Maybe it’s just me, but I am pretty sure that life moves in circles. You know, it’s that “what got old is new again” thing? The tapered shirts you no longer fit into are all the rage; long pointy collars that you have on all your shirts are no longer in; now we need short stubby rounded collars. It’s sometimes that feeling that you have been someplace before or that where you are is oh so familiar.
If anyone had told me that 30 years after my first plane ride off our local sod strip that the circles in life would plunk me down in a hangar with five airplanes and my own flight school on the very grass I had used for takeoff then; I would certainly not have believed that. If anyone would have told me that 60 years after my first airplane ride I would be taxiing around in an airplane I bought there on the very same earth where I took my first plane ride; I certainly would not have believed that. And if anyone had had vision enough to predict that I would be playing in that grass in a little two place tail dragger aircraft I would have believed they were off their trolley.
But it has happened again. Deja’ Vu all over again! Not only am I flying a small tail- dragger from the field I grew up on, It is from the same hangar where 20 years ago I kept an Apache I imported from Canada. This has got to be circles of life within circles of life! I should just face the bitter truth and move back to my old home town because it certainly appears that fate or whatever, sincerely wants me to fly from there.
On an Indian summer fall day I tarried near the old hometown hanger one afternoon and found the owner of a small two place tail dragger cleaning his hangar. The airplane was a kit plane and had obviously been sitting for quite some time. My brother Jimmy had mentioned to me that he met the owner on the ramp at the old home field washing the airplane and that the guy had said he was going to sell it. It was not a chance meeting.
We talked as pilots do of weather and hangars and travels and airplanes and in the body of the conversation I asked and received the asking price of the frail, neglected craft. I was struck dumb when the price finally came out. I know what the kit sells for without engine or instruments and completely unassembled. His asking was lower than that by a ways and this airplane was all built and had flown with a remanufactured engine, radios, auto pilot, GPS, and slightly over 400 hours total time. It was one of those “can’t say no” moments. So I didn’t.
That was weeks ago and I am finally coming to grips with all the ins and outs of the old boy. While it does need some work, (don’t they all) after just 2-3 weeks of trips back and forth to the old sod strip I grew up on, my buddy Monico (Southern Michigan Aviation) and I (along with help from Brad the Onex builder and brother Jimmy) have it together enough to get it back off its ass, out into the sunlight, and launching into the blue.
I brought Murf home last Sunday. The “Skunk Works’ is now slightly crowded but I am sure we will find a way to work around it. I am making a hit list of things to get fixed or changed in the coming months. I always thought I wanted to have another kit plane, I just couldn’t figure out where I was going to get the time to build one. As a flying project, Murphy has solved my problem.
Join me and my band of merry men as we attend to the “Rebirth of Murf.” You are going to have a great time!
Author: Tom Speerstra
Tom Speerstra has had an enduring love affair with aviation for over 40 years. Countless adventures have been enjoyed flying students, people, paper, and parcels in everything from Champs to Citations. He has held positions as both Chief Pilot and Director of Operations for Part 135 carriers and holds an ATP, MEII, SES ratings and a Citation type rating. Tom makes his home in Michigan with his wife Elizabeth and Pappy “the dog” Boyington.