About the Builder

My first project was a TEAM/Ison Airbike that was first flown in the spring of 2002. It took about 700 hours over two years to complete. I was looking for a simple plane that would not cost a fortune. I wanted to find out if I could really complete and fly a homebuilt. The Airbike had caught my eye several years earlier when I saw an article about the prototype arriving at Sun-N-Fun. Compared to most of the ultralights at the time, the Airbike was very conventional in looks and construction. I bought the kit in several installments, starting with the wings. The welding on the fuselage was all complete, so most of the work was in the wings and engine/instrument installation.

The first test flight was a big milestone for me and was every bit as exciting as my first solo in a 2-33. It went well without any serious issues. I had to make some minor adjustments to the cooling of the cylinder heads, but that was solved over the next couple flights. There were a handful of other minor squawks that popped up, but nothing major and the test flight phase was uneventful.

After the move back to Texas, I pulled all the fabric for a re-cover and paint. I was starting to see some minor rust on the fuselage and I was curious to see how well the wing internals were holding up. The wings looked exactly the same as when they were covered the first time. Everything got covered and painted, this time with an "L-Bird" observation theme. The plane is now slightly disassembled in the hangar and waiting for a new engine. I grew tired of managing a two-stroke and have been planning on installing one of the newer small four-stroke engines. Probably the 45hp 1/2 VW, but maybe Valley Engineering's Big Twin. I need to finish the Pitts rebuild first.

My next project was a Cassutt racer, converted into aerobatic format. This was a redesign and looked promising except for engine choices around 100hp. I welded up the fuselage and was building wing ribs when I discovered the running prices on used Pitts S-1's. I decided that I would be flying sooner, for less money and more peace of mind, if I bought a Pitts instead of finishing up the Cassutt project.

I bought the Pitts from the original builder in 2006. Other than repitching the prop and adding a transponder, I didn't change much the first year or so. Eventually, I started making some small improvements. The first was to seal the control surface gaps. This was a great idea and in addition to better control authority, the roll rate increased significantly. The stick forces also went up significantly in roll. This led to installing small spades on the lower wing. The spades were just big enough to bring the stick forces back to the stock feel. I also added a cross-over exhaust system and updated a few other components. The last thing I added was a smoke system just for the fun of it.

After flying the Pitts for five years, the plane was now over thirty years old and the little squawks were adding up. I decided it was time to tear it down and build it back up to new specs. The rebuild is also incorporating some major improvements. The stock gear have been replaced with the Wolf Pitts tapered rod spring gear. The 35 pound metal prop is getting replaced by a 17 pound Catto wood core composite prop. The wings are being updated with a Raven SS style aileron kit and plywood leading edges. All the bearings in the control systems are being replaced with new bearings. There are a bunch of parts that are getting smaller, lighter or being removed all together. The control surfaces on the tail are also getting updated a bit. The end result should be a refurbished plane that weighs less and performs much better. We'll see how it goes.

I've also pitched in on several projects owned by friends. I'm always looking for opportunities to see and learn more.

About the Aviator

I started out taking a couple lessons after high school in Cessna 150's. Resources were pretty thin and I only got five or six hours before reality and life got in the way. Fast forward to the late 90's while I was working for Intel in Hillsboro, Oregon.

A friend got me interested in going out to take a glider ride at the Willamette Valley Soaring Club near work. The ride was a quick twenty minute flight in a Schweizer 2-33. That was all the convincing I needed and signed up with the club before I left the field. I spent the summer flying every chance I could. I soloed pretty soon, got signed off to fly the 1-26's and eventually finished up my private glider rating. I continued flying gliders for a few more years and those skills and experiences continue to be the foundation for all my flying.

A few months after I finished my glider rating, I started taking power lessons again in C-150's flying out of Twin Oaks Airpark. These lessons were mostly non-events after learning in gliders. I was able to add greatly to my limited knowledge base, but the actual flying was not a big challenge. I had a few little ups and downs and hit some of the same learning plateaus that most students experience. It just wasn't as much fun most of the time as soaring. I finished up my private SEL that year and also knocked out my high performance and complex endorsements.

Not long after finished my private SEL, I was given the opportunity to get my tailwheel endorsement flying a Taylorcraft L2. It was owned by one of my instructors at the glider club and he was trying to prime the pump for new tow pilots. After flying the C-150's for the last year, the L2 was a breath of fresh air. Turn's out that power planes can be fun! I was able to put about twenty hours on the L2 flying all over northern Oregon. I loved flying that little plane and have wanted one in the hangar ever since.

I finished up my first build project about the time I finished my lessons in the L2. I spent the summer flying off the forty hour Phase 1 flight tests and making adjustments and fixes. That was wrapped up in time to fly up to the 2002 EAA fly-in in Arlington, Washington. Currently I've got about 130 hours on the Airbike.

Before moving back to Texas, I was given the chance to get my motorglider endorsement in a Vivat motorglider. It was a fun addition to my glider rating and I hope to make more use of it in the next few years.

When I moved back to Texas in 2004, I found a hangar for the Airbike at Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke, Texas. This was close to my folk's place and has a lot of interesting activity. One of the flight schools had a Super Decathlon and a nice Citabria GCBC. I got checked out in both and started learning basic aerobatics in the Super D. I was able to put about twenty hours on the Super D before finances started running thin. It was enough to know that there would be more aerobatics in my future.

I bought the Pitts in 2006 and flew it down to Texas from Franklin, Virginia. In preparation for flying the S-1E, I spent a little over ten hours in the S-2B at Harvey & Rihn Aviation in LaPorte, Texas. Those were some eye-opening flights and made the transistion to the new plane much more fun. The day after the sale was finalized, I had a great flight down through the mountains and over Memphis and the Mississippi. I've put a little over 200 hours on the Pitts now and probably 300-400 landings (lots of short flights). It is the most fun I've had since flying gliders. Some friends helped me get my acro tuned up for contest flying and I did ok flying intermediate at a local contest a few years ago. The plane is now in the middle of being torn down to the bones for a complete update and clean-up. If things go well, it could be back in the air by the end of summer.

Here's a list of the planes I've had the privilege to fly at some point or another.

Gliders -

  • SGS 2-33
  • SGU 2-22
  • SGS 1-26
  • SGS 1-23H
  • SZD 51-1 Jantar Junior
  • Grob 103 Acro
  • IS28-B2 Lark
  • L-13SW Vivat

Powered -

  • C-150/152
  • C-172
  • C-182
  • Piper PA-24 Commanche 250
  • Taylorcraft L2 (DCO-65)
  • Piper J3 Cub
  • Champ 7AC
  • Citabria GCBC
  • Super Decathlon 8KCAB
  • Ison Airbike
  • Pitts S-2B
  • Pitts S-1E
  • Sorrell Hiperbipe
  • Diamond Katana
  • Steen Skybolt