CHAPTER 1 - How Did I Get Into This?

(August 2002) I added a picture of my proposed final panel created at the panel-planner website. I don't expect to have the full panel installed at first flight (just the VFR stuff), but I hope to get it all in there eventually.

When I was growing up, my brother Tim would build these gorgeous models. Since he was fourteen years older than me, I felt as if his abilities were absolutely magical. His first love was cars, and his hotrod models were amazingly detailed. When I build my first pine derby car for the Boy Scouts, he was the one who showed me how to carve and assemble it. Needless to say, I was hooked on building things from that point on.

Still, Tim's first love was automobiles, and it wasn't long before he and my Father disappeared into the garage, leaving a wake of unbuilt kits. Lucky me! Most of the unfinished ones were the balsa and tissue type of model airplane. My first efforts had the tissue tacked on with airplane glue and painted with enamels for plastic models; they were hopelessly too heavy to fly or even balance. But they were perfect in my eyes, and so I continued building.

I, too, digressed from airplanes, when I discovered that plastic tank models were more forgiving of mistakes. Glue spills could be covered with artificial mud and paint could be slopped on any old way with good results. Soon I was making very authentic dioramas and even getting notice from local modelers. And yet, in the background hovered wings.

In the first flush of the Moon landing, I had decided I wanted to be an astronaut. To this end, I began building model rockets but swiftly progressed to actual experimentation. Attempting to design a simple inertial guidance system, I placed two years running in State Science Fairs and won achievement awards from NASA both times. Alas, not only did I fail to develop the guidance system I was after (though I can tell you what won't work), I also discovered computers. When the Air Force turned me down due to childhood asthma, I turned to computing with the faint hope that the Space Station would need computer operators.

About 1985, I acquired a radio-controlled glider. After having destroyed it faster than I built it, I got some help from a local club. By the end of the year, I was winning contests and building gliders in demonstration booths at hobby expositions. I also wrote a couple of kit reviews and a column in the club newsletter.

However, the club's main effort was to send members to the World Championships (which we did and which they still do), but I was more interested in building. About that time, a co-worker got me involved in full-size sailplanes, before she was killed in a mountain rotor accident. By that time, I was near to solo, but the accident gave me pause, and my separation from my wife did the rest. The building bug was still strong, though, and one of my projects was preying on my mind.

I have always loved Anthony Fokker's marvelous triplane. I have built several plastic models and a couple of flying models. However, I wanted to do a tour-de-force, so I ordered Ron Sand's full-size replica plans, intending to use them as a pattern for an awesome 1/4 scale model. This project currently sits uncompleted in a storage shed in California - I'm not giving it up, yet! After having acquired the plans, though, I got the idea to build a full size one, as well. Never mind that I didn't have a pilot's license; I just wanted to build it.

Finally, after leaving IBM and getting through my divorce, I decided to pursue a flying career with computer consulting to fall back on. While making my preparations to begin training, I decided to put aside the triplane idea and build something I could really fly! After much searching, I eventually ordered a plans set from Van's Aircraft and the dreaming began.

You can see from the picture that I took advantage of the three-views that Van provided to plot a color scheme. Some of the ideas I came up with - to put it politely - just didn't work. Eventually, I combined a couple of ideas to get this one, which I think I can live with. Now all I had to do was figure out how to pay for it and where to build it.

Then, Judi announced that she had been accepted to University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor...