Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Wanna Build...


Sometimes, the dream is more valuable than the reality


First, I've very much done the airplane-building thing, although without much success. I started a Thorp T-18 while in college. I rebuilt and flew a damaged Cessna 195 in graduate school. Clipped a Cub in the living room of a tiny rental cottage the first year I was married. Built most of a self-designed, scratch-built, full-scale replica of the 1930 Howard DGA-3 "Pete" racer.

I was the designer for a series of full-scale replicas of the Wedell-Williams Model 44 racers (450 hp P&W). Plus, I write a monthly homebuilding column for EAA's magazine, Sport Aviation, called Shop Talk. So, it's not as if I don't have some attachment to homebuilding. Still…

While I don't know why I'm continually saying I want to build an airplane, I do see a multitude of reasons why I won't/shouldn't build an airplane. I've had a number of solid false starts (the Pete was really far along and the 195 flew), but the truth is, I'm not the greatest at finishing things. A casual tour of my workshop provides proof that I get more pleasure out of starting and working on projects than I do finishing them.

Every time I hear my own voice chastising me for not building an airplane, another voice, this one unheard, starts running down the reasons I can't build an airplane. It begins with the dozens of unfinished projects that are constantly competing for my attention. Then the question of workshop space pops up (easily solved with an extension out the back of the garage).

Then, even if I had an airplane, where would I keep it? The hangar is full. Don't want to tie it down in the sun (ideas for wing/canopy covers immediately begin forming in my mind…more projects).

If I were to build an airplane, when would I fly it? I already fly almost every day. And my lifestyle doesn't lend itself to using airplanes for going places. The time just isn't there for that.

Every time I say I want to build an airplane, my brain follows up with a rapid- fire series of very logical reasons not to do it. However, the sequence always winds up with the same question/comment, "…besides, which one would I build?"

When the question of what to build surfaces, my brain always spins off in many directions: a flying replica of Betty Skelton's 'Lil Stinker Pitts? A Bearhawk? A Knight Twister? How about the funky little, super-easy-to-build Steward Headwind (one of my long-time favorites)? The latter has really been on my mind of late.

I wonder if I'll keep badgering myself until I finally decide what I want to build and I pull the trigger on another airplane project. I hope not. However, The Roadster is running and will soon be on the street ("soon" is a relative term). And I've got the wheels for the artillery piece finished. Yeah, there's probably room to squeeze another project in there.

I guess it's a good thing that I can't decide what to build, eh?



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