At this year’s AirVenture Oshkosh Fly-In, EAA is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Bowers Fly Baby. It’s not only one of the most successful homebuilts of all time; it also has a close connection with EAA and the organization’s roots.
The Fly Baby is one of the first successful amateur-built planes, and its gentle flying manners and easy construction made it a hit. Created by famed designer and aviation historian extraordinaire Pete Bowers, the Fly Baby is a longtime favorite for its straightforward (if labor-intensive) all-wood construction and easy-flying manners.
It was a winner from the start. In its first year, 1962, the Fly Baby won the EAA’s Best Design trophy. It was a big hit sales-wise, too.
The Fly Baby is an open-cockpit, low-wing monoplane that’s made almost entirely of wood (spruce and plywood) and covered with fabric. It’s powered by a 65 hp Continental or Lycoming engine, and the big fat chord wing is similar in design to that of the Piper J-3 Cub. Building it requires some basic woodworking skills, but it’s doable by a dedicated enthusiast.
Pete Bowers, who died in 2003, was a long-time columnist for General Aviation News, writing hundreds of columns and more than 25 books on aviation, including several on Boeing aircraft. A man of many talents, Bowers designed the Fly Baby starting in the late 50s. It first flew in 1962. Bowers died in 2003, and after a period of dormancy for the little plane, Bowers’ family is once again selling plans for the plane.
The EAA’s recognition of the type is a natural. The organization started out with a heavy focus on homebuilding, owing to Paul Poberezny’s publishing of an article on the Baby Ace homebuilt project in the popular magazine Mechanix Illustrated. Today, we know of EAA as a large organization that’s involved in all aspects of personal aviation with an emphasis on Experimental and sport aircraft of all kinds.
But the Fly Baby and all it means historically and design-wise is an important part of Oshkosh history, and with many dozens of Fly Baby aircraft still taking to the skies world-wide, the plane itself is worth of the ceremonial tip of the cap.