Well I’ll be damned! The thing actually flies.
My good friend and fellow pilot Dan Checkoway’s RV-7 made a successful first flight yesterday. I’m bummed that I missed the big event. I had (wait for it) a rehearsal that kept me in Orange County. So what else is new?
Hard to believe the plane is now flying. I’ve seen it so many times as nothing but a massive collection of seemingly random parts. I was thinking back to the day I helped build a workbench and run electrical power in his shop, or the times I helped rivet the fuselage or wings. Seems like a long time ago. Heck, it was a long time ago.
There’s something vital to me about Dan’s plane. Part of it is because I know him and have followed the project so closely. But in a larger sense I think it’s because he started building right before September 11th.
You know, we endure so much bad news as aviators: airport closures, liability lawsuits, rogue FAA inspectors, pointless flight restrictions, high insurance rates. And that was before 9/11. After, it appeared that pilots like Dan and myself would bear the punishment for 9/11 even though general aviation had absolutely nothing to do with it. It never made the newspapers, but there was a big push (assisted by the airlines, I should note) to forcibly remove general aviation from the skies. Oh, not officially. No, they do it in a much more insidious way: by increasing the regulatory burden and cost of flying to the point where economics take over and destroy what’s left. Naturally it’s all done in the name of “safety”.
Do I sound bitter? I should.
That period symbolized — and continues to symbolize — what’s wrong with America. Dan’s airplane symbolizes what’s right: the ability of any person to design, build and fly their own airplane if they so choose. That’s freedom.
Whatever the reason, I sort of feel like a godfather to this aircraft. I can’t wait to go for a ride!
To Dan (and his very understanding wife Jen) I say congratulations! You realized a difficult goal under very trying circumstances and inspired a lot of people along the way.