Building A Cockpit For Two



In 1998, Rory and Donna Hansen unloaded the parts for an RV6 kit plane. The sheer number of parts was overwhelming.

Once they set to work, it took 2,111 hours to complete the plane.


Rory and Donna Hansen

With her hands covered in grease, Donna felt she should be able to actually fly the plane she was working so hard to help build. Husband Rory Hansen agreed.

Teaching her to fly slowed down the project.

"Luckily he was patient," Donna said.

The Hansens agreed, a couple needs a strong relationship to build two houses together and now two planes.

"We hardly ever throw tools at each other," Donna said with a laugh. If one of them gets to feeling down, the other is there to keep the other's spirits up.

"The most challenging thing is sticking to the project when something goes wrong," Rory said.

The saying goes that when you build a plane it is really an airplane and a half. Everything has to be perfect, so if you mess up on a part, another one must be bought.

For instance, the "dihedral," or wing angle, for the bush plane is 1.5 degrees up. The Hansens had the airplane's fuselage perfectly level, shimmed up with ladders placed exactly to either side while they drilled holes in the wing struts.

When they took the ladders away and stepped back to look at the wings sitting on their own strength, it was obvious that one wing was 1.5 degrees too low.

"We had to start over," Rory said.

Since the plane's completion, the couple have spent 420 hours in the sky, enjoying their own handiwork.

A sporty red, white, blue and grey RV6 airplane that Rory Hansen said "flies a little like a fighter plane" shares hangar space with the shell and wings of a partially built bush plane.

"The RV6 is light on the controls and goes almost 200 miles per hour," he said.

Idaho, Washington and Oregon are favored destinations. They have flown up and down the West Coast to British Columbia and as far south as Key West.

"We can be in Seattle by mid-afternoon, but we don't have to go far to have fun," Donna Hansen said. "It's fun to fly to Winslow and then walk to La Posada (a restaurant made famous in the era of Harvey girls) for breakfast."

In his lifetime, Rory Hansen has logged 20,000 hours in the air. His father was a Navy pilot and Rory remembers him rebuilding a Cub in the family garage.

Rory flew A7s for the U.S. Navy, Lear Jets as a factory demonstration pilot, and currently flies for Southwest Airlines.

Donna has 500 hours of flight time and has her kit-built maintenance certificate from the FAA.

When Rory was a check airman for SWA, his wife had fun doing something extraordinary for a leisure pilot -- she got "stick time" in a 737 he was flying.

The bush plane will be slower and Donna thinks she may like flying it better than the high performance RV6. "I haven't gotten comfortable with the tail wheel, especially with the winds we have up here," she said.

The Hansens have heard people say, "I'd never fly in anything I built."

For them, the opposite is true.

"I think you are more careful because you are going to be the one flying the plane," Rory said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.