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Feature Article


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC


The CEO of the company I work for sometimes asks me what my dream plane is.  For a while, I've had a ready answer: a Piper Saratoga or Cherokee 6.  My wife and I currently own an Archer and Cessna 182 online with WVFC.  We recently welcomed our second son to our family.  So, thinking out a few years, those are great planes for my family.  Within those model lines, there is plenty of variety: turbocharged or normally-aspirated, retractable or fixed gear.  The planes have more room for larger kids and the stuff we'd haul around as a family.  With four people and full fuel, there'd still be plenty of available weight for luggage.  Depending on how fast you want to get where you're going, the range is between 800 and 900 statute miles.  All in all, perfectly reasonable planes.  Indeed, they’re something within the realm of possibility in terms of what we might be able to one day afford.

But is a "reasonable plane" really a dream plane?  My family belongs to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, next door to the WVFC office.  One of the exhibits there is a Grumman HU-16 Albatross.  The plane was purchased by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, extensively refurbished and modified to make it into a flying yacht, and then flown around the world.  While peering inside one day, I figured that this Albatross is a dream plane.  There’s plenty of room to stretch out, a head with a shower, and a galley.  The Albatross at Hiller is a truly one-of-a-kind machine, having been resurrected from the Arizona desert and made into the vision of its owner.  Not something that I'm likely to own in my lifetime but definitely worthy of dreaming about.  Nevertheless, the Albatross comes from a long line of Grumman flying boats.  A Grumman Goose might be more realistic, but still dreamy.  The Goose is a much smaller aircraft but still can seat eight people.  It’s a good enough design that as recent as 2007 there were plans to produce new Geese.  So, should my ship come in, perhaps it will be a flying boat.

Along similar lines, one of my dreams is building an airplane with my two sons.  I'd like for them to be old enough to actually help in construction, but not so old that we can't finish and fly the airplane before they head to college.  Having read about the Van's RV-10 in an issue of AOPA Pilot a number of years ago, that had been the plane I thought would be perfect to build.  A four-seater, it means the whole family can fly together.  The specs on the plane are impressive: with a 235 hp engine it cruises at just under 200 mph on 14 gph.  The amount of money spent helps to determine the comfort of the interior and the snazziness of the avionics.  It really looked like a great plane to build.  This past summer, though, I met a few folks at Oshkosh who were building an RV-10.  They seemed to be enjoying it and making good progress, but were a little more than slightly frustrated by the fiberglass work.  Hearing their tales, I began reconsidering whether the RV-10 was my dream homebuilt.

Fortunately, Oshkosh is a great place to be looking into homebuilts, and someone suggested I check out the Sling 4. The Sling 4 is a nifty plane: it has a 115 hp engine, but it's turbo-charged.  This means that it gets 120 knots cruise, but at 6 gph.  It's a metal plane, so there's no fiberglass work.  And one of its claims to fame is that the design has been flown around the world.  So, the Sling 4 is now at the top of the list of a dream home built.  Maybe a Lanceair, which are super-nice, fancy aircraft, would be a better dream homebuilt, but we'll start with something simple and work our way up.

I'm sure that by the time we're ready to start building our dream homebuilt, the market and technology will have marched on.  So, we'll just have to go back to Oshkosh several times between now and then to keep abreast of the market!