Well, after 7 years and 3 weeks the day finally arrived to get the plane into the air! I got to the airport at 6am this morning to do my preflight inspection and weight and balance. My wife Susan and my three girls showed up at about 6:45 just in time to help me wipe off some accumulated dust from a nice big storm that blew through Chandler last night. The remnants of the storm left the skies partly cloudy and the weather was cool (for Arizona) at about 75 degrees. Perfect for a morning flight! Susan and I prayed together for a good and safe flight and then the girls gave me big hugs and told me they were all excited to see me fly. Emotionally, that was the hardest part of the whole experience but it gave me a big boost of confidence too!
I climbed in and went through the flight checklist then started the engine. It came to life quickly and sounded great. All my engine gauges were in the green and so I called Ground Control for taxi clearance. There was light traffic in the pattern already and I was given clearance to runway 4 Left. I did my engine run-up and everything continued to look great. I called the Tower and told them I was ready to depart for the airplane's first flight. They cleared me to take off and I taxied onto the runway. One final check of all the engine instruments and I pushed the throttle forward. At 80 mph I pulled the stick back and at 85 mph the airplane took to the air. The familiarization flights I took with Gene Davis were a great help as I knew exactly what to expect. I had no tendency to over control the plane and it climbed out quickly to pattern altitude. I called the tower and requested an approach in the pattern. They gave me clearance to runway 4 Right (all to myself) and I practiced an approach. Everything was working great so I called and asked to depart the pattern to the south practice area. I flew south of Chandler about 20 miles to the Indian reservation where my parents have been missionaries for 20+ years. I stayed at 3000 feet for most of the flight, just enjoying the feeling and getting some sense for how the plane handled. She has a tendency to roll to the left which will be corrected easily. Other than that the plane performed flawlessly. I circled the church on the reservation and headed back to Chandler. Since my approach was from the south, I was cleared to enter the base leg of the pattern for Runway 4 Left. I slowed the plane down to 90 mph on final, deployed the speed brake and made a somewhat less than stellar landing. After taxiing back to the hangar and shutting everything down I had logged 35 minutes on the engine.
I want to thank a number of people who have been very supportive and helpful throughout these past 7 years. First of all my wife and kids who have been the most sacrificial of all by allowing me to spend countless hours "working on the plane". Thanks to Nat Puffer for designing the Cozy and for the builder support. Thanks to Gene Davis for the familiarization flights in his beautiful Cozy. And thanks to everyone who continued to encourage me to complete this project. It has been a dream come true and the feeling is something that I cannot express. Simply Awesome!!
On February 24, 2003 I completed my last flight required in phase I testing and accumulated 40.2 hours on the plane. I then did a complete annual inspection of the plane and called the DAR to make a final inspection. Phillip Beck (DAR) came out to the hangar on Thursday, the 27th and checked my logs for the appropriate entries and then handed me my Airworthiness certificate and Phase II flight restrictions. Basically, because this is an experimental plane, the restrictions just state that if I make any major changes to the plane I must return to my phase I limitations for 5 hours of test flying. Other than that, I am now free to fly anywhere! What a relief! I'm so tired of flying the route between Chandler, Coolidge and Gila Bend that I've been restricted to for the past 6 months. To celebrate, my wife and I flew to Falcon Field on Friday March 7 for lunch at Anzio's Landing, a great little Italian restaurant right on the field. We then headed east to enjoy the scenery south of the Superstition Mountains. This was my first passenger flight and only the second flight my wife has ever been on with me. Later that week I took my three daughters for a short ride as well as my father-in-law. All enjoyed the flights and the girls were really excited about finally being able to fly in "daddy's airplane".
I've fabricated wheel pants and will be testing them out shortly. Just doing some final finish work on them before final assembly to the plane. I've started painting the plane, first by doing the canard, then the wings. My hangar mate is an excellent painter and is showing me the ropes before he heads back to Nebraska for the summer. I'll save the fuselage for last. Lastly, the upholstery will be installed sometime this summer along with a few minor cosmetic enhancements along the way.
Below are some aerial photos my wife took of me a week before Christmas. She was riding in my hangar mate's Velocity and took these pictures while we flew formation over the desert near Casa Grande. Sorry for the small images and brightness of the photos...