At AirVenture 2015, our friend Jan Collmer was added to the Memorial Wall just outside the Chapel near the EAA Museum in Oshkosh. Jan will forever be remembered by EAA members and those that attend Airventure as an Airshow Icon and a caring and generous man. There is also a written tribute in the Memorial Wall book located in the Chapel.
Thank You Jan. We will miss you!
By Michael Stephan
I love tools. There is a proper tool for every job. I’m willing to try them all until I find it. So, my tool box is full of useful and not so useful tools. If it is useful, I have more than one of them (mostly so I can find one when I need it).
Recently I have been fond of the camera as an inspection/maintenance aid. Construction photos have helped when doing an inspection. It shows how things went together initially and can be compared to current photos. I have used it to get that linkage hardware (washers, lock washers, large washers and spacers) all back on in the right order.
In the last year I have invested in a few inspection scopes, also known as endoscopes (not the kind most people people dread). These are the camera on a long flexible tube that can get in those tight spaces. I have been looking at these for the past few years. There are a few places in the RV-8 that I can’t see very easily. With the scope, I can not only see those areas, but get a picture of them for study in the future. A camera came in handy when a fellow RV builder talked about bolts not being installed in the spar in quickbuild kits. Not remembering if I had installed them, I pulled out my camera. Poked it into the affected area and took a picture. I had proof that they were there. Recently a factory service bulletin mandated a horizontal stabilizer inspection for cracks. It was reinforce the area or inspect every year for cracks. Pulling the entire fairing off takes time, but loosening it up at the rear and sending in the camera was an easy way to inspect the area (stop laughing).
The cadre of pictures can be used as a historic record of the aircraft, much better than a few words indicating condition. Marking all the nuts and bolts with torque seal makes it is easy to tell if the nut has moved at all on the bolts. That really comes in handy when checking the nuts on the RV-8 gear leg bolts which are buried deep inside the gear leg towers or the jam nuts on linkage tubes. The camera lens and housing is small enough to fit inside your spark plug hole so you can see inside the cylinder as well.
Another benefit of the picture is the time and date stamp on the picture file. Not only can you see the condition but also know when.
Once very expensive, these devices are coming down in price dramatically. For about $20 you can buy an endoscope. They will have a USB plug end and require a laptop computer to plug into to see the image and most will have LED lights on the end to illuminate your subject. Dimmer control gives just the needed amount of light.
Disclaimer: Pictures are not a replacement for inspections. Tactile feel on a linkage or a nut and bolt is the best way to get a sense of the condition of an assembly. Looseness is not something that can be seen in a photograph. Pictures only give a visual record.
I have three endoscopes that I have bought in the last year. I bought all of them from Amazon.com.
The first was a 2 Mega Pixel Handheld USB Digital Borescope/Endoscope/Microscope with 8.2mm Tube Diameter made by ViTiny (Model UM07). It has a 8.2 mm diameter metal tube that houses the LEDs and lens and cost $119.98. At the top of the tube is a focus ring, which makes it work really well in examining objects real close. Finding stress cracks in a dimple would be a good use. I liked it so much I bought two (actually I carelessly broke the first one).
Then I found the Vividia Waterproof Mini 7mm USB Flexible Inspection Camera for $39.99. Nothing unique other than it was much cheaper then the first one I bought and it not as delicate. It is a It has led lights in the tip and comes with a 90º mirror adapter and a magnetic pick up tip as well.
It also has the USB connection that requires a computer connection. I found that trying to hold the camera still on the subject while trying to hit the record button on the computer was a little tricky. The flexible rod is sometimes frustrating to work with. It takes twisting and bending adjustments to get it on target. It is like trying to snag your car door lock with a hangar after you locked you keys in the car.
The one I am most excited about is the WiFi Hd 2.0 Mega Pixles Inspection Camera/ Borescope /Endoscope by DBPOWER for $99.
It includes a built-in WIFI network that connect wirelessly to my iphone/ipad/android or anything that can connect to a WiFi network. The apps that come with it can then take pictures and videos of the images from the camera. Now that is cool. The image resolution is about the same as a 2 megapixel camera. It has an infinity length focus that gets blurry if the camera is less than about an inch away.
With the pictures on my phone, I have to transfer them to my computer for long term storage. Currently that process is a little tedious, but maybe future software updates will make it a little easier.
