Amphibian story

Builders:

Below is a flying story I wrote a long time ago. It has no technical information. If your time is valuable, don’t read it, I will not be able to refund your 15 minutes. It is a “fictional” companion piece to The Hypocrisy of Homebuilders. I have the quotes on the word fictional, because only the settings and the central character are imagined. Every other element, the people, the issues, the experiences, are all thinly veiled reality. I wrote it so builders, as individuals, might better imagine what future rewards lie ahead when the project in their shop transitions to the flying machine they spent several years planning, building and imagining it would be.

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Above, sunset on Montserrat, British West Indies. 

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Lets us imagine a homebuilder in Florida, a man who put years of work into designing his own plane, a homebuilt amphibian. It took years more to build it, and because he liked the challenge, he powered it with an alternative engine. He got a seaplane rating, and carefully expanded his experience envelope getting to known his creation. In the year following the first flight, he accumulated 220 hours flying it around the state in all kinds of conditions, and he further refined his creation with improvements that reflected this experience.

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With the confidence in a proven creation and his mastery of it, he broke out a map of the Caribbean and carefully began planning a trip 1,400 miles south east to the island of Martinique, a place he had never been. Because he prepared, and would bide his time on weather, trip  promised to be a beautiful adventure. Along the way there would be stops in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, The Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Dominica and finally Martinique.

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While the flying would fill his mind with images of astounding beauty, His most vivid memories would remain all the people he met along the way. Even though most of them knew nothing about planes, they were all attracted to the person they intrinsically understood to be engaged in the adventure of a lifetime. This attraction became stronger when they discovered that this man had actually built this aircraft.  Invariably this delayed his departure as new friends took him to dinner or brought him to their homes. They looked at the images of his flight, and they were all impressed that he had made the engine also, and it had come from a model of car that some of them had once owned. Nearly every single person would ask for his email address, ask him to stay with them on the way back.

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Eating lunch in Brades on Montserrat,  a woman sat down beside him and asked if he was the person who arrived in the small plane the day before. She was 45 or 50, very tan, a geologist. She had a European accent he could not place.  In the afternoon  she showed him around the island, including the remains of the AIR recording studio. As the sun sank low in the sky, she asked him to take her for a flight. They went around the whole island, alternatively skimming the water and climbing to 1,000′.  They spent some time in a slow orbit at looking at the ruins left by the volcano. They landed back at Little Bay just after sunset. As they walked up the street to a restaurant, she reached over and took his hand.

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He awakened in his little bungalow at first light, and found himself alone; for a moment his thoughts were not clear, it all seemed to have been a very pleasant dream. He looked to the window, the sky had it’s first hint of blue. On the nightstand was a tiny note. In very elegant script it had her name and email, and the single sentence “Think of me as often as you like, but only write if you are coming back.”
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When he made it all the way to L’anse Macabou, on the south eastern tip of Martinique,  he sat in a tiki bar on the beach at sunset, lost in thought.  His bartender, and older man named Henri,  and asked if he was ok. It was a slow night, and Henri had the time to listen as the builder explained he was really moved by all the people he had met on his journey, and that it had been a great many years since he had known such warmth and kindness. Henri smiled and softly said “Bienvenue à la maison” It has been 35 years since the builder’s last French class, but he still understood Welcome Home.

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Upon his return, a friend convinced him to write a short piece about the adventure for an aviation magazine, and include a dozen of his of photos. The builder was reluctant, because he is something of a private person. He never did much on line, kept no builders log, his plane was one of a kind so these was no builders group to join, nor did he have a Facebook page. His friend reminded him of how much he was inspired by old magazine stories. Even though he had never met  any of the builders in the old black and white magazines he had poured through, he felt he knew something about each of them, and this was the connection that set him to sharing the story.

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His plane was made of wood and fabric, built with old techniques. Most of the magazine articles he had used for inspiration were from the late 1950’s and early 60s. In the photos, the builders wore collared shirts in their shops and hats outside. These details are a subtle reminder that five decades have past since the men were photographed, and they and their planes are likely just memories now. He ignored this and looked at the planes and studied  the smiles on their faces. He was the same age as they were then. They are his secret sharers: they know what others can’t; why he spent those years in the shop, how he felt on the hour it first flew. While the people on his Caribbean trip had been attracted to the exercise of freedom and idea of adventure, It seemed that only another homebuilder could really understand what burned inside him, that made him need to create and fly his plane.

