View Full Version : Kitfox of the Month Sept. 2010 John Kuzmic

09-05-2010, 06:09 PM
‘War Eagle’ is my TeamKitfox user name. In my daily life I am John Kuzmic and I live in Nampa Idaho. My plane is a Kitfox Series 7 that has a Rotax 914 and an Airmaster constant speed prop. It is setup in tricycle gear now but sometime in the future I hope to convert it to a tail dragger configuration.


My story begins in 2001 when a group of Nampa/Caldwell EAA 103 members kicked around the idea of doing a group build of a yet to be determined aircraft. As the group was formed we created a MOU (memorandum of understanding) between the members that entailed details of our financial responsibilities, our work plan as well as some expectations of member engagements until the project was completed etc.. As part of the MOU, the plan was to be that all planes were to be made exactly alike (panel, color etc.). The plan was that we would all work together and no one was to know which plane was the one they were going to get until it was finished. The intent was to avoid any potential conflicts in quality of work etc.. In principal this sounded doable but in practice we could not agree on color selection or avionics etc.


After a fair amount discussion and disagreement, each aircraft took on its own unique panel and color scheme. The Kitfox Series 6 was the aircraft design selected and we made a group buy of 13 aircraft. We purchased complete kits to include everything for a flyable plane with the exception of avionics, paint and navigation lights. We wrote checks to Skystar for over a quarter million dollars and first delivery was in November of 2001 and the project began. We rented a portion of a commercial hanger at the Caldwell Industrial Airport and met every Saturday to work on the project.


At the early stages of our project, the Series 7 design was being introduced by Skystar and the group chose to upgrade our Series 6 project to the Series 7 version.

The group build of 13 planes included one that had no dedicated owner and was to be sold so the proceeds could be used to establish a trust fund to support fuel and expenses for young eagle flights. Disaster struck part way into the project when Skystar went bankrupt before they delivered all of our purchased items. In hindsight we should have established an escrow account for this project rather than hand over all the funds directly to Skystar. We lost over a third of our investment. We ultimately had to collect additional funds from each of the group build members and also use the proceeds when we sold the none owner plane, to repurchase engines and other non delivered parts.
In the project I jockeyed for the last position because I wanted to have the most building experience and I wanted to work on my own plane outside of the group experience. You see, I have long dreamed about building my own plane and I was finally going to get that experience and I wanted it to be by my hands as much as I could make it.

So in the summer of 2005 after we finished plane number 12, I formally excused all of the project members from being obligated to work on my plane so I could have the experience of building it myself. Of course there were many times when I needed more than my two hands to complete some of the details and that is when I would call on some of the project members to give me a hand.

I made a fair number of modifications to my project and this took extra time but since I was only thinking of doing this once in my lifetime I had definite ideas of how I wanted this plane to be equipped and how I wanted it to look. One of my first modifications was to have the airframe modified to create an extended baggage compartment with rear access door. Then I put fairing on lift struts, jury struts and horizontal struts.

I also wanted to make my cowling smooth and drag free as possible so I built hidden hinges (like seen on RV’s) for the cowling and oil access door. I installed extra wing ribs to support future stall fences in mid-wing locations and I spent extra time to make sure the fabric, tape and all seams were as aesthetically balanced as possible.
Since I was one of the ones that lost an engine in the bankruptcy I decided to upgrade my engine from the 912S to the 914. Now I am a low time pilot but I live in Idaho and I love the outdoors and hunt and fish for enjoyment. I fully wanted to be able to fly into remote locations and to even use floats eventually. So I figured the turbo charged 914 would give me some great margins when it comes to density altitude and remote location access etc..

As I get more time and experience in the Kitfox I plan to add vg’s, stall fences, tail wheel and hopefully floats someday. So I bit the bullet and opted for the 914.

Other choices for me included a modern glass panel display, a custom interior and a constant speed Airmaster prop.

Color was another important issue for me. I knew I wanted yellow as it is one of the most easily seen colors for the human sight. I have been flying enough to recognize that it is easy to loose sight of some planes in flight and I wanted to provide as much advantage as I could to be seen while I was in flight. And heaven forbid, if I was ever go down, I wanted to also provide as much benefit to be seen on the ground as possible. So my logic said it had to be yellow. I also wanted to have a very patriotic theme associated with my plane and some how incorporate an eagle and flag into the color scheme. Everything had to work together and it had to be cool looking. In hindsight, the color scheme was the single hardest decision for me. I literally worked on that part of the design for several years before I was able to make the final decision.
Now I took a fair amount of ribbing over all the changes I made and the time it took me to complete the project. After all, every one of the other 12 planes has been flying for years. But I never wavered from the picture I had in my mind of how I wanted this plane to look and what it was going to take to finish. I continued to work on Saturdays only and I actually found great peace and enjoyment in the build process. While I didn’t keep a time clock on the hours I worked on this plane I know I spent far more that the original estimated hours to complete a Kitfox. I am thinking it was actually somewhere greater that 1500 hours.

In April 2010 I retired from Hewlett Packard after nearly 29 years of service and began working full time to complete the project with the target to take it to Arlington in July of 2010.

I received my airworthiness certificate (from the FAA and not a DAR) on June 14th, 2010 and had my 40 hours of flight testing completed by July 3rd. While I am still learning about the capabilities of this plane and still working out some of the bugs, I am seeing some great performance numbers like 1800 fpm climb (if I really get in a hurry). My cruise numbers seem to be about 128-130 mph.

It is supposed to be capable of somewhere around 150 mph cruise at 16k but I have not been higher than 10k yet. My first cross country was to Arlington 2010 with the intent to have the plane judged.

The plane seemed to be very popular at Arlington as I had lines of people stop by to look at it and talk to me about it. I even had the judges come by multiple times to check it over. I was told by the folks camping next to my plane that the judges even came buy in the evening with flashlights to check the plane over. To make a long story short, I won the 'Reserve Grand Champion' for the 'Custom Kit Built ' category.
I felt confident in the work I had done and had hopes of winning an award and was very pleased with the final results. What a great experience from beginning with the group build project in November of 2001 to the culmination of this award at Arlington in July 2010. Now I am thinking that I will take my turn in dishing out the ribbing.

War Eagle.

More photos continued in part 2.

09-05-2010, 06:14 PM
Part 2 continued:




09-05-2010, 07:55 PM
Great story and a nice job on the plane...certainly a worthy plane to claim KOM. Congratulations!
BTW...Thanks for the picture showing us how to balance the spinner. I was having trouble understanding the directions :D

09-05-2010, 08:30 PM
Congratulations on KOM. Your plane is beautiful. It was nice meeting you at this year's factory fly-in. When you want a nice morning flight, come on down to Ogden, UT (KOGD) and have lunch with us on the airport.

09-05-2010, 09:58 PM
Congrats. John on a great build. Enjoy every flight.

09-06-2010, 06:12 AM
Ahhh the original "cone head" ! Nice, nice airplane ! From your moniker "war eagle" I though you were an Auburn alumni.

09-06-2010, 06:06 PM
Beautiful plane, congrats.

09-08-2010, 10:04 AM
A well deserved win. Everytime I see someone's finished product I make changes to what I want on mine.:confused: Adds to the enjoyment of planning?!

09-12-2010, 10:14 AM

Thanks for the write-up. It was nice meeting you at the factory fly-in. The airplane looks great.


09-17-2010, 10:23 PM
Guys. I'm starting a new thread for this discussion called V.G.'s and stall fences so as not to bury good info. in the Kitfox of the Month section. I will move all appropriate questions and response replies to that thread for future searches.