Rusty Pilot Finds New Love for Homebuilding

Rusty Pilot Finds New Love for Homebuilding

When Robert Gake, EAA 587759, started to become involved with his local EAA chapter this past summer, he never envisioned this is where it would take him.

A self-described “rusty” pilot, Robert began helping out with Chapter 93 in Madison, Wisconsin, when EAA Director of Chapters and Communities and Homebuilt Community Manager Charlie Becker flew in for a chapter event prior to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017.

During Charlie’s visit, he discussed EAA’s upcoming AirCam build project, which will be used to fly Young Eagles when completed. Robert, who had no prior experience working with tools or anything similar, thought participating in the project would be an interesting and worthwhile endeavor.

Robert e-mailed Charlie after his visit and reserved his spot in Oshkosh to work on the AirCam for a week in August. It was an experience that changed his outlook on aviation.

“It didn’t immediately become apparent at that point (that I could build a plane),” Robert said. “It became apparent a week later that learning those skills would help. I thought I could help work on a classic perhaps, that was my interest, but then it extended to, ‘Hey, maybe I really can build an airplane.’ The AirCam build really was an eye-opener.”

After some research, including a trip out to Van’s Aircraft headquarters in Oregon, Robert decided he was going to build an RV-14.

“Van’s has a long history, but this is their latest model,” Robert said. “It’s a two-seater with room, which I like. I’m not a big man but I still like room like anybody else, for your passenger and luggage. It’s a stable airplane. The engine was a key for me. I like the Lycoming because it’s American-made and the Van’s is American-made. It’s a good engine; it has a lot of power.”

To aid in his RV-14 project, Robert has completed a couple of EAA’s SportAir Workshops including a Van’s RV fiberglass class and the sheet metal boot camp last week in Oshkosh. He’s also signed up for the electrical systems SportAir Workshop taking place in Oshkosh in January.

For someone just starting to get back into an active role in aviation, it’s been a whirlwind few months for Robert — and definitely not something he anticipated.

“I feel very fortunate, very lucky that I do live in an area that has a lot of aviation culture, this part of Wisconsin. It’s a very positive culture,” he said.

It all started with Robert branching out with the AirCam build, something he was initially intimidated by simply because he had no experience in that line of work. Now he’s full-speed ahead on a project of his own.

“I’d like to see more people participate in the AirCam build,” Robert noted. “I think it’s a great project. Whatever your background is, there’s plenty of people there to help you and help you focus on certain aspects of it. It’s amazing what you can learn — not just from the plane itself, but from the people, classmates, and teachers.”

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Sam, EAA 1244731, is EAA’s social media coordinator, contributing primarily to the digital publication and social media platforms. A former sports reporter, he’s thrilled to dive into the world of aviation and add that to the list of his many passions.