The man behind
RagWing Aviation is Roger Mann, a 31-year-old homebuilder who has
parlayed two slow-and-low designs into an expanding home business.
Mann's initial two kits are for a single-seat, three-quarter-scale
Pietenpol Air Camper and a Pitts-like wooden biplane with folding
wings. At latest count he has delivered over 440 sets of plans for
the Ltl' AirCamper and 250 for the biplane Special (named after
the 1945 Pitts Special).
A dozen sets
of plans have gone to Canada, four to Spain, three each to Australia,
New Zealand and Germany, and one each to Japan, England and Denmark.
He also supplies both designs in kit form with quick-build options
and says that either kit can be built in 350 hours. Plans are $125
for the biplane Special plans and $70 for the Mini Air Camper. Kits
are $2500 for either design excluding engine and prop. Add a Kawasaki
engine and the cost is $4350.
Mann also has
plans tor six other replicas that he has built and flown. These
include a two-place, side-by-side open cockpit parasol trainer (RW-3)
and a cabin version of the same design (RW-8), an agricultural Duster
(RW-7), Church midwing replica (RW-4), Heath parasol replica (RW-5),
and an open-fuselage (RW-9) Motor Bipe that is becoming popular
(18 sets of plans to date) because it can be built in 150 hours.
Mann advises that he will assemble kits for any of these other designs
on special order.
Company is a family enterprise he shares with his wife, Michelle,
and his three small children. He says that a few close friends come
in and help when he is overloaded with orders. A newsletter is published
six times a year by Bob Dick while Terry Houser is now doing some
test pilot chores that Mann formerly did alone. "I want to
be known as a guy who sells plans, kits and parts," he said,
"rather than as a company whose only goal is to make profits
for its stockholders."
Mann chose the
scaled Air Camper Ultra-Piet for his first design because, in his
words, "lt's easy to build, requires no special tools and is
the most affordable design anywhere. What makes it even better is
having the luxury of flying under FAR 103 rules. The Mini AirCamper
weighs just 252 pounds."
memorable flight to date was on the first flight of the original
Ltl' Air Camper. "I had so much confidence in the plane,"
he said, "that the first flight was performed out of a 400-foot,
radio-control-model airfield located 4 miles down the road from
my home. A friend flew along beside me in his miniMAX, and when
I locked my fingers behind my head to prove it would fly hands-off,
he just grinned. When I first showed this airplane at Sun 'n Fun
in 1993, people started asking me to draw up plans, and soon I was
in a part-time business."
Brakes are not
included in either RagWing design; they can be added, but they put
the weight over the ultralight limit as does the folding-wing feature
on the biplane. While maneuvering on the ground at Sun 'n Fun' s
Paradise City, Mann had a Kolb cut in front of him, and it was either
grab a tire with his hand and stop rotation of the wheel or buy
a rudder for the Kolb.
my workshop in my home and have just added a 24x36-foot building
that increases my shop area by three times," he said. However,
he is in the process of moving into two new wooden 28x48-foot Quonset
hangars on the Tokena Airport at Townville, South Carolina, with
its 1500-foot grass strip, which is a 20-mile drive or flight from
Mann uses Wicks
and Aircraft Spruce for metal and hardware, but he buys his own
Finland Birch plywood and northern white pine in bulk loads. He
and his wife mill the wood to size. They also have built a mold
for nose bowls where they can make fiberglass layups. Mann reports
that he receives detailed questions from only about 25% of his kit
purchasers. "Most have built planes or models before and find
this project much like a large model," he said.
His Air Camper
has a dummy radiator that replicates the one used on the Model A
Ford-powered original. The fake radiator can serve as a 4-gallon
fuel tank whenever the 5-gallon limit for ultralights is removed.
To keep costs down, his Ultra-Piet has only two instruments, rpm
About the Designer
At age 14, Mann
started a KR-2. The fuselage is still hang- ing in his grandfather'
s barn, uncompleted since the time Roger discovered girls. While
in the U. S. Air Force for a four-year hitch, he eventually became
a crew chief on F-4Ds and F-15s.
Mann well remembers
an back seat F4-D ride awarded him for being Airman of the Month.
He received his A&P from Wayne Community College in Seymore,
North Carolina, while in the service. At the same time, he helped
on several home-built projects: VP-I, KR-I, Excel helicopter, Lancair
the Air Force, he built a Hi-Max, three miniMAXs and a two-seat
Hi-Max that he developed himself. He worked as a turbine inspector
for Textron and branched out on his own in early 1994 when his job
He taught himself
to fly in his first miniMAX but does not recommend selfteaching.
While he was "crow-hopping" his first Hi-Max, a passerby
saw him and two days later bought the plane before Mann had ever
flown it. "I built my next miniMAX in three months and promised
myself that I wouldn't sell it until I soloed," he said. "After
a few weeks of crow-hopping I finally soloed and since then have
flown many different makes of ultralights. I now have over 500 hours
of flight time and am signed off as a certified ultralight pilot
and a basic flight instructor." Mann plans to use his two-place
Ultra-Piet for demonstration rides.
Mann spent only
$2200 on his first three-quarter-scale Air Camper including covering
with Stits fabric and Latex house paint, instruments (a tachometer
and CHT) an used a Kawasaki snow-mobile engine. He has since added
an engine hour meter and home-made slip indicator.
When it comes
time for engine installation, Mann describes the projects as "90%
complete with only 90% left to do." Here the builder has the
choice of several engines: Rotax 227, 447 or 503, Hirth F27, Mosler
and half-VW homebuilt engines. Mann recommends the Kawasaki 340
or 440 with a K-Drive belt reduction system. Full four-cylinder
VWs, the Rotax 503 or the three-cylinder Chevrolet Sprint engines
are possible for the heavier, beefed-up experimental versions. He
experimented with a four-stroke 25-hp Kohler V industrial engine
used in ground power units for welders. After 41 hours, the engine
threw a rod and "exploded in the air." Mann was drenched
with hot oil and received superficial burns but landed safely. Now
he is using a half-VW engine.
The Disney Inspiration
The company name of RagWing dates back to a Walt Disney television
series over two decades ago called "The Sky`s the limit."
One segment depicted the building of a two-seat biplane "RagWing"
from a relic found hanging in the rafters of a barn. Roger saw the
film at a young age and was so impressed that he can still remember
the aircraft in considerable detail.
is what really started my love affair with aircraft," he told
us. "I have always wanted to build a copy of the Disney plane,"
but I have never seen the movie again. If anyone still has a copy,
I would dearly like a duplicate. RagWing is more than a name to
me. It's not just one person. It's a feeling of a friendship with
others and with the air." KP
FOR MORE INFORMATION,
1705 trail rd
Belton, SC 29627
Phone (864) 338-1335
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