General Information and
                Specifications
Updated 6 December 2018 - Click the Picture to see what's new!
Pilot reports, Suggestions for
                builders, Magazine Bibliography, Fly Baby Bulletin
                orders
Reports on recent crashes, NTSB
                historical reports, safety updates
Technical Issues of Interest to
                Fly Baby Builders and Owners
A whole lot of Fly Baby pictures
Links to Fly Baby web pages
Tales from the Fly Baby world....
 
Data on Fly Baby engines,
                        including Harry Fenton's engine page Marketplace - For sale,
                        etc. A Biography of the
                        Designer of the Fly Baby Email Discussion List
                        on Yahoo
All About Two-Seat Fly
                        Babies What to look for when buying a used Fly
                        Baby Fly Baby model for Microsoft Flight
                        Simulator

             

 PB100:  Re-Booting the Fly Baby


BowersFlyBaby.com

The Unofficial Fly Baby Home Page

Maintained by Ron Wanttaja (ron@wanttaja.com)

This web page is for those interested in the Bowers Fly Baby homebuilt aircraft. This page is for information only, and is not affiliated with the owner of the rights to the Flybaby design.

What's New?

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General Information

This section discusses general aspects of the Fly Baby design.  Contents:
Why a Fly Baby?
Description and Specifications
Wood and Welded Parts Suppliers
Some Real-World Performance Numbers
Engines
Cost Estimates
Results of the Builder Survey

Why a Fly Baby?

Face it. You can page through the Aerocrafter Guide , or pick your way through the KITPLANES December issue, and find a lot of homebuilts that are faster, sleeker, and newer than the Fly Baby.

Why not build one of them, instead of a 40-year-old-design?

The answer lies in your own flying habits.

Why do you want an airplane? Will you be making regular trips for long distances? Carrying passengers? Blasting up to high altitudes?

Or are you just looking for a fun, knockaround airplane? Something that doesn't cost much to own? Something that you can go sightseeing in without breaking the bank on fuel costs. Something more substantial than an ultralight or ultralight-based design.

Take an honest look at the way you fly an airplane now. Do you just make "Hundred Dollar Hamburger" runs on the weekends? Do you fly just for the joy of flight? Do you generally go by yourself?

Then maybe...MAYBE...a Fly Baby might be the plane for you.

They're cheap as dirt to operate. Our EAA Chapter operated Pete Bowers' prototype as a club airplane from 1987 to 1994. Rarely did our yearly maintenance bill exceed $100. That's not a typo... One Hundred Dollars.  Even today, my airplane costs me, generally, less than $500 a year in maintenance.  Including hiring an A&P for the yearly condition inspection.

The major drawback: Fly Babies don't come in kits. You carve every piece of wood; bend every bit of metal. Yet the Fly Baby is designed to be as simple as possible to build. EAA Judges rate aircraft at Fly-Ins, not only on how well the builder did, but on how difficult the airplane was to build. The Fly Baby has ALWAYS occupied the "easiest" category...even in today's modern kit era. They go together like a big balsa-wood model. You don't even have to build-up ribs like most wood homebuilts. Instead, you stack up sheets of plywood and "gang-saw" them all at once on a bandsaw.

By not buying a kit, you save tons of money. Even today, one can probably build a Fly Baby (less engine) for $6,000 or less. Even though it doesn't come as a kit, a lot of the major parts (fuel tanks, engine mounts) come from the J-3 Cub, and companies like Wag-Aero and Univair still sell these parts.

It's not "Tab A into Slot B" kitbuilding. But the Fly Baby was the seminal EAA project; it was the first (and so far, only) design ever to win an EAA design competition. EAA essentially cut its teeth on Fly Babies. If you need help building one, assistance is as close as your nearest EAA Technical Counselor.

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Description and Specifications

The Fly Baby is a single-seat, open cockpit, folding-wing monoplane powered by engines ranging from 65 to 100 HP. It was originally designed in 1960 to compete in the first (and so far, only EAA design competition). It is built primarily of wood, with fabric covering. Most are powered by Continental A-65, C-75, C-85, or O-200 engines. Performance is sprightly; a bit better than that of, say, an Aeronca Champ.

While a single-seat airplane, the Fly Baby isn't small. It has a wingspan just two feet less than a Cessna 150. It's got a big cockpit. Pete Bowers is six feet two inches tall, and I weigh about 250 pounds. That gives you an idea of the range of sizes that can be accommodated.