The three that I have shown here are just a few of the options that are out there. Once scarce, now very plentiful. A neighbor at GPM showed me one that he bought for $14. That is cheap enough to permanently install in the airplane with a built in USB port. Maybe, put it trough the firewall and watch what happens under the cowl on my EFIS screen while flying. That might be a bit frightening.
By Michael Stephan
Michael has penchant for building one-of-a-kind designs from EAA founder Paul Poberezny. The first was the Pober Pixie II, which was a two-seat version of the Pober Pixie. He spent a decade building the pixie II and it earned much attention the several times it has traveled to Oshkosh. The Pixie II was more than a plans built project, since there were very little in the way of plans. Paul abandoned the project after welding the fuselage, due to competition from other similar concepts. Michael picked up that fuselage and brought it back to Texas. With much consultation with Paul and many prototype parts, Michael finished the plane.
Paul and Michael have had a relationship ever since.
It was featured in the January 2002 edition of Sport Aviation in a 7 page article written by Budd Davidson. In the article, Budd describes building an airplane without a set of completed plans as, “Hard-core homebuilding!” And Michael is back at it again.
That leads to the Pober Speedster. Similar to the Pixie II, Paul had welded together a fuselage design that was to be a single-seat top strut-braced low-wing called the Pober Sportster. When Paul offered the fuselage to Michael, another trip to Oshkosh brought that design back to the hangar at Airpark East.
Without a set of plans, he bought a set of Acrosport I plans (another Poberezny design) to use as a guide to assist in making design decisions, since both planes had some similarities in structure.
While looking at the airplane fuselage, Michael noticed that it was very similar to the 1930’s racers, the Gee Bee Speedsters. That is what he wanted. An aircraft in the spirit of Gee Bee Speedster that he would call the Pober Speedster.
For the wings, he chose to use an elliptical wing to make the speedster look like the Gee Bee. elliptical wings are quite a challenge to build, which is why you don’t see them very often even though they are very efficient. The speedster wings tapers in two directions. After rib station 12 the spar starts its taper to the wing tip as well as the leading edge rounds to the wingtip. These two tapers cause every wing rib after station 12 to be a different shape. This complexity also extends to the aileron, which is part of the elliptical shape of the wing at the trailing edge. The spar of the aileron also tapers toward the tip as the trailing edge sweeps around to the tip. When looking at the wing structure, you first notice the aesthetic round shape. It is not until you get a close look at the details that you notice the complex shape. Working with these kinds of complex curves using wood is quite a task, and his wings are a work of art. The fuel for the airplane will be located in a saddle-type tank in the fuselage just above the rudder pedals and below the upper longeron.
That fuel will feed a Lycoming O-235 that is currently on the engine mount at the back of the Hangar. It is a used engine that Michael plans on overhauling and upgrading the cylinders. Since his Pixie II had a crankshaft journal oil feed plug up and cause complete failure of the piston rod, he wants to completely go though the engine before putting it in the air.
One of the departures from the Gee Bee Speedster is the landing gear structure. Those racers placed the gear out on the wing and had the gear’s forces travel through the wing struts to the fuselage. Not being interested in putting the stresses in the wing, Michael has opted for a more conventional piper cub style gear leg and bungie arrangement. It is a strong structure and is also what he used on the Pixie. The only drawback being the drag caused by the bungies under the fuselage.
While showing me the fuselage, Michael mentioned that all the control linkages will be cables, including the elevator, which is usually a push/pull tube in Paul’s designs. Due to the geometry of the fuselage and the position of the fuselage tubing, it takes a joint in the tube and a bell-crank to make the bend around the structure to the elevator horns. He believes that cables and pulleys are a simpler and stronger connection with fewer joints. The ailerons will also be controlled by a combination of cables and pulleys. The cables will be very visible in the fuselage revealing the makings of the machine.
The Speedster’s fuselage has been blasted and primed. When looking closely at the tubing junctions, you can see the how talented a welder Paul Poberezny was. Every cluster is beautiful. Those who think only TIG welds are attractive haven’t seen Paul’s work. He was a master with the gas torch.
There is so much about the speedster that is interesting, you just have to see it to experience the excellence. Pictures don’t do it justice. Michael hopes to have the project flying in a few more years. I look forward to seeing it in the display area at Oshkosh.
