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CoolPix - Homebuilt: Ray Hegy's El Chuparosa At Oshkosh 1970!

(click pic for hi-res)

 I took this picture as a 9 year old at the first Oshkosh ever in 1970.  It’s not the best image as it was taken with a cheap Kodak Instamatic camera… and it’s 40 years old now too!  But, it’s definitely worthy of being the first CoolPix in the ‘Homebuilt’ category. 

 The airplane is called El Chuparosa (a Spanish way to say hummingbird) and was built by the late Ray Hegy over 9 years, with the first flight in 1959.  Thru the 60’s and early 70’s, Ray would fly the one-of-a-kind airplane of his own design from his home in Marfa, Texas to the EAA fly-in.  Back in those days at the fly-in, it was common practice to have the homebuilts flying around the pattern, running laps, for much of the day.  It was a great way for anyone to put their work on display in the sky for all to see.  Ray was always the first one up early in the morning and screaming around the pattern in the A-65 powered Chuparosa.  She’d make some pretty big noise and it was an awesome way to wake up in the campground!  I can still remember hearing him : ) 

 This is a pretty historical pic for several reasons.  One, simply because it’s of the El Chuparosa, which just happens to be on display in the EAA museum.  But also because in 1970, the EAA fly-in and convention had just moved from Rockford, Illinois to Oshkosh.  This was a pretty big deal to be sure, and it’s really neat to see a pic of the grounds from that first year. 

 Speaking of the grounds, did you look at that grass?  Check out how trampled it is from a week of people walking around the airplane!  That’s not a shadow under the airplane, that’s the green alfalfa still standing.  I don’t remember if the event had already ended, but things do seem pretty well cleared out in the pic.  But that trampled greenery sure tells the story of thousands and thousands of people taking a close look at Ray’s little hummingbird.

 It’s also really neat to see the tower in the background.  It was just last year when it was torn down.  Also interesting to see the early version of the fence, on beyond the airplane, that separated the flight line from the rest of the event for so many years.

 Lastly, it’s cool to see some of the details that made El Chuparosa unique.  The pretty racy overall shape for the day, the plexi windows and windshield that enclose the area under and forward of the top wing, and the little hinged and blue tinted plexi cap that’s in the open position here.  Ray was a little kooky too, as can be seen by the ’Beware of Blast’ placard just above his cool augmented and flush exhaust port. 

 The airplane is a lot smaller than you’d think looking at the pic too.  Ray was a pretty small guy.  The top wingspan is only 12ft 10in and the overall length just 14ft 1in.  That helps to explain part of why I was so taken with it… it was just my size as a 9 year old!  Ray and El Chuparosa were an important part of the 60’s and 70’s in the EAA, and I’m so thankful to have memories of him over so many years.  Ray Hegy is a true icon of the spirit of aviation.


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Reader Comments (5)

I remember Ray and El Chuparosa as the "Rockford alarm clock". I was'nt paying that much attention to the time then, but all the grownups said he was the first in the air every morning. I just remember seeing him flying all the time. I miss the days of the fly-by pattern. Nice website ! Bob

February 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterseerjfly

Was looking for some pictures of El Chuparosa in the museum ....I am Ray Hegys granddaughter and it has been a while since I was able to visit and was wondering if it was still flying from the ceiling, Thanks for the great picture I have many pictures, but was missing the days when we would drive out to pick him up at the airport in Marfa as he flew over town to let us know he was home. I have wonderful memories of him and of Chupy. Thanks again Cindy Corder

March 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Corder

I was 12 when I saw this airplane at Rockford. My dad used to get Christmas cards from Ray Hegy.

September 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom

I was 7 years old when I first saw El Chuparosa in the Hegy shop during a "field" trip from Second grade class Marfa Elementary 1957. Mrs. Hegy was our teacher. The plane was nearing completion. Loving airplanes I followed the construction and remember Ray knocking down a cinder block wall of his shop to take the plane out for assembly at the airport. I first saw Chuparosa flying overhead in1959 - 60. It was always a delight to see it flying on those beautiful West Texas days.

December 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHoward Dorris

I too remember the Chuparosa flying over Marfa growing up. I know Cindy Corder and Howard Dorris who were in school with my older siblings. My dad, Monico, knew Ray Hegy and helped him build a bomb shelter in his back yard around the early sixties. Ray was well know to all of us because of the airplane but was world renown for his hand built propellers as well. How I wish I owned one of those! Thanks for the memories and for preserving the history of Ray Hegy and his beloved Chuparosa. Edmundo Balderrama

September 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEdmundo Balderrama

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