Dennis Satterfield has been hooked on flying for more than 60 years. “My parents would take us to a little grass strip in Polo, Ill. used by crop dusters and small planes. I’ve been hooked since I was 5,” he said.
He can’t recall when he took his first airplane ride, but he was in his early 20s. He earned his pilot’s license in 1967 while with the Air Force. In 1986 Satterfield began building planes. He is currently constructing his third and thinking about the next one he wants to build.
“I build them because I love it — and flying too,” he said.
This project is a Van’s RV-9A.
“No airplane that is currently being factory built performs like these. When it’s finished it will be well worth more than I put into it,” Satterfield said. He expects to have it completed and flying by mid-May.
The first plane he built was a 1959 Cessna 172 from three damaged models. He wasn’t able to finish the second plane he started, so a friend took it off his hands. The next aircraft he completed was a Kitfox Speedster, which he built about four years ago and flew for three years.
He started his current project in February 2008. It will cruise at 8,000 feet at 190 miles per hour and uses 8 gallons of fuel per hour, carrying four hours of flight fuel. It has GPS and autopilot, which are linked.
“There are quite a few planes similar to this one around here,” he said.
Satterfield may have only been building planes for more than 20 years, but his mechanical nature was obvious much earlier in life.
“I took apart alarm clocks as a child and put them back together. And they worked,” he said. He also restored an old Volvo.
He did not build the planes on his own though.
“No one that I know has all of the required expertise to do it himself,” he said.
He is being assisted in building his Van’s RV-9A by a group of friends. “They all have areas of expertise that I don’t.”
Helping him — “In no particular order,” he said — are Jerry Lynch, Ernie Pritchard, Richard Henry, Jim and Daren DuFriend and Mike Wallace, all of Payson. His wife Barbara has also been very supportive.
This summer Satterfield plans to take an extended vacation in his new plane. His itinerary includes his 48-year class reunion near Chicago; a fishing trip to Holland, Mich.; visiting his father-in-law in Boston; a visit with an Air Force friend in West Virginia; seeing a cousin in Virginia he hasn’t seen in 50 years; and Port Bolivar, Texas.
Satterfield came to Payson in 1981 and worked as a radiologic technologist up until about 10 years ago.
“A friend of my wife’s went to barber college,” he said.
“We were at dinner together and she was talking about how wonderful it was. I looked at Barbara and said, ‘I can do that’ and she said, ‘Then do it.’ And I did.”
Satterfield works at Payson Barber Shop when he’s not building his plane in his garage.