Don’t Ever Ride In An EZ

It’ll ruin you. You’ll be thinking about it when you go to sleep at night and you’ll be thinking about it when you wake up in the morning. It’ll ruin you good.

My first ride, 1991.
“Oh, you want to go for a ride in my LongEZ? Sure, let’s go!”
I have to pinch myself. Somehow all morning no one had come up with the magic words to gain entrance into the highly prized back seat, although many tried.

The breakfast fly-in at Ennis, east of Dallas had been pretty dull until that alien craft growled overhead and came taxiing past the crowd of onlookers with a black lightning bolt down the side. He had plenty of help getting it in the chocks.

Unbeknownst to me, after the hubbub died down a little my host Bill Greer had sidled over to the owner Geryl Mortinson and informed him that he had brought a new EZ builder to the fly in, and that I had never flown in one. Hope I’m getting Geryl’s name right.

Around noon we were the only ones still there. Geryl must have been waiting for me to ask for a ride. That’s why I was surprised when I asked if he was sure if it was too windy to go for a ride and he said “Oh, you want to go for a ride? - Let’s go!”

Bill Greer had showed up in my driveway a couple of weeks earlier. He had seen my new membership in the Central States Association newsletter and came to look over my project to see how I was doing. He was the first of several CSA visitors in the next few weeks. Wish I had had the presence of mind to document how much time their early offer of experience saved me from then on.

This morning I had driven over to Bill Greer’s Dallas garage to see his project and then go on to a pancake fly-in at Ennis. He was extremely knowledgeable and made sure I was up to speed on plans changes and epoxy transitions and such.

Walking in to his garage was wonderfully overwhelming. His structurally complete pristine pale green VariEze sat in perfect raw unfilled condition with a dazzling 0-200 perched on the back, prop and all. Anywhere you looked was a how-to menagerie on Ezes.

His latest effort was precise detailing of the instrument holes in the panel. The funny part of the visit was how I was trying to examine the fuselage corner tapes, where my main point of interest was at the moment, while he would keep directing my attention back over to the panel holes.

I paid attention to his detailed explanations as best I could, but kept giving in to the irresistible pull back over to the corner tapes… when he would again gingerly draw my focus back over to another detail inside one of the instrument panel holes. Great fun.

I laugh now when I catch myself doing the same thing with a visitor to the hangar. They ask about the nose sitting on the ground or something simple and I go off talking about my latest dalliance with the little hidden catch on the still curing oil cooler remote diffuser thingamabob. Maybe someday I’ll get better at just answering their question rather than chasing my usual scramble of rabbits. But right now it’s a pretty harmless fault that many of us suffer.

Bill and I went back and forth in this tug of war until time to head out for the pancakes. He was patient and a lot of help. I like to stay in touch with Bill and his still unflown project.

As we taxied out Geryl mentioned several details on the plane including the nav and radios and the higher compression engine. Pretty mind expanding stuff for this little ez tadpole. He said Herb Sanders had built it, which came to mean much more to me later after learning more about Herb and meeting him. I hope to stumble across his story in Sport Aviation again soon.

As we approached the end of the taxiway Geryl asked about my flying background. As I answered I remembered the innumerable nights drifting off to sleep imagining what it was someday going to be like to finally grip an Eze into a 45 degree bank and pull back ‘just enough’, wondering how much back stick it would take to hold-in a level turn. In fact I had been imagining that first liftoff for about fifteen years, since first seeing N7EZ on the cover of Air Progress in 1975. Now it’s time.

On takeoff roll the rush was exhilarating, breathtaking- too much to take in. The liftoff view over the strake is forever imprinted. He cranked the nose gear up and banked through the crosswind. Rolling level on downwind I had just started breathing again and the headset crackled “You got her”.

I wiggled the stick and said I got it.

Now what.

The turn came instinctively. A gentle tug to the right and a little back…and a little more… the canard’s slicin’ and we’re grinnin through the turn. Smokin! Just think about it and breathe on the stick a little and you’re doing it!

There was a little turbulence as we raced across below the broken cloud deck. Feedback through the stick transmitted the strength and stiffness of the airframe. The immediate responsiveness communicated that without question this is indeed a whole new type of magic carpet ride.

I later heard folks comment about he limited downward visibility from the back- and realized they were talking about with the wings level… Why would anyone fly with the wings level?

Clear to the right and through a hundred and eighty degrees in no time. Wings level with a little wiggle and a bank left again to 45 degrees and the cool deep green down below swirls around and behind and the blue sky holds up the deck of round full- white on dark grey clouds and the canard pulls us on effortlessly through 360 degrees.

Geryl is busy looking us clear and says the altitude is good and yes I can do it again. Yehaaa. The same magic, just ezier this time. Oh no, now that winglet image is imprinted forever…

That’s it. I’m done. It’s real. I need to get home. Time’s a wasting.

Geryl waddles the LongEZ onto the ground and goes through the nose-over parking ritual for us envious bystanders. I offer for fuel and he declines in a way that I will come to understand later.

Finally I’m back in my car and headin’ home and in the garage and the notebook on the work desk has a new page of things that are keeping me out of the air.

There is a new feeling in the garage now. I tell myself that if I really had to- and really pushed- I could fly in two months. I happily believe that lie and live within its relaxed hope for almost five more years. The guys already flying said “do something on the plane, anything, every day”. I did. Mostly.

Somehow I rationalized through the periods of a week or a month when I didn’t get into the garage, it just didn’t happen. That’s OK if it didn’t work yesterday, today it will. And tomorrow it will again.

Finally it had been working enough to sit in the bullet and make airplane noises. To lift off, just close your eyes…look left for the winglet out there… When I couldn’t get a part, another chapter was opened up and glass cloth was whirling through the air again. Plenty to keep busy with on the structure.

I lied to myself about the plane and time and it worked.
I lied to myself about how I could be more productive at work in less time, and it worked.
I lied to my kids about how smart and great and capable they were. And they believed me- And it worked. Maybe being from Texas helped with the lying.

For those still dreaming, I might brush over a little about how easy it is, but mostly not. I didn’t do things perfect. Nobody does. But it did eventually happen. I have nothing but respect for those that aren’t to the grinning part of the decision to build process, with the parts finally in their garage and new shapes in the dust on the workbench every day. I was once behind them.

I hope for them, and respect their life investment and timing and choice to wait. I waited fifteen years. Not patiently, but I waited.

My second ez ride was at one of the Terry Yake’s fantastic Olatha KC-GIGs. Bill Freeman threw me in back of his no-starter LongEZ, just one of several dozen rides he gave that day. But to me it wasn’t just another ride.

In Bill Greer’s investment of a little time and effort into my project and sharing his; in Geryl’s gracious offer, and in Bill Freeman’s hustling all-business share a ride effort… until we got to the rolls, then he grinned… I saw in them a first glimpse of the payoff of paying to live the EZ dream. It matched mine.

This sharing of their sweat and safetywire-nick-blood and their investment of time, took place within their confines of a professional, deliberate approach to the art of flying, flying an aircraft that just might repay a little more than is expected.

I never had to contact RAF for help. An example of why can be shown in a quick Central States related snapshot- On the day of the FAA inspection two Cozys, including an Oshkosh Grand Champion, taxied up to the hangar in formation and swung around like the Blue Angels. It doesn’t hurt to have Vance Atkinson and Frank Bibbee tell your Inspector, “Yeah, we’ve been checking on this guy along the way…”

Don’t ever ride in an ez.
…It’ll ruin ya.
Bill James, Fort Worth VariEze

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