A Visit with Ken Flaglor
AVweb continues its coverage of EAA AirVenture 1998 ... .
One of the exciting things about the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is meeting some of the old timers of experimental aviation such as Ken Flaglor. Flaglor, now 72, holds "court" at the communications building at Wittman Regional Airport during the flying and has done so at all the EAA conventions except two, the very first and the convention in Milwaukee in 1956.
Ken interview is a special one for me since I own the first aircraft Ken built, the Flaglor High Tow, known by many as the Flaglor Fleet. Ken built the High Tow out of necessity since he was towing gliders in the Chicago area with a Waco and wrecked it. Out of necessity, he looked for an aircraft to replace it on a very small budget and found the remains of a Fleet 16B. Knowing the Kinner originally found in the Fleet wouldn't be enough power to haul gliders, he searched for an engine and found a Continental W-670.
The FAA told him if he built it so it didn't look like a Fleet, he could call it an experimental. Thus, he made it look like a Waco and flew it to Milwaukee for the EAA fly-in in 1957. Concerned that the FAA might not like the final rendition, he did not enter the High Tow in any competition to avoid attention and was surprised to find out after he had gotten home that he had won one of the major awards at the time, "Runner Up" for Best Construction!
Ken has since built seven more aircraft. After the High Tow, he built a Cherokee II motor glider he powered with two go-kart engines, a Flaglor Scooter (not a Sky Scooter), a Sonerai II, a GeeBee Y, an Emeraude, an UltraPup and his most recent aircraft, an R-80 Tiger Moth. He had to hurry to fly off the 50 hour test period just before AirVenture.
Ken went from high school into the infantry. Upon leaving the service, he was a neon tube bender for a lighting and sign company. He then was involved in developing electrical relays and test equipment. His then started a residential window glass business and retired a few years ago.
Ken's first exposure to flying was in gliders in 1948. He soon became a designated examiner and is proud to said "I never charged a cent." He towed for a few years in the Waco until it was destroyed, and then three more years in the High Tow. He has been flying and building ever since.
Ken lives with his wife, Barbara, in Kansasville, Wisconsin, and took about 80 minutes to fly to Oshkosh averaging about 70 knots. They live on their own airstrip and have frequent drop in visitors. He celebrates the 50th anniversary of receiving his pilots license this year and holds EAA# 3450. With that kind of experience, I asked Ken what he would change about the AirVenture event. "Give us back our logo and convention name!," he responded without hesitation. "This is a convention, not a fly-in." Ken laments that the homebuilders who made up the core of the EAA have been put in the "background" as the Association expanded to antiques and then war birds. He understands the expansion is "where the money is," but notes certain things should have changed.
Ken guards all the aircraft in his area from inquiring hands and fingers and yells a bicyclist prior to the convention who get their vehicles too close to the aircraft. He longs for the days when any child less than ten years old had to be always accompanied by an adult. Ken said last year that he disciplined a child for climbing on a fabric wing of a biplane and then received a tongue lashing from a parent accusing him of possible "psychically injuring the child for life!"
Ken likes the wide diversity of members in the EAA and enjoys talking with people from all over the world who stop by his aircraft. Neophyte members are important as he noted that all his construction methods were learned actually building, not a carry over from other vocational areas. He states that it is obviously more difficult for a young member to start building his own aircraft due to cost and regulations, noting that he once bought a PT-23 for $100.
Ken also misses the old air shows which always began with Paul Poberezny in a P-63 ("Paul put on a hell of a show") and followed with the likes of Nick Rezich in a TravelAir with a 300 HP engine, Dwayne and Marion Cole with a TaylorCraft and a 450 HP Stearman, Art School in a Chipmunk, and Bob Lyjak in a tapered wing Waco. He said Bob always started with a snap on take off that "took your breath away."
Ken has nothing but praise for Paul Poberezny, founder of the EAA. "Paul is the most honorable guy around who took care of everyone." Flaglor notes that in the early days, kids would pick up trash around the convention grounds and Paul made sure they all received trophies at the end of the week for their efforts.
Ken is a firm believer that each and every individual can make a contribution and difference for the Association. Too humble to acknowledge his own contributions, Ken's accomplishments for the EAA are always touted by his many friends who drop by through the day. Ken still admits he gets excited about setting off for Oshkosh every year and never stops smiling while he is here.