Letter From S.R.B., Dick Otto, 601XL


Dick Otto is our SRB (senior ranking builder, he was born in 1921). I profiled him in my story “Four Men,” about aviators I have known who fought in WWII. I opened up the mail and saw this note from Dick in the comment section, and thought it deserved it’s own story.


The letter contains elements that almost every builder can relate to. Long standing dreams, family needs, the challenges of building, and how there are parts of your plane, touched by the hands of others, that are symbolic of the bonds between people. Dick may be our SRB, but in many ways, he is very much like the rest of us.


In the letter Dick points out the support he gets from “Woody”, he is referring to Woody Harris, our “Man on the West Coast.” We have a good number of Zenith builders west of the Rockies, and Woody has met a great number of them and also assisted us with Corvair Colleges #11, #13 and #18. He is featured in my last story: Woody’s 2,850cc Corvair/601XL hits 400 hours.


As I said in “Four Men” , Dick and the men of his era hold a special place at the top of the pantheon of Americans I respect. When you read Dick note it is easy to sense that he is still the head of his family, and engaged in life. Dick’s email is dickotto10@gmail.com , for you guys who would like to directly drop him a note.



 Above, Dick and his 601XL with a running 2700/Dan bearing engine on the front. The picture is from last year during the first start. The plane is plans built. I refer to Dick as our “SRB.”




From Dick Otto:

 ” About my comments about my purchases. My electric blanket that I purchased about 2 months ago made in China has decided to stop keeping me warm. It has a warranty so i will probably get replacement from the company (made in China). I am not a democrat or republican. I research the way the people running for office have voted on various subjects and then vote for the man that is doing his best for the good of our country. I have voted in every election since 1942 except for the time that I spent in the army in Europe and Manila.


I soloed in a J3 Cub in 1938 when I was 17 and a senior in high school. The airport was a grass field in Elmhurst, Illinois. It cost me a whopping amount of $5.00 per hour. This was for the instructor, plane and fuel. I road my bike from Forest Park in good weather and in my 1928 model A Ford convertible in bad weather Looking at my log book which I still have I soloed after only 5-1/2hours of instruction. I only flew for about 7 hours more when after graduation I traveled to California to join my parents and sister. I then met my future wife and she did not care for airplanes. We were married for 60 plus years when she passed away in March of 2005.


I was building a 20′X25′ shop at the end of my daughters and son-in-laws house at the time. I was going to build a boat. I finished the shop and decided to build an airplane instead. I had saved plans for the Gere bi-plane since 1938. But I bought plans for an Easy Eagle from Great plains. I had finished 8 ribs for the wing when my son-in-law came into the shop and asked where he was going to sit when we flew to Oshkosh. I then started looking for a two seat plane.


I decided on the Zodiac 601 XL and found out there was a distributor in California. I attended a fly in at Cloverdale in 2007.  This is where I met Woody. I purchased the manual from him and the rudder kit from Quality Planes. The rest as they say is history.


I am not spending as much time on the plane as I started out with but I am going to finish. When I finished the wings and then the upgrades my Grandson painted the left wing, both ailerons and both flaps. He had systic fibrosis and his condition took a bad turn for the worst. He lost his 33 year battle with the condition and passed away in March of 2012. I painted the right wing but it does not compare with my Grandsons wing.


The fuselage and rear controls are ready for painting. The canopy is on but it needs a little more powerful struts. I have moved instruments on the panel, I had located the radios to close to my magnetic vertical compass. As soon as i rewire the moved instruments I will take it to my hanger at the Byron airport. When Woody started the engine there was not enough time to fine tune it. He said he would come to the airport and do this.  As soon as that is done I will put the wings on and connect every thing up. Hopefully sometime this summer I will have a DAR inspect it.”


About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

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