Building My Dream Plane – Day 07

The past six days have been no less exciting than the first day of my “Two Weeks to Taxi” experience. It’s A LOT OF work and I can feel the aches and blisters setting in, but I have little doubt that the adrenalin will help keep it all at bay long enough to complete the build. I still can’t even begin to explain who excited I am. I’m worn out, but seeing how many Cotter pins there are, seeing how every bolt attaches to every other piece of the aircraft, fabricating my own parts to fit absolutely perfectly together; but it’s all giving me a confidence I’ve never had with any aircraft I’ve flown or flown in before. I’m starting to understand the physics behind the aircraft, and I can’t wait to see what I learn in the remaining days of this build. Contrary to what I initially thought, I’m quite certain I won’t have any fear when the 15th of February rolls around and I get to take 259KC out for her maiden flight. I will literally know this aircraft from the inside out, and there’s not only a pride that comes with that, there’s absolutely nothing left unknown about any aspect of this aircraft other than what’s going on within the engine itself and behind the instrument panel electronics.

Earlier this week, I got a chance to fly in a Sportsman 2+2 with Alan Negrin of Glasair Training. He is a pilot who knows this aircraft inside and out, and the things he was making the Sportsman do; I’ve never done in ANY plane I’ve flown in. With full flaps and high power, we were practically hovering on the prop at 30 knots. With a more than a bit of effort, we managed to stall the aircraft at 27 knots. We did canyon turns with the greatest of ease in a canyon, landed in just a few hundred feet, and had plenty of visibility every step of the way. This plane will fly slower than I typically drive through town, yet it will also cruise along at 150 knots when I need to get somewhere fast. On top of that, it will allow me to cram hundreds of pounds of my junk in the rear seat and cargo area even with full tanks and 2 adults in the front seats.

What more could I ask for?

Speaking of, Glasair continues to impress me with their professionalism as do the guys working hard as my Commercial Assistants for this build. The number of questions that comes with building such a precision piece of machinery (that I will literally be betting my life on) is staggering, and it gives me vastly more respect for the people who manage to build kit planes on their own. Even with detailed instructions and countless helpful photos, there is still so much “gray area” when building an aircraft that I’m even more convinced it would have taken me typical many, many years to build this aircraft on my own. Even then though, I would be without the numerous assurances and tidbits of expertise that have been priceless gifts along the way, letting me know that the way I was building my plane was the correct way. Not once have I felt that I haven’t been given a competent answer by someone from the Glasair team, and that competence is infinitely valuable for the assurances it offers as the plane painstakingly comes together before my eyes.

And, as diverse a group as they are, the glasair guys are of the same tribe. If nothing else, they love music and airplanes as much as I do, which helps to make make the long days of building extremely pleasant. Some are pilots, some are mechanics, some are fabricators, but we all share a common passion for flight, and that not only meant the world to me, it shows through in every aspect of the process. I can tell that whomever made the molds for all my carbon fiber parts took pride in what they were doing. All the riveting help…it’s a grind, but there’s a pride and a passion that shows through even after hour 12 of riveting my wings this past week, and that too meant the world to me. And this is carrying through for every aspect of the build, so I’m even more excited to see where we are at the end of our 2 weeks.

Anyway, as I write this on Day 07, i’s the the first day my Sportsman actually started to look like a completed plane! There’s so much work “under the surface” that it’s not easy to show all that building an aircraft entails. Looking in from the outside, I thought to myself that it’s not like I’m building some luxury car; it’s just a big pair of aluminum wings with a cockpit and a tail section. Little did I know how much detail, how much craftsmanship, how much wiring and cabling and bolting and connecting and switches and fuel lines and fabrication actually went into this process. Now, building a luxury car seems like it would be an easier task than building an entire aircraft from the ground up, kit or not!

And, just as I felt in my many years of record production, as well as my days of touring with a number of bands I adore, I wake up every morning feeling so lucky to be doing this build and with te people I’m doing this build with. Oddly enough, something I realized early on is that the build would actually go A LOT faster if i wasn’t so involved in building this airplane. The team is so proficient at what they do, with such an instinct for what the aircraft needs to be safe in the sky, that I really just slow them down. So, I could never thank them enough for their infinite patience, for explaining things to me I’m sure they’ve had to explain hundreds of times before, and for making me feel as though my build is the most important build they’ve ever completed. I haven’t yet seen a person even get so much as frustrated, even when there are times I’ve been so frustrated I wanted to throw a wrench across the Glasair Customer Assistance Center.

That alone says volumes about the quality of people Glasair manages to employ, and for that I’m also infinitely grateful.

– Keith Cleversley

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