Deciding Upon a Project

Having known for quite a while that I would build my own plane, the biggest decision was what type. Over the years, I have provided a bit of help on a few other homebuilt projects. All were composite; Vari-Eze, Glassair, Berkut. While I could appreciate the efficiency and styling of these designs, I wasn't that keen on committing to several years of fairing and sanding. In my mind, composites are great, once they are painted and flying. After several trips to Oshkosh, and countless miles of walking the flightline, I had found a number of a/c that were interesting, and two that I found quite interesting. They are the Spencer AirCar, and Richard VanGrunsven's RV-6. Both have a lot of utility, and I knew I could be very happy with either.

The AirCar reminds one of the golden age of the great flying boats, the 1930's. To travel from water, with all the remote landing possibilities, really is attractive. I've spent countless hours with a brochure for the Republic SeaBee, and the AirCar is very similar, except for the wood, vs aluminium construction. The additional power for the AirCar turns it into a real performer. Interestingly, I have met another builder here in San Francisco, about my age, who is building an AirCar. For now, I will enjoy his project vicariously.

What needs be said about the RV-6? It is a great airplane, as are all it's stablemates. For me, the appeal of the 6 is the efficiency, and the side by side seating for cross country touring. Were it not for a chance encounter at the end of Oshkosh 1996, I would likely be building one right now.

The day I was scheduled to leave the '96 Convention, I took a few minutes to walk the flight line one last time. Not so surprisingly, I discovered an aircraft which previously I had not seen. From a couple rows away, I spotted the superb Hatz Classic, built by Billy Dawson from Texas. It was immediately obvious that I had to have that airplane! Like others before me, I was drawn like the proverbial magnet. The Hatz is a timewarp straight out of the late 20's or early 30's. Inspired by an aging Waco 10 with a temperamental OX-5, the first Hatz Biplane was conceived by John Hatz of Wisconsin as a more reliable, and slightly smaller, version of his Waco 10. The styling and performance of the Golden Age is largely intact, save for a modern flat four up front. Originally powered with a Continental 0-200, versions have been built with the 6 cyl C 0-300, 150 hp Lyc 0-320's, and an assortment of round engines. There is a Kinner powered Hatz, as well as another with a LeBlond doing the honors.

After buying plans #680 at the end of May 1997, I spent some time researching construction techniques, talking to other builders and restorers, and recently decided to start in. Progress through the holidays was inevitably slowed, and I spent a large amount of time cutting and fitting numerous small parts before starting assembly of the ribs.


Copyright 1998, Thayer Syme. All rights reserved