By Earl Stresak
Hear that distinct engine sound coming from a summer evening sky, look overhead, just above Lake Taneycomo, gawk at its bright yellow tail, Daffy Duck staring back down at you and wonder… “What do you call that thing?”
Hundreds of people strolling Branson Landing have, and if they can’t mentally peg its aviation tribe, everyone loves watching the gossamer looking frame, seat-of-the pants appearing pilot and passenger, particularly when it swoops down, makes a water landing. Boaters wave, kids look wide eyed, people smile.
What is it? Mark Trimble’s homebuilt wonder, a Breezy, that’s what. Well, that description is slightly off course because it’s actually Mark’s — read the tail next to Daffy — Sea Breezy, it says, Trimble being the type of guy not often settling for the status quo.
This year, the Breezy and its inventor, Carl Unger were celebrated at the renowned Oshkosh Air Show, with Mark’s Sea Breezy joining a gaggle of Breezy aircraft from around the country to participate.
“The Oshkosh Air Show is the biggest in the world and it’s sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association which is the Home Built Movement,” Mark said sitting on a lawn chair next to his Sea Breezy at M. Graham Clark Airport. “This is the 50th year since Carl Unger designed the Breezy. When he did, he started selling plans to it, and there has been a lot of these built. It’s one of the most popular homebuilt airplanes.”
Constructing a different duck
All the 24 airplanes owned by Mark and his wife Lea have an interesting backstory. The Sea Breezy is a good one for aviation buffs.
“When Mark got it, it was on wheels,” friend and fellow pilot, Richard Cooper, said. Wheels on Mark’s Breezy would become a secondary feature because, “Mark, being Mark,” added Richard, “his mind is never in neutral. He is always thinking about something.”
Through calculated trial and error ingenuity, Mark converted the normally land-lubbing aircraft for water service. The accomplishment raised eyebrows of Breezy owners. Initially it spawned aviation circle rumors wondering if one even existed.
“They (The Breezy) have a very good history, very good service history for 50 years. As you can see,” Mark said pointing at his Sea Breezy, “there is a lot of drag to it. It’s not really a cross country airplane. This particular airplane spent 16 straight years hauling kids for rides at Oshkosh Air Show — all day long, 10 hours a day, taking off and landing, carrying passengers. We bought the airplane from Arnold Zimmerman in Chicago, who was the pilot for that mission,” Mark said.
“Zimmerman had built a new one,” Mark said. “His new one had Aeronica Champ wings, this one has Cherokee wings. Aeronica Champ wings are aerodynamically cleaner and faster which you don’t need in an open airplane like this. It takes more space to land and it’s faster in the air to get the same amount of lift.”
The wing improvement was significant, so much so, that the last time Mark talked to Zimmerman, the pilot was trying to find a new set of wings for his Breezy.
Mark also consulted a long time friend of his in Tulsa, Red Stevenson. For many years, Stevenson was known for being the biggest used airplane dealer in the world, Mark said. “Red had some of the finest airplanes in the world, but, his trademark was his Breezy. He flew a Breezy.”
Meeting Stevenson 25 years ago at a Fayetteville, Ark., Air Show was instrumental in Mark buying his Breezy.
“It’s kind of funny how that happened,” Mark said.