There are not many builders like Michael Hoye. The kit-built builder community can pound their chest and boast about the design, but they built someone else’s design. He is building his own. And even though it won’t be the fastest or the most sleek airplane on the field, it will be a one-of-a-kind airplane, just like his other one. Now that is hard-core.
By Michael Stephan
My memories of Jan are limited to a handful of encounters at airshows, where I could slip in a few words of awe, and some short conversations and joke telling minutes at our EAA chapter meetings. Of course, he entertained and inspired when he spoke. I was a fan from the first time I saw him, but I learned so much more about him from his memorial service and digging on the internet.
For many years, in January he spoke at our chapter meeting and gave us the state of the Airshow community. He would also hand out Collmer Semiconductor calendars, which included an amazing pencil drawing of iconic aircraft every month’s page. I took that calendar home and showed it to my dad and he kept it for several days looking at those drawings. I kept the calendars and am on a hunt to find which box in my shop they are in. I could not find any of those drawings on the internet. So if you have them, let me know I would like to see them again.
Jan loved the outdoors. Like most boys who grew up in Texas, Jan loved to fish. He even sold a device to measure the depth of an area you are casting into. It
was a simple and creative solution using a basic principle of science. Hunting was another passion of his, except it is not the hunting we are used to here. He hunted for fossils. He knew many of the river beds in Texas and could tell you what time in prehistory they originated. At the reception, his brother Robert, who sounds just like Jan, told of the many hunts they were together. Jan used his flying skills to scout the river beds and knew after a rainstorm the hunting would be good about 12 days afterwards.
His brother told a story of one “hunting” trip when Jan found himself stuck in quicksand. With great exertion, Jan swam his way out. Robert said it took him 30 minutes to swim the 8 ft to the edge. Completely exhausted and covered in mud, Jan walked over and cleaned himself off in the nearby stream. Robert, seeing the life and death struggle his brother just experienced, advised that they quit and go home. Jan declined and continued the hunt.
While scouting a river down in a canyon, Jan and his brother flew below the rim of the narrow river canyon. A bridge was in their path and Jan decided to wisely to go over instead of under it. When they pulled up and rose above the canyon edge, they spotted a farmer plowing his field. Robert said, “That farmer got the surprise of his life.”
Jan was also very generous. In the Catholic community we call it “Time and Treasure” and Jan gave both. He distributed that generosity to the local colleges and Catholic prep schools, since he was a big supporter of education. He would also encourage others to do the same. As a local entrepreneur, he talked at many business schools about the path to success.
He served on many local boards, but chaired the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the DFW Airport Board. In 1996, he dedicated a new runway at D/FW Airport, cutting the ribbon with his propeller as he flew by.
He loved flying and frequently offered the “Jan Collmer” ride in the Pitts and the Extras. Jan gave a ride to one of the executives of Fuji Electronics on a trip to Dallas. After the aerobatic maneuvers, Jan let the executive fly for a few maneuvers. On the ground the man thanked Jan for making his lifelong dream come true, because like many of us, as a kid he looked to the sky and dreamed of flying. Jan made that wish come true for him, and he challenged us all to do the same. Help make someone’s dream come true. That ride also struck a chord with Jan about his love of flying. Many goals recede once they are accomplished. The feeling of exhilaration after climbing a mountain, running a marathon, winning a challenge dissipate after the accomplishment, but flying is different.
Jan felt the same excitement on every flight. I feel the same way, (except for me it is the accomplishment of making back to the ground and being able to reuse the airplane).
I have barely touched on Jan’s incredible flying career, which was one of his greatest passions. It is rare to see an airshow performer over 70 years old, but Jan’s last performance was in May of 2014 at the age of 79. His first airshow was in 1978, and in the last 35 years he performed more than 1000 times at 400 different airshows. In 2009 Jan’s iconic red-white -blue Fina Extra300L, was getting a little worn and Jan was ready to donate it to a museum. However, Chuck Coleman convinced Jan to sell it to him so he could use it to share the joy of flying with many more. Jan’s crew chief Jack Pape helped load the Extra on a trailer where it traveled 1400 miles to its new home. It was completely taken apart and rebuilt and Chuck Coleman now flies it at airshows.
