ZENITH ZODIAC XL
My Building Story is of one of making up for lost time.
My dad retired from the U. S. Air Force in 1977 after 20+ years serving as an aircraft electrician. While I was growing up, dad was deployed away from home 3 times for a total of three years. The first time was during the cold war (while I was a baby) then twice during the Viet Nam war while I was in grade school, then while I was in high school. I missed him quite a bit.
I have always loved airplanes. Growing up on Air Force Bases didn’t or did help, depending on your view. I worked continuously toward my dream job of designing advanced aircraft (30 years in the industry so far) and I knew I would build my own aircraft someday.
I started in 2001 on a Zenith Zodiac XL. Mom and Dad went with me to the rudder workshop and we completed the rudder in a day and a half. I started in the basement and Mom & Dad helped when they were here. They moved close to our home about the time we moved the subassemblies to the airport hanger for final assembly i.e. the second 90%. I worked my “day job” then they would meet me at the airport for 3 or 4 hours more working on the homebuilt. Those hours were spent riveting, installing systems, engine work, fuel work and all the things we do to get the 800 lbs of aluminum ready to fly. My electrical system is top notch and every bit as good as the F-4 Phantoms, B-52 and many other Air Force aircraft dad worked on while he was gone. Except this was OUR aircraft.
After 4 years, 11 months and 2 weeks, N360TM took to the sky. Mom and dad were right there sweating bullets but not showing the stress. The first flight was so successful that I made a second flight later that day. Later, Dad was the first person to fly with me in the plane after Phase 1 testing was complete.
5 years now of test flying, $100 hamburgers and two trips to Oshkosh have more than made up the lost time. The culmination was this years Airventure 2011. Dad flew with me in to Wittman Regional Airport for the first time. We had been going to Oshkosh off and on for the last 20 years but this was the greatest time. Dad shot some great video of the arrival at Runway 27 opening day morning. We taxied the plane to the ConocoPhillips Square for the “Zeniths to Oshkosh” celebration for Chris Heintz. We were standing there at the center of the homebuilt world with the plane we built together. It doesn’t get any better than that.