Lazair Stories
archived from the forum


    Sometime ago someone posted an idea for people to post thier stories on the Lazair forum and many of you responded with some great stories.
Since the forum has a limited capacity of storage, anything that gets posted there has a limited life span depending on forum activity. They were to good
to let pass into oblivion. so here they are immortalized on Lazairforce..


Gene Yarbrough

"The tips on the ground go scrub,scrub,scrub" In the spring 1986 on a beautiful windless warm day around the end of April my instructor
    decided to go for a flying lesson. As it was a beautiful windless warm day around the end of April we decided to practice touch and
    goes and single engine ops. The original takeoff on this beautiful windless warm day around the end of April was uneventfull as were
    the single engine operations at altitude. So it was time for some touch and goes. The first touch was smooth and the first go went. The
    second touch was a little fast and the second go went faster. On the third downwind on this beautiful windless warm day around the end
    of April a dark fast moving line of clouds barreled across the sky and hit us right about midway on the downwind leg. Well firewalling
    both JPX engines with tuned pipes only got us a crawling forward groundspeed. I found as the temperature dropped at least five
    degrees in one minute that the air was very, very mad at us as it was certainly trying to smack us into the ground. A few minutes passed
    and my instructor yelled that he would take over. I guess he got tired of his knees being smashed by the stick as I fought to keep the
    plane straight and level. So we finally made it a little past the end of the runway and my man turned the plane away from the wind. The
    acceleration was incredible! The loss of airspeed and the ground quickly coming to us was even more incredible!! As we transitioned
    from falling to flying about 50ft agl my instrucotr taught me a new flying technique. With my underwear protecting me from the inside, as
    opposed to outside, and the lungs refusing to do their job I was introduced to crabbing. Full right rudder, most all of the left aileron and
    just enough up elevator to fall slightly less than gravity would have allowed we went zipping toward the end of the runway. Wings banked
    at 7 and 2 of the clock and 45 degrees left being forward he adds differential engine to the mix. We scoot over the threshold at nearly
    v-max, at least thats how it seemed. It was then that I was sure that dieing while flying was surely a poetic end to this short life of 16 yrs.
    Just as I was beginning my final prayer I saw the left wingtip brushing the high grass at the edge of the strip. We began to level out as
    the tip hit the ground and went scrubbbbbbbbbb for a long ways. Still holding the crab and dragging the wingtip we sat down on the left
    main wheel and rolled for quite some time before he straightened it out. So we taxied to the hanger where upon prying my now white
    fingers from the frame and removing the undergarment firmly embedded in the neither parts I stumbled out of the seat. I learned that we
    had just encountered a rather strong squall line which made for some terrifying flying on this otherwise beautifull windless warm day
    around the end of April.


Paul Grandall
"The pilot and the pig farmer": In 1988 when I completed my Lazair kit I had went up with a friend in his Tomahawk (spamcan) and got
    an hour's of dual. That, with the fact that I had soloed in a Cessna 150 15 years earlier, convinced me that I could master a silly little "toy
    plane". So off to the local GA grass strip airport I went one early cold clear Washington March day. I introduced myself to George, the
    FBO and former F-104 Starfighter pilot. Anyway, after most of the day taxing and ground hopping I realized that my "toy" was for real,
    and quite and handful with my inexperience with ultralites and a slight cross wind (found out latter that I also had two
    mismatched/adjusted engine and plenty of asymetrical thrust). But I stuck with it and made baby steps towards actually flying it. Finally
    late in the day George suggested that I pack it in and come back another day. As I was cold, stressed, hungery, and tired I agreed that
    was the wise decision. And that was my plan. Well, except for this wise old man that had been "helping" and encouraging me all day. I
    didn't know him, but inspite of his blue jeans and straw hat, he had that knowing look of one of those rare old bold pilots. Anyway he
    said "Son, you just have to get that plane in the air. It will come to you then when you get it away from the ground. I've been waiting all
    day to watch you fly." So with that encouragement I forgot George's advice (and my warm jacket) and gunned the throttle with a smile.
    The smile lasted about an hour until the cold late afternoon chilled my excitement to the bone. As I headed back to the strip I was
    shaking so badly that the Lazair wobbled (or so it seemed). Stressed and freezing by now the first landing approach was too low
    (powerlines!!), the next too high, and the third just right.... until I flaired 8 feet too high, smack, ugh... As was picking up the pieces
    (shattered wheel rims, wheel pants, bent struts, etc, good old George drove up in his pickup to help me "clear" the runway. After we had
    dragged my Lazair clear he stopped and asked me why I hadn't followed his advice and called it a day. With a sad voice I told him that I
    had listened to one of those old experience pilots. He demanded "who?". When I had discribe the fellow to him, George got real quite
    and his face got real red before he cused "Damn it, all to hell! He just comes to watch. Hank's no pilot! He's a damn pig farmer from
    Chimicum...". So instead of flying that next summer I had a lot to ponder as I rebuilt my Lazair. r, Paul

