In 1958, the Experimental Aircraft Association
(EAA) announced a contest to design, build, and demonstrate
a new homebuilt aircraft. The winner would have to be
simple and inexpensive to build in the home shops and
garages of that era. One of the stipulations of the
contest was that the winning designer would have to
completely document how to build that airplane within the
pages of EAA's SPORT AVIATION magazine.
Peter M. Bowers and his "Fly Baby" won. It was an inspired selection for a number of reasons. Not only did the Fly Baby meet the buildability and flyability criteria of the contest, in Pete Bowers they had that rarities of rarities... an engineer/aircraft designer who would actually write.
And so, in a 14-part series in EAA SPORT AVIATION starting
in December 1962 (just four months after winning the
contest), Pete wrote about how to build a Fly Baby.
Thousands of EAA members started construction. Dozens,
or even hundreds of them were completed and flown.
While he worked on the articles, Pete was assembling a
stand-along set of plans for sale. The plans used the
same diagrams (drawn by Jim Morrow) as the magazine
articles. The diagrams printed in SPORT AVIATION
even had the figure-numbering of the plans set, rather than
relative to their position among the articles. From
1963 to 2003, Pete ended up selling around 5,000 sets of
plans. About 500 airplanes were built, either from the
magazine articles or from the plans. As you can see
from the above diagram most of the planes were completed in
the '60s to early '70s.
It's the 100th anniversary of Pete Bowers' birth...but the
plans for his most famous creation are no longer
And, in any case, the plans were written in 1963.
While there were almost a dozen revisions, they all were
technical in nature--correcting dimensions, etc. The
current planes don't really doesn't reflect the realities of
the 21st Century.
Finally, people are different now from back then.
Back in the '60s, high school kids took shop classes, and
practically anyone with a house had a table saw and did some
minor woodworking. It's just not the case,
anymore. The classic argument for a Fly Baby is that
it's built just like a balsa-and-tissue model. But how
many people are actually building those, nowadays?
Another aspect is safety. Over fifty years of Fly
Baby flying has revealed some problems with the
design. For the most part, nothing major... but the
Fly Baby has the highest rate of in-flight structural
failure among homebuilt aircraft in the US.
Almost a quarter of Fly Baby accidents involve wing
A Fly Baby properly built, properly maintained, and
properly operated doesn't have a problem. But
Pietenpols are older than the Fly Baby, there are twice as
many of them...but their wings don't break. Why does
the Fly Baby have such a problem?
I believe there are some changes that will provide pilots
with a bit more design margin. And I'd like ensure builders
know about them.
We don't need band-aids to the existing instructions: We need a REBOOT. So, to honor Pete Bowers' legacy, let's take things down to fundamentals, give the builder of the 21st century the kind of help that wasn't thought necessary in the '60s, and recommend modifications where experience shows it needs it.
Most homebuilt designs become lost to history when the
plans go off the market. But the Fly Baby has a unique
advantage: That 14-part building series in EAA SPORT
AVIATION magazine. No other homebuilt has had that
level of detail published, free, for the use of the
magazine's readers. And if you're an EAA member, the
entire series is available for you to download. For
That's what PB100 is all about: Helping people build Fly
Babies, whether they have an original set of plans or use the
magazine articles. PB100 support will be based on what
can be downloaded for free from EAA. For each of the 14
articles, I'm going to present information to help you
understand them and know what kinds of changes are necessary
or desired. Each article will include a "Companion
Guide." These guides will provide additional information
that'll greatly assist in your construction. Each Guide
If you own plans...PB100 will make your building job
easier. But Pete intended that the magazine articles
would be all a builder would need.
Construction instructions for the Fly Baby are available in the form of reprints of the original Fly Baby construction series, running from January 1963 to September 1964. If you're an EAA member, you can download these articles FOR FREE from the EAA Archives. If you're not an EAA Member, it costs just $40 to join, and you get a great monthly magazine.
The first step is to download the magazine articles. Go
to the EAA
Sport Aviation Archive page and click the “View PDFs of
Past Issues” section. You'll need to log in to the site,
using your EAA number. The link here may not work all
the way, because of the log-in requirement. In any case,
you'll need to access the "Education and Resources" tab, then
select "Publications." From there, just click the "SPORT
AVIATION" link, and select "Archives" at the bottom of the
page. Hit the "Search For Articles" button, and you're
ready to go.
