Project Purchase

In May of 1997 there was an ad posted to rec.aviation.homebuilt for a Flybaby project. It listed "All structures complete including: control systems, fuel tank, engine mount". I called Will Larson at the number listed, and he described a project that was mostly complete including wings, tail group, and landing gear as well as what was listed in the ad. The problem was that I'm here in the midwest, and the project was in central California. The price was right, provided that the project was as advertised, but the logistics looked just terrible.

I had my doubts about getting the thing here, but Will offered to send me some photo's (photo1 photo2), and when they got here I new I really wanted this project. It had a complete tail section, it had a set of wings that were well along, and it had landing gear including the tubes and tires I had been about to pay full retail for. The tubes, tires, wheels, and breaks alone were worth $500.00, and even if there was a problem with the wood parts the miscellaneous hardware would be worth a bunch. Hell the turnbuckles alone had to be worth a hundred dollars retail. I called EAA chapter 170 which was local to the project and contacted their tech councilor, Mike Rhodes. He took a look on my behalf and reported it to be generally "of good construction quality".

I'm an academic to I have summers off for the most part. I do some consulting, but I'm pretty free so I thought I might drive out myself and get it. I started looking into trailer rental, looking after my car (an aged Saab 900S) to see if it'd be fit for the journey. One thing and another made this plan look like trouble. The car had an unidentified noise in the drivetrain, the trailer I had would need a lot of work, but any trailer I could borrow would be too heavy for the old Swedish Truckster.

Other plans came and went. A fellow EAA Chapter member might be trucking a load of furniture back from California; I might borrow my father's truck and 16 foot trailer; Motor freight might not be as expensive as first thought. Finally when I was about to give up on the thing until later in the summer (after my brother got married and the clan dispersed) Will called and said he'd found someone, Mark Kettering, from California who intended to retrieve a KIS Cruiser from Connecticut, and might be willing to bring the Flybaby East if I'd help bear the expenses. We agreed on a price, and the deal was set.

I wrote a purchase agreement that included the shipping and crating details and a total price, signed it and mailed it to Will. He signed it and faxed it back to me and I sent him a cashiers check by express carrier.

Then it was time for the waiting. Mark was going to drive more or less straight through, and call me when he reached St. Louis. It was a bit awkward because with my brother getting married, my time was somewhat committed in the same window as Mark was projected to arrive. I got in one afternoon to find a message from Mark that projected him arriving at 10:00 or 11:00 at night on the night I was to take my brother out for his "last rights". His message said he was committed to be farther East on a deadline and that he'd have to drop the load and go. He'd look for the safest spot he could find to unload if I couldn't be there. I called Mom, and asked her to come sit at my house and be there to at least open the garage door for Mark, but that would have left him to unload the thing himself. As it happened, my uncle Ray (a pilot, and a homebuilder at least to the extent that he built an RV-4 tail once, Oh and Jim Bede got him for a deposit on the BD-5 too. And Ray gave me my first airplane ride as a kid. I have the photo on the wall of my shop to this day.) ... Anyway Ray arrived in town at about the right time to come by and help Mark unload, so I got home in the wee hours of the morning to find my garage full of airplane parts.

Much of the plane looks like it's seen light and air for a while. Will bought much of it from a widow. He added the tail and ailerons off a wrecked Flybaby, and added a number of parts before deciding that wood fabrication wasn't his cup of tea. The wings still need to have the spars tapered, and tip bows installed. They need the leading edge false spar, as well as a trailing edge, and they need the wingwalks done. I intend to do all that and mate these wings to my two place fuselage. I'll also use most of the tail which is very nice and very complete. I can't use the vertical stabilizer as this piece is integral to the fuselage. I'll also be using the landing gear, though it'll need some slight alterations to fit my wider fuselage. I haven't decided if I'll use the fuel tank or not. It really depends on how many more gallons I could carry by making a wider tank to fit my wider available space. That O-290'll burn more than the C-85 that's the typical Flybaby powerplant, so I want to put all the gas I can forward so as to avoid having to add wing tanks.

Those parts I don't use I'll sell. I may go ahead and sell the engine mount (for an O-200), and maybe the fuel tank. I'll probably wait to sell the fuselage since it's a nice visual aid, but I'd be open to offers, if you know anyone who's looking for a start on a one seat Flybaby project.

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