Building My Dream Plane – Day 14

The advertisement for Glasair Aviation reads; “Two Weeks to Taxi” and come hell or high water, the Glasair crew was determined to push me to have my aircraft ready taxiing before the end of Day 14.  And, although it was just under the wire, we managed to make it happen.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for hundreds of hours of video that I sped up to 8000% and whittled down to 6 minutes…

Pre-Taxi Thoughts

I thought I’d be prepared for how exciting it would be to taxi my newly-built aircraft for the first time, but I was as wrong as could be.  I got no more than a few hours sleep last night, even though I knew my new flying machine wasn’t going to leave the ground.  Simply the thought of being behind the stick of an aircraft I just built was enough, and not because I was nervous about the upcoming maiden flight, but out of sheer exhilaration and excitement.

Speaking of, it’s been sincerely touching to have some friends voice their concerns about my safety in my decision to be my own test pilot by piloting my aircraft for its First Flight.  It’s a decision every builder needs to make for themselves, and it’s one that I have spent a great deal of time contemplating.  I understand that from the outside looking in, such a decision can seem like a dangerous, even reckless or life-threatening one.  But this is truly not the case, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain why:

First, Glasair has an impeccable safety record with their aircraft.  With over 3,000 planes in the air, there has never been a fatal accident on first flight of any of their aircraft.  That alone is quite impressive, but I also understand that it might not offer much comfort.  So, let me offer what I have discovered during this two weeks of building my aircraft:

When I think about it, there are really three options for any aircraft I might fly:

01. I could buy a pre-built certified aircraft as I did with my Cessna Skycatcher.
02. I could build a kit plane entirely on my own.
03. I could build a kit plane with two Commercial Assistants as I’m presently doing.

Which plane would I feel the safest in?  I realized that, without question, the plane I would feel most comfortable flying is the one I’m building right now.  My Skycatcher was built in an overseas factory by workers who don’t personally care about me or my safety.  And, within the first 6 months of owning my Skycatcher, it was not only in the repair shop for a number of required repairs, I had a door latch fail on takeoff at Gillespie, causing an incident that could have easily been fatal if I had not kept my head together.  Everything about that aircraft is economy in weight, and that adds up to some really bad build decisions that I had no say in.

With my Sportsman being built in the Glasair Customer Assistance Center with the two Commercial Assistants I can legally hire, I have experts watching my every move.  I also am in complete control of assembling every flight-critical component, which means that I’m the one responsible for adding all of the safety features like Cotter Pins on every bolt, as well as thread lock, retainers, and all of the other parts that ensure no part of the flight system will fail in flight.  And I understand WHY each of these components is assembled the way it is as well as exactly where to look for each of them.

Also, with my Sportsman, my perfectionist ways have come screaming in at full force, causing very long build days, subtly rolling eyes, and even a few requests to “move on to the next task.”   But it’s part of that perfectionism as well as the vivid realization that I am placing my life in the hands of this aircraft and the people who built it.  I love to live my life to my version of its fullest, which can often involve higher risk activities, but, in every one of those activities, I have never been reckless or under-prepared.  This couldn’t be more true of flying airplanes, which is the earliest dream I could remember having from shortly after the time I could walk.

I know this aircraft inside and out.  I have personally placed every flight critical part myself and I’m proud of that.  My life is truly in my hands with this aircraft, and that, believe it or not, gives me great confidence in how safe this aircraft will be.  It’s important to remember that 99% of all General Aviation accidents happen as a result of pilot error and NOT because of a failure of the aircraft.  I’m an extremely safe pilot and never step into an aircraft I haven’t properly inspected.  In short, the mystery has been taken out of my aircraft, and that alone is invaluable when making any decisions in relation to it.  And, unlike other fears I have of the mystery being taken out of any relationships, this has only endeared me more to this aircraft, Glasair as a company, and a group of people I hope to see much more of (by choice, of course, not because of issues with my plane).

The Taxi

It was important for me to remember that the program Glasair advertises is “Two Weeks to Taxi” and not “Two Weeks to Flight”.  It turns out that most of my interior wasn’t yet ready for installation, so we simply added in 2 borrowed seats. and set them in the aircraft.  Same with the windscreen; there are a few “Two Week to Taxi” windscreens that are taped onto the aircraft to enable the taxi to happen.  These humorous details aside, I actually do get to start up my 210 horsepower Lycoming IO-390X for the very first time, and have that power my way down the taxiway.

Six Minutes to Taxi: Although a somewhat boring-at-the-moment video compilation of two weeks of constant shooting, sped up and compressed into just under 6 minutes, it gives you an idea of the plane appearing from nothing in just 2 weeks time. The start of the video is me and Ben, the project coordinator, standing in front of the complete list of tasks that we needed to check off and sign each day. The 6 minutes seems long to me and I had to whittle down hundreds of hours of video to find the “highlights” as many of the grueling hours of work consisted of grinding down and shaping pieces of fiberglass, plexiglass or metal, or putting together complex series of parts that are even less interesting to watch:

Onward to DAY 16 – MY MAIDEN FLIGHT

Or, previous entries:

Building My Dream Plane – THE DREAM

Building My Dream Plane – DAY 01

Building My Dream Plane – DAY 07

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1 Comment

  • Mark Spencer
    January 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm 

    Hey Keith, Love your compressed video of the two weeks to taxi. I am considering this program and would love to chat with you some time.

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