Canadian pilot builds kit plane
August 27, 2008 · Updated 5:18 PM
ARLINGTON After two weeks, Jim Gunnlausons labor of love came to a close at the Arlington Municipal Airport Sept. 28.
Gunnlauson hails from Alberta, Canada, but he spent two weeks in Arlington, most of them at Glasair Aviation at the airport, putting together a kit plane through a Glasair program that promises to drastically reduce the time and expense required to build ones own plane.
It can take two to three years to build your own plane, said Glasair General Manager Bruce Rinell, as Gunnlauson eased his unpainted bush plane out of the hangar for the first time. You can easily put more than 4,000 hours into one, but we reduce it to 280 hours. The customer has to build 51 percent of the plane to count as the builder.
Like Rinells other jumpstart customers, Gunnlauson received certain parts prefabricated, such as the fuselage, wings and skin of the plane, but he had to adhere to a rigorous daily schedule to complete the rest of the plane within schedule, even with the guidance and assistance of Glasairs mechanics.
Everything goes in stages, said Rinell, pointing to a color-coded schedule and corresponding shelves of parts. We outline each step of the process, day by day, because in order to meet official FAA review standards we have to verify that everythings been done that needs to be done at the end of each night.
The build process starts with the installation of the wings and fuselage, then moves to the engine and control cables, before wrapping up with the control panel. Rinell touts this process as easier, quicker and safer than a pilot building on his own.
Weve gotten folks from all over the world in here, from Spain to Sweden, Rinell said. It used to be a three-week process when we started doing it two years ago, but weve condensed it since then. Well check for things like leaks when you taxi out, but you can choose your own paint job later.
Gunnlauson fits the profile Rinell ascribed to many of his customers, since hes an experienced private pilot whos semi-retired and already owns a number of planes. Gunnlauson started flying in the mid-1970s, but only became acquainted with the Arlington airport and Glasair during the past few years of attending the Fly-In.
Ive worked with other shops, but these guys are top-shelf, said Gunnlauson, after two weeks of working 10 hours a day, six days a week on his new plane. You really learn a lot in two weeks, about every part of the aircraft. Youre basically paying to go to work, but its well worth it. Its been a truly life-changing experience for me.