First, let me say that I am not affiliated in any way, other than by friendship rising from the Flitzer, to Flitzer-Aero or Lynn Williams. I have no monetary interest in the Flitzer. I simply found a picture of the Flitzer on the internet several years ago and fell in love with the little aeroplane. I'm going to make the assumption that you've already made the decision that an open-cockpit biplane is the plane for you. Logic cannot justify coming to that conclusion, so I have to assume that nostalgia and an appreciation for simple, beautiful aircraft have brought you to this page.
There are many different small homebuilt biplanes available, either in kit or plans form. Some may be simpler to build than the Flitzer, some are replicas of famous aircraft. To me, what separates Lynn Williamsí Flitzer series from anything else on the market is that it is its own airplane. Itís not a replica of anything. It's not a compromise. Most replicas include a number of compromises.
Some may compromise looks for the sake of utilizing a decent engine. While I'm sure they are plenty fun to fly, there's something just "wrong" about a flat engine mounted in a round cowling. I think there's a reason why that sounds strangely close to the old "square peg, round hole" adage. The Flitzer was designed around a popular, flat (opposed) engine (the VW) and utilizes that layout in a purposeful way to create just the right look, at least to my eye. I guess another way to put it is "form follows function."
For those that donít care for the VW, don't worry. The Z-3 "Super Flitzer" is being designed to accommodate a Corvair engine or a more traditional opposed 4-cylinder aircraft engine. For those with a passion for radials and a sufficient bank account, the Stummelflitzer utilizes the gorgeous Rotec radial engine. For those with a need or desire to bring along a passenger, The Z-2 two-seat Flitzer will do the job. Lynn is taking great care to preserve the visual balance of the aircraft in these variations, while accommodating the needs and desires of the Flitzer fans.
Some replicas may compromise flying characteristics for the sake of accurate looks. Although the Flitzer is not a replica of any particular plane, it was designed with the same philosophy and style of the aircraft of the early '20s. Lynn has done his best to replicate the looks, while at the same time simplifying wherever possible to reduce build time. The Flitzer simply oozes with the character of aircraft of that era. However, it has a number of advantages over those original planes.
First, we know a lot more about aerodynamics than did the designers of that era. Lynn Williams has gone to great lengths to make the Flitzer as vice-free as possible. According to flight reports, itís incredibly agile, while safe and predictable to fly. Designed in the U.K. where the Popular Flying Association (PFA) is the ruling authority, homebuilt aircraft there are required to undergo flight testing that is not required in most other countries, including the U.S. It has been demonstrated to have safe flying characteristics to the satisfaction of the PFA. Few other homebuilt biplanes available today can make that claim.
Second, the PFA also has strict regulations regarding the structural soundness of any aircraft designs marketed in the U.K. They are required to have satisfactorily undergone finite element analysis. The Z-1 was stressed by the highly competent and world-renowned Ray Hilborne, the aknowledged expert in Europe on wooden aeroplane structures. It was he who designed the full-size Spitfire built and flown by Clive Du Cros, the Supermarine S.5 Schneider Seaplane replica which is now being restored after a fatal crash, as well as numerous aeroplanes for the films "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines", "Blue Max", the Phillips Speed Twin, etc.
Gary Steadman of Flitzer-Aero did the analysis for the Z-1R, Z-1S and Goblin. I have personally met Gary Steadman. After discussions with him, I am thoroughly convinced that the Flitzer is more than soundly designed and that Gary knew what he was talking about when he came to that conclusion, too.
Third, we have e-mail and the internet. The Flitzer is supported by the Flitzer-Builders Yahoo group, which currently (February 2008) consists of over 400 subscribers, including Lynn Williams. Itís a rare occasion when a question goes unanswered for more than 24 hours. In this web site, I have attempted to organized the best of the information exchanged into an easy to use reference source.
Fourth, materials availability. For European builders, list member and veteran builder Dudley Pattison offers aircraft quality plywood at competitive prices. We also have list members that travel internationally and have been instrumental in supplying some materials at much better prices than may have been available from local suppliers. Rupert and Ian Wasey offer a beautiful brake kit, as well as water jet-cut metal fitting kits.
Fifth, the quality of the plans. I have had a set of Flitzer plans myself. I also have plans for a couple of other designs. There is no comparison. In addition to basic profile views, the Flitzer plans include clear perspective views of assemblies, explicit instructions, and even the fictional "history" of the Flitzer design. They are nothing short of a work of art and absolutely put the others to shame. Although they donít contain explicit, 1-2-3, step-by-step instructions, when studied in full, the plans create a clear picture of whatís to be done.
For those of more generous stature, the Flitzer actually comes in two widths, or "sizes", if you will. The Z-21Aís fuselage is 2 inches wider than the original Z-21. By all accounts, the Flitzer will accommodate all but the largest of pilots.
Although interest in the Flitzer has taken a number of years to build momentum, several plans-built examples have now reached completion, with rave testimonies from their builders. I have long predicted that as soon as the first Flitzer shows up at Oshkosh or Sun-N-Fun, there will be an explosion of interest in the Flitzer. Thatís an Americanís perspective, mind you. The Flitzer has already appeared at several PFA rallies. As a result there are several examples under construction in Europe.
For those of you sitting on the fence, I hope my little essay will push you in the right direction. Iíd love to see a whole row of Flitzers at Oshkosh some day. Although life circumstances prevent the construction of my own Flitzer to commence at this time, I do intend to have a Flitzer of my own on that row.
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