Photos by Phil High
Ron (center) added some clever touches. He formed the curves of the windscreen’s frame by hand, designed a brass pitot tube to add
to the airplane’s antique look, and hid the wires to wingtip strobelights in fake brass fuel lines that run along a cabane strut.
With plans in hand, he started eating the elephant one
bite at a time. The first was the wings, which he started in
the fall of 2001. He did all the woodwork in his basement,
creating thousands of little parts that were put aside until
he was ready to build bigger parts. When he completed
the ribs, he started building wings. When the weather
warmed up, he put aside the woodwork and moved to the
garage to start welding the fuselage.
“I worked on all the metal stuff in the summer and
fall, usually to about December, then shut down that
and moved back to the basement into the wing-building
process,” Ron says. He went back and forth for five years,
Along the way, he got
considerable help from the
members of the Hatz online
builders group and from the
information package that accompanied the plans from
the Hatz Classic designer, Billy Dawson. In that case, one
picture was worth a thousand words, especially for him.
But more importantly, he got a lot of help from Ray. In
fact, he got more than help.
“The whole time I was building my plane, he never
once said, ‘Oh, don’t do it that way,’ he would just say,
‘Well, I might try this.’” Ron knew by the way Ray said
it that he should probably think about it. Ray provided
insight on how to angle the N-struts, how to check for the
right toe-in angle of the wheels, how to make the center
section plumb and fashion a bracket to build the cabanes,
and how to adjust flying wires. “I had some ideas, but he
had better ideas,” Ron says.
By the time Ron started to round the home stretch,
his mentor’s eyesight was beginning to fail, and soon
afterward, Ray quit serving as a technical counselor. Ron
was almost done, and he didn’t have the heart to find
Finally, when it came time to cover the airplane, he
made a first go with the horizontal stabilizer and took it
over to Ray, whose health was starting to fade. “You don’t
need me,” Ray said. “You’re doing fine.”
Ray assured him he’d love the
airplane, and have a good time
building it. Ron wondered aloud if
Ray . . . would be available to give
a little bit of assistance.
Indeed, he was doing fine—especially considering the
airplane was a true homebuilt. Ron had fabricated nearly
every part on the airplane, save for the nose bowl, the
wheelpants, the seats, and the fuel tank. He even built the
engine mount, and fashioned a paint booth with a bunch
of PVC pipes, fittings, plastic sheeting, and exhaust fans
in his garage to finish the airplane.
The colors in that scheme, including the orange pinstripe, was Margy’s idea—she’s the one with the artist’s