Light Sport One Week Wonders Inspire EAA AirVenture Attendees

EAA to build a Sonex Waiex during Oshkosh 2022 show week.

At the very core of the EAA AirVenture convention, airshow, and aviation family reunion is the experimental/amateur-built (E/AB) community, as thousands of attendees show up via the FISK arrival in airplanes they built themselves. Others come to the annual show to learn about building an E/AB airplane and shop for everything from parts to complete kits.

“Even with all the improvements and prefabrication in modern kits, seven days is still a compressed timeline, so we have to stick with straightforward designs.”

Charlie Becker, EAA’s chapters director, and homebuilt community manager

Since the very purpose of AirVenture is inspiration, EAA began a program in 2014 called the “One Week Wonder” (OWW) where a large team of volunteers and show attendees build an E/AB airplane completely in one week. And it just so happens that the 2014 OWW Zenith CH750 Cruzer and 2018 OWW Van’s RV-12iS were both light sport airplanes. This program continues in 2022 with a one-week build of a Sonex Waiex LSA equipped with an MDL panel.

Charlie Becker, EAA’s chapters director, and their homebuilt community manager explained that the main reason all the OWW projects fall within the LSA envelope is that they need to be easy-to-build projects that can be done during the show’s seven days, and many of today’s E/AB kits that can be flown with a sport pilot certificate are mature designs that are optimized to be built by a first-time builder. 

“Even with all the improvements and prefabrication in modern kits, seven days is still a compressed timeline, so we have to stick with straightforward designs. There are lots of great high-performance homebuilt aircraft but those just wouldn’t be possible to complete in a week,” Becker said.

The Genesis of One Week Wonder

The OWW program started in 1976 when EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame member Chris Heintz and several volunteers set out to build an aircraft in nine days (when the show ran from Saturday to the following Sunday), however, they finished the build in just eight days. Becker explained that he had always thought that project was a great way to inspire people to build their own airplanes, and years later, in a phone call with Sebastien Heintz, owner, and president of Zenith Aircraft, the program was imagined. 

After EAA President Jack Pelton signed off on the program for 2014, the mountain of planning needed to pull off such an ambitious build began.

“When Charlie Becker mentioned the possibility of building a Zenith for the 2014 One Week Wonder, I told him without hesitation that we were all in,” said Heintz. “As a kit manufacturer, what better stage can you hope for to showcase the true nature of the product than center stage at EAA AirVenture? The One Week Wonder projects are a great venue to educate potential kit builders that they can do it.”

Heintz added that Zenith donated the kit, organized the actual build project, and provided key staff and volunteers. The company charted out the entire build using a Gantt chart to coordinate with various parallel teams for the wings, fuselage, tail, avionics, and engine, allocating eight hours per day for the build, knowing that they had the additional hours in each day if needed.

AirVenture attendee Curtis Williams pulls a rivet on the 2018 One Week Wonder Van’s RV-12iS. [Photo: EAA/Connor Madison]

Inspiration at the Core

EAA says that since many AirVenture attendees may have never considered building an airplane, OWW creates a real opportunity to open their eyes to the possibility.  

“Although the stated goal is to build a flyable airplane in seven days,” said Becker, “we are doing it to shine a light on the idea of building your own airplane. This basic idea is at the very core of what EAA is all about. We want to show everyone at AirVenture that homebuilding is something anyone can do, and anyone can learn the skills needed to build an airplane with a little help from EAA and its members. During OWW, we hope attendees will see that aircraft building is an affordable option to own and fly a brand new aircraft.”

EAA’s 2022 OWW Airplane

The Sonex Waiex B model with a Rotax 912iS engine was selected as the 2022 One Week Wonder because it’s an easy-to-build model from an established kit company, Becker explained. “The two-place side-by-side Waiex is an all-metal airplane and uses pulled rivet construction. The all-metal construction lends itself well to the OWW build format as it will allow thousands of AirVenture attendees to pull a rivet on the aircraft, sign their name and be a part of history.” Becker said.

Avionics for the 2022 OWW airplane will be a dual-screen iEFIS system from MGL Avionics, according to EAA. “MGL is the preferred avionics solution for Sonex Aircraft kits, and one of the great aspects of an OWW build is showcasing the amazing technology available to the amateur builder at an affordable price,” Becker explained. “We are going with a pre-wired panel from Midwest Panel Builders to save time so the avionics installation becomes a plug-and-play system.”

Van’s Aircraft founder Dick VanGrunsven oversees the 2018 OWW build of an RV-12iS. [Photo: EAA/Connor Madison]

EAA’s OWW Team Prepares for the Worst

Ask anyone who has built their own airplane, and you will learn it is inevitable that challenges will come up requiring the builder to pivot. The EAA crew that manages the OWW builds are all experienced builders, and they know how to quickly diagnose a problem to keep the project moving forward.

“Probably the biggest logistical problem we have run into was in 2014 with the Zenith Cruzer build,” Becker said. “We were nearing the end of the week, so it was time to do a final install of the wings. Problem was that the tent poles would not allow us to get the plane out with the wings on, so we ended up doing the last two days of the build with the nose and wings sticking out of the tent. Fortunately, the tent that year had an overhang to keep the rain off.  The Sonex build this year has removable wings so that will not be a problem.”

Becker also noted that a secret of the OWW program is that they always have a second kit tucked away in case a part is missing or gets ruined. “We don’t have time to wait for a part to be shipped, so if something happens, we dig into the backup kit. Overall it has been amazing that things largely go according to plan,” he said.

OWW Possible Through the Generosity of Kit Makers

EAA said they have seen “tremendous support” from the kit industry suppliers who have donated most of the equipment needed to construct the OWW program airplanes. That generosity means the airplanes tend to be “fully loaded” with dual glass panels and autopilots, and are not budget builds. “It’s a big-time commitment from the kit manufacturers because they have to pre-plan everything and provide the team leaders at AirVenture to oversee the volunteers during the week. The good news is that we have no shortage of volunteers wanting to help. It is not the most efficient way to build an aircraft, so we don’t bother to try to track hours, just days,” said Becker.

Where Are They Now?

EAA still owns both the 2014 and 2018 OWW airplanes. The 2014 Zenith is awaiting a move to the EAA museum, and the 2018 RV-12 is part of the EAA Employee Flying Club. When the 2022 OWW Sonex is finished, the association plans to have it on display at several places including the 2023 Sun ’n Fun and AirVenture shows, as well as using it on a tour of EAA chapters and for flying Young Eagles.

“My hope is that building an aircraft gets added to thousands of people’s bucket lists by the end of AirVenture week,” Becker said in conclusion. “The OWW projects are by far and away the most satisfying and challenging projects I’ve been involved with in my 22 years at EAA. It is like being part of a championship team, except instead of a trophy, we end up with a flying airplane, which is way better than a trophy.”

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