By Randy Brooks, EAA Lifetime 165320
This is not your typical first flight story; this is a story that almost didn’t happen at all.
It is the familiar tale of an extremely talented and dedicated builder; of 28 years of hand crafting, gluing, machining, sanding, cutting, shaping, and creating; of a pile of raw materials, photos and plans that were transformed into a beautiful airplane; of thousands of man-hours taken to create a wooden work of art that looks like it’s going 200 mph sitting on the ground.
Kyle Brumfield, EAA 191301, had a dream about a sleek, small, smooth wooden airplane that he could create from scratch — an F8L Falco. A machinist by trade, Kyle took on the daunting task of constructing one of the most technically difficult homebuilts a person could undertake. It required thousands of hours of design work, making molds, fabricating and machining landing gear components, hand-building wood ribs and formers, skinning with plywood, plumbing, wiring — all of the things that scratchbuilding an aircraft involves.
After 28 years of dedicated building, Kyle’s dream was finished. He submitted all the required paperwork to the FAA and four days before the inspection was to take place, Kyle suddenly and tragically died. Now his creation, complete and ready to fly, sat idly in the corner of a hangar.
Dreams like this often end up as just dreams, sitting in the corner of somebody’s garage or hangar, never taking to the air.
Thankfully, this is where the real story begins. Because this story is really about EAA and The Spirit of Aviation that we hear so much about.
A fellow EAA member and longtime family friend stepped up to the plate, volunteered to take on Kyle’s dream, and see it to completion. Chapter 846 Vice President Pete Klapp, EAA 208841, took it upon himself to assemble all the paperwork and change ownership to Kyle’s widow. There’s no manual on how to do this, but Pete persevered. After two years of hard work, the day finally came for the Falco’s FAA inspection and it passed with flying colors. The inspector was impressed with the quality and depth of Kyle’s work. He stated there was nothing to change that he could comment on. Pete received the airworthiness certificate and Kyle’s dream was alive.
After a couple of false starts and completing the last one percent of the build — you know those finishing details that take weeks and weeks to complete — Kyle’s Falco was ready to fly. On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, the Falco took to the air 30 years after the first piece of wood was worked on.
EAA Chapter 846 President and EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council member Gary Baker, EAA Lifetime 251742, was the pilot for this first flight. Gary’s extensive personal building experience with his RV-6 and his background with flight testing experimental amateur-built aircraft made him the obvious choice to make this first flight. We know that Kyle was with Gary in the right seat, smiling the whole way.
This first flight almost didn’t happen. It came about by the effort of a genius builder and the dedication of Pete and friends. Pete saw Kyle’s dream through to reality, sacrificing his time and resources. Pete and the other EAA members who assisted in finishing this project embody the best of The Spirit of Aviation: one member helping another with the dream of flight. Today, Kyle’s Falco flies with a little help from friends.