By TED LUEBBERS
Paul Adrien is a soft-spoken man, so much so that you would not realize he has a wealth of aviation knowledge and experience when you first meet him unless you happen to mention planes.
A retired optometrist who hails from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, he moved to the Grand Island section of Eustis, Florida, with his wife, Barbara, in September 1999. He spent two years in the United States Air Force as an optometrist before opening his own practice in Lawrence, Mass., in 1972, then later moved it to Methuen, Mass.
As a kid he built model airplanes, but really didn’t get to scratch that itch until he completed his stint with Uncle Sam. Then there was no holding back.
He took flying lessons at Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWM) and received his private pilot ticket in June 1974. He got his commercial ticket and instrument rating in 1975 and a multiengine rating in 1979.
He owned and flew several different planes during this period, but in 1980 he made the decision to build his own airplane.
He did not choose to build a conventional airplane, but one that — at that time — was considered a bit unconventional. It was made of fiberglass and instead of having the horizontal stabilizer in the rear of the plane, it had a small wing in the nose, called a canard that served the same function.
Then instead of having the engine and propeller in the nose, which would pull the plane through the air, it was in the rear of the plane, which pushed it through the air. This plane is called a Long-EZ and it was built from plans.
This airplane was designed by Burt Rutan, a devotee of the canard, which is found on many of his aircraft designs. Interestingly enough, the first one to come up with this idea was the Wright brothers. They used a canard on the original Wright Flyer.
It soon went out of vogue and airplane designers put the horizontal stabilizer and elevators in the rear and that is where most of them are today. Rutan also was a pioneer in the use of fiberglass and carbon fiber instead of aluminum or steel frame construction.
This homebuilt is designed for fuel efficiency and long range flight. It is set up for a pilot and one passenger and is propeller driven with a Lycoming O-235 air-cooled flat-four, 118 horsepower engine. It has a maximum speed of 205 mph and a cruise speed of 165 mph.
It took Paul 18 months to finish building the Long-EZ, which he completed in March 1982, making this plane now 35 years old. He has more than 2,000 hours flying time in it so far. It was the 13th Long-EZ to be built out of hundreds built since then.
After building the Long-EZ, Paul teamed up with the Northeast EZ Flyers and flew in airshows around the Northeastern part of the country doing formation flying and flight demonstrations. He appeared on airshow entertainment schedules with aerobatic pros like Bob Hoover and Patty Wagstaff.
Since this plane had good range and speed, he flew it 10 times to the Experimental Aircraft Association‘s AirVenture, held each July in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Paul’s connection with the Experimental Aircraft Association began in January 1980, about the same time he started building the Long-EZ, and has continued for nearly 40 years. He joined EAA Chapter 534 in September 1999 after moving to Florida. He currently serves as one of the chapter’s board members and its program director.
Paul is also considered to be a “hangar monkey.” That’s a person who enjoys getting his hands dirty rebuilding aircraft engines or building airplanes.
Every Thursday morning the Chapter 534 Hangar Monkeys convene at their hangar at the Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) to work on experimental aircraft building projects. Paul’s knowledge and building experience is much appreciated by those members who are starting new projects or have to solve a technical problem with an airplane they are working on.
He also is one of the chapter’s dependable Young Eagle pilots. To date he has flown 66 kids in his plane. It is interesting to watch the reaction of the young people when they first see Paul’s plane because it doesn’t fit the image of what they expected to fly in. They recognize that it is something unusual, and they can’t wait to give it a try.
When he is not involved with an EAA function or project, you will often find him flying around the state of Florida with his wife Barbara looking for an airport with a good restaurant close by. Paul says they try to do this at least once a week, weather permitting.
Barbara is not a pilot, but enjoys flying just as much as he does. Because the wing of the Long-EZ obscures the ground view from the rear seat where she rides, Paul installed some Plexiglas panels in the floor of the rear cockpit so she can get a better view of the ground. That comes under the heading of “Happy Wife, Happy Life.”