I have been in the air, one way or the other, since before I was born. In 1968, I was the new son of an Air Force pilot at Edwards AFB. I've been fascinated by flight and aircraft for as long as I can remember and always wanted to be a pilot. I guess I was the airport kid that hung around the officers club with the grown-ups quietly being included into that group of god-like beings -- PILOTS. Dad retired a Lt. Col. after 22 years of all kinds of flying including primary training, and tours in Vietnam as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) flying a Cessna O-2 (Skymaster). We settled in Texas in the mid 70's and the flying days were on hold but not forgotten. I explored the world of computers, cars, and flight simulators -- all neat, but not as good as flying. Then on August 31, 1990 (the day my Dad got his wings AND got married too) I soloed a beat-up, banged-up OLD Cessna 150 bug smasher while a senior in college. It was the greatest feeling since -- well -- the greatest feeling ever (no stopping me now!).
College courses were actually plan "B"; I originally planned to complete flight school, instruct, and do that 'get on with a small carrier' thing. Of course, the years were made easier with the bond of Delta Chi. (Iím in the middle of the pic, notice the same shirt is in the Berkut pics - Wade is to my right. And YES, that is my Ď77 Lincoln Land- Shark) Anyway, after those 5 enjoyable years at Tarleton State University (part of the Texas A&M system), I graduated with dual Bachelor's degrees -- Business Administration and Computer Information Systems. My Resume
I turned away several good "real job" offers after graduation in favor of working as a CFII (flight instructor). And after starving for 16 months, I hooked up with a leading pharmacy software company, PDX, but continued to instruct my die-hard students as time permitted. After two years and 3 promotions, I began to see my flying dream glow again -- then catch fire when I happened across the BERKUT.
During high school and college, I spent much of my time building a multi-award winning 1970 Mustang Fastback. A combination show car, bracket racer (11 second quarter miles! Thanks to its 406ci Big-block (425hp)), stereo competitor and daily driver. If you know about cars, you will know that those things are not easily accomplished in one vehicle. The experience gained on the Mustang was instrumental in my decision to commit to building an airplane. I felt comfortable with systems like engines and brakes, but I knew nothing about airframe construction. The other gamble was money (not many 24 year-old builders around!) -- I knew the only way to finance the project was with my own labor and with a little ingenuity like the "Cheap Little Sucker".
I looked at the major kits in the different categories over and over, and one kept standing out from the pack -- BERKUT. I took a trip out to EAI and spent 2 days talking to Dave and looking at the construction methods. I was impressed by every aspect of EAI -- the people, the performance, the kit precision, and (most important to a Business major) the debt-free business plan of EAI. Although I wasn't able to get my demonstration ride in BERKUT during that visit, Dave and I took a flight in a friend's Long-EZ (my first canard flight, I might add) and I wrote the check for the 'A' Kit as soon as we landed. I was now the proud builder of BERKUT #013, and signed the contract on April Fool's day (for you superstitious folks). When I finally got my ride in BERKUT (Dave stopped to see me on his way to Sun N Fun), the feelings were confirmed -- Right choice!
I have completed Kits 'A', 'B' and more than half of 'C' over the last 10 years but will soon begin finishing the Kit. I have found every aspect of building the BERKUT enjoyable and it is proving to be a great learning experience -- I love it! I am motivated by rewarding challenges (even big ones) so this project like other things in my life I do with great pride. I have had help and attention from my friends and just about everyone at the local airport. Tim Cook has been especially helpful, lending a helpful and valued hand with the BERKUT and Mustang projects. I look forward to flying the BERKUT to airshows all over the U.S. - much like I did with car-shows in the Mustang. I will also try my hand at military style aerobatics - I think I have just the right person to teach me, right Dad?
One of my other flights (pardon the pun) of fancy is Renaissance Faires. For years, I have played the pirate "Sevil Ti". Sevil is the Quartermaster of the the Seahawks.Perhaps you will see me out at my home faire - "Scarborough Faire". Look me up, if you are up for the challenge...Muhha-ha-ha!!! One of these days I'll get around to scanning more pictures and put up a stand-alone page for the pirates. For now, go checkout the Corsairs. They are the singing pirate group at Scarborough these days and they are REALLY good! A must see if you are there.
The little pest at my feet is demanding some page-time too - so here's a picture of Radar (with a bad haircut). He doesn't help much on the plane, but he is always available for some encouraging licky-noses and moral support. Interesting note: he got his name not only for the 'dish-like' ears he has, but for his uncanny ability to detect thunderstorms 20+ MILES away from the house - just like weather radar. Although he is an amazing detection system, the problem is that he has NO off button! NOT what you need at 3am. (Sigh)...what can ya do...
My wife, Sandy, has been helping build off and on. One of her joys is road cycling and has actually motovated me to ride with her on 15+ mile circuits. Now, keep in mind that I have a mountain bike, not a road bike...so I get double the workout....(pant, pant). I'm used to short haul dirt trails, not miles and miles of road, but I am adapting. We rode in a 25 mile road race sometime last June '01... I survived but that last hill was a killer! In exchange, she's been going to renaissance faires with me from time to time. We had a great time and look forward to taking our characters back to Scarborough and the Texas Renaissance Festival in Houston.
For those of you that didn't catch that....I DID say wife! Yep, Sandy and I got married in April 2003! For the honeymoon, we took a WindJammer (yep, that's our ship) cruise through the US and British Virgin Islands. Man, it was 3-times what I was expecting and I can not give WindJammer Cruises a higher recommendation - they are the best! I could never go back to a regular 'floating city' type cruise again. On top of sailing a 4-masted tall-ship in one of the most beautiful prts of the world, we went day/night snorkeling, scuba diving, nature hiking, island touring, and we even went swimming with dolphins! At one point, we were literally dolphin toys - as two dolphins balanced us on their noses and pushed us forward and out of the water, Superman style, for about 60ft. A once in a life-time experience and we have it on video too! I'll post some pics soon. Anyway, we would love to hear from you all! For those wondering, her private email address is: Sandy@berkut13.com We're so very happy!
Needless to say, preparing for the wedding took many weeks away from the Berkut, but it all paid off when the wedding went off without a hitch. Now that we have that behind us, Sandy and I have agreed that the Berkut is the next project to complete. As of May 10th, the engine is ready to ship, so it looks like we'll be kicking things into high-gear. We are shooting for an August 2004 first fly date.
More to come in the following months....