The Lancair is one of the fastest airplanes on the market. In fact, you could say that it goes like a bat out of…you know where. That was the thought process Rich Denisar of Mount Holly, N.J., went though when the time came to name his Lancair 320.
“The Bat out’a Hell just buzzes along,” he said, adding with a grin, “I like flying up alongside of twins and waving at them, then heading off.”
I caught up with Denisar at this year’s Sun ’n Fun, where he told me, “It is cheaper for me to make trips in the airplane than in the car, when you factor in gas and tolls. And I get there in about a fourth of the time it would take me to drive. It scoots along at 250 mph.”
Denisar, who has been flying since 1989, made the switch from certified airplanes to experimentals after a bad experience.
“I almost ended up in trees one day because it would not climb and, to be quite honest, I decided early on certified airplanes are underpowered,” he recalled. “Then I went to an air show and saw a gentleman fly in in a Corby Starlet, which is a small wooden airplane. He had made the trip from Virginia, which was quite far away. He told me that he had built the airplane in his garage and I decided to go ahead and build an airplane myself.”
Denisar chose a Van’s RV. “At the time Van’s had only four kits,” he said. “I am proud that I built a Van’s aircraft back when they were difficult to build.”
Today, Van’s has 12 kits, with quick-build options and plenty of experienced help for the builders. Each time Van’s releases a new kit, it is easier to assemble than its predecessor.
Unfortunately, the Van’s project took a toll on Denisar’s marriage. “I suffered from AIDS — Airplane Induced Divorce Syndrome,” he said. “It took me five years to save the money for the engines, two years to get the frame, three years to get radios…and when I got the airplane done, no more wife.”
Because one airplane is never enough, Denisar couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy the Lancair 320 as a project, even though it is a so-called plastic airplane, and the RV crowd are loyal to metal. “They called me a traitor,” he laughed. “This Lancair 320 is one of the first ones produced. It is kit number 153. I bought from a gentleman in Arizona who had many other airplanes.”
“After I crashed the RV six years ago, my girlfriend asked why I didn’t just get the airplane out of the garage and finish it,” he said. “I said I could, but it would take serious effort to do that because it is a complicated airplane and I would have to stick with it on a permanent basis.”
Once he made the decision to complete the project, it took him six months to finish the airplane.
What draws most people to Denisar’s airplane is the paint job, orange and reds and yellows with flames and the name Bat out’a Hell emblazoned on the side. If you look closely, you can see a variety of skulls in the pattern.
The paint was a problem, admitted Denisar, noting that the original paint scheme didn’t turn out like he wanted, “So I sanded it back down, and repainted in a different paint scheme with different paints.”
Getting the interior of the airplane to his specifications also took some work. That’s because some of the avionics he wanted didn’t work with other avionics selections.
“Mixing and matching did not work, because I wanted so many different features,” said Denisar. “So I had to rewire the panel all by myself. I spent $30,000 on the radios. Since I couldn’t get the installation manuals from Garmin, I found them online and spent three months studying them. I made flow charts to make sure all the features work and they do, beautifully.”
These days Denisar prides himself on taking trips to show off what he calls his “kid friendly” airplane.
“They like to sit in it and get their pictures taken,” he smiled, noting he had about 200 hours on the Lancair as of April, with many more trips slated for the summer.