Experimental aircraft built
Story & photos
by Chris Wilhelm
March 14, 2005
Ketchikan, Alaska - Anyone visiting Mountain Point Sunday morning
could have taken in the summer-like weather, watched the launching
of sport boats, or even the launching of an airplane. Owner
Laurin Boyer and his friend Ned Hamlin set out for the West Coast
and a day of sightseeing and enjoyment in an experimental aircraft.
Experimental aircraft are often built by those who fly them.
These 'homebuilt' aircraft include conventional airplanes, helicopters,
convertible car-to-airplane designs, and I once inspected a motorcycle-to-airplane
design at the Oshkosh Fly-in. Oshkosh, Wisconsin hosts the world's
largest airplane gathering of pilots, designers, manufacturers,
aviation enthusiasts, and curious onlookers. During the annual
week of the airshow, Oshkosh's lonely airfield is transformed
into the busiest airport in the world, hosting 10,000-15,000
aircraft and about 750,000 visitors in 2004.
Laurin Boyer and Ned
Experimental aircraft are covered
by a different set of laws than commercial aircraft or general
aviation aircraft. They also are a lot of fun to fly. Boyer's
plane is an Avid Flyer Amphibian, which generates 110 horsepower.
The Avid Flyer was conceived and first flown in 1983. It cruises
at 75 mph and has a top speed of about 115 mph. This particular
version has installed a 4 cylinder high performance Subaru truck
engine, horizontally opposed configuration and water cooled.
It features a three blade carbon fiber propeller and a stall
speed of 48 mph. An Avid Flyer was the first Experimental Aircraft
to land at the North Pole.
Laurin Boyer and Ned
Hamlin set out for the West Coast and a day of sightseeing and
enjoyment in an experimental aircraft.
Boyer built his airplane himself. The kit required about 1,000
hours from start to finish. While an experimental aircraft requires
a pilot's licence, some requirements from general aviation are
waived, such as the medical certificate which is a roadblock
for some sportaviators. However, it is an excellent intermediate
step for the enthusiast who does not intend a career in aviation.
As summer approaches, and weather
conditions are favorable, look up when you hear the tell-tale
sound of a floatplane. It might just be fresh out of your neighbor's
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