Remembering Peter Corley

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Postby lazair » Sat May 21, 2005 6:15 am

Peter Corley
and the birth of the Lasair ultralight
Dale Kramer, SOSA
gifted glider pilot. It is well that he is remembered by SAC in its scholarship for
young glider pilots/students that was established in his name. On reading his brief
biography in the last issue of free flight and being the person who designed the
Lazair ultralight, I thought that a more complete history of those days would interest
readers, since the few sentences on the subject in that article were too general
to correctly indicate the events as they occurred.
I had grown up designing and building radio control model aircraft and was in
aerospace engineering at the University of Toronto at the time. I had designed and
built an original flying wing that I called the “Mayfly”. It had forward sweep, a 36
foot wingspan, a constant 5 foot chord of 20% thickness, and individually activated
full span flaperonx.

I became friends with Peter when I joined the SOSA gliding club in the late 1970s,
first meeting him during the time I was testing the Mayfly in Port Colborne. Peter
was interested and came down to Port Colborne to help with the tow tests with
the Mayfly on a trailer behind a car driven down the runway. The trailer was designed
to allow flight within a very confined area. I flew the Mayfly on this trailer,
Peter did, and also the well-known engineer and glider pilot Dave Webb. That was
the end of the summer and back to school for me.
The next summer I went to EAA’s Oshkosh with my father and we bought plans for
a “Superfloater” primary glider designed by Klaus Hill. It was only three weeks until
school started again but I was determined to fly the Superfloater before school. I
worked night and day for three weeks. Peter came down to Port Colborne a couple
of days during that period and lent a hand when he was there. Peter also came
down for the test flight just before school. Both of us flew the Superfloater on car
tows down the 1800 foot runway, we even made 180 degree turns and landed
downwind. But, back to school again for me.
At Oshkosh the next year, I met Ed Sweeney who had developed a quick mount set
of engines for hang gliders. Ed was going east after Oshkosh and dropped by. He
saw the Superfloater and said, “my engines will fit on that”, and within a few hours
we were ready for takeoff. I do not believe Peter was there as I only remember Ed
and I flying the now-powered Superfloater.
Ed wanted the Superfloater and I wanted his engines. We made a trade and Ed
continued his trip with the Superfloater lashed to his motorhome while I returned
to school.
Over the next few months I conceived a new aircraft design that would overcome
all of the Superfloater’s deficiencies. I made the biggest decision of my life and quit
third year university at Christmas to continue my obsession with these light aircraft.


My goal was to take a prototype to EAA’s Sun ’N Fun in Florida in March. With
my parents’ blessing and financial help, I again worked night and day. I designed
and built the aircraft with refinements on the Superfloater construction techniques
and aerodynamics. Again, Peter drove down from Toronto a few times to
lend a hand and again, Peter was there for the taxi and flight tests of this new
plane I named the Lazair. In fact, he made the first flight because by the day’s
end, the wood wheels (the planned wheels were on back order) swelled in the
long wet grass and created too much bearing friction for me to take off, being
50 pounds heavier than Peter. I flew it the next day after I solved the wheel
The Lazair flew okay but not well enough to go to Florida until I made the decision
to move the engines onto the leading edges of the wing from the original
position below the wings.
I asked Peter if he wanted to come to Sun ’N Fun with me and he instantly
agreed. The rest is history as I came home with thirty-three full paid orders in
advance. I formed “Ultraflight Inc.” and with a loan from my parents began building
fifty kits. Peter came down from Toronto a couple days a week to help and I
eventually hired him, becoming my first employee. Peter excelled at flying the
Lazair and interacting with the public. This appeared to be Peter’s calling and
I made him “Chief Test Pilot”. We all went to the large air shows together but
Peter spent the next couple years travelling around to small air shows and demonstrations
on his own.
Against my advice, Peter decided that he would be happier by joining a new
distributor of ours in California, and sell the Lazair out there. He believed that
there was the potential to sell it in much larger quantities in California than we
were in Canada and the eastern USA. Sales went well and Peter seemed happy
until the distributor lost interest in the project. Peter then made the decision to
join “American Aerolights”, at which time he and I parted company.
Peter was a person who captured spectators’ minds and hearts with his aerobatic
flying displays. He was an excellent pilot and was exceptionally able to
express and share his love of freedom and adventure through flight. This is
how I remember him.
Posts: 345
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2003 10:25 am

Postby Chappy » Sat May 28, 2005 11:24 pm

Of all the pilots I've known and flow with, Peter Corley was the most FUN. Of those that are no longer with us, he's the one I miss the most.

Bob Chapman in Virginia
Posts: 330
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 9:57 pm
Location: Northern Virginia, USA

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