Here’s a breakdown of the EAA magazine articles vs. the organization of the plans. Note that the articles were not published in the same sequence as the plans.
EAA Magazine Article Part
Date of Publication
Fuselage Secondary Structure
Power Plant and Related Installations
Misc Systems 1
Misc Systems 2
Covering Tail and Wing
There's also an "Overview" in the December 1962
issue. This is mostly history and background.
The complete building instructions for the Fly Baby were printed in EAA Sport Aviation magazine, but the articles are kind of hard to read. They're in PDF format, with pretty small print, and the text is huge monolithic blocks that are hard to wade through.
I have written a program that helps this. It allows you to select the text in the PDF articles and save it as an ordinary text file. What's more, it breaks up the blocks... it splits up each sentence into its own line, and individually numbers the sentences. You can save it as a ".txt" file, then load it into your word processor to increase the font size, select a different font, indent the sentences, go to double spacing, whatever. you can even re-combine some of the sentences.
Sadly, it only runs on Windows.
To use the Fly Baby Converter:
1. Open the ZIP file, and transfer the "Fly Baby Article Converter.exe" file to a convenient folder.
2. Double-click to start. If problems occur, see below.
3. Open one of the EAA Fly Baby Building series articles (PDF) file.
4. Drag the mouse across all the text on the first page. Don't worry if you get too much.
- You could even just hit Control-A to highlight everything.
5. Hit Control-C (copy to clipboard)
6. Switch to the Article Converter
7. Click the "Get Clipboard Data" button
8. Go back to the EAA article, and select the next page with text
9. Highlight the text you want to include.
10. Go back to the Article Converter, and click the "Add More" button.
11. Repeat steps 8-10 as necessary
12. Go back to the Article Converter, and select the "Save" button.
The information saves as a Text file. This can be loaded into any Word processor, and you can format it as you desire...make the font larger, increase line spacing, etc. Do a "Save as" to preserve any features you add.
The conversion isn't perfect...there's some stuff that doesn't come across. You may have to manually correct some fractional sizes, which PDF doesn't seem to handle well. You'll also probably get some excess material (such as the magazine information) that can be easily deleted.
The file converter uses VisualBasic, and MalwareBytes
tends to reject .exe files. What's more, it will
actually DELETE the Fly Baby Article Converter file!
Give it a try on your computer, but if you get a MalwareBytes issue, here's the fix:
1. Copy the Article Converter file from the ZIP file to the folder again (assuming it had deleted it)
2. Do NOT start it!
3. Start MalwareBytes.
4. Select "Settings" (menu on the left)
5. Click "Exclusion"
6. Select "Exclude file or folder"
7. Click "Next"
8. For the "specify file or folder," browse and select "Fly Baby Article Converter.exe"
9. Select "Exclude from detection as malware or potentially unwanted item only"
10. Click "OK"
Fly Baby Article Converter should now run. Convert all the articles, save them to Word or as TXT files, then delete the MalwareBytes exemption and reboot your computer.
All this data is being compiled with the assistance of the
Fly Baby community on Facebook and on the Fly Baby group on
If you have questions, feel free to ask them there.
As more information comes out, the supporting information
will be upgraded.
In addition to the Fly Baby articles, EAA Sport Aviation is
chock-full of great information on building planes like the
Fly Baby. The late Tony Bingelis wrote many of
them. Here's a summary of useful articles in SPORT
There was a newsletter for Fly Baby builders published in
the 1960s. I have received permission to include it
for free download.
There's a lot of good information scattered throughout.
Ted Cannaday put together a PDF file that
contains templates for all the Fly Baby steel parts.
These are the same for both the EAA Articles and the formal
Jim Katz generated these CAD files (.DWG format) for getting his steel AND wood parts cut by laser/water jet/plasma systems. In an ideal world, you should be able to take these by a commercial vendor and have them cut out quickly at a fairly low cost
This Advisory Circular
provides the official guidance for aircraft construction and
repair. If covers everything, from wood, to metal, to
hardware, to fabric, to electrical work, and far
beyond. It provides techniques, and it provides
standards. If you follow AC43.13, no FAA inspector or
Designee will object to how your airplane is constructed.
1 June 2018
26 May 2018: