HEwas 16 when he earned his glider certificate in a Schweizer 233 at the old Fremont glider strip. He earned his private pilot certificate at 17 and a commercial pilot certificate at 18.
“Absolutely, glider pilots make better all-around pilots; this helps
me especially in my test pilot and race pilot flights where engine failures can happen,” Dave said.
OUT ON HIS OWN
Dave moved to Salt Lake City in a second attempt to comply with his
parents’ request that he obtain a college degree, but the school routine held little interest. He quit school, financing his ski bum life by
working a variety of aviation jobs including flying cable inspection
patrols, pumping gas at an FBO, and towing gliders three days a
week. He was impressed someone was paying him to fly.
“When I first started flying, I set my goals on flying a Pitts, a P- 51
Mustang, and a Learjet. I later added flying for United Airlines, flying off an aircraft carrier, and doing the first flight of a prototype
airplane,” Dave said.
At 56 he has long checked off each one of those goals. He flew as
flight engineer on a Boeing 747 for United Airlines, but found that it
interfered with his fun flying and quit after a year and a half. He
piloted a Grumman Wildcat off the flight deck of the USS Carl
Vinson as part of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and
has flown first flights on more than 40 prototype airplanes to date.
Dave’s early flying misadventures include a back injury when the
Progress Aero Discovery he was testing got into a flat spin that he
had to ride to the ground. He’d let himself be
convinced that the ballistic parachute the
builder installed was sufficient, but it was
undersized. He’d been talked out of wearing
his own parachute. Never again, he said.
In 1975, when he was 21, he moved into a
trailer behind the hangar at the Vacaville
Gliderport. “I walked out of the trailer, took
15 steps, and I was at work,” Dave said.
Dave’s Lancair is the ninth
airplane he has built or
restored. This one is called
Martin’s Legacy, in honor
of his father. It serves as his
everyday workhorse and