July 23, 2014 - EAA has numerous activities, events, and displays prepared to honor Founder Paul Poberezny at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014, but this week another one has been added. Members of EAA Chapter 640 in Wausau, Wisconsin, plan to fly its just-completed replica of Paul’s iconic Mechanix Illustrated Baby Ace, the last project Paul was working on before his passing in August last year, to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2014.
An incredible EAA team effort to finish the airplane has taken place over the past three weeks. It received its airworthiness certificate just a week ago, flew for the first time on July 19 at the Wausau Downtown Airport, and now the focus is on flying off the 25 Phase 1 fight-test hours as required by FAA regulations so they can fly to Oshkosh this weekend.
As of Tuesday night they’ve flown eight hours, according to Kurt Mehre, who had worked with Paul on the airplane since the project was started back in January 2011 and led a group of volunteers to finish it. The airplane was acquired from Audrey Poberezny in November 2013, and work started in January this year in Wausau.
A stormy weather forecast allowed a break Tuesday to finish painting the cowl, Mehre said.
“On July 1, we were stitching the wings,” Mehre said Tuesday afternoon. “On July 17, we received the airworthiness certificate.” He gave a lot of credit to Clifford and Lyman Hatz, sons of Hatz biplane designer John Hatz, for finishing the complex job of covering the wings–which was done in only four days.
“They came to get the wings on Sunday, July 6, and they were back in the hangar on July 10,” he said. And painted in the trademark Stearman vermillion and Diana creme. “They did beautiful work.” Poly-Fiber donated the covering materials for the project, and Hooker Harness donated the custom harness.
The next week made for some long nights as Mehre and the crew worked long and slept little to finish the project. They worked on the airplane until about 2:30 a.m. on July 17–the day of the airworthiness inspection.
David Conrad made the first flight on July 19 and he and Lyman Hatz have flown the first eight flight hours. Mehre says he’ll be flying the airplane also when the weather clears. If all goes well, and the weather cooperates, it will be flown to Oshkosh this Saturday or Sunday.
The Corben Baby Ace is the airplane that propelled the Experimental Aircraft Association from a regional to a national organization when it appeared on the cover of the May 1955 edition of Mechanix Illustrated under the headline, “Build This Plane For Under $800 Including Engine.” Paul’s series of construction articles published May, June, and July 1955 included information about the Experimental Aircraft Association, bringing a large increase in membership. Paul and Audrey had to buy a new mailbox to handle all the mail.
The original Mechanix Illustrated Baby Ace has been relocated from the EAA AirVenture Museum to the EAA Welcome Center where it is the center of a display paying tribute to Paul.
You can see the airplane on display in Oshkosh next week at the Aeroplane Factory, located just east of Ace’s Bistro. We will have more about this definitive EAA story during AirVenture next week, so stay tuned.