There is this really pretty stretch of beach between the airport and my house that is fun to fly. It is about 18 mile that way with high bank
    (80 feet with houses and trees) on one side and Puget Sound on the other. When the tide is out the beach is gravel/sand about 100 feet
    wide. It is just incredible to fly this beach about at about 5 feet at Laziar speed (25 mph) and take in the sights. One day a guy was
    shoveling in his back yard and I could see him looking up for the ultralite he heard; when he finally looked DOWN at me he dropped his
    shovel! Low and slow in a Lazair doesn't get any better. And having an 18 mile long "runway" to fly over low and slow is really cool! r,


Shannon Whitaker

-Way back in the 80's we had a fellow down here named Holloway. A real Cajun of "French decent" from deep in the desolate soybean
    and rice growing areas of extreme South Louisiana. The guy had a funny french accent that many Canadians know very well. He was a
    very nice guy but was quite illiterate and could barely write his name. Somehow this fella' found out about Lazairs and wanted one. My
    father being a Dealer was quite happy when Holloway showed up one day cash in hand wanting a kit. Much to our surprise Holloway
    wasn't a pilot and had never even been off the ground in an airplane. We were concerned because of his complete lack of aeronautical
    experience. He insisted that he was going to build and fly a Lazair and that was that. This guy built his Lazair by having his girlfriend
    read the instructions to him as he went along. After the kit was built he taxied the up and down his runway for many, many hours. A friend
    of his joked that he was about to wear the plane out on the ground. He learned to crow hop his plane in little graduated steps. One day
    when he was ready, off he went ! No experience, no lessons, his first flight EVER ! His only advise was over the phone from my Dad on
    how to crow hop and make an approach to land. We were convinced the guy was going to crash but what can you do when someone is
    this determined. This guy flew his Lazair for a long time with no problems ! Simply Amazing !

-Follow this link to the Thompson Valley Sport Aircraft Club to read the little story of Gene Zwink
    and his trouble with his first flight attempts in C-ITOK. This is what usually happens to people with little or no flying experience in their
    valaint effort to become an ultralight pilot. It is a shame but I know of 5 Lazairs destroyed in a similar way to Genes story. This type of
    incident is exactly why ultralights in general attained a bad reputation as unsafe machines. This type of incident is also the ignorant
    basis for the product liability lawsuits that put Lazair out of production.

-"The Coyote incident". Flying along one day over some large cow pastures I noticed a momma cow and a very small calf standing
    alone far away from a large herd. About 50 yards away I saw some movement and thought it was a dog in the field. To my surprise it
    wasn't a dog but a Coyote stalking the newborn calf. The momma cow was standing guard over her baby. I knew if I didn't start a
    "ground attack" mission that the calf would be history shortly. I chopped the throttles and swooped down in a dive reminiscent of an
    A-10 thunderbolt attacking an Iraqi tank. The scene would have reminded you of a Wild Kingdom episode with Marlin Perkins chasing a
    game animal in Africa. Me and the coyote went round and round that field until all the coyote could do was lay on his back and show his
    teeth as I zipped by and pulled up for another run. Finally I pulled off enough for the coyote to make it to the treeline in a mad dash. It was
    quite rewarding to know that not only was I having a blast, but my Lazair flight that day made a difference in the world. However small !
    Beep Beep !!!

