time. John’s lifelong interest in homebuilts led to many innovations including the first aluminum spring gear and the use of the Volkswagen engine conversion, starting with the Super Vee in the early 1970s and progressing to the more refined Aero Vee.
Since 1998, John has focused his attention on the Sonex, a sport plane originally designed for the European microlight category. As the Sonex progressed, John, and design partner Pete Buck, soon realized the inexpensive airplane had market value in this country.
Jean Délémontez—Jean wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, but his father couldn’t send him to one of France’s prestigious engineering schools, so he enlisted in the French air force and became an aeronautical mechanic. After training he was stationed near Beaune, and one day he visited Édouard Joly, who was building a Mignet HM-14 Pou de Ciel. There he met his future wife—Joly’s daughter!
When Germany invaded France, Jean and some friends tried to escape to England. They made it to Toulouse, where Jean went to work for a company that modified aircraft for the Vichy government. Left alone most of the time, he continued his self-study of aerodynamics and aircraft building. In 1942 rumors of an Allied bombing campaign motivated Jean’s return to Beaune. There his future father-in-law hired him as a farm equipment mechanic, an essential job that kept Jean out of a German work camp. In reality Jean did accounting, and he worked quickly enough to have time to design his own aircraft—the D.9 Bébé (Baby).
In 1946 Joly and Délémontez combined the first letters of their last names to name their business—Avions Jodel—that repaired abandoned German airplanes and gliders. And they continued work on the D.9. With Joly at the controls, it flew for the first time on January 20, 1948, and both men were pleasantly surprised by the Baby’s spirited performance. Although Jodel didn’t intend to market the airplane, the pair met the enthusiasts’ requests for plans, and the Jodel movement rapidly spread across the continent. Jodel aircraft are easily recognized by their unique upturned outboard wing panels, which make the aircraft efficient (low induced drag) and stable.
With a contract from the French government to build an aero club aircraft, Jodel developed the D.11. Homebuilders embraced the lightweight, low-powered design’s outstanding performance and built them in numbers. Several manufacturers, including Avions Robin, soon built the D.11 under license, and its offspring, the four-seat DR-400, is in production today.
You can’t attend a European fly-in without seeing a gaggle of Jodels, Counting the aircraft Robin built, roughly 7,000 Délémontez-inspired or designed aircraft have been produced, with around 2k500 being homebuilt Jodels of all models. But Jean’s lasting contribution will undoubtedly be the support and inspiration he has lent to homebuilders and the amateur-built movement worldwide over the last 60 years.
Although Jean was not able to travel to Oshkosh from his native France to attend the EAA Sport Aviation Hall of Fame ceremonies, his award was accepted by friend and associate Albert Sorignet.
Leslie Long--born in Oregon, was a prolific airplane designer, successful aviation writer, and founder of the Lightplane Association of America, later renamed the Amateur Aircraft League (AAL). In the mid-1930’s the AAL brought together like-minded enthusiasts in an effort to create a voice of concern over the threat to the freedom to build and fly their own airplanes.
In addition to designing airplanes, Les designed and built his own engines, using the cylinders, pistons, and connecting rod assemblies from the available and reliable Harley Davidson Model 74 motorcycle engine on a crankcase and crankshaft of his own design. The result was the Long Harlequin engine, a two-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine that developed 30-35 hp at 2750 rpm and weighed only 90 pounds. Another indication of Les’ genius was that the engine went from the drawing board to first flight in five weeks, and this time included setting up a foundry to cast the aluminum crankcase.
Fighting for the privilege of homebuilt flight, Les designed a series of simple, affordable, and easy-to-build airplanes. Between 1925 and 1935 he designed nine different airplanes and sold the “build-it-yourself” plans through ads in magazines like Sportsman Aviation.
Derivations of his designs played important roles in the existence of homebuilding. Les’ low-wing Wimpy, powered by a 30-hp Aeronca E-107 engine, inspired Tom Story to design, build, and fly the Story Special. And Pete Bowers’ well-known Fly Baby is a direct development of the Story.
Les’ mid-wing Longster was a hit, and Modern Mechanix and Inventions magazine proclaimed it one of their most popular designs. Les then modified the design, trying a parasol wing before settling on a low-wing, wire-braced design that most enthusiasts would recognize, and pilots built a number of them between 1933 and 1935.
Were it not for the Bureau of Air Commerce’s (the forerunner of the FAA) negative attitude toward homebuilts, the Longster may have become as popular with home craftsmen as the heath Parasol or the Pietenpol, both of which got an earlier start.
The low-wing Longster eventually begat George Bogardus’ Little Gee Bee, which Bogardus flew from Troutdale, Oregon, to Washington, D.C., in 1947, carrying a petition to legalize homebuilt aircraft to the Civil aeronautics Administration (CAA). The cross country flight of the Long-inspired Little Gee Bee proved its point and helped to relax the CAA’s burdensome homebuilt airworthiness regulations. Unfortunately, Bogardus’ memorable flight happened two years after Long’s death in January 1945.
In a 1969 Air Progress magazine article, author Bob Whittier called Long’s contribution to aviation. “The Plane That Helped Save Homebuilding.” Quite a legacy for a simple airplane designer from rural Oregon.
