Across the Continent in a Homebuilt

The Air & Space/Smithsonian article at the link below is a mini-version of “The Propeller Under the Bed.” The article describes Arnold’s record, along with the previous records set by Juhani Heinonen, Ed Lesher, and Gary Hertzler.

Click here to read the article: http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/across-continent-homebuilt-distance-180957787/

The print version of the magazine should be available in stores next week!

E-1 World Records Certified!

Here’s a picture of the overall route that Arnold flew:

14_Record Route_comp

The stair-step line is his return trip to Harvey Field — he made several stops along the way!

In the fall of 2010, the NAA certified Arnold’s distance as a U.S. record, and then the FAI certified it as a world record.

Click here for an article in the EAA’s Sport Aviation about the flight!

Arnold Ebneter and Gary Hertzler to be Featured at AirVenture

If you’re going to AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer, please join us on Friday, August 1, 1000-1145, at the Forum 2 tent for a “World Record Holders Chat” that will feature Arnold along with Gary Hertzler. Gary is the current world record holder for the C-1a closed-course distance record, and he previously held the C-1a straight-line distance world record that Arnold and the E-1 currently hold.

Here is a link to the website for more information about the forum: http://www.eaa.org/eaa/event/World_Record_Holders_Chat?id=184C559A6B8544F48ACBC7049C340336

Both Arnold and Gary will provide short presentations on their respective flights, and then I’ll moderate a discussion in a question and answer format that will include plenty of questions from the audience. The presentation is sure to be both informative and entertaining!

The World’s First Aviation Record: 722 feet at a blazing 26 MPH!

Alberto Santos-Dumont, a wealthy Brazilian coffee heir, set the first official aviation world record in 1906, three years after the Wright Brothers took their inaugural flight. In 1905, even though most airplanes could barely get off the ground, let alone sustain any sort of forward momentum for very long, aviation visionaries founded the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or FAI, with the stated purpose “to regulate the various aviation meetings and advance the science and sport of Aeronautics.”

Santos-Dumant made his European aeronautical debut in 1901, when he flew a dirigible around the Eiffel tower; on September 13, 1905, he became the first person to fly an airplane in Europe. On November 12, 1906, still in Paris, Santos-Dumant took off in a craft of his own design, the 14-bis, climbed to a lofty fifteen feet above the ground and flew across a field for a distance a little longer than a city block.

Here’s a picture of the airplane.

20130117_800px-Santos_-_Nov12_1906

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

He claimed he could have flown farther, but landed early because he feared his propellers might injure the boisterous crowd that cheered him on. Because the FAI had observers present, they recognized his distance of 722 feet in 21 seconds as the first-ever aviation world record. At 26 miles per hour, the record paled when compared to the land vehicle record at the time, 128 miles per hour.

In 1994, the FAI established the Santos-Dumont Gold Airship Award in honor of the aviator’s many accomplishments.

Streamlining the E-1

E-1 Wheel Pant

The E-1’s Innovative Wheel Pants
(Arnold Ebneter Personal Collection)

After doing some tests, Arnold found that he needed to coax a few more miles per gallon out of the E-1, so he decided to streamline the landing gear.

Reasoning that most of the drag came from the turbulent flow behind each wheel and tire, he decided to cover just the backs of those parts, fashioning two wheel pants that looked like little flat footballs. When he was finished, the simple solution looked a bit odd, but it worked.

 

The Vari-Eze and Another World Record

The 1975 Fly-In at Oshkosh took place just a few weeks after Lesher’s world distance record, and Burt Rutan’s new Vari-Eze was the star of the show. Hearts pounded and jaws dropped as delirious pilots proclaimed, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been waiting for!”

Pilots liked the BD-5, but the Vari-Eze had the two seats desired by many builders and was said to be capable of flying non-stop from California to Illinois for only $30 in fuel. Rutan sold plans for the airplane from his company, Rutan Aircraft Factory.

However, the Vari-Eze didn’t just show up at Oshkosh — it showed off its stuff that week with a new world record for distance over a closed course set by older brother Dick Rutan. For a closed course record, the pilot flies several circuits over a fixed set of points on the ground, landing back at the point of departure – similar to running laps around a racetrack. Dick, a major in the Air Force at the time, required two attempts to break the record – the engine blew up on the first try and he made an emergency landing in Green Bay.

