2009-04-01 / Local News

Local resident builds airplane

Comet staff report

Building an airplane EAA members Jim Wharam, on the left, and Neil Clem discuss Wharam's aircraft building project in his garage Saturday. The airplane will seat two and be able to fly 1,100 miles at one time. Comet photo Building an airplane EAA members Jim Wharam, on the left, and Neil Clem discuss Wharam's aircraft building project in his garage Saturday. The airplane will seat two and be able to fly 1,100 miles at one time. Comet photo It is sometimes surprising to learn what people do in their garages during the long cold winter months. The local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) learned that one Carroll County member, who lives just off of Bicycle Bridge Rd., has been building his own aircraft. Jim Wharam invited the group into his garage for a tour of his project for the EAA monthly get together Saturday.

Wharam, who is a private pilot, explained he is building a Mustang II Experimental aircraft and has been working on the project for six years. Wharam was recently laid off from his job in Lafayette that afforded him more time to devote to the project.

A member of both national and local EAA, Wharam said he purchased the plans and some of the material from the Mustang Corporation to begin. He received 62 pages of blueprints and "crates of parts" which had to be identified and trimmed. He said he discovered, after installation, some parts were the wrong size and had to be removed and replaced.

Wharam said he has spent "thousands" of hours fabricating pieces, measuring rivet spacing and planning the next steps. He said he experienced a "pretty steep learning curve" with the project.

Wharam said deciding to build his own airplane was simple.

"I just like doing things with my hands," he said.

The plane, considered a 'distance' craft, will weigh between 1,300 and 1,600 pounds without fuel. It will have five fuel tanks when completed and will have the ability to fly roughly 1,100 miles with one load of fuel. It will seat two and have folding wings. Wharam said he will install a Lycoming 180 hp engine after the fuselage is finished. However the expected completion date is not clear.

"I always say two years," Wharam said.

"I've been doing this by myself for the most part since I began," Wharam told the group. "But now I need to understand how the next steps go and that can only be done by talking with others who have done similar things."

The local EAA chapter is based at the Delphi Airport after relocated from Monticello last November. According to EAA leadership, the chapter is on the waiting list for a hangar at the airport to be able to help members with their projects and aviation-related activities on-site at the airport.

"The chapter's goal is to someday own our own hangar," president Debbie Lowe said. "Until how to accomplish that becomes obvious to us, we want to rent a hangar for our members to use for aviation projects, such as the one Jim Wharam is doing right now."

"Members sometimes have less intensive building issues, such as re-covering fabric wings. We could all learn about that by bringing the wing into our hangar and helping the member with that project," she continued.

"Other EAA activities include the Young Eagles Program, which we will be doing at the end of April at Delphi," Lowe said. "Youth ages eight to 17 can register, with parents' permission, to go up with a certified pilot and learn what it is like to actually 'fly' an airplane. It is the best way for a young person to learn if they are interested in anything aviation."

For information about building or local EAA activities, call Lowe at (765) 491- 8515.

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