TOP: Wouldn’t you love to see the Parkway toll taker’s face as he
looks for “airplane” on his list of tolls? ABOVE: Vlad at Martha’s
Vineyard: he and his RV have traveled all over the East Coast
from New Jersey, including Florida and the Bahamas.
and bought the best air compressor they
had—30-gallon, oiled Husky Pro. Two boxes
with tail kit arrived by FedEx in one week.
Life was so good!”
And so began The Project and not only
learning to build airplanes but also learning
to cope with his building environment.
“Early challenge was building space and
noise from rivet gun. Next door guy asked,
‘What is that ricketing?’ I told him, ‘I am
building an airplane.’ He shrugged and never
complained again. I am single and nobody
intervened with my hobby.
“The learning curve was steep. In spite of
myself being relatively handy, I never did
any riveting, and it took a while to make a
perfect shop head. After a while there were
little to no problems.
“The main challenge was absence of any
help. There are many people in New York,
but few are interested in subjects other than
Wall Street. Dozen people promised to come
help. Guess how many showed up? None!”
He remembers, “The most difficult part
was riveting in areas impossible to access
alone. At first I developed some riveting jigs,
long bent bucking bars, etc. Then, after sev-
eral smileys, I abandoned the idea and keep
looking for someone to help. A Korean vet,
Edward Fetchko, came to the shop interested,
and I showed him how to operate rivet gun.
He was a private pilot, and he learned fast.
Although he was in his late 70s and carried an
oxygen bottle with him, he did very well.
We’d set a couple of rivets and call it a day
and agree to continue tomorrow.”
It didn’t take long to outgrow his “studio
workshop,” but finances were still an issue.
However, by this time Vlad not only was
much more knowledgeable about airplane
building, but also had a better handle on
how to use space. So, he started looking
around for something big enough in which
to do the wings and fuselage. He says, “I
negotiated a place the size of a one-car
garage in Jersey City, just across the river, to
finish the airplane. I renovated the place,
and it was my relax-and-escape-from-work
place for a couple of years.”
Every project of any kind, and airplane
projects in particular, have at least one skill
that the builders remember as being harder
than others to master. For some it is riveting,
others welding, still others paint. But, there’s
always something that stands out as being par-
ticularly difficult. “Wiring was the most
difficult for me. I read a lot about it and still
had questions. I bought lots of EAA books and
watched training videos. Very helpful. Then,
after long deliberation, I ordered radio/tran-
sponder harness from a reputable vendor, and
they built it for me. I would be operating
within a very busy airspace and would not risk
doing the harness myself. The rest of the gauge
connections I completed myself.”
When it came time to assemble the air-
plane, Vlad had to move out of his cozy little
shop into a hangar on Princeton Airport in
Princeton/Rocky Hill, New Jersey. And then
he was ready to fly it. It should be noted that
the location in southern New Jersey meant
well more than a two-hour round trip each
time he worked on his airplane at the air-
port. “Persistent” fits here, too.
Budd Davisson is an aeronautical engineer, has flown
more than 300 different types, and has published four
books and more than 4,000 articles. He is editor-in-chief of
Flight Journal magazine and a flight instructor primarily in
Pitts/tailwheel aircraft. Visit him on www.AirBum.com.