In 2012 Jan wrote a book. Not about flying, but a book to help aspiring entrepenuers. Titled Go Start Something! Live Life on the Edge, the book offers Jan’s 50 rules for the young business starter. It is a self published practical guide to stepping out on your own. I bought the book the other day and here are my top 5 tips that also apply to we airplane builders:
1. It is impossible to make a decision that changes just one thing.
2. Pay attention to details, but don’t lose the big picture.
3. Quickly reverse a bad decision.
4. Never invent when you can copy.
5. Avoid paralysis by analysis.
My favorite accomplishment of Jan Collmers was his never ending push to create the Frontiers of Flight Museum. He not only knew the importance of preserving history, but Jan’s Iconic Extra packed on a trailer also the need to share it with the public. In 1988, with help from Kay Bailey Hutchison and William E. Cooper, the George Haddaway aviation collection found a home at the newly created Frontiers of Flight Museum.
Many have visited the museum and many a child has had the birthday party of their dreams there. The museum is a great collection of artifacts, many of them from local contributors. In 2014 the museum launched a new Education Fund honoring the memory of Jan Collmer. The Jan Collmer Education Fund will be used to carry on Jan Collmer’s legacy to educate, motivate and inspire the next generation.
The Jan Collmer Education Fund
• Supports the Museum’s extensive education programs
• Provides scholarships and supporting program expenses for Flight School Summer Camps, education tours and outreach programs, and special education
projects and initiatives
• Enables underserved children an opportunity to benefit from these STEM enrichment programs
If you wish to keep the spirit of Jan going, consider donating to the Jan Collmer Education Fund.
Jan Collmer never retired from life. He never withdrew or quit exploring. I’ve heard the phrase, “He lived life to the fullest.” Now I have an example. Jan Collmer left a big imprint on this world. His story inspires us to do more with our lives. Like the title of his book says, “Go Start Something! Live Life on the Edge”
By Ken Krebaum
(Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Chapter 168, its management, employees, or parent organization. In fact, we all think he is way out on a limb on this one.)
The last pilot has already been born. He will be a homebuilder and his last flight will be in an experimental amateur-built aircraft. How do I know? Well …
To provide context for the answer I will define “pilot” as a human, on board the aircraft, who, in FAA parlance, is the sole manipulator of aircraft controls for the purpose of flight. Those controlling aircraft from the ground are operators, not pilots.
There are three overwhelming trends that will lead to the elimination of the pilot function: technology, cost, and demographics.
Technology. Technology exists that allows a pilotless aircraft to takeoff, perform maneuvers necessary for flight, and land safely. These aircraft can be linked via satellite to mission managers (not pilots) who can alter flight plans, direct surveillance sensors, and (in the military) deploy weapons. The algorithms exist to manage airspace full of unmanned aerial vehicles flying different missions. It is part of what the military calls Battle Space Deconfliction.
There is no question that aviation is going pilotless. The question is when it will become completely pilotless. The military will be the earliest adopter. And with good reason. I can remember being at a Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration conference years ago where its guiding direction was expressed as “the battlefield is no place for humans.” Airlines will be next. These will quickly figure out that pilotless means no pilot’s unions, no strikes, no training, and no pensions. Close behind will be business aviation. Pilotless will be more cost effective.
In the recreational aviation world, there is a segment that has been pilotless for over sixty years. Radio-controlled model aircraft. This is a growing area in which costs, in constant dollars, have decreased tremendously due to the revolution in semiconductor electronics. There are now more active R/C flyers than active private pilots. In the 1950’s through the 1970’s, many would start out as R/C aircraft flyers and then transition to full-scale aircraft pilots. Soon, if not already, the transition will be in the other direction. The cost of operating full-scale aircraft is increasing to the point of unaffordability, and the only outlet for recreational aviation enthusiasts will be pilotless R/C aircraft.
Another technological substitute for piloting an aircraft is the flight simulator. Even at the low end, PC simulators offer tremendous graphics and realism. It’s a very powerful lure, especially for kids. In this virtual aviation world, a $40 copy of Microsoft FSX, along with hundreds of inexpensive available addons, offers a range of experiences one could never even hope to have in the real world. Does today’s kid dream of a weekend ride in a Cherokee 140, when every night he is flying an F-22 in combat? And when he’s bored with that flys an Extra 300, a 787, or maybe a space shuttle?
Cost. This is a growing impediment to those that wish to pilot aircraft. Personal and recreational aviation have traditionally been the launching point for many aviation careers. Increasing real costs are making this less and less possible.