The Fly Baby can be built as a biplane as well as a monoplane. The two monoplane wing panels are replaced by four smaller ones, plus a center section for the top wing. The aircraft can be switched back and forth between versions in about an hour, but it does take a helper. The biplane, while cool in concept, doesn't really offer too much. It's slower, and the wings don't fold. Still, its swept-back upper wings make it look a bit like a Bucker or Tiger Moth in the air, so if you'd really rather have a biplane, the Fly Baby would do the trick.

The monoplane/biplane issue is more than a wing swap...there are some internal braces and external tangs that have to be added to the fuselage. You can do this once the fuselage is done (The prototype was converted after completion), but it is, of course, easier during construction.

Switching back and forth between the wings takes two people about an hour. This assumes the rigging has already been set. While I helped on a wing swap, I never flew the biplane version. Other than appearances, there isn't much advantage. It's slower, and glides at an even steeper angle.

In monoplane or biplane configuration, the Fly Baby does meet the US rules for Sport Pilot.  In the United States, you do not need an FAA medical to fly a Fly Baby.

With the plans off the market, building a biplane is difficult.  However, you might be able to buy a used set of plans.  In any case, my advice is to build a monoplane first, to have something to fly, and build the biplane wings in your spare time after the first flight. The biplane wings take longer to build, since there are four panels and a center section, and they're swept rather than straight. If you build the monoplane wings first, you'll have something to fly while building the extra wings.

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Some Real-World Performance Numbers

Howard Jones from Perth, Australia, was involved with the completion of an O-200 powered Fly Baby, and sent along the following performance figures. Note that this is with a 100 horsepower engine. These were the measured results from a field at 50 foot elevation during a 68-degree (F) day, with no wind:
Distance of ground run 265 feet/81 metres
lift off to 50' 450 feet/137 metres
total distance 715 feet/218 metres
add 30% safety factor = 925 feet/283 metres Take off Distance

Speed at 50ft 57 MPH/50 KIAS
50' to touchdown 640 feet/196 metres
ground roll 660 feet/201 metres (moderate braking)
add 30% safety factor = 1700 feet 516 metres recommended landing distance.
Suggested minimum runway distance for this aircraft:

 1975 feet/600 metres.
[RJW Note: This seems reasonable. A 2,000 foot runway is pretty much my threshold of "pucker factor". I've landed in shorter fields, but they take good concentration. If you've got unobstructed approaches, the 660-foot ground roll is definitely doable.]
Best rate of climb speed 57 MPH/50 knots IAS
recommended 69 MPH/60 Knots IAS
Takeoff safety speed 63 MPH/55 Knots IAS
[RJW Note: The best rate speed seems a bit slow. I've been using 65 MPH for best rate, but haven't actually run a flight test on it. I like the extra speed buffer over stall.]
Maximum level speed 112 MPH/97 knots IAS
maximum climb rate 1300 ft per minute at 50 KIAS
normal climb rate 1000 ft per minute at 60 KIAS
[RJW Note: Don't forget, these figures are with a 100 HP engine!]

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Engines

Bowers recommends Continentals between 65 and 85 horsepower. The biggest engine I've heard of is a Lycoming O-290 (~125 HP). The 'Baby isn't a fast airplane by any stretch of the imagination, so bigger engines don't really buy you much. You're better off with the lighter weight (and lower fuel burn) of the little Continentals.

On the subject of the Continentals, both 'Babies I've flown have been powered by the C-85. I've formated on A-65 powered versions. The performance difference was marked, especially considering I was heavier than the pilots flying the 65 HP versions. Tom Staples has replaced his A-65 with a C-85, and his daughter reports that his cruise went from 80 to 95 MPH and his rate of climb from 500 to 1000 FPM!

Other Engines

There's no reason at all you couldn't fly a Fly Baby on a Rotax 532 or 582. These engines are considerably lighter than the Continentals, though, so you'll need a longer engine mount for CG. Might look a bit goofy. These two engines are only 65 HP, though.

Volkswagens are too anemic. Draggy airplanes need large propellers, and your typical VW ends up with a little 42" toothpick to be able to turn the 3400 RPM where it produces 65 HP. VW-powered 'Babies have flown, but the owners soon convert them to Continentals.

An Rotax 912 (four cylinder four stroke) would be ideal, if you've got the $$$$$ to buy one.

Personally, I'm somewhat taken by some of the smaller auto-engine conversions. I've met the designer of the Stratus Subaru conversion a number of times, and think the engine has excellent possibilities as a Fly Baby powerplant.

An examination of Fly Baby engine options can be found on the Engines page.

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Suppliers

Here's a list of suppliers that carry Fly Baby-specific sort of parts. This doesn't constitute an endorsement; this isn't an "approved" list. But they might be good starting point. The customer must make his or her own decision as to the airworthiness and value of the items mentioned.

