As ANN reported exclusively on Wednesday, the Lancair
kit company has been sold. We told you what Lance Niebauer told us;
and now it's time to hear from the new owner, Joseph Bartels.
Joe's aviation background goes back quite a while; he started
getting involved in modifications with his own Commander 112, 20+
years ago, when he was granted a one-time STC to put the T4A5D 540
in, bringing his machine's engine up to 114 spec. (Later, he had
the whole machine converted into a 114, the only such non-factory
conversion that he's aware of.)
Anyway, at Oshkosh '92, Mr Bartels, getting tired of the 112 and
looking for more speed, had just about made up his mind to build a
Brokaw Bullet, a metal, military-fighter-looking speed machine,
"but when I saw how much work -- everything was essentially
hand-made; it was basically 'blueprints-only' -- I started looking
at kits," he said. After looking at a lot of options, he went for a
Lancair IV-P. "I liked the width, the aerodynamics, and the speed,"
The kit arrived that Christmas, and Joe got started. "I bought
the 'slow-build' kit," he joked. He said he'd opt for the
fast-build now, no question; and he'd go to the Builders' Seminar,
to keep the motivation going. The most-common comment he got during
the building was, "Joe, I didn't know you had that much patience."
Joe didn't, either; but he went to Oregon and flew with Lancair
test pilot Orin Riddell, until he was comfortable that he could do
the first flight on his own airplane.
He flew his own Lancair, N427JB, on October 28, 2000,
nearly eight years ("five and a half years of actual work," he
explained) after taking delivery of the kit (above, on first
flight). "It was great, taking it off," he remembered. "It flew
exactly the way it was supposed to, the way I thought it
Joseph Bartels is a lawyer;
but don't stop reading yet! He has a good defense business, and
has, in fact, represented a number of pilots, in defending them
against FAA enforcement actions. "None of the cases ever went to
trial," counsel stated, for the record. "If you're reasonable with
the FAA, you can work something out."
Joe is, obviously, a pilot; and an A&P, and an airplane
builder. His side business, in fact, Aero Cool, makes air
conditioning systems for small aircraft. ("No belly scoop, to slow
you down.") As a pilot, he has about 1400 hours logged, and
holds single-engine and instrument ratings. He likes all kinds
of things that go fast, too: he drives a Corvette.
"The trouble with these slow
planes -- Commanders, Bonanzas," he told us, "Is that they burn a
lot of fuel getting somewhere." Gallons per hour needs to be
assessed against miles per hour, too. The Lancair, in case you've
been living on Mars for the past 20 years, is fast. How fast? Well,
it won't go into any print other than here, but, "One time, with a
great tailwind (and around 25,000 feet) abeam Beaumont, Texas, I
had it going 376.4 knots." [Your mileage may vary! --ed.]
Regardless a single run's top number, Lancairs are fast, and Joe
really likes that about his machine.
That's why, as the rumors that always pop up, popped up, Bartels
made a discreet inquiry of Lance, to see if perhaps Lance would
like to sell the kit airplane company. "As you build and fly these
planes, you become close friends with the people at Lancair," Joe
noted, so the approach wasn't really that out of line. Besides, he
really likes that plane: "This is a product I have strong feelings
for," he reminded us. "If you truly like to travel, you've got to
do it in a Lancair, at 26, 27, 28,000 feet."
"The reason I bought [the company]," Mr Bartels told us, "is
that I think I can enhance the business, bring in a little fresh
blood and enthusiasm -- and maybe make some money." Fair
One thing is clear: Joe Bartels didn't buy the company, to start
changing things. "There's not going to be any 'New Company,'" he
said. "Lance will always be the founder, and his vision will
remain. Lance himself will remain as chief spokesman, and will help
with any new products." He talked about some of the folks who have
brought the company to its present level, too. "Bob is a great guy;
he's going to stay on with me. Orin -- he's great."
Joe also admired the cutting-edge folks: "Darryl Greenamyer --
look at him. Here's a guy who's gone 988 mph, 35~50 feet AGL, in an
F-104, and who built one himself." [Greenamyer, a many-time
Unlimited champ at Reno, won last year's Sportsman race, in a slick
Lancair Legacy, shown above --ed.] Lee Behel, Rick Schrameck,
these guys race, they're competitive -- they make thongs happen."
Schrameck, in fact, is developing a supercharger, first for racing,
then, maybe for regular flying.
One new thing, that we'll all be able to see at Sun 'n Fun, is a
TKS weeping wing anti-ice system. It's on the
Bartels airplane, where it's had some 300 hours of testing so
Speaking of Sun 'n Fun, Bartels plans to continue the tradition
he created: "The Crawfish Party will continue," he assured us.
Meanwhile, in Oregon:
Lancair is there; it's not
going to see major changes; but it has a new head. "I
expect all the paperwork to be finished by February 19," Joe said.
"I'll be moved in by then."
There's more that the factory, as a manufacturing
facility, can do, too: "We're open for business; we'll take on
composite work; and don't forget that we have a first-class
avionics shop, too."
Bartels told us, "I love Oregon, and I'd like a business for my
son to step into when he's graduated from LSU." It looks like he's