Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

YIPPEE: Evolution Of A Thoroughbred

Nearly a quarter of a century in gestation, the LoPresti Fury flies into the 21st century full of promise

Roy LoPresti was one of those people who should have been allowed to live forever. I was proud to call Roy a friend and mentor, the smartest man I ever met on the subject of little airplanes.

LoPresti could have written Encyclopaedia Britannica's chapter on aerodynamics, but he probably wouldn't have bothered, as Roy's grasp of the laws of flying was far beyond conventional wisdom. He thought so far outside the box, he didn't even know there was one. He seemed to have a natural instinct for what works and what doesn't. Sadly, Roy left us six years ago, and the world of aviation became a far smaller place.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Roy's legacy is very much alive in the LoPresti Fury. Wife Peggy and sons Curt, David and Jim have been quietly continuing the LoPresti Fury project from the family's mod business, LoPresti Speed Merchants (, headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla.

The one and only prototype LoPresti Fury has been flying now for 20 years. When it burst upon the scene in the late '80s, the first and only product by the LoPrestis and Piper Aircraft Engineering, the LoPresti Fury was otter-sleek and beautiful, a charismatic aluminum nymph with an elfish demeanor and bumblebee performance.

The airplane was basically a work of art. Aerodynamicist Roger Hoh was called in to help with the design, and Hoh made a number of recommendations to improve what was already a slick, clean machine. Hoh suggested a higher, longer tailwheel to lower the airplane's three-point ground stance for better landing characteristics. He also endorsed stall strips in place of the old wing slots to even the stall. The finished product was outstanding, both in aesthetics and flight characteristics, and it inspired nearly everyone who saw it to say, "I want one."

The LoPresti Fury was dedicated to the premise that personal airplanes can be pure fun, not just intended for transportation. When it premiered at Sun 'n Fun in 1989, the LoPrestis took 131 orders (with deposits) in one week, and eventually, the order backlog rose to more than 500.

Regrettably, LoPresti-Piper, a short-lived coalition between the LoPrestis and then–Piper owner Stuart Millar, wasn't to survive Piper's 1991 bankruptcy. Lots of sky has passed beneath the wing since that introduction, and the LoPresti Fury has only benefited from the delay.

Roy and his sons made a number of notable improvements in the interim. The cowling was totally redesigned for better cooling and reduced drag, something the LoPrestis know quite a bit about. Speed Merchants' cowlings for Mooneys, Pipers and Grumman-Americans are famous for their heat suppression, aerodynamic cleanliness and improved aesthetics.

Labels: Piston Singles

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