As I kid, I knew that I wanted to fly. I also knew how much I liked to build things!
I come from a long line of builders of various things. My grandfather built his own house. My dad built a 42′ ferrocement ketch and a home addition… Clearly it’s in my blood.
One of my favorite toys growing up was an Erector Set. I even briefly flirted with the idea of studying mechanical or civil engineering (I eventually flunked out of an Electrical Engineering major before discovering my true calling in Computer Science).
I first tried flying hang gliders in the 70’s, but I wasn’t strong enough to pick up a glider and run and launch myself into the void, so I gave that up. Then, in the 80’s, I took flying lessons while in the Air Force. I got about 10 hours in, but ran out of time and money — it seemed better to finish my college education than to get a pilot’s license. In the 90’s, it was kids and mortgages, so no time to fly (though I did get to build a lot of things). In the 00’s, I moved from California to NY. Then, in the 10’s, my kids were finally grown enough and I had started earning enough money, and it was time for a good midlife crisis anyway; so I learned to fly (and ran a triathlon but did not buy a sports car).
I knew that I wanted to own a plane for my retirement. I flirted with several models. The Diamond DA-40 was a favorite for a long time. I thought about several LSA’s, but the 120kt limit and low gross weights and the inability to fly IFR turned me off.
I kept coming back to building an airplane. The obvious choice was a Van’s RV series. I had done a lot of wood work, so working with tools didn’t seem like a problem (though I had no metal working experience). Fiberglass isn’t a good option here in the NorthEast as it is always too hot or too cold to work. So it remained a dream for a long time.
At one point, I was strongly thinking of starting an RV-9. I had lined up a part-time teaching job at Columbia and the annual salary was almost exactly what I needed to build it. The job offer fell though (my company at the time would not give me permission to teach it — so I left the company and now make boat loads more money so it worked out fine!), so I didn’t end up starting.
I started a plane fund and started stashing away some money for the day I would start building.
Then Vans came out with the RV-14. It seemed like exactly what I wanted. It also promised to be a bit easier to build. A bit bigger and a bit stronger than the -9, it was also (gulp!) acrobatic. The urge to build just kept building… but I still wasn’t ready to start.
I first needed to find a place to build it. My father-in-law built not one, but two planes (including a BD-5), so growing up my wife’s garage was always full of plane parts. So I was absolutely forbidden from using our garage. I eventually found a garage through CraigsList. Nice and spacious. Not too far away. Not perfect, but good enough.
Then, the clincher. I actually flew in an RV. I put up a post on Vans Air Force (a builder site) asking if there was anyone in the NY Metro area willing to let me sit in an airplane. Jim responded and said that he would take me up in his RV-7. I drove up to Stewart (I couldn’t get a plane from the club) and he took me up. We spent two hours flying around. We pulled some G’s in a turn and flew all around. It was the most magical day I ever had flying. The plane handled superbly — it felt like the plane was following my thoughts. It was unlike flying the Piper Archers I was used to from the club. I was sold. After I landed, I called my wife and told her that I just took the “most expensive flight of my life.” She knew that it was a done deal. I ordered the kit.
I took an EAA sheet metal course and dove in. I know that it will take a few years before it’s a real airplane, but I’m having fun with every minute of it!
Drop me a line!