Largest Yet: Mojave Experimental Fly-In 2018

There was a little of everything on the ramp during the Mojave Experimental Fly In. Andrew Angelotti's Spingarage KR-2 sits low and white in the center of this view.

With 344 transient aircraft and 16 local operations logged by the tower, plus what might have been 100 airplanes on the ramp at any one time, the 2018 Mojave Experimental Fly-In April 21, 2018 certainly looked and felt like the most-attended MEFI in the event's six-year history. It's true that many of the aircraft arriving at Mojave were certified transportation, but they were carrying experimenters and there were still plenty of experimentals to eyeball on Mojave's ample ramp.

Best Build at Mojave went to the very purple RV-9A of Bruce Hill. Based in Ramona, California, the eye-catching RV is a slow-build kit optimized for economical cross-country work with a wagon load of airframe and avionic goodies but it's that purple paint that gets the attention. Corona Air Paint applied color per a design worked up by PlaneSchemer.com.

As always, the Experimental Fly-In followed its proven meet-and-great format. There are no airport closures, no aerobatic acts and no county fair hucksterism, just planes and their owners ready to share their stories and ideas. At mid-day Saturday Bill Norton outlined 1940's flight testing in a talk in the Mojave terminal's conference room; The featured speaker during the awards banquet Saturday night was record holder and Scaled Composites flight tester Zack Reeder. But for the majority of attendees, the main event from 10 am to 2 pm was out on the ramp, seeing the planes and the people behind them.

The "I am not an RV" crowd was ably represented by this beautifully polished Thorp T-18. Owner Erin Hambrick didn't get many bugs on the leading edges, either, as the plane is apparently based about seven minutes away at Rosamond Sky Park.
Zach Reeder of Scaled Composites was everywhere at Mojave this year. Helping main MEFI organizer and all-around super-enthusiast Cathy Hanson with pre-show logistics, serving as a judge as well as being the featured speaker at the awards banquet, Zach got no rest. The button on his cowboy hat says "Air racing is not a crime."

Also seeming like a MEFI birthright was the weather. April in the high desert can mean sporty winds, but just like last year the weather was postcard perfect all day.

Thanks to unavoidable conflicts we weren't able to attend all the MEFI events, so we had to skip the flour bombing and indoor model airplane flying on Friday, plus the always interesting awards banquet Saturday night. But we did get to trot across the Mojave ramp and grab a few snaps of the main event on Saturday. We'll better plan our time when we return next year.

Because the Mojave Experimental Fly-In favors experimentation and effort over showmanship, the awards center around achievement in experimental aircraft and flying.

