Steve Wittman – “Like Mars at Perihelion”



There are many greats in aviation, and homebuilding has it’s share, but there was only one life that stands out “like mars at perihelion.”  This is Steve Wittman, greatest air racer who ever lived, builder and designer, pilot of incredible talent. He relentlessly evolved for 70 years in aviation.


When I was 31 years old, he took me flying in the Olds-Tailwind, N37SW. He wrung the plane out for 25 minutes in a display of skill that I was hard pressed just to fathom. Wittman was 91 years old. Afterward, he took me in the hangar and showed me some new ideas he was incorporating into a brand new set of Tailwind wings he was in the process of building.



Above, Steve Wittman in his “Buttercup”. He built the plane in 1937. Through out his life he changed many things on the plane, the gear, the engine, the span, the wing tips, adding leading edge devices, making the tail cantilever, etc. Although he was a brilliant designer, and won 375 air races in planes he designed and built, he never rested on his laurels. He was deaf to praise and past glory when there was anything new to try or learn.


From my 2014 story: Thought for the day: Challenge of an open mind


The term “Like Mars at Perihelion” is from the essay  Message to Garcia written by Elbert Hubbard in 1899, Describing a hero of the Spanish-American war, Lt. Andrew Rowan.




About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

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