top of page
  • Ryszard Zadow

Another World Traveling LongEZ Joins RAFE

It’s been my observation that Burt Rutan designs excite and inspire more than any other aircraft. No sooner than plans for the LongEZ hit the streets people had their sights on things maybe even Burt hadn’t envisioned. Of those amazing categories are those that built their airplanes with the dream of using their creation to cover vast areas of the globe:

· In 1986 Jim Koch and Ed Roman flew the two LongEz’s they built, N38TT and N38AJ, two very stock O-235 powered LongEZs flew around the world. *

· 1982 Rodie Rodewald completed his LongEZ that he built on the balcony of his apartment in Hawaii, then flew it to Oshkosh, and back.

· 1986 Uli Wolters, who built his Cozy III while in the US, flew it home to Germany.

· 1986 Dick Rutan and Jenna Yeager – Voyager *

· 1987 Sid Tolchin flew his LongEZ to Ireland.

· 1989 Juan Rivera flew his LongEZ to Europe.

· 1991 Magna Liset and Lindsay Danes flew two LongEZs on a non-stop hop across the “Ditch” as it’s called (ie the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand) and return, securing a Class C1b speed record for the Sydney- Auckland leg in the process.

· 1997 Dick Rutan and Mike Melville great around the world Friendship Tour. * 2000 Hans Georg Schmid flew his Long EZ to Oshkosh via the southern route, Brazil to Senegal, Azores to St. john’s.

· 2005 Bill Allen flew his LongEZ across the North Atlantic and now bases it in the Florida Keys.

· 2008 Yair Gill flew his Cozy IV from Israel to OSH and back.

· 2010 Steve Sorenson flew his Defiant to Australia and back via the Pacific!

· 2011 Patrick and Linda Elliot flew their LongEZ across the North Atlantic and back,

· 2015 Patrick and Linda Elliot did it AGAIN!

· 2017 Ryszard Zadow flew the RAFE David Brown LongEZ to Cuba.

* flown around the world click here for earthrounders website

All of the above share a common trait in that they crossed a lot of open water in order to land at another county or continent. Included in the list above are two aircraft that are part of the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience. That’s correct, there are now TWO! The first was the RAFE David Brown LongEZs trip to Cuba and now RAFE has a crosser of the North Atlantic. the Sid Tolchin / Ed Esteb LongEZ, N12ET.

It started a few months ago when Sid Tolchin contacted RAFE about starting another journey with his LongEZ. Sid Tolchin and Ed Esteb built their LongEz 35 years ago and flew it a LOT! The LongEZ has nearly 3000 hours of flight time on it.

To say Sid is attached to his airplane is an understatement:

Now retired form his career as civilian and Navy Neurosurgeon Sid encountered another challenge in his flying career, one we all might be facing one day. At 88 years young no one would insure Sid to fly his LongEZ anymore. When he first contacted me about the situation and possibly donating his airplane to RAFE, it was an emotional moment. My answer was “Your LongEZ and the story of your life that goes with it would be an awesome addition to RAFE, and as much as we’d be thrilled to have it, I’d be more thrilled if I could help you find insurance and keep you flying Sir!”

I connected Sid to Tracy Martin of Aviation Insurance Resources. AIR handles all of the RAFE aircraft and we highly recommend them. Tracy worked hard for several months to help obtain coverage for Sid and his LongEZ. Sadly, there was no simple solution. and ultimately Sid decided to donate his LongEZ to RAFE.

There's way more to Sid and this story though. “Trio” stands for “three” and Sid is also one of the three in Trio Avionics.

A few weeks ago I flew out to San Diego and spent a few days with Sid, Jerry Hansen and Chuck Bush. Trio Avionics is as an impressive little business, as is their autopilot. The idea started when Chuck was complaining about how sloppy the autopilot was in his LongEZ. Someone suggested he build a better one. He did and it worked really well. Soon someone said, “Build me one”. He did. Like many small businesses that evolve from a good homebuilders idea Trio Avionics was born. Being Rutan builders and flyers their first autopilot was named the EZ Pilot. A unique feature that sets their autopilot apart is their “gold standard servos “. These aren’t just stepping motors like other autopilot systems often use. The Trio servo contains a clutch system. It’s not connected to the flight controls until energized and can be completely overridden which activates the clutch, completely disengaging it. It’s also the lightest autopilot system on the market. As I discuss in my forums and many of the articles about our aircraft these are very emotional situations, Most of the time it’s a family donating the aircraft because the builder is no longer with us. This situation was different. I was sitting across the lunch table with the man who built the airplane and could tell me every detail, and there were many. Sid’s LongEZ was one of the test platforms for Trios autopilots. To say it has a lot of switches is an understatement.

Getting checked out in 12ET felt like getting a type rating. It’s extremely well equipped and very much a “systems” airplane, especially in the avionics. Interestingly enough it was not this well-equipped when Sid flew it to Ireland. In the ‘80’s there wasn’t GPS. Loran was the best available and it didn’t work that well in fiberglass airplanes. Sid had an HF radio but found himself more often asking airliners to relay his position reports. Weather forecasting wasn’t that hi-tech as today either. The range of an O-235 powered LongEZ literally saved his life more than once on that trip when weather wasn’t as forecast at his destination forcing a diversion.

Eventually Sid decided I could remember what all the switches did to agree it was time for me to fly 12ET. Sitting in the cockpit getting ready to go on a short local flight I asked “How many people have flown this airplane?” Sid replied, "Just two, Ed and I”. I find this so true of homebuilts, after all who would lend the airplane they built to someone? Trying to add some levity to the heaviness of the moment I said “Geez, I feel like I’m taking your daughter out on her first date.” Jerry was standing behind Sid and was nodding his head up and down with a big grin. I was sincerely nervous and knew I’d better not scratch this airplane.

The flight went well and later that day I departed Gillespie Field and headed east to 12ETs new home at the RAFE Ellington Canard Base. It will share its place of honor alongside RAFEs David Brown LongEZ and Steve Wright Varieze. RAFE now has SIX flying aircraft in its fleet. These aircraft support the mission of RAFE to preserve and promote Rutan designs, but their real purpose is to INSPIRE. Hopefully the inspiration is to build another Rutan design, or just to fly, but in the big picture it’s to inspire to chase your dream. The David Brown LongEZ story, with his 30 year quest to finish his airplane is a great story about never giving up on your dreams. The Sid Tolchin story is never stopping achieving. Whatever the inspiration becomes if RAFE and its small fleet of Rutan designs are the impetus for it, we are accomplishing our purpose. Thank you Sid Tolchin for giving RAFE the opportunity to inspire others to achieve with this great airplane and the great story of your life.

We’re looking forward to everyone seeing this great aircraft and the others in the RAFE Fleet of Inspiration on EZ Street at AirVenture 2021!


Ryszard Zadow

President, RAFE

963 views2 comments


May 19, 2021

Hi Ryszard. I enjoyed reading this article. I enjoyed meeting Sid when I was looking for a Long-EZ to buy earlier this year. I was interested in buying his airplane but obviously he had more noble intentions for it. Even though I didn't buy Sid's airplane I lucked out and bought his Trio partner's Long-EZ, Jerry Hansen's N6NG that is also equipped with a Trio AP, both airplanes are awesome. I'm happy that Sid decided to donate his airplane to an organization such as yours that could keep it flying. Congratulations. Carlos

May 19, 2021
Replying to

BTW, you will love the Trio AP, works great.

bottom of page