Hapkido Online

Friday, January 13, 2012

Aviation: My Love Affair with the Volksplane

Fritz Wagoner's beautiful VP-1 in Army colors, Permission Requested.
The first homebuilt airplane I ever saw and flew was an Evans's VP-1 Volksplane.  On my list of airplanes for the next century the Volksplane could very nearly be King and I will tell you why.

First of all It's fun!  It's simple plywood construction is quick and easy.  It quite probably is the easiest wood aircraft to build.  This ease makes building the Volksplane a lot of fun, it's the kind of project you could share with your kids.  Her designer William Samuel Evan's designed her to be easy and affordable to build, those were his first priorities and for this we all owe him a debt of gratitude.  One example of the ease of construction for this plane is that the ribs are plywood and gang-cut which means you can cut out many ribs at once.  This saves a tremendous amount of time and is perfectly sound structurally. 

I can tell you from experience that the Volksplane is also fun to fly.  I can still feel the sensation of wind blowing over the hairs on my arm as I peered out of the windscreen.  I remember the simple joy of watching the fall colors of oaks and maples drift under me in the afternoon sunshine.  A steady bank revealed the glint of sun off the Fabius River as it carved It's way through the forest.  I can still remember the melodic, reassuring sound of the little Volkswagen engine towing us along. In the Volksplane I first knew the magical feeling of open cockpit,  pure, simple, joyful flight.

The Volkspane can be built open cockpit or closed.

Another mark in favor of the Volksplane is the fact that it fly's with an ordinary VW Type 1 Volkswagen beetle engine. These engines are abundant, affordable, and easy to maintain.  They sip fuel so weekend flying is well within the budget of any working person.

Mr. Evan's Designed the VP-1 in 1968 and in the years since it has been a sensation worldwide.  It is possibly the most abundant homebuilt plane in existence.  This means that the Volksplane has a massive builder-pilot community and community is the lifeblood of aviation. In later years folks had asked for a two place version of the Volksplane so one was drawn and built.  It's is known as the VP-2.  The VP-2 with two passengers would benefit from a larger engine than the VP-1 though it has been flown with the same engine.

A VP-2, Permission Requested.

Unfortunately the VP-1 I flew in years ago is no more.  I family friend decided to take it for a spin.  He was a large man in a small plane and he had never flown Volksplane before.  In order to allow for airport traffic he decided to take off from the halfway point on the runway.  This turned out to be unwise.  I was watching from the ground as he was flying in a nose high attitude trying to clear the power lines at the edge of the airport.  He cleared the wires but ended up stalling the Volksplane.  Her right wing stalled first and it dropped and he entered a right descending turn towards a highway cloverleaf.  I would guess he had only achieved about 500 feet of altitude before the stall.  The little plane collided with the ground and broke apart. 

You may be wondering why I would tell you about this crash if I want to impress you about the Volksplane.  The reason I am telling you about the crash is that our family friend made a number of pilot errors and he crashed that plane.  It was no fault of the Volksplane.  In fact her sturdy plywood construction saved my friends life, he walked away from that crash with nothing but a broken toe.  Plenty of pilots have died stalling on takeoff in certified aircraft and this wee construction of wood and cloth saved my friends life.  In spite of her size and humble Volkswagen engine the VP-1 is a rugged, forgiving, and very safe aircraft. 

I have always loved this plane and it is my pleasure to feature it here for you.


Works Cited: