1972 Bede BD-5
The Bede BD-5 Micro is a series of small, single-seat homebuilt aircraft created in the late 1960s by US aircraft designer Jim Bede and introduced to the market primarily in kit form by the now-defunct Bede Aircraft Corporation in the early 1970s.
The BD-5 has a small, streamlined fuselage holding its semi-reclined pilot under a large canopy, with the engine installed in a compartment in the middle of the fuselage, and a propeller-driving engine – or jet engine in the BD-5J variant – mounted immediately to the rear of the cockpit. Few of the kit versions were actually completed due to the company's bankruptcy in the mid-1970s, and none of the factory built "D" models were produced, as a result of the failure to find a reliable engine for the design.
In total, only a few hundred BD-5 kits were completed, although many of these are still airworthy today. The BD-5J version holds the record for the world's smallest jet aircraft, weighing only 358.8 lb (162.7 kg).
In May of 2021 the Connecticut Air & Space Center was approached by Gretchen May of Stratford with the intention of donating her late husband’s, homebuilt BD-5 to the museum. Reinhard May, a lifelong advocate for local aviation and the airport here in Stratford, passed away on Saturday, April 10, 2021. Born in Halle, Germany on October 15, 1940, he was born into and survived WWII, and later escaped communist East Germany in the early 1960's by "borrowing" an airplane from the East German air guard. He learned to fly at a young age, and was an avid private pilot his entire life. He also apprenticed to be a machinist & mechanical engineer in Germany, skills which he brought to the US when he emigrated.
Photo by: Jerry O'Neill
Design and Development
In 1967 Jim Bede was inspired by the Schleicher ASW 15 and along with his chief designer, Paul Griffin, they made preliminary designs of what would become the BD-5. At the time, however, Bede was working on the Bede BD-4.
Construction of the prototype started in earnest in late 1970. While the BD-4 was fairly conventional looking, the Micro was a radical design. An extremely small one-seat design that looked more like a jet fighter than a typical general aviation aircraft, the pilot sat in a semi-reclined position under a large fighter-like plexiglas canopy only inches above the pilot's head.
Calculated drag was so low that split flaps and spoilers were added to the wing in order to improve deceleration for landing. This was apparently the first application of spoilers on a light aircraft. In addition to being easy to fly, the BD-5 was also intended to be easy to build and own. The fuselage was constructed primarily from fiberglass panels over an aluminum frame, reducing construction time to only a few hundred hours.
Photo by: Jerry O'Neill