Zenith Aircraft Company

Zenith Aircraft Co.



Wings on Dreams!

The following story comes from Mike Dobler, a recent "grad" from Chapter 229’s "Young Falcon" program, or "Falcon Wing Squadron One" to be exact. Alan Irwin, the Newsletter Editor for the Chapter, states the Chapter project was a Zenair Zodiac 601 HD. The Chapter made a commitment to the 18 young "helpers" that if they would spend at least 100 hours helping to build the airplane, the Chapter would fund their flight training through the Private license. The 18 "helpers" only expense would be the cost of fueling for the aircraft. Mike was the first "Young Falcon" to receive his Private pilot license from the program.

The first time I stepped in the hangar of EAA Chapter 229, I saw a lot of parts, a lot of rivets, and a lot of people. Young Falcons in one corner and EAAers in another. It was awhile until Tiff gathered the kids and started a lesson. "This is a cleco pliers," he said. He went through all the tools on the table. When he was finished, we were divided into groups to work on different parts of the airplane. I was in the fuselage group. Grover Summers and Ron Henry were in charge. They did a lot of cutting and I did a lot of filing. After two hours, it was time to go home. I didn't know if I wanted to come back, if all I was going to do was file. My dad told me that in time, the men would get to know the kids and let us do more tasks.

I'm very glad I stuck with it. There wasn't a session that I didn't learn something from somebody, whether it was how to hold a tool correctly or in a "bull" session around the coffee machine. There were several very interesting conversations around the coffee machine.

I earned the rank of Eagle Scout in October of 1996. That was the proudest moment of my life. Then in the early part of 1997, the Zodiac was finally completed. Next came the big day, the Zodiac would fly. When Grover gave it full throttle, the Zodiac lifted off the ground and chills went down my spine. The new proudest moment in my life!

It seemed to take forever to get 40 hours on the Zodiac. I got a call from Al Irwin and he told me that I would be flying with Tommy Robinson. I had my first flight August 12, 1997. All of a sudden, all those rivets I put in, and took out, seemed a little more important now. Ground school also began with Grover, which seemed to help me understand what exactly Tommy was talking about.

Mike with Tommy Robinson, one of the instructors. Tommy is 78 years old and he became a civilian instructor in 1939.  He is rated and active today in the Citation and Lear Jet.

I soloed on October 22, 1997, the day before my 18th birthday. I flew with Tommy for a half hour, then he said, "Pull over here" and he got out. My heart was racing! I taxied back to the end of 22, announced, "Foxtrot, foxtrot, departing 22." Wondering if I would live to see my birthday, I took off much faster without Tommy beside me, circled the airport and landed, or a reasonable facsimile of a landing. Tommy was shaking his head and pointed down the runway indicating to me to go around again. I gave it full throttle and was off again. The second landing was much better. My dad had snuck out to the airport to watch. I had no idea he was out there and he had no idea I was in the airplane by myself. What a birthday present!

I took the time, when the airplane was getting a new canopy, to study for my written. I passed it on February 14, 1998. Repairs were finally completed and my flight training was resumed. My first solo cross country was very lonely. I wished someone was sitting next to me, someone to talk to. Then I found one, a bald eagle. That was an awesome feeling ... there I was soaring with our nation's emblem, the symbol of freedom, and, boy, did I feel free!

Unfortunately, the Zodiac had to go into the shop. The only problem was the fact I was leaving for college within the next month and a half. Tommy took me over to Brown's Seaplane base and I met my new instructor, Mike Batton, and my "new" plane, a Cessna 152. Mike took me up and we did some stalls and turns.

Soon, Mike went on vacation and so I found a new instructor. I flew with Chuck Brown, but because he was the examiner, he couldn't sign me off to take my check ride. My next instructor was a guy named James, and he put me under the hood for an hour. Flying out of Brown's was a surprise, because I never knew whom I was going to fly with. I next flew with an Englishman named John. He was the last instructor I flew with before the check ride. Wednesday, August 19, 1998, I passed my check ride. It took two airplanes and five instructors, but now I am a pilot! I would like to thank EAA Chapter 229 for everything they have done for me. Thank you, Ron, Grover, Charlie, Tiff, Al, Jim and all the other members for everything you did to welcome kids back to the airport. Thank you, Tommy, for your patience. You truly did put wings on my dreams!

Reprinted from EAA Sport Aviation magazine, May 1999, "Wings on Dreams" by Mike Dobler, pages 72 & 73.


NOTE: This article represents the viewpoints of the author, and not necessarily those of Zenith Aircraft Company.

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Mexico, Missouri, 65265-0650 USA.
Tel: 573-581-9000 (Mon - Fri, 8-5 Central),
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