The small world of Experimental Aviation 


I started at Embry Riddle, Joined the EAA, got started on my first airborne Corvair conversion and bought my set of Aircamper plans from Don Pietenpol, all in January of 1989. It was a pretty good month.


During the 5-1/2 years I was at Embry-Riddle, I continuously built experimental aircraft parts, both to learn and also as work. I did a lot of welding for other people, mostly building fuselages. School was expensive, and a number of us opted to live in poverty in a run down 1907 mansion in order to graduate with as small a debt as possible. I made two starts on building Pietenpols while I was in school, but ended up selling each project to fund another semester.


While I was building, I met a guy named Don Brooks who lived 120 miles away, who had a very old Corvair powered Pietenpol. He was very friendly, and the source of a lot of good info. When I graduated, I didn’t make much money until I sold my soul, and became a professional Lancair IVP builder. One of the first things I did with my new wealth was convince Don to Sell me the Old Pietenpol, as he had since built one himself, that he was more attached to than the old one he had owned for 10 years.


Don had not built N-1777W. It was originally made in Hawaii in 1966, at the Hickam AFB Hobby shop by a young enlisted man, who had it shipped to the west coast in 1970, reassembled it, and flew it to a new airshow called “Oshkosh”. It was awarded best engine installation. Over the years it had several different owners before Don. After I got it from Don, I rebuilt and modified it enough, that it was largely unrecognizable, even to Don.  I had it for a number of years, before it was destroyed on 7/14/01.


Last week I was cleaning out old filing cabinets and came across the logbooks, going all the way back to 1966. I read every word of them when I bought the plane, but I had not looked at them in  15 years. They are very detailed, they actually document every flight the plane ever made. In looking at them, I came across the entry “Kay Larkin” which is the old name for Palatka airport, 15 miles south of our home airstrip. The plane had been there in 1985.



Above, the logbook. Note the entry for November 2nd 1985.  The second pilot who flew the plane that day was “R. W. Royal” The hand holding the logbook 33 years later is my next door neighbor Wayne Royal, the same man.



Above, Wayne holding the book at our home airstrip today. I have known him for the 11 years we have lived here. I was actually born exactly 30 years to the day after Wayne. He is 84, but he flies his RV-7 constantly, owns and flies a Cardinal and is a regular working IA. and he is always thinking about his next aircraft project.


Here is the kicker: When I showed this to Wayne, he then pointed out that the plane wasn’t based at Kay Larkin, it was actually based at our airstrip, and it lived from 1984-85  in the same hangar I have today, I just bought it 21 years after the plane left. Today I have only a few bits of the airframe left, and they are resting in the rafters of the same hangar the plane flew out of in the 1980s.


Experimental Aviation is a smaller world than most builders realize. See the EAA has 170 thousand people in it, but the ‘old guard’ people, the deeply involved and the classic planes are a much smaller circle of people. This isn’t the first story of great coincidence I have heard, I have listened to many like this in our small world, but it does happen to be the best one I am personally connected to.




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 and in more than 50 magazine articles.

6 Responses to The small world of Experimental Aviation 

  1. Dennis McGuire says:

    Good to see Wayne Royal still flying.
    I have known him for many years when he was a Fire Chief a long time ago.
    Tell him Dennis McGuire says Hello and so glad he is still flying.

  2. Awesome story!
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Brian Sutherland says:


    I so do look forward to reading your posts to as you continue to provide a refreshing perspective into grass roots aviation that is missing from just about everywhere else I look. Thanks for what you do.


  4. Harold Bickford says:

    Six degrees of separation indeed. I find more and more we are part of a “cast of characters” which plays out in a rather interesting story.

  5. Ray Klein says:

    Technicaly, could that be the most “traveled” Pietenpol ever? Great story!

  6. jaksno says:


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