A Brief History of the Heath Parasol
Edward Bavard Heath founded the E.B. Heath Aerial Vehicle Company in 1913. The company started like many others, with a basic idea, perseverance, long hours, ingenuity, enthusiasm – and a lack of capital. At the time, flying was a costly hobby, and only the well-to-do could afford to take an active interest. Sales were slow.
Ed Heath knew that he needed to bring down the cost of flying if his business were to succeed. At the end of World War I, he introduced ‘The Feather’, a single-seat airplane with a 20-foot span, weighing 270 pounds, powered with a 7 hp Thor motorcycle engine that hauled it through the sky at the rate of 45 mph. He was ready to market this little plane when the government released a huge volume of surplus planes and engines. He shelved the promotion of The Feather and became a dealer in surplus planes and engines.
Renamed the Heath Airplane Company, Heath founded a flying school, reasoning that it was foolish to sell planes to people who would have had to go someplace else to learn to fly them. In 1925 Heath and Claire Linstead – a designer he employed – designed and constructed ‘The Tomboy’. It was a single-seat, full cantilever monoplane with a span of about 22 feet. It was built around a 32 hp Bristol Cherub engine and its speed was 103 mph. Heath used it to win the light plane events at the National Air Races in Philadelphia in 1926. The purse for winning was $2,500, which Heath and Linstead used as capital to build the first Heath Parasol.
The Parasol was a single-seat, high-wing, monoplane with a span of 26 feet. It was built around a 27 hp Henderson motorcycle engine. The designers improvised somewhat: the wing was contrived of two lower wings of a Thomas-Morse Scout biplane, braced with steel tubing and cables.
The following year they constructed another version of the Parasol. This plane was cleaner. It had a 24-foot span and was powered with a Cherub. He called it the Spokane Super Parasol and proceeded to enter it in the light and sport plane events at the National Air Races in Spokane. The purse was $1,000.
This event marked a turning point; Heath had found his light plane market and he used every kind of bait possible to push the sale of his Parasols. A full Heath Parasol kit was available to purchase for $975. The kit was also available without an engine for $690 and could be purchased in installments. The blueprints – without any parts – were available for $5 for those willing to supply their own materials.
Some Assembly Required
The Heath Parasol created an entirely new group of airplane owners. Thousands were built in barns, garages and cellars. Some were assembled in rooming houses, others in deserted theatres and one in a church. The only tools necessary to assemble a kit included a pair of small pliers, screwdriver, hacksaw (with plenty of blades), hammer, small hand drill, chisel, centre punch and file. The Heath was a well-designed. compact monoplane with exceptionally clean lines. It was sturdy, stable and flew easily.
Heath’s firm prospered and won an international reputation. Approximately 20,000 aircraft were built, with 24 of the planes registered in Canada.
Check out this video of open cockpit flight in a Heath Parasol at the 2008 Oshkosh air show.