Why I picked the Skybolt as the plane to build....
Take a look at this picture. Need I say anymore
? THAT's what flying is all about. Two wings, an open cockpit,
a big ol' radial with a setting sun... yes folks, that's my kind
make a long story just as long as it really is... I've been
in love with flight since I was a wee little guy (which one
of us hasn't though, eh?). Anyways.. after deciding on which
airplane I was going to buy first, which was the beautiful
1946 Taylorcraft that took 20 years to get from the time I
decided on getting one, my thoughts drifted elsewhere.
I wrote to the EAA in 1974, asking for information.
I must have seen an ad in Flying or Sport Flying (one of the
best magazines that was ever published, now no longer in print).
Got the information, along with a copy of the latest magazine.
Opened up the pages to that publication and just got SUCKED
into the planes on it's pages. (Prior to reading EAA's Sport
Aviation I had read and seen only General Aviation production
aircraft. All these brightly colored planes built by people
like me was all new.)
I immediately fell in love with a Midget
Mustang. Thoughts of being able to fly something that had
the same name as the P-51 was cool, and still is (I'm a closet
Midget Mustang wannabe builder. Maybe the next plane.) I can
still remember the song Dream Weaver by Gary Wright
playing on the AM radio when I first saw that plane. Sweeeeet!
(Getting off topic here.) All these memories are starting
to flood back into my head.
I was on another quest from that point forward.
What would be the first homebuilt airplane that I would
build? Key word, first.
Did I want a firey hot single place racer to go streaking around the sky ? A high wing parsol open
cockpit fun flyer to go up on beautiful summer days to smell the fresh cut fields of South Jersey ? A fast two place go-to-someplace
speedster to fly to far off destinations ?
I wanted it all. I wanted a plane for each
of these dreams. Wanting and getting, or in this case... building,
wouldn't be an easy task for this flyer. But I was young,
full of dreams and no mortgage payment. The world was before
me and I could have anything, it was just a matter of time.
If I could see it clearly in my mind, every shiny bolt, every
beautiful line, then it was mine already. And in doing so,
it was like a 100 ton freight train coming down on me at lightening
speed. It would just be a matter of time, thats all.
I still hold those dreams close to my heart, not letting go because letting go would be giving up on life, a quick death.
Again, I'm getting a little off subject here.
Getting back to a statement I made earlier, "what would be the first homebuilt airplane that I would build ?". If I had built my first airplane
when I was younger it would have been that fire-breathing-0-200 Midget Mustang. As time went by my needs
changed. I wanted something that would give flight to the dreams I have today. I want to turn myself upside-down,
have room for someone else so that I could share/introduce others to this wonderful world and go cross-country if I so desire.
There are several planes that meet these needs, not all are biplanes though. I looked real hard at the Falco.
BEAUTIFUL low-wing fighter-type two seater. It was able to do all the things that I would ask for in my first homebuilt. But, taking a close look
at what it would take to put it together, it seemed a little overwhelming for a first time builder. It's something that I would want to
tackle after I had something I could enjoy flying. I could see it taking a long time to build (as if my up-to-this-point 13 years
isn't a long time, but you know what I mean.) and I'd want to take the time to build it. It's all wood and I'd love to take it on
Two-or-more-wings... I had thought about building a WW I replica. Wind-in-the-wires, knights of the air type of flying machine. A British
SPAD, one of Tommy's Sopwiths, maybe a blood-red DR1 like von Richthofen's, I reasoned a WW I replica can't be used for much more than local
fun flying and most of them only have one seat. Maybe some day... but not today.
In '74, when WAR Aircraft first came out with the 1/2 scale camo-colored German FW-190, I fell in love with it. A wood-box
frame covered with foam and then glassed over. Something that I could do at a minimal cost. I could see a pack of us up in the sun, ready to
pounce on a formation of unknowing B-17s. Thinking about it now still gives me a rush of adrenaline ! Back when I was 17 it would have been
ideal. Now at 47, it's not first on the list. Still in the top ten though. :)
the same time I spotted the FW-190 I saw this pretty little
short-winged radial-engined monoplane. It had a windshield
that you could barely see out of but had beautiful lines.
But, was it something that I could build ? Alas... the Monocoupe
wasn't something that you could build from plans at the time.
Twenty-some years later, Kimball Enterprises has produced
a scratch-built plane VERY similar to it called the McCullocoupe.
As of today's date, January 2007, plans aren't available for
it. Since it's not a homebuilt, I don't have to worry about
deciding if I'd want to build this georgeous plane. Maybe
I'll just buy a restored 110 Special, which is the short-winged
version of the Monocoupe, with a 110 hp engine. The standard
Monocoupes came with 90 hp engines. If it came down to me
owning only a few planes, THIS would be one of them. Just dreaming
I could go on and on and on-and-on-and-on. I
have a lot of planes I'd love to build, own, restore, whatever... and
I keep changing my mind as to what I want. But, when I start
a project a lot of thought goes into the final decision. It's
not something that I arrive at easily. It's all gray until
that moment of decision then it's a black and white issue.
The gavel SLAMS! down on the table and it's over.
I tell myself I've choosen to build the Skybolt for it's looks, it's ability to meet my needs as I see them.
All things aside.... if you're going to finish
your plane, it's got to be something that you'd love to have,
even if it's not practical for all the tasks that you'll ask
it to do. If it's a WW I Nieuport replica that you want, and
in your heart it's the only plane for you, God bless you,
go ahead and get started on it today. Right now ! It may not
be an easy flight from your home turf to OSH but you'll have
the time of your life doing it. It may not carry another soul,
but, hey, that's what rentals are for. That two-seat-low-wing-I-didn't-want-to-build-but-it-might-have-been-more-practical
airplane that you didn't really have in your heart to build
would have ended up pushed to the back of the garage somewhere;
one of those half-completed forgotten about homebuilts.
aren't meant to be practical. We're not in the business of
making a profit from each flight. It's our passion. We get a charge from being
up there and that is our reward. Do it in a machine that gets
your heart-a-pounding and the adrenaline coursing through your
The Radial-engine 'bolt. A Big-engine-sucking-LOTS-of-fuel-No-place-to-put-any-luggage-Climbs-like-a-homesick-angel-Wind-in-the-hair-bug-filled-smilin' ride in the air.
Do you see a pattern in my writing ? Building a plane for me isn't about doing what's sensible, practical, or the easiest to build. It's
not about what I should do. It's about what I want to do. It's not about running after my dreams, but pulling them to me.
You don't get many chances to build your own plane. Make it the flying machine of your dreams.
It won't be long before I'm ripping through the clouds in my
radial-engine 'bolt ! THAT's living ! Yes folks, that's my kind of flying !
November 27, 2008 A quote from Pete Fusco
"Indeed, were it not for the noise, relentless hurricane-force wind sometimes mixed with bullets of rain in the face,
occasional bug in the mouth, near impossibility of communication, danger of hypothermia, unshielded exposure to the sun's deadly gamma rays, nonexistent
baggage space, low-pressure airflow over the cockpits that can suck out cigarettes and charts, dismal forward visibility and it's otherwise
shameless impracticality, an open-cockpit biplane might just be the most ideal aircraft ever concieved -- surely, the most wonderous of all man's
Note: Above biplane/dusk (Snoopy's Dusk Patrol)
photo credited to Rich
Levine on Flickr. Images of planes are acknolwledged on my links page... links to the various experimental plane web pages.