This story first ran in the April 2019 issue of EAA Sport Aviation.
“He would just be proud as punch with the numbers that are out there and some of the airplanes that are flying, and the way different people are taking them in different directions,” Lyman Hatz, EAA 384534, said about his father, John, EAA 3990. “He’d be absolutely thrilled.”
airplanes Lyman referred to are, of course, the biplanes that bear the family
name: Hatz. More than 100 of them are currently flying, with variants like the
Classic and the Bantam. They’re all homebuilts, of course, most of them built
from plans, which means there are really more than 100 variants, each airplane differing
from the others by a little or a lot thanks to the unique flourishes of
individualism from each builder.
before there were 100-plus, there was one.
Hatz Before the Hatz
was born in 1925 and raised in central Wisconsin. He started learning to fly at
the Portage Municipal Airport (C47) when he was a teenager and still in high
school. Toward the end of World War II, John and a friend figured they’d
probably be drafted, so they went to their local recruiting office and joined
the Army. They hoped they’d end up stationed together, ideally doing something
Army, as it so often — justifiably — does, had other plans.
ended up in the Army’s Signal Corps, and was trained as a cable splicer, telephone
and telegraph. He never saw combat, as in the summer of 1945 he was on a boat
headed to the Philippines when the war ended. John came home and put his skills
to use for the phone company. He then found his way to Galesburg, Illinois — now
the home of the National Stearman Fly-In — and, thanks to the GI Bill, went
back to school and finished his certificates and ratings, including both his
CFI and A&P.
From there, he bounced around a little, doing some crop dusting here, some A&P work there, until he found his way to Wausau, Wisconsin, and got married in 1954. Over the years, John had rebuilt a couple of J-3s and developed a real affection for old airplanes, including a Waco UPF-7 that he co-owned briefly. In 1957, as EAA was growing and homebuilding was enjoying a renaissance, he decided he wanted to build an airplane of his own. As Jack Cox wrote in the March 1976 issue of EAA Sport Aviation, “It had to be a biplane, of course; it had to be capable of flying in and out of the shortest bean patch on a warm summer day; and it had to be a forgiving, docile little bird that would be easy on the pocketbook.”
first thought was to build a Great Lakes, but he couldn’t find plans for one,
or any two-place open-cockpit biplane for that matter. So, he decided to build
his own design.
Building a Biplane
about 1957, he started doing the sketches and then building wing ribs,” Lyman
said. “And then, it was about an 11-year project.”
original sketches were done with a simple precision on pieces of graph paper
with just enough detail to get started. John had a “fairly detailed” drawing of
the fuselage framework and where the tubes went, Lyman said.
was able to build a jig off of [the drawing], but the rest … he kind of built
on the fly,” he added.
designed as he built and built while he designed. In keeping with its classic inspiration,
he built the airplane using traditional construction methods. The fuselage is a
straightforward 4130 steel tube affair, and the wings are wood, with the whole
airplane covered in fabric. As was typical of homebuilts of the era, there was
a little J-3 in that first airplane.
a bit of it,” Lyman said. “Although, not necessarily directly, but especially
in the control system, there was quite a bit of J-3 stuff. … He was a scrounger
so … everything was used … back then the stuff was easily available.”
has fond memories of watching and getting involved in his dad’s build project.
was just at the right age at that time to really feed into it, and realize it
was kind of a cool thing that was going on,” he said. “And when I was old
enough … [Dad] got real ambitious and had a big push to finish the airplane.”
said he helped considerably on the last step of the wing construction and the
covering of the wings and assemblies between 1967 and early 1968.
yeah, I was pretty caught up in that, that’s for sure,” he said.
first Hatz, christened ‘Happiness’ by
John’s young daughter, flew for the first time in 1968, powered by an 85-hp
Continental engine that gave the airplane its designation, CB-1, for
Continental biplane. John upgraded to a 150-hp Lycoming a few years later, but
the name remained unchanged.
John flew the airplane to the EAA fly-in convention in Rockford, Illinois, and then on to the Antique Airplane Association’s annual fly-in in Ottumwa, Iowa. It seemed that everyone who saw the airplane loved the combination of classic style and simplicity with then-modern reliability, especially Dudley Kelly, EAA 6173.
was an architect and former engineer at Consolidated who kept his de Havilland
Gipsy Moth on a grass strip at his home in Versailles, Kentucky. He liked the
Hatz so much that he wanted to build one. There was only one problem: John had
never drawn up any plans.