Chris Heintz--Anyone who has been an EAA Convention-goer for any length of time remembers the “Eight Day Wonder,” the original all-metal Zenith aircraft constructed—and then flown—in the eight days of what is now known as AirVenture. This incredible feat was first demonstrated in 1976, and was repeated several more times at Oshkosh and Sun ‘n Fun. The man responsible for this metal magic is Chris Heintz, president of Zenair Ltd., who rolled out a low-wing, two-place, all-metal CH 200 over 30 years ago. He’s been flying high ever since.
A graduate of the E.T.H. Institute in Switzerland, Chris served in the French Air Force, then worked for Aerospatiale on the supersonic Concorde jetliner. Later, he became chief engineer at Avions Robin, in France.
In 1973, Heintz, his family and the Zenith moved to Canada, where Heintz worked for DeHavilland in Toronto. Chris decided to form his own aircraft company in 1974, and started to manufacture Zenith kits himself from his two-car garage. From these humble beginnings, Heintz has introduced more than 12 successful kit aircraft designs over the years. More than 800 Zenair aircraft are flying around the world in an astonishing 48 countries. His designs have earned an excellent reputation among pilots, builders, and aviation authorities for their durable all-metal construction, normal flight characteristics, reliability, and low maintenance.
At EAA Oshkosh 1994, EAAers saw Chris Heintz and Zenair Ltd. receive an FAA type-certification for the Zenith CH 2000, a two-seat low-wing aircraft based on Heintz’ kit aircraft designs.
Heintz has received his share of accolades. He is a past recipient of the EAA’s coveted Dr. August Raspet Memorial Award “for outstanding contribution to the advancement of the design of light aircraft.” Of his latest honor, being inducted in the Sport Aviation Homebuilders Hall of Fame, Heintz said, “This is a celebration of the past, and encouragement for the future. We love what we’re doing—designing, building, and flying airplanes. That’s what it’s all about.”
Richard Van Grunsven-- Richard has made an indelible mark on recreational aviation and the homebuilt movement in particular. Learning to fly at the age of 16, Van finished college with a degree in engineering. After leaving the Air Force, Van purchased a Stits Playboy. Disappointed in its performance, he purchased another airframe and rebuilt it, installing a larger engine, bubble canopy, and Hoerner-style wingtips. These improvements made the Playboy perform much better, but Dick thought he could do more.
While employed as a mechanical engineer, he designed, built, and installed a set of cantilever aluminum wings with flaps to replace the strut-braced wood and fabric originals. The Playboy—now known as the RV-1—flew like a new airplane. Using the modified Playboy as his starting point, Van designed and built the all-metal RV-3. It flew for the first time in August 1971 and proved a delightful airplane.
It wasn’t long before customers began screaming for a two-place version of the hot-selling RV-3. Redesigned as a tandem ship, the RV-4 first flew In August 1979, and handling proved to be outstanding. The RV-4 was soon followed by the popular RV-6—Van’s concession to those who prefer to sit side-by-side. Another concession to his growing and diverse marketplace was the RV-6A, a tricycle gear version of the RV-6. At EAA Oshkosh in 1995, Van unveiled the larger, tandem-seat RV-8, and followed in 1998 with the RV-9. As he accepted his honor, Van wanted to be sure to thank his parents, “Who instilled in me my work ethic, honesty, and sense of fair play—all which are necessary to thrive in this business.”
Henri Mignet--Some know him as “The Patron Saint of Homebuilders.” To others, he was a genius—a quietly creative individual who introduced a new aerodynamic formula to the world of aviation. Still others, less informed, thought he was a “mad scientist” of sorts, foisting his strange new ideas onto early homebuilders.
Although he had his share of detractors, it cannot be denied that Henri Mignet was a visionary, and his influence is still felt in homebuilding circles in his native France, and around the world.
His Pou de Ciel, or Flying Flea was the epitome of his experimentation—a two axis, tandem wing design—an unusual configuration of the flying surfaces which were to become a Mignet trademark. The fact that his designs (more than 40 in all!) from the early 1930’s are still being built by craftsmen today is a testament to Mignet’s originality.
Henri Mignet, who died in 1965, was represented at EAA’s Sport Aviation Hall of Fame by his son, Pierre, who traveled from France to accept this honor on behalf of his father. Pierre spoke graciously to the audience in an endearing French accent. “I am very happy to represent my father. And I am grateful to EAA and Tom Poberezny for choosing my father as part of the Hall of Fame,” he said. “My father dedicated his life to the pursuit of aviation and he was always ready to help the builders of his aircraft.” Henri Mignet: 1893-1965
Curtis Pitts--Curtis designed the airplane that brought the United States to the top of the world of competition aerobatics for the first time. In 1972, when Charlie Hilliard became the first American to become World Aerobatic Champion, he was flying a Pitts Special. It was the first homebuilt aircraft to be used to win the title.
Curtis designed and built his first airplane while still in high school and, later, armed with knowledge gained through a correspondence course in mechanical engineering, designed and built the prototype of what would become the Pitts Special. The second example built, Betty Skelton’s legendary “Little Stinker”, would be seen in airshows on two continents and would capture the hearts of all in aviation. When Curtis made plans available to homebuilders, the tiny biplane was built in large numbers and was one of the most numerous designs displayed each year at the EAA Conventions at Rockford and Oshkosh.
