Project Updates: Fall 1996 thru December 2004
Dark cloud? What dark cloud? I stand defiant!

A pic of the plane in all its glory (not) - back in 1997
..and now it is officially an AIRPLANE!!

SPECIAL NOTE: Several of you have asked that I put this page back on the web site for others to read. This is the original "update" page where I would write about the milestones completed and set-backs realized...the good and the bad. For those of you thinking about building an airplane - you might find this page both inspiring and disturbing, but it is the truth of what I went through to complete the project. Showcased here are both the joy and pain of building and the real reasons why this accomplishment means so much to me. Enjoy...but you have been warned.

This is the BERKUT Prototype #0001 during a visit to my hangar in 1993 - where it all began.
From left: Tim Cook, Richard Riley, James Redmon, and Dave Ronneberg

Some time in Late Fall 1996:

Well, it's been awhile since I have updated my page...sorry to all!! I seem to have less and less time to dedicate to the page. A lot has happened since I last updated the page - let me sum up:

As most of you know, Experimental Aviation Inc. (the company producing the Berkut) was forced to file for bankruptcy back in the summer of 1996. This was to facilitate the break-up of the principals of the original business. In my opinion, it was a step in the right direction - the ex-partner was being much less than fair in the break-up and was hurting EAI (and in turn - ME!!!) just for spite.

Anyway...with the assets of EAI frozen in time - it was impossible to meet the demands of the current customers and the production of Berkut parts dwindled. I forced myself into BIG-TIME debt to quickly secure all the remaining, Berkut-specific parts I needed. I succeeded in this endeavor...only one problem - the instructions.

Seems that the Kit 'C' instruction videos, plans, etc. had not been completed at the time that the bankruptcy took place. So, here I was, with all the parts that I needed (excluding that which I could get off-the-shelf) to complete the Berkut....but I ran out of knowledge, instructions, and money. I was a BIG way. :-(

Not being one to give up without a fight, I did the only thing I could do...fall back, re-group and move forward. I continued construction until I literally had nothing else I could do. Some of you remember that I had acquired a 0-time, Lycoming O-360-A2A for the Berkut. It was destined to rot in a hangar, and I could not let an engine like that go unused - so, I sold it. (sigh)

Ok, I think I hit my lowest point in several years at this time, but all is not lost - there is ALWAYS a way!! (Remember that statement?)

Sometime in Winter 1996:

I took some Stock Market courses and was able to take the money from the engine and more than doubled it in less than a year. This allowed me to move closer to my day job AND continue to save for the Berkut. I put as much of the plane together for one last photo shoot (front view)....before moth-balling it for God only knows how long. Little did I know how correct that statement was going to be.

Those of you who are interested in learning more about the stock market and "How I did it", I HIGHLY recommend looking into these courses: Wade Cook

Summer 1997:

Today, Dave Ronneberg, Richard Riley, and the crew are back in action with a totally new company - Renaissance Composites, Inc. There are now a total of 4 or 5 Berkuts flying now and the plans, videos and instructions for finishing Kit 'C' are progressing nicely. I have continued to invest and save and I desperately hope that I can continue the construction of the Berkut in the spring of 1998. In the mean-time, I have 'pickled the Berkut', for the duration. I have dust covers over everything, the wings in the loft and have secured the entire hangar for as long as it takes. I PROMISE you...I will return!! You all have my word!

August 27, 1997:

I just said "good-bye" to the company to whom I have given over 5 years of my life! PDX has been a good company until this last year or so, and it was time for me to move on with my career. It was a very emotional and trying experience sit back and watch the new management and the minority in power at PDX destroy the very thing that I loved for so many years. Best of luck to you PDX, but I know that my path lies apart from yours. Unemployment is a daunting thing....but again, there is ALWAYS a way!

September 4, 1997

Well...things have changed just a bit. I've jumped careers (not too much) but I've found what I have been missing for so long - a sense of being needed, fair leadership (me) and the reward for hard-work. I can hardly contain myself! The new startup company "The Technology Group" is my new avenue to my dream of a Berkut. This will move me farther away from the project (75 miles)...but with a more flexible schedule, I may be able to work more solidly on the plane. The future is only what you make of it....RIGHT? TTG is a computer hardware reseller/integration company that specializes in the Retail Pharmacy and Hospitality point of sale industry. Operationally, I am Sales Manager of Pharmacy Systems and am basically responsible for that entire arm of the business. But, really I do MUCH more than that. I get to work with the same people I did before (with a few welcome exceptions) and the company is doing well. Hopefully, things will go well enough to get back to the Berkut in short order.

January 18, 1998

It's a new year and I can hardly believe the time has gone by so fast. I'm now in Dallas, but the plane is still 80 miles away. The new plan is to move the plane up here so that I can work on it easily during the week. One little trick...hangar rent up here is WAY too much for me to do it at the airport. I'll be looking for an alternative in the next several weeks because I want to get back on the project this spring. If anyone knows of a place I can build up here in the North Dallas/Addison area - please get in touch with me ASAP! I have to pull in a little luck at this point...and with that, I'll make it happen.

July 4th, 1998 - I'm BACK!!!

Well, it has been about a year since I put the Berkut up on "blocks" and halted work. I have spent the last several months looking for a suitable place to work up here in Dallas. Last month, I made some new EZ friends (Steve and Don - who have wonderful 320 EZ's) and they were nice enough to lead me to my new hangar mate - Dale. So, we 'loaded up the truck' and moved to...well, Dallas. I now share a 'T-hangar' with a beautiful RV-6A. There is not a whole lot of room, but it will do for now.

Now, I am happy to report that I have relocated the 'fuselage-half' of the project to the Addison (North Dallas) airport. I work at TTG about 2 blocks from the hangar and live about 3 miles away. Needless to say, I am much happier to be back in the swing of things and working on the Berkut on a regular basis. I'll soon be posting the first building section since stopping work over a year ago. I'll be spending alot of time on internal systems like fuel, control systems and wiring. The bad part is that the weather in Texas right now is HOT...I mean HOT. It is at least 102 degrees (108 in the hangar) during the day - too hot to work on ANYTHING. Hopfully I'll get some good temps this fall. Next stop, canopy latch installations - Look out, here I come....again!

By the way, we threw a hell of a hangar party for the 4th!!! The Addison fireworks display was right in front of us and we had about 80-100 people show up. With all the other parties going on, there were about 400 people running about. It was a riot!!! Wish you all could have been there - maybe next year you can make it!!!

Jan 31st, 1999 - Well, that fizzled. I'll try again!

There is a universal problem that seems to have me perplexed - It's that good old Time vs Money thing! I was able to work on the plane a little bit in the last few months but not enough to really report. I've been SOOOO busy with my new job that I have not had the free time I once enjoyed. I have re-affirmed the commitment to regain the building stride I had a couple years ago and get the plane in the air in 2000!!!! I am now negotiating a better hangar deal for more space (wings and all will fit this time) and hopfully I will get a little more time this spring to build. Anyway, there are some pictures to post and I will be updating the page in the coming weekends. Don't give up on me just yet, I have not given up on the plane!

I have also been thinking about buying a basic Long-EZ to learn from and to fly while building the Berkut. I'd sell it once the Berkut gets ready to fly. If anyone knows of a nice one for sale or has any comments - please feel free to email me. I'd love to hear from you!

Sep 10th, 1999 - A new plan.

OK,'s the deal: I bought a House. I really bought it to make a home for the Berkut project, I just live there as a bonus. Actually, I am saving money each month since now I am paying less per month than I did paying rent on an apartment and (corner of) a hangar. As you can see, I set up a 'nice little shop.' I think this will work - I have lots of light, '60-gal air compressor & tools, table/work space', and plenty of electricity. It is now air-conditioned/heated so I can work 365 days a year! Besides, now I have to walk right by the plane twice a day - no more "out-of-sight/out-of-mind"!!