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When the article is printed a few months later, his friend brought over a copy. He didn’t have his own because he never kept subscriptions to current aviation magazines. They looked at it together and agreed it was good, they even compared it to the old magazines. His friend mentioned the words “paying it forward.” They spent the evening sitting in the old chairs in his workshop, had some beers and just talked.  The friend imagined  a great number of builders reading the story and being inspired by it. Even after a few beers the builder didn’t like the thought of himself as being ‘inspirational’ to anyone, he couldn’t think of himself that way.

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 After a day or two of looking at the color pictures and the opposing pages with ads for glass cockpit stuff, Our builder did something that made him more comfortable: He put the magazine in the copier, and made a black and white copy of his story, and trimmed off the advertisements. He liked it more that way, and he put it on the wall of his little workshop with a thumb tack. It now looked timeless, just like the old stories he was inspired by.

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The invitation to Oshkosh came by phone call.  A very nice gentleman said that the magazine article generated a lot of talk on line, and if the builder was thinking of flying to Oshkosh, they would arrange a forum time for him.  He had already been once before, but it was almost 20 years ago. He thought about going again many times, but had always put it off because he wanted to go in the plane of his own design. He was a little reluctant to agree to public speaking, but the gentleman said it would likely be “A dozen or two guys just like you.” With this, he got out the maps and started planning the flight, about 1,400 miles, same distance but on the reciprocal heading as Martinique.

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The  six stops on airports on the trip were a reminder of how long it had been since he had been on a domestic cross country. All the restricted airspace didn’t bother him much, but friendly airports he visited 25 years before now all looked like prisons, with razor ribbon topped fences with cameras and gates with electronic locks. The people there seemed indifferent to being on an airport. At one airport the only person he spoke with was a person saying he was parked in the wrong spot.  In Tennessee the airport manager came out in a golf cart and told him “We don’t allow Ultralights here.”  The builder simply pointed to the foot tall N-numbers, required for his international flight, the manager just made a puzzled look and drove off.  None of this really bothered the builder. He had been around aviation a long time, and he knew that not everyone was passionate about it or overly friendly. Light aviation had always been segmented, and few people at airports knew much about homebuilts. It was fine, he was headed to the mecca of homebuilding, and soon he would be among his people.

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He arrived at Airventure the afternoon before his forum. The people at homebuilt headquarters were busy, but couldn’t have been nicer. He was unprepared for how many people were there. Oshkosh had grown a lot in two decades. While many of the people had to be homebuilders, most of them seemed like airshow spectators or people from other branches of aviation. He put a prop card with all the information on his plane. He sat in the shade under the wing and watched the people who walked down the row of planes.

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In the two hours before the airshow, at least 20 people came by and made a negative comment about his creation. This ranged from “What the heck is this?” to “They made a lot of these kits but they were no good.” These people never stopped to think the guy sitting right there might be the builder. People who recognized him as the owner, said things like “Hey, what brand is this” and “Does it come in any good looking colors?” and “What does it cost” and the ever popular “How fast does it go?” When this was asked, he politely pointed to the prop card which said “Cruise 90 mph at 5 gph at SL”.  The most common reply was “Why is it so slow?”  Some of these people were pilots, and mostly EAA members, but maybe not homebuilders. When he pointed out to one of them that this was the same plane in last months magazine which had flown the Caribbean, the guy actually asked “Are you sure it’s the same plane?”

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In the late afternoon, a man came by and asked a few questions. His name tag identified him as the president of an EAA chapter. His questions were a little more thoughtful. The builder noticed the man was wearing a Cherokee shirt. The builder mentioned that he had also owned a Cherokee, but found the amphibian more fun for himself now. The man said “Maybe, but I would never build or even fly in an experimental, they are dangerous.” The builder wondered why, if the man felt that way, he would be a chapter president, but he was not going to ask. He was never confrontational, and it had been a long day.