Earlier in his career, while still operating a crop dusting service, a mechanics school, an approved repair station and a small airport, Curtis had also designed and built several Goodyear class (now Formula One) racers and the mighty “Sampson” airshow biplane. In the late 1960’s, with the runaway success of the Pitts Special, he was able to devote full time to designing, building and certifying the two-place Pitts, which was to quickly become one of the most popular advanced aerobatic trainers worldwide, as well as a highly capable competition aircraft in its own right. The single place Pitts Special was also certified and both were manufactured under Curtis’ direction at Afton, Wyoming until he finally sold the company and retired.
Burt Rutan--Aircraft homebuilding had been popular as a hobby literally since the days of the Wright brothers, but it was Burt Rutan who elevated the activity to the cutting edge of lightplane technology. The loaded canard he perfected on his VariViggen and VariEze/Long-EZ designs gave homebuilders a series of high performance aircraft without the susceptibility to stalls and spins of conventionally configured aircraft with higher wing loadings…and his “moldless” composite construction method made it easy and affordable for individual builders to create natural laminar flow airframes that provided greater performance for a given amount of power. VariEzes and Long-EZs were built in large numbers, and similarly configured spinoffs by other developers continue to be popular today.
The ultimate application of Burt’s loaded canard and composite construction methods was the Voyager, purpose designed and purpose built to fly around the world non-stop without refueling. When Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager set out on their historic and ultimately successful circumnavigation of the earth, they were aboard the only aircraft ever designed and built that was efficient enough to complete such a flight.
Another highly significant contribution Burt made to the world of aircraft homebuilding was his simplified, step-by-step “cookbook” approach to aircraft building instructions, rather than traditional blueprints. It changed forever the way building instruction manuals were written and opened up the hobby to people who had not had technological training of any sort, which is the vast majority today.
Burt Rutan was the first to use the experience and reputation he gained in the EAA world as a springboard to the more complex arena of aerospace design, development and manufacturing. Today, the company he heads is involved in some of the most daring, innovative aerospace concepts society is yet privileged to know about.
Bill Warwick--Bill was an aviation professional who was employed by Northrop Aircraft for 36 years and ultimately retired as manager of the company’s engineering test lab. During the course of that career, he was involved in many of Northrop’s highly secret “black” projects, including the Stealth Bomber, but on his own time he was the quintessential EAA member and homebuilder.
Bill’s first homebuilt design, the Tiny Champ, won EAA’s Outstanding Design Award in 1960, and in 1964 he completed the very first Thorp T-18. He later converted the design from its original open cockpit, exposed cylinder configuration to the fully cowled, bubble canopied high performance machine that all subsequent EAAers would build. Bill’s version of the T-18, which would be adapted and further refined by designer John Thorp, was the first of a whole new generation of high performance sport planes that would create new respect for the homebuilt airplane and would usher in a great surge of growth for EAA.
In the late 1960’s Bill designed and built the “Hot Canary” Biplane Class racer and won a number of races in it in the early 1970’s. It hung in a place of honor, for a time, in the lobby of the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh. Bill subsequently designed and built the single-place Bantam, for which he sold plans for many years and built the Formula One racers “Fant” and “Mr. Robinson”.
Long involved in EAA Chapter activity in the Los Angeles area and, after retirement, I Arizona, Bill was a technical counselor at the time of his death in 1994.
Harold Best-Devereux--England's Harold Best-Devereux, who was best known to U.S. EAAers as the eloquent master of ceremonies for the evening programs at Oshkosh until his untimely death from cancer in July of 1985, played a far more important role in the international affairs of our organization. The European Director of EAA for over 20 years, Harold worked tirelessly to make it possible for Europeans to build and fly their own aircraft, to make rules less restrictive in those nations that did allow homebuilding and to bring sport pilots of every nation together. Fluent in French, he and EAA Founder Paul Poberezny traveled extensively in France and other countries helping establish the legitimacy of amateur built aircraft throughout Europe. For these and other achievements, Harold was awarded the prestigious Paul Tissandier Diploma by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and, although a citizen of the United Kingdom, was elected a member of a select group of French aviation pioneers.
Involved in aviation almost all his life, Harold's earliest flight training came in a World War I Avro 504 trainer. He built his first aircraft, a Mignet HM-14 Flying Flea, in 1935 while still a schoolboy and soon became involved with the British homebuilt movement, assisting in the development of several designs that were available prior to World War II.
During the war, Harold was involved in photo reconnaissance and converting Spitfires for photo recon service. In1942 he was secretly dropped into occupied France and worked with the French Resistance to sabotage German aircraft production in that country. After the war, he helped found the Popular Flying Association in the U.K. and maintained his close ties to the very active French amateur built aircraft movement. This connection was extremely valuable during his service with the British Air Registration Board, now the Civil Aviation Authority, where he was able to transfer the French acceptance of amateur built aircraft into the U.K.'s then restrictive regulations.
