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The History

“– What inspired you to start flying?”
“– First thing I saw that flew were little paper planes… that I learned how to make when I was about four years old […]”

Everything began in the far decade of 1960, more than fifty years ago. To tell the history of Curiango with great detail we need to go back to that time and review the trajectory of Mister Elvis. There is a little verse on the internet that says that every time you ask an aviator his history in aviation, you better sit and listen, because you’ll hear a love story. So there it goes:

The first thing he saw flying were little paper airplanes, which he learned how to make in the decade of 1960, at about four years of age. His neighbor Chico Brendler was the one to teach him: “– One day he showed up making little paper airplanes, that was a binge!”
In a time where things were much simpler, the boys would go out and walk everywhere, so, at about fifteen, sixteen years of age, on one of those adventures, he discovered with a few friends the Airport of Ijuí – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. After that, they started spending the weekends there, where the eagles met, “bothering” the pilots. Each pilot that would go out “filled the airplane with boys” and took them flying with them.
At seventeen years old, he already worked as a designer for a construction company, where he met a newcomer architect, an intern, cousin of Chico Brendler, with whom he had lost contact a few years back. After a conversation he asked about the old friend of the little paper airplanes, managed to get his home address and decided to, at the end of the working hours, ride his bike through the street. He was lucky enough to find Chico working on his garage: they met again.
Chico was older, married, worked with electronics and, on top of a few tables on his garage, left a few aeromodels. “– The fever was back again”.
From the reencounter he took an aeromodel that was a little broken and Chico gave to him, which he fixed to play flying. “– We went on to make it fly, broke it all over again!”
After that reencounter and the gift, he entered the world of aeromodels. Since at those times things were much simpler than nowadays, the era of technology, to be able to buy an accessory or aeromodel part, he tells that he needed to send a letter to the state of São Paulo to ask that the store sent him the things via mail. The payment was made via Postal Card, also by mail.
He kept in contact with Chico Brendler and so with aeromodels. By that time, end of the 1970’s, Chico was already manufacturing radio controlled aeromodels. In São Paulo you could find a few things to buy, but with a job of small salary, maintaining the hobby was difficult: everything was very expensive. As a result of that, the majority of the radios used was smuggled (later on, the people working for Varig would bring the radios on the airplanes with tem, on the sly), if they were caught by the police with one inside the car, they’d get in a lot of trouble.
Then emerged the combination of passion and lack of money plus the ability with drawing, creativity and manual ability, all in abundance. The way out of this problem was to build his own aeromodels. “– As I didn’t have money to buy an aeromodel, I’d make it, I manufactured my own from the beginning, bought the wood… I designed, my planes were always different, I’d draw a plane and make it.”
He evolved asking questions and studying the basics of aerodynamics as he could, with what he had, which at the time wasn’t much.
At that time there were already people who built their own airplanes, with the resources and materials available, so the idea of building his own airplane already existed back than, but was infeasible for personal and financial reasons, besides the laws and rules for amateur construction being very difficult. For those reasons, the world of aeromodels was the more viable one, although still expensive.
In the 80’s he still manufactured aeromodels in wood, because fiberglass was a noble and expensive material, only available in São Paulo.
Already involved with aeromodelling for a few years, he was invited by a friend to take a trip to the town of São Borja – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil to help fix a broken airplane. At the time unemployed, he accepted the invitation and spent a few days helping on the recovering of the aircraft. After that he received another invitation, this time to work in agricultural aviation, since he already had knowledges of mechanics. Even working in agricultural aviation, he continued building aeromodels, in Cruz Alta – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where he lived in the aerodrome, participating in events with his friend Chico Brendler.
It was then, in 1982, that he came up with the idea of manufacturing a low-wing aeromodel, to which he already had a design and a name: Curiango. The name was found on an encyclopedia of bird species that had belonged to his father, Conny Hein. He tells that he chose this name because he liked the sonority of it.

