In 1965, after a four-month tour in Vietnam as his squadron’s
maintenance officer, Arnold was assigned to the Air Force
Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in
Ohio to earn his master’s degree. He then volunteered to return to
the war. Over the next eight and a half months, he added 300
more F- 100 missions to the 25 he flew during his first tour, amass-
ing a total of 427 combat hours. “It all went pretty smoothly,”
Arnold said. “I only got two holes in the airplane and none in me.”
Even while Arnold was being shot at over the rice paddies of
Vietnam, the E- 1 was never far from his thoughts. “I had all my
stress analysis notes from college, and even in Vietnam, I played
with them when I had a bit of time on my hands,” he recalled.
After a final five years of stateside Air Force service, Arnold
sought jobs with Cessna and Beech, but ended up signing on
with Boeing. His work there didn’t involve general aviation, but
he found the Seattle area convivial to his avocational interests.
“I discovered surplus stores that had all kinds of good mate-
rials for building sport airplanes, so the design process really got
going again,” Arnold said. “I’d say, ‘Okay, I need an extrusion
with these properties,’ and I’d run down to the surplus store to
see what they had. They wouldn’t have exactly what I had in
mind, but they’d have something pretty close, something that
could be modified to do what I wanted it to do. So I’d go home
and redesign the part. It was an iterative process.”
While working on the 767 by day and the E- 1 by night,
Arnold kept his A&P hand in practice by restoring a basket-
case J- 3. He kept his piloting skills sharp in the B35 Bonanza
that he still flies today.
Finally, in 1995, Arnold began cutting aluminum for the E- 1.
Although a small airplane of conventional construction, it was no
quick-build project. Except for one fuselage bulkhead that Arnold
adapted from the remains of a BD- 5 kit, every rib and bulkhead in
the airplane was hand-formed over wooden blocks.
As the E- 1 began to take shape, some ideas that had made
sense on paper ran afoul of workshop realities. The landing
gear, for instance, was retractable in the original design but
turned out stiff-legged on the finished airplane.
“I found that retractable gear was easy to draw but not so
easy to build,” Arnold said. Analysis convinced him that the efficiency gains of folding gear were a poor exchange for the
increased weight and safety risk.
Another change that occurred during the build was in the
powerplant. While in the service Arnold dragged a Continental
C- 85 from post to post, intending someday to hang it on the E- 1.
Then he discovered the Australian-built Jabiru 2200, which was
not only 30 pounds lighter than the Continental but also narrow
enough to be fully cowled, even on the slim fuselage of the E- 1.
In 2002, the E- 1 finally left Arnold’s suburban garage for
final assembly in his hangar at Harvey Field (S43) in
Snohomish, Washington. First flight from Harvey’s 2,700-foot
runway came on July 7, 2005.
Arnold was immediately pleased with the E- 1’s flying characteristics. “Aileron forces are a little bit higher than I’d like, but
it’s very stable in pitch, and in yaw, it’s on rails. It would be a
very good gun platform!” he said.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAY TOLBERT AND COUR TESY OF ARNOLD EBNE TER