An active pilot until his death, Harold owned a number of aircraft over the years, including a Tailwind he bought in the U.S. One of his most treasured aviation experiences came in the summer of 1977 when he and his son, Igor, flew a 1937 Miles Whitney Straight from Halifax, N.S. to Lake Tahoe, CA, with a stop at Oshkosh to participate in that year's EAA Convention. At the time of his death, Harold was rebuilding a 1947 Miles Messenger and extensively researching the life of Henri Mignet.
Much of the freedom Europeans currently enjoy to build and fly their own aircraft is Harold's everlasting legacy.
William W. Ghan-- Over William’s 36-year career in education, he built or supervised the building of 19 airplanes. All told, those projects brought two generations into the world of flight.
Bill began flying in 1958 and built his first airplanes, a Scampy biplane and a replica 1910 Curtiss pusher, in the early 1960s. Soon he was involving his high school industrial arts classes in airplane construction and from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s, his high school classes built eight airplanes. Eight others were subsequently built by university students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Southwest Missouri State University.
In the early 1980s, Bill's school district discontinued the building of aircraft, but that did not stop him from finding ways to introduce young people to aviation. He supervised projects such as the construction of flight simulators and numerous pedal planes, which delighted young children and sparked an interest in the world of flight. And along with his own pupils, Bill taught other industrial arts teachers how to construct experimental aircraft. Those educators then went on to teach and build aircraft with their own students through EAA's Project Schoolflight. Bill has published numerous articles on aircraft construction for education, aviation and general interest publications. He has brought his enthusiasm for aircraft building to many events as a featured speaker, including the EAA Conventions at Oshkosh. He has received numerous awards for his classroom leadership and ingenuity and is listed in "Who's Who Among American Teachers." EAA honored Bill in 1974 for his achievements in aviation education and again in 1983 with an EAA President's Award.
Ladislao Pazmany-- Enamored with aviation from an early age, Paz built models and began flying gliders when he was 15. After obtaining a degree in aero engineering, he worked wherever engineering jobs were available in the unstable economy that prevailed in Argentina at the time. For nearly a decade he designed aircraft, pipelines, high tension power line towers, suspension bridges, chemical and hydroelectric plants, was an instructor at an aeronautics school and worked as an auto company draftsman — sometimes holding as many as three jobs at a time!
In May of 1956 Paz and his family moved to the U.S. and settled in San Diego where he went to work for Convair. The following month he attended his first EAA Chapter 14 meeting. At Convair, he worked on the F-102, F-106 and other projects . . . and, along the way, obtained seven patents for inventions ranging from aircraft thrust reversers to emergency natural gas shut-off valves that activate during earthquakes.
Concurrent with his full-time employment in the aerospace industry, Paz devoted his spare time to his first love, personal aircraft. He designed the PL-1, which flew for the first time on March 23, 1962, made plans available to homebuilders and wrote the book Light Airplane Design --all of which allowed him to start his own business and devote more time to lightplane design and development. In the late 1960s, the Nationalist Chinese Air Force acquired plans to build a version of the PL-1 to serve as a primary trainer. Their prototype flew on October 26, 1968 and an additional 35 aircraft were started that year. Meanwhile, Paz had designed an improved version of the PL-1, the PL-2, and the first one flew on April 4, 1969. In the early 1970s Paz began work on the single-place PL-4 and the prototype was flown on July 9, 1972. Plans were made available for each of the designs and they are still being built today.
In the 1970s Paz created and for several years conducted the Pazmany Efficiency Contest at Oshkosh —which gave EAAers one of their first real world evaluations of homebuilt performance. In the early 1970s Paz became the chief engineer for aviation legend T. Claude Ryan's Ryson Aviation Corporation and designed the Ryson ST-100 Cloudster, a beautiful powered sailplane that was formerly introduced to the flying world in early 1977. The work Paz did designing the Cloudster's landing gear led him to write the book, Landing Gear Design for Light Aircraft, which has become the standard work on that subject and is on the shelf of every aircraft designer today.
Sam Burgess--Sam, who lived in San Antonio, soloed in an OX-5 Travel Air on June 19, 1937 and went on to a distinguished military and civilian aviation career.
Sam taught aerobatics in a Waco UPF-7 in the University of Michigan’s CPT Program in 1940 and 1941, then joined the RCAF where he logged 450 hours of flying time. He transferred to the U. S. Army Air Force in 1942 and as an already experienced pilot would spend most of World War II in the Ferry Command delivering new aircraft, including the P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51, A-20, B-17, B-24, B-25 and B-26. In 1947 he became a member of the Million Miler Club at Travis AFB, CA as one of the top ten highest time pilots in the USAF. During 1948/49 he participated in the famed Berlin Airlift as Group Chief Pilot and flew 121 missions into the blockaded city. In the mid-1950s he was commanding officer of 1700 Test Squadron and directed the service testing of the C-l 30's then new Allison T-56 turboprop engine, extending its TBO from 50 to 2,500 hours in less than nine months. Sam retired from the Air Force with the rank of Lt.Colonel in 1968 after 26 years of service. At that time he had logged over 13,000 hours in military aircraft that included the C-97, KB-50, T-33, F-86, F-100 and F-105.
