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Frank Christensen Honored at AirVenture on 40th Anniversary of the Christen Eagle
August 3, 2017 - The International Aerobatic Club (IAC) rolled out the red carpet at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 for aircraft designer Frank Christensen. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Christen Eagle, an aerobatic aircraft that Christensen designed and manufactured as a competitor to the Pitts Special. Hundreds of Eagles have been built and flown in the past four decades, and many remain active in aerobatic competitions around the world.
Having been a successful aerobatic pilot and former U.S. Aerobatic Team Manager, Christensen knew what he wanted in a competitive airplane. He incorporated a number of significant innovations in the Eagle. This included his inverted oil system that is now found universally in aerobatic aircraft.
The Eagle has had a profound impact on the world of aerobatics. It also became one of the most revered aircraft in the world of air shows when Christensen talked Charlie Hillard, Tom Poberezny, and Gene Soucy into retiring the Pitts Specials they were flying as the Red Devils Aerobatic Team and replacing them in 1979 with Christen Eagles. The group then became known as the Eagles Aerobatic Team and for a quarter century they were the primo aerobatic act in the air show circuit, revered for their boldness, precision, and thrilling routine. Their airplanes, along with the original Eagle prototype, are prominently displayed in the EAA Aviation Museum.
Frank’s greatest contribution to sport aviation, however, may have been in the standard he set for homebuilt aircraft kits. He revolutionized the homebuilding industry with the thoroughness of his kits, the series of detailed, illustrated builders’ manuals he created to go with the kits and the support he provided the people who built them. Many kit-makers have emulated what Frank introduced at EAA Oshkosh 1977.
What seemed to impress Frank the most during the day he spent at AirVenture this year, and in the evening ceremonies where he was recognized for his accomplishments, were the pilots who came up to him all day long and told him “You changed my life.” Whether inspired by the Eagles Aerobatic Team, by building an Eagle, or by flying in competition with an Eagle, there are a lot of people who expressed profound appreciation, respect and esteem after shaking his hand.
It was announced at AirVenture, while presenting the Curtiss Pitts Trophy for Outstanding Aircraft Design, that Frank Christensen will be inducted into the EAA International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame this fall.