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  One of the last visitors for the afternoon was a man from Germany. Before he said anything, he read the prop card closely, and then walked over to the builder, introduced himself, and offered his hand. He complimented the builder’s design, and said he had really liked the magazine article, read it many times. He asked a question about how the vertical CG affected the location of the hull step, and the builder said he calculated it from Thurston’s book.  The visitor thanked him and shook his hand before moving on.  It was a nice note to end the day on, as the visitor walked away, the builder put the canopy cover on.

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His forum was at 8:30 am. He was surprised to see 40 or 50 people there. He thought these must be the real homebuilders. He introduced himself. Speaking into a microphone made him feel awkward, he had never like the sound of his own voice. He spoke for a few minutes, gave an outline of the specifications of the plane, how long it had taken to build, etc. He had planned on saying something about how the plane made him feel, how at sunset it was easy to loose track of time and place, and how small he felt on the overwater legs, but strangely not out of place nor in any danger. He had felt these things, but was never any good at putting them in words, and something told him that today wasn’t the day to try.

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The first question came from a guy who asked if he was selling plans, and the builders said he didn’t draw any, and didn’t plan to, but invited they guy to take any dimension off the plane he liked. The guy wasn’t really listening and he said he was “Going to wait for CAD drawings because they make the best plane.”  The builder thought people would chuckle when he said ” I made an OK plane, and there were no plans at all”  but no one got this.  The next guy asked “Why did you choose such a thick draggy airfoil?” The builder tried to explain that it didn’t have a lot of drag because it didn’t have much camber, and it had almost no pitching moment, but the guy who asked the question sat with his arms tightly folded. The man next to him offered “That is a “Killer” airfoil.” The builder politely asked “Who said so? My plane has docile stall behavior.” The man shot back “Ribblet knows a lot more about airfoils than you do.”

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The next person asked “Why didn’t you choose a better engine?” The builder said he thought he had an acceptable engine, because he didn’t have any issues with it. The guy who asked the question said “Well it isn’t as good as a Mazda engine.” The next guy asked what reduction ratio it used, and when the builder said it was direct drive the man said rolled his eyes and said “Oh brother. “ The next guy said the plane would be “20% faster and 30% more fuel efficient if it had electronic fuel injection.”  The builder patiently explained that the fuel system was a single, well baffled, 46 gallon tank that gravity fed the carb, and considering the mission, the simplicity seemed better than any theoretical advantage. The man who asked the question fumbled through the airshow program and didn’t appear to listen to the builders answer.

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Near the end of the forum, a guy asked what the prismatic coefficient of the hull was. The builder said he didn’t know. The guy with the question said that after the magazine article, a discussion group on homebuiltaircraft.com had a long thread on “How poor your hull design was.” The builder let the guy go on for 3 or 4 minutes, including all of the ‘fixes’ that could be done. When the guy stopped, the builder explained that the hull was an exact copy of a Wipline 3450 float, done in wood.  The guy who made the comments had a puzzled look on his face, having never heard ‘Wipline’ before. He has a momentary pause, realizing he had previously made 12 negative comments on line about the builders hull.

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 Clearly, there were normal, socially adjusted people in the forum, but the builder noticed that when the fringe people wanted to pontificate, the regular builders had nothing to say. In time, it devolved to the ‘homebuilders’ in the forum, disagreeing with each other, almost ignoring the builder. At the end of the time, he asked for a show of hands on how many people had flown behind an alternative engine, and not a single person held up his hand. Next he asked how many people had a sea plane rating, and again, not one single hand. He asked how many people hand finished a homebuilt, and 3 people held up their hands. None of these three had asked a question. He looked at the clock and said “Thanks for coming” even though he didn’t feel it.  When leaving, he overheard the two airfoil guys say to each other “That guy is really defensive – I’ll bet he knows his plane isn’t any good.”  The guy who said the hull was a bad design was speaking into his cell phone, and made the comment “The guy is just a  dumb mechanic, didn’t even know what a prismatic coefficient was, he tried to change the subject to the ‘water line’ on the floats.”