Throughout his military career, Sam maintained an interest in civilian flying, especially aerobatics, and joined EAA in 1963 when the local chapter held its monthly meeting in the same hangar at Langley AFB in Virginia where his Waco Taperwing was stored. After being transferred to Hawaii in1964, Sam began constructing a Warner powered homebuilt version of the famed Bucker Jungmeister. In 1970 he set an NAA record by flying the airplane on a tour that included all 50 states. The purpose of the exploit was to prove the safety and reliability of homebuilt aircraft. Sam later donated the airplane to the EAA Aviation Foundation.
Returning to Hawaii, Sam completed his first Pitts Special, in which he split his aerobatic time with a Great Lakes that he kept hangared with Frank Price's airplanes in Waco, TX. He became one of the founding members of IAC (#23) in the early 1970s and purchased a Pitts from Will Teft that he flew in IAC competition for many years.
In 1974 Sam accepted Paul Poberezny's invitation to fly the prototype EAA Acro Sport, N IAC, on a 48 state tour to promote EAA, IAC and Project School Flight. He visited over 80 EAA Chapters and spoke in over 50 high schools during the tour, and received the EAA President's Award for his efforts in 1975. Sam relocated to San Antonio in 1975 and built a second Pitts. In the1980s he began building a second Jungmeister, this one powered by an Allison 250 turboprop. In 1989 he set an NAA/FAI world time to climb to 10,000 ft. record in the aircraft, and lowered his own mark again two years later. The Allison was subsequently removed and replaced by a Russian M14P radial engine for an attempt on the piston engine time to climb record. Sam has long been challenged by the fact that the world's speed record for seaplanes (440 mph) has stood since 1934 and he has patented a design for a float equipped racer he believes could return the record to the U.S. He offers the plans free to anyone with the facilities and resources to build the airplane and break the old record (which is held by Italy). Sam was 80 on December 28, 1996, and still going strong.
Nicholas D'Apuzzo--Nicholas was born in November of 1912 and received an aeronautical engineering degree from New York University's Guggenheim School of Aeronautics in 1938. He soloed in August of 1939 and received his private license a year later. He worked for Brewster Aircraft during World War II and later became a civilian employee (development engineer) for the U. S. Navy - a career he would follow for the next 35 years.
Sport flying was always Nick's passion, however, and he became involved in a big way in 1948 when he designed the Denight Special Goodyear racer (now Formula One) for Bart Denight. It was initially raced in 1949 and was on the circuit for many years. Nick became involved in the world of air shows and competition aerobatics when he designed the PJ-260 for Lindsay Parsons and Rod Jocelyn. Plans were later made available to homebuilders, with the design redesignated as the D-260 Senior Aerosport. During the 1970s and early 1980s Nick would design lighter sport versions of the D-260, the Freshman and the Sportwing D-201.
In 1968 Nick became the owner and operator of A. Wheels, a sales outlet for aircraft flying and drag wires. Long active in local and national EAA affairs, Nick has served EAA Chapter 78 as president and director, and has been a Technical Counselor since the inception of that program in the 1960s. He was one of the founding members of the National Association of Sport Aircraft Designers and was a leading force in establishing standards for homebuilt aircraft plans. In 1973 he became the chairman of the EAA Design College, organizing an annual series of technical forums that were conducted at Oshkosh during the EAA Convention. He is also assisted the FAA in homebuilt accident investigations and made presentations on EAA and homebuilding on a regular basis to aviation and civic groups in the Philadelphia area. Nick was a recipient of the EAA President's Award in 1984 and has been honored many times for his work with the EAA Design College.
Ed Heath—Ed was born in New York state in 1888 and flew his first homebuilt airplane there in 1909. He later moved to Chicago and began a full service aircraft supply business that rivaled any of our present day companies in terms of the variety of products offered. As early as 1913 the Heath Airplane Company offered raw materials, parts, components, engines, propellers, airframe kits - and would even build ready to fly airplanes, if requested. All were depicted in illustrated catalogs.
After World War I Heath added war surplus material to his line, but quickly realized that even Jennys and Standards were too expensive for most people to maintain and operate, even if they were given the big ex-military trainers. His view was that if personal flying were to ever become widespread, an aircraft had to be developed that was inexpensive to purchase, inexpensive to maintain and inexpensive to operate. The result was the Heath Parasol, a tiny open cockpit single sealer powered by a converted Henderson motorcycle engine. With the airframe kit costing as little as $199.00, the Heath Parasol sold like wildfire in the last half of the 1920s . . . especially after Lindbergh's flight to Paris. Because portions of the kit could be purchased separately, no one really knows how many were sold, and because they were often registered with the builder's name as the manufacturer (or not registered at all to avoid local taxes), the number that were completed and flown was never compiled. In any event, the Heath Parasol of the 1920s is one of the most significant aircraft in personal flying history. Its popularity proved as never before just how many people were really serious about being able to own and fly an aircraft, and it indelibly impressed into the public mind the idea that individuals could build their own airplanes.
Ever the aviation entrepreneur, Ed Heath never missed an opportunity to publicize his company and its products. Air racing was front page news in the 1920s, so Heath developed and successfully raced a series of tiny aircraft, the best-known of which was his Baby Bullet. Predictably, the racing successes were immediately touted in Heath ads, and did, indeed, enhance the sales of the company's products.
With the success of the Heath Parasol and Super Parasol, Ed Heath and his company were in a position in the early 1930s to certify slightly more sophisticated versions of the popular homebuilts. The Heath LNB-4 Parasol was certified in December of 1931, but, tragically, Ed Heath would lose his life the following February while testing a new low wing sportplane.
With the loss of its founder and leader, the Heath Company was reorganized and moved from Chicago to Niles, MI in May of 1931. There, two more models, the Continental A-40 powered LNA-40 Parasol and the center wing CNA-40, were certified during the summer and early fall of 1932. They were significant in that they could be purchased as certified, ready to fly aircraft, or as kits that with the necessary inspections by the government could be certified upon completion. Ironically, however, the certified aircraft never sold well. Customers mired in the depths of the Great Depression still preferred the less expensive kits.
Although his career was cut short, Ed Heath had a profound effect on personal flying. He popularized a movement that would live on long after his death and continues today on a scale he could only have dreamed of in the EAA world of homebuilding and sport flying.
Volmer Jensen-- Volmer, who was born in Milwaukee in 1909, is a man of many venues within the wonderful world of sport aviation. To EAA members he is best known as the designer of the Volmer VJ-22 Sportsman, the first amphibian made available for home construction. To sailplane enthusiasts, he is revered as one of the pioneers of U. S. glider design and construction, with his first original design dating back to 1928. Hang glider pilots are amazed to learn that he built his first weight-shift biplane glider in 1925 when he was 16 ... and ultralight pilots recall that he added an engine to his Sunfun hang glider in 1975. Even enthusiasts of the ever popular Star Trek TV series and subsequent movies know him. Trekkers, who pride themselves on the most obscure trivia of their favorite show, will instantly snap off the name of Volmer Jensen when challenged to identify the builder of the model of the Starship Enterprise that was used in the filming of the TV series and movies. (Fanatics that they are, they'll also note that Volmer's partners, Mel Keys and Vern Sion, were also involved, and that the Enterprise was designed by cabin Waco owner, Matt Jeffries.)
Volmer did indeed build his first weight-shift, foot launched glider at age 16, using plans published in the Boy Mechanic Magazine. He built a second one the following year from additional plans from the same source, and in 1927 he built his first glider with aerodynamic controls, an enclosed cockpit and a wheeled landing gear. The latter was based on the MIT glider Eddie Alien had taken to Europe in the mid-20s to compete against the Germans. Volmer had moved to Seattle in 1925 to serve an apprenticeship as a machinist, and in 1928 he built a cantilever wing glider for a wealthy sportsman named Thomas Stimson. Volmer called it his VJ-4 and would utilize that numbering system for the remainder of his long aircraft design and construction career. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s his designs consisted of a series of increasingly sophisticated gliders, including the VJ-10 he built in 1939 which was the first two-place, side-by-side sailplane in the United States. During this period, Volmer was employed by a succession of aircraft companies, including Boeing, Consolidated, and Northrop, so his glider design and building were done in his spare time.
During World War II, no civilian flying was allowed near the nation's coastlines, so Volmer reverted to hang gliding, building the VJ1 IB, which had full 3-axes controls. He spent most of the war years employed as chief engineer of California Aero Glider and designed several machines to assist in the training of military glider pilots. After the war, he worked for Jarvis Manufacturing Co. and designed the VJ-21, which was a two-place side-by-side, 75 h.p. pusher that resembled a powered sailplane. Intended for certification and production, the design was caught up in the lightplane boom and bust cycle of 1946 and 1947 and was never produced. The prototype is still flying, however.
In 1949 Volmer started his own business, the Production Models Shop of Glendale, CA, which is still in operation today. This kept him busy for some time, but in 1957 he designed the VJ-22 Sportsman amphibian. He flew it for the first time in 1958 and later offered plans to homebuilders. Volmer and the prototype Sportsman were regulars at Rockford in the 1960s and he would eventually sell over 800 sets of plans. Over 100 are known to have been completed, and they are still emerging from shops today. Volmer flew everywhere in his prototype – all over the U. S. and Canada and very frequently to Baja California and other points in Mexico.
When the hang gliding and subsequent ultralight craze began in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Volmer enlisted the engineering assistance of his friend Irv Culver to design the VJ-23 Swingwing and, later, the less complex VJ-24 Sunfun. Both incorporated conventional control surfaces, which was an effort to make the sport safer for those who were crashing with alarming regularity in weight shift gliders.
Antoni Bingelis--Tony Bingelis is known and admired the world over for his monthly "Sportplane Builder" column in Sport Aviation, and for his series of how-to books, which are considered to be the "bibles" of homebuilders everywhere. Tony first ventured into homebuilding while still in high school. He built and flew his own glider in 1937, and has subsequently built and flown an Emeraude, VP-1, Flaglor Scooter, Turner T-40, a second Emeraude, Falco, RV-6 and an RV-3. He earned his wings in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and retired from the service in 1963. . . after which he began a second career as Assistant Director of the Texas Aeronautics Commission (TAG). He began his column in Sport Aviation in February of 1972 and until his retirement from the TAC, was somehow managing to hold down his day job, build airplanes and write his column at the same time! Tony donated the rights to his how-to books to the EAA Aviation Foundation, so that they will continue to be available to homebuilders indefinitely. Over the years, Tony's writings and illustrations have helped set a standard of craftsmanship and safe operation for homebuilt and restored vintage aircraft that is the envy of the rest of aviation. Homebuilts are now the cutting edge of lightplane design and technology, and Mr. Sportplane Builder deserves a significant amount of credit for elevating them to that status.
Molt Taylor--Molt died just six days after his induction into the EAA Homebuilder's Hall of Fame. While we mourn his passing, all who attended his induction in the Hall of Fame at Oshkosh are consoled by the fact that he enjoyed his visit to EAA Headquarters so much and was so appreciative of the honor being bestowed upon him. Molt had a wonderful life. Research and development was what fascinated him most, and he was fortunate enough to be able to involve himself in that activity for most of his working career. During World War II, he conducted super secret development of the first generation of cruise missiles for the Navy, and, after returning home to Longview, WA at war's end, established his own company to develop the Aerocar flying automobile. For about the last three decades of his life, his playhouse was a large and nicely equipped office and shop in Longview, which was where he and his long-time associate, Jesse Minnick, created his homebuilt designs, the Coot amphibian, the two/four place IMP and single place Mini-IMP and Micro-Imp. Gregarious and outspoken, Molt loved to present forums at Oshkosh on his various designs and would spend literally hours on the phone talking to anyone and everyone seeking information on his Coot and IMPs, the virtues of pusher aircraft, the Flexidyne coupling, his "paper airplane" construction material. . . and, of course, his greatest passion, the Aerocar.
Molt will be remembered largely for his Aerocar and advocacy of the concept of the flying automobile . . "a more useful airplane," he liked to call it . . . but EAAers will always remember that he was basically a homebuilder at heart.
John Thorp--John Thorp, who died in1992 at the age of 79, is best remembered in the EAA world as the designer of the T-18, but that milestone homebuilt simply came near the end of a long string of designs dating back to the early 1930s, including the Lockheed Little Dipper and Big Dipper, the Sky Skooter, Derringer and Fletcher series of ag planes — as well as the preliminary designs for the Lockheed Neptune and Piper Cherokee.
One of the earliest EAA members (#1212), John was a frequent contributor of articles for Sport Aviation on a variety of aeronautical engineering subjects, all of which were of practical use to homebuilders. His long series of articles on the building of the T-18 and his drawings for the design set a new, higher standard for all plans and building instructions that would follow. Coming as it did in the early 1960s; the T-18 was the first of the high performance 2-place homebuilts that would ultimately become the most popular of all homebuilt types. Beyond his aircraft designs, John is fondly recalled by EAAers as a tireless, patient teacher and advisor who gave freely of his time and vast knowledge. He was represented at his Hall of Fame induction by his wife, Kay, and sister, Marcella Emerick.
Robert Burbick--Bob was an official of the CAA in Washington in the early 1950’s when George Bogardus was petitioning the agency to reinstate the homebuilt licensing category…and when EAA was being formed in Milwaukee. With the backing of Al Vollmecke, Chief of the CAA’s Aircraft Engineering Division, and a firm belief in the ability of individuals to educate and discipline themselves to design and build safe aircraft, Bob made it a personal mission to write and gain CAA approval of the homebuilt regulations that are still in force to this day. This was not an easy task because there was a lot of opposition to such a regulation among the CAA hierarchy, and by persisting Bob was placing his career in some jeopardy. But persist he did, and from our perspective today, we can objectively state that Bob’s homebuilt regulations are among the most successful ever written by government. What regulation has lasted so long essentially unchanged and has resulted in an activity as widespread and constructive as the homebuilt movement? Bob Burbick is a shining example of the importance of the individual in the flow of history…of the right person, at the right time, in the right place. He is also a model of what an enlightened bureaucrat should be: a person who works to get a job done the best way possible, rather than taking the easier path of simply finding fault; a person willing to place trust in those he would regulate to do the right thing; and one willing to stand up and defend his beliefs
A native of Ohio, Bob was a production test pilot for Taylorcraft before World War II, and during that conflict he served to ensure that the Navy was getting a quality product out of the wartime aircraft manufacturing plants. He was employed by the CAA after the war and spent the remainder of his career with the agency. With the recommendation of Paul Poberezny, Bob became the first agency coordinator of FAA and EAA dealings…and passed that mantle on to Charlie Schuck when he retired. Bob has been a participant in EAA Convention and Chapter activities, both in the Washington area and, after retirement, in Phoenix.
For many years, Bob and his late wife, Skip, regularly used their Cessna 140A for annual vacation trips all over North America, including Alaska. In more recent years, Bob took up ultralight flying and became heavily involved with RC model boats, which he operated on the lake on which he lived.
