First Flight of Arnold Ebneter’s E-1

Arnold and the E-1 took off for the first time at 12:06 p.m. on July 9, 2005. Here’s the takeoff video:

Arnold circled the airport, climbing higher and higher until we could barely see him. After checking out engine temperatures, doing some turns and checking out the landing configuration at altitude, he was ready to come back and do the hard part – landing.

He aimed for the grass runway, figuring it would make for a shorter landing, but the E-1 didn’t want to stop flying – half way down the runway, the airplane was still too fast to land, so he added power and climbed back up to the traffic pattern for another try. The second approach was better and he touched down about one-third of the way down the runway, but there were still some problems. Here’s the video:


Another World Record?

Nearly a year ago, on October 5, 2012, Arnold attempted to set another world record in the E-1. Some of you may have read about this in the EAA news. This record was for fuel efficiency.

When Arnold set the world distance record in the E-1 in 2010, his engine wasn’t really optimized for the job. At the time, his engine didn’t have a manual mixture control on it, so the engine consumed more fuel than it really needed. His fuel efficiency was around 36 nautical miles per gallon, which was enough to set the world record (I’ll talk more in later posts about how he achieved the efficiency he needed for the world record).

After setting the record, Arnold decided to tinker some more with the engine to see if he could make it better. He had optimized just about everything else on the airplane, such as fairings and the exhaust system, but other than swapping out carburetors, he had left the engine untouched. He bought an after-market mixture control for the engine and, after installing it, found that he should be able to exceed the old record of 42.68 nautical miles per gallon.

This flight didn’t require anywhere near the length of the distance flight — he only had to fly for about six hours, compared to more than eighteen, and he completed the entire flight within Washington State. When he landed, he had set an unofficial record of 48.95 nautical miles per gallon, which he submitted to FAI for verification. Unfortunately, the GPS portion failed in both of the barographs he carried to verify his altitude and location, and the FAI didn’t accept the record.

Arnold would like to make the record official, so he’s planning to try again. He bought another barograph that he hopes will be more reliable (it was also cheaper). Here’s a picture:


It’s hard to believe that this tiny thing (about 1-1/2 by 2 inches) holds a complete barograph for both altitude and position. The barographs that Arnold used in his ballooning days were about the size of a suitcase, and the only thing they measured was altitude; there was no provision for position.

Arnold has been busy the past couple of weeks installing the new barograph on the E-1 and making sure it’s working right. I’ll let you know when he tries again for the record!

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).


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 if you have any feedback or suggestions for content.