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The builder was in no hurry to get back to his plane and meet more spectators with ‘comments’. He wandered past other larger forms, and spent some time listening to the speakers and the questions they received. He noticed a funny thing: Some of the same people from his forum sat in larger forums from commercial companies, and said nothing critical. In general, the more lavish the product, or the greater the ‘celebrity’ of the name associated with it, the more likely it was to be hailed without question.  This wasn’t just at the forums, but was also at the commercial displays. He stood and watched a presentation where the salesman told a group of media people the prototype on display flew great, and had excellent performance. Yet the lack of an n-number, a tail data tag, an airworthiness certificate in the cockpit nor any brake fluid in the clear lines said the plane had never flown, but the display was slick, the presenter was sure of himself, and no one questioned anything he said, there was a small line of people writing deposit checks for a ‘Delivery Position”.

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The builder walked back to his plane after listening to the departure briefing. Right next to his plane was a two seat tandem high wing plane. The designer, a friendly guy with a gray bead, was talking to the guy from Germany. The designer asked  the builder “So, how was your first forum?” and added “Don’t take those clowns seriously.” The builder said he was leaving. The designer suggested stopping at his place, in the hills south of Roanoke, gave him the coordinates.

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While the builder was packing the tie downs, a magazine guy from AOPA stopped by. He claimed to love homebuilts, but when he noticed that the builders plane said “alternative engine” on the prop card, the magazine guy asked if there were any others of this model “with a real engine.” The builder pointed out that he had 600 hours on his engine, so it seemed pretty real, but the guy from AOPA said, “You know what I mean, a good engine.” The builder said ” Please don’t photograph my plane.”  Offended, the writer turned to the designer of the high wing plane and said “Guys like that with car engines give homebuilts a bad name.” The designer just nodded. The joke was the high wing airplane had the same engine as the amphibian.

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The builder decided to hit marinas on the route home, opposed to airports. Because he had an amphibian, he departed to the east, crossed lake Winnebago at low altitude, and was shortly over lake Michigan. Eighteen years earlier, he took this same path in the Cherokee, but he had climbed to 9,000′. On this day he flew  across the lake at 75′. It is the reverse of most pilots, he is far safer flying over water. In a short while the Michigan coast showed up and he followed it down south. Much of the time he was lower than the dunes, but 1,000′ off the beach. He has a large muffler above the wing, and he wasn’t disturbing anyone. At 75 mph, the plane is burned about 3 gallons an hour.  He had 11 more hours range at that setting. With the stress of crowds and critics fading behind him, he didn’t feel any rush to be somewhere else.

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He turned a smooth arc around South Bend, and 25 miles later he over flew Lake Winona. The chart showed a sea plane base. He didn’t need to stop, but he thought about overflying it to check it out for later trips. Nearly as soon as he formed that thought, he realized that he probably wouldn’t be coming this way again.  He flew over at 500′ anyway. It was a weekday, but great weather had a lot of boats out on the lake. As he looked down at all the different types, Ski boats, pontoon boats, Kayaks, and sailboats, all out having their own fun, he wondered why in aviation pilots have to be so compulsively critical of the planes of others? In 30 years of boating in Florida, he couldn’t remember people spending a lot of time concerned about what other boaters chose to do.

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The GPS showed 369 miles to the little airport south of Roanoke. With the 15mph tailwind, he would be there with many hours of fuel and three hours of daylight to spare. The designer said no one would be there, but he was welcome to stay as long as he liked. “There are no locks on the house or hangar, the pickup keys are in the ignition.” It was a good reminder that he had met countless good, generous people in aviation.  To some people, it was a brotherhood like he wanted it to be, but they were a lot farther apart than hoped. He used to be more tolerant of negative people, but one day when he was watching an old film he heard the dialog “There are times you suddenly realize you are nearer the end than the beginning.” The actor was speaking about realizing your life was already mostly over. From there forward he was unwilling to throw away hours of his life by spending them around the compulsively negative.

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After tying his plane down and getting a look around, the builder decided to go find dinner in the small town he had seen when looking for the airstrip. The pickup was a late 60’s F-100, ‘three on the tree’. He liked the way the designer had just assumed everyone knew how to drive this kind of transmission.

