The Long-EZ

The Long-EZ is a 2-place, single-engine, all-composite home-build airplane; designed by Burt Rutan. The following information is provided from my experience and on-going building process of the Long-EZ. My goal is to give a prospective Long-EZ builder the up-front information they need to get building.

If you wish to build a Long-EZ, the following steps are required:

1. Obtain a copy of the plans -

Although the plans are no longer sold, original sets may still be found by private sellers on e-bay or at Oshkosh / Sun'n'fun fly-ins. You can also obtain an electronic version here. ::CAUTION - If using these plans as your own, please note that these copies were obtained from the 'Open-EZ' community. Some of the scales written on the A1 through A14 drawings are skewed. DO NOT USE these as official templates! I verified this using 3D-CAD software by aligning the reference scale markings indicated and cross referenced them with the fuselage stations (FS), butt lines (BL) and water lines (WL) shown on the very same drawing. The majority of the drawings did match, however some did not. For the sake of liability, I will not publish which drawings are correct and which are not. All I will say is, DO NOT USE these as official templates! For more information about the scales, please see: Open-EZ scales::

The plans are composed of the following:

I: Manufacturing Manual - this is a 26 chapter manual, giving the builder step-by-step instructions. The appendix is comprised of 14 full-scale drawings (identified as A1 through A14).

II. Engine installation - various engine installation manuals are available depending on the engine selected. The typical engine installs (per plans) are a Continental O-200 or a Lycoming O-235 - although nowadays, going with an O-320 is more common.

III. Owner's manual - this document contains flight and maintenance information. It also contains normal and emergency procedures, weight and balance, check lists, detailed flying qualities descriptions, operating limitations, performance charts, maiden flight test procedures, and record keeping requirements.

IV. Landing brake - drawings for landing drag device to increase glide angle and reduce float in the flare. This is a 17.5" x 17.5" square panel located on the belly of the aircraft which deploys perpendicular to the flow during landing to induce drag. The plans show this as 'Section VI' since it was copied from the VariEze plans.

When Burt Rutan sold the original plans, updates were published in a monthly newsletter called 'The Canard Pusher' (note that this was before email and internet were available). All CPs were scanned and put in PDF files. A text only file consist of all the written text of the CPs to make it easier to search using the 'find' feature; however, it is advised to refer to the actual CP's when making important decisions. The CP's are very important, as they contain vital updates to the design (some of which are MANDATORY). An excel spreadsheet was made summarizing the changes; again, please refer to the actual Canard Pusher newsletters, as mistakes may have been made when the summary was put together.

Two major optional modifications included in the CP's are: 1) a canard redesign, and 2) high-performance rudders. Both have special documentation which explain the modifications in detail. The original "GU" canard tends to have a pitch-down tendency when flying through rain. This is due to water droplets interacting with the boundary layer and causes the flow to separate further upstream than intended. Most Long-EZ's with the original canard design can be trimmed to counteract this effect and is not a major factor. The new design is called the Roncz canard and was designed to minimize this effect when flying through rain. You can identify the Roncz canard by the swept up tips. The second major modification are the high performance rudders. The original Long-EZ design has short stubby rudders. Although these provide sufficient directional control, some felt the aircraft required more authority during higher crosswind take-offs and landings. The rudders were modified to fill the span-wise length of the winglet, giving the rudders a higher surface area hence increasing directional control authority.

2. Homework and recon -

Do your homework. Begin researching everything you can about the Long EZ, the aircraft building process, attend Oshkosh, attend Sun'n'fun, join forums, read blogs, get educated, attend workshops, sign up with your local EAA chapter, talk to people who have built an airplane, ask questions; organize all your findings however you see fit. Start a journal and note everything. Save the URL links you visit. Develop a plan, a schedule, a budget. Browse through Aircraft Spruce and Wick's websites; chances are, you'll be purchasing your materials through them. Read everything you can about composites, hot wiring foam, etc. Read the plans, make notes as you read them and ask questions to things you don't understand. Re-read the plans; chances are, you'll be able to answer more than half the questions you originally wrote down after the second time you read the plans! Use Chapter 2 to develop your own BOM (bill of materials) that lines up with your schedule and budget (i.e., a map that identifies when you should place an order). Read Chapter 3 thoroughly; it will help you better understand what you need to setup shop and will make you familiar with the common terminology found throughout the plans.

The Long EZ was designed in the 70's; many have been built and there are hundreds of modifications out there. While doing your homework and research, you will notice there are many builder blogs that talk a lot of garbage when it comes to making mods; my advice is stick to the plans, but feel free to question updates from an engineering point of view. In other words, don't change something in the plans just because someone else has done it, or 'feels' it's the right thing to do. Instead, if someone suggests a change, make sure you understand the reason behind the change and cross-verify it with other sources. Separating fact from opinion is very time consuming, but very important to do while executing this stage.

You will also need to research what materials are outdated and what their corresponding replacements are. Examples of this include foam types, epoxies, etc. You will find that most builders are very particular about what epoxy they use. Again, be cautious about whose advice you take and question their reasoning; their selection might have been chosen for different reasons that may or may not align with yours (i.e., cost, environment, personal preference on workability, etc.) 

3.  Setup shop -

You will need at least a two-car garage. After you build all major components, you will then have to transfer everything to a hangar for final assembly. Composites are very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Your garage should be between 70-80F degrees. Anything less than that, you will require heating (else, it will take a very long time for the epoxy to cure; more on that topic later).

You'll need a large workbench. Chapter 3 of the plans goes over workbench details. You'll also need a hot-box to keep your resin warm prior to mixing. Some have built their own hot-box out of easy to find parts at local hardware stores, using a simple thermostat and a light bulb. I find bathing the metal resin containers inside a water-filled slow-cooker does the trick. I place a thermometer inside the water bath to make sure the temperature stays between 90-100F (refer to the spec sheet of your epoxy system for your pre-mix temperature setting). If using the water bath method, make sure to never allow your resin to be contaminated by water; doing so will scrap your epoxy! 

4. Start building!

So you've done your homework, read the plans thoroughly, read all the CP's and builder hints, you've setup your shop... it's time to start building!