Out in the Breezy
With little fanfare (and less structure), the Breezy homebuilt spreads the message: Flying is fun.
- By Jason Paur
- Air & Space magazine, January 2008
(Page 2 of 3)
In addition to all being pilots, Liposky was an engineer, Roloff was an aircraft inspector, and Unger was an expert welder who had been a helicopter mechanic in the Army. The three figured they had the skills to design and build an airplane on their own.
After some discussions, the trio built a small wire model; then, without any written plans, they started to construct the airplane in the company hangar at Midway. They bought 4130 steel aircraft tubing, just a few pieces at a time, because they never really planned out how much they would need. A friend at the airport gave them a deal on a pair of wings off a wrecked Piper PA-12; many of the parts were donated by friends, or literally scrounged from the trash, including a nose-wheel fork from a Cessna 150.
Their two big purchases were a brand-new 90-horsepower Continental engine for $1,700, and $800 for a radio, which brought the total cost of the airplane to $3,500. After six months of welding and cobbling together parts, the team had a prototype ready. Roloff was chosen to make the first flight, based on the fact that he had had his instructor rating the longest. “Two weeks ahead of time we gave him his wake,” Unger says about the party at a local bowling alley. On August 7, 1964, the first flight went flawlessly, with Roloff taking off from Lansing Airport in Michigan. The three took the winter off, then resumed testing the following year. The Breezy was on its way to that first EAA airshow and many others throughout the upper Midwest. Once, when Roloff stopped for gas during an early test flight, the airport manager took a long look at the unusual aircraft and remarked, “A little breezy, ain’t it?” The name stuck.
When Unger returned home after that first airshow, there was a stack of letters at his house from people asking for brochures and plans. “We never thought anybody would want to ride on it, let alone build one,” he says. “We had no plans; we built it out of our heads.”
After the rush of requests, the three started to reverse-engineer the Breezy, carefully measuring the original in order to develop a set of plans. One American Airlines captain was so eager to build one that he often stopped by the hangar to help; he ended up with the first set of plans, and the second Breezy ever built.
Since 1965, more than 1,000 sets of plans have been sold. Potential builders “don’t know what they’re up against, and I warn each one of them,” says Unger. “I’ll tell them, ‘Listen, when you get this thing finished, everywhere you go and stop for fuel, they’re going to ask for rides.’
“I love it, but I want them to know what’s going to happen,” he adds, grinning.
Despite its appearance, the Breezy is not an ultralight. Because of its weight, fuel capacity, and top speed, it falls into the experimental category, like many homebuilt airplanes, and requires registration with the FAA and a pilot’s license to fly. And many pilots who have flown a Breezy say that in addition to being fun to fly, the aircraft, because of its open fuselage, is one of the easiest.
Matt Hlavac (pronounced le-VACK) flies a Breezy in the San Diego area. Because the airplane flies so slowly (90 mph is fast for a Breezy; most cruise at 60 to 70 mph) and has very little fuselage, Hlavac says it can be forgiving in challenging conditions. “I’m never thinking in the back of my mind, Oh boy, I’ve got a big crosswind, it’s going to be a handful to land.”