TILTI N G
business of having a fresh set of eyes—especially people who are
ones that you don’t want to have. The most critical, those ones who
always have a furrow between their eyebrows, that you don’t want in
your hangar because they’re going to find something that makes you
go back and do something over—those are the ones that you have to
somehow abide, and if you’re really smart, you’ll invite them. I’m not
that smart. They had to bowl their way in there and grab me by the
scruff of the neck.”
So guided, by early July 2009, he’d completed the airplane,
received his sign-off, and was preparing for his first flight. But, on
July 7—10 years to the day that he made his first rib—his dream came
to an abrupt halt.
Against his better judgment, he decided to do a couple of high-
speed taxi tests. “The first one went poorly and ended in a hockey
stop at the end of the runway,” he said. “I thought, Boy, I’d better do
one more before I take off .”
This time the airplane left the ground. With more than 300 hours
in his Citabria, he didn’t figure it was a big deal; he eased off the throt-
tle to bring it back down to the ground, just has he’d done many times,
he said. But the left main hit an obstruction just outside the runway
lights. “I was in the trees before I knew I was off the runway,” he said.
He was okay, but Rocinante wasn’t. “I had a four-wing airplane
with only two wings,” he said. “I stood next to it and apologized to
the airplane, because we had become a team, and one member of the
team really screwed up, and it was the other member of the team
that was hurt.”
What do you do now, he wondered.
He didn’t have time to answer. His wife, Sherry, said she supported
whatever decision he made—just as she patiently had throughout
the project—but those other builders weren’t apt to give him a
choice. “They were all pretty much the same: ‘If there’s any way we
can help, let us know,’” he said. “You don’t really ask for a lot of help,
but just knowing that they feel that way about it provides courage
for you to go forward again.”
Some pushed harder. At AirVenture, the Williams airport folks
invited him over for one of their daily lunches at Theater in the
Woods. Tom Blank asked what he needed to get him started again,
and when he said rib stock, a few days later, that’s what he had, bun-
dled in twine. “I want to get you back on your project,” Tom said.
“What do you do then?” Chuck said. “Say, ‘No, I don’t think I’m
going to do it—I think I’m going to sell the carcass’?”
So he got back to work, and by the end of February, after some
cold weeks in his hangar, Chuck was ready to cover—again. “I had a
commitment,” he said. “I had to fulfill that commitment.”
On May 31, 2010, the Hatz made its maiden flight.
The oil temperature was only a minor distraction. “It turned out I
just wasn’t getting enough draw through the engine cowling and
down through the opening at the bottom of the cowling,” Chuck
said. “I opened that up, and I also put a baffle on the front of that air
outlet.” It did take a bit of finagling to get it right, with incremental
cuts to that custom-fashioned cowling. “I inky-dinked around with
for, I bet you, two solid weeks,” Chuck said.
“Now it’s great.”
Thirteen years after first seeing Billy
Dawson’s Hatz Classic, Chuck tied down
one he’d built himself.