they’re saying, ‘Hey, if it doesn’t overheat, can you give us a low
pass?’” Dave said. He always says no. His answer is always the same,
“Fifteen or 20 hours from now give them an air show.”
Because unforeseen delays are the norm prior to almost every
first flight, Dave doesn’t want anyone there except the owner. He
wants more than an hour of fuel aboard, but he does not want the
tanks full. There has to be enough fuel aboard to eliminate the risk of
unporting a fuel pickup during uncoordinated flight.
THE FIRST FLIGHT ROUTINE
His business unfolds one of three ways. Very few owners—Dave
remembered only one during the last four-year period—have no
interest in the EAA Flight Advisor program. They want the airplane
inspected and signed off as airworthy. Dave holds an FAA-issued
designated airworthiness representative rating and is qualified to
issue airworthiness certificates. These owners plan to do their own
The second scenario is an owner who wants the personalized
guidance that’s the core of the EAA’s Flight Advisor program. Dave
looks the airplane over, makes suggestions, issues the airworthiness
certificate, and helps the owner develop the flight-test program and
find a competent test pilot.
The last and most common scenario is when a builder wants
Dave to inspect and certificate the airplane as airworthy and do the
first flight. “When I do the first flight I want the airplane to be
Dave is one of two pilots (the other is Len Fox) developing the
Rocket Racer to be used as part of the Rocket Racing League.
opened up when I get there,” Dave said.
Experience has taught him to touch every
cotter pin installation and every safety wire
wrap before a first flight.
GETTING TO KNOW THE AIRPLANE
When it comes to flying a prototype for the
first time, Dave said, “First of all I have to
determine that it will fly. I’ve seen some
“I start out taxiing, then I go a little faster,
then I get it light on the gear, then lift off an
inch and set it back on the runway. It’s a very
slow process, and I just sneak up on it.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Wright Flyer or
a twin jet, I follow the same pattern of intro-
ducing slight changes, then a little more
speed,” he said.
Of the 40 prototype first flights Dave has
flown, there’s only about five anyone has
ever heard of. One example of this is the Star
Left: When the League is
up and racing, Dave will
compete as part of the Sante
Fe Rocket Racing Team.
Right: Dave demonstrated
the Yuneec e430 electric
airplane at EAA AirVenture
2009 and says he can see the
day when every flight school
will have an electric airplane
on the line.