In 2013 dollars, forty years ago a Cessna 172 sold new for $80K ($17.5K in 1973). Today a new 160 hp C172 sells for $275K. In 2013 dollars, forty years ago a Cessna 150 rented for $48 per hour ($10.50 in 1973). Today a 30 year-old C152 rents for $120. In the personal and recreational aviation world, for each constant inflation-adjusted dollar, we are getting only 30 to 40% of the aviation we were getting 40 years ago.
Demographics. Flight was the defining achievement of the twentieth century. By the end of the century, however, flight had become commonplace, part of the infrastructure. For those born after about 1985, the millennial generation, aviation provides little excitement. It is not leading-edge technology. There are much more interesting things to do and careers to pursue. There is no aviation enthusiasm to hand down to succeeding generations. This is the most powerful force that will lead to the elimination of pilots. Eventually no one will be interested in flying a plane. The source of new pilots is drying up.
The number of Private Pilots has been in decline for 33 years.
Approximately half of the current active private pilots are over 50 years old. In 30 years hardly any of these will be active. And they are not being replaced.
Military aviation used to hold a fascination for young people. From the 1930’s through the 1960’s aviation and aerospace were the most exciting leading-edge technologies. Aviation was a major factor in the Allied victory in WWII. Interest in this exists strongly in those that have a personal connection with World War II The connection is through fathers, uncles, and grandfathers that experienced WWII aviation first-hand. But almost all of those have passed and the connection is not there for the young.
Dutch Van Kirk was the navigator on the Enola Gay for the first atomic bomb mission. He is spending his later years giving talks on the history and necessity of that mission. He was introduced at one high school assembly as “a veteran of World War Eleven.” Yes, the connection is gone.
Airline aviation is no source of inspiration for the young. It has lost the grandeur and romanticism it had from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. Airline travel now serves largely as an irritant to the traveler, an escalating experiment by government and business to quantify how much mental and physical pain the traveling public can endure. Will the frog jump out of the heating water before being boiled to death?
Recreational aviation provides even less attraction for the young. To them it’s something your grandfather does. Definitely not cool. To make matters worse, airports have become unfriendly places. Young people with a potential interest are literally fenced out and locked out of many airports.
Will this kid be able to get close to an airplane? Depends on how fast he can run.
Decades from now, even if the technological, cost, and demographic barriers to piloting an aircraft could be overcome, no sane person will have the interest and motivation to do so.
But wait. If sanity is the obstacle, this is where the homebuilder can come to the rescue. Homebuilding reminds me of the theme to an old PBS show, The Great American Dream Machine:
When I meet a guy with guts, that’s got a dream that’s kinda nuts,
I don’t care if his IQ is close to zero,
I just put out my right hand, and say I’m glad to meet a man,
We all can call a Great American Hero.
Except maybe for the IQ thing. We homebuilders are smart in a quirky, annoying sort of way. But not smart enough to know that no one can build an airplane in his garage. We simply do not have the capacity to realize it can’t be done. So we go out to the garage or hangar, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and just get it done. And some of our more pathological cases even do this more than once.
A homebuilder is willing to make fourteen trim tabs before producing an airworthy version. Put a rivet gauge on every one of the 12,234 he has set. Lose sleep over the decision of what primer to use. Build an airplane in a Manhattan apartment. Homebuilders are obsessive and compulsive enough to keep the thread of personal aviation alive.
A homebuilder can sometimes spend too much time in the shop.
This is why a homebuilder will be the last pilot to persevere in the face of all obstacles, and, as Dick Cavin used to say, “commit aviation.” One last time.
With this May 2013 issue of Hangar Echoes, we celebrate the chapter’s 50th anniversary. The issues of Hangar Echoes, from the very first in 1963 to this issue, represents 600 entries in the historical documentation of Chapter 168. It is mind boggling to think of how three generations (i.e.,from say, Cavin to Asberry to Stephan) of stories have been recorded and how many airplanes have been part of Chapter 168. And a new 4th generation is now joining our chapter. This article will provide a brief chronology and highlight some events from our first 50 years.
Dick Cavin detailed in the May 1978 issue of Hangar Echoes the first 15 years of Chapter 168. It contained thumbnail sketches on all 15 charter members and a year by year account of chapter activities. It also included a copy of the very first 168 newsletter called the Dope Bucket. I am sure the name worked well until the mid 1960s when dope meant something other than a product to finish the fabric on airplane. The newsletter became Hangar Echoes.
