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We Make Our Own Wings

By Dan Grunloh, Editor, Light Plane World

Dan Grunloh

If you can imagine what it’s like to fly in the lower atmosphere as a 200-pound human bird, ultralights and light planes come fairly close. We best the birds in one respect with our interchangeable and repairable wings suited for different missions. New technologies are poised to take that experience to another level. The electric aircraft of today signal only the beginning of this change.

Sometimes when I meet an old friend or distant relative, the subject of aviation comes up. Of course I confirm their suspicion that it’s a thrill every time you take off. That moment when the horizon drops away does it for me, and most can identify with that feeling. Another aspect of the flying experience is less well accepted. I’ve stopped telling them how natural it feels. As all pilots know, once you have enough time in the equipment, flying feels as natural as breathing. The airplane becomes a natural extension of your limbs and senses. The time required depends on the complexity of the aircraft. For a hang glider it’s about ten flights. Ultralights and light planes take a little longer.

It should feel natural because we have the eyesight, coordination, timing, desire, and mental abilities needed to fly. We only need to make our own wings. If you can imagine what it’s like to fly in the lower atmosphere as a 200-pound human bird, ultralights and light planes come fairly close. We best the birds in one respect with our interchangeable and repairable wings suited for different missions. Those who fly in open cockpits know that the flight experience is enhanced the more of the flight you actually “experience.” New technologies are poised to take that experience to another level.

Electric flight isn’t simply a novelty or fad. The technology isn’t in the future. It doesn’t replace anything we’re doing now. You’ll still want your internal combustion powered one- or two-place for many purposes. Electric technology works best in ultralights where it will add new ways to have fun and bring in more participants. The appeal of the electric-powered paraglider is undeniable. That appeal translates upward all the way to the electric motor glider. We soon could be flying like a bird, but with a slight hum. Don’t discount the impact of the flight experience on the adoption rate of a new type of flying. The electric aircraft of today signal only the beginning of this change.

But we couldn’t do much flying around like birds if it were not for the inventors, designers, kit builders, and manufacturers that help us to make our own wings. A few key individuals and a national member organization have helped deliver the capability to us. Without them, we would be like Icarus. Unfortunately, one of those designers is gone now with the passing of Morry Hummel on February 4, 2010, at the age of 94. See our “From the Archive” section for the definitive story about Morry Hummel. And don’t miss reading the tribute and coverage of Morry in the recent EAA Experimenter newsletter.

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