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When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

Leonardo DaVinci


Occasionally, a genuinely new and fresh talent shows up on the airshow circuit that sparks the imaginations of the audience.  This is the case with Canadian airshow pilot, Kyle Fowler.  He is brilliant airshow performer and everyone sees it as plain as day – or as plain as night – depending upon the time of the day when Kyle demonstrates his aerobatic prowess since his airplane’s paint is electrified.

Kyle took to performing at a very young age as an airshow announcer for his father, Ken Fowler’s aerobatic show performances.  His father was half of the ‘Team Rocket’ aerobatic unit.  Kyle helped his father with his home-built construction too.  He worked with his Dad on construction of two RVs, three F1 Rockets, a glider, a jet, and about 17 partial builds.  So, the airshow life and building airplanes are both deeply ingrained into his DNA.  Kyle is an automotive mechanic by education and training.  So, he is a hands-on guy who does most of the work on his experimental airplane.

He earned his PPL at 21 years old followed by his Commercial ticket and Multi-IFR in 2015.  He flies a Navajo Chieftain and a Kodiak to help fund his adventures and feed his growing family.  His commercial flying work is a side hustle as he is a full-time airshow performer.

For the airshow demonstrations, Kyle pilots his 1986 Burt Rutan designed 2-seater Long EZ airplane.   This canard wing design with its dramatic swept-back wings is an odd-looking aircraft.  In its fresh, hot electrified yellow paint scheme, it is an instant eye-catcher.  It instantly catches the eye on every flight-line and is an airshow photographer’s favourite.  There were about 833 FAA-registered Long-EZs in the United States in 2021.  So, it is a very popular home build to undertake.

The Long EZ is an excellent long-distance performer too, so it gets Kyle to and from the airshows economically and with great speed.  The classic Rutan home-built airplane is powered with an IO-235, 125 HP carburetor engine and a standard two blade propeller.  The performance specifications include its 52 US Gal. / 197 L fuel tank, which boasts fight characteristics of 161 kt. (max cruise), 125 kt. at 40% power (cruise), 1,750 nautical mile range, a climb rate of over 1,700 ft/min., and a service ceiling of an astonishing 27,000 feet.

Kyle’s Long EZ has a much larger IO-360 powerplant sporting upwards of 225 HP with the Simple Design Systems (SDS) electronic fuel injection, all driven off of a specialized Catto propeller.  He had to seriously upgrade the engine mounts for this near doubling of horsepower.  These technological enhancements add a lot of serious ‘grunt’ to the classic performance parameters.  In part, they add to the aerial demonstration performance and provide a higher degree of reliability and trust to get to the shows on-time.

Compared to other airshow performers seen at this year’s Sun n Fun event, Kyle’s Long EZ is a somewhat tame act.  He is slow and methodical in his intricate performance.  He does a lot of slow rolls and knife-edge flying, yet the crowds love it and respond to the distinctiveness of his strange little airplane.  He stands out for the crowd who are awe-struck by his efficient execution of each maneuver in his wacky backwards flying airplane – well, it looks like it is flying backwards anyway, even if it is not actually doing it.

You will never confuse Kyle with the lightning-fast flip-flops, tumbles, spirals, and hammerhead stalls performed by other aerobatic acts like Michael Guilian in his Extra 330SC, Rob Holland in his Edge 540RH, Nathan Hammond in his de Havilland Super Chipmunk, or Patty Wagstaff in her Extra 300S.  So, why then is he such a fan favourite?  It is because he is unusual, unique, and most of all, easy to snap sensational photos of as he performs.  During his show, his casual back and forth banter with fellow Canadian and legendary airshow announcer, Ric Peterson was fun and charming. The fans love the contrast of his act compared to the others.  He is not just another aerobatic performer doing the same aerobatics.  He is distinctive.  Kyle stands alone.

Kyle’s Long EZ sports a special paint job too.  He has a LumiLor coating underneath the paint of his hot yellow bird.  Kyle’s Long EZ is perhaps the only airplane flying today with this electrified coating.  It is not the old fashion glow in the dark paint job.  The LumiLor paint solution is an electroluminescent coating system that is meticulously applied in five main layers with a back-plane layer, dialectic layer, lumicolor layer, a buss bar layer application, and a conductive top coat layer.  The electroluminescent paint job is topped off with a light whitewash and finally a clear coat for protection.  Powered by Alternating Current from an onboard electricity system and controlled by a custom programmed Arduino micro-controller, the paint is stunning in the dark.

LumiLor is available in 8 colours – white, blue, aqua, green, orange, Yellow, Violet and Pink and the lighting sequence can be controlled in various ways, such as – simple on or off, strobe effect, sequencing, and motion and sound activation.  There was once a Lexus high performance car raced on the track with the driver’s heart rate controlling the exterior paint colour electrification.  It was astonishing.  If I was flying with Kyle, with this heart-rate activated system, I assure you that the displayed colour would be either airsick green or heart attack violet, maybe both, but in stages?  He may be tame in his performance compared to the flip-flop acts, but it is still far more aggressive flying compared to what we weekend warriors can tolerate.

Kyle will perform at 18 scheduled airshows in 2023 with just 4 shows in Canada.  You can get a chance to see Kyle perform at airshows in Peace River, AB, Abbotsford, BC, Mirabel, QC, and Gatineau, QC.  The rest of his airshow performances will be in the USA.  And yes, he will be performing at the EAA AirVenture 2023 event too, between July 24-30 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  So, that will be a huge treat for his followers like me.

As a Canadian act, Kyle can thrill us wherever he performs.  Now, it is not too hard to love his work as he delivers a brilliant show and his classic, down-to-earth, humble Albertan nature shines as bright as his airplane.

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 40 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was a senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin served on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).  He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has completed over 30 next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, Indigenous Canada awareness, and more.