Resourceful helpers back at Oshkosh scrounged a VW engine from another engine, slapped it onto the Vari-Eze, and Dick tried again two days later. This time he made it, breaking the previous closed-course record set by Lesher in his Teal by more than 83 miles. However, the absolute distance set by Lesher on July 2 still stood, and it would be another nine years before that record fell, to another Vari-Eze. In 1986, Dick Rutan, along with co-pilot Jeanna Yeager, set an even bigger record – they were the first to fly any aircraft non-stop around the world, unrefueled, in yet another of Burt’s designs, the Voyager.

In the early 1980s, a pilot named Gary Hertzler tinkered with the Vari-Eze design by redesigning the exhaust system, changing the inlet to the engine, adding a special propeller, and coating the airplane with exceptionally smooth paint. Beginning in 1982, Hertzler won an award for fuel efficiency three years in a row. Just a few weeks after his third win in June 1984, Hertzler flew non-stop from Mojave, California to Martinsburg, West Virginia, for a distance of 2,221 miles, nearly 500 miles further than the original record Arnold had planned to beat.

Click here for pictures and more information about the Vari-Eze.

Why Set Aviation Records?

I’m going to muse from time to time about why people set aviation records (or any records, for that matter) in the first place. For the first post on this topic, I’m going to refer you to a post I just made on my sister blog, “Competitive Aviation.” It’s at http://www.competitiveaviation.com. Once I discuss some basics about record-setting, I’ll have some later discussions about Arnold’s record specifically.

By the way, I have also been having problems with my subscriber settings, so the email notifications have not been going out for about a month now. I think I have that problem fixed or am close to fixing it. I this current notification doesn’t go out, I have a couple of more things to try, like perhaps hiring a webmaster!

About the Website Title


The title for this website and soon-to-be-book was inspired by Arnold’s wife Colleen (and my mother).

In 1970, while stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, Arnold bought a propeller, along with a 65 horsepower Lycoming engine, for $250 from a second lieutenant also stationed at Eglin. Arnold planned to use the propeller on his world-record-setting airplane. He soon decided not to use the engine and sold it, but he kept the propeller (shown below).

theprop

Arnold needed a place to store the propeller that would keep it away from the humidity and salt air of Northwest Florida. Since he didn’t have a garage, he convinced Colleen to store the propeller under their bed, where it remained for many years, occasionally interrupted by five local and cross-country moves. Sometime in the late 1980s, the propeller somehow graduated to a corner of their dining room, creating quite a conversation piece.

Colleen always joked that if Arnold ever finally got around to building and flying his airplane, she would write a book called, “The Propeller Under the Bed.” However, due to her untimely death in 1999, she was unable to realize her own dream, so I am here to see it through.

Welcome to The Propeller Under the Bed!




On July 25, 2010, 82-year-old Arnold Ebneter took off from Everett, Washington and flew his small airplane more than 2300 miles across the United States to set a world distance record for aircraft weighing 500 kilograms. His non-stop flight took about eighteen hours, but the design, construction, testing, and pre-flight preparation encompassed fifty years. Although most significant aviation world records in modern times are set with the help of large teams of people and corporate sponsorships, Ebneter did everything on his own. He designed the airplane in 1960 as a project to finish his college degree, collected parts for more than thirty years, built the airplane for ten years in his garage, and finally tested and refined the design for five years before the airplane was ready to set the record.

What drove Ebneter to set a world record in the first place, especially one that requires sitting in a cramped cockpit for more than eighteen hours straight? And how was he able to hold onto his youthful dream for decades despite the realities of a full life that included work, family commitments, and other life events?

My name is Eileen Bjorkman, and I am one of Arnold’s daughters, and also a pilot. I will offer answers to these questions through this website and a book I am writing titled “The Propeller Under the Bed: A Pilot’s Fifty Year Pursuit of an Aviation World Record.”

Written in non-technical jargon, the book will chronicle Arnold’s flying adventures and misadventures as he crisscrossed the United States and the world flying research balloons in Minnesota and New Mexico, fighter airplanes in Vietnam, a cargo airplane carrying fish in Alaska, and a thunderstorm research airplane in New Mexico before finally settling down to build and fly his record setting airplane, the E-1. Along the way lay tales of loss, hope, resiliency, creativity, and finally, the satisfaction of fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Please check back often! As I write the book, I will post excerpts from the book, photos, and content that is interesting but won’t be included in the book. Please e-mail me at eabjorkman@aol.com if you have any feedback or suggestions for content.