Are you a builder or a flyer? That is a typical question among those of us who build and restore aircraft. I try to do both, but at heart I am a builder. And I come at that honestly. My father bought a control line model when I was six years old with a McCoy .35 displacement engine and promptly crashed it. I quickly learned that the surest way back to flying was to learn to do the repairs. So with my motherís support, I learned the art of balsa, silkspan, airplane cement, and engines. By the time I reached my teens I was into rudimentary radio control with the old spring and rubber band driven escapements.
About this time, I got into modeling air cushion vehicles, now called hovercraft, using the same balsa, engines, and techniques used in my aircraft models. The next step was the construction of a man-carrying hovercraft out of plywood, aluminum sheet, canvas from old awnings, and a go-kart engine burning methanol. The first one came apart during its maiden flight and nearly killed me. Despite the objections of my father, I rebuilt it and flew it many times. With it, I won top prizes in the Illinois State Science Fairs in 1962 and 1963.
Off to the United States Air Force Academy, I learned to fly gliders and sailplanes. I flew the Schweitzer 2-22, Schweitzer 1-26, and the Schweitzer 2-32. Being more of a thinker than a doer, I went into research and development in the Air Force and did not become an Air Force pilot.
Shortly after getting out of the Air Force, I became diabetic (type 1) and convinced I would never fly again. Looking at the FAA rules, I learned I could still fly sailplanes with only a driverís license and assurance I was not a danger to myself or others. I flew gliders out of the old Clow International Airport in suburban Chicago.