Sun 'n Fun 1982 Memories
By Chuck Slusarczyk
I expected Sun ’n Fun Fly-In 1982 to be an action-packed week as I debuted the CGS Hawk, but little did I know just how much action and controversy were in store for us. We were going to introduce the CGS Hawk for the first time to the public, foot launching was rapidly disappearing from all ultralight models, and Part 103 was just around the corner. We had spent the last month finishing and test flying Ol’ Yeller and Ol’ Blue. Ol’ Yeller (which years later was donated to the Sun ’n Fun museum) was the first prototype version of the CGS Hawk, which was N numbered and registered as an experimental airplane, complete with an installed (but nonoperational oil gauge) per FAA requirement. Ol’ Blue, on the other hand, was the first production version of the Hawk, and although I had N numbers for it, I hadn’t received my final inspection. My local FAA inspector, Todd, said not to bother with the final inspection. His reasoning was that since Part 103 was only a couple months away and the aircraft would be classified as an ultralight under it, why go through the exercise of doing final paperwork, etc., only to cancel the airworthiness certificate when Part 103 kicked in? I was concerned a bit about getting into trouble because I couldn’t foot launch it or even pretend that I could. Todd said, “If any FAA rep gives you grief about not foot launching at Sun ’n Fun, have them call me.” I figured if it’s okay for Todd, it’s okay for me.
The controversy started as soon as we opened the trailers and took out the planes. The public loved them and soon swarmed around our booth even though the show didn’t start until the next day. However, I naively didn’t expect the reception I got from some of my competitors (namely Quicksilver and American Aerolight being two of the most vocal). Rather than get upset, I just decided I must be doing something right since they were less than happy to see my new design. The next morning during the fly-bys, however, I was summoned to a secluded tent by the local FAA rep for the show. I was getting ready, expecting the worst, but fortunately was pulled aside by Webb Scheutzow.
Webb had accompanied us to the show. Webb and I had worked together at his helicopter plant, and he had done my stress analysis on the Hawk for me. Apparently Webb had already spoken to the FAA rep and informed me, “Calm down. He’s on our side.” The first thing the FAA rep said to me was, “You got the only ultralight here that I’d fly!” He went on to say that he really didn’t want to shut us down or single us out knowing full well that ours wasn’t the only plane on the field that truly couldn’t demonstrate foot launch capability whether the planes had a hole in the floor or not.
Quite frankly, it would have been dangerous to force folks to attempt a foot launch with the configurations on the planes at the show, and I certainly didn’t want to do to others what was being attempted on me. He pointed out that once a complaint is filed (and my competitors had filed many by this point), he had to investigate. It was clear my competition didn’t want to see the Hawk flying at the show. He did go on to say that while his investigation was underway I really “probably” shouldn’t be flying; however, if I flew and he didn’t “see” the takeoff, he really wouldn’t know if I had foot launched or not. So for the rest of the week, I noticed that any time Terry Fuller or I would taxi by, he would never be looking in our direction. “Gosh, was he mad at me?”
Well, needless to say, my competition was less than pleased as we continued to fly during the course of the show. However, the public was happy and couldn’t get enough of the Hawk. The Hawk was very warmly received, our exhibit booth was always packed full, and the buzz at the field was how the Hawk looked and flew its flaps. Or as Peter Lert coined, “It’s the first proper little airplane.” Ultimately, a meeting was scheduled later in the week with Bernie Gier of the FAA. All week long, all I heard was “Wait until the FAA guy gets here from Washington.” Little did they know that I knew Bernie Gier, and I was telling the truth about Todd telling me not to finish my N numbering.
So when the meeting finally took place, it didn’t have the desired effect my competitors were hoping for. The Hawk flew all week and ended up winning the Best New Design Award at Sun ’n Fun 1982. Although we had a blast during that entire week, this award was somewhat bittersweet for us in that my good friend Webb passed away in his sleep at our motel the night before the awards ceremony. He knew we had won an award, and we all suspected it was for Best New Design. We celebrated the night before with steak dinners all around, and I’m sure Webb was with us in spirit when the award was presented.
Chuck Slusarczyk retired in 2009. The company he founded, CGS Aviation, is now owned and operated by a team led by Danny Dezauche in Grand Bay, Alabama. They will exhibit the CGS Hawk special light-sport aircraft at Sun ’n Fun this year.