Keith Fowler is finishing his second airplane--40 years
Starting in 1960, Keith Fowler and John Green constructed the very first plansbuilt Pazmany PL-1, a new side-by-side, two-place, all-metal design. Today Fowler, of Hemet, California, is completing a Lancair 360 kit that another builder had started. So how has homebuilding changed in 40 years? Fowler knows. He and his partner spent $3000 and nearly 6000 hours building the prototype PL-1 from engineering drawings in 1960. Today he estimates it will take 3500 hours and more than $80,000 to complete the Lancair kit.
First, let's go back to the PL-1 that talented designer Ladislao Pazmany began as an engineering club project. At the time, Pazmany was a research specialist for Ryan Aeronautical Company in San Diego. Fowler and Green became interested in the design, but neither of them had ever built an aircraft, nor had they worked with sheet metal. They met through the amateur radio hobby 10 years before they began their PL-1 project.
It was a first-time aircraft project for both builders, but Green was a skilled machinist and tool and die maker, and Fowler was completely at home with electrical circuitry and avionics. They found a copy of Pazmany's book, "Light Aircraft Design," that culminated with the PL-1 configuration. (This book is still in print as are plans for the PL-2, PL-4 and the new PL-9 3/4-scale Stork.)
Both men were interested in the PL-1, so they rented a Cessna 172, flew 100 miles to San Diego and met with the designer. After an initial visit with Pazmany, the pair came home with a set of wing rib drawings. Two weeks later they were back at Pazmany's door for more drawings. "As soon as I put an engineering print in the mail, they were back asking for more," Paz said.
Fowler remembers how they got the drawings: "Pazmany told us that the aircraft was in the design process, so if we wanted to build it right away, he would supply drawings as they became available and provide engineering support. We liked the looks of the project, and Paz's enthusiasm was enough to entice us to give it a try. As Paz supplied drawings for bits and pieces, we would go to our respective garages and make the parts. …