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Finding excitement in experimental flying

Watching World War II bombers flying overhead in Germany, a young Arnie Luters knew he was meant to fly.

“I decided then that I’d rather be in the air than on the ground,” said Luters, now 70 years old and an 18-year resident of Grass Valley.

Flying since 17, he flew both air force F100 fighters and commercial airliners but yearned for something more.



“Military fighter planes are really the ultimate flight,” Luters said in his smooth Latvia accent. “Commercial flying, you don’t get the speed. To me that’s the fun of flying – speed and aerobatics. It’s like driving a car fast. You can take an airplane and perform at its maximum speed. You can’t do that in a car.”

A craving for soaring speeds and adventurous aerobatics led Luters to build experimental aircraft.




“One of the best things you can get out of building your own airplane is you get the speed and aerobatic capability and higher performance, compared to a certified plane,” the pilot said. “In an experimental plane you can almost do anything you want to it, things you can’t do in a certified plane.”

In order to build experimental aircraft, most pilots buy airplane kits.

“It’s similar to a model airplane but a lot more involved,” Luters said, explaining the building process. “You decide what kind of airplane you want, and you buy a kit.”

Luters built his first experimental aircraft in 1987, a Gasair that he described as being “built like a brick.”

In 1999, after flying the airplane for 13 years, Luters began building his second experimental aircraft, an N3YZ Legend.

“There’s a turbo prop,” Luters said, describing the jet-like plane. “It’s a jet engine with a propeller. It’s about a 725 horse powered engine. I wanted to build a faster airplane. You can do a lot of aerobatics in it. It’s definitely on the higher end of the experimental field.”

Each airplane Luters built took six years and 7,000 hours to complete.

“It’s a terrible process,” Luters said, laughing. “The reward is there, but the building is hard. It’s like a full-time job really.”

With his exhilarating hobby, Luters raced from 1998-2003 in the Reno air races and flew his experimental craft across the country.

“It’s all for recreation,” Luters said. “The farthest I flew was to Oshkosh Wis., (the site of) one of the biggest air shows in the world. Ninety percent of the people who go there go to show off their aircraft, about 12,000 different airplanes.”

Soaring through skies for 53 years, Luters has accomplished his aviation dreams.

“In life, once you decide what you want to do, it’s pretty easy to achieve those goals,” Luters said. “It’s hard work getting there, but that’s what you’re aiming for.”


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