The Red Rocket

Posted by in Aviation

I suppose every pilot has a catalog of “dream aircraft” they’d like to fly before their gravity-defying days are over. My bucket list includes a quirky looking homebuilt called the Questair Venture.

The Venture conjures up a unique set of images: blistering speed, eggs, air racing, and more than a crash or two. Many folks deride the airplane for it’s unusual fuselage shape. I’ll grant that she’s undoubtedly unique, but I happen to love the compact, curving visage of this zippy little ship.

Designed in the 1980s for maximum speed and efficiency, the Questair’s carefully crafted dimensions resulted in the one of the lowest drag GA airframes ever created. That’s what allowed it to win races at Reno, set time-to-climb records in the 3,000, 6,000, and 9,000 meter categories which were unassailed for nearly a decade, and achieve a high-altitude record of more than 35,000 feet. And lest we forget, it set those records without a turbocharger.

I have yet to fly a Venture — fewer than seventy were built — but as I said, it’s on my list of dream airplanes. Who wouldn’t enjoy a turbojet-like 3,000 fpm climb rate and 300 mph cruise speed on a miserly 13 gph?

The Venture is on my mind right now because a beautiful example of the breed graces the March cover of Sport Aviation magazine. Painted in a pure, vibrant red from tip to tail, this particular airplane started life as a fixed-gear version (which just seems wrong!) called the Spirit. It was purchased by Jerry Mercer and completed with retractable landing gear and a few other noteworthy mods. It’s poetry in motion, the sort of aircraft that can’t be done justice with words — or even photos — on a page.

And that’s why I was moved to write about it when I discovered this high-definition video of Mercer’s Venture sailing over the Malibu coastline. I’ve worked with the videographer, Jessica Ambats, on an air-to-air shoot before and she’s one of the best. When you combine her artistry, an impeccably-built red rocket ship, and the picturesque scenery of the southern California coastline, this is the result: