Time waits for no one and, certainly, no machine. But even with that in mind, light-aircraft aficionados might be surprised to know that a few popular aircraft designs are having significant anniversaries at Oshkosh this year.
Baby Ace, 90 years. The high-wing homebuilt was first offered as a plans-built design in 1929. Of course, nine decades ago, there was no such thing as a kit-built experimental. Entirely conventional for the period: fabric-covered, steel-tube fuselage with wood wings.
Pietenpol, 90 years. The venerable Air Camper was first offered as plans in the early 1930s, though it had been flying since late 1928. It wasn’t until 1929 that the Ford Model A engine appeared in the design, and that helped put the Piet on the map.
Van’s RV-4, 40 years. The RV-4 was not Dick VanGrunsven’s first airplane but it was the one that proved the worth of his less-is-more ethos, creating a foundational design that would fuel the most successful kit-aircraft manufacturing company yet seen.
Rutan Long-EZ, 40 years. As with the RV-4, the Long-EZ was not Burt Rutan’s first design. But as a larger, more refined version of the VariEze, the Long made room for larger pilots and more powerful engines, and helped cement Rutan’s reputation for creating unusual, and unusually efficient, aircraft.
Ultraflight Lazair, 40 years. Hailing from Canada, the twin-engine ultralight Lazair debuted in 1979 with a pair of chainsaw engines and an inverted-vee tail.
Kitfox, 35 years. Still cute as a button, the Kitfox exposed American pilots’ deep nostalgic streak in 1984 and rode the kit-built experimental boom of the period to great success.
Three additional aircraft designs are celebrating their 70th anniversary this year. The North American T-28 trainer, the Bonanza-derived T-34 trainer and the larger-than-life Twin Bonanza.