Those who like to get an idea of the total order size required can check out this attempt at a representative materials list.  It's in Microsoft Excel format.

Several Fly Baby builders have been working with Ray Landis (president and also a pilot) of Advanced Manufacturing Systems (Decatur, AL) to fabricate new Fly Baby metal parts.  Folks report excellent workmanship and fast response.  Contact Ray at 256-350-8386.

Andrew Budek-Schmeisser is now selling welded Fly Baby components, from a single piece to a full-blown set. 

Aircraft Spruce and Specialty sells practically all the individual components, and Materials Kits to provide all the raw materials.

Wicks Aircraft is a well-liked supplier of a wide variety of homebuilding materials.  They also have Materials Kits.

Some Wood Sources:

B&D Plywood, in Tacoma, Washington is a good source for plywood.
Crosscut Hardwoods in Portland, Oregon sells marine plywood
Chesapeake Light Craft sells boat kits, but supposedly has some of the lowest wood prices around
Boulter Plywood is located near Boston, and is recommended by one of our New England builders.
McCormick Lumber and Cabinetry is in Madison, WI.  They carry Sitka Spruce.
Probably the best source of Fly Baby goodies are unfinished projects and Fly Markets. There are still a number of unfinished projects out there...I once called on one that was essentially complete, less engine. The owner wanted only $1,000 for it.

Also Available:  Downloads/Reprints of The Fly Baby Bulletin

Back in the late '60s, Hayden Ferguson published a newsletter for Fly Baby builders.  Hayden has kindly provided me with a clean copy of all the newsletters, and permission to reprint them.

This are of pretty good interest to Fly Baby builders.  There are a number of hints and suggestions, and a total of 200 pages (printed double-sided, so there are only 100 sheets).  Be advised there is an equal amount of "What Joe Smith is working on now" sort of information...vital and informative when the newsletter is mailed out, but of less use to builders thirty years later.  It's fun to read, though.

Steve Pitts took the old Bulletins and converted them to Adobe Acrobat format (.PDF).  You can now download them for free.  Also, I've still got a few hard copies left, if you would prefer.   I'm selling these for $20, US Postage paid. Email me for ordering information.


Cost Estimates

Building Cost (Updated Sept 2006)

One of the main reasons the Fly Baby was so popular in the 1960s is its low-cost construction.  Back then, aircraft-quality wood was still in wide production, and huge stocks of aircraft hardware (like turnbuckles) had been produced during the war and were still being sold at low prices.

Unfortunately, in the 45 years since, things have changed.  It used to be that wood was cheap but alumimum was expensive; that's no longer the case.  The surplus turnbuckles are long gone, and the new production stuff is quite a bit costlier.

In September, 2006, Dirk Chubbic of San Jose, California, took the bull by the horns:

"I got my Aircraft Spruce and Specialty catalogue recently and spent some time pricing FB construction.  I started with the materials list from Ron's site and plugged in prices from AS&S, using the lowest prices when a choice was necessary (e.g. cad plated vs. stainless bolts).

"The total was about $8,125.

"Of course, that doesn't include engine, fuel tank/lines, prop, instruments, covering, paint or even glue.  It's just the airframe and fittings.  Of course, a good scrounge/bargan hunter can do it for less, but I think that's a good benchmark, just in case somebody asks."

Since the Fly Baby is plans-built (e.g., no complete kit) the cost of construction varies from builder to builder. Some folks opt for all new hardware, some haunt the Fly Markets for good deals.  As Dirk says, his pricing assumes new parts (albeit the lowest-cost new parts) exclusively.  If you scrounge, or buy partially-completed aircraft, you can do a lot better.

The price can go higher, too.. If you decide to add stuff like an electrical system, radios, and a transponder, you'll add quite a bit to the cost of the airframe.

As far as engines go, check Trade-A-Plane for prices. A good C-85 will probably run ~$3,000-$4,000. A run-out will go for quite a bit less, and you can overhaul it yourself. A wood prop will run $600 or so.

Operating Costs

Fly Babies are very cheap to run.  My C-85 burns ~5 gallons an hour of $3.00/gallon car gas. That's $15 an hour, plus a bit more for oil. Hangar costs vary widely, but you can probably get your Fly Baby under cover for ~$200 or less per month.  Don't tie the plane outside for long periods--it isn't good for it.

Liability insurance (only) costs about $200/year.

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Links to other Web Pages on Fly Babies and Fly Baby-Like homebuilts:

Builder/Rebuilder Pages and Blogs

Other Sites of Interest

Social Media


BowersFlyBaby.com Index

For overall categories of information on these pages, go back to the top of this page.  This index provides a bit of cross-referencing, where a given topic might be discussed in several places.

Aerobatics

Aerobatics and the Fly Baby:  An Editorial

Accidents:

Detailed Report: N2695
Detailed Report:  N96MG
Detailed Report:  N101LX
NTSB Summaries
Avionics (See Also Electronics)
Panel-Mounting a Handheld Radio
Antennas for Fly Babies
Wind-Powered Generators
Ron's Avionics Box
Building an Adaptor to Use a Commercial Headset with an Aircraft Radio
Converting a Russian Helmet - Part 1 and Part 2
Instrument Panel Pictures
Homemade Under-Helmet Headset
Improving the volume level when using a handheld radio with aviation headsets
Biplanes:

The Fly Baby Biplane

Bracing:
Aerobatics and the Fly Baby:  An Editorial
All Those Wires!  A look at alternative wing-bracing schemes
Overall Discussion
A Look at Wing-Failure Accidents:
A Wing-Folding Guide
A strut-braced Fly Baby, courtesy of Miguel Tschopp's web page.  This airplane was built in Argentina, and Miguel's web page includes the official drawings needed for approval by the local FAA-equivalent.
Split-Axle Landing Gear
Cantilever wings (eliminating the bracing wires)
Calendar
Every year, I generate a calendar that features Fly Baby pictures.

Comfort:
Ear Protection
Seat
Warmth and general comfort
Eric Whittred's Seat Design
Fly Babies for the Big and Tall
The Webmaster's New Clothes
The Belly Inspection Panel
Scarves
Goggles
How to Add a Canopy
Converting a surplus Russian flying helmet to Fly Baby use
Follow-Up:  Adding IPOD ear buds to the Russian helmet
Elevator Trim
How to add a baggage compartment
A Skosh More Room.  A simple modification that gives you another inch of legroom.
Trim Systems:
Fly Baby rigging and trim
Adding a classic elevator trim system
Adding a Paddle-Type trim system
Do-It-Yourself Ejection Seat
Leather Jackets for the Open-Cockpit Aviator
Modifying the cockpit coaming for more room.
Building an under-helmet headset.
All about Leather Helmets
Electronics/Avionics
Battery installation
Panel-mounting a Handheld Radio
Ron's avionics box
Wind Generators
Surviving Without an Electrical System
A low-cost radio antenna
Instrument Panel Pictures
Installing an Electronic Tachometer
Rebulding a Fly Baby Electrical System
Including lots of good information for those working from scratch
Installing BNC Connectors
Building an under-helmet headset.
Improving the volume level when using a handheld radio with aviation headsets
Engines:
The Engines Page
Engine Options
Maintenance Problem Reports
Survey Results on Engine Selections
Harry Fenton on Engines
Starter Clutch Problems
Remote-Release Tail Hooks as a Hand-Propping Aid
Battery selection and location
Trouble-shooting electrical system problems
Adding an auxiliary fuel Tank
Flight Simulator
Fly Baby Model for Microsoft Flight Simulator
Fly Baby Model for Vehicle Simulator
A Radio-Controlled Fly Baby for $40
Flying Advice/Reports:
Aerobatics and the Fly Baby:  An Editorial
Flying Advice (General)
Nouvelle Classique (pilot report by webmaster)
Punkin (Biplane pilot report by Chris Eulberg)
Jerry David's account of the first flight of his OWN Fly Baby Bipe
Chuck Davis' report of his first flight in the Fly Baby he bought.
V-Speeds.
Preflight/Pretakeoff Checklists
The Fly Baby and Sport Pilot
Fly Baby Bulletin downloads.  Pilot reports, builder reports, etc. from the 1960s.
Folding Wings
A Wing-Folding Guide
For Sale
Aircraft and Components
T-Shirts and other Gear
Pre-Buy Inspections for Used Fly Babies
Instruments
Panel Photos
Installing an Electronic Tachometer
Building a Fun Meter

Landing Gear and Brakes
How the landing gear is part of the wing bracing system
How about tri-cycle gear?
Rolling your own Goodyear brake pads
Tailpost Problems and their Correction.
A discussion on split axles.
Drew Fidoe on care and feeding of Maule SFSA tailwheels.
Rotating Tires
Split-Axle Landing Gear
What Size Tires for a Fly Baby?
Replacing Goodyear Wheels with Grove Wheels

Light Sport Aircraft
The Fly Baby and Sport Pilot
Magazine Articles
Bibliography
Nouvelle Classique (KITPLANES pilot report by webmaster)
Fly Baby Bulletin downloads.  Pilot reports, builder reports, etc. from the 1960s.
Microsoft
Fly Baby Model for Microsoft Flight Simulator
Patches
Ordering Jacket Patches
Painting
Painting a Fly Baby with Latex house paint
Drew's Ten-Year Update
Three-View Drawing for working on paint schemes (works better if you right-click and save to your own disk)
Getting the WWII Army Air Force markings right.
Poetry
A Poem for Old Tail Dragger Pilots, by Wendell Davenport
He Wanted to Fly, by Robert Gellock
Pictures
Index to Fly Baby Photo Albums
"Altered States" - Doctored photos
Arlington 40th Anniversary Event
Flabob 40th Anniversary Event
Videos
Fly Baby-related Artwork
Three-View Drawing
Insrument Panels
Fly Baby Persona for Firefox
Not photos, but sketches of a Fly Baby under construction
Slightly Weird Pictures.  Like "Altered States", but not edited.
Pilot Reports
List of Pilot Reports
A Record-Breaking Fly Baby
Pilot Operations Handbook (POH).  That's a Word version so you can edit it and insert your own values.  Here's a PDF for those who just want to look at it.
Fly Baby vs. Pietenpol
Parts:
Building a Fly Baby using the free EAA Magazine Articles
Commercial Suppliers
Making your own Goodyear brake pads
Cheap 'n Easy Gap Seals
Materials List
List of Plan Revisions
Propellers:
Survey Results on Propeller Selections
Propeller Selection:  That Ol' Black Magic
Rebuilding a Fly Baby
This Old Plane  - Drew Fidoe's rebuilding notes
Safety
Aerobatics and the Fly Baby:  An Editorial
Condition Inpspection Checklist
The Safety Page
Fly Baby Weight and Balance Spreadsheet
Pilot Operations Handbook (POH).  That's a Word version so you can edit it and insert your own values.  Here's a PDF for those who just want to look at it.
Heat-Induced control jamming.
The Pete Bowers Heresy
Simulator
Fly Baby model for Microsoft Flight Simulator
Fly Baby Model for Vehicle Simulator
Sport Pilot
The Fly Baby and Sport Pilot
Stories
The Stories Page
Structural Issues
The Bracing Page
English translation of Finnish Load-Test Report
Suppliers
Commercial Vendors
Materials List (Excel Spreadsheet)
Tailwheels
Drew Fidoe on the care and feeding of the Maule Tailwheel.  PDF File.
Tail Post Repair
Tailwheel Springs
Technical Issues
The Advice Page (for folks new to the Fly Baby world)
Tech Talk (more in-depth technical material)
List of Plans Revisions
The Fly Baby and Sport Pilot
This Old Plane - Drew Fidoe's Restoration Notes
Fly Baby Bulletin downloads.  Pilot reports, builder reports, etc. from the 1960s.
Adding elevator trim
Adding an auxiliary fuel Tank
Fly Baby rigging and trim
Cantilever Wings
Tires, Wheels, and Axles (See also "Tailwheels")
Tire Rotation on Fly Babies
Split Axles
Tailwheel Springs
Tire and Wheel Selection for Fly Babies
Replacing Goodyear Wheels
Transport
Trailer required for carrying a Fly Baby
Trim and Rigging:

Fly Baby rigging and trim
Adding a classic elevator trim system
Adding a Paddle-Type trim system

Videos
In-Flight Videos with external cameras
Links to Youtube and other videos
Webinar:
Link to the Fly Baby Webinar hosted by EAA

Weights:
Design Weight (See the text on the figure)
Survey Results on Empty Weights
Typical weight of individual components
Windshields
Plexiglas or Lexan?  One-Piece or Three-Piece?
How to Add A Canopy
Wood
Wood Selection and Testing (PDF file)
Wood Suppliers
Wood Construction Links
Robert "Veeduber" Hoover's Blog

What's New

December 6th, 2018

The title photo on this page is Lew Mason's own watercolor painting of his "Boche Baby" over San Geronimo Airpark.  This painting shows N118LM without its rear gunner, which mounts to the surface and is quickly removed and re-installed.

The 2019 Calendar is out!

Otherwise, there isn't much updated on the main page.  I've been spending my time on the PB100 project...over the past six months, I've written six "Companion Guides" to go with the original construction articles in EAA Sport Aviation magazine.  That's over 300 pages more material!  That's 50% more than the plans themselves, and I'm not done yet.

May 15, 2018

It's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pete Bowers!  We're celebrating by developing a new way to build the airplane, using the EAA SPORT AVIATION magazine articles as the core.  See the PB100 Web Page!

April 3, 2018

I have been directed to cease selling Fly Baby plans.



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