By David Gustafson
It took an entire decade of tinkering, tweaking and fine-tuning, but Jay Sabot finally managed to thread the whale through the eye of the needle and won the coveted, highly competitive Gold Lindy Trophy that designated his Lancair Legacy the Grand Champion Kit Aircraft for 2013 at AirVenture. His aerial sports car is a masterpiece in craftsmanship, reflecting a commitment to precision and quality that many dream about, but few actually achieve.
The action began in 2003, the day after Thanksgiving, when Jay visited a man who became a close friend, Jabe Luttrell, who was already deep into his own Lancair Legacy project. It wasn’t his first contact with a Lancair. He’d visited AirVenture for the first time in 1993 and became enamored with the Lancair 360. At that time, it was out of his reach financially.
He picked up his private pilot’s license soon after that trip to Oshkosh and with a gift from his parents he went on to get his IFR rating.
Jay went back to AirVenture in 2003 and was still fascinated with the scope of the Lancair program and the performance of the aircraft. He enjoyed a demo flight in a IV-P, but preferred the sporty feel of the 360. So, when he had listened to Jabe’s impressions of the Legacy after turkey day, he made a quick decision. The following Monday, he called the Lancair factory and ordered kit S/N 247. He was on his way.
The ordering of the kit was part of a natural progression. Growing up in Roslyn, New York, Jay began refining his mechanical aptitude at an early age. Encouraged by his father, he succeeded in dismantling and re-assembling items around the house like the family vacuum cleaner. He moved onto model airplanes and got into serious RC flying. Not long after that he got into rebuilding cars and assembling fancy engines to go with them. When it came time for college, Jay started a pre-med curriculum at Vanderbilt University, wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps as a physician. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, but then gave into his fascination with all things mechanical and earned another Bachelor’s in Engineering. Soon after, he picked up an MBA. With the high tech jobs that followed, his financial reach was extended and when he sold his house in 2003, he knew he could pursue his dream of building a Lancair. By 2011, Jay figured he’d tied up $260K in the project, which was roughly $60K more than he’d originally anticipated and that became a significant challenge.
When Jay started his Legacy build in 2004, he was working as a consultant on a project for IBM. He reasoned that he could leave his home in Connecticut one week a month, fly out to the west coast and work for IBM from 4:00 a.m. until noon Pacific time; 7 – 3 Eastern. After putting in a full day for IBM, he could then visit the Lancair factory and participate in their builders’ program until 8:30 p.m., at which time he’d drive to his motel, crash until 3:00 a.m. and then start another day. That is not an easy schedule to keep, but he did it from March through June of 2004. He made enough progress and established a high enough level of quality with his project that the Lancair Company asked him if he would allow them to bring his project, at their expense, to AirVenture and put it on display. After AirVenture, Jay was free to truck it the rest of the way to the east coast. What a deal! He agreed to it and made arrangements to rent a Budget Truck for the rest of the way.
Though it was the same length, the Budget truck was configured differently than the Ryder truck that had been used to get it from Oregon to Oshkosh and his fuselage would not fit, so he had to scramble the day after AirVenture ended to find a trailer that he could pull behind the Budget Truck. He bought a landscaper’s trailer in Oshkosh and sold it when he got home, just about breaking even. It made for a couple of frantic and frustrating days. In the end it worked out and Jay’s project made it to the east coast for less than half the price he’d anticipated. But now he was on his own. Fortunately, he was part of an active EAA Chapter and had begun to network with a group of fellow Lancair builders. So he found himself working beside a lot of new-found friends at his home. Jabe was one of the first friends. Scott Denham worked beside Jay during his first week at the factory. Joe Gauthier, his DAR, pitched in and Bruce Staubley, who owns Simsbury Precision Products, built a lot of the parts and pieces that went into the aircraft. His EAA Chapter was a source of tremendous support and the Oxford Flying club, which he’d joined after getting his Private, was also there to help.
And so the work proceeded. Sometimes there were periods of weeks or months when nothing got done, other times, when the work fascinated him, he’d still be working after 12 hours. He faced some difficult hours trying to work inside the limited space of the tailcone and forward of the instrument panel, especially after the panel had been installed. Like all composite aircraft, there were countless hours involved in sanding and other types of bodywork. Jay spaced out the sanding over the entire program, delivering an airframe that the painter lauded as far more finished than most. Just staying focused over the long haul, was a challenge. That challenge would arise whenever a task became an obstacle due to complexity or an evasive solution. The difficulty of dealing with the issue and returning to the construction schedule could easily create gaps in the progress, but Jay tackled each of the migraine issues and got beyond them.
