A love beyond this life.

Builders:

Four and a half years ago, a Corvair builder named Ed Jeffko got in his Lycoming powered Glasair and took a flight over the Cascade mountains. He never returned. An extensive search and the passage of years have found no trace.

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Ed was a very lucky man. Not for how he was lost, but speaking of the life he had, and specifically the extraordinary woman he shared it with, his wife Claire. When he was missing for 6 months, Claire wrote a very impassioned letter, explaining why she supported her husbands flying, and how it defined the man she loved. The letter is printed below, and it deeply moved nearly everyone who read it. It spoke of a love that was not a selfish desire to posses, but the love that fully supports another’s spirit.

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Last week, Claire wrote the letter directly below, an update four years later, to let everyone know that the love she has for Ed, and the example of how he lived has sustained and nurtured her in the passing years. It is a beautiful letter. Nearly all of us have someone, family or friend, who doesn’t understand our need to build and fly. Someone important in our lives that we have never found the right words to have them understand. Perhaps sharing Claire’s letters with these people will allow them to feel what you could not explain.

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Claire’s  December 2016 letter:

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“Ed and our Glasair were never found. It will be five years come next July that he flew away to be with all the other “birds” that need to fly. Not want, but need to fly. Big difference. I really don’t want to have the plane found, and Ed is not there anymore. But, he is in my heart and I will always say I am married, because I am. No one could take his place. However, I grew strong by little bitty steps and somehow found myself a nice life, laughter, and a treasure trove of friends who shored me up when I could not even walk. Somehow, I knew he would be so pissed if I whined and cried forever about losing him. And, so I did what he always said “he” did…just put one foot in front of the other and keep going forward, and it worked. I learned to run our business without him, I learned how to live with out him. He taught me well. However, I have decided I will find him…when I pass I will be cremated and my ashes flung from an airplane high above the Cascades…He thinks he’s safe ! Ha! At least one molecule will find him! Life is good, and finite. I learned that the hard way. Please always remember that, and be kind and love one another. We are all in the same…well, big ass airplane! –Claire.”

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The original 2012 story:  Ed and Claire Jeffko, a love story.

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Friends, 

I have exchanged a few emails with Claire Jeffko, and I asked her permission to share with you her letters about her husband Ed. I thought they are very moving letters. It made me think about how we all promise to cherish, love and support on our wedding day, but very few of us can say that we have always fulfilled our vows. Here is a letter from a woman who lived up to hers.

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 Last July Ed did not return from a flight in his Glasair over the Cascade mountains. It is very a rugged area, and the accident site has never been found. Many  spouses in the same position would regret their loved one ever flew. Not Claire. Her letter is the finest example of  how real love seeks to support the passions and dreams of a mate:

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“William, Thank you for your kind response.  Ed loved everything about flying and I mean everything.  If he could have been a bird, he would’ve.  He flew with the wind and was the most up to date and careful pilot I
 have ever known.

 When I first met Ed over 33 years ago, he was flying a little Cessna
 150.  Green.  We flew every single day we could, which was often.
 After we got married, we had the 150 for about four more years.  Then
 he traded it for a D-4 Cat to work on our property.  Let me tell you,
 a pilot without a plane is a sorry situation.  I could only handle it
 for a year and then forced the issue to  buy another plane as he was
 driving me crazy!!!  So, we bought a Piper Cherokee which we still
 have.  The Piper turned Ed back into the man I knew and loved.  The
 man had to fly.  When the Glasair kit came out we fell in love with it
 and although it took more years than we wanted to complete the plane
 we finished and had it signed off about two years ago.  When our
 grandkids saw the Glasair they were not happy.  After all, we would
 lug all their bikes, trikes, and assorted stuff over the mountains for 23 years.   But, in the Glasair there were but two seats….Grandma and Grandpa seats. Certainly not grandchild friendly. I helped every inch of the way to build that plane and the N number was my birthday.  Flying the Glasair was as close to heaven as we could get, especially with the clear canopy. We essentially were flying our dream.

 And, so last July as he went to pick up one of our grandsons for the
 summer, Ed and the Glasair 743CA went down in the North Cascades,
 taking so many dreams with it.  However,  Ed was a pilot through and
 through and wherever he is, I know he is flying. – Claire“

Claire also added:

“We may never find him. He and that plane were as one. But, I will search for him the rest of my life.”

