EAA Founder Paul Poberezny

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As the founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Wisconsinite Paul Poberezny spent 70 years encouraging thousands of amateur pilots to design, build and fly their own aircraft, having fought for federal approval allowing them to do so. When Poberezny started the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) at his home in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in 1953, he likely had no idea how successful it would be. Today the EAA has around 170,000 members, located in more than 100 countries, while the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh convention, exhibition and fly-in attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year.

Born in Leavenworth County, Kansas, on September 14, 1921, Paul Howard Poberezny had a passion for aviation from a young age, and has been quoted as saying there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t say the word “airplane”. As a youngster, he dreamed of being a pilot and, thanks to his high school history teacher, Homer Tangney, he was able to attain his goal, going on to help thousands of other would-be pilots to do the same during his career. Seeing that Poberezny was interested in aviation, Tangney gave the high school student a Waco Primary Glider that had seen better days, with the proviso that Poberezny restore the craft to a flight-worthy state. Fifteen-year-old Poberezny took on the task and soon had the glider restored and was testing it tied to the back of a tow car. By the age of 19, with the help of a loan from his father, Poberezny had co-ownership of an American Eagle biplane.

Poberezny’s flying skills stood him in good stead when the US entered World War II. He earned all seven types of pilot wings offered by the armed services, being the only person to do so, and served as a flight instructor for most of his term. He reportedly had great success in teaching students that other instructors had given up on and all his students graduated, many of whom were four or five years older than him. He noted that with time and patience, almost anyone could be taught to fly.

Following the war years, Poberezny pursued his passion for flying by forming the EAA, with his first office being an old coal bin in his home. Anyone with an interest in homebuilt aircraft and supporting the purpose of the organization was welcome to join, and in time membership cards, a constitution and bylaws were introduced. Prominent aviators of the time were invited to speak to club members, and a monthly newsletter, The Experimenter, was published by Poberezny and his wife, Audrey. The first official fly-in of the EAA was held in September of 1953 with 22 aircraft and around 150 people attending. This was the start of an organization that, through the vision and determination of its founder, has helped many aviation enthusiasts enjoy this thrilling sport.

Paul Poberezny passed away on August 22, 2013, and was honored posthumously by the State of Wisconsin for his achievements in aviation. His family, including his wife Audrey, son Tom and daughter Bonnie, received the resolution at a ceremony at the Wisconsin State Assembly in October 2013.

Making the Transition to Experimental Aircraft

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As amateur-built aircraft, also referred to as homebuilt aircraft or experimental aircraft, become more popular, safety issues have become more pressing. At a seminar held at the US National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) training center recently, the topic “Transitioning Into a Homebuilt: This is Test Flying” presented case studies on the buyers and sellers of homebuilt aircraft, and the current safety trends. In a 2012 NTSB study it was revealed that the accident rate for homebuilt aircraft in the United States was three to four times higher than in general aviation. It was also revealed that up to ten percent of accidents with homebuilt aircraft occur on the first flight, and up to fifty-five percent of homebuilt aircraft accidents occur in pre-owned aircraft.

Statistics indicate that buyers in general have not put sufficient effort into transitioning from certified aircraft to homebuilt aircraft, by taking time to learn its systems, flight characteristics and performance. Not having enough information on the testing and performance of an aircraft appears to be more of a problem when the aircraft is pre-owned. The variance between expected performance and actual performance is often much wider than expected – a fact that may only be discovered in flight and to the detriment of the pilot. It was also pointed out at the seminar that having a good understanding of the aircraft’s construction does not necessarily mean having an understanding of its performance.

While the ideal situation would be to buy an aircraft from the builder who has firsthand knowledge of design and performance, and who has tested the aircraft extensively, this is seldom the case. Case studies reveal that typically the seller is a private pilot who never quite got the hang of the aircraft and eventually gave up and put it on the market. It was also noted that buyers often rushed through checking the aircraft out, and when offered additional training, deemed it unnecessary because they knew how to pilot a plane.

Bearing in mind that homebuilt aircraft do not have to meet the airworthiness standards of certified aircraft, buyers need to understand that flying the aircraft is entirely at their own risk. The very fact that these aircraft are referred to as ‘experimental’ should make that clear. The Air Safety Institute reportedly has plans to make available an online course in 2014 to assist pilots with transitioning from one type of aircraft to another – including homebuilt and experimental aircraft.