Of course, there were times when the work was highly gratifying. For Jay, being an electrical engineer, the work with wiring was fun. Tying in the mess of spaghetti aft of the firewall and forward of the panel, as well as running wires out the wing and through the fuselage provided Jay with hours of challenge and reward. Mounting the instrument panel with all its components in place represented a big step toward completion. On the other hand getting all the avionics components properly calibrated and working together, i.e., the Chelton EFIS, autopilot, AOA, GPS, took a long time, a lot of phone calls and led to some head shaking frustration. There were other learning curves: recognizing aircraft construction standards (i.e., having a bolt protrude beyond the nut two threads), took time to learn and he leaned on his friends for a lot of those procedures.
To make sure that everything in the panel was installed in a way that made it easy for him to reach what he needed to while flying, he built several mockups before having SteinAir put the pieces together in a bolt-in unit. He decided he would add nothing that might distract from performance. That meant keeping the weight down and leaving out objects like air conditioning. He did add some fairings to reduce drag, covering the attach points where the wings and horizontal stabilizer join the fuselage. He covered the cutouts that were in place to allow access to the hinges on the rudder and elevator.
Though his friend Jabe had opted for a Continental 550N with FADEC, Continental had dropped their support of that program, so Jay went to Corona Aircraft Engines in California to build up a more souped up 550, incorporating ECI cylinders, precision balancing, polished ports, and changing the pistons from 8:1 to 10:1. On the dyno, similar engines get a roaring 370 horsepower, about 60 more stallions than a stock 550! Perhaps because of his earlier work with engines, he baffled the engine and cowled it in, escaping any kind of cooling problems. He’s proud of the fact that he has low CHT and EGT readings all the time.
With the help of Jabe Luttrell and Bruce Staubley, Jay designed his own throttle quadrant. By creating channels in the throttle lever, he was able to build micro-switches into the handle at the top of the throttle, allowing him to control flap position and speed brakes with his thumb during his approaches. It meant he could keep his left hand on the stick and his right hand on the throttle through the entire approach. He installed micro switches in the canopy channels that enabled a green light and oral alert message to assure that the canopy is always locked down securely.
Once he had hooked up his wires, routed the fuel system, run his links to the engine, he decided to have a party. In September 2008, he invited 70 of his closest friends from EAA, his flying club and other aviation associates to a “first run” party in his back yard. Firing up the engine for the first time was an accomplishment he wanted to share and probably there was something in him that just wanted to show people that he was making progress and had every intention of completing the project. Though he was setting himself up for a possible embarrassment, the engine fired up and ran beautifully.
Just about a year later, August 7, 2009, he got his Certificate of Airworthiness. There was no party on the day of the first flight. Though he agonized over his decision, he made the right one by turning over the initial flight and all of the Phase One flight testing to Joe Gauthier. Joe took it up for the first time on August 14, 2009. Phase One went well with only one minor issue involving the right brake, which made Jay very happy that the aircraft was in experienced hands. Jay wisely decided to do some transition training before flying the Legacy himself and considers it one of the best investments he ever made.
The final touch was the paint scheme. With the help of Scheme Designers, Jay spent 4.5 months designing, amending and finalizing the paint scheme before turning the aircraft over to Ed’s Aircraft Refinishing for the stunning application of lines and checks. It’s definitely a high energy enhancement of the sculptured airframe.
It was time to show it off. He flew it to AirVenture 2011 and came home with a Bronze Lindy. He went back in 2012, with a dozen improvements, but went home with nothing. In 2013, after another dozen refinements, courtesy of the judging panel at AirVenture, he won Reserve Grand Champion at Sun ‘n Fun and four months later took the Gold Lindy at AirVenture. The award for Grand Champion Homebuilt from a kit validated Jay’s pursuit of perfection.
No Cirrus, Cessna, Piper or Beech has ever left the factory with the level of quality and finish found in Jay’s Lancair Legacy…it’s a real credit to the art and craftsmanship of homebuilding.
Jay kept an extensive photographic history of the project which is available to anyone online. To see Jay’s construction log visit: www.Lancair-N26XY.com. Here’s a sample of the photos you’ll find there: