Bumpy Ride


From the Top

It’s been a bumpy ride over the past few years, hasn’t it? As a Glasair builder, I know first hand what each of you has been going through. (Some of you may not know that I was in the middle of building a Glasair SII-RG when Stoddard-Hamilton (S-H) filed for bankruptcy protection. I just finished flying off the 25 hour test period, and my bird is all that I dreamed it would be!) When I learned that Tom Wathen, a member of the EAA President’s Counsel, had purchased the Glasair assets, I felt a sigh of relief. However, I remained concerned about the future of the company as I still needed parts to complete my airplane, and I knew that a strong company would be needed to support my airplane in the future. Well, I now find myself in a seat in which I never thought I’d be sitting.

When Tom Wathen hired me to run New Glasair (NGA), and ultimately New GlaStar, I knew it would be challenging, and as with many things in life, it has been more challenging than I expected. However, the good news it that we are making excellent progress on all fronts. Are we as strong as we would like to be? Not yet, but we’re gaining speed daily. Currently, we are running a lean, efficient company. As sales increase – which I am happy to report they already are! – we will get better at all we do and be able to offer you more than we presently do. To date, we have met or exceeded every one of our targets and goals. 


As we stated from day one, our 1st priority was to get parts out to AOG (aircraft-on-ground) builders/owners.  This was accomplished within the 1st few months and we then turned to our 2nd priority – existing customers who needed parts to continue/complete their projects. We completed this goal, with the exception of several options which are arriving daily and shipping promptly after inspection and kit assembly. We then turned to our next priority – customers with partial kits who wished to purchase the next System 3 or System 4 kit. These orders began shipping last November and continue shipping weekly. 

In addition to the above, Tom Wathen made a limited offer of substantial discounts on replacement parts/kits to those who lost money in the S-H bankruptcy. Suffice it to say, the response was overwhelming, and as a result of Tom’s personal offer, many builders were able to obtain the parts and kits that they desperately needed. Additionally, we shipped many partial kits and several full kits to builders who had paid in full for these kits, but did not receive anything from S-H. For example, I am sure many of you heard of Kyle McCormick during the bankruptcy. I am pleased to announce that Kyle’s full GlaStar kit was shipped to him in mid-March! (Welcome aboard Kyle!) 

With the existing customer base receiving the parts they need, we are now turning our attention to the future and beginning to market the Glasair and GlaStar, and seek new sales. 

It is my firm belief that, in order to build a strong company, and regain the large sales volume that this business requires, we must quickly re-establish a strong, tight-knit group of builders who naturally encourage and assist not only each other, but also persuade potential new builders to buy and build a GlaStar or Glasair. What do I mean?

When I was deciding which airplane to build, I spent many a weekend getting out to various airports, driving up and down hangar rows looking for open hangar doors and spotting projects. I stopped and asked builders about their projects, the difficulties they found with the project, the quality of the manuals, the availability of help from others (builders and the factory), etc. Through this process, I met many Glasair builders who were more than eager to talk to me, discuss their project, let me assist a day here or there, etc. I also ran into builders with completed Glasairs who eagerly offered me rides and flight time. 

All of this led to my flying from California to the Arlington Fly-in with “Dr. John” (a Glasair builder) in his Glasair III. Along the way, he not only demonstrated the crisp handling and fun flight characteristics (aileron rolls, etc.), but he let me fly most of trip. (I was hooked long before we landed!) Arriving in Arlington, we taxied up to Stoddard-Hamilton’s facilities, where there were at least 40 or so Glasairs parked in the grass, and another 50 or so builders were pawing the aircraft getting ideas and tips. (This was prior to the GlaStar being introduced.) Walking, talking and enjoying the salmon dinner with all of these builders, I knew that this was something that I wanted to be a part of. In fact, an instant bond was formed with many of these builders that has lasted ever since. Many of my closest friends today were met either at the Arlington fly-in, through builder discussions on Compuserve (which has now been replaced and greatly enhanced by the GlaStar-net and Glasairnews.com), or through the list of local builders provided to me by Stoddard-Hamilton.   

What convinced me to build a Glasair was not only the great product, but more importantly, the great group of builders that I met.  In buying a Glasair, I knew that I would be joining a fraternity of sorts. I knew that, through this “fraternity”, I would have numerous resources upon which I could call during the building of my project. In fact, as it worked out, throughout the building phase of my project, many of us shared tips and techniques, and yes, the occasional “don’t do what I did!” Those who flew first made the rounds, offering “inspiration rides” and stick time. When working on my airplane late into the evening, I often found myself looking forward to flying with a group of other Glasairs to various places around the country. Each of you knows the importance of these friendships and how they help immeasurably during the project. 

As the President of NGA, and also as a Glasair builder, I believe that a strong Glasair/GlaStar “fraternity” is very important not only to existing builders, and potential new builders, but to the future of this company. This is why I am going to work with Dave Prizio and Bruce Gray (the President of a newly formed Glasair association) to strengthen both associations. Together, we will look for ways to make the associations more meaningful and valuable to you.

Some of the things that we can start with include:

  • Insurance Availability and Cost:  We can work together to (1) better network builders so they can get Glasair/GlaStar flight time while they complete their project; (2) develop a flight training syllabus and program; and, (3) shop various insurance companies as a group of thousands (rather than as individuals), seeking a discounted group rate, better terms, etc.
  • Local Fly-ins: Helping to promote regular get-togethers amongst builders so they can get to know one another, discuss tips and techniques, and of course look, see and fly Glasairs and GlaStars.
  • Annual Fly-Out Events: Work together to arrange/schedule annual “get togethers” and activities such as a weekend of fly-fishing, float-flying, golfing, wine tasting, etc. (We are open to other ideas and organizers too!)
  • Better online support from NGA and the establishment of an easy to use/search database of builder tips.
  • Ways NGA can help increase the number of GS/GA builders in the associations. (I have a few ideas to discuss with Dave and Bruce.)

Here is where I turn to you for help. If you enjoy building your project, getting together with other builders at the airport to help each other and exchange ideas and tips, flying to places with other GlaStar builders, getting to your favorite fishing, hunting or remote get-away in your GlaStar, there is no question that you will help us sell kits to new customers. 

What do I ask of you? When potential builders come to visit you, take time to show them your project, the manuals, etc. Tell them about the great association of GlaStar builders and the vast amount of knowledge and assistance that is available to GlaStar builders both locally and online. Tell them about the GlaStar’s unmatched versatility (trike, tail-dragger, floats, skis, folding wing, etc., all in 1 airplane!) and utility (by far the largest baggage area and payload in its class). Remind them of the advantages of a high-wing aircraft: the best views and the easiest access (as we all have friends or family members who love to go flying, but have a hard time getting into and out of an airplane). Tell them about the GlaStar’s unequaled flying characteristics (low, docile stall, high cruise speed, nice handling, etc.). Lastly, by all means get one of your friends with a flying GlaStar to take them for a ride and let them see first hand how the GlaStar flies! There is no substitute for actually experiencing it for yourself!

I truly believe that, in the classes in which it competes, the GlaStar remains the best airplane on the market. It’s really many airplanes in one. Nothing else on the market comes close. 

So, what I’m asking you to do is get involved! Get to know other GlaStar builders and make sure that they all join GlaStar Association International (GAI). Attend some of the events that we and/or GAI will be putting together. Attend at least one major fly-in (Oshkosh, Sun ‘n Fun, Arlington, Copperstate, etc.) per year. Make sure that potential builders are fully informed about the greatness of the GlaStar and the strong “fraternity” of builders that has been there to support you and will be there to support them.

Another thing that you can do that would help us greatly would be for you to send a photo of your completed airplane to all of the magazines and tell them how fun it has been, etc. The “completion section” of the magazines has a greater impact on potential builders than you might think.

Your assistance in all of these things will play a key role in the revitalization of NGA. Without each of your help, a strong “fraternity” of GlaStar builders will not be regained, and we will not develop into the company that you, I or potential builders would like to see. However, with your help, we can, and will, return to the # 1 kit company in the business!

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Mikael Via
Mikael Via served as President and CEO of Glasair Aviation, LLC from 2001 to 2012.