Home of Wasabi Air Racing

Elliot Seguin and Jenn Whaley's Formula One class air race team based out of Mojave, California. Pylon racing at the National Championship Air Races in Reno Nevada. Eight airplanes racing head to head around telephone poles in the desert. Mojave is the best place on the planet to build and modify a race plane, and Wasabi is lucky to have the best support in the business.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Super Legacy Test Report

Hey Guys,

Over the last year Jenn, Justin and I have been very fortunate to help Andy Chiavetta of Aerochia Aircraft Performance and Racing with the testing on some of the Super Legacies.  We recently published the report on one of these aircraft, N357AW, on which we did the phase one test program during the summer of 2014.  That report is available here (link), there is a brief and inaccurate summary of my knowledge of Andy's career below.

Airplanes are cool,

Andy Chiavetta has built more than 20 airplanes, 8 of which are the Super Legacies that he is most known for, he has also built several hundred skim boards, is part owner in a skim board company (Exile), and has appeared in several skim movies (Exile Bearded).  To me Andy is first a master of composite manufacturing, who's technical skill has consistently put him around some of the smartest people in the business.  The result is that Andy's depth of knowledge, especially with airplanes, extends far beyond the physical building of things with composites.

Andy and Darryl in Race 33, Photo Andy Chiavetta
Andy learned composites building sailboat masts in the LA area.  But the experience that makes me particularly jealous is the work he did with skim boards in the early 90's.  As an engineer in aerospace I spend a lot of time designing and building aircraft structures but little time structurally failing them.  If an engineer is lucky the part that is being designed will be taken to failure once before it is installed on the airplane.  By comparison, when Andy was designing and building skim boards with his friend Aaron Peluso they built and broke hundreds of boards.  The idea of laying up a board, and riding it to failure the next day, seems at once perfectly foreign, perfectly educational, and freaking awesome!  I believe this is a fundamental series of experiences for Andy, and has led to his supreme understanding for composites and how they fail.

Andy Skimming, Photo Matt Adams
With his composite experience and his background in ultralights it was probably only a matter of time before Andy started building composite airplanes especially with the boom in composite kitplanes that was happening in the 90's.  The result, Andy built several kitplanes with customers, which prepared him for the second experience that makes me so jealous of Andy, the moment he met Darryl Greenamyer.  Andy was at a place in his career where he was seeing at once a change in the market, he had been building Wheeler Express' and they were beginning to lose favor, and a plateau in his experience.  He had gotten pretty good at what he was doing and not one to let himself get bored he was looking for the next challenge.  Meanwhile the long awaited Sport Class of Reno Championship Pylon Racing had just gotten on it's feet and Darryl Greenamyer was interested in getting in on the action.  Darryl was asking around to find someone to help him assemble an airplane (Race 33), a perfect combination was born, and four consecutive championships were the result.

Darryl and Andy with Race 33, Photo Andy Chiavetta
The trick in racing is to find a way to sell the technology that you are proving on the race course, making it slightly more financially practical.  Andy was able to turn the modified version of the Lancair Legacy into its own new type of sport aircraft with it's own following, the Super Legacy became the work that kept Andy busy the rest of the year.  Through selling the parts to modify your stock Legacy or doing the actual work of modifying the airplane Andy supplemented the air racing habit that had firmly taken hold.  Eight of these Super Legacies have been built.

Andy and 3 of the Super Legacies, Photo Andy Chiavetta

Lastly Andy's enthusiasm and willingness to push through the problem to a solution with shear will has made him the guy to go to for so many different types of airplane problems.  As a result Andy has worked with and is well respected by the best in the business.  It is fantastic to see good things happen to good natured and hard working people and Andy is one of those.

Andy performs a hasty mid week repair to Strega, Reno 2013