Bernie Pietenpol--Bernie Pietenpol's 2-place AirCamper was the first usable, truly practical homebuilt airplane, and as such, served to legitimize the homebuilt aircraft in the minds of government and the aviation community. Just as important, however, he provided a spark of hope for would-be pilots and aircraft owners in the midst of one of our nation's darkest hours . . . the Great Depression of the1930's. Even those who never built a Pietenpol had their dreams kept alive by the knowledge that it was possible for the average person to build and fly his or her own airplane, and when economic conditions finally improved, many went on to learn to fly, become instructors and combat pilots during World War II, and commercial pilots thereafter. By any standard, the Pietenpol AirCamper has to be considered one of the most successful aircraft designs of all time. Any device has to be judged on the basis of how well it serves its intended purpose ... and the fact that AirCampers are not only still being built today, 65 years after its introduction, but in greater numbers than ever says it all for Bernie Pietenpol and his little everyman's design. Bernie set out to create an airplane that almost anyone could build and could afford to operate. It was for the pure and simple enjoyment of flying . . . and it serves that purpose today as admirably as it ever did.
To those who were privileged to know him personally, Bernie Pietenpol was a further inspiration as a decent, modest human being. He was content to live his life in rural Minnesota, puttering away at the many electrical and mechanical things that interested him and helping others who shared his dream of personal flight.
Ray Stits-- In the early 1950's, shortly after the formation of EAA, Ray began a mail order business to supply homebuilders with materials and parts. Ray followed that successful endeavor with a series of simple-to-build designs of his own, the Playboy, Playmate, Flut-R-Bug and the Sky Coupe, which he eventually developed into a certified airplane. Along the way, he also developed his famous Poly-Fiber covering process, which became so successful that he had to drop his other business endeavors and concentrate on it exclusively. When he sold the company to Alexander Aeroplane Company, Stits Poly-Fiber was the most widely used covering process in the world. One of the earliest EAA members, Ray Stits was the first to recommend to the organization that local Chapters be authorized, then proceeded to found the first one himself . . . EAA Chapter 1 of Riverside, CA. He and his wife, Edith, who supported and worked with him in all his endeavors over the years, could see Chapter 1's clubhouse on the Flabob Airport from their beautiful new mountaintop home nearby. Ray and Edith have been staunch and generous supporters of EAA and the EAA Foundation since their beginnings and have sponsored several of the displays and facilities in the EAA Air Adventure Museum at Oshkosh. On prominent display in the Museum is Ray's Sky Baby, which was widely acclaimed as the World's Smallest Airplane when it was built in the late 1940s.
George Bogardus--Homebuilding dates back to man’s earliest attempts to fly and with the exception of the period 1938 through 1947, has always been sanctioned by the U.S. government. Aviation began being regulated in the U.S. with the passage of the Air Commerce Act of 1926…and it allowed homebuilding. However, when the aviation regulations were revised in the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, homebuilding was effectively outlawed…not by specific language in the Act but simply by omission. Homebuilding was not addressed in the regulations, therefore, it was no longer legal in the USA. George Bogardus of Troutdale, OR traveled to Washington in 1946 to plead the case for the resumption of homebuilding and succeeded in getting the CAA to restore the “X” certificates of pre-war homebuilts. The following year he flew his restored Little Gee Bee to Washington in an effort to get new regulations that would allow homebuilding to resume…and was promised that such a rule would be forthcoming. George would fly to Washington again in 1948 and 1952 in pursuit of his goal, and finally on September 19, 1952 the modern homebuilding regulations because the law of the land…and they will forever be the legacy of George Bogardus.
Paul H. Poberezny--Just 4 months after the new homebuilding rules went into effect, in January of 1953, Paul Poberezny called to order a meeting of 31 Milwaukee, WI homebuilding enthusiasts and proceeded to create the Experimental Aircraft Association. There had been many homebuilder associations formed over the years and several were in operation at the time EAA was formed, but it was this tiny group in Milwaukee that would go on to achieve international prominence. There were many factors that influenced the growth of EAA, but none were more crucial to the process than the vision, determination and leadership of Paul Poberezny. A man of many talents, a command military pilot, aerobatic pilot and air show performer, aircraft designer and builder, administrator, public speaker…nevertheless, Paul’s greatest accomplishment will always be the EAA, itself. Few organizations have had a more profound effect on aviation in its first 100 years and none has had a more positive and lasting effect on the lives of its members.
Steve Wittman--Starting with little more than his genetic heritage, a basic education and a determination to succeed, he became a world famous air racer…in a career spanning an incredible seven decades, an inventor, a successful businessman and a highly innovative aircraft designer and builder…and he always did it in his own unique way. Steve’s racing aircraft and personal airplane designs have always been remarkably simple and inexpensive, yet have been at the forefront in performance and efficiency. Steve was one of the earliest members of EAA and his Tailwind was the first homebuilt to be approved under the modern FAA regulations to carry a passenger. That degree of utility opened up homebuilding to vastly greater numbers of people than would ever have been the case had amateur built aircraft been permanently restricted to a single seat. His patented leaf spring and tapered rod landing gears, which are the ultimate in simplicity, have been…and continue to be…used on tens of thousands of certified and homebuilt aircraft. At 89, Steve was still flying almost daily and still designing uniquely efficient aircraft.
The members of the EAA Homebuilt Council encourage you to nominate a deserving person for this award. Nominations must be made in writing on the Homebuilt Hall of Fame nomination form.
Nominations are accepted until March 1. Inductees will be announced at the awards banquet held in Oshkosh, WI, during the Fall EAA Board of Directors meeting. A display in the EAA AirVenture Museum lists the names of those selected to the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame.