Loading Dragonfly image

Dragonfly FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

If you see something totally wrong or you would like me to add your clarification or answer, please e-mail me and point out the mistake, omission, or suggestion.

The Glossy Brochure

Every product has its Glossy Brochure wherein the manufacturer attempts to portray its product in the best possible light. In so doing, the truth is usually stretched, sometimes just a little, but sometimes to the breaking point.

Here are some factoids extracted from the Dragonfly Glossy Brochure. If the factoid is underlined, it is considered suspicious or maybe even no longer accurate at all.

There are, of course, some sentences that conjure up riotous laughter whenever they are read aloud around Dragonfly owners. For your reading pleasure, here are some of them:

Frequently Asked Questions

All joking aside, here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions, answered not by some fast-talking marketing dude in wingtips slapping you on the back, but from actual information supplied by the builders.

Can the Dragonfly be certified as a "Light-Sport Aircraft"?

Here are the FAA rules regarding LSA: Light-sport aircraft (14 CFR 1.1) are simple, low-performance aircraft that are limited to:
So there's your answer.

Why is it called Dragonfly?

The name "Dragonfly" came about due to the 2 sets of wings on the airplane. If you look at a Dragonfly from the top, it looks sort of like the dragonfly insect, which also has 2 sets of wings and a long tail.

What do MK I, MK II, MK III and other designations mean?

(For non-Americans: The MK stands for "Mark". This is an obscure designation that has been used on all sorts of products to indicate a sub-category of the main product. Thus, MK I should be pronounced "Mark One", and so on.)

Why does it have 2 wings?

The Dragonfly was patterned after the original "Quickie", an airplane that Burt Rutan designed in the early 80's. The Quickie was designed to spread the weight of the aircraft between the front wing (canard) and the rear wing, and eliminate the horizontal stabilizer of traditional aircraft. Burt is one of the pioneers of the fiberglass composite construction technique used in the Quickie and the Dragonfly, as well as a pioneer of the use of canards on aircraft. (He is responsible for the Long-EZ, the Voyager, the Beech Starship, and Starship One, all of which have substantial canards and are made of high-tech composite materials.)

Recent aerodynamic models of the Dragonfly, produced by David Lednicer of Analytical Methods, Inc., actually show that a huge amount of the Dragonfly's lift is produced by the flat fuselage bottom, and that the canard carries more weight than the main wing.

What is a canard?

The canard on the Dragonfly is a full-span airfoil at the front of the aircraft that serves to distribute the wing loading between the front and rear lifting surfaces. The elevators are mounted on the canard. Thus, to climb, one increases lift on the canard, instead of increasing drag on the tail. In theory, this produces a more efficient aircraft, although some engineers would argue this. The canard is rigged to stall before the main wing, which means that most stalls are nothing more than a gentle nodding in pitch. The main wing is never able to stall, and so spins are theoretically impossible.

Does the canard have problems with rain or bugs?

Many report that the nose wants to drop during rain or if the leading edge of the canard is covered with bugs. This is a characteristic of the GU canard that afflicts different DF aircraft to a greater or lesser extent, due to minute differences in construction between builders. Nobody has ever been known to suffer a crash as a result, but several pilots report being very scared of the reduction in lift when this occurs. It has sometimes required excessive speed on approach to landing or has resulted in "running out of elevator". The problem can be solved quite simply by addition of vortex generators installed on top of the canard at the 50% chord line, spaced about 1.5 to 4 inches apart. It can also be solved by going to an entirely different canard shape, such as the LS-1, but thus far only 1 builder (Nate Rambo) has done this on a standard Dragonfly, and he cut up his canard when he retired from flying.

What is the history of the Dragonfly?

In 1979, Bob Walters, a Navy fighter pilot who was educated as an aeronautical engineer, formed Viking Aircraft Company. The Dragonfly was introduced at Oshkosh in 1980, and the prototype received the "Outstanding New Design of 1980" trophy. In 1983, Walters sold Viking to Rex Taylor, the owner of HAPI Engines, Inc. Rex, who was by then a recognized expert on VW aero conversions, immediately upgraded the Dragonfly's 1600cc engine to an 1835cc HAPI engine. The Dragonfly won the Tom Jewett Memorial Award for Best Fuel Efficiency in the 1983 CAFE 400 competition, carrying 400lbs of weight over a 400 mile course, getting 48mpg at 128mph. Some time around 1990, Rex Taylor passed Viking to his son Patrick Taylor, who tried to make a go of the company for several years, despite the fact that sales were not making the company profitable. By then, people were starting to put all kinds of engines into the airframe, and the major support for builders was beginning to shift away from Viking, now operated as a part-time venture, and more toward the builder community, the DBFN newsletter, and the annual fly-ins. In the mid 1990's, Patrick sold the rights to the Dragonfly to Mike Puhl of Slipstream. Unfortunately for the builders, Slipstream had no intentions of trying to make a profitable business out of plans and pre-fab component sales alone, and decided to throw its major support behind a snap-together form of the Dragonfly, with tricycle gear and a Jabiru engine. Finally in 2004, the rights to the Dragonfly were purchased by Dart Industries which intends to do a much better job of promoting and supporting the Dragonfly. Contact them for details.

What is the difference between a Dragonfly and a Q-2?

The Q-2 (or Q-200, or "Q-bird" generically) has a more rounded fuselage bottom that has a distinct longitudinal curvature to it. Other than that, it is very difficult to tell them apart unless you are up close. The Q-birds have shorter wings (thus higher wing loading) and fly faster than a Dragonfly. Their instrument panels are larger. Other than that, the canard configuration, the location of the fuel tank, the center stick, and many other characteristics make the 2 airplanes look so similar that SOMEONE must have been cheating when they designed their plane. Gary LaGare is the designer of the Q-2, and Bob Walters the designer of the Dragonfly. Both of them copied Burt Rutan's single-seater Quickie design.

What materials is Dragonfly made of?

The main structural materials are made of fiberglass and epoxy laid up over stryofoam blocks or sheets that have been carved or glued into the exact aerodynamic shape desired. Some wood is used for reinforcement of the fiberglass composite and for the firewall. Some metal is used where really heavy loads have to be attached, such as the wing and canard attachment points, the engine mount, etc. There is a small quantity of aluminum and steel tubing for the controls, angle and sheet metal, and so on.

Where can I buy Dragonfly materials?

The "approved" sources for Dragonfly materials are: Aircraft Spruce and Specialty or Wicks Aircraft Supply. Both of these have online catalogs and ordering pages, so you can select products and order them at any time, night or day. These were selected by Viking because of their choice of manufacturers of the highest quality of aircraft-grade foam, fiberglass cloth, and epoxy. Of course, for standard aircraft components such as bolts, nuts, electrical devices, and so forth, you could get away with buying from any other aircraft supply company.

Links to Parts Suppliers

Are any of the materials dangerous or smelly?

Dangers from the materials come from these areas:
  1. Epoxy fumes. The Aeropoxy 2032/3660 formulation is not very dangerous. Just keep it off your skin, because it's a real nightmare to clean off. Trying to clean it off with MEK will just cause the chemicals to enter your bloodstream. Older formulations were carcinogenic.
  2. Fiberglass. Wear a mask anytime you are working with fiberglass in such a way that tiny fibers are going airborne. Cured fiberglass strands are like sharp splinters, so use Peel-ply whenever possible over joints to reduce splinters.
  3. Kevlar. We don't use any Kevlar in the aircraft, but that's not to say you might not like to try it somewhere for additional weight savings and puncture resistance. If you do, read all the warnings because it is carcinogenic if inhaled.
  4. Carbon Fiber. Don't get cured splinters of carbon fiber into your skin because they do not work themselves out like a wood splinter would.
  5. Foam dust. Don't ever cut urethane foam with a hot wire, because it is very toxic. When sanding any foam, wear a mask to keep the dust out of your lungs.
  6. Flammables. MEK and other solvents are explosively flammable and can be carcinogenic if inhaled.
The older epoxy formulations were pretty smelly. Thankfully, Aeropoxy 2032/3660 has virtually no odor when mixed, although if you insist on putting your nose into the hardener, it will harken you back to the days of changing baby diapers. Fortunately, your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other will hardly notice you are missing - at least not because of any bad smells coming from the workshop. Burning styrofoam (such as you will produce with your hot wire saw) on the other hand, has a bit of a nasty smell. Of course, your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other will be holding the other end of the saw, so you can blame them for the smell.

How much does it cost to build a Dragonfly?

The answer depends on whether you build the aircraft using pre-fab components or strictly from buckets of epoxy, bolts of fiberglass cloth, and billets of foam. The Wicks 1997 catalog lists the total of all raw materials as $5,300. To that price, one would have to add the canopy ($370), cowling ($350), control system parts available only from Viking (about $300), an engine ($2,500 to $5,000 average, but can range to $12,000 or more), avionics, etc. If you go the pre-fab route, the Viking price list indicates you will spend about $7,500 on those parts that equate to about $1,600 of the raw materials from the Wicks list.

In other words, you can expect to spend:

The cost advantages a Dragonfly has compared with, say, a Cessna 172 are: All in all, the Dragonfly gives you more utility per dollar than just about any other airplane. Oops, my wingtips are showing.

How long does it take to build a Dragonfly?

Tom and Sharon Wolfe, whose Dragonfly won "Best Dragonfly" at Oshkosh 1984 and "Reserve Grand Champion" at Kerrville Flyin 1984, completed their plane in 20 months. That would probably be considered somewhat of a record. The brochure says 500 hours for the Quick Build Kit and 1000 hours for the Standard Kit. Some of us have been working on our aircraft for 7 to 10 years. Lou Beverly bought an airplane that had been started 17 years ago and still had never flown. He figures it will be another year and a half before it is ready to fly. (That was 3 years ago)

A Dragonfly built using all the pre-fab components can probably be built in about 1 year less than a plane that has been "scratch-built" using only raw materials.

Much depends on what you start with, how much spare time you have, and how many modifications you make. The plans are 20 years old now and there have been many, many, MANY modifications published, both mandatory and optional. Sticking to the plans will reduce your construction time, but it may also produce a plane that is no longer state-of-the-art. The best advice to someone who wants to have a plane finished in 1500 construction hours is:

An example of a construction log for a Dragonfly in progress can be seen here, but be forewarned that this builder purchased a wing, a canopy, and some other parts in "already flying" condition from a Dragonfly owner who was parting out his plane.

What special tools will I need?

Other than the screwdrivers, pliers, and other such "common" tools that most everyone will have, even if they have never built anything, you will need: Consumables you will be buying in huge, mass quantities over the life of the project:

How much space will it take to build a Dragonfly?

Many of us started building in our 2-car garages. Most garages are at least 22 feet diagonally and thus can accomodate either the fuselage or the wings during construction. The problem will come when you need to fit the 22 foot wingspan onto the 20 foot fuselage and add the engine. At that point, you will need a space that is at least 25 x 25 in order to be able to move around. Your 2-car garage may no longer be adequate. There has been at least one Dragonfly built in someone's basement, and someone built one in their dorm room. The guy that used the basement eventually had to tear down a wall and haul the airplane out that way.

What special skills will I need to build a Dragonfly?

Honest to God, believe me, you'll learn everything you need to know, if you have at least a 3-digit IQ and are willing to listen to other builders. I never even took shop in school, and I have been doing pretty darn well! But, if you are going to manufacture any of the metal components instead of buying them pre-fab, you'll need to know how to weld, how to use a band saw, how to use a drill press, maybe a lathe, an NC milling machine, etc. (Just kidding about the band saw) Make friends with a machine shop if you are doing anything outside the plans.

What special piloting skills will I need to fly a Dragonfly?

Get some taildragger time. Get some time in faster airplanes, because the Dragonfly lands pretty hot (70mph). It has been suggested that you learn to fly a Citabria and a Grumman single. Other than that, no special skills are required.

What engines can a Dragonfly use?

The original prototype was designed for a 1600cc VW (Type I) engine. Although the early newsletters are filled with cautions against installing anything larger than an 1835cc VW, most builders nowadays (1998) would tell you that 1835 is about the smallest you should consider. Much of this is due to modern man's insistence on electric starters, full NavCom radios, night-flight lighting systems, vacuum systems, etc. These have all resulted in the typical Dragonfly of the 90's being much heavier. Thus, most builders are installing at least 2180cc engines. The VW engines are cheap, and there is a considerable amount of builder experience surrounding these engines, but they are not without their problems.

There are several Subaru EA-81 engines flying, as well as a couple of Continental O-200s and a smattering of others (Jabiru, Legacy, Hirth), and many of us are working on Corvair conversions (Photos). If you are willing to be a bleeding edge pioneer, there are many engines to try!

Links to Engines

What does a Dragonfly weigh and how much can it carry?

The glossy brochure says the Empty Weight is 605 lbs, and the Gross Weight is 1150 lbs. These days, typical Dragonflies weigh about 650-750 pounds empty and have about a 500 pound payload capacity. The exact figures will depend on the engine you use, and whether you have "beefed up" your canard and wing (the carbon fiber layup schedule) to handle the higher gross weights according to the plans modification.

What is Dragonfly's stall, cruise, and maximum speed?

The glossy brochure claims an "honest 165 mph cruise". Most Dragonfly owners will smirk at that number. These are highly dependent on engine, flying weight, gear, and other construction-dependent variables such as gap seals, vortex generators, etc. That having been said, most Dragonflies seem to stall around 65 mph and cruise at about 120-140 mph. Approaches to landing are flown around 75-90 mph. An O-200 equipped Dragonfly was recently clocked over a 60 mile course at 152 mph average speed, with peaks of 185 mph indicated.

Can a Dragonfly take off and land on a grass strip?

It is probably unwise to do this with the wide gear stance of a MK I. However, the original designer of the Hoop Gear flew his off a grass strip, and occasionally others have done so. The MK II and MK II-H do not have the large lever arm of the canard-tip gear configuration, and the "blue brochure" mentions dirt and grass strips as one reason for the switch to the MK II inboard gear. It also depends on what kind of tires you have. Few Dragonflies have 600x6 tires, but those would be much better than the Azusa wheels on the prototype. Ask around on the message boards and see if you can find someone who has a similar airplane to yours and ask that person what experience he has had with grass strips.

Can I remove the wing and canard and trailer a DF to and from the airfield?

You are not going to want to do that. The wing is bolted on with 4 bolts that are difficult to get at even if you have a removable rear wing cover. The canard is bolted on with 2 bolts that are accessible from a forward hatch if you install it, and 2 bolts that are accessible by crawling underneath the instrument panel. Then you have to disconnect the aileron control rods and any wing lighting. Then you unbolt the torque tubes from the elevators and disconnect any canard lights and/or pitot tubes. If you have rudder pedals mounted on the canard, you have to disconnect all that, including the rudder cables and any brake lines you've installed. This is all a messy process that can take more than an hour with a lot of cursing. It's not at all like the Q-birds that just fold their tail section on a hinge. So, the answer is, you can remove the wing and canard if you have to, but you are not going to want to do that every time you want to go flying.

What support can I expect while I am building?

Official Support
In the late 80's, most airplane kit companies fell on hard times. Destroyed by product liability lawsuits and low sales volume, many of them went out of business or had to scale back severely. Viking Aircraft Company was operated as a part-time enterprise by the 3rd set of owners, the Patrick Taylor family. They sold plans and a few parts, and provided telephone support during a limited time period of the early evening. The prototype is no longer flying, and many of the cool builder support programs alluded to in the glossy color brochure are no more. The rights to the Dragonfly were eventually purchased by Slipstream Industries, whose plans to create a new quick-build type of kit never quite materialized. In 2004, the rights were bought by Dart Industries and we have high hopes and expectations from this new owner.
Unofficial Support
Your primary source of support will be the very active builders' group. It is virtually mandatory that you participate in one or more of these forums if you want to have an aircraft that is state-of-the-art and safe:

Is the Dragonfly a safe airplane?

There are an average of about 2 Dragonfly "incidents" every year, according to the NTSB database. In the early years, it was about 4 per year. This yearly rate was reduced after pilots learned how to land the plane properly, and as more and more builders started using the inboard gear legs or the hoop gear. The Dragonfly is in some ways a safer aircraft, and in some other ways less safe than your typical cheap 2-seater. First of all, since it is homebuilt, there are some dumb things that builders do to make their planes unsafe. For example, there have been numerous incidents of fuel filter clogs shutting down Dragonfly engines and resulting in crashes. However, because of their canard, Dragonflies do not stall the way other airplanes do, and so it is virtually impossible to have a stall/spin accident. (Notice I said virtually impossible.) On the other hand, DFs are taildraggers, and must be landed and taxied much more carefully than an airplane with a nosewheel. They also land much faster (around 70 mph). (The number of times the word "bounce" appears in connection with an NTSB accident report on a Dragonfly is simply stunning!) In addition, the fact that the elevators are on the canard means that the plane cannot be landed by stalling it above the runway, but must rather be "flown onto the ground" in order to keep the canard above stall speed and maintain elevator control.

Has anyone ever been killed in a Dragonfly?

In 17 years, there have been 4 fatal Dragonfly accidents. According to the Dragonfly accident records from the NTSB, these were due to:
  1. 1985 NTSB report says that ballast weights shifted out of CG range during test flight, but the insider scoop is that the pilot had a heart attack on downwind. The ballast weight shift occurred when the plane hit the ground.
  2. 1985 Rust and debris in the carburetor and fuel strainer (builder error!)
  3. 1991 Stall/spiral on landing after a bounced landing (pilot error!)
  4. 1995 Heart attack on final approach (can hardly be blamed on the DF)

I'm 6'5" and 300 lbs. Will I fit?

Height Issues If you are over 6'3", move the lower seatback bulkhead back a couple of inches. If your torso is abnormally long compared to your legs, you may have to lengthen the upper seatback bulkhead and extend the rear turtledeck higher, raising the canopy to clear your head. The best thing to do is find a Dragonfly that was built according to the plans, and sit in it with the cushions in place. Close the canopy and see if your head hits the top. Remember that the time to adjust your seat is BEFORE YOU GLUE IT ONTO THE FUSELAGE. The Dragonfly does NOT have sliding seats!
Weight Issues First, add up the weight of yourself, your passenger, fuel, and all the other stuff that needs to figure into your gross weight. If that is over the published new gross weight of 1250 pounds, then there may be a problem. If you are within range, your next problem will be fitting between the center and side consoles. These are a little tight for a guy with a 40+ inch waist. If you are bigger than that, you may have to get creative with the center console location, width, cut off the aft portion of the side console, and so on. It's not an insurmountable problem, but it needs to be addressed BEFORE YOU GLUE THE CONSOLES ONTO THE FUSELAGE. If this has been sounding to you like a warning about buying an airplane that is already built, you're right. If you are over 6'3" and/or over 250 pounds, think long and hard about buying an existing airplane until you sit in it.

If the airlines are charging you for 2 seats everytime you fly, consider a modification that will allow you to take up the entire cockpit of the Dragonfly. Eliminate the center console and center stick, put your legs on each side of the center pillar, and use side sticks. This will require some modifications, but several people have contemplated it, and there may be some builders who are actively working on the mods.

How do I buy the plans and get started?

First, join the DragonflyList e-mail discussion group. Then contact Dart Industries

Where can I buy a partially or 100% completed Dragonfly project?

Subscribe to the free Dragonfly e-mail discussion list and ask if anyone has a project they want to sell, or subscribe to the DBFN newsletter and check the classified ads in the back.

How can I calculate the Weight and Balance on a Dragonfly?

Try Weight and Balance Calculator (from Jeff LeTempt or Don Stewart, I can't remember which)
Send me E-mail

Return to Main Dragonfly Page


Return to Dave's Page