Zagi is the brainchild of Jerry Teisan, an avid RC modeler and aviator originally from Venice, California. After assembling and refining his model airplane designs, Jerry branched out with his brother Joe and started Zagi back in the early 1990s. At the time, the two were working in different countries in completely different industries, but both were looking for an out, and Zagi was their ticket. The business itself took off on its own from their living room.
Jerry’s career is as varied as one can imagine. He was born with an innate understanding of machines. As a kid, he took apart things just to see how they worked. He started his career as an apprentice mechanic as a teen in the 1950s. Years later, he worked as a mechanic on high performance cars – Fiats, Porsches and Jaguars – which he repaired for the commercial market. The job led him to join a racing team in Florida as their chief mechanic.
After that stint, he left the automotive world for that of art. He moved to New York City in the 1960s and began dabbling with photography. He started as a portrait photographer for Sears. On his own, he began photographing women in hair salons which gave him an into the world of fashion photography and theater head shots. It was during this time that Jerry began making model airplanes.
Joe too has had an eclectic career. He quit school in the 11th grade mainly out of boredom and joined the Marines to fulfill his obligatory Universal Military Training. It was 1953, and he was only 17.
Joe served three years in between the Far East and Japan. After he left the service, he began working for a private military contractor and worked for the Army Corps of Engineers during the Vietnam War. After the war, Joe worked as a business writer. While working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American arm of the State Department. He spent two years in Indonesia assisting a company on contract with the government there. It was around that time that both brothers wanted out of their current jobs to focus on Zagi.
The Evolution of the Zagi Design
The Zagi design evolved from the expensive hobby airplane models Jerry assembled. “Jerry was making fine, molded fiberglass, carbon fiber planes, but they were expensive and had a very limited market,” Joe explained. “He started playing with polystyrene and later polypropylene. It was really a backyard business.”
“We got together and started cutting Formica patterns. One was a slope glider and one a thermal glider. We invested some money and built about 12 of them and took them out to fly and sold them. We got ambitious and built 50 more and did the same thing. It started as simple as that. We became official and grew like that,” he said.
The brothers lived in a beach shanty in Venice on Lincoln Boulevard. After they outgrew their living room workshop, they moved into a restaurant/night club in the neighborhood that had been shut down. “It was good for us because we worked day and night, so it was good we were so close,” Joe said. Three years later, they leased a former restaurant and expanded from there. By then, they were starting to get noticed. A Los Angeles Times article featured them as one of the first businesses profiting from the Internet. The Teisan brothers marketed their gliders by demonstrating them on the beach and cliffs of Venice where clear areas are plentiful and the ocean breeze is perfect for flying. Soon, they were selling to dealers, many of whom were Zagi enthusiasts themselves from across the globe.
The Flying Wing
The design of the original Zagi flying wing glider is what keeps its followers coming back. It’s made for various flying and for combat competitions. It is inexpensive and virtually indestructible, making it perfect to survive the mistakes and crash landings of a beginner flyer. Plus, it’s made to hit other remote-controlled planes in competition.
The overall concept of the Zagi design is simplicity. There are no embellishments or fuselage; it’s lightweight and fairly easy to assemble. Many Zagi flyers are up and flying the same day they assemble their glider kit. The powered craft are electric and use lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries to stay in the air for long periods of time. The batteries operate a propeller and two servos – little motors that receive commands from a transmitter on the ground. The pilot moves the elevons on the glider to maneuver it. Carbon fiber spars are embedded in the wing to provide stability.
Zagi’s innovative design and materials have brought many newcomers to the sport. In 2016, however, Jerry decided it was time to retire and announced that he was closing shop. Thus, started Zagi’s next chapter. Learn about Zagi’s new co-owners – cousins Jacob Marble and Josh Johnson. The two are aviation enthusiasts: Jacob has the technical skills and Josh has the mechanical ones. And they’re along for the Zagi ride as much as you are!