Trying On a Classic

Paul Dye tries the BD5J on for size with Don Wall standing by.

I am of an age such that the BD-5J figured large in my imagination as I was learning to build and fly airplanes. While many potential builders lost their deposit money because kits for the piston airplane were never fully developed or delivered, the airframe seemed to be a natural fit for a little jet. Unfortunately, this was financially out of reach for those dreamers who believed in the piston-powered version as their own personal flying machine – but the design has stayed around for all of the intervening decades, and the dream has never fully died.

Don Wall, of Nebraska, has been bringing his beautifully built BD-5J to Airventure for many years, displaying it along with the kits of the Bede Corporation as a tribute to the creative mind of Jim Bede. The airplane was finished and flew only once, but it is a good example of the original design. I was granted a chance to try on the cockpit today, and the memories of those early dreams, and an extensive article written by Richard Bach back in the 1970’s or 80’s came flooding to mind. The little cocoon is smaller than the cockpit of the Subsonex that I was privileged to fly earlier this year, but comfortable in the way that a truly personal single seat airplane can be. Fitted with steam gauges of an earlier era, it is still maintained with obvious passion by Wall, and I appreciated the chance for a fit check.

Maybe some day, we’ll get a chance to fly this other little jet as well, since support is still available from BD-Micro of Siletz, Oregon. But, it is nice to know that even if that doesn’t happen Wall’s airplane will continue to appear at AirVenture to remind us all of the early days of the growing kit industry – and the dream that gave so many of us a start down the path of experimental aviation.

BD-5J Cockpit
BD-5J Cockpit
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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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