“S-R-B” Dick Otto, Zenith builder, nears 95th B-day


An Email came in tonight from our “Senior Ranking Builder” (S-R-B) Dick Otto in California. At the end of this month, he will be 95 years old. I have known Dick for a number of years, and we have links below to some of the past stories about him. Builders at west cost events like CC#11, have had a chance to meet him in person. He is an inspiration because he didn’t get into homebuilding until he was 86 years old! Not an issue, and neither  is being a student pilot, as he enjoys flight training. Dick built his own 2700cc Corvair with a Dan bearing, and is now nearing completion of his 601XL airframe he started in 2008. Sure that is a few years, but keep in mind that Dick is a busy guy, and most of his plane was built from plans.


From Dick’s latest letter:

“I  am on the last leg now. The wings, ailerons, and flaps are finished and painted waiting in my hanger for the fuselage. I do not know if Woody told you but I built it from the plans buying only the steel welded parts, landing gear and canopy from Zenith. I have primed the fuselage and will paint it before going to the hanger. Contra Costa County the owner of the airport and hangers does not allow painting in the hangers. The rudder, elevator and stabilizer are still in need of painting. I hope to have the plane to be all put together this summer. I will then go over the whole plane to see where I forgot a cotter pin or safety wire some nuts. All in all I have enjoyed the  project and the learning experience. The only part that is hard for me is getting out of the cockpit. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get out. My next project is going to be the 701 or 750. I will be 95 at the end of the month. I am taking lessons to fly with the Travis Aero Club at the Rio Vista Airport. My instructor required 3 good landings in a row. My first two were OK but I could not come up with the third one. I did manage to do about 2 good ones about 30 times. I want to let you know that I go to Fly Corvair . net every morning after breakfast and read your writings. Surprisingly I agree with you at least 95% of what you say.”


One of the great things about having Dick as our soon to be 95 year old builder is having an occasional 65 year old guy ask me if he is too old to get into building and flying, and being able to show him Dick’s project and say, “You better hurry, you may only have 30 years left.”


Thanks for the update Dick, keep us all in the loop. For any of you guys who want to write Dick personally, or wish him an early birthday, his email is: dickotto10@gmail.com .



 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.” read: Dick Otto in California, S.R.B. (Senior Ranking Builder)


From Corvair College #11, 2007. “Standing beside me at right above is Dick Otto, Corvair builder from Northern California. Although Dick just got into Corvairs this year, he brought an entire collection of engine parts meticulously prepped. We used his stuff to demonstrate case assembly and installing the piston-rings-cylinder assemblies. Dick was a real trooper, working during the chilly mornings and staying late into the night. He drove about 100 miles to get to the College, and to stay close to the action, he chose to camp out near the airport. As it was Veterans Day, Dick shared with us the experience of crewing a self-propelled 105 mm in a U.S. Division drive into Germany in Spring 1945. Now read this sentence slowly: Dick Otto is 86 years old. He logged time in the mid-1930s, but has not piloted an aircraft since. He has a common story where a youthful love of aviation is interrupted by the responsibilities of a family life. But he’s absolutely serious about returning to aviation after a short 70-year break. If his prep work for the College is any indication, I’d say he’s a strong bet to take to the air again.”




For a look at some of Dick’s thoughts:


Mail Sack – Letter of the month – Dick Otto, 601XL Calif.


Letter From S.R.B., Dick Otto, 601XL




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 30 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.

2 Responses to “S-R-B” Dick Otto, Zenith builder, nears 95th B-day

  1. dan glaze says:

    what a cool guy! thanks for your service in wwII Dick, dan-o

  2. Jeff Moores says:

    Early birthday greetings Mr. Otto. You are an inspiration to all builders sir.


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