Me, at seven years of age: “Daddy, how long will it take to build the biplane?“
Daddy: “I’m not sure, but you will probably be old enough to fly it by the time it is done”.
Me: “How old to I have to be to fly?”
Daddy: “At least 16 years old.”
I asked the question as Daddy tap tap tapped bits of wood into a handmade jig fabricating the ribs for a 1960 EAA Bi-plane. We were sitting on the floor of the den watching TV. I remember thinking: that’s a long time! And it was.
When my dad went Home to heaven in March of 2000 I was given charge of this unfinished project he began late in the 60s. Daddy a lot done. He had cut, shaped, and welded the fuselage including:
- stick and rudder pedals
- tail wheel
- landing gear
…from aircraft-grade steel rods and pipe. These were assembled and the longitudinal flight controls were wired.
He had also fabricated dozens of ribs for the wings and ailerons from bits of aircraft-grade wood using templates and plans provided in the EAA plans. The ribs were placed onto wooded spars forming the wings.
There is an instrument panel, seat, fly wires, and tires. He was close to beginning the fabric covering with special muslin and dope. He didn’t get to that step. Also, I think the process of inspection may have been intimidating to Daddy.
He worked on it until the 1970s. I remember it actually assembled, up on tires and landing gear in the back of his shop for a while. He had a motor, which I also inherited. However, a few weeks before he passed, he told me not to use it if I decided to build the plane. Its’ 85 horsepower was not enough…
I am not sure what derailed the project, but at some point, it was set on the back burner.
All of this and many other parts needed to finish the job have been stored in our hangar along with the Aircoupe. I had all but given up on this being anything but hangar decor – almost. Then an answer to an unprayed prayer came.
Out Of The Blue
A good friend of mine, another woman pilot, was moving away, so I went to her going away party. There were aviation folks from all corners of the Air Capital, including members of the local Experimental Aircraft Association.
The subject came up about the EAA Biplane “kit” I had and their ears perked up. I filled them in with what I knew. They said, “we will build it!”. I was stunned. It turns out the chapter was looking for the right project to dig into – what better than the original Biplane designed by the EAA?
Faster Than…A Biplane!
A few weeks later, the local EAA president contacted me and said the board had talked it over and agreed to take on the project. Wow, they were serious! I asked some practical questions and then said I would work on getting the components transported to Wichita. So begins the process:
- Inventorying, wrapping, and loading the components for transport
- Trucking the bi-plane to its new building place
- Evaluating the status of the components by experts in the group
- deciding to go or no go based on the evaluation (I am hopeful it will be a go)
- Determining what additional parts may be needed and costs
I am beyond words of gratitude that the Wichita EAA Chapter 88 has agreed to take this on as a project. The combined expertise in this group is beyond measure. I am humbled and honored that the possibility is alive again that this plane will fly.
Now, for that tail wheel certification…..
What Dreams have you set aside? Dare to share in the comments below and give them a voice.