Kelly was an engineer,” said Kevin Conner, president of the Hatz Biplane
Association (HBA). “He took some of the sketches and things that John Hatz had created,
and he began building another airplane.”
created the drawings in the process of building his airplane.
that’s how the drawings that we still build the Hatz biplane from today were
generated,” Kevin said.
and John shared the profits on the plans for a number of years before John
handed off the rights to Dudley.
was in about ’75 or ’76 when my dad made an announcement that he had made
enough money off of selling plans to pay for what his prototype had cost him,
which was $2,700 back at that time,” Lyman said.
Dudley died, his wife, Thelma, continued to sell the designs for a short time. She
then reached out to Lorin Wilkinson, an airline pilot in Washington state who had
started an organization called the West Coast Hatz Club. Lorin took his group
national, forming the American Hatz Association, which later became the HBA.
Thelma donated the plans to the group, which still sells them to this day.
originally sold the plans for $125. If you account for inflation, that’s more
than $800 in today’s money. But don’t tell Kevin that — the nonprofit HBA sells
those same CB-1 plans for just $200.
Variations on a Theme
the years, the CB-1 has inspired a number of variations. The first significant
modifications of John’s original design came from a Texan named Billy Dawson,
EAA 187712. Billy was a lifelong tinkerer and craftsman who fiddled with hot
rods, dune buggies, motorcycles, and boats before getting bitten by the
aviation bug. And when it bit, it bit hard.
is different,” Billy said in an interview for an article in the October 1997
issue of EAA Sport Aviation. “It is
by far the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. I love airplanes and flying, I
love building, I love the people involved, I love coming to fly-ins.”
went through a number of airplanes — including a couple of 172s, a Cherokee
180, a Cherokee Six, and a Mooney — before buying a Champ and discovering the
joys of low-and-slow taildraggers. When he spotted a Hatz on the cover of the
October 1986 issue of EAA Sport Aviation,
he knew he had to build one. And he did! He built that first Hatz in tandem
with a friend and ended up making some changes to his friend’s airplane based
on his own experience. By the time they finished, Billy realized that he liked
the mods he’d come up with and almost tore apart his own airplane to start over,
but his wife talked him out of it. Before long, he started on his second Hatz and
built in his changes along the way. Those changes included expanding the
cockpit for larger and taller pilots, moving the rudder pedals, and angling the
seats for comfort. He rounded out the fuselage, extended the ailerons, added a
pseudo-three-pane windscreen and an enclosed cowling, and covered the gear legs
— all to give it more of a Waco look. The gear was extended about 3 inches, and
he added some dihedral to the upper wing and beefed up the structure in spots.
modified Hatz was named Custom Plans Built Reserve Grand Champion at EAA Oshkosh
1996 and, 150 hours of flying and a little bit of repainting later, won Grand
Champion the following year. Billy worked with a partner and produced plans for
a number of years, calling the airplane the Hatz Classic. A company called
Makelan in Braunfels, Texas, now sells the plans, as well as full and partial
kits for the Classic.
the Classic took the CB-1 and beefed it up, Mark Marino, EAA 268003, one of the
HBA directors who lives in Duluth, Minnesota, went in a different direction. Mark
was building a Hatz CB-1 that would be powered by a Lycoming O-290D when the six-cylinder
120-hp Jabiru engine, which was new at the time, caught his eye. He really
wanted that engine, but it only weighed about two-thirds what the Lycoming did,
and he was too far into the project to make the major modifications needed to
accommodate the lighter Jabiru. So, he sold the work in progress and started
shortened the fuselage by 4 inches and moved the wings back 1.5 inches. He
moved the fuel tank and shortened the wings by a foot on each side. He swapped
the steel compression tubes for aluminum and moved the struts inboard. The diet
continued with lighter wheels and brakes. Along the way, Mark realized that his
modified design would meet the criteria for light-sport aircraft, and the Hatz
Bantam was born.
ended up with a clipped-wing Hatz,” Mark said in a story in the November 2006
issue of EAA Sport Aviation. “That’s where
‘Bantam’ came from — it’s a slightly smaller version of the standard breed.”
now makes plans and a number of welded components for the Bantam available
through his company, Hangar 10 Aero.
the CB-1, the Classic, and the Bantam is another variant.
another design that has kind of caught on referred to as the Hatz Vintage,”
Kevin said. “A father and son team over in Switzerland built a Hatz and powered
it with a Rotec radial with a speed ring and put some larger-looking Bendix
wheels on it. It’s just a beautiful airplane. I would say, right now, there’s
probably four or five Hatz airplanes that are under construction that are going
to be powered with the Rotec radial.”
what does the family think about people making changes to the original?
just absolutely thrilled with what’s been done with the design, and enjoy
keeping in touch with the guys that are building them,” Lyman said. “It’s like
an extended family, I guess you’d say.”
thinks his dad would approve, too.
would have been just thrilled,” Lyman said. “He absolutely would have. He just
loved that the people were thrilled with the airplane and then lived long
enough to see a couple real nice ones.”
But How Do They Fly?
asked about flying a Hatz, everybody says pretty much the same thing.
a real airplane and will carry two people with a little bit of baggage space,
and you can roll that thing in and out of the hangar by yourself as well,”
Kevin said. “The Hatz is referred to as a Cub with two wings. It’s very docile,
a stable airplane to fly. It has a flat-bottom wing. It’s not designed as a hot
rod; it’s just a Sunday flier.”
Lachendro, EAA Lifetime 21131 and, at age 21, one of the younger Hatz pilots
describe flying the Hatz as like sitting in the backyard on the hammock,” he
said. “A little light breeze and swinging back and forth. It’s that same
just a pleasure to fly … like a Cub,” Ray Marvin, EAA Lifetime 26250, said. “It
has a nice feel to it, and it does exactly what you ask it to do. … As far as
the controls, they’re nice and positive, and it feels really good. It’ll turn
on a dime and give you a nickel’s change.”
in this case, Ray isn’t talking about just any Hatz. He’s talking about ‘Happiness’, the original CB-1. Ray was
a longtime friend of John and the Hatz family. John taught Ray’s wife,
daughter, and son to fly. John died in 1989 and his wife, Berdina, followed in
1997, at which point the family put the airplane up for sale.
bought the Hatz at the sale because I just felt like it was part of the family,”
Ray said. “I had to have it.”
has owned it ever since and brings it to Hatz fly-ins whenever he gets the
the airplane turned 50, Kevin and the HBA decided to throw not one but two
brought up the idea [to] have our 50th anniversary Hatz gathering prior to
Oshkosh up in northern Wisconsin where John Hatz was from,” Kevin said. “So, we
had our 50th anniversary Hatz biplane fly-in up at Wausau, Wisconsin, this [last]
year, which was the weekend just prior to Oshkosh starting.”
wasn’t terribly cooperative, but they still ended up with about a dozen Hatzes
at the event in Wausau. That celebration spanned Friday and Saturday. Then, on
Sunday, it was time to head to the next party.
all taxied out from Wausau, and we all lined up on the taxiway and gave
everybody plenty of time to get squared away and do our engine run-ups,” Kevin
said. “And then a thumbs-up down the line, and then the first guy, Jeff Moore,
took off with our plan to orbit the field in about two orbits around the field
at Wausau. And it just looked like a ribbon of biplanes coming off. We all were
in this loose circle where everybody was airborne and just in loose formation.
Then, we turned south toward Oshkosh.”
were 10 airplanes in that gaggle, a mix of CB-1s, a Bantam, a couple of
Classics, and one powered by a Warner radial.
was wonderful,” Kevin said. “You could see everybody. And it worked out well. And,
of course, we got to taxi into Oshkosh as a group and enter our parking. It
went really well.”
Once at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, the airplanes were joined by other examples and displayed in Vintage parking throughout the week. Hatz owners, builders, and pilots, both current and prospective, enjoyed group meals, a forum presentation, and, most importantly, good old-fashioned fellowship all week long. In addition, Kevin reported that the HBA gained 21 new members and sold a half-dozen sets of plans.
Here’s to 50 More
legacy is assured, not only by the scores of biplanes that bear his name, but through
his five children. While Lyman’s sister didn’t pursue aviation, he and his
three brothers did, all of them learning to fly, and most of them getting their
hands dirty turning wrenches. Lyman and his brothers Clifford and Al are
staples in the vintage aviation world in Wisconsin.
the airplane that was originally inspired by the classics has become one. Based
on the affectionate dedication that the community has for this airplane, there’s
little doubt that we’ll be celebrating 100 years of Hatz at AirVenture 2068.
because one man just wanted a nice little biplane.