On the photo above the first Curiango aeromodel, made of wood. Of simple structure, cylindrical, it had only 1.40 meter of wingspan. It was drawn for the first time on the paper of a pack of cigarettes: “– I made a little drawing in the paper of a pack of cigarettes, that little white paper you find inside the pack, I drew it on top of a little paper and it looked good, tiny… I got to my drawing table (…) and drew him on the scale of an aeromodel and started building it right away…”
It was the only Curiango without the “cheeks”, added to the next models because he liked very much the little American formula 1 airplanes, which were small and cheeky.

He made fiberglass molds and built a few Curiangos to his friends, despite the difficulty in producing these things at that time, for they were expensive and not very much valued.
As time went by, the technics of manufacturing the aeromodels was perfected. He learned a few things with a friend called Gustavo, whom lived in the region of Porto Alegre – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and built very good aeromodels. Sometimes he would visited him when he needed to go to the capital to buy materials.
After many years rolling around Brazil with aeromodels under his arms and after many different jobs, he began working at OMAER, in São Sepé – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, a renowned workshop of agricultural airplanes. In this workshop he helped build many different airplanes, including one of the very first – if not the first – Vans RV6 of Brazil. “– Then I was already a good painter, I painted the plane, which was the boss’s plane… It looked beautiful!”. The boss was the great aviator Ruy Textor. Mister Elvis tells that he remembers the little André and Tiago walking around the workshop.
From São Sepé he moved to Santa Maria – Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where he built aeromodels in his home’s garage, in a small workshop, still trying to live off of his passion for flying. At that time it was very hard to publicize the work and live off of it, since the main form of publicizing was a little magazine from São Paulo. So, between a job and another, he would sell an aeromodel.

After some more wanderings around Rio Grande do Sul, in 2001 he moved to Tupã – São Paulo, Brazil, where he started working at the extinct Prince, an aeromodels factory. At Prince he developed many aeromodels and remade the pre-existing ones with better manufacturing technics to make them lighter and better. They were exported to eight countries, including the USA and Germany. It was in this factory that the Curiango aeromodel started being exported to the USA, with the name Starship (foreigners had difficulty pronouncing the name Curiango). There were many projects and promises at that time, but for many reasons they ended up not taking off. One of them was the project of the STR100, in a partnership with Waldemar Storch, which didn’t obtain success, unfortunately.

Still in Tupã a friend, Osmar Leal, had bought an experimental ultralight aircraft and got excited with the idea of flying (Tupã already had an aerodrome, but with very little activity). After sometime Osmar bought the plans of a KR2: “– And in the meantime Osmar got excited and bought the plans of the KR2, then he called me and said ‘– if you help me make it, I’ll build the plane, if not I won’t.”
Osmar then began building the aircraft with a few tips and help from Mister Elvis, it was in the meantime of this, while the KR was being built, that Curiango’s full-scale plans were drawn. From that moment on the project seemed more viable.
Despite the failure of the STR100 project and of Prince, a kind of partnership was created between him and the guys from Aeroalcool, which included the engineer James Waterhouse. So, in a beautiful day, unemployed and with only the plans and the mockup of Curiango, he went to Aeroalcool after James, looking for the “coordinates” to start building the airplane. He spent the entire day walking after the engineer, a very busy man, with the plans and the mockup under his arm, waiting for a moment to be able to discuss the viability of the project. “– I spent the entire day walking after James inside the hangar, he was very busy at the time, traveled a lot… I spent the entire day walking after him, with the plans in one hand and the little plane under my arm, wanting him to look at my plan to give me the okay to start making the airplane…”
When it was almost night, time to go home, there was the opportunity and James decided to take a look at the drawings. Mister Elvis extended the plans on top of a plane’s wing on the hangar. The engineer looked, thought it looked good, heard how it would be made, the technics… Gave the okay for the construction, but before he warned: “– You are going to die with this plane, this is a fighter!”
“– No, but I’ll make it… If you help me, I’ll build the plane, if you don’t help me, I’ll build the plane anyways!”. It was at this moment that James looked at the plans and gave the coordinates on how to do the lamination, besides, after sometime, giving as a gift the drawings of the ribs and sights of the aircraft, made in a computer.

Curiosity: when he started building Curiango, Elvis did not know how to fly yet. It was at the Airport of Tupã that he learned how to, in an Orion PU-OVO.

