Being single, I thought building a plane would be a good way to keep me out of trouble, so I ordered the first sub-kit for what would eventually become N941WR, my Vans RV-9. Shortly after writing that check some friends introduced me to Nora.
Over the next year, the first kit was completed and the second kit arrived and was well underway when I proposed to Nora after 14 months of dating. When I did propose, the roses and ring were hidden behind a wing tank. (She would never look there!)
With the airplane construction taking up much of my time during our courtship, Nora learned how to use Clecoes, match drill, deburr, dimple, shoot and buck rivets. The excitement in her eyes was evident as she learned each new skill. To say the project was a big part of our life together would be an understatement.
In the end, I estimate that Nora either shot or bucked a third of the rivets in the plane. She watched as I tore into the engine and put it back together again. She was there through the entire construction process and enjoyed the completion of each task and agonized over each mistake.
With that kind of support, there was never any doubt that the plane would be completed, some day.
The week prior to our wedding found me sending off a check for the fuselage kit. My thinking was this simple: With that much aluminum in the basement, I just had to finish. At some point, I took a break and didn’t work on the project. Nora, feeling my burnout, didn’t say a thing until two months had passed, when she encouraged me to resume work on the plane.
The day came after four years and two months of building. With the pink slip in hand, actually it was in the clear pocket stuck to the cabin wall, N941WR was ready for the first flight. Nora was there, along with my flight and technical counselor, and two other builders/fliers who were instrumental in completing the project. The first flight went as planned and was the precursor to the 40-hour Phase I test period.
Blessed with good weather and a reliable airplane, the testing was completed in 40.6 hours spread over a month. With the logbooks signed, it was time to take Nora for a ride.
That first ride lasted 15 minutes. Nora, who was new to GA flying, was a bit apprehensive but enjoyed the flight just the same.
The next weekend was our second wedding anniversary, and I had promised her that I would fly her to the beach for lunch. Saturday dawned clear and bright, so she knew there was no getting out of the flight now. After a thorough preflight, followed by loading up our beach supplies, we boarded, started up, taxied out and departed for Myrtle Beach.
After 15 minutes of conversation and sightseeing, the headsets became very quiet. To me, this is an indication that the passenger is about to need the services of a little white bag, the kind with the twist ties glued to the top. This wasn’t going to be such a good anniversary after all, and you might imagine a regret or two after spending so much time building to see her uncomfortable in the air.
But as I looked over, there was Nora, sound asleep!
After more than four years of construction and untold dollars, how could she sleep on her first trip in our new airplane? Did she not know her pilot was the same guy who drilled into his finger? Did she not know that this plane was built in the basement by her husband? Did she not know it was her husband who last had his hands on the inside of the engine that was pulling us along?
How could she sleep?
Simple. She was comfortable, relaxed. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would become her MO: I fly, she sleeps. We have flown many hours together since that first trip, and its always the same. I take this to be the finest compliment of my building and piloting skills.
Oh, the anniversary on the beach was enjoyable, and Nora was thrilled to find that the beach was now less than an hour away. You don’t get a much better payoff than that.