Bowers Fly Baby 1A exhibit

About Peter M. Bowers


Pete Bowers, who designed, built, and flew the original Fly Baby, was born in San Francisco in 1918. He grew up interested in aviation hanging around airports, collecting pictures of aircraft, and building model airplanes.

While still in high school Pete was already writing articles for several national aircraft modeling magazines as well as developing his photographic skills.

In 1940 he enrolled in the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland which at that time was an intensive Aeronautical Engineering course that compressed a four-year program into two years. His coursework not only included the normal engineering classes, but a series of shop classes that qualified him for his mechanic’s license.

After serving in the United States Air Force, Pete was hired in 1947 as an engineer by the Boeing Company in Seattle where he remained until his retirement in 1988. Soon after arriving in Seattle, Pete accomplished a lifetime goal of his: to obtain his pilot’s license.

Over the years he owned a number of aircraft, from a Ford-powered Pietenpol to a Curtiss replica, a Sorrell biplane to a Baby Bowlus glider. In the mid 1950’s he began designing what he called a “jazzy personal runabout,” using a fuel injected 85 hp Continental engine.

In 1957, the Experimental Aircraft Association announced its first design contest. The entrants would be judged on how easy the aircraft was to fly, how difficult and expensive they were to build. To encourage the lowest cost of ownership, the designs would have to have folding wings and be trailerable. The designs would be judged at the EAA’s annual convention in Rockford.

Pete gave his original concept the name of “Fly Baby” which was the name he had given one of the earlier successful models he had built in the 1930’s. The original design did not fit the ease of construction requirement and its higher performance level would probably make it a bit more difficult to fly so he moved on to a second airplane for the contest. This design was a much simpler version of his first and incorporated some features of another well-proven aircraft known as the Story Special.

Pete trailered his Fly Baby to Rockford, but since there were only a total of two entries the EAA postponed the judging for another two years! During that time Pete continued to fly and make refinements to the airplane. In 1962 the Fly Baby came out the EAA winner.

Pete was inducted into the EAA Homebuilder’s Hall of Fame in November, 2004. During a seventy year period of time he had written dozens of books and well over a thousand aviation articles. He wrote almost 800 columns for the “General Aviation News.” His books include nine editions of his Guide to Homebuilts, Unconventional Aircraft, Guide to Aviation Photography, Boeing Aircraft Since 1916, and Of Wings and Things. Pete died in 2003 just two weeks before his 85th birthday.