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The prototype GlaStar was designed and built by a group of six engineers, including Tom Hamilton, Ted and Tom Setzer, and Bud Nelson, with Ted Setzer doing most of the hands-on construction. The aircraft was largely built in a small building at the Arlington Airport under a company called Arlington Aircraft Development.

After much consideration, a welded steel-tube cage cabin was determined to be the most efficient configuration that was also the easiest to build. The engine, seats, tail cone, wings, control sticks, rudder pedals, landing gear, etc. all bolted directly to the steel tube roll cage. The pre-formed composite outer shell allowed for the sweeping compound curves that gave the GlaStar its distinctive profile. The wings and tail surfaces did not have any compound curves and were made out of aluminum. The SH-4 was originally powered by a 125 hp Continental IO-240 engine, which was switched to a 160 hp Lycoming O-320 engine after two years of service.

The GlaStar was first displayed as a nearly-completed prototype at the fly-in in Oshkosh in 1994. Even before the first flight took place in November 1994, 100 builders had placed orders for the kit. Complete kits were being shipped out by the fall of 1995, with the first customer built GlaStar flying after only three months.

During 1997, the GlaStar prototype was fitted with floats and tested with both Aerocet 2200 straight floats and Wipline 2100 amphibs. The Aerocet was the float of choice for the airplane, which entailed an increase in the GlaStar’s gross weight from 1960 to 2100 pounds.

The GlaStar was an aircraft that was immediately easy to fly and safely enjoyed. Benign stall characteristics, good slow speed handling, and the rugged steel cage structure all contributed to make the SH-4 an intrinsically safe aircraft, and a good candidate for the low-time pilot. In 1999, after the GlaStar had flown over 1,000 hours, Ted Setzer donated the prototype to the EAA AirVenture Museum.

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