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Thread: Where Have All the EAB Aircraft Gone?

  1. #1
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    Where Have All the EAB Aircraft Gone?

    One can pretty much trace the history of EAA by the building of various types,of aircraft Starting in the late 60s we could see VPs, KRs, Sonerai, Ezes, SX300s, Lancairs, Glasairs, etc and now RVs make their way to Oshkosh in large numbers. At thatís just to name a few.
    So the question is.... why donít some of these types still come in large numbers?
    It certainly isnít due to the lack of performance or cross country capability. Is it a builder/owner thing where second owners donít have the motivation to make the trip? Just donít understand where we use to rows of certain types and now weíre lucky if a handful show up.
    What do yíall think????
    Dave Shaw
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  2. #2
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    There's never been a large number of SX300's at Oshkosh because there just weren't that many kits made. The existing ones are probably declining by attrition.

    Not many planes came to Oshkosh in the late 60's as the show didn't move there until 1970. Still plenty of RVs there and quiet a few Lancairs. Glasair has shifted focus over the years, so you see different things. I think the recent attendance isn't much reduced from the peak 70's era numbers. I think you're seeing however a few things. First, the show isn't as organized as it was back in the day. The homebuilt parking area used to be nicely laid out beyond the brown arch by type. On the other hand, there is HBC now when they used to send the showplane campers south.

    The success of people like Vans has probably decreased some of the diversity though.

  3. #3
    Things come and go with the times. I think the kit manufactures who now provide ready formed parts and matched hole drilling have enticed would-be builders toward their kits. Performance numbers and completion rates also make their offerings more attractive.
    I do miss seeing the potpourri of designs of yesteryear, names like Bower's FlyBaby, Stits SkyCoupe and Playboy, Pazmany PL1, PL2 and PL4, Marquart Charger, Steen Skybolt, Murphy Rebel, Woody's Pusher, Aerosport Quail and Scamp, Chris Tena Mini-Coupe, Smith Miniplane, Tennie Two, MacDonald S-21,.........I'll stop there and others can add to the list.

  4. #4
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    It seems that a large majority of people building planes in recent years have been building from a handful of kit manufacturers. I suspect a lot of the "more diverse" EAB airplanes you saw in the 70s are no longer flying. There's a lot of diversity in HBC and HBP, though. There's RV-6, RV-4, RV-7, RV-8, RV-10, RV-12, an odd RV-3 here and there...
    Measure twice, cut once...
    scratch head, shrug, shim to fit.

    Flying an RV-12. Building a Fisher Celebrity.

  5. #5

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    There are a multitude of reasons, IMO.

    First, some of the older homebuilts get put in a corner when the owner/builder ages. S/he plans to change the oil and plugs and fly next month. Every month. Eventually, the work required to bring the airplane back to flight status is too much and the airplane never flies again. This is especially true of low value aircraft where even the owner or estate doesn't see much value in the airplane and it is parted out or scrapped.

    Second, some of these aircraft have been intentionally retired either due to being deemed unsafe or too problematic by the owner and therefore not available for resale.

    You and I both know local KR's and EZ's which were retired for reasons 1 and 2.

    Third, second owners (and third and fourth owners) are not as invested in their aircraft as the builder was. So they are less likely to bring the aircraft to Oshkosh to show off their plane.

    Fourth, Volksplanes, KR's, Sonerais, and many other older designs are not particularly good traveling airplanes. They just don't have the room/speed/useful load to make a 500 mile trip to Oshkosh anything but a challenge. Sure, some owners do it anyway, but it is work.

    This whole thing is a big investment in time and money and, sometimes, an owner runs out of one or the other, retires the airplane (formally or informally) and moves on.

  6. #6

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    2019 had 16,807 operations at Wittman. https://eaa.org/airventure/eaa-airve...-a-Record-Year
    1971 had more than 42,000 operations (from the Oct 1971 Sport Aviation archive)
    Last edited by Bill Berson; 08-20-2019 at 07:20 PM.