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 At the restaurant, the waitress was very friendly, but he knew she was just passing time on a slow night. Away from his plane, his rumpled clothes and tan made him look just like any other guy who had been camping or on the road for a week.  The man at the cash register asked “Are you friends with Bob?” It caught him off guard, and the builder just looked blankly. The man followed with “You are driving his truck.” The builder was temped to tell him they had met at Oshkosh, but tried a disarming smile and simply said “Yes.” Walking out to the parking lot the builder felt funny that he knew a lot about the designers planes and work, but until standing at the register, he had not known the man’s first name. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. It wasn’t that he was particularly bad with names, it just some part of him wasn’t really listening during introductions, perhaps because the probability of getting to know someone new on a first name basis seemed pretty low at this age.

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 It was a really a very nice town, all old brick front two story buildings, gas stations with 1950s architecture, and a little park with a civil war obelisk with ‘Bivouac of the Dead’ inscribed on it .  Sitting in the park he imagined moving here, but a moment later remembered he didn’t have the accent, and he was too old to be ‘the new guy in town’ for a decade. He liked his town in Florida just fine, but it wasn’t his hometown either. Belonging was made of something else.

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It was the same old thought: the more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more independent, the less likely you are to feel at home or needed anywhere. It was the ultimate irony of the builders life: He had spent all his adult years carefully preserving his freedom, avoiding marriage, kids, lasting friendships and debt. He had honed his independence and self reliance, and had modest needs that allowed ‘retiring’ before he was 50. Theoretically, he was to have total freedom to wander and travel as he pleased, stay as long as he liked, meet new people without reservation. He had achieved this, but belatedly come to understand that people most often travel to people or places they are attached to, and most humans like being needed, and rarely feel comfortable with the rare person who really is totally independent. He could travel anywhere he liked, but spent vastly more time sitting at home wishing he had someone out there who was longing to see him. Years ago he had confirmed the past is better left in the photo albums and it isn’t out there to visit anymore.

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He checked the weather after driving back to the airstrip; it was going to be perfect for the next few days. Staring at the maps he had to fight the urge to see how many miles it was to directly return to Florida. He understood that everyone felt this way near the end of every long adventure, the feeling that it is done before you have made it all the way back. But he had to remember that most other people had family to return to, a sense of belonging that wasn’t to be found by rushing home. He went back to his original plan of flying the 250 miles to Kitty Hawk, and then exploring Pamlico sound for a day or two. He had not been there in 30 years, his amphibian was the perfect way to see it again. His quiet house in Florida, with it’s empty refrigerator, was indifferent about waiting a few more days for his return.

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He sat out on the front porch and watched the sun sink off the western end of the airstrip. The sky and the mountains were incredibly beautiful at that moment. He started to take a few pictures, but stopped himself after a few when he realized he couldn’t think of anyone he would show them to.  He sat there staring at end of the day, and he kept coming back to the voice saying “Suddenly you realize you’re nearer the end than the beginning.”  After a long hesitation, he did something that he had previously been able to resist doing. He took out his wallet and carefully extracted a little piece of paper that said “Think of me as often as you like, but……  

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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.

21 Responses to Amphibian story

  1. Dan Glaze says:

    We all have them, naysayers I mean, it’s a pity but most of them I know are in my EAA chapter and flying 250,000 dollar cirrus’s and saying things like ” you’re crazy Dan, those Corvair were junk”. They just don’t get it.

    • Dan-o; I kind of expect that from guys with expensive factory planes, but the ironic thing is when alleged homebuilders say these things about other homebuilders projects. That is the part I can never figure out. -ww.

      • Dan Glaze says:

        Key word, alleged, they will never know the joy shared soaring over Barnwell with a real builder, P.F.Beck in his hand built Piet. Their loss

  2. baschmidt says:

    William,

    I really enjoy these stories of yours.

    Bruce Schmidt 941-999-0107

    23206 Van Buren Ave

    Port Charlotte, FL 33980

    Email: b@aschmidt.us

  3. toomanyps says:

    So what happens? Does he go back? Does he hook up with the island girl. Does he get caught trying to smuggle knock off smart phones into the islands and spend the rest of his life in a Bahamian jail? You can’t leave us hanging…

    • Some stories have a part 2, this one doesn’t. I wrote it a while back, and it felt finished where it stopped. You get to decide how it turns out, and you can learn something about yourself by looking at the answer you find believable. Does he even write? Would she still be there? Can you share more than a night with someone when you are that independent for years? You get to answer, the only guess I have is that he doesn’t need or want money, so he isn’t a smuggler, so from there you get to decide what kind of a risk taker he is on other matters.

