Roughly 49 years ago, I was exposed to a "bug" that would follow me the rest of my life. My maternal grandfather was a pilot. Each time we went to visit, my brother and I would end up out at the little airport drooling at and on all of the airplanes. We would also hope for a ride in whatever airplane my grandfather owned part of. I was infected by the flying bug. For various reasons, I have avoided "full-scale" aircraft, concentrating on flying models of aircraft.
Recently, the advent of the Sport Pilot license, flying an airplane by actually sitting inside started to look interesting. Sadly, the cost of aircraft has followed the laws of supply and demand and lawsuits. Even the old "affordable" aircraft are up in the "very expensive" range.
Since I have built (and rebuilt) several model aircraft, I started looking at an airplane to build. I wanted something that I could build as money showed up. Two airplanes stuck out in my mind.The first that caught my eye was the Easy Eagle 1 biplane. One-place, inexpensive and fun. So, I purchased a set of plans.
The plans are minimal, but usable. The worst part of the plans is the fact that I am tempted to play engineer and start changing things. I have read that modifying things can cause the death of a project. Still....... The original designer is difficult to contact and questions might be hard to get answered. One question that I have is why the fuselage is covered with aluminum to the back of the cockpit. I don't think that it is fastened in such a way to use it as a structural member. Also, pictures of the prototype shows some external drag wires installed. However, I haven't found them mentioned in the plans. Hmmmmm.
The second plane that caught my eye was the Acrolite 2M. Two-place, gonna cost more, but still fun. So, once again, I purchased a set of plans.
So far, I haven't seen anything that I really want to change. It looks like a very well thought-out and documented design. The only "mistake" in the plans is some reference to "20 degrees flap." I don't see any flap mechanism. Oh well, the rest of the plans are wonderful, as is the construction manual. I really would like to build this one.
Reality has set in and I realize that I will never actually be able to build an airplane. Still, the research and looking at the plans has been a blast. It is a wonderful dream.
With some encouragement from Laurie McGavaran, I decided to give flying full scale a try. I called Michael Szczepanski at New Mexico Sport Aviation and set up and introductory lesson. Michael allowed me to have my hands and feet on the controls throughout the flight. I was running high on adrenaline throughout and I was in total sensory overload during landing. Thank God that Michael was there to talk me through everything. Well, I was hooked.
The following lessons were some of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I cannot say enough positive about Michael. He is a competent, tolerant, fearless, calm instructor. I am convinced that I can fly well enough to get back to an airport and land. I may bend the airplane a bit, but I think I would survive.
Finally, my doctor changed blood pressure medication and I spent three or four months with blood pressure high enough that I was scared. I stopped my lessons. It gave me time to reflect on my checking account. The $600 to $700 per month was pretty hard on it. Well, I haven't been back. But, oh God, do I want to start again. I really love to be in the air and to be in control is a feeling that has no equal. Ah well, maybe some day.
If Michael ever stumbles on this, THANK YOU for the incredibly wonderful experience.