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Builder's Log

"Dorothy" - Choppergirl's $38 Volmer Jensen VJ-24W antique ultralight motor glider on HomeBuiltAirplanes.com

Airplane Engine



I borrowed some money and bought the engine above. After cleaning it up, its sitting on the frame of my VJ-24W in my kitchen in the above photo

You can see more pictures of the engine here and the 165 mile round trip journey (330 miles)
I took on my motorbike in the middle of winter to pick it up.

Cuyuna ULII-02 Engine (430cc / 30-35hp) has 180 hours on it since last rebuild/serviced (or uh, more cynically, since hour meter was bought and put on it), and was running when it was stored.

Engine was on a Kolb Firefly, and the owner let his friend, a GA pilot, taxi it around, but told him not to take off. He took off, flew around, and tried to land it but it wouldn't land and ended up catching a fence before he could set it down/stop it and totaling the FireFly.

My sloppy measurements of outside diameter of redrive measures 10 inches circumference small pully, 20.5 inches circumference large pully (or perhaps more accurately, 1.5 inch radius Small Pulley, 3 inch radius large pulley)

So I am guessing, 2:1 reduction

Motor mounts on my VJ-24W will more than likely need to be shortened backwards to offset change in CG of using a heavier engine, but not a problem, I have 43 inches of clearance, so up to a 80 inch prop. Now that's where some math will come in. Original motor was probably (guessing) a Yamaha KT-100 and redrive, with a 1 gallon gas tank (10 pounds?) directly behind it on motor mount. I plan to mount a larger gas tank further rearward, directly over the CG if I can. Not thrilled about idea of having a couple of gallons of highly explosive flamable gasoline premix directly above me, but.

Weight, as pictured, according to my bathroom scale is 85 pounds, with exhaust, carb, redrive, belt, pull starter, bolts, etc (everything but prop)

not sure what pitch and length prop was used in former configuration, will ask fellow I bought it from. Probably something typical for a Kolb FireFly with this type engine.

Engine was originally in pusher configuration, and carb is currently inverted.


Donate to help buy an Engine for Dorothy

Someone found an ultralight engine for $250 for me only 130 miles away. You can't get cheaper than this with a pulley reduction drive, carb, and exhaust! I know, I've looked everywhere on eBay...! But I'm in a bind. So I'm asking for your help.



You can learn all about Dorothy below....





Poster board I made to display in front of my VJ-24W at future air shows and when parked on the runway.

Don't hurt your eyes squinting trying to read it, the text is pasted right below it on the page...




The Poster board reads:

HELLO! Meet my

1980 Volmer Jensen
VJ-24W (SunFun)
The world's first modern motor glider (ultralight)
My plane's name:
"Hopeless Place", after the Rhiana Song
"We found Love (in a Hopeless Place)

(renamed to Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz)

This barn find was bought by me on Ebay November 31, 2015 for
$38 dollars U.S. -- VJ-24W ultralight aircraft
$25 dollars U.S. -- JLO RM-252 Engine (14hp?)
(After some internet research, I found engine turned out to be 10.5 hp, too underpowered to use on the plane.)

Nobody knew what it was, but I identified it by looking at 100's of photos :-)

Designed by Volmer Jensen and Irv Culver
First test flown by David Cook in 1980

Volmer Jensen

Who is Volmer Jensen? Have you ever heard of a little TV show from the 60's called Star Trek? Volmer Jensen designed and built the first model of the Starship Enterprise for Gene Rodenberry, featured in the opening credits of the old TV show, with two other guys in his workshop . He got the idea for the round part of the spaeship from stove burner coils. That model now hangs in the Smithsonian. Volmer's first plane was the Martin M-1 1939, and he designed gliders in the 50's, 60's, and 70's. He designed also several foot launch hang gliders, the VJ-11, VJ-23, and VJ-24.

A fellow named Stephen Lowther suggested he put an engine on the VJ-23 and then VJ-24, which he did, along with a seat and wheels, creating the VJ-24W (w for wheeled)... the model you see in front of you... creating the very first (or one of the first?) conventional three axis controlled powered wheeled modern ultralights. The ultralights started this little unlicensed category in US aviation called FAR 103. Under Part 103, a goob like me can dream of flying without forking over money to the state.

Oh, that little Star Trek TV show I mentioned? That fantasy fiction franchise became something worth $4 billion. Go figure.

Irv Culver

Who is Irv Culver? Have you ever heard of the Skunkworks, Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects Division? One day, when the Department of the Navy was trying to reach the Lockheed management for the P-80 project, the call was accidentally transferred to Culverís desk inside the smelly plastics workshop. Culver answered the phone in his trademark fashion of the time, by picking up the phone and stating "Skonk Works, inside man Culver". "What?" replied the voice at the other end. "Skonk Works", Culver repeated. The name stuck. Culver later said at an interview conducted in 1993 that "when Kelly Johnson heard about the incident, he promptly fired me. It didnít really matter, since he was firing me about twice a day anyways.

The designation "skunk works" is widely used in business, engineering, and technical fields to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects.

Irv Culver worked on a little plane called the SR-71 Blackbird. Have you heard of it? There is one sitting in the parking lot of the Huntsville Air and Space Museum. I was not able to tow it home.

Culver is credited with coming up a solution to the P-38 Lightning compressibility problem. The P-38 was my grandfathers favorite plane, he flew 171 combat missions in it out of New Guinea. He is still alive.



At every gas station I stopped at someone would strike up a conversation about my plane. Note the guy on the left pumping gas looking... what the hey? He'd start talking to me in a few secs...



How I got my plane home on a boat trailer. My friend Jamie behind the car who went along as company.



As soon as I was home I assembled her in the dark in the rain right where I imagined she would always be. Ghost plane appears at 2am on my front lawn in the drizzling rain.



My planes been through hell and is tattered and torn and abandoned by the world just like me.



My favorite photo. The plane type was written on the back tail the whole time, but not visible in the ebay auction. The guy could of saved me hours of research by just taking a photo of the tail. When I redo her fabric I'm going to save the old tail cloth and frame it and hang it on my wall. Only link to whoever orginally built her as there is no aircraft data plate. Was built from plans or you could by a kit from DSK Aircraft.



The most dangerous, uncomfortable looking cockpit in the world. Well, I always said I would fly anything...

Only a badass helicopter pilot girl with nerves of icy cold steel would dare fly this deadly piece of shit. But where the hell am i going to get one of those?

Of course, my antique plane needs lots of restoration first... modding her already on paper ;-)











So far I've only found 5 of these in the world. This one (G-MBBZ) (#7) is in Newark Air museum and on Wikipedia and Airport Data was built by David Cook and Volmer Jensen in his basement (I believe). The photo makes it look like it has a very bad ass WW2 military paint color. You can see it flying with its original blue wings here. Since these were built from plans, they were built to the discrestion and taste of the builder. Mine looks to be a later model (total guess) with an upgraded larger pivoted bungee cord suspension, centered stick, better rudder pedals, and lowered more comfortable foot rest.

YouTube VIDEOS

Volmer Jensen VJ 24 SunFun built by Tim Lohrey

David Cook flying VJ24w G-MBBZ (Pictured above in Newark Air Museum)

V.J.-24w. "SUNFUN". World's First Ultralight Motorglider... 22 Hp. Australian Modification

Test-Flying, For Autodidactic Aeroplane-Designers...(VJ-24w SUNFUN/Budgerigar)

Autumn Air - 6 Camera POV Ultralight Flight by Brian Fitzgerald

Kolb Ultrastar Over the Rainbow - daydreaming video I made before finding my plane

Flying with Christina - Sure Be Cool If You Did - daydreaming video I made before finding my plane

Flying with Christina - Black Horse and The Cherry Tree - daydreaming video I made before finding my plane

Flying with Christina - A Thousand Miles

Flying with Christina - Fall for You

Flying with Christina - Fall for You / Kick the Dust Up

Flying with Christina - Say Something - Last daydreaming flying video I made before I found Dorothy

December 12, 2015... a local flyer, Al Patton, who had founded EAA chapter 172 and had built and designed various experimental planes, and had worked with my dad as an Air Traffic Controller several decades ago, had died a few days earlier. At the exact same time I was picking up and loading my plane hundreds of miles away, they were having his funeral unbeknownst to me. We must restore Dorothy, its a moral imperitive! :-)

My profile on HomeBuiltAirplanes.com

"Dorothy" - Choppergirl's $38 Volmer Jensen VJ-24W antique ultralight motor glider
HomeBuiltAirplanes Thread

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