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Chris Falconar, Canadian Homebuilding Legend
By John Bruesch, EAA 511952
January 201 9 - Christopher Barnard Falconar, known simply as Chris to hundreds of homebuilders, died on September 9, 2018, at the age of 91. Chris epitomized the role of designer-mentor that is so precious to builders — easygoing and patient, yet fervently enthusiastic about homebuilt aircraft. Through Falconar Avia, the company he founded in Edmonton, Alberta, Chris had a hand in promoting dozens of popular plansbuilt aircraft offerings including several of his own design based on the French Jodel series. These variants were carefully designed by Chris to be larger and easier to construct with just basic woodworking skills.
Under Chris’ direction, Falconar Avia also adopted other wood construction aircraft plans — especially those originating in France — including the Emeraude, Mignet Flying Flea, Druine Turbi, Jurca, and others. And as if that were not enough to keep a designer busy, Chris also designed the high-wing, wood-construction S-14 Miranda. Altogether, nearly 4,000 sets of plans have been distributed by Falconar Avia.
Chris’s lifetime achievements are way too numerous to list here. According to www.FalconarAvia.com he got his start in World War II, working on Canadian production lines supporting such iconic aircraft as Liberators, Lancasters, and Harvards. Later, he studied aeronautics, earning his degree in 1953. In 1957 he co-founded the Edmonton Soaring Club and was instrumental in the establishment of EAA Chapter 30, the oldest of EAA’s international chapters.
Chris may be best known for developing the HIPEC fabric-covering system, a successful alternative to rib-stitching for those who have adopted it. He also designed engine installation components for various kit manufacturers such as Murphy, Zenair, Fisher, and others, and was the North American distributor of Hirth Engines into the 1990s. His influence has been so pervasive that many rank him as the father of Canadian homebuilding.
My own connection to Chris began in 1996, when I got the idea to build the F-12 Cruiser, a scaled-up Jodel derivative that Chris designed in the 1960s. It seemed to suit my woodworking background, and besides, I just liked the looks of it. I bought the plans and a bunch of spruce and plywood, and got started. During a half-dozen or so long-distance coaching sessions, I learned some essentials of Chris’ philosophy that have stuck with me over the years. One time, I was lamenting that bending the wooden fuselage sides to mate with various bulkheads and cross-members might result in a slight oil-canning of the plywood covering. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but Chris was quick to point out that I could correct that with any of the fiberglass surfacing materials available nowadays. Then he reminded me that I’d be doing a lot of filling and sanding when I could just as well be flying my creation! Such imperfections, he added, would only be visible to those with the appropriate magnifying glass anyway.
“Step back about 15 feet and proudly admire your work!” he asserted. Another time, while fielding endless questions starting with “Would it be okay to,” Chris (still paraphrasing) said, “Remember that while I’m the design engineer, as builder you wear the badge of construction engineer. As long as you don’t violate the structure, aerodynamics, weight and balance, and other critical design elements, you can and should use your noodle to find the best way to build the thing.” At that moment, I was anointed a bona fide aircraft construction engineer and have never looked back.
Chris Falconar was a remarkable Canadian and a productive, pragmatic, and loyal friend to homebuilders. We’ll surely miss him.