International Aerobatic Club Honors Frank Christensen at AirVenture
[If you have never seen a Christen Eagle fly, your aviation bucket list is incomplete.]
AirVenture, as the world’s best civil air show and exhibition, demands at least one post a year:
- EAA AirVenture shows off planes & awesome PINK controllers working at all facets of their jobs, 2015
- FAA acting administrator cite of NextGen’s safety benefits fuels debate on user fee at AirVenture, 2012
Much of the 2017 reporting from Oshkosh has focused on 21 AIRR and that issue has received enough coverage from other venues.
Fortunately, the International Aerobatic Club used this awesome venue to honor Frank Christensen. His recognition reflects on his career as an aircraft designer, kit manufacturer and aerobatic pilot—his excellence in all three dimensions of this highest form of aviation. He has been head of Christen Industries and he revolutionized the kit aircraft business with the introduction of the Eagle aerobatic aircraft kit. He also organized and supported the Eagles Aerobatic Team for 25 years. Mr. Christensen is considered the founder of the modern aircraft kit movement. Later he added the Husky to his inventory of design.
He learned to fly at 16. He matriculated at Stanford University, majoring in industrial engineering and economics. The site of his education was also the center of American technology development—the computer. He founded Tempress Industries, Inc. in Los Gatos, California (i.e. Silicon Valley).Tempress excelled at the manufacture of miniature production tools and machinery.
By 1972, his company had grown to over 400 employees and was the sole source of critical products used in microchip production. He sold the company and went off to the World Aerobatic Championships as the team manager. According to Tom Poberezny, “Frank never missed a deadline, never overlooked a detail and made it all look seamless and easy.” A couple years later, Frank formed Christen Industries, Inc., in Hollister, California.
He introduced his kit for the Eagle aerobatic biplane at the 1977 EAA Fly-In, and with that, he changed the image of homebuilding. Prior to that historic annual Fly-In Convention, no one had ever seen or even envisioned anything like the Eagle kit. The quality and thoroughness of the kits, the step-by-step “fail-safe” process detailed and instructively illustrated in the manuals, were critical to the plane’s success.
He went on to purchase the Pitts factory in Afton, Wyoming, designed and certified the Husky and eventually sold the company to Malcolm White of Aviat Aircraft. Stu Horn bought the company next and still sells complete Eagle kits.
The Washington heavy metal aviation community tends to ignore the smaller plane segment. Mr. Christensen’s example of creativity, energy and passion should be a warning that size may be overrated. Have you ever seen a flock of grackles pestering a buzzard?
Congratulations Mr. Christensen and thanks for the ride in an Eagle 35 years ago at EAA.