Playing in the Snow
A Fisher Avenger on scratchbuilt skis
BY MIKE HONGISTO, EAA 570872; CARLTON, MINNESOTA
IN 2006 I DECIDED that I needed an airplane more urgently than
I needed kitchen cabinets. So that winter I started on my Fisher
Avenger. I had built my own home with the idea that I would
be building an airplane. I included a three-car attached garage
with in-floor heat so that I could step out of the house in a T-shirt
and immediately go to work. Forty-below zero wind chills are
common in Minnesota, so this feature was a big plus during the
I started flying in 1993 after I bought a private pilot certificate
package from a local radio station’s on-air auction. I ended up getting 40 hours’ flight time, and an instructor, for $1,200, which was
half the asking price at that time. I bought a Grumman Cheetah and
put 1, 100 hours on it flying back and forth from my home to Omaha,
Nebraska, where my new job had relocated me. I upgraded to a V35
Bonanza three years after another job moved me to the Detroit area.
After I sold the Bonanza I was without a plane for about five years.
I decided on the Avenger for several reasons. First, I had to fit in
it. With the Avenger, the seat could be moved 3 inches back to
accommodate my 6-foot 5-inch frame without interfering with the
front or rear spar carry-through. Since I moved back home I didn’t
have anywhere to go, and at 80 to 95 mph I’m cruising comfortably
with the Champs and Chiefs I regularly fly with.
There are two versions of the Avenger. I chose the V model with
its stiffer fuselage and stronger wing spars. I found that an HKS
700E with its starter, electrical output, gear reduction (so I can
swing a longer prop), lighter weight, and lower fuel consumption
would likely be a better choice than the recommended VW engine.
I widened the fuselage to 26 inches to fully
enclose the engine. I eliminated the stringers on the side of the fuselage; that gives my
Avenger its flat sides rather than the stock
“bubbled out” appearance.
I never liked the idea of fuel in the fuselage so I decided to make fiberglass wing
tanks. I also wanted enough capacity to fly
nonstop to AirVenture, or about three hours
plus a healthy reserve. I ended up with more
than 16 gallons usable. With a maximum fuel
burn of 3 gph, I easily met this requirement.
Baggage space was a concern. I needed to
fit a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress,
and enough clothes for a week. With the fuel
out from behind the seat, there was more
than enough room to construct an adequate
Believe it or not the Avenger plans did
not have provisions for wheel brakes. I
bought a set of 5-inch Azusa wheels and
drum brakes. These brakes work great, and
any more braking power may actually prove
to be a bit hard on the prop.
I also modified the control system to
incorporate push-pull cables, changed the