I was shooting photos of a vintage airplane at AirVenture when a man came up to me and asked if I was the owner of the RV-12 in homebuilt parking. “What makes you ask if it is mine?” I asked, thinking it was one of the stranger questions I have been asked at AirVenture. “Because it matches your shirt,” he explained, gesturing to my General Aviation News-issued pink shirt. “It’s really pink.”
I smiled. We at General Aviation News do not refer to our shirts as pink. We call them PINK as in “should the REILs go Tango Uniform we can stand at the end of the runway in pitch blackness and pilots will STILL be able to determine where the pavement ends PINK.”
An RV-12 painted “really pink” piqued my curiosity, so I headed over to Homebuilts. Oh boy.
“Really pink” doesn’t begin to describe the RV-12 owned by Judie Betz from Weisdale, Florida. The airplane is an iridescent pearl pink with mauve, lavender, and purple flowers on it. When you circle the airplane, the flowers appear to undulate, as if blown by a soft breeze. A purple monogrammed canopy cover protected the cockpit. On the side of the airplane is the name Bella Rosa, or Beautiful Rose, if I remember my high school Spanish correctly.
“It’s a pretty plane!” said one little girl who looked to be about 5 or 6. She was holding her father’s hand, pulling him through the lines of aircraft, pointing out the ones she wanted to fly.
That’s exactly the kind of reaction Betz wants her airplane to elicit.
Betz, who earned her private ticket about 30 years ago, said she was initially discouraged from learning to fly.
“I was dating a guy who was a pilot and we flew all the time,” she recalled. “I asked him, ‘don’t you think that maybe I should learn to land just in case?’ and he said ‘oh no, no, no.’”
One day their travels took them to an airport where free Discovery Flights were being offered. “While he was off doing something else I was asked if I wanted to do an introductory flight. At first I said no, because I flew with someone else all the time, but it was free so I went and, of course, that was the end of that,” she said.
When she and her boyfriend were flying home, she said to him, “Let me show you what I did today,” and she grabbed the control stick.
“He said ‘don’t do that,’ and I said, ‘I think I am going to get flight lessons.’ He said ‘you’re not the type, don’t waste your time and money,’ so I folded my arms on my chest and as soon as I was on the ground I got on the phone and got the lessons.”
Shortly after that the boyfriend was gone, Betz was a licensed pilot who had her own airplane and was living at an airpark in Maryland.
“Today I have almost 4,000 hours,” she said proudly. “I have had wonderful, wonderful airplanes, all tailwheel except for the RV-12 and a Bonanza.”
“I had a Luscombe that was all pink and had eyes painted on her, named ‘Miss Piggy.’ I gave a gazillion Young Eagles rides in that airplane because it was the right airplane for that.”
She started looking into the RV-12, Van’s entry into the Light-Sport Aircraft realm, because she had heard so much about them and knew she wouldn’t have to go through the time and expense of obtaining a medical certificate if she ever decided to fly as a Sport Pilot.
The challenge was finding an RV-12 to test fly, she said. “I knew a lot of guys who were building them. I asked ‘how do they fly?’ and they’d say ‘I don’t know, I’m just building one.’”
Eventually, Betz found a completed RV-12 for sale and made contact with the owner, who had finished it in December 2010.
She was impressed by the workmanship, but told him she wasn’t going to put her money down until she flew the airplane. “He said he wasn’t trying to sell airplane rides, but I said I wasn’t going to buy an airplane until I knew what it was like to fly, so I went for a ride and it was wonderful,” she said. “I still have a medical but, you never know, so I figured it would be smart to buy this airplane.”
She wrote a check for the deposit and by March she had an RV-12.
The next step was getting it painted.
A friend told her about Creative Coach in Lakeland, Florida, which specializes in elaborate designs on motor coaches. “There was a young guy there, Chris Cruz, who had just gotten his pilots license and he was very enthusiastic about painting my airplane,” she recalled. “He was practically jumping up and down, saying ‘Please! please! please! Let me paint your airplane!’”
Betz told him she was leaning toward pinks, purples and mauves. Cruz was quick to educate her about color application.
“He told me that I didn’t want it to be pink, I wanted it to be pearl and then he showed me the difference,” she said. “I showed Chris a Hawaiian shirt I had with flowers on it and told him I wanted something like this, but I didn’t want the airplane to be covered with flowers. Then I went to Lowe’s and found the colors I wanted. I told him that I wanted it to look like the color was flowing. Chris sent me a sketch of a design and that was it.”
“The paint was done after Sun ‘n Fun,” said Betz. “I trucked it home and all the neighbors were there to help and I taxied a victory lap to show it off, and I have been flying it ever since.”
Betz notes that Cruz’s skill with an airbrush gets a lot of comments from people, who, like me, remark that the flowers along the sides look like they are undulating in the breeze as one walks around the airplane and the light catches them from different angles.
The RV-12 came equipped with more technology than Betz wanted, initially.
“I still fly with a chart on my lap. I stay out of bad weather like this,” she said, gesturing to the storm clouds that hung over Wittman Regional Airport, home to AirVenture. “But Van’s puts all the bells and whistles into the RV-12 automatically and I found out that it is really great stuff,”
“I didn’t want GPS when they first came out,” she sighs. “I like flying with the chart on my lap when it takes you 10 hours to get someplace. If you have an autopilot you press the button and it flies the airplane and there you are after about an hour, having eaten all your junk food and talking to yourself. But with a chart you can look around like, ‘maybe I should go over there?’”
THE POWER OF PINK
When asked what her favorite part of flying is, Betz quickly replies: “The people. You meet so many wonderful, wonderful people when you fly!”
Like many other pilots, she worries about the aging population. “We have to bring more young people in,” she said. “I am very concerned about who will fly these airplanes after I am gone. It certainly won’t be guys — they don’t like pink. Maybe the color will attract a young woman who will get into flying.”
They start young, noted Betz. “Just yesterday, I saw a little girl, about 5 or 6, looking at my airplane with her dad. She asked if she could buy my airplane and I said, ‘oh no, it’s not for sale, but you could get your Daddy to build one for you.’ She said ‘okay,’ then ran over to her Daddy, grabbed his shirt and said, ‘Daddy, can you grow me one?’”