On a lighter note, I have added a new K9 companion in my life - 'Radar'. Now, if I could just teach him how to sand!

May 4th, 2000 - A new millinium and yet a another plan...

Wow! Where to start? Well, remember that company (TTG) you have read about above - it is no more, and so is my job. One thing is certain, I have a whole new respect for those "Bank of the Northern Hemisphere" commercials! ...But that is another story. Someday, I'll own my own business again...but for now I'll look for something more "normal".

So, now while I examine my options and look for a new job, I'll have plenty of time to work on the plane - one problem...NO MONEY! Some times it just doesn't do any good to live the dream. I'll concentrate on the labor intensive portions of the fuselage, that way costs will be a minimum. Any work completed is more than no work completed. So, check in with that web-cam, you might actually see me hard at work...on the plane that is.

September 9th, 2000 - Back to work...

Well, I didn't get much time off to work on the plane at all. Something about paying the bills and the like... As for right now, I have found myself fighting for the very same business I had once before at TTG. Funny how the world works, I just hope I can hang on long enough to get it! I've been done more research on the next several steps on the Berkut project. The other builders are catching up to me and soon we all will be helping each other get these birds in the air! I'm working on small things right now...I hope to get to the larger parts soon. I have been given the updated text plans for the rest of Kit 'C' and will be making progress again - Yeah!

Perhaps fate will smile on me and I'll soon have the resources to finish the project. I have not given up - it will fly someday.

April 13th, 2001 - Stability at last!

It's Friday the 13th, almost exactly 8 years after starting the Berkut project. So many things are different now from when I first started the project. I can remember the Berkut promotional video, " just 2 to 3 short years, this amazing aircraft can be yours." - and back then I would have laughed at the thought that the project would go on for more than 5 years. Well, it has done that and then some. But, today, I am happy to report that I have finally found some stability in my life. I now have a wonderful job with large technology company as a Technical Consultant in their Web Hosting division. With a steady paycheck and a regular schedule, I can now get back to doing what I have been putting off for far too long - finishing the Berkut! Wish me luck and help keep me on the path! More updates to come...keep checking in - and THANK YOU ALL for your continued support!

Oh, by the way...I am happy to report that I am now hosting this site and email from home. Seems as the new job has forced me to put some knowledge into practice. Want to know more about my nifty new server? Click here and take a look. Sexy little thing, huh? makes one hell of a night-light. Hehehe!

December 1st, 2001 - Did I say stability? Crap!

Well, as most of you already know, Berkut Engineering is not longer producing the Berkut kitplane (details on I'll still be supported by the design principles, but it did necessitate me going out and purchasing all the necessary Berkut-specific parts I need from this point on. I'm happy to say that I have it ALL least as far as I know. The advanced sections of the plans, although helpful and well done by the author, are not totally complete and are missing several details of the latter steps. So us Berkut brothern must stick together and help each other to get into the air! I have no doubt we ALL will make it someday. I'm sorry that many of my visitors will not have the opportunity to build one for yourself. Perhaps someday the dream that was Berkut will live again in some form. A hearty THANKS to Dave, Vicki and crew for holding out as long as they did, and continuing to provide builder assistance. Godspeed on your next adventures!

Feburary 1st, 2002 - So far, so good!

I am happy to report that I finally have back what I lost 5 years ago - MOMENTUM! I've been working on an almost daily basis now and have made wonderful progress. That first flight date may actually become a reality! Keep checking in, I need all the support I can get! Thanks!

Feburary 14th, 2002 - Valentine's Day!

