Real Homebuilder


Joe Engle

Do you recognize this Homebuilder? I ran into this old NASA coworker at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio this past week. Joe Engle (Maj Gen, USAF, Ret.) was in town to watch them roll one of “his” old airplanes into the brand new building at the museum (so new that we all had to wear helmets and safety vests because the building isn’t actually finished). The airplane being enshrined? The X-15 ship #2. Joe mentioned that of the three X-15’s built, this was the only one that he DIDN’T get to fly – it was under repair when he joined the program, and he flew ships #1 and #3.

But Joe didn’t just fly military and NASA birds – he was a homebuilder from way back. He once told about his Stits SA-5 Flut-R-Bug, the first airplane he built. Make no mistake – anyone that finished an airplane like that is a truly dedicated builder!

He of course went on to fly a large number of air and spacecraft – including the Space Shuttle in the early days of the program. He’s living proof that pilots all across the spectrum are interested in experimentals and homebuilt aviation. It’s great to see him still active, although he mentioned that his flying has slowed down quite a bit.

You just never know who you’ll run into in the world of experimental aviation.


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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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