In October of 1973, when everyone else was busy preparing for the oncoming winter, I took my vacation. This was to be the first trip west of Ontario for my wife and I. We purchased airline tickets from Halifax to Calgary and we were off.
Once in Calgary, we were warmly welcomed by my sister-in-law and her husband. During the next few days we were shown some of the finest sights of the Province. They then offered us the use of their car, which I gratefully accepted. It must have been at this time my wife realized my ulterior motive for taking the trip ... as I was stopping at every small airport like a dog at fire hydrants.
At that time I was looking for every Maranda owner/ builder I could seek. After about three weeks and many Marandas later, it was time to head down east with a stopover at Montreal. There I casually picked up a Mechanix Illustrated magazine and lo and behold I saw before my eyes a 170 mph aircraft I could build for only $495.00, engine included. Imagine that!
After mulling over the article for awhile, I sent for the plans. They cost a mere twenty bucks ... so what's to lose?
Just before Christmas '73, I received a packet from Ken Rand in California -- plans for the Styrofoam KR-1. Now, time to study. Christmas and New Years brought all kinds of goodies and, also, saw the ordering of Sitka spruce and aircraft birch plywood from British Columbia. While waiting for this order, local materials, such as Styrofoam, glue, epoxy and Dynel, wheels and some instruments were gathered.
With some spare time before the wood came, I purchased a rebuildable VW block, new pistons, bearings and gaskets, had the crankshaft tapered and a prop hub made and then assembled the engine. The windy month of March '74 had arrived along with my order of Sitka and plywood -- just in nice time.
First things first: I took the rough lumber and had it all sized and planed. This worked out very nicely as from here on the plane went together more like a kit.
All main spars and box spars were made up and glued, but leaving one side of the box spar open for inspection. Next came the fuselage sides. The top and bottom stringers, cross bracing and corner gussets were set up and glued in one operation and, when dry, had the plywood sheet glued on.
After a second side was made up, spreaders were put between the two sides. This is the moment that you need that flat table that everyone builds an aircraft on, because when the two sides are in position, the vertical fin bar must be installed and everything glued. This must be kept level, square and plumbed or the fuselage will be twisted and the stabilizer and rudder will have a list.
After scarfing and gluing the ply on the bottom, it appears that one has a half of a 24 foot canoe as it has not yet taken the appearance of an airplane.
The time had then arrived to put the already made wing spars through the fuselage. The elevator and horizontal spars were also put in place. The landing gear and retract mechanism was bolted to the main spar then the serious job of installing pulleys, bell cranks and cables began. At this point in construction things seemed to slow down quite a bit as the KR-1 plans called for a right side mounted control stick. The cable tension for elevator and aileron could not be maintained, so I decided, after several attempts, to install a center mounted stick, which worked out very well.
After several intense days of rigging, it was time to start applying Styrofoam. This material is very easy to work with. I formed the whole outer wing section in one operation. After gluing in the required foam blocks, I took a 6 foot nichrome wire and cut the unwanted foam from the wing section, leaving a very small amount of sanding to be done to the foam. Once I was satisfied with the shape, the Dynel fabric and epoxy resin were applied.
Late in construction, I found the easiest method of smoothing the surface of the hardened epoxy was using a paint scraper as a sanding disc seemed to generate heat, softening the surface and clogging the sanding disc.
The wings being near completion (and the retraction gear having been tried several times), one could visualize, without too much trouble, the fetus of an airplane.
At about this point one can all but throw away the original style KR-1 plans, for it is from this point that he must use his own imagination as to the shape the whole aircraft will take. The upper and lower cowlings, gas tank, turtle deck, canopy location and horizontal stabilizer are matters of individual taste.
The firewall was installed and the motor mounted -- then the job of placing the many pieces of Styrofoam from spinner to tail was underway. I would estimate that enough coffee was consumed during this period to float the "Candy Apple" (a concrete sailing motor ship).
Finally, after a lot of shaving, cutting, gluing, sanding ... and more coffee ... the Styrofoam was ready for the Dynel/epoxy cover. All that was left then was the tedious job of scraping and sanding the hardened epoxy. "Boy, it looks like an airplane to me!"
Next came the instruments which I had scrounged over the past 12 or 14 months, a seat and some rudder pedals. Things were nearing completion.
The engine was run up -- a new Posa injector carb had been purchased. Canopy and cowl fasteners were made, plus the many little final touches that must be accomplished before the paint job. Spot putty and White Lightning were the order of the day to fill in pin holes and low spots -- then still more sanding before the painting began. Finally, four coats of white acrylic enamel were sprayed on and a dash of red to the sides ...just in time to be hauled out of the garage and displayed on my daughter's first birthday -- hence, the name "Tammy Owen" on the nose cowl. August 9, 1975 was a bright, sunny day and the little craft really sparkled there on my front lawn. From conception to birth had taken 18 months and about 2,0000 hours of actual construction time. For the following week I couldn't get my shirt buttoned over my chest! I did come down to earth during the evenings as I finalized the weight and balance, C of R and Flight Permit sheets.
When the weekend came, it was off to the Waterville Airport with the KR-1 on a snowmobile trailer and the car full of odds and ends. After final assembly
I was ready for some taxi tests, after which the aircraft was towed to Stanley for a static display at the Labor Day Fly-In. Then it was back to Waterville where the final inspection was made by M.O.T.
One morning about two weeks after inspection, conditions seemed right for a test flight. The 25 mile trip from home to the airport was a nervous one, butterflies were prevalent as I made my walk around. Darn it, they were still there as I did a run-up and taxied toward the active runway. A right turn to 28, line up, throttle forward ... butterflies gone ... tail up and after a short run down the strip, "We're airborne -- shove over, Red
My "Tammy Owen" has stirred up an unusual amount of interest in the area among aviation enthusiasts as well as the general public. This was the first registered and flying KR-1 east of Montreal (maybe the first in Canada?). I would also say it is the smallest (physically), lightest and, pound per pound, fastest aircraft in the area. I would invite questions or letters from other KR builders.
For performance data, regretfully at this time, I can only give approximates, due to problems I encountered with the first prop I had on the aircraft. With it, I had a fantastically short take-off roll (about 200 feet at 4400 rpm!), but was also short on cruise (110 mph IAS at 3800 rpm). I found the tip speed on this 52 inch long prop to be much too high, leading to tip flutter. I then set out to carve my own prop out of birch laminate. The result is a 52" x 44" prop which works very well. Take-off roll is about 350 feet at 3200 rpm and a cruise of 135 mph at 2800 rpm.
To date (at the end of the 1975 flying season) I have only about 5 hours on the aircraft, but as the gravel runway dries here I know I will have many enjoyable flying hours.