EAA Homebuilders Tony Bingelis Biography
Antoni “Tony” Bingelis, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, was born in Lowell, MA on September 17,1920. He grew up in Lewiston, ME, where as a child he built model airplanes. This was the first sign of his life-long addiction to building and flying aircraft. His very first project was a Payne Knight Twister followed by a Mignet Pou du Ciel (Flying Flea). Unfortunately, neither project was completed because the available $2.50 building fund ran out.
In 1940, soon after graduating from high school, Tony enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and shipped out to Panama where he attended an Aircraft Mechanics course and Weather Observer course. While in Panama, Tony obtained his Aviation Cadet appointment and was shipped out to the US for cadet training. He soloed in a PT-19 at Uvalde, TX and continued his training in San Angelo on T-6’s. In 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and transferred to Randolph Field for instructor training on BT-13s. His final WW II assignment was flying supplies in C-47s over England, Belgium, France and Germany.
Postwar years in the Air Force passed quickly and Tony found himself doing odd jobs like operating a helicopter mechanic’s school in Biloxi and Wichita Falls, training liaison pilots in San Marcos, TX, attending the National Aquatic Swimming School in Palo Pinto, the Command and Staff School in Alabama, and studying Japanese at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington. Then, to his surprise, he was shipped out to Japan…not to South America as he expected.
While stationed in Japan during 1960, Tony started his first to-be-completed homebuilt, a Piel Emeraude, in a clothes closet workshop. The Emeraude was finished in Texas six years later. This project was followed closely, by a Flaglor Scooter, an Evans Volksplane, a Turner T-40, another Emeraude, a Falco, and all of the VanGrunsven RV series homebuilts.
Tony’s philosophy was …if you are going to write about building homebuilts you had better be a builder yourself. A somewhat better builder than he was a pilot, Tony, nevertheless, blissfully, opted to test fly each of his own homebuilts.
Tony was a longtime supportive member of the EAA and volunteered his services beginning in the early ‘50’s in a number of capacities. In 1963, Tony was a founding member of EAA Chapter 187 in Austin, TX and organized the first Southwest Regional Fly-In (SWRFI) in Georgetown, TX (now in Hondo).
Early in 1972, he was asked to write three articles for SPORT AVIATION. Those articles led to a monthly column titled, “The Designee Corner” which later became, “The Sportplane Builder.” The column continued a relentless monthly schedule for 299 consecutive how-to articles. Tony also wrote four books on homebuilding practices, “Sportplane Builder;” “Firewall Forward;” “Sportplane Construction Techniques;” and “Tony Bingelis On Engines.” These books have become classics and are still sought by new builders worldwide.
Tony was inducted into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2002.