      • toomanyps says:

        No, no, no…there is just too much room for interpretation here. Ok, the guy has the fortitude to stand up to unconstructive criticism, I’ll give you that. But like, why doesn’t he need money? How does he put fuel in the airplane. Is he a trust fund baby or did he earn his money with hard work. Why doesn’t he have a job at such a young age? How come he never married or has no girlfriend but likes woman? Does he gave no game or was it just the island rum talking and the girl isn’t exactly what he remembered. Perhaps it’s not really a European accent but really a speech impediment due to her missing a few teeth. A little detail he missed after 6 of those drinks in the coconuts.

        You see, there needs to be a part two.

        Hey you put the ellipse in there 🙂

      • The character is made of two pilots I know , one of whom already called this morning and said he liked the story, but he will beat the stuffing out of me if I reveal his name. Neither guy is the trust fund type. My image of the story is a lot more classy than yours, like I said the open end allows each of us to look in a mirror of sorts.

  4. Stuart Snow says:

    This story reminded me of the old Frenchman I met on Martinique who took me out on his small sailboat the “Jean Laffite”. He had sailed it over from Mainland France. A feat my mind could not comprehend at the time. I had the same feeling the day I saw a Davis DA-11 fly in to Copperstate all the way from Texas on a lawnmower engine. I realized that I had stepped into a strange new world where if you can dream it you can do it. It was a world I had imagined as a kid, a world of pirate ships and flying carpets but I had lost it somewhere along the way. I’m thankful that William inspired me to step into the arena even though I’m closer to the end than the beginning. I dream of my Corvair powered Pietenpol transporting me back to a simpler time. My “Tonowanda Time Machine”. Its never too late to start building your dreams. Anytime I start to think so I think of the picture Woody Harris’ zenith sitting at Kitty hawk.

  5. Harold Bickford says:

    A good fun read. We’ve all run across these alligators many times.

    Of course those who take the time to intelligently share and comment are the ones to work with naturally.
    The open invitation with few if any conditions save being oneself is the draw. This adventure of homebuilding with stops and starts has been unfolding for fifty years and is being enjoyed now. Those who can’t enjoy the experience are the ones missing out. My guess is that is not all they are missing.

    Harold

  6. toomanyps says:

    Ok, so the main character is credible and the girl is hot. But I’m assuming the antagonist is/are the naysayers.
    If I get to read what I want into the story, I would say that while visiting the island again and reconnecting with the girl, what he doesn’t notice is that the local Constable has taken a liking to his plane and means to have it for himself. When he returns to the plane, he finds that it has been confiscated on some trumped charge and him and the girl have to rescue the, Princess of the Seas, the name he has given his airplane. Under the cover of darkness, they barely escape with there lives as they break water while being fired upon by the Constable’s henchman.
    What neither of them realize is that what once a chance encounter on a warm island night would start an adventure that would change their lives forever…

    How’ that? Better?

  7. Andy Elliott says:

    WW: I enjoyed your story very much. Very pleasant morning read. I do admit that I was surprised at the reception he reported from the GA airports he visited. My experience is very different.
    I my recent trip to Oshkosh, I got wonderful receptions and met great people at every airport I stopped at. (Special kudos to the folks at Waupaca, WI, KPCZ!) When I had an ignition problem, the folks at Electroair went way out of their way to help me. And when I was stuck in Ann Arbor, MI (KARB) and needed to do some engine work, a quick e-mail message to the president of EAA Chapter 333, whom I’d never met, brought an offer of a free hangar for a week and 3 guys to help with the work!.
    IMHO, small plane GA aviation in general and experimental aviation in particular are filled with some of the nicest guys and gals in the country. Opinion reinforced with every long cross country I take.
    Andy

