Funk’s flying 550 – the little green speedster in the sky. By Bernard Chabbert

I had seen photos of it taken during the Friedrichshafen Show. Obviously everyone attending the event (thousands) had fallen in love with the thing. So did I.

FK of Germany had designed and refined its sleek FK 14 Polaris side-by-side low-winged Rotax 912-equipped two-seater, then decided (their boss is a lover of sports and racing cars of ’50s vintage, of which the Porsche 550 is the archetype) to mix the best of wheels and wings cultures into a new version of the Polaris.

Peter Funk (the boss) then went to work with an Italian artist, Mirco Pecorari, who, as legend has it, had some input in the design of the Pagani Zonda supercar.Pecorari went back to the thirties: he got rid of the tricycle gear, buried the wheels within two sexy wheel-pants, added a streamlined tailwheel, replaced the superb bubble canopy with a gorgeous side-by-side torpedo superstructure equipped with two semi-spherical windshields, redesigned the rudder and the wingtips.

They gave the Polaris a new name, again inspired by the golden age of car racing: Le Mans. Pecorari added a simple and classy paint scheme, and suddenly we had one of the best-looking sports aircraft ever made.

I’ve always been very sensitive to beauty when it comes to planes, cars, boats, houses, to the point of insanity, being able to exchange the money I do not have for one of those toys. And you know what?

Despite the insanity, I’ve never had regrets. Problems and worries, yes, plenty. But regrets, no.

So one day my wife and I drove to Muret, just south of Toulouse, where the French importer of FKs and other products belonging to the ultralight world is based.

Christophe was an engineer at Airbus HQ in Toulouse, but as a pilot fell in love with basic aviation, living in a region where beautiful landscapes abound, sandwiched between the Atlantic coast at Biarritz and the Mediterranean, with the magnificent ridges of the Pyrenees stretching between both maritime coasts.

Over 150 little airfields devoted to ultralight flying dot the area, plus over forty aerodromes, a real aviator’s playground. So one day Christophe decided to go his own way, left Airbus, started this business centred around basic aviation and fun flying, and became the FK importer for France.

That day he had a Le Mans in one of his hangars?the first one imported to the country, ready for delivery. I had drowned my wife with photos and words about it, but since we already had two aircraft in our hangar near the Bay of Arcachon, including a big and magnificent Lockheed 12 and the concert grand of all Pipers, a 1935 J2 better than new, plus our son’s Stearman, I wanted to have her honest opinion.

As she is an expert in good taste, an art and architecture lover, a film director, and also an aviation aficionado (having spent a large part of her life as a supersonic stewardess), we’ve never taken a decision regarding our common financial follies (cars, house, flying machines…) without reaching a consensus.

She looked at the sleek green speedster ? just a glance ? and said “Yes”. Clear. So we bought it after another negotiation with the friendly banker. Oh, happy banker.

Three months later, FK 14 s/n 148 arrived in Muret. In the meantime, I had flown a standard tailwheeled Polaris twice and early impressions were of a slippery machine, very fighter-like in cruise. With a sensitive and useful rudder ? a necessity as the ball seemed to be willing to spend its time bumping from stop to stop.

Spitfire ailerons, always gentle and precise at medium speeds, becoming quite heavy at high velocities, and an almost weightless elevator control implying delicate pressures at all speeds, with a powerful mechanical trim I had ordered instead of the standard issue electric one.

Seemed to me a bit unharmonised at first, but soon it became, from an aviator point of view, a real pleasure, demanding a positive attitude towards the act of piloting instead of just vaguely guiding the flying machine.