By Gord Baxter, EAA 67068, Kitchener, Ontario
I started my flight training June 1963 at age 18 in a 1946 Fleet Canuck (taildragger) at Breslau, Ontario, and received my PPL one year later in June 1964. Total cost was about $300 (after the government’s $100 grant at that time). Renting the Canuck was $8 per hour (wet), and $10 with an instructor. It seemed expensive at the time.
My first EAA fly-in that I attended was in 1966 in Rockford, Illinois. I joined the local EAA Chapter 164 in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1971. I started building a Volksplane VP-2 the following year (1972) and started making the annual trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at that point, only missing five air shows in the last 50 years, always camping on the field for the week. The VP-2 never got finished (it was at the 70% stage) due to family and work situations.
I ended up buying a finished and flying VP-2, C-GTYL, in 1986, and flew it for a year and then sold it and bought a 1956 Ercoupe, C-FNLX.
In January 1988, I started building my RV-6, serial No. 20274 (C-FMEV), and four years later it flew in September 1992. I sold the Ercoupe in 1990 in order to pay for the engine for the RV-6. I flew my new ‘6’ to Oshkosh 1993 and to my surprise was lucky enough to get an “Outstanding Workmanship” award that year for my effort.
Of all the airplanes I have built and owned, this would be my favorite by far. It had a fuel injected Lycoming IO-360 and a Hartzell constant speed prop — what a fantastic performer with a 200 mph cruise. I flew C-FMEV on numerous trips to the U.S., including a second trip to Oshkosh in 1995. I sold it to a friend in Guelph in 1998 (he still owns it). I have never stopped regretting selling that airplane. I have tried to buy it back several times over the years but he refuses to sell it — grrrrr.
In 1999, I started building an RV-8, serial No. 81131, and built that airplane up to 70 percent completion with a 200 hp Lycoming, but ended up selling it in 2002 to pay off my house. This project ended up in Alberta and as far as I know has never been finished.
In 2005, I started on an RV-7, serial No. 71985 (C-FDGB), and finished it and flew it four years later in 2009. I flew the ‘7’ for six years and sold it in 2015. Another great-handling airplane and more regrets since that sale. That airplane went to Collingwood, was disassembled, stuffed in a sea container, and is now in South Africa.
In 2016, I decided to try a different brand and went with a Sonex aircraft and started on an Onex, C-IODB, which is the single-seat folding-wing version of a Sonex. This was serial No. 0024. Of note: I was the third owner of this kit. The first owner had only partially built the horizontal stabilizer after four years of struggling with how to proceed next, and the second owner had accomplished nothing at all, other than store it in his workshop for a year and a half.
This airplane is mostly ‘pulled rivets’ so I didn’t need a riveting partner and since I was now retired I finished and flew this airplane in a very short time of only 15 months of work. It went together REALLY fast. C-IODB flew in early 2018. This is a small and light aerobatic airplane and would top out at 160 mph with a VW 2400 cc 85 hp engine.
I flew the Onex for a little more than two years but could never really get comfortable with the VW engine and sold the airplane. No regrets on selling that one. It now resides in Brampton, Ontario.
I should make mention that the RVs that I built were all built with flush solid rivets and so a riveting partner was required. My wife Donna (Rosie the Riveter?) did ALL the flush riveting on all three RV airframes. She ran the gun and I was on the inside doing the bucking. Without her help of riveting, drilling holes, deburring holes, and edge finishing parts and pieces, I would not have been able to finish and fly these RVs as quickly as I did. After she did more than 30,000 rivets on the three RVs, she had enough and so this was one of the reasons I went with a Sonex/Onex airplane because of the rivets. In hindsight, I should have built a two-seat RV-12, which also has pulled rivets, instead of building the Onex.
During the past 25 years (since 1995) I have also worked alongside several other RV builders, mentoring and helping complete another RV-6 and another RV-7 besides my own RVs.
A comment I might make about the Van’s Aircraft kits — the early kits, like my first RV-6, were a lot cheaper to buy but required a lot more labour. Not only did you have to drill all the rivet holes, but you spent a lot of time laying out the location of the holes with proper spacing and edge distance, and cutting and trimming sheet metal. Now all that is decided with the pre-punched match hole technology. The kits now cost three times as much but require only half the time to build, about 2,300 hours as opposed to 4,800 hours on my first RV-6 project. The Van’s kits nowadays are a thing of beauty and worth the extra cost. You get what you pay for.
After building airplanes almost non-stop for 50 years (I am now 76), I decided to buy a factory-built 2003 Evektor Sportstar (built in the Czech Republic), C-IBYN, with a Rotax ULS 100 hp engine. This is a very docile and user-friendly airplane that is a joy to fly, especially for a senior citizen whose reflexes are not what they used to be. I learned to fly taildraggers back in 1963 and had not flown any tri-gear airplanes since my Ercoupe in 1990 until the Sportstar.
What I have learned about the Sportstar — if you are able to drive your car to the airport then you should be able to taxi the Sportstar. It’s just dead simple to take off and land and with fantastic visibility both on the ground and in the air. It compares to the RV-12 in many ways. It’s all aluminum, same wingspan, weight, cruise speed, and has the same Rotax 912 ULS 100 hp, but is much cheaper to buy. A poor man’s RV-12 it would seem.
Having owned six airplanes over 40-plus years, this Evektor Sportstar is my LAST airplane — but then, as they say, “never say never.”