Ultralight Aircraft Safety Concerns Raised

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A series of recent crashes in southwest Florida involving ultralight aircraft has highlighted the risks of operating these non-standard, unregulated aircraft – for the pilot, and people on the ground. All of the five aircraft that crashed were non-standard, and two of the five pilots were more than eighty years old, with one being over seventy. Because ultralight pilots need no license and are exempt from taking a yearly physical, it would appear that older pilots, who may fail to meet the requirements to keep their licenses, are turning to ultralight aircraft to satisfy their need to fly. Critics are raising the question of whether these ultralight, homebuilt and experimental aircraft, along with unlicensed and unqualified pilots, are creating a public safety hazard.

Ultralights that carry only one person, a maximum of five gallons of fuel, and fly no faster than 62 mph need not be registered with the FAA, with the proviso that they stick to non-urban areas, but this is not regulated, neither are there any mandatory maintenance requirements. The main investigative agency for air crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), only investigates if the plane has a number on its tail. Otherwise the investigation is left to local authorities, who only investigate if there is a death. Also, because there is no regulation and/or investigation, there is no database on accidents and their causes, and information gathered is more anecdotal in nature. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) director of communications, Dick Knapinski, noted in an interview with the Herald Tribune that the organization is working with the NTSB to narrow down the causes of crashes.

Of the five recent crashes, only two of the ultralight aircraft had tail numbers and were flown by trained pilots, the kit-built Seawind 3000 that crashed on the Sarasota campus of the New College of Florida on Jan 12, 2013 and the amateur-built Skybolt that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on December 19, 2012.

Currently, pilots who move from piloting a smaller airplane, such as a single-engine Cessna, to a larger twin-engine plane, are required to undergo additional training. But when pilots downsize, additional training is not required despite the fact that the aircraft handle very differently. As more and more amateur pilots built their own ultralight aircraft and take to the skies, authorities are being urged to take steps to regulate the operating of what one critic described as “flying lawn furniture”.

Aviation Day 2013

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Chapter 99 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, based in Vero Beach, Florida, invites aviation enthusiasts to join them on Saturday March 2, 2013, for a bit of ‘Airplane Time’. This family-oriented community event will feature a up to fifty aircraft, including the superbly restored Flagship Detroit 1937 Douglas DC3. For more information visit www.eaa99.com

Date: 2 March 2013
Venue: Vero Beach Airport
City: Vero Beach
State: Florida
Country: United States

FLS Microjet Flight Tests Exceed Expectations

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The FLS Microjet by BD-Micro Technologies, Inc. (BMT) completed Phase I flight testing on May 5th 2011. During testing, all performance expectations were either met or exceeded. Better known as the “James Bond jet”, the BD-5J Microjet for the first time ever is available as a complete and modernized, ready to assemble, integrated airframe, avionics, and powerplant systems package. BMT is currently taking orders for a limited production of the FLS Microjet kit.

The design was originally developed in the 1970’s by Bede Aircraft, Inc. and designated the BD-5J. In 1992, BMT began a modernization program for the BD-5 aircraft, and offered complete, ready to assemble kits with improved design features in an aircraft line-up called the “FLIGHTLINE Series” or “FLS” BD-5 kits. The FLS Microjet is the first aircraft to incorporate all of the next generation BMT upgrades, including the Quantum Turbojet Powerplant System, Dual Display all digital panel and Solid State triple bus redundant electrical system.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of spectators have seen a number of BD-5J airshow performers amaze people with the speed and agility of the “World’s Smallest Jet”. Teams at airshows have included the Bud Light Microjet, Coors Light Silver Bullet (later as Freedom-Jet) and others.

In recent years, the premier operator of BD-5J’s has been successfully using the planes in military programs. These aircraft have incorporated equipment upgrades for military purposes and are now known as Small Manned Aerial Radar Target, Model-1 (SMART-1). BMT has recently delivered two specially built FLS Microjets for use in these military programs.

The owner of the first FLS Microjet, Justin Lewis of Lewis & Clark Performance, LLC, conducted the flight testing at ONP Newport, Oregon. He reported the jet was easy to fly despite the high performance characteristics. The following specifications were noted:

  • Standard Empty Weight: 416 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 30/46 gal.
  • Max Useful Load: 444 lbs.
  • Max Rated Thrust: 265 lbs.
  • Sea Level Climb: 2,750 fpm.
  • Climb at 12,500 ft.: 1,400 fpm.
  • Takeoff roll: 1,500 ft.
  • Landing roll: 1,000 ft.
  • Flight Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hrs. (no reserve)
  • Max Speed Vne: 250 KIAS.
  • 85% N1 Speed: 159 KIAS.