Another life changing event to report: Sandy, my girlfriend for over a year now, is now my Fiancée! Yep, that's right...we're getting married! We have not set a date as we are still basking in our 'engagedness' but figure it will be sometime in Spring 2003 (just before the plane is due to fly). We are both thrilled and would love to hear from you all! Click here for more details

Oh yeah, one other thing....someone please tell me where in the Berkut plans it calls for a doggie door!?! I guess Radar slipped it in there when I was not looking.

Better pictures and more info to follow....

August 27th, 2002 - A new beginning...

WOW! The last few months have flown by...and MANY new things to report. Sandy and I bought a bigger and nicer house in the burbs of North Dallas. We love it! We are moved and just about settled in, and I am back to working on the Berkut. This time, I have a beautiful 3-car, climate controlled garage to work in! I know, I promised pictures...I will post some shortly. Sandy is busy making wedding plans and I am using the time to catch up with some of the other builders. expect to see major progress in the next several months. However, I will be turning back the First Flight Clock at least a year since I'll be buying a wedding rather than an engine early next year. ...what's another year, right? ...I said: right?

Keep tuning into the web cam - it's all setup and I'm working. (sigh)

December 31st, 2002 - Was that a whole year?

I'm sitting at the cusp of a new year and I have alot of good things to report! First, as most of you you will have noticed, I have made substancial progress on the plane this year - really more progress than the last 5 years put together! However, I have not made as much progress as I originally intended. I've been spending more time on other pursuits than planned. Also, with the wedding approaching rapidly, things are getting busier on that front. All is good though! In case you had not heard, I moved out of the hangar in the old home town and moved all the Berkut parts up here to the garage/workshop. I'm on a waiting list for a hangar at a local airport and move the plane there for first flight. I have also ordered the ENGINE!! A fully decked out 200hp Lycoming IO-360 from Aero Sport Power - the prop is next on the list to order. I also joined a flying club and now have easy access to several aircraft to keep my flying skills sharpened. Things are good, and as long as my job in the technology sector holds out, I think we are on track for first flight in 2004. Happy New Year to you all!

May 26th, 2003 - Married and still building!

This update finds me a very happy man. Sandy and I have been married for a month, we are back to building again after the short distraction of a wedding (grin), it's Memorial Day and I'm not at work on a Monday, and things are good. I hope things stay this good for quite a while longer! The engine should be shipping in a week or so, and I'm trying to get the cowls, firewall, and attachments ready for its arrival. Keep checking in, I'll be in the workshop if you need me.

July 3rd, 2003 - The day has arrived - Engine #2 is here!

Today, I picked up the engine from the freight depot today. YEAH! The beautifully manufactured IO-360-B2B 200-HP engine was built by Aero Sport Power from mostly XP-360 parts - new crank, 9.25:1 pistons, Millennium cylinders, rods, cam, and gears. Finished in a gloss black with gold accents (Cad bolts and Alodine parts) - it's a beautiful thing! I will be adding the engine section into the site shortly. And for those keeping track of the project's numerology may have noticed yet another occurrence of the number '13'. (The date I received the engine - 07/03/03...add them up. Weird, huh!?!) So, here is a litte sneak peek.

January 4th, 2004 - No entries here...and that is a GOOD thing!

Well, it's a new year and I look back at 2003 and think - Wow! 2003 was a great year - settled into a great house, got married, went on a wonderful honeymoon, made monumental progress on the Berkut, and am still employed after the company has gone through major lay-offs (knocking on wood as I type), and Sandy's support of the project is still 100%! Yep, a great year. Now, looking forward, I see 2004 as "the year of flight". At the moment, I am ahead of schedule and will likely be doing engine test in a month or so, and moving out to the airport by mid-spring. Time will tell if I can stick to that schedule...but it look promising."WE" will make it...of this I have no doubt. OK..I'm ending this entry right here - and getting back to building.

April 1st, 2004 - Today, the project is officially 11 years old!

