- Ryszard Zadow
RAFE mourns the loss of Petra.
Petra Sobotka was lost while flying an AgCat doing agricultural spray ops in Arkansas. She was one of the rarest types of Canard Pilots, a female one.
Petra contacted RAFE inquiring about LongEZ transition training and told us of her fascination with Rutan designs and her desire to fly one. I directed her to the RAFE website section on the Canard Flight Academy and she set up a visit to get some training. Petra would be the first woman graduate and she did a wonderful job of it. I had the pleasure of being her instructor and put her through the Speed Canard syllabus.
I then transitioned her into the RAFE Jim Madsen LongEZ. (Later I took her for her first flight in an AgCat). Her dedication to learning each new aircraft was impressive.
She enjoyed flying the LongEZ so much she spent a week flying it several times a day. In between flights she did volunteered work for RAFE with tasks like organizing our inventory.
Since Oshkosh was approaching and 2019 was a big year for Rutan designs I asked Petra if she had the time to join us. She accepted and flew the Speed Canard to OSH. She stood next to the aircraft all week and talked with visitors about canards and Rutan designs until she almost lost her voice. She told me it was a high point in her flying career because she got to not only fly to OSH for her first time, but fly a canard there and meet Burt!
A good formation Pilot, when we departed OSH she led the flight of RAFE aircraft and later delivered the Steve Wright Varieze to the Houston Canard Base.
She later went to school for crop dusting and took a job for an operator in Georgia. That’s a tough job, but she was a tough lady and loved to fly.
Her last time through she expressed how excited she was to start a new career as an Ag Pilot. It was heartbreaking to hear of her accident, she will always be remembered and missed dearly.