He began building Curiango unemployed, in the backside of the house, in a small area with a workbench for his tools and another one used to make the plane’s fuselage. His friends and others would whisper around that that was insane, an unemployed man building an aircraft in the back of his house. Deep down no one believed the project would ever leave the workbench.

One day he was invited to go to a festival in the town of Ituverava – São Paulo, Brazil with a few friends, taking some carbon fiber pieces he made to show at the event. Even though he didn’t want to go and had no money, he decided to give it a try. It was at that event he met Roberto “Beto” Brito.
Beto mentioned he was building and aircraft in the city of Atibaia – São Paulo, Brazil, and needed a few fiber parts, asked if it was possible to make them and they exchanged numbers. In the meantime Mister Elvis started a small aeromodels factory in Tupã, where he would also manufacture some fiber parts for small aircrafts. From time to time he would get in the car and go to aviation events on his own, showed his work and made friends with people from that branch. Little by little he became known for doing a good, quality work.

Months after that he received a call from Beto, which proposed a visit to Atibaia, to make a fiber piece for the Zenith Zodiac CH601. They agreed upon prices and a few months later, he visited the city, where Beto already had ideas of starting an airplane factory.
Before going back to Tupã, he received the proposal of working at that factory. After a few conversations the moving to Atibaia happened, he then began manufacturing the aircrafts Zenith CH 601, CH 701, CH 750, CH 801 at AirFox Ultraleves. There the business became good, they worked a lot and made a good salary. Because of the constant and fast rhythm of work, Curiango ended up being left aside, in a little corner of the hangar at Atibaia’s Airport. It was at that time he developed his flying abilities further more, flying many hours on the KitFox Águia II PU-GJA and on the Zodiac PU-ZOD, taking lessons from Lucio Vidal.
After things became more stable and fluid at the factory, he continued to work on Curiango, spending the nights working on the bird.
Because he introduced the engineers from Aeroalcool, including James Waterhouse, to AirFox, they would pay them regular visits, so between a visiting and another, James would take a look at Curiango, inspecting the work and giving a few tips.
As time went by the project began taking more and more shape, being completed by the end of 2009. So, in the morning of the 13th of January 2010, the bird takes its first flight:

When asked if Curiango ever surprised him, Mister Elvis says no: “– He never surprised me, and knew he was gonna be this way. I had that certainty, he was designed to be this way and he nailed it.”

So, shortly speaking, Curiango was born from the project of an aeromodel designed in 1982, which, after many years of struggle and perseverance, won the skies and enchants wherever he goes.

The engine is a Volkswagen 2300cc 100HP, ethanol injected. Consumes 19 liters an hour, at 3000/3200 RPM, flying at a speed of 155KT IAS. Stalls at the speed of 45KT IAS. The tanks have a capacity of 40 liters each, which gives the aircraft the autonomy of more than 4 hours of flight at cruise speed. He weights 617lbs empty and carries 992lbs (22lbs of luggage). The wingspan is of 22.97ft and length of 15.42ft, the wing area is of 53.82 squared feet. Wooden propeller of 52 x 69 inches. The structure can take +6G and -4G.
Click to enlarge

Why a single-seat? “– I made him a monoplace because I wanted the smallest plane possible. I always found the American airplanes really good looking so I said ‘I want to make a really tiny plane’, eye-catching for being small. So I sat on the floor… simulated his seat, with the angle James had told me about, there’s a better angle for the spine, so in case of an accident you won’t hurt your spine… I simulated the seat and drew the plane around me, to fit my size.”

Why not demountable? “– To make it safer, more resistant… Because he is very fast, so I decided to make the wings ‘glued’ to it because his shell is structural.”

Under the wing of a Cessna 188. In its tallest section, Curiango measures 4.7 feet!

The painting was redone in 2017, with a few details changed

So, this is the history of Curiango. From aeromodel to airplane. It was more than 30 years of dreaming, but at the end it was all worth it. Perseverance, lots of hard work and will, really do take us far! For that, truly: dreams do come true!
 A big hug and thank you for your time!

History transcribed by Aline Hein, sister of Curiango, and administrator of the bird's social media!

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