Keeping the Dream Alive

October 22-24, 2015

Casa Grande Airport, Casa Grande, AZ


The Escapade, started about 2004, was to be their trainer, having very forgiving handling characteristics. The Highlander evolved into their more robust backcountry bush plane. Both planes share the same fuselage and for the most part, their wing structures. The Escapade has a 28 ½’ wingspan while the Highlander has 31 ½’. The Escapade’s tail feathers are a little smaller and more rounded. Its landing gear is a little shorter and narrower. Aside from these differences, the planes are the same.  

Factory specs for the Escapade claim that an empty weight to be around 620lbs. Mine came in at 770. Much of my weight is thought to be the paint. The custom interior, though using Kydex paneling, white oak and carpeting, shouldn’t have accounted for 150lbs. Both planes can be certificated as LSAs and their 1320 lb. limit, or up to 1550 lbs. for those with a private license.

Performance with a Rotax 912 ULS 100 hp. engine is to be a cruise of around 100 kts. Some stall claims have been as low as 27 kts., but are more realistically to be 30 – 35kts.

As an LSA, it is a 2-seater. Cabin width is 44 inches. A remarkable feat, for an LSA, is the baggage area behind the seats. At 32 cubic feet and over 100 lbs available this allows packing up camping gear to go with the Bush Plane moniker.

Two other features some might appreciate is that the wings fold back in 2 minutes for easy trailering, and the fuselage has additional mounts to change from a tricycle gear to tail dragger in a few hours.

Just Aircraft claims the build hours to be 700. This plane, Barb & I worked on for 3 ½ years and 2250 hours. Granted, we did not try to build a stripped-down, light as can be functional STOL bush plane, but a one-time do-it-the-way-we-like-it attempt at personalizing our baby.

Having never built an airplane before, all aspects of the build were new. Juggling the plane and all the parts with 3 cars in a 3 car garage was a challenge in itself. Drilling, cutting, glueing, sanding, staining, etc. is not recommended in a carpeted garage. Our vacuum was used more than our brooms. With the garage being overrun, the house took up the slack. Construction, or at least storage, was to take place in the dining room, kitchen, living room, and both bedrooms. Reading manuals did take place in the bathrooms.

Perhaps the most time-consuming aspect (again, never having painted anything before other than with rattle cans) was painting everything. Before that could take place, a paint booth had to be designed and constructed, taking up all 3 spaces in the garage. A friend’s large compressor came in handy, after having to be wired to a 220 amp circuit. Painting took about 6 months. All pieces had to be prepped and shot individually.

Paint was from Stewart Systems, a water-borne, water-based system. Still, a system of fans and filters were employed. Each piece (fabric) had to go through 3 coats of primer, followed by 2 more coats of sprayed-on primer - Sanding between each coat. The fiberglass pieces weren’t quite as needy of primer.

As for the colors, Insignia White was used as a base coat on everything. Then, masking for each of the other 3 colors took great time and patience. After all the final color painting was done, each piece then received several coats of clear for the shine. Assembly was a welcomed relief after the months of work, and the mess.

The general “theme” of N356AZ was inspired by our 1953 356 Porsche. People have loved the colors of it for years, and we thought our plane would look good in them as well. Barb was responsible for the design work of the graphics. “El Ese”, our beloved male cocker spaniel we lost a couple of years ago, is pictured on the left side of the fuselage. But, no one thinks this plane is anything other than a “she”.

Winning Best Tube and Fabric at this year’s Copperstate was a real thrill, as you can imagine. But to be awarded the “Grand Champion” trophy still leaves us stunned. We sincerely want to thank the judges and all the wonderful new friends we met. We’re thinking the smiles on our faces now are from both the 2013 Copperstate, and the 2014 event.

Dennis & Barb Crowler

Builders and Owners


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