    • Andy,
      Specific reports of friendly airports like the ones you encountered are important because they allow other pilots to make more informed choices where to stop. I have had both experiences on cross countries. The Prison complex part of the story was inspired by changes to Leesburg FL, and the comment about not allowing ‘Ultralights” was about an airport in TN where a corporate pilot had an FBI agent who was based at the airport ramp check my Pietenpol’s airworthiness certificate. Doesn’t happen often, but no point in anyone going to such places when the mission is to have fun. Other readers please note that Andy’s ignition problem is on a Lycoming, not a Corvair. Slightly ironic because the Electroair rep at Oshkosh told several Corvair builders that our ignition was no good and they should buy his because it was perfectly reliable. Jackasses at Oshkosh come in many varieties.

      • Andy Elliott says:

        Surely do agree on choosing the right airport to stop at when going X-C. My list of things to *generally” look for, in addition to low fuel prices, follows. Of course, there are local exceptions, and sometimes there is no choice as it’s the only airport within 100 miles.
        – Stay away from big city centers. Instead look at the close-in suburban areas.
        – Avoid places where the FBO building has marble floors and is part of a nationwide chain.
        – Avoid places with ramp fees. You may have to check directly with the FBO to find out.
        – Look for places with an associated EAA chapter or warbird squadron. Ask for opinions.
        – Look for places that have mechanic’s services on the field.
        – Call ahead, especially where self-serve fuel is the only option and it’s near the end of your range.
        – If you’re using MOGAS, look at Mapquest or Google Maps to see if there is a station close-by.
        – VansAirForce.net can be a great resource about airports. People *will* answer your questions!

  8. I love all this stuff, but may never become a builder…nevertheless, free with an opinion: There is very little risk in being so independent; real risk is to jump in and relate as positively and constructively as possible, honoring those around you into being the best version of their beta selves they can be. The real heroes are able to experience heartbreak (often more than once), get over it, eschew bitterness, and INTEND to see the best, be joyful, childlike, clever, wise, and be ready to marvel at the beautiful miracle of all the diversity of life around us at any moment we choose. Disclaimer: much easier out here in the remoter parts where the nearest stoplight is 29 miles E, the second highest airport in the country is 29 miles ESE, the strip that served the uranium boom of the 50’s is 17 miles NNW, and the most dramatic moment of the morning was witnessing a kerfluffle of 3 dozen wild turkeys in the driveway while sipping espresso out of a 40 year old ceramic cup I made, enjoying a homemade protein bar with my best friend sitting next to me, a multi-colored poly dactyl cat curled in her lap. Don’t worry; be happy…it’s just a choice.

  9. toomanyps says:

    Dear William,

    Please don’t take offence to my posts. I don’t know how much is fact and how much fiction in your story. I’m sure your friend is a fine person. I’m just killing some time before my show today a 1pm and enjoyed your story. I sense you’re somewhat offended. I’m not the type to go criticizing folks since my main concerns in life are if my kids will do well in school. I would hope your friend realizes that I was just kidding around.

    And yes, I am very comfortable with who I am when I look in the mirror thank you.

    Lou

    • Lou,
      I know you were kidding around. I think it is fun that you put a lot of thought and wonder into thinking about how the story might unfold. Every good thing that we have ever worked for in our lives started off with each of us imagining how our lives could be different, Both Einstein and Disney placed a lot of value on imagination. In my case there wasn’t much imagination, I just took two people I know and blended them into one guy, and had him build an amphibian. The story sounds possible because it is all stuff that aviators have all experienced in one setting or another. -ww.

  10. Jeremy Berry says:

    Phenomenal story, I could almost taste the salt air, smell the exhaust ,and hear the wind in the wires. (I Pictured a scaled-down Sikorsky S-39 look-alike when I read this) I could almost see the facial expressions of the nay-sayers, and started to get irritated myself at their haughty attitudes.

  11. Tom Porter says:

    William, I have experienced the same issues and I see people who are critical or worse and wonder if they could do what I have done, but only for a second. You should have been in my philosophy class in college my professor was a lot like you. Tell Grace hi, your friend Tom Porter

  12. Marshall says:

    That’s perfect- makes all the right points and for the right reasons. It’s 15 minutes to 2018, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting perspective to start the future with.

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