The year was 1963 and the place was an open air porch on the front of a little pilot’s lounge at the old White Rock Airport by the lake. The occasion for these 15 people was to form a new EAA chapter. The story really starts in 1955 when in those early days it was hard to round up enough people interested in “homebuilts” in the total Dallas Fort Worth area to form a chapter. Yet they found the sufficient ten people to start the DalWorth Chapter 34 in Arlington. By early 1963 there was considerable interest in forming a new EAA chapter to serve the Dallas area. So on May 4th 1963, the following 15 people started Chapter 168. Nearly half of the 15 were also charter members of Chapter 34.
Stan Billotte, Merle Green, Larry Nichols, Jack Bullard, Paul Keys, Pete Ohlson, Dick Cavin, Cynthia Keys, Francis Richardson, Owen Elliott, Joe Linex, Merle Soule, Cecil Ferguson, Fred Mitchell, and Jim Swick
Joe Linex ran a TV repair shop in Richardson and was working on an original design similar to the Fly Baby. Unfortunately, most of that original group is now gone. Joe left us last year in February at age 83. He never left the house for the airport without taking his son, Martin. Today Martin Linex is the only person who can recall those early days even before 1963.
By the 1970s Martin had his own Fly Baby out at the Air Park airport. Today in Greenville, he has his dad’s original Fly Baby and Charlie Grant’s first Starduster One. Martin’s connection with early 168 goes on with his aviation godfather Jack Bullard. They stayed in touch for decades. Jack who had a background in aviation (worked at Douglas during WW II) and the enthusiasm to make him the natural choice for president for the first few years. He was working on an original design called the “Bullard Blackhawk”. But in 1962 the new T-18 design came out and caught his eye as it did with many other chapter members. Yet, Jack’s real forte was in the field of commercial art. Martin tells the story of how Jack was having breakfast with Cecil Green and Patrick Haggerty when Pat said, “Texas Instruments is going public on the stock exchange and is in need of a logo”. Jack started doodling on a napkin and when they got up to leave Jack said “what do you think of this logo?” Cecil and Pat instantly liked it and wanted to know what he wanted for it. Free was the answer but Pat stuffed a twenty in his pocket as they left. The next time you drive past TI look at the logo with the lower case “ti” in the outline of Texas and think of Chapter 168’s first president.
Dick Cavin wrote in our newsletter how frequently Jack mentioned that the president’s job was like a country preacher’s. There was a considerable amount of gladhanding and back slapping that was necessary to make people feel at ease and assure them they were not only welcome, but well liked and needed. It has to be sincere, as nothing communicates as quickly as insincerity. He was a natural for the first president of our chapter. During mid-year 1969 Jack Bullard moved to Colorado Springs.
A chronology of Chapter 168 would not be complete without covering the real spark plug that made things happen for the first 30 years; Dick Cavin. Last month we had a special biography of Dick Cavin. The July 1983 issue paid tribute to Dick for all of his contributions to Chapter 168, and the May 1996 issue was dedicated to Dick Cavin with a summary of his aviation life. At that time, our chapter put Dick’s name on the EAA Memorial Wall in Oshkosh as an everlasting tribute to someone who loved and supported experimental aviation.
A number of big events have taken place during our chapter’s life that got us recognition in the Dallas news media. The first came in 1964 when a new cub reporter from the Dallas Times Herald (yes, Dallas had two major newspapers) went out to Dick Cavin’s house, took some pictures of his T-18 and wrote his heart out on an article. As luck will have it, on the next Sunday there was an absence of news, so on page one was a picture of Dick and his T-18. This started a stampede of the curious. The chapter was totally unprepared for the 63 people who showed up for the next meeting. With respect to the T-18, it hit a high water mark when 29 active projects in the Metroplex area were completed. As Dick mentioned in a newsletter, Chapter 168’s fortunes went hand in hand with the T-18 boom for several years. It’s interesting that history would repeat itself some 40 years later with the “total performance” Van’s Aircraft boom. 1967 and 1968 saw Bob Foote, the chapter’s vice president, organize Hidden Valley Airpark, the first such type home site airport in the area. Later Ken Larson built the first hangar at Air Park. The November 1968 meeting went to over 100 members and visitors for the 1st time. As mentioned in the biography of Dick Cavin, in October 1968 VanGrunsven flew the RV-1 down to Addison and $3750 was exchanged. In 1971, Dick received the first set of plans for the RV-3. There are so many descendants of that RV-1 in our chapter today. Also in 1968, six Starduster Too’s were started of which John Snyder’s was simply outstanding.
The chapter in 1970 had Bill Rogers as president and Jay Carter as its vice president. This vice president was a young engineer that had space age ideas about aircraft using fiberglass, pusher engines, and canards. His design was to have a steam engine. Well, he moved to Burkburnett, Texas just north of Wichita Falls where 24 years later in 1994 he started CarterCopters, a small, advanced aeronautics company. In February 1970, a number of chapter members got together and started Kitty Hawk airport way out in the country near Allen. Chapter 168 had a number of fly-ins at Kitty Hawk and several times a Braniff pilot would see to it that that we were impressed with a very low pass over the field in a Boeing 707. You could never do that today and Kitty Hawk closed in 2011.
1977 was a big year for EAA, both nationally and for our local chapter. And it was 168’s second Dallas news media coverage. EAA took their replica of the Spirit of St Louis and retraced Lindbergh’s national tour that he made after his famous flight. One of his stops was Dallas Love Field. This turned out to be a gold mine of publicity for our local chapter as the TV helicopters followed the Sprit of St Louis from Fort Worth to Love Field. It was also a salt mine of hard work by a lot of dedicated people in Chapter 168.
Another replica of interest had its roots in our chapter. At Oshkosh 1990, chapter member Lea Abbott (age 83) flew his replica 1910 Curtiss Pusher at Oshkosh and donated it to the EAA Aviation Foundation.
The next big news media event came in 1980. Lisa Gibbons was hosting PM Magazine (later she did Entertainment Tonight and Extra) on Channel 8 and came to our Lancaster fly-in. That evening we had about 20 minutes of flying and interviews. I specifically remember the interview with Bob Cutler who flew a Piper Pacer that he gave the name “Spirit of Poverty”.
During the first 15 years many of the chapter members worked for Braniff, Texas Instruments or Collins Radio. In fact, many people thought this chapter was attached to Braniff. I credit Bill Rogers who was a TIer for introducing me to the big wide world of sport aviation. Local TV weatherman and Congressman Dale Milford joined our chapter with a Buckaroo (military tandem Swift) restoration. Jim Swick was appointed our 1st chapter Designee Inspector which proceeded today’s Tech Counselor. Several newsletters ago we briefly described how Jim lead a group of 168 members in building an American version of the Bücker “Jungmeister”. In addition to Jim’s Bücker, Charley Lamb, John Nyquist, and Ken Larson finished an example. Ken’s is the Bücker hanging in Frontiers of Flight Museum today. Starting in 1991, John Crook’s Wednesday Night All Metal Ugly Airplane Building Club was building a Zenair CH-701 from plans. A number of members including Sam Cooper were involved with that effort.
A big tradition during the 1980s was the Mary Jane and Henry Odlozil chapter fall fly-in and pot luck picnic. This event was held 13 times at their grass strip south of Ennis. This was a family affair. They did it all including the fabulous Czech food. I remember a photo with at least 25 family members.
This brings me to another “couple” who have been “involved” and I do mean involved in this chapter since 1983. This is a true aviation inseparable couple as any photo of Mel Asberry also has Ann Asberry. Let me put some meaning into involvement. They picked up from the Odlozils with the annual chapter picnic at their airstrip, Short Stop in Farmersville. And they have been inviting the chapter out for an annual post Christmas party. Mel was the recipient of EAA’s 2005 Tony Bingelis Award, which recognized his involvement as an active volunteer Technical Counselor since 1984, Flight Advisor since 1994 and aircraft builder. Mel and Ann built two RVs simultaneously in the early 1990s, one for themselves and one for Red Marron. Starting in early 1999, Mel became a FAA DAR (Designated Airworthiness Inspector) which meant that we could get a real airworthiness inspection. And finally Mel has been Chapter 168’s Safety Officer with a high percentage of his newsletter articles promoting safety. He also is a contributor to Kitplanes. Mel and Ann have each served as president several years and have been on the chapter board for years.
