Steve Leonard


Dennis Brown is my partner, and he is in the right seat in the photos with the two of us in the plane.

We got the plane in February of 1992. It had been damaged the previous Labor Day Weekend. The owner was flying at about 3000 feet over his home field when the removeable section of the canopy departed the airplane. On the RHJ-9, the canopy was held on by two pins (one front, one back, typical Schreder style) on the left side, and on the right side, the frame slid under a tab that was riveted to the top of a similar sized piece of tubing. No pins on the right side. I guess the thought was that you would not have to reach across the cockpit if you ever had to jettison the canopy.

Anyway, apparently the front pin was not fully or properly engaged, and that corner lifted, caught the wind, and tore the canopy off the cockpit. The pilot hunkered down into the cockpit to ge further out of the wind, and decided he needed to get the plane on the ground as soon as possible.

He put the flaps down all the way and spiraled down into the pattern. He set up a little higher than normal, and entered downwind. He saw he was sinking like a stone, so he brought the flaps up some. He was still coming down quite rapidly, so he turned base a bit early and raised the flaps a bit more. Seeing he still was falling fast and not sure he would make the runway, he raised the flaps further and angled directly for the runway. He ran out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas a bit short of the runway and ended up putting it into the trees. All this from having the canopy come off at 3000 feet, directly over the field.

The first person on the scene asked if he was OK, and he replied he was. When asked what happend, he said "The canopy came off."

The guy said, "You mean that thing?"

"Son of a .... It came down right where I did!?"

No, it had impaled itself on the tail and the frame and a large portion of the glass were stuck in the tail acting like a giant speedbrake.

Well, I wrote him a letter in December of that year, asking him a few questions about the plane, and if it might be for sale. I got a reply back telling what had happened, and he said it was for sale as is, because Henry Preiss was not willing to repair it for him.

I picked a price that if it was below that amount, I would buy it. If not, I would have to think about it. His price was just above my limit. So, I called a friend to ask "How far is it to Akron, Ohio?" The glider was very near Akron. I knew that he would know how far it was, as he had made that drive several times for the National Soapbox Derby races! He didn't tell me how far it was. He wanted to know why I wanted to know how far it was. Thus, a partnership was born.

We got the plane home and have repaired the damage to the tail, the leading edge of the left wing, the flap trailing edges, elevators, and most of the fuealge damage. We have fitted a new forward windscreen, and have trimmed a new removable canopy section from an RV-6 canopy. It is not yet installed on the frame. I think he has lost some of his motivation for working on it, and I have been plenty busy with all of my other projects.

So, here it still sits. In a nice, enclosed trailer. One canopy short of being ready to fly. As I keep saying, "Maybe this year I will get it done."

So, that is the story of the RHJ-9 for the last 15 years. Maybe soon, it will get back into the air. I suspect there are many other HPs and similar types that have sat for at least this long, if not longer.

I am pretty sure my HP-14 sat from its accident in 1977 or 1978 until I got it back in the air in 2002. It had a new airworthiness certificate issued in 1979, but I do not think it was flown between the time of the accident and when I bought it. I bought it in 1990, so that one spent 12 years with me before I got around to getting her back in the air.