  7. #7
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    Not really talking about total operations. There is no doubt that as some guys retire from flying they take their aircraft out of service. Some have been exported, some destroyed by accidents or broken up and others languish in the back of a hangar or in garage. Reported kit sales and FAA registry numbers don’t paint true picture. Have to agree with Kyle that as aircraft change hands the motivation to come to Oshkosh is diminished. Too bad we all lose.
    Dave Shaw
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    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

  8. #8
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronald Franck View Post
    Things come and go with the times. I think the kit manufactures who now provide ready formed parts and matched hole drilling have enticed would-be builders toward their kits. Performance numbers and completion rates also make their offerings more attractive.
    I do miss seeing the potpourri of designs of yesteryear, names like Bower's FlyBaby, Stits SkyCoupe and Playboy, Pazmany PL1, PL2 and PL4, Marquart Charger, Steen Skybolt, Murphy Rebel, Woody's Pusher, Aerosport Quail and Scamp, Chris Tena Mini-Coupe, Smith Miniplane, Tennie Two, MacDonald S-21,.........I'll stop there and others can add to the list.
    Well, there's no question the fleet size has decreased. Here's what's happened between 2009 and 2017:
    2009
    2017
    Air Command
    56
    25
    Avid
    477
    342
    Baby/Junior Ace
    278
    225
    Bede BD-4
    155
    90
    Bede BD-5
    77
    38
    Benson Gyro
    720
    158
    Bowers Fly Baby
    269
    160
    Kitfox
    994
    946
    Kolb (EAB)
    298
    227
    Midget Mustang
    295
    233
    Pietenpol
    358
    319
    Pulsar/KIS
    153
    122
    Quickie/Q2/Q200
    305
    130
    Quicksilver EX-AB
    345
    154
    Rand KR-2
    349
    154
    Rutan Long-EZ
    492
    406
    Rutan Varieze
    476
    272
    Sonerai
    309
    184
    Steen Skybolt
    305
    235
    Stolp
    505
    385
    Stolp Starduster
    441
    337
    Thorp T-18
    313
    257
    Vans RV-3
    183
    152
    Vans RV-4
    965
    958
    Volksplane
    222
    76
    Most of this reduction actually happened long ago, and the FAA re-registration effort is finally getting around to cancelling the registrations of aircraft that may not have actually existed for 30 years.

    Otherwise, I see homebuilt aviation affected by two factors. The first is the entire General Aviation malaise. There is less interest in private aircraft ownership, and hence less interest in niche aircraft such as homebuilts.

    The second is the lack of a wow factor. Back in the 60s and 70s, we were inundated with ground-breaking innovative designs. Canards, simple personal aircraft (Volksplanes/Fly Babies), and some designs that really stood out.

    Now it's all RVs.

    Mind you, the RVs are good airplanes...they perform well, they have great builder support, and they are attractive.

    They just ain't got any "zing."

    Pilots select them because they can appreciate the performance contained in the package, but there's nothing about the design of the RV to attract the non-flying public to homebuilding. They'll wander by row and row of RVs since they all are completely conventional, and ooh and ahh at the canards and biplanes.

    Ron Wanttaja

  9. #9

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    Lots of reasons, as stated in the previous posts.

    For me, the primary reasons are:

    1) The changing nature of the annual convention and fly-in. Homebuilts were the focus. They were front and center, and flew in the pattern throughout the day, except for the short (compared to current) closure for the airshow. The current version of AirVenture lacks HBA focus and aims to be everything for everyone, including sellers of pillows, pots and pans.

    2) In support of 1), and to increase revenues, access to show planes is now open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee. Because of this, I never will have my airplane on the homebuilt flight line. And yes, I have had negative experiences with non-aviation attendees at fly-ins and open houses, even with the airplane continually attended.

    3) I thoroughly enjoyed camping, which I did for the first 18 - 20 years of Oshkosh. We met friends, had group meals, our children played together, etc. But now I prefer to stay in an air conditioned room and have my own transportation, so HBC is not interesting to me, even though item 2) is not a concern in HBC.

    Note that EAAís mission statement changed some years ago, from homebuilding to all aspects of sport / general aviation.

    I still thoroughly enjoy AirVenture, and encourage anyone interested in aviation to attend.



    BJC

  10. #10
    FlyingRon's Avatar
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    I've been coming to Oshkosh since 1993 (well before they did away with flight line access). I was nervous about them opening it up, too. However, in hosesty, I found plenty of dolts who were "qualified" to get on the flight line (which wasn't all that onerous a task, but did keep the "lawn chair" crowd back).

    In addition to the lack of "wow," RonW points out. There's also the fact that LSA has taken away some of the "you can build it cheap" allure that there was for some of the simpler designs. You can go out and buy something that is roughly equivalent to the old Kitfox and get instant gratification with a simpler license and no medical required.

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