A Builder Assistance Program (BAP) is bundled in the purchase price of a FLS Microjet. The BAP ensures that this very technical, high performance aircraft is assembled correctly, efficiently, and in a timely manner. It will also allow the owner to register it as an experimental aircraft under the latest FAA amateur-built guidelines. In addition, as a single seat turbojet powered aircraft, Microjet pilots need to obtain a specific type rating. BMT can assist pilots in obtaining this rating.

The FLS Microjet is a sophisticated and advanced high performance aircraft with professional grade systems and features. Designed to meet the needs of the serious pilot, this aircraft is several generations beyond the original 1970’s BD-5J airshow jets. Owning and flying a FLS Microjet is as close as a civilian pilot can come to the thrill of flying a jet fighter without spending a half million dollars.

Article submitted by Skeeter Karnes of BD-Micro Technologies, Inc.

Experimental Aircraft Research

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A look at the evolution of aviation reveals that many times it was flight enthusiasts and amateurs who led the way in developing foundations on which improvements could be made to transform and develop the world of aviation as it is known today. It is for these very reasons that the National Transportation Safety Board will be conducting research into the technology and innovations of amateur built and experimental aircraft. Not only will it give the board insight into the world of experimental aircraft but assist them in establishing what safety measures are being used, as well as the experience levels of these builders.

Later in July the Experimental Aircraft Association will be hosting their annual festival, named AirVenture, where experimental aircraft will be flown in from all over the United States to participate in this event. It lasts for a week and is one of the most popular and largest aviation events on the calendar. To assist the National Transportation Safety Board in their research, the Experimental Aircraft Association will be conducting a survey amongst their more than one hundred thousand members. The survey questionnaire will be asking members about pilot training in regard to their aircraft, if pilots need to undergo additional training to pilot the aircraft, what engines were used in their design, how they configured their landing gear, and if their aircraft has any safety features such as airbags and seat belts. Members will also be asked about flight hours, what type of aircraft they have and if they hold any certificates.

The survey and its answers will allow the National Transportation Safety Board to gather enough information to find out what training and background the people working on the aircraft have, what parts of the aircraft are being modified and the reasons for modifying the parts, as well as what technical specifications the builders are following. Understanding how the experimental aircraft are being built and the experience that the builders have will give the National Transportation Safety Board the opportunity to assist experimental aircraft builders in increasing their safety measures, as it has been confirmed that of the estimated one thousand five hundred accidents that occurred in 2010, two hundred of them were amateur built aircraft, and they make up fifteen percent of the aircraft in the United States. Assisting this area of aviation will be advantageous for the experimental aviation industry and advise the NTSB on where they will be able to assist.


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Homebuilt airplanes are aircraft built by individuals and then licensed as “experimental”. They are used solely for educational or personal purposes. Many thousands of homebuilt airplanes are being flown in the world, and there are four main types.

The first is built from steel tubing which is welded together and then covered with fabric. The fabric used for these homebuilt airplanes is durable Dacron. Another type of homebuilt airplane is that made of aircraft plywood and spruce. The third homebuilt airplane is built of aluminium. This is the easiest type for an amateur to put together. The final type of homebuilt airplane is a composite airplane.

The airplane is cared from lightweight plastic foam. It is then covered with fibreglass or carbon fibre skins containing epoxy resin. This method gives the homebuilt airplane a smooth surface.

Pietenpols Honored at EAA AirVenture 2009

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Just more than 80 years ago Bernard Pietenpol set about designing some of the most user-friendly and original aircraft concepts in the world. He quickly set about building a company and marketing his products. His brand of homebuilt aircraft designs made flying accessible to millions and many of them are still built regularly today. This year the Pietenpols Experimental Aircraft Association will be celebrating their 80th anniversary during the 2009 EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh.

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Aerial Fun at Camarillo Air Expo

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Every year thousands of people gather to enjoy the excitement and entertainment provided by the Camarillo Air Expo. The event takes place at the Camarillo Airport and will showcase a wide variety of aircraft. It has a little something for every aviation enthusiast and will no doubt appeal to a lot of newcomers too.

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Looking Back at the Farnborough Air Show

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Despite rising fuel prices and crashing economies, the Farnborough Air Show in England enjoyed a massive turn-out. There was the usual collection of aircraft manufactures, shareholders, customers and rivals. Members of the general public also made sure that they got to enjoy the show.

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