Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience 2017 Annual Report
Every time something new happens with the Rutan Aircraft Flying Experience I think to myself how can things get better than this? 2017 was such a year of accomplishments, how could 2018 be better? Well, it’s already started off in a way I’d never expected. More on that later while I recap 2017.
We work closely with Robert Harris and his Jet Guys shop. No one gives us more support than Robert. I spend as much time there as possible because if you’re into Rutan designs, composites and fast airplanes there is no place better to hang out.
February 2017 saw the culmination of over a decade of research and development with the first flight of Lance Hooley's JetEZ. The JetEZ is was the follow on project from the CozyJet. Lances JetEZ is different because it, like all the follow on jets Roberts designed after the CozyJet, are “from the drawing board” designed to be a Jet. To be welcomed to participate in the flight test program for the JetEZ was a huge honor for not just me, but the RAFE.
April 2017 two RAFE aircraft, including the David Brown LongEZ, arrive in formation at the flying season kickoff event, Sun-N-Fun, flown by RAFE Pilot Richard Sessions and I. We spent the week spreading the word about this awesome organization. While there I got a call that set the stage for the next big thing of 2017.
May 2017, I departed Marathon Florida in the David Brown LongEZ for a historic flight and became the first LongEZ to land in Cuba. The whole story of this and all these highlights are on the website and Facebook pages but I’ll have to say at the very least Cuba was someplace I hope to see more opportunities to fly to and especially more Rutan designs going there.
July 2017, another historical flight when Lance and I departed from Jet Guys in Covington, TN in the JetEZ and the David Brown LongEZ. Later that day we made a grand entrance into OSH as a flight of two. Lance’s JetEZ and the David Brown LongEZ roared into the overhead break while everyone on the field looked up to see what that noise was and saw something that’s never been done before.
Though there are so many fond memories of that week one of my favorite was as Lance shut down and got surrounded by onlookers, one of the EAA volunteers shouted out “Finally! A homebuilt jet that’s not a Sonex!!l “
The support we got from EAA was awesome as they parked us at the Brown Arch and we staked our claim to it. Our hopes for 2018 is to bring more RAFE aircraft and the Jet Guys jets and invite all EZ’s to park with us. Let’s start taking back our territory in center stage of the OSH Flight line! That’s EZ Country!
August and September 2017 brought together RAFE members and validated the concept that through the network of the Canard Community we can get great things done. Over the summer we had two fantastic aircraft donated to the RAFE, Martin Kennedy’s Wright Brothers Award winning LongEZ and the highly regarded N86EZ Varieze built by Steve Franseen donated by its current owner Bob Jamsky. It was RAFE volunteers that made it happen. Robert Harris, Lance Hooley and Bob Stevens made the trip to Indiana and brought the Martin Kennedy LongEZ back to Covington. While nearly at the same time Tom Wright, Mark Holbrook, Richard Brunets and Bob Tilley went to St. Simons, GA and brought 86EZ to Toms shop at Massey Air Ranch, Fl. Later we had several Varieze projects donated to us in California and former CozyJet owner Frank Dasmaccii volunteered to pick them up and store them in his shop in Sacramento. It’s these efforts that make this organization work. We are truly a global organization with members wearing our t-shirts on almost every continent.
October had several major milestones. Richard Sessions acquired a CozyIII and became the first Aircraft Owner Sponsor enabling him to display the RAFE logo on his aircraft and participate in RAFE events.
Our first Sponsor group was formed when David Ryan and Jeff Goodrich of Lubbock Texas became Sponsors of the Martin Kennedy LongEZ. David spent several weeks that fall working with Robert Harris and the Jet Guys to get the Kennedy LongEZ back in the air. Soon they'll become the first to go through our transition training program. When done they'll fly the Kennedy LongEZ to it's new home at the Lubbock Canard Base and represent the RAFE everywhere they fly that award winning LongEZ.
Later that month things were gettin noisy again at Jet Guys when the third jet to come off Robert’s drawing board. A further evolution of the CozyJet and JetEZ, Jet #3 sports fully retractable gear and vertical stabilizers mounted inboard instead of as winglets. Flight test have proven its performance to be spectacular and I’ll leave it up to Jet Guys to describe their accomplishments but that’s TWO jets to make first flights in one year!
2017 wrapped up with a surprise when we got a call from a friend in the Florida Keys and a Quickie project was donated to the RAFE. Jorge Newbery started his Quickie thirty years ago but never finished it. His donation makes the first step to acquiring one of the rarer models we plan on having in our fleet.
In all, 2017 was a huge year of accomplishments and I have no doubt in this new year we’ll continue to make progress toward our goals. Before 2018 was but a few days old we got a call to go to Colorado and pick up a Cozy. It belonged to a friend and former Reno Racer, Jay Jones. Sadly Jay was killed in an airplane accident when his engine quit and he turned away from a school rather than make an emergency landing on the school grounds. Jays Cozy needs some work but will be a great asset to the RAFE when we rebuild it as one of our two seat trainers to qualify Sponsors and anyone else that desires transition training in Rutan designs like LongEZ’s, Varieze’s, Quickies and VariViggens.
2018 is also the year we’ll be hosting or first formation qualification clinics. Hang on, lots of cool stuff will be happening in 2018.