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Experimental aircraft built locally
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.

jpg 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.

jpg Laurin Boyer and Ned Hamlin

Laurin Boyer and Ned Hamlin

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.

jpg taxi out

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 garage.



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