-"Cocaine was his co-pilot" There was a little fella' named Clif who purchased Lazair kit #883 in 1983. He was a very likeable little guy
    and made up for in brains what he didn't have in stature. Clif was absolutely nuts about Lazairs and set about building his kit with much
    enthusiam. Being that he didn't have a shop of his own we offered our shop for him to build the plane in. Clif set an unoffical world
    record in building his Lazair and would work enormous amounts of hours in the shop with no apparent exhaustion. In a very short order
    his plane was nicely assembled. On the final day of assembly the plane was trailered out to the strip for engine testing and final rigging.
    By the time everything was checked out it was dusk and Clif barely had time to make one taxi test down the runway before night settled.
    As we watched what we thought was going to be the last taxi run before shutting down for the night he firewalled the engines and was
    off into the dark. We couldn't believe this guy , he is flying his Lazair for the first time in the dark. All you could see was the blink, blink,
    blink, of the strobe as he circled the field. We scurried to arrange car and truck headlights so he could make his way back down. Out of
    the pitch black comes a brand new Lazair for a nice touchdown on the dark runway. Man what is with this guy ? As the weeks and
    months progressed Clif stayed in the air with his Lazair and became increasingly wild with his antics. One day as we watched in horror
    he began an aerobatics routine that included tail-slides, botched loops with inverted decents until recovery, and extremely fast dives at
    magnitudes that should have folded the wings. This guy was a real testament to the strength of a Lazair. It was about this time that we
    acquired two JPX 20hp engines for a two seat kit that was still in the crates. Clif went absolutely nuts with the prospect of flying at a
    local ultralight gathering with these engines on his plane. To make a long story short he made the other ultralights at the fly-in look like
    relics and was out running many of them on one engine just for fun. As a finale he would pass by the crowd on knife edge. No big deal
    except that he would do this on one engine ! He took every ultralight award and every competition trophy at the airshow ! I still have the
    pictures to prove it ! The other ultralight dealers were fuming and hated Lazairs with a purple passion from that day on. Sadly one day
    we got the call that Clif had overdosed on cocaine and had died of a massive heart attack. We then understood that cocaine was the
    reason for all the wild Lazair antics. The Lazair was tougher than cocaine. Amazing !

    -"Following the Leader" This is a short account of an experienced Lazair flier leading a rookie Lazair pilot to a near death experience.
    One day two Lazairs and an Eipper MX were flying the banks of the Mississppi River on a sightseeing patrol. Spotting a short dirt
    logging road that led to a 35' shear cliff overlooking the river the "ace" lazair pilot decided this would be a great place to hold a meeting.
    His reasoning was that it looked to be a good place discuss how much fun the pilots were having. And beside that "he needed to pee".
    This cliff overlooked the fast flowing, log-jammed, whirlpool infested muddy river. The trio somehow made it down on the road without
    incident. After a short break it was time for them to make a takeoff that was very similar to a aircraft carrier takeoff of a WWII plane. The
    "ace" pilot weighed 160lbs and didn't have much trouble getting airborne. The MX pilot had his 40hp Rotax to get himself safely back in
    the air. After watching the other two planes depart the "Rookie" lazair pilot didn't think twice about heading over the cliff. Much to his
    surprise his plane sailed off the cliff and dropped 34' feet to skim across the nasty looking water of the Mississippi. The fact that he
    weighed 200lbs must have played a part in his poor climb performance. Somehow the Lazair caught some air under the wings and flew
    along in "ground effect" or maybe in this case "water effect" for half the distance across the river. Lucky for the rookie that a catfish
    didn't jump out the water and smack him in the face. Eventually the Lazair gained some speed and climbed away from the river. After
    telling the story to other more responsible Lazair fliers the rookie acknowledged that he should have never followed this particular
    leader. Instead he should have adopted the "every man for himself" attitude and flew back home alone. I don't think this new guy ever
    flew with "ace" again.

   - "Beware of GA pilots" There is one sure fire way to increase your chances of having a torn up Lazair. If you ever have a friend, buddy, or
    acquaintance that is a experienced GA pilot be very cautious about letting them fly your plane. There were two incidents where Lazairs
    were trashed by pilots with much time flying regular aircraft. After you explain to a GA pilot how great your plane flies and what a
    wonderful machine it is they will often come up with the bright idea of taking your plane for a spin. GA guys often display an over
    confidence in their ability to handle this plane. After all they watched you fly and it looks like a piece of cake. Here is what happened to a
    couple of good Lazairs. A flight instructor decided he was going to take a Lazair for one of these test flights one day. He climbs in and
    makes it into the air and seems to be doing real good. After a few passes up and down the runway one engine suddenly stops. This guy
    was feeling so good about flying this nearly new Lazair that he shut one engine off to "see how it would do". This would have been just
    fine except that he was flying at 100' feet. Scratch one Lazair. Another guy was so scared of slowing down he dove for the runway and
    missed a short grass strip. His landing resembled Kamakazi attack into a bramble of small trees at the end of the runway. Scratch 2.
    These incidents could have been avoided had the GA guys been instructed on what to expect, what not to do, and what speeds to use.
    These detailed instructions combined with an hour of ground taxi training probably would have saved these planes. The pilots didn't get
    hurt in these crashes by the way. I am personally the greedy type and tell everyone to "get your own" and "hey don't touch that!".

  -  " Prop strike" Years ago I heard a tail of a nasty incident of a person walking into a Lazair prop. Seems as though some guy had his
    wife nearby (lord knows why) when he was preparing to go for a flight. While this guy was warming up his engines his wife apparently
    forgot where the propellers were located on the plane. We know that propellers all but disappear when the engines are running at a fast
    idle. She was attempting to hand a camera to the pilot so he could take some pictures while flying. The unlucky lady had her arm nearly
    severed by the wizzing carbon props. Apparently the pilot was so shaken by this incident he sold his Lazair. I would caution everyone to
    explain the any bystanders, especially children, to stay well clear of the airplane. Also painting your tips white helps make the props
    more visible. I have seen numerous pictures of Lazairs with unpainted prop tips.

  -  " The Tweaker" I'd like to share this little post on a guy I call the tweaker. It seems as though the tweaker thought he could makes things
    on his plane work better by tweaking and fiddling all the time. He would constantly mess with things that didn't need messing with. He
    would convince himself that he could get more power and speed. He constantly adjusted settings, replaced jets, and changed the oil
    and oil ratio 14 times. He swore by magic snake oils and elixirs and spent a fortune screwing up perfectly good engines. Fiddling and
    fretting he always blamed any imagined problem he was having on everything in the world but himself. The tweaker sweated and
    cussed, spending many an hour disassembling and reassembling things that were in perfect working order hours before. When
    referred to any official engine or aircraft literature he dismissed the information as so much hogwash. Of course he was smarter than
    the teams of trained engineers that developed his engines and plane. In the final analysis the fiddling and tweaking put his butt on the
    ground. No big surprise that he now developed the theory that his plane and engines had potentially fatal flaws that were trying ruin his
    life. So off went, checkbook in had to find new, better and more sophisticated planes and engines to fiddle and tweak upon. His fiddling
    ways continued anew with the predictable outcome. $40,000 later I would guess he is somewhere tweaking, fiddling, sweating, and
    cussing still.

