Fly Baby Drawings and Nose Art
Most of the time, I deal with
photos. Occasionally I grab my mouse and draw a
Fly Baby to illustrate some point or the other. And,
occasionally, some beautiful Fly Baby artwork just drops in my
That's what this page is all about. You
can see my fun digitally-modified Fly Baby pictures on the Altered States page.
This page is for original artwork that shows...or graces...
the Bowers Fly Baby homebuilt airplane.
There are three basic categories here.
The first, Original Artwork, is for
showing freehand drawings and paintings of Fly Babies at
repose or in action. The second, Nose
Art, is for those Fly Baby owners who proudly display
some sort of artwork...be it comical or serious...on their
aircraft. The third, Miscellaneous,
is for those illustrations that otherwise defy categorization.
Nose Art Poetry Miscellaneous
Merchant of Glenorchy
I've got a friend on Colorado who practices the fine old art of
written communications. No email, no fax, no typewriter,
just old-fashioned US Mail written in what they used to call a
"fine copperplate hand." Bill Brandt's handwriting is a
treasure in itself.
When I got my second or third letter from Bill, I noted that
there was an airplane on the envelope. But it didn't
really register; I just tore open the envelope to read what he
had to say.
When I got done, I folded the letter to return it to the
envelope. Then I saw it. That "little airplane
sketch" I'd casually noted on the cover was a watercolor
painting. Of my own Fly Baby, Moonraker, flying over
a fog-shrouded forested hilltop.
Needless to say, I darn near flipped. I can't draw a
straight line with a ruler. Any drawing I
do, I do it on the computer, where I can easily reposition lines
and redo things. But Bill had made a freehand drawing of
my airplane and added watercolors, freehand, on a business-sized
With Bill's permission, I've reproduced the images
below. Keep in mind that this is an enlarged
version of the drawing The actual airplane on the envelope
is less than two inches (5 cm) across. Unfortunately, the
scanner loses some of the fine detail, but I think it's still
This one is the Fly Baby prototype, N500F. His letter says,
'OK, I messed up royally...it's a mixture!", because the
perspective on the tail is different from the rest of the
airplane. But it's still got the same class as the first
one. Again, the actual image is on an envelope, with the
airplane just a couple of inches across.
Sampson's 'Baby at Brodhead
The is the Fly Baby build by Ed Sampson of Bellevue,
Minnesota. It's shown on the grounds of the airport at
Brodhead Wisconsin, home of the annual Pietenpol fly-in.
Over 30 years ago, Tom Staples commissioned Colin Pattle to
paint a picture of his Fly Baby. It's a stunner!
A California artist, Leslie Allen, had been searching
online for a historic barnstorming biplane for a landscape
she was painting for a contest. Couldn't find the right
image of a Jenny, Waco, etc, but she found a picture of Al
Hatz' biplane and that worked fine.
The landscape is a cattle ranch in western Marin County,
that runs downslope almost to Tomales Bay, just north of
the small town of Pt. Reyes Station. A local
landmark, Black Mountain, is at the top.
All right, I get it: This is not "artwork" as in a
painting, it is a photograph. But you have to
admit... it's a real stunning photograph.
Brian Sharpe started online aviation collectables business called
the Merchant of
Glenorchy. One of his products is a silk aviator
scarf. He was looking for a good photo of one being worn in
flight when he found one of Bob Grimstead's
photos on the Fly Baby scarves
web page. With Bob's permission, Brian's son turned the photo
into an art deco-like poster.
I'm a real fan of the old-time "Nose Art" on aircraft. It's a
phenomenon mostly associated with warbirds, but civilian pilots have
been putting mascots, slogans, or cartoons on their planes for
nearly as long. Whenever I go to a Fly-In, I end up taking
LOTS of pictures of homebuilts with nose art.
I've got nose art on my Fly Baby, and I'm trying to encourage
other Fly Baby owners to add some, as well. If you've got
artwork on your Fly Baby, email
me. I'd love to add pictures of it to this web
page. I'll also be happy to include photos of any
names applied to Fly Babies....
