Ray Stits: An Early Homebuilt Designer

A pioneer makes his mark on the homebuilt industry.

Ray Stits

Ray Stits

Ray Stits in 1952 with the Sky Baby, sporting a
7’2” wingspan.

Few people outside of the Poberezny family had as much influence on the early homebuilt aircraft movement as Ray Stits. Today, at the age of 90, he's still going strong as a pilot, mentor, and founding member of EAA Chapter One at historic Flabob Airport. Ray has had a sterling career as an aircraft designer, mechanic and creator of the Stits Process, known today as Polyfiber.

Between 1948 and 1965, he designed and built 15 airplanes. Except for the first two designs, he test flew them all. The reason for not flying the first two relates to the nature of the aircraft: they were the world’s smallest monoplane and then the world’s smallest biplane.

The incentive to build “Junior”, the monoplane, came from a discussion about the world’s smallest airplane. Someone mentioned Steve Wittman’s little racer with a 13’ span and Ray queried whether or not he could fly something with a 10’10” wingspan. One of the participants in that conversation said it wouldn’t be possible and that was all it took. In the end the wingspan was 8’10”.

In May of 1952, he introduced the Stits Sky Baby, a biplane with a 7’2” wingspan. After one season, and 25 hours of flying time, the Sky Baby was retired. Junior wound up on a scrap heap after an off airport landing.

Requests were pouring in for plans for both of his midget aircraft, but Ray knew most people couldn’t handle the flying limitations of the two designs. Not being one to pass up an opportunity, however, he designed, built and test flew the Stits Playboy. It was a single seat, low wing, strut braced, aerobatic airframe that was designed to fly with 85 hp to 160hp engines.