  -  " The Big Scare at Box Canyon Acres" There are scary things that often happen to new Lazair pilots that make them realize the error of
    their ways. This is a noteable account of my early ignorant days of low level hedge-hopping that could have proved disasterous. Flying
    along over a quite unfamiliar area one day I discovered some very vast fields that looked ripe for flying in. Seeing that no houses, barns,
    or electric wires would preclude my greedy (and ignorant) desire sail along the ground at five feet I dropped down on the deck. I was
    having a blast following the contour of this immense pasture at full speed. I followed a sharp curve in the treeline around a bend to
    discover I had flown into a pasture that ended in a Box Canyon surrounded by tall oak trees. I checked my altimiter and it read 6 feet
    under and there was a skull and crossbones where the needles should be. I cursed out-loud to myself "you stupid son of a @#$%$#"
    and pulled up into a climbing arching twisting 180 degree U-turn. This was a maximum effort U-turn and I can actually remember going
    "Oh S*#t" as the plane skirted the wall of the canyon ! Flying back over the area after regaining my composure I couldn't believe that I
    had been stupid enough to fly down in there. This was all the medicine I needed and I was cured of my ignorant low level antics. I now
    recon any unfamiliar area very carefully before I get below the treeline.

  -  "The Chimney Incident" We had a Lazair flier have an engine failure one time while climbing out over a residential neighborhood. This
    particular guy was not one to heed warnings or pay attention to rules for this small private strip. The standing rule was to never fly over
    the neighborhood to keep good public relations. This rule was quite sound as there was no good place to make an emergency landing
    should something go wrong. Well it happened, as you might expect. His engine quit at the exact worst spot during his climb out. Faced
    with very few choices for landing he opted to try for a vacant lot rather than electric wires looming ahead. In his approach to the vacant
    lot he managed to catch a wing on a brick chimney on a nearby house. The plane made a complete 360 degree turn in the air and
    came to rest on its wheels in the homeowners driveway. Thankfully the residents of the area had become so use to seeing Lazairs fly
    around they didn't raise a big stink about the incident. Remarkably the plane suffered only minimal damage and was flying again very
    soon afterward. But as you might expect from a different airport.

   -"The Weedhopper Fatality" There was a Lazair flyer in this area years back who had a friend that purchased a Weedhopper. The guy
    wanted to get into flying ultralights cheaply but wouldn't buy a Lazair becuase they cost too much. This Weedhopper was garbage and
    had tears in the rotten sails that were repaired with duct tape. The guy wouldn't listen to reason and was warned repeatedly not to fly the
    plane until he got some new sails. He thought that his sails were just fine and had to be just as strong as the "cellophane" covered
    Lazair , as he liked to say. Even if it did have a few tears and some mildew. So one day the pair are flying along and the wing sail starts
    to literally rip off the Weedhopper. The Lazair pilot watched in horror as the rip grew larger and larger. The Weedhopper slowed down in
    an attempt to land in a rough pasture with tall grass. Unfortunately he dropped to low and got too slow to make it over a tall treeline
    surrounding the pasture. The plane clipped the top of 65' tall oak trees and went straight into the ground. The pilot was killed instantly
    when his head hit the motor hanging off the boom in front of him. It was doubtful that a helment would have saved his life had he been
    wearing one. This isn't the ending of this unhappy story though. The Lazair pilot became so shaken by what he had just witnessed that
    he lost his cool tried to land in this very rough field without thinking. He susequently hit some hidden small stumps or rough ground and
    flipped his Lazair on it back doing considerable damage. To make matters worse what he found when he clawed his way out of his
    Lazair and went over to the Weedhopper wreckage was his buddy with a smashed head. You can imagine the bad press that came out
    of this incident. The story was all over the news for several days. To top it off the guy had a wife and small child that he left behind. If
    there is any good to come from this story it makes us aware that we have to land our aircraft safely in order to help someone that has
    gone down. There could have been two fatalities that day


Mike Lee
well this is not as good as that coyote story but I'll tell it any way. I had been looking to get a Lazair for a while and after reading the story
    of the couple that rebuilt those two in canada with Hypec coatings I was sold. My son told me a friend of his at school had a Ultralight
    and it was for sale but didn't know what kind it was. I told him to ask about it but I din't give it much thought because I had decide what I
    wanted. Well the next day My son called and said he talk to his friend and had forgot what kind it was but he said that he remembered
    that it had 2 engines. You can't imagine what my face look like right then but you can bet that it didn't take long for me to get the rest of
    the info on it. I talk a friend of mine into taking me to it as fast as he could in his helocopter. I bought it right then and there after the kid
    flew it for me. Well now all I needed was some lessson's. well nothing around to do that in so I went and took lesson's in a cesna right up
    to the point of solo but not including a solo. Another friend told me what to do from there and what to exspec different in the Lazair
    compaired to the cesna. First thing I did was to get some ground time in and I did that for a total of about 4 hours. No hopes though.
    Well I decided that it was time to go for it and my friend told the first thing to do once I was airborn was get away from the ground and
    see what the difference were to the cesna before I even thought of trying to lo land it. Fly it around for like a hour or so he said then
    make some passses at the feild and it fell's good land if not go around till it does. Well I was doing taxi practice with the Idea that I might
    fly it if thing's felt good and he was going to come and take picture's if he could also. I was sitting on the run way and decide no time like
    now. The engines were running and I called him on the cell phone to ask if he was going to make it to the airport. He said he couldn't
    make it and I said well when I hang up I am going to shove thease throttles forward and I would call him when I got back. I hung up the
    phone and said well I told him I would call when I get back so I guess I have to leave first. So away I went and I was air born. There was
    only one problem that I was unaware of. It was September 12th,,, the day after the attact in newyork and the air space was closed and
    nobody at the ultralight airport new that it was us also. well after about 10 min in ther air I went back over the air feild and there was a
    guy in a orange vest waving me to land,,, I didn't have anyidea why but I was not ready to land as I was not comfortable with that Idea yet.
    So off I went. well to make a long story short, some farmer had called the city and ask why there was someone up there flying and the
    Mayor called the airport and said "get that guy out of the air before the FAA finds out" well it took about another 20 min before I felt
    good enought to bring it in and it took three passes before I did by then there were three people on the air strip waiting for me. As it
    turns out none were mad after I was down but they just wanted me down before someone that did care were to find out.So you can
    imgine what my first entry into my log book looks like. I have many hours sence then and can take off and land at will now. lucky for me
    that I couldn't that day or I would not have got as muck flight time in. Mike


    Ok, I'll start this off. One morning years ago I awoke with the excitement and anticipation of flying my Lazair that day, as was the case on
    many an occation. It was the first day of the spring flying season. I had taken my bird down the previous season and was putting it back
    together for a new season of fun. I arrived at the airport, locked my car, proceeded to assemble the plane with the assistance of my
    father. After an hour of fiddling around, I put on my helmet, started my trusty 185's and after a short warm up I was airborn. Finally, I was
    free from the stress of life and in the air. I flew for about 30 minutes of pure pleasure. I was in the air, looking beyond for miles around. I
    would look at my plane's wings, the props, glance back at the tail, all marvelling at what simple pleasure this little aircraft was providing.
    I had my instriment panel mounted forward and above my head. On one of many glances at the altimeter my pleasure turned to absolute
    fear as I notice I had missed one critical element (well actually four) during assembly for the season. My eyes fixated on four wing attach
    bolts that were vibrating in circles to the tune of the engines. I had actually forgoten to do two things, one was tighten the nuts on the
    wing attach bolts, and second, the "never forget to do this" pre-flight walk around. I was always one to look at every bolt before take off,
    but on this first day of spring flying, my excitement overtook my sence of safety. I will never forget the absolute fear at the thought of
    watching one of those nuts vibrate off and see the bolt vibrate out of the hole and see a wing seperate from the mount. (No parachute on
    that plane) My thought was to keep a + one-G force on the wings to "hold" the mounts tight against the bolt. As you can see, I managed
    to get on the ground and do what I should have done in the first place, and cought with a pre-flight before ever getting in the seat.

    George Curtis