Photos by Tom Wilson and courtesy Cathy Hansen

2018 Mojave Experimental Fly-In Winners

  • Best Overall--Mike Patey, Lancair Legacy Turbine Turbulence
  • Best Design--Mike Patey, Lancair Legacy Turbine Turbulence
  • Best Build--Bruce Hill, Van's RV-9A
  • Best Effort--Scott Liefeld, Pietenpol Air Camper
  • Best Test--Andrew Angelotti, Articulating Air Data Boom
Mojave is a great place to catch up with friends. Doug Kott's very presentable RV-9A easily stood out; Doug was kind enough to have us along to Air Venture in this plane last summer and it is handsome as ever. The Lancair Legacy taxiing in the background is registered to One Slim Rabbit LLC and hails from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Interstate visitors are typical at the MEFI.
Mojave is a great place to catch up with friends. Doug Kott's very presentable RV-9A easily stood out; Doug was kind enough to have us along to Air Venture in this plane last summer and it is handsome as ever. The Lancair Legacy taxiing in the background is registered to One Slim Rabbit LLC and hails from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Interstate visitors are typical at the MEFI.
Scott Liefeld of nearby Lancaster, California spent no less than 43 years building his Pietenpol Air Camper. Beautifully built, his odyssey garnered the Best Effort award.
Scott Liefeld of nearby Lancaster, California spent no less than 43 years building his Pietenpol Air Camper. Beautifully built, his odyssey garnered the Best Effort award.
Wild enthusiasm and 20 hours-a-day work ethics are MEFI trademarks and are just two ways to describe Mike Patey. His turbine-powered Lanciar Legacy won both Best Design and Best Overall, and really wowed the crowd when Patey backed it up on the taxiway when searching for a parking spot. Good a reason as any to have a beta prop!
Wild enthusiasm and 20 hours-a-day work ethics are MEFI trademarks and are just two ways to describe Mike Patey. His turbine-powered Lanciar Legacy won both Best Design and Best Overall, and really wowed the crowd when Patey backed it up on the taxiway when searching for a parking spot. Good a reason as any to have a beta prop!
John and Carolyn Spratt's Rans S-20X Raven was a real eye-catcher on the Mojave ramp. Powered by a turboed Rotax 914 for good high-country adventures, the machine positively drips with attention to detail.
John and Carolyn Spratt's Rans S-20X Raven was a real eye-catcher on the Mojave ramp. Powered by a turboed Rotax 914 for good high-country adventures, the machine positively drips with attention to detail.
We'll have to feature the Spratt's S-20X in Kitplanes to begin to document all the fun details they've incorporated in it, but this interior shot gives a quick idea of its clean build. Down from Minden, Nevada on an extensive cross country, the baggage compartment just out of frame here was positively bulging with adventure gear. Looks like fun.
We'll have to feature the Spratt's S-20X in Kitplanes to begin to document all the fun details they've incorporated in it, but this interior shot gives a quick idea of its clean build. Down from Minden, Nevada on an extensive cross country, the baggage compartment just out of frame here was positively bulging with adventure gear. Looks like fun.
It's the 4-blade MT prop on Mark Swaney's Team Rocket F1 that everyone notices, but the rest of the plane is a lot of fun, too. Mark reports a
It's the 4-blade MT prop on Mark Swaney's Team Rocket F1 that everyone notices, but the rest of the plane is a lot of fun, too. Mark reports a "nearly stock" 540 under the cowling with a light bump to 9.2:1 compression, and with the prop it turns typical Rocket numbers. The prop was a benefit of knowing an MT distributor at Oxnard, California where he's based. Mark says the prop is, "smooth, quiet... I think good at altitude."
Mark Swaney's helping out partner Mark Vodon gave the F1 an all-aluminum canopy frame and skirts instead of fiberglass bits. They report the plane,
Mark Swaney's helping out partner Mark Vodon gave the F1 an all-aluminum canopy frame and skirts instead of fiberglass bits. They report the plane, "Cruises at 180 kt, has no glide and a light stick."
Neat detail on the F1 Rocket of Swaney's is this video camera embedded in the left main gear leg. It displays on a Dynon screen in the cockpit for better visibility when taxiing.
Neat detail on the F1 Rocket of Swaney's is this video camera embedded in the left main gear leg. It displays on a Dynon screen in the cockpit for better visibility when taxiing.
Factory-built but licensed as an experimental in the U.S. Scott Glaser's Yak 50 is a personal aerobatic fun machine and his Red Star Pilots Association formation mount. It follows typical Russian/Soviet philosophy with its all-pneumatic starting, braking and gear retraction systems (air doesn't freeze in the Russian winter) and after a spar AD is built as tough as you'd think a Russian aerobatic trainer would be.
Factory-built but licensed as an experimental in the U.S. Scott Glaser's Yak 50 is a personal aerobatic fun machine and his Red Star Pilots Association formation mount. It follows typical Russian/Soviet philosophy with its all-pneumatic starting, braking and gear retraction systems (air doesn't freeze in the Russian winter) and after a spar AD is built as tough as you'd think a Russian aerobatic trainer would be.