It is with mixed emotions I face this day. It was 11 years ago today that I wrote that first check and became the proud owner of Berkut Kit #013. I shake my head every time I look back at the last decade+ and remember that Berkut promo video line - " 2 to 3 short years, you too can enjoy this fabulous aircraft." Heh, although those "years" were none to short, they sure have been fun and rewarding. I am a different person than I was way back then and much has changed in my life, but this one thing remained constant - the dream. At the same time, I look back at this last weekend's engine run, and smile...really smile! That smile quickly turns to excitement as I think of the fun that is yet to come. I didn't work on the plane tonight, I just sat there looking things over and remembering all the good times I've had just getting to this point. Hangar parties, friendly visits, congratulatory and "stick with it" emails, the love and support of family and friends...and most of all, the self satisfaction that through the hard times - I have never given up. I've spent almost a full third of my life on this project, and now the light is finally visible at the end of that VERY long tunnel. Ha! I just realized I put the deposit down on the KTKI hangar today...and on the anniversary day no less. I'm confident I'll make the posted first fly date, perhaps with time to spare. So, keep checking in from time to time to check my progress...but most of all, take it from me...there is no greater reward that realizing your own dreams! Don't EVER give up on them! Don't ever give up on you!

July 31st, 2004 - What do N-numbers, paperwork and 36 have in common?

It's shortly after midnight, and it is just now the last day of July...and I'm about to be 36 tomorrow. It's not the birthday that has me nostalgic, it's what happened to me last weekend and again today. I wrote briefly about it in one of the project sections, but it had a deeper effect that I'll share here. I had the "project" fully assembled in the driveway to do the aileron rigging, Scott had just pressed on the registration numbers on the winglet. I was working at the drill press and had just finished one of the aileron push rods, turned around, and saw THIS. I stopped, frozen as this wave of emotion ran through me...after all these years of work and sacrifice....I have a "airplane" in the driveway!! To make it official, I submitted the paperwork to the FAA this afternoon - requesting the airworthiness inspection. It's the most bizarre feeling...I can only imagine it is what the mountain climbers feel just as they have the summit in sight. I can only say it is amazing, completely worth all the work and only a shadow of what lies ahead when it is airborne. Hang on folks, it just gets better from here!

August 13th, 2004 - N97TX...hold short of the finish line, await further insructions. (sigh)

Well, it's August 13th. and I made it....sort of!! OK, I did miss the first flight date by a little bit...but she did officially become an airplane on that day! WHOOHOO! Only one bummer to report - a Microair T2000 transponder that failed the calibration testing. Were are still not sure about what is specifically wrong with the unit, but it is on it's way back to Australia to figure it out. Now, because I'm just barely under the 30nm DFW Class B ring, I have to have a functioning transponder to T.O./land. I know...I know...I can ask for special ATC permission, but being first flights and NOT being on someone's radar screen the whole time does NOT make me comfortable! So, she's grounded until that transponder comes back and is working properly. (sigh) It's frustrating to be THIS close to the finish line and not allowed to cross it. But then again...after 11.5 years, what's a few more days. First flights immanent - keep checking in!!

(Insert long dramatic pause while I flew, tested, tweaked, and tested again...this thing called..."Berkut")

December 31st, 2004 - Pass the finish line at 225kts., take a bow, and go enjoy the spoils!,

As I'm sure you have read in the other sections...the project is complete, the Berkut is now a "real" airplane, and Sandy and I have moved into the "Enjoy" phase of the project. This will be the last entry here on this particular "update" page...and I leave it on a good note. I look back on this whole 11 and a half year journey in ashtonishment myself...sometimes I still can't believe that I actually did it! I've been told by hundreds of web viewers that I have touched them, helped them and even inspired them in some way to realize their own dreams or to NEVER GIVE UP. I'm glad I could help, but I never really set out to proove anything to anyone...but I do believe there is one truth in all this to share - "THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY"!! Remember that!

Thank you all and God bless you. Now, let's go fly!

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