The EZ Secret Society

After getting the plans in 1976, I actually touch an EZ for the first time in the late 1980s at the Kerrville, Texas Southwest Regional EAA fly-in. I’m parking after the 4am, six hour drive and spot a dozen shark fins across the fence.

Finally there are some EZs at a fly-in! They’re all over the magazine stands and there are rumors of brief sightings or reports of one being built somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find them.

I check out the planes and walk from group to group, hoping to catch some golden nuggets of EZ lore. But mostly I hear them poke in the cockpit at a glitzy gadget or two and then ask about family stuff.

They aren’t ignoring the rest of us on purpose. They are just really busy catching up on what everyone has been doing since the last fly-in. That’s when it dawns on me why it is so hard to find them-- they must hold their own secret ez fly-ins!

To my uninitiated eyes there are three groups of pilots in this still-early EZ era. The VariEze guys are like sports car drivers, descriptively slashing and jabbing their hands in formation through the air a little faster than the others. The LongEZ guys have a Cadillac swagger, acting as if they would like to demonstrate their self closing trunk if they had one. And there is a distinct third group of obviously smarter folks that have bought someone else’s handiwork.

I have been listening in on a group of VariEze guys and their somewhat secret language for a couple of minutes and one of them sticks out his hand and asks “Do I know you?”

I say “You do now. Is this your VariEze?” He says “Yes…” and there is a pause, and then he says “Hop in if you want.” Somehow he has read my mind!

A small crowd gathers around as he deftly opens the canopy with a subtle release. He maneuvers carefully and lifts the airframe to level and positions his knee just so under the fuselage and cranks the nose strut down and holds the canard for me, seemingly not caring that he is on hallowed ground and conducting a sacred ritual right in front of me a bunch of other unclean heathens also watching the abnormal proceedings.

I fake knowing the rites and twist into what I hope is close to the accepted position with a toehold mostly on the footplate and launch up and over with both feet inside, expecting my desecration of the leather seats to bring down the wrath of whatever gargoyle watches over these alien craft. He guides me in the placement of hands and feet and finally we get both legs into and under the instrument panel. He proves his telepathic talent again by ceremoniously lowering the canopy over me.

Top Gun and Star Wars all in one snap of the canopy catch.

Hands fall in place on the throttle and stick and we’re doing 300 knots just sitting here. So this is what it really looks like in here. Yeah, like my plans! I like that kind of knob but mine is going to be different here…

His buddies distract him again for a few minutes and I enjoy working up a good greenhouse glow while ignoring his polite offers to open the canopy. When the canopy lifts and the cool air rushes in he takes my camera and steps back and snaps a picture. Priceless.

I imagine he flew home that day wrapped in his own world and pressures, pretty much oblivious to the absolutely astounding life he is living (to the rest of us); that he had conquered life’s foes and demonstrated his superhuman ability to have battled and risen victorious to this umpteenth level of aerodynamic nirvana.

How many of us don’t appreciate where we are? We sit alone in the dark, staring, maybe glaring at that raw unfinished someday escape-craft, a little frustrated, maybe stuck… like our friend above, also totally unaware how many guys and a few gals would be in hog heaven just to be where we are—
with experienced hands
saving a hand-crafted fiberglass bookend
our project underway
a seasoned feel for flox and cornertapes
a stained epoxy balance
foam stacked around
a special nosed-down picture
a quiet knowing belonging at the fly-ins
a story or two
a mistake or two
a favorite gizmo brochure picture taped on the panel
some dusty twenty-five year old football wheelpants
a dozen paint scheme pictures, one kept clean in a special place
and maybe a left winglet or two hanging on the wall
… just enough to put us over into a different, secret world.

Enjoy the whole ride.

Bill James, Fort Worth VariEze
Dues paying Secret Society Member since 1975

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