The Ebneter E-1
Unique scratch-built design sets unofficial distance record
August 19, 2010 — For Arnold Ebneter, EAA 450548, designing and building his own airplane was a lifelong dream. First conceived with a slide rule in the 1950s while attending Texas A&M University, he completed the project, the E-1, with CAD and flight simulator programs in 2005. A native of Portage, Indiana, Ebneter, 82, lives in Woodinville, Washington. He recently flew E-1 from Paine Field, Everett, Washington, to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to set an unofficial record for the longest nonstop flight in a small aircraft (less than 500 kilograms).
Ebneter departed Paine Field, Everett, at 2 p.m. July 25, then flew 18 hours, 27 minutes without stopping - a distance of 2,327 miles - to Fredericksburg, where he landed the next day at 11:30 a.m. local. If confirmed by the National Aeronautic Association and reaffirmed by the world governing body of flight records, Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), the E-1 would break the record of 1,930 miles for the weight class set in 1984 by American Frank Hertzler in a Vari-Eze.
E-1 is strictly all metal, stressed skin, tapered low-wing, powered by a Jabiru 2200 engine. It has a 74-gallon fuel capacity, but Arnold said he used 58.5 gallons for the July 25-26 flight due to the weight limits for the record attempt. “We put the airplane on a scale when fueling and stopped at 500kg,” Ebneter said.
Average speed on the flight was 127 mph, meaning the E-1 sipped fuel at only 3gph. Top speed for the airplane is 175 kts, Ebneter said. When he landed in Virginia, he figured he could have flown another 100 miles as 2.5 gallons remained in the tank.
According to a story in the Everett Daily Herald, Ebneter began flying at age 15, motivated by watching planes fly low and slow on the family farm between Chicago and Indianapolis. He also spent 22 years in the Air Force, 15 as a fighter pilot, flying 325 missions and retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
After the military, Ebneter designed and tested balloons. As a test balloon pilot for General Mills, he once flew 325 miles overnight. In honor of that flight, Arnold gave E-1 the same registration number as that balloon: N7927A.
“As much as anything else, building the E-1 was an engineering exercise,” Ebneter said.