Minimalistic as a Spartan training camp, the Yak's interior has been augmented by U.S. instruments, including some Garmin glass. The single-seat Yak 50 was the last flat wing design to win the World Aerobatic Championship in 1980. The cambered wing gives it turning performance superior to symmetrical airfoils now in favor; about 70 Yak 50s are in the U.S. with 22 in SoCal. A handful are extant in the rest of the world, save Russia as the Soviets destroyed the fleet when the Yak 55 successor came out.
Minimalistic as a Spartan training camp, the Yak's interior has been augmented by U.S. instruments, including some Garmin glass. The single-seat Yak 50 was the last flat wing design to win the World Aerobatic Championship in 1980. The cambered wing gives it turning performance superior to symmetrical airfoils now in favor; about 70 Yak 50s are in the U.S. with 22 in SoCal. A handful are extant in the rest of the world, save Russia as the Soviets destroyed the fleet when the Yak 55 successor came out.
As expected the Yak is powered by a supercharged, 360 hp MP-14 radial and it marks its spot wherever it goes. Simplicity is near-extreme throughout, giving light weight, a 3000 fpm climb and snappy handling. The big MT prop at least allows tail-low wheel landings. Scott bases the Yak at Mojave, where he works as the VP of Operations at Flight Research, a jet-based upset recovery, test and aerospace support operation.
As expected the Yak is powered by a supercharged, 360 hp MP-14 radial and it marks its spot wherever it goes. Simplicity is near-extreme throughout, giving light weight, a 3000 fpm climb and snappy handling. The big MT prop at least allows tail-low wheel landings. Scott bases the Yak at Mojave, where he works as the VP of Operations at Flight Research, a jet-based upset recovery, test and aerospace support operation.
Scaled Composites helped get the MEFI started and still supports it by rolling out something interesting each year. ARES, a sort of Warthog-lite proposal from 1990 was on display this year. It's still flying as a cost-effective test bed and is for rent if you have an idea you want to test.
Scaled Composites helped get the MEFI started and still supports it by rolling out something interesting each year. ARES, a sort of Warthog-lite proposal from 1990 was on display this year. It's still flying as a cost-effective test bed and is for rent if you have an idea you want to test.
A lot of people were wondering just which WWII primary trainer this was. It's a PT-23 owned by Todd Schultz. A Fairchild product, the PT-23 employed the ubiquitous 220 hp Continental radial. Imagine getting your first instruction in an open cockpit?
A lot of people were wondering just which WWII primary trainer this was. It's a PT-23 owned by Todd Schultz. A Fairchild product, the PT-23 employed the ubiquitous 220 hp Continental radial. Imagine getting your first instruction in an open cockpit?
Thorsten Schilling's Europa balances on its single main gear with Mojave's Boeing 747 weed patch in the background. We didn't get to chat up anyone with this airplane, but note it bears a SCORE off-road racing sticker which is a little unusual.
Thorsten Schilling's Europa balances on its single main gear with Mojave's Boeing 747 weed patch in the background. We didn't get to chat up anyone with this airplane, but note it bears a SCORE off-road racing sticker which is a little unusual.
There's absolutely no shame in bringing a work in progress to the MEFI. The more apart a project the better it can be studied, which is what the event is all about. This Legacy was likely the most
There's absolutely no shame in bringing a work in progress to the MEFI. The more apart a project the better it can be studied, which is what the event is all about. This Legacy was likely the most "project status" experimental on display this year and was obviously an already flying airplane.
Another airplane and owner we didn't get a chance to talk to, but we figured it was worth a look if for nothing less than the paint job. Registered to Ken Holcomb the RV calls San Diego home.
Another airplane and owner we didn't get a chance to talk to, but we figured it was worth a look if for nothing less than the paint job. Registered to Ken Holcomb the RV calls San Diego home.
Okay, it's a certified Swift. We just can't resist nicely polished aluminum and thought the gnomes stuck up the exhaust pipes looked a little too happy for that line of work.
Okay, it's a certified Swift. We just can't resist nicely polished aluminum and thought the gnomes stuck up the exhaust pipes looked a little too happy for that line of work.

Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson is a professional magazine writer and nurtures an ongoing affair with all things internal combustion. His writing is most often found in automotive magazines, but aviation is his first love. Working as a line boy, he learned to fly while in high school, but still hasn't mastered the art of keeping a paper chart in an open cockpit.

3 Replies to “Largest Yet: Mojave Experimental Fly-In 2018”

  1. Nice article Tom,
    I am Scott Liefeld, the Pietenpol owner. The statistics got a little wonky. 😁. My Dad an I built the plane and the first flight was in March 1972. It’s been flying now for 46 years. It took 2 years and 3 months to build.
    Thank you for the wonderful article highlighting our local event. Cheers

  2. Scott--Ah, the dangers of reporting what you are told. So glad to hear you've been flying and not building for four decades! tw

  3. I think what they meant is that it’s been in a constant state of evolution for 46 years. I do have some hidden modern amenities.
    Cheers.

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