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EAA Experimenter

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Meet Pat Panzera

By Patrick Panzera, EAA 555743

Pat Panzera
Pat Panzera

Pat Panzera
Circa 1975 in a Schweitzer 2-33 on low-tow behind a war surplus Fairchild PT-23.

Pat Panzera
Pat running his Corvair/Dragonfly firewall forward on his engine test stand at a tandem-wing fly-in, complete with telemetry for a vibration study.

Pat Panzera
Pat’s grandkids’ early immersion into experimental aviation. They are a few years older now than when this picture was taken.

As an EAA member and supporter, as well as the editor and publisher of CONTACT! (an independent, nonprofit experimental aviation publication), I was absolutely thrilled when I met with Adam Smith, Mary Jones, and Charlie Becker to discuss my active participation with EAA publications - namely editing this newsletter. With EAA’s enthusiastic recommitment to the homebuilt movement, I couldn’t be more honored to be recognized and asked to help with this effort.

So who am I? I’m a 49-year-old father of two and grandfather of two who has been happily married since the age of 20. I met and wed my wife while I was serving a single tour in the U.S. Navy. A California native, I was formally introduced to aviation at the age of 14 while working as a lineboy at the El Mirage gliderport. Aviation was in my blood from birth, but I didn’t take my first flight until I was 14 or 15. Still, I managed to solo before I was 16 in a Schweitzer 2-33 sailplane trainer. It wasn’t long before I transitioned into a Schweitzer 1-26 single-place, where I was content to remain a student pilot (lazy teenager...feared the written and practical).

As with far too many of us who began flying at a young age, my passion had to take a back seat once I got married and started a family. But about the time my kids were young teens and my architectural business was well established, I was again in a position to slip the surly bonds, this time with a propeller affixed to the business end of the craft involved. I initially decided to finish up my glider rating, but after visiting the local soaring club and running the numbers for the club buy-in, the rental cost of the ship, the price of the tow, and the instructor fees, the cost per hour exceeded that of powered flight. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize how expensive soaring could be, because I received a 40 percent employee discount on the cost of the tow, plus the ship and instructor were free.

My new plan was to get a power rating and add on the -G soon thereafter, but since I started flying power and realized that an airplane was not just a toy but a tool (allowing me to travel efficiently for my business), I haven’t been back to the gliderport. Instead, I’ve added an instrument rating rather than the -G. But someday...

No sooner did I begin my powered flight training than I realized I wanted my own plane, and I wanted to build it myself. I knew a little bit about EAA and had plenty of friends who built planes, and with professional cabinet- and furniture-building experience under my belt - not to mention a strong mechanical aptitude and some fiberglass tutelage from the A&P at El Mirage -  figured building a plane would be right up my alley.

After taking that introductory powered lesson, six months elapsed before I had my private pilot’s license. On the day I got my ticket, I found myself at our local chapter’s (1138) first meeting, where I became a charter member. That was more than 10 years ago. Shortly after that, I found and purchased a partially completed Dragonfly project and began working like crazy to finish it. Not content with the VW engine specified for the two-place, tandem-wing, all-composite experimental, I decided to install a six-cylinder Corvair engine.

With precious little information or Corvair experience to draw upon, I ended up pioneering the installation for a Dragonfly and a Quickie Q-2. Neither airplane ever flew because no sooner did I get engrossed with the Corvair than the golden opportunity to become the editor of CONTACT! fell in my lap (and my daughter started having children...a wonderful distraction!).

Although the magazine’s duties have taken all of my “spare” time, which has left my personal projects to stagnate (it’s a part-time volunteer gig, and my architectural business pays my personal bills), I’m okay with that, as my ultimate goal was to become totally engrossed in aviation any way I could.

With help from my friends and the magazine’s loyal supporters, I have successfully grown CONTACT! over the years. Every year, it has taken me to all the country’s major fly-ins and many more local events, where I have developed deep friendships with many of you. As a result, doors have opened. Now I find myself working directly with EAA, which is a major dream come true. I just hope I can maintain my self-imposed high expectations. With your participation, I’m sure we can contribute to the homebuilding community in a meaningful way.

I look forward to serving in this capacity for many years to come, and I would encourage you to check out CONTACT! to see if it’s a work you can support as well.


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