Would you be interested in a ready-to-fly single seater, complete with engine for $12,000 to $15,000? How about a two-seater with a BRS ballistic chute for $25,000 to $30,000. Yeah, me too!
Dicks Starks is a long-time friend, and I always stop what I’m doing when his messages appear in my in box because they always bear interesting tidbits, and his goofy good nature always makes me smile.
If that name sounds familiar, maybe you’ve seen his articles in magazines like EAA Sport Pilot or Kitplanes. Or you’ve read his book, You Want to Build and Fly a What?, which chronicles his start in flying and how he and some friends built Volkswagen-powered Nieuports and formed the Kansas City Dawn Patrol.
Dick wrote recently to say his new book, Fokkers at Six O’clock, which picks up where the first book left off, was at the printer and that he hoped to make Author’s Corner at EAA AirVenture. And he sent some photos of his wife’s new plane, a Morane parasol designed by Robert Baslee of Airdrome Aeroplanes, the same guy who built four full-scale Nieuport 17s for the movie Fly Boys.
Then he recounted his trip to Valley Engineering/Culver Props in Rolla, Missouri. The father and son team of Gene and Larry Smith make engines, reduction drives, and props. Their Big Twin, a four-cycle 38-hp V-twin powers the Morane, and they also make fuel-sipping VW-based engines that Dick raves about.
Almost as an afterthought he says I should check out their airplanes, the Back-Yard Flyers. (Ah, Dickie-doo, you always bury the lead.) Both airplanes meet the definition of a light-sport aircraft, and the single seater, powered by the Big Twin, also qualifies as a Part 103-legal ultralight. The side-by-side two seater is powered by one of their VW-based engines.
The single-seat has a unique parasol wing that swings so that its 25-foot span runs from nose to tail, making it easy to store the airplane in a covered trailer (take that, hangar rent!). I was skeptical of its 120-foot takeoff runs, which gives the airplane its name, but from the YouTube links on the page, it seemed close, and it was fun to watch them swing the wing, too!
The two-seat Back-Yard Flyer has an enclosed cockpit and impressive YouTube performance. Its takeoff performance seems similar to the single-seater, and it, too, is designed for a trailer, except that its wing panels come off instead of swinging. The website didn’t give a lot of information, but it does say that the Smiths and their airplanes will be at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, in Lightplane/Ultralight Area booth 560.
I’ll be there to find the answer to my most important question, something impossible to accomplish over the phone: Will I fit in it? Dick, who affectionately calls me “Gorilla,” because he’s of average size, and I’m not, said he wanted to be there for that. (He’s seen me get in and out of several airplanes and says it’s often entertaining.)
If you’re up for a chance to meet some of us Jetwhiners at AirVenture, visit the aviation blogging forum on Monday, July 28, at 4 p.m. in Forum building 2, the GAMA Pavilion, and we’ll plan a field trip. Hope to see you there! — Scott Spangler – firstname.lastname@example.org