Hudson man builds airplane in garageJohn Weigel’s passion for flying has consumed most of the space in his two-car garage for half a year at a time. Weigel is building his own airplane in the garage. So when is the maiden flight?
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
John Weigel’s passion for flying has consumed most of the space in his two-car garage for half a year at a time.
Weigel is building his own airplane in the garage under a contract with his wife, Christine, that states he can have the garage from April to October, but on Nov. 1 both their cars have to fit inside.
The arrangement has been working, but with wing assembly the next step, Weigel has set out to rent hanger space to finish the project.
So when is the maiden flight?
“In the next year, year or two,” Weigel said during a conversation at his Hudson residence and current airplane assembly plant where he is building a Zenith – STOHL CH750 from a kit.
The fuselage is together without the tail and the wing assembly has been started alongside. The garage is filled with parts and tools and a partial airplane.
“Without the wings I could hoist it up from the ceiling and get two cars in the garage,” he said. “It was too cold to work on it in the winter.”
“I started using only one-half the garage,” he said, but more parts and the wings have taken over the whole area.
“Just as long as I can get my car in the garage by Nov. 1, it’s OK,” said Christine.
Weigel said the plane will be 21 feet long and 8 feet 8 inches high to the top of the tail with a 29-foot 9-inch wing span when finished.
“A new one (airplane) costs $100,000,” he said. Weigel estimates the cost to build one is about half as much.
It will be awhile before the craft is ready for the engine. Weigel wants to get a 120-hp model, which will run on high octane car gasoline and should make for more economical flying. The 130-hp model takes 100-octane aviation fuel.
The plane will have 12-gallon gas tanks in each wing. He figures he’ll use six gallons an hour with car gas.
“Some people who build these kits use converted Chevrolet Corvair engines,” Weigel said.
If anybody is wondering what to do with that air cooled rear engine model car from the 1960s sitting in the back yard, an airplane engine might be an option.
Some other basic facts about the plane Weigel imparted include:
Weigel said he could probably finish up the project faster working full time but, “I promised my wife I would pay as I went,” he said.
Weigel, who is a member of Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 54 at the Lake Elmo, Minn., airport, comes by his love of flying honestly.
“I started taking lessons at age 16. I soloed in an airplane before I had a driver’s license,” he said.
His father was a commercial 747 pilot and Weigel was told his first airplane ride came when he was two months old.
Weigel, 48, is a 1981 graduate of River Falls High School. He earned a degree in computer science in 1992 from UW-River Falls and currently is an IT manager for Wells Fargo in the Twin Cities. He and Christine have been married eight years. “I proposed to her in an airplane,” he said.
Will Christine get the first ride in the new aircraft? “I don’t know if I’ll be the first, but I will take a ride in it,” she said.
Weigel is documenting his progress on the web at www.mykitlog.com/jweigel. He is also looking for a high school student with a similar passion for flying he had as a teenager to help him finish building his dream.