Another key couple in our chapter was Owen and Vivian Bruce. In honor of his 42 years with Chapter 168 and 50 years with EAA, this chapter in 2007 placed Owens name on the EAA Memorial Wall in Oshkosh. He joined EAA in 1953 and was EAA member 629. He joined Chapter 168 in 1964, and was a long time dedicated Technical Counselor. The memorial wall was our way of saying thanks to Owen for sharing his talents and enthusiasm with all of us. Many of us remember his large collection of aircraft magazines and photographs. Many times he was our featured monthly program where he would show his 35mm slides of all kinds of aircraft. There was never an aircraft that he could not identify. He had an incredible memory. He had the stick and rudder skills to fly with Jim Rushing in his Mustang II for a number of years. In 1986 Owen and Jim acquired a Luscombe 8E and proceeded on a total restoration. In November 1988 they finished it and proceeded to Oshkosh and the National Luscombe Convention in Ohio. They won the top award everywhere they went with that Luscombe. A very complete bio for Owen was published in a 2007 Hangar Echoes.
With respect to our chapter’s presidents, take a look at the table which lists each president by year. As you can see a number have served more than one year. Note that Owen Bruce and Mack Cobb were president in 1972 and 1974 respectively. And that Sam Cooper holds the record for being president six times.
It seems like the chapter went through a lot of sadness for a number of years. It started in August 1977 with a double tragedy. Jim Jackson was killed near Sherman flying Lew Shaw’s Akrostar and Ken Gersbach, who had been our president, lost his life in stall spin accident in the Sidewinder while on a night landing into Air Park. In March 1979 we lost a long-time member, G.A. Clardy. He took off from Kitty Hawk turned down wind and slowly flew into the ground. Many of us took our first homebuilt ride in Clardy’s T-18. In August 1980, Hugh Grammer lost his life in a Cherokee accident in Mexico.
Charter member Francis Richardson and his son, Danny, were killed in a T-18 pre-landing accident at Neosho, MO on their way to Oshkosh 1982. This was a major shock to Dick Cavin. He and Francis were close long-time friends. A major shock to Ken Krebaum and myself was the tragic loss of Larry Grimm and his son, Wade, on a flight to Oshkosh in the Cavalier in July 1991. It was a bad stretch for Chapter 168, but the last twenty plus years have been good.
It is interesting to look at 50 years of Hangar Echoes. The change has been dramatic with respect to presentation. The May 1963 newsletter was one page of news and announcements. Dick Cavin wrote virtually every word in our newsletter for the first 20 years. During the middle 1970s Jim Patterson, a Barracuda builder, did the art work drawing for the cover of Hangar Echoes. There were no pictures for the first 12 years. Then came photographs for the cover only. About 20 years ago the great Robrucha cartoons by long time chapter member Bob Chambers started showing up in our newsletter. Does the Robrucha character remind you of someone? It seems like Mel and Ann Asberry appeared in many of Bob’s cartoons. In fact Mel has a couple of Bob’s original works.
Doug Vail gets the credit for leading us into the computer age for developing the newsletter. In 1996, I edited the Hangar Echoes for several years. Michael Stephan picked up the duty at the turn of the century and brought us into the internet age. With the help of David Buono for several years, Michael has been editing the newsletter for over a decade.
Like any organization, the people over a 50 year period continue to change. The 1977 membership roster lists a number of names that many of us will remember as being significant to us. I would love to list them all but we don’t have the space. Names listed in 1977 that we know today are Marvin Brott, Clair Button, Henry Odlozil, Klaus Truemper, Howard Walrath, Leon Rausch, and Ken Krebaum.
Looking back at what those 15 charter members were facing when building and flying experimental aircraft, you have to be amazed by the advances in sport aviation during the past five decades. With the advent of the electronics age, computer aided design coupled with computer aided manufacturing changed significantly the airplane kits we have today. And our airplane is information rich and can fly itself. That’s a long way from that Fly Baby.
It is also really nice to look back five decades once in a while and savor the people and events of yester-year. Yet the way forward is to direct our thoughts and energies towards the future. The EAA of tomorrow is what we’re doing about it today. The challenges for the future are significant.
Unhappily the airplane for the younger generation has ceased to be an object of desire for adventure and the barriers to personal aviation have increased.
Our chapter is now 50 years old and its longevity has been made possible only by dedicated leadership and members. As I look at 50 years of newsletters, it is overwhelming to see the labor-of-love that was put into all aspects of this chapter by our members. My disappointment with writing this summary is that there so many additional stories about outstanding members and their aviation activities that could be included. But, they still live on in those 600 Hangar Echoes.