Sunday, June 3, 2012

"I built that"

Just 11 days shy of the wedding anniversary for which it's numbered, N614EF became an airplane today when it flew under the tutelage of test pilot Tom Berge. June 14, 1942 was my parents' -- Eileen and Fred -- wedding date and this year would be the 70th anniversary. There's very little about this plane that doesn't incorporate almost everyone I know. Even a piece of carpet in the workshop was made by my grandmother, who died in 1986, years before I even contemplated the project. And, as you probably know, the signatures of people who helped or inspired dot the innards of the plane.

Before my Dad died, our few phone conversations always ended with, "you be careful in that thing." And I recalled that last week when I finally decided that the first flight should be done by the best pilot I could find, not only for the safety of whomever is flying the plane, but for the people in the houses surrounding this city airport.

I didn't miss out on anything. Standing next to my wife of (nearly) 30 years to watch the plane we built while our kids grew was about as good as it gets.

When I started this project 11 years ago, I wanted to end up with two things: (1) An airplane and (2) The same person next to me who was next to me when we started. By the way, that's not in order. What I got out of it that I didn't anticipate was a great number of friends I met along the way, managing to keep most of them.

When I reached Airlake Airport some time after Tom touched down, he stuck out his hand and said, "Congratulations, you have a nice airplane."

The only major items were a heavy left wing -- which is normal and can be fixed relatively easily, and a balky left brake, which I'd already expected.

There are many people to thank for this, which is why I'm not going to attempt to do it now.

I still have some transition training to do before I fly it, but that'll happen within the next few weeks, maybe on June 14th.

Meanwhile, today was a big day. My son, Patrick, turned 24.

(Photo: Julia Schrenkler)


  1. Congratulations, Bob! Nobody is more deserving of the "Perseverance Award" than you and your family.

  2. Wonderful to see you keep on going. Like a bull in a china shop, you kept on knocking the obstacles out of the way until there was nothing left to do but go fly that contraption! Way to go!

  3. Words cannot express how happy this news makes us. Congratulations.

    David and Mary Maib

  4. Just watched the video, Bob. Really fun for me. Seeing the brilliant green foliage of the MN spring, some familiar faces, (Vince B., Mike H., and you) really took me back to KSGS. Hope to see you and your airplane in the near future.

    David Maib

  5. Good on ya Bob. Every post reminds me of my late uncle, a prof at the U. Of Minn. in St. Paul. You've become a role model and continual inspiration for me and my build.

  6. Booyah! Booyah! Booyah! Bob, I am honored to be one of the many you met along the way. I hope you will let me do some air to air shots for you.

    Andi, the Kids and I are so happy for you!

    Pete Howell

  7. Great job Bob, what a great day for you.

    Jim Fogarty

  8. Congratulations! After all that work, you deserve to have a beer.

    Just not before you fly.

  9. Congrats on all points, Bob. What a journey. And a new one now begins! Enjoy it!

  10. I am so proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.

  11. Congratulations Bob!

  12. Bob, I am much more inspired by your slow success--so methodically and professionally journaled--than by the quick completions I see all the time elsewhere. If this hobby is about education, then I think we learn more about ourselves than about airplanes. I hope that's true for you, that you learned a lot about who you are fundamentally, but regardless if that's true, you definitely taught a lot to the rest of us. It is deeply satisfying to me that you finished your project. Congratulations. --Stephen

  13. Very happy for you and yours, Bob!

  14. Fantastic! Absolutely fantastic!

  15. Bob, you are exactly what homebuilding is about and SHOULD be about. Congrats. Enjoy your family, enjoy your plane...and all the best. Blue skies, fly safe
    Rick C-gstt

  16. Best 14 minutes I've spent in a long time! Congrats Bob. I have to get your number again. The one I have doesn't speak english anymore. Enjoy the great flying.

    John Porter
    Woodstock, GA

  17. WOW!!!!!!! words escape me! I hope the incredible feelings you must have from this accomplishment stay with you forever!

  18. John! How are you. I heard from Chris and he mentioned you were asking. New cll # is 651-470-6371. I'm anxious to catch up with you. Schedule some stops at MSP, willya?

  19. "Congratulations, you have a nice airplane."

    True words.

    I'm so happy for you and Carolie!

  20. You sure got a lot more than a plane out of this project. Very impressive!


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