Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Dick's Dream" to take flight

Bob Hartwig begins installing landing gear on an ultralight aircraft being built by members of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 897 in memory of Dick Siedschlag, who died in August 2015. The airplane is being built in a hangar at Dodge County Airport, Juneau.

JUNEAU | Dick Siedschlag loved aviation and spent years introducing others to flying through the Young Eagles program of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 897.

Young Eagles gives young people the chance to take flights in the hope of growing their interest in aviation. It was just one way Siedschlag helped EAA Chapter 897.

He spent hours with his friends at the Dodge County Airport and on flights around the country, promoting and enjoying aviation. Now those friends are spending hours at the airport finishing an airplane he started building before his death on Aug. 3, 2015.

“He dreamed about this airplane a lot,” said Bob Hartwig on a recent Thursday morning, when a crew gathered to work on “Dick’s Dream.”

Roger Vavra and Dale Wahl talk about the next steps while working on an ultralight aircraft in a hangar at the Dodge County airport in Juneau on Jan. 14. The plane is being built in honor of Dick Siedschlag, a member of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 897 who died in August 2015.

Siedschlag’s determination in the face of a variety of health problems inspired the members of EAA Chapter 897 to finish the Fischer FP 202 ultralight.

“He was the toughest guy in the chapter,” Hartwig said. “He never gave up. He never stopped talking about tomorrow.”

Hartwig said Siedschlag was a man of strong faith and a cheerful disposition.

“He would do anything for a laugh,” said Chapter 897 newsletter editor Ron Romans.

The pair recalled a trip to Mexico with Siedschlag, who had very poor vision at the time. As a joke, there was a compass attached to the bill of his hat hanging between his eyes. He never removed it, not even under the questioning looks from customs officials.

It’s no surprise then, that the men finishing the plane rib each other and exchange aviation jokes while going over the technical details of the project.

“We aren’t the Boeing Company,” said Dale Wahl of Watertown as he hammered a bolt into place with the end of a screwdriver.

But most of those finishing the plane have built planes before.

“It’s like a classroom in here,” Wahl said.

Siedschlag bought the airplane kit from someone else, who had never really started on the project. That is not surprising, since according to EAA surveys 8 of 10 airplane kits are never finished.

It’s similar to a giant model airplane kit.

“You send in for a kit and you get a pile of wood and an engine and the plans,” Hartwig said.

A Fischer FP202 ultralight airplane rests on its roof inside a hanger at the Dodge County Airport, Juneau, where it is being built in memory of Dick Siedschlag a member of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 897 who died in August 2015.

It also resembles model airplane building in some of the techniques and tools used according to Roger Vavra. Wood, fabric, glue and paint are the bulk of the materials and tools include clamps, clothes pins, scissors, drills, screwdrivers and drills.

Siedschlag had the framework done before he donated it to Chapter 897. Romans described the intricate web of wood that makes up the wings as a “work of art.”

The plane will be powered by a 28 horsepower engine and will have a cruising speed of 55 mph. It will weigh less than 254 pounds to qualify as an ultralight. Someone in the group assembling the plane quipped that since it is an ultralight, “You don’t need a pilot’s license, just courage” to fly it.

The plan is to finish the plane in time for Chapter 897’s fly-in, drive-in breakfast on June 5. It will take a test flight or two and then it will be hung in the chapter hangar at Dodge County Airport, a testament to how Dick’s dream, and Dick himself, inspired others.

Wings for an ultralight aircraft being built by members of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 897 rest in a hangar at Dodge County Airport, Juneau, on Jan. 14.

EAA Chapter 897

EAA Chapter 897 is based at the Dodge County Airport in Juneau.

New members are always welcome. Members do not have to be pilots, they only need an interest in aviation.

To learn more, go to

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