There is always room for improvement on a good design, as Steve Wright's Stagger EZ aptly demonstrates...

The Stagger EZ is a sleek and extremely attractive design

The Stagger EZ seen at various stages of its construction

Steve Wright wanted enough headroom to move at ease

After 14 years in the making, the plane is ready for first flight


Builder:Steve L. Wright / Wright Aircraft Works, Inc.

Type:  three-seat canard pusher sportsplane

Powerplant: 1 x 170-185 hp Superior Air Parts XO-360 piston engine

Significant date: 2003

In the late 1970s, Steve L. Wright built a VariEze which first flew in 1982. He flew the aircraft over 1000 hours which included 6 flights into the Bahamas and 11 trips to Oshkosh and Sun & Fun, received the Rutan Designer’s Award for it in 1986, then sold it. Having test-flown several different Long-EZs, Variezes and Cozys and combining that experience with his VariEze flying time, Wright logged over 1500 hours of what he calls “canard” time — enough time in his own words to evaluate what he personally felt were the strong and weak points of the designs. Wright wanted to build a canard aircraft having what he felt were the great design features found in the Cozy but with enhanced features. Thus was born the Stagger EZ, for which he set up his own business by the name of Wright Aircraft Works, Inc. (now Wright Aircraft Works, LLC).

Although using many features of the other canard wing aircraft, the Stagger EZ is essentially an independent design. The type has a wider and thus roomier cabin, a new design and higher cockpit canopy and a new design undercarriage with fixed main wheels and a retractable nose wheel which was offset 5 inches to the right. Wright decided to develop a very comfortable and roomy 3-place aircraft, with a large baggage compartment where the right rear seat would be located in a “4-seat” aircraft. The relocated main gear and off-center nose gear allows for more storage area for baggage.

The name Stagger EZ is of course a reference to the Rutan heritage but also a description of the design's main specificity, which is the prominent staggered seating (front and rear passengers seats), resulting in ample baggage space. As he desired to obtain extremely comfortable seating arrangement, Wright staggered the seats to allow the pilot to see to the right without visual interference of the right seat passenger, and made the fuselage 42" wide, thus creating a very open and roomy cabin feel. The staggered seats allow easy entry to the back seat as the back seat passenger can step between the seats as he gets in or out.

The back seat passenger is positioned so that he can see, touch and speak to the right seater as easily as the right seater can the pilot.The cockpit is large enough so that the occupants can even get up and trade seats in flight with each other. The pilot and right seat passenger do not touch shoulders yet they are seated so that they both can look at each other, point out traffic straight ahead and reach over to each other. The stagger This arrangement improves CG configuration, as two heavy weights are not on the same forward fuselage station. It also enabled Wright to mount the nose gear 5 inches to the right of the centerline. The nose wheel retracts up rearward into the right side of the nose of the plane. This gets the nose gear out of the way of the pilot. The right seater’s feet rest directly below the instrument panel and behind the large Cozy MK-4 nose wheel.

Wright also moved the main gear outboard of the prop arc far enough so that debris picked up by the main wheels will miss the prop. This main gear is Wright's own design and is mounted on its own structure, so that the main spar does not see landing loads. Another major improvement introduced by Wright is the NOSE-LIFT Kit, which Wright describes as "a must for those of us with less than perfect backs who prefers not to or can’t lift that heavy nose prior to flight". When the plane is parked on the nose, the flip of a switch lifts the plane (even fully loaded with people and fuel) from the nose down position. It in December of ‘96 installs easily and works great. Wright began manufacturing the NOSE-LIFT Kit in December of ‘96, and has shipped over 260 kits to EZ owners and builders all over the world before selling this activity which he found too time-consuming.

On top of this, Wright obtained outstanding visibility by fitting a custom blown oversized canopy, created by the Airplane Plastics Factory in a custom mold. It is 1/4” thick and is 20% higher than a Cozy canopy. It is electrically operated and opens up and back similar to military jets. With the canopy opening in this manner, the pilot and passenger can get in and out of the plane from both sides at the same time. A Warner Electrak 1 actuator provides the power to open and close the canopy. When closed the actuator acts as a safety lock holding the canopy security closed.

Steve Wright enjoyed the very light way the VariEze handled in roll, and he wanted to incorporate this feature in the design of his Stagger EZ. The dihedral developed by John Roncz to improve main wing and aileron performance by keeping the vortex of the canard above the top of the wing significantly improves the roll rate of the Stagger EZ by increasing aileron authority. The control system of the Stagger EZ is almost an exact copy of that in the Long-EZ. The control stick is in the center and the right seat passengers stick is 13 inches directly behind the pilot’s stick and is controlled by the right seater’s left hand. The right seater does not have rudder control. All control systems are on ball bearing for smooth operation. Probably one of the most revolutionary changes in engine and flight instruments in the history of experimental aircraft development is the creation of the EFIS One by Greg Rictor. This system is a giant leap in enhancing ease and safety of flight.

Finally, the main fuel tank on either side of the fuselage will be filled from one single point. The fuel transfers across the fuselage through a central sump as fast as the fuel can be pumped. A spring loaded “trap door” system allows the fuel to transfer to the tank on the opposite side of the filler cap and prevents fuel from sloshing from one tank to the other, or out of the sump area. The single gas cap reduces the chance of flying with a loose or missing cap by 50% and if the cap comes off in flight it is retained by a cable.

Development and construction of the first Stagger EZ took over 14 years. The plane was first flown in the spring of 2003. It flew very well, but cooling trouble appeared, both in the engine and oil. Wright had to completely re-design the engine cooling from down-draft to up-draft using "arm pit" inlets of 7 square inches each to prevent overheating. Indeed, the fuselage has a pronounced curve at its midpoint so with the down draft cooling the inlets were far too deep into the boundary layer to pressurize the plenum over the engine. As for oil, Wright rebuilt the top and bottom cowl for the second time to accommodate the new oil cooler location on the back baffle, thus preventing high temperatures. Once modified, the plane was test-flown in the fall of 2003 with no further trouble.

The Stagger EZ is a star attraction wherever it appears, and was the winner of the 2005 Sun ‘n'‘ Fun Grand Champion Award, and was prominently displayed on the maps and programs at Airventure 2006. The Velocity XL website describes it as "a work of art". No less! A second Stagger EZ is reportedly under construction.

Population: 1 (c/n SLW-2) [N909EZ]

Empty weight : 1100 lbs.
Typical weight : 1439 lbs. (pilot and 120 lbs. fuel included)
Maximum gross/landing weight : 2010 lbs.
Take-off roll with passenger : 85 knots
Landing speed (with power off) : 72-73 knots
Climb rate (with 2 passengers & half-fuel) : 1,000-1,200 fpm
Climb rate (with 3 passengers & full-fuel) : 900-1,000 fpm
Cruise speed : 160-175 knots TAS
Lean cruise speed : 150 knots TAS @ 11,000 ft (5.9 gph)

Crew/passengers: 3

Main sources:
- Sport Aviation, 2005
- The Wright Aircraft Works website
- More on the EFIS One safety system by Greg Rictor
- More on the NOSE-LIFT kit




The plane flies well but some cooling problems need sorting out

Revised scoops on top of cowling prevent overheating

The glazed canopy opens in typical jet fighter fashion

You've probably made it when Burt Rutan sits in your aircraft!

The unique stagger of the seats is obvious in these two shots