August 1, 2013 - Burt Rutan airplane designs always turn heads and attract attention. But that is not why Roy Shannon took on a Quickie 500 project.
"In 1997 I got a new job, and my new boss was a pilot," Shannon said. "He was wheeling and dealing in planes and found out I liked planes. He asked why I wasn't a pilot, and I said it's too expensive."
Shannon's boss then shared the EAA story. Building a plane is not all that uncommon and is one way to keep the expenses manageable. And, by the way, would Shannon like to buy a kit?
After some negotiation Shannon took home a reasonably complete set of parts for the airplane, including an engine.
He completed the project and now has nearly 500 hours in the little canard that cost him, including a trailer that avoids the expense of hangar rental, just a bit over $5,000.
A local EAA chapter played a big role in getting the project done.
"I had some experience with wood and metal," Shannon said. "Composite was kind of scary for me to think of. At our chapter we had a gentleman who several years ago was marketing the plans and kits for [a] two-seat low-wing composite aircraft. I spoke with him, and he said don't worry about composites. When you get ready to do the lay-up call me, and I will come over.
"We had the fuselage glassed in a day with his help." Economy was key to every aspect of the build. Paint came second-hand, and at half price, from a gentleman that was unhappy with a batch he purchased. Both the interior splatter finish and the trim colors came from spray cans purchased at Wal-Mart. Another deal acquired all the metal required to construct the trailer at wholesale prices.
"I've been a scrounger all my life," Shannon said.
The little airplane is a real attention-getter both on and off the ramp.
"I was never one that has anything anyone is interested in," Shannon said. "This thing has changed that. I can pull up in the middle of 10 beautiful [Van's] RVs, and it still gets a lot of attention.
"[On the road] I get cars behind me, beside me, you see them with their cameras trying to take pictures. So I get attention on the way to the airport, at the airport. It's been a lot of fun."
As is the norm for many builders, Shannon launched into a VariEze project soon after the Quickie took to the air.
"I'm still probably a few years away from flying," he said. "But again I'm staying with the Rutan design, something efficient that is affordable. That seems to be the sweet spot for me.
"If you go for an older design that there is not much demand for, people have parts that you can pick up at a reasonable price. You can still end up with something not too old that still gets attention, is efficient, and fun."
Shannon credits the little plane with much more than the feeling of achievement any successful builder would have.
"Aviation has really changed my life," he said. "My self-confidence, accepting and offering help from people, trying to achieve goals. Some things you may not realize are possible [are really] possible.
"It helped me and my father have some experiences together. It just so happened to work out that he was visiting and he was able to be there to witness the first flight. And when he came over to me he looked at it and said 'good job.' That created a different connection between my father and me. I had a different respect for him that I never had before. That was a big change in my life."
2013 was the first chance Shannon had to bring his plane to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and was overwhelmed by the attention the project received.
"I never thought this would happen for a very long time."