On June 12, 2019 Sportsman kit #7146 became N816J—airworthy according to my DAR!
On September 19, 2019 N816J “slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings” under the capable and steady hand of fellow Sportsman builder Dennis Vanatta.
With focus on finishing, I sold my Citabria three years ago and stopped flying. Big mistake. I got so out of practice my “transition training” told me that I had no business performing the first flight. Pattern work (dual received) in a C172 and a Citabria helped a lot. Dennis was brave enough to fly it out of my home field—a grass strip about a quarter mile long, rising terrain in his face—with ease and grace. We marked out 400 ft from the runway end as a go/no go point. The plane was lifting at the marker and Dennis was airborne 20 feet past. This bird climbed like a homesick angel without a spit, sputter or hiccup! After a little better than an hour (his left leg started to cramp from an out of trim rudder) he headed to KSUW, my hometown field about 7 miles to the north. After a post flight inspection and tweaking the exhaust hangers, I took off with Dennis in the right seat for a 45 minute flight. With all the emotion and excitement of the day I performed miserably on approach and my QP (Dennis) finished the landing and we put the plane away.
Since then I tended to a minor oil leak and rehung the exhaust. Last Thursday, the 26th, Dan Dudley flew up and we put 2-1/2 hours on it at 75-80% power, watching the cylinder head temps drop on this brand new Lycoming IO-360 engine driving a 3 blade MT prop. I was amazed how smooth this plane flies, even though it’s only got 4 cylinders. I’m going to really like this airplane!! We shot a couple of landings, most of which I would probably have survived if it was just me in there; Thanks Dan. We’ll fly again at least one more time soon to better seat the rings, get me used to the plane, work on my approach and, most importantly, the last two feet.
This all goes to show that even after nearly 14 years, you too can actually finish and fly your project, don’t give up!
—Jim Nelson, Wisconsin