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If you go to a zoo and look at a tiger or a bear in a cage, you will often see them repetitively pacing in a trance. You don’t need to be insightful to understand that a wild animal in a cage looses it mind and all the elements of what made it fascinating in nature. All that remains is its body, and only the most ignorant observer thinks they are seeing the actual animal. On the other end, domesticated animals consider their pen home and are happiest with the security it seems to provide. In extreme cases they will return to, and stay in, their pen even when the barn is burning down.

Men with real value to their lives are neither wild animals nor fully domesticated ones. They have a full range of actions. Most men today have the domesticated end down pat. There are a lot of good aspects of this, but alone, it is unbalanced. Powerful forces of our society steer men to and reward them for becoming fully domesticated. There is no such general acceptance for the man who seeks to have his individual adventure, make his own path, reject the fears he was told to internalize.

Many spouses of both genders, meaning well, seek to protect and shield their mate, to prevent the possibility of any harm. Claire’s letter is the rejection of this. She understood that a large and integral part of the man she loved was a free bird. One can try to justify caging a bird by claiming to ‘protect’ him, but we know this only reduces one to being a warden, not a protector. Her letters speak of fulfilling and supporting all aspects of Ed’s life, all of his passions and facets. Her reward was 33 years with a full person, not half of one.

What makes aviators different? some one from outside of aviation would read Claire’s words as some type of accident story. People inside of aviation, people still committed to having full lives including adventure, read her words as a very moving love story. People outside of flying would only focus on Ed’s accident, and think of his ‘bad luck.’ Aviators, Ed included, would see just the reverse, that Ed was one lucky guy, because he obviously found the right person to share his life with.

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-ww

Zenith 750, 2850cc Corvair, Roger Grable

Builders

Below is a picture of Roger Grable’s Zenith CH-750 stol, flying since 2015. I have a number of stories of flying builders to catch up on, particularly Zenith builders, look for these stories over the next few weeks.

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Above, Roger and his lovely wife pose with their Zenith 750, powered by a 2,850cc Corvair engine. The date on the photo is 12/22/16.

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The Grables came to Corvair College #22 in Texas, and they liked what they saw. After thinking it over, Roger decided to have us build his engine while he concentrated on the airframe. Roger and his grandson came to the next college, learned a lot of operational procedures, and test ran his engine: Corvair College #23 – 2850cc Engine, Roger Grable, CH-750 Builder .

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Life kept Roger busy, and delayed him getting his plane finished until 2015. He wisely selected an experienced Zenith pilot to cover the first tests. All went very smooth and he was very happy with progress. About the 7th test hour, Roger started the plane to taxi it across the ramp, and it ran rough, accompanied by a knocking sound. A moment later it went back to normal operation, but it was a question that remained in Roger’s mind. We spoke about it. I told him, no questions asked, drive it right over to the near by Corvair College #34 in Mexico MO, at the Zenith factory, I built it, I would get to the bottom of it, period.

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Roger brought the engine over the last afternoon of the College, and we formed a plan for me to take it back to Florida. Roger said he and his wife were planning a trip to my state, and would like to pick it up asap. In the back of his mind was a question about the crank, if it might have been the source of the noise. I told him we would find out.

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Two weeks later, Roger and his wife came to my shop, to pick up the motor. I had taken it down to every last nut and bolt and found nothing. I had the crank inspected by two different shops in Jacksonville, and no flaws were found. After listening to a very detailed account of Rogers story, I became convinced that the original Falcon heads on the motor had momentarily stuck an exhaust valve, something that had happened on another set of heads from 2012. However, I understood that the Grables confidence in their new plane was on the line, they had been good customers, and there was a simple way to make sure they returned to the feeling they had for the first hours of operation.

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I went down to the SPA/Panther hangar, and bought a completely new 8409 crankshaft from the Weseman’s inventory for $1,500. This was used to reassemble the Grable’s engine. The whole job, teardown, reassembly and test run took a day and a half of labor. They were very gracious, and confidence restored, they headed for home. Their total bill from me was exactly $0.00, nothing.

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There are just two kinds of companies in our industry, those that treat people fairly, and those that don’t. I like to say the former outnumber latter, but they don’t. The only thing I can say is that the ones that treat people fairly last. The only engine company that has been continuously active in the experimental market, under the same ownership, longer than me is Lycoming. Would you like to know why? Just ask the Grables.

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-ww.

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