Jeff bought his airplane
in late 2003. Like most Fly Baby owners, he fell in love with
it. Unlike most Fly Baby owners, he took the unusual step of
writing an article about his airplane...which was published in both
SOUTHERN AVIATOR and GENERAL AVIATION NEWS magazine...but he put
some original nose art on his airplane, too. He gave some
ideas to an artist friend of his, Pat
Moriarity, and here's the result:
Jeff Patnaude, Artwork by Pat Moriarity
Jeff and Pat gave us permission to have flying jacket patches
made... see the For Sale page.
Pat receives a 50-cent royalty on each patch.
As you can probably guess from the above writeup, I just had to put
a bit of nose art on my airplane. When I bought the plane, it
had two cut-out greeting cards glued into the painted circles on
either side of the forward fuselage. The greeting cards
reproduced one of Gary Larson's "The Far Side" cartoons...the one
with two airline pilots sitting on the back of an enormous baby
lying a runway, with a control tower in the background. One of
the pilots is saying "Magnetos...check! Radios...Check!
OK, let's get this baby off the ground...."
I had planned to add the name "Moonraker" to my plane, and did
some sketching of some appropriate
nose art to go along with the name. But then, I
started taking the plane to Fly-Ins. I noticed a lot of
parents bringing their toddlers up to the nose of the airplane,
showing them the cartoon, and saying, "Look, there's a baby on the
I got to liking that. So...I kept the Far Side cartoons.
But a year or so later, I had a problem. The previous owner
had glued the images to the plane. The glue had turned
loose, and one of the drawings was long gone. The other had
been in the sun and weather too long, and was greatly faded.
It was time to replace the artwork.
Instead of finding two new greeting cards, I decided to try
convert the one existing drawing to a digital drawing. That
let me "heavy-up" the lines, and add some bolder color. It
also let me delete one of the two airline pilots on the
Baby...after all, it's a single-seat airplane. Instead of
retaining the runway and control tower, I decided to depict the
Baby in flight...all it took was the elimination of the
background, and a bit of a tilt to suggest motion. Here's
Photo by Ed Wischmeyer, Main artwork taken from Gary Larson
Rennate Reeves is South African, and recently completed her Lycoming
O-235-powered machine. I
get a kick out of the name she applied to her airplane...
Photo by Doug Reeves
There have been a couple of folks
who have sent some nice Fly Baby-related poem, over the years.
- Wendell Davenport is a dedicated Fly Baby pilot. A
couple of years back, he figured age had finally caught up
with him and it was time to sell his beloved Fly Baby.
But he missed it so much that a year or so later, he bought
another one. A POEM FOR OLD
TAIL DRAGGER PILOTS helps to explain why....
- Robert Gellock's friend Lowell Holschwandner built himself
a Fly Baby over a four-year period, because HE WANTED TO FLY.
A few years back, we had a competition for a logo for the Fly Baby
40th anniversary. Jean-Pierre submitted this head-on
caricature of the Fly Baby. With my lack of artistic ability,
I really appreciate someone like Jean-Pierre who can capture
the "essence" of an object. He makes the plane look like fun,
while emphasizing some of its most prominent features.
Ron's Baggage Door
When I bought my airplane, I converted the original-style narrow baggage door
to the full-width door. I used an piece of 1/4" oak plywood
for the door..
A couple of years ago, I realized the panel could be used as a
sort of "nose art" display...the baggage door was visible to
anyone standing by the cockpit, and since it normally was under
the cockpit cover, it didn't need to be done with
weather-resistant paper or ink.
I ended up making a new door...this one a sandwich of 1/8"
plywood and 1/8" Lexan. I design the artwork on the
computer, then print it out on my standard ink-jet printer (using
banner paper...the image needs to be about 20 inches wide by six
inches high). I separate the Lexan from the front of the
plywood, slip the printout inside, poke holes for the brass bolts
that hold the ply and Lexan together, then bolt the unit back
together. A quick cut around the edge with an Exacto knife
trims off the excess, and a nice looking graphic is left.
I've gotten into the habit of coming up with a new image every
couple of years. This is the first one, a bogus "Pinball Machine
Backplane." Some of the others:
Ken Gratton Drawings
Everybody takes pictures of building their homebuilt airplane.
However, over in Australia, Mick English's friend Ken Gratton drew
some sketches of the final stages of Mick's airplane. Mick
took some pictures of Ken's drawing pad, and posted the
pictures. What looks like smudging is just an artifact of some
adjustments I made to make them a bit darker to bring out the