Highflying Fun

Retired aircraft mechanic builds a light sport plane

Jerry Lynch checks his instrument panel and sets his GPS coordinates before beginning a flight.

Jerry Lynch checks his instrument panel and sets his GPS coordinates before beginning a flight. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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It took Jerry Lynch 800-plus hours to build this vibrant red and yellow RV-12 light sport aircraft, complete with 12,000 rivets. Since the late 1950s, Lynch has worked on planes, first as a mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps aircraft wing and then with a major airline for 25 years.

Jerry Lynch declares he has the bug. An all encompassing high flying sickness for aviation. Flying he says fondly, “is like a disease.” A disease so impermeable that two years ago when Lynch decided to sell off his fleet of planes and take up another hobby, the bug bit back and Lynch willingly bought a kit for an RV-12 light sport aircraft.

“I thought I would give it up for something new, but then I thought, ‘Why?’” he said, “I got a hangar.”

For the last 18 months, Lynch tooled around in a spacious hangar adjacent to his home, building a Van’s RV-12, an all-metal two-seater experimental airplane with a 100 horsepower engine.

“It is made for old guys,” Lynch, 72, said of the plane. “You don’t need a flight physical to fly one.”

It took Lynch 800-plus hours to build the vibrant red and yellow airplane, complete with 12,000 rivets.

Lynch is one of many Rim Country residents who will display their aircraft at the May 15 Aero Fair, presented by the Payson Regional Airport Authority.

The theme of this year’s fair, “Learn to Fly,” focuses on exposing the next generation to the possibility of flying and owning their own aircraft, said media representative for the Aero Fair, Marie A. Fasano.

Fasano hopes people will come away from the fair realizing that flying is an affordable hobby.

“We want to introduce new people to aviation and different kinds of aircraft,” she said.

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Growing up, Jerry Lynch said he never dreamed he would become a mechanic, much less a pilot, but after his first flight lesson, he was hooked on the feeling of freedom flying gave him.

At last year’s Aero Fair, a number of planes from around the world were displayed. This year, amateur-built aircraft are the showcase.

Lynch said flying needs to become more affordable to get the next generation interested.

Although the kit to build his plane cost $60,000, it is far less than buying a prebuilt high performance plane.

Light sport planes like Lynch’s are the newest generation in affordable aviation.

While the plane is cheaper to build, it is still a blast to fly. Lynch and his wife Helen have already logged 46 hours in the plane, jetting off to Sedona, Flagstaff or Holbrook for an afternoon lunch several times a month.

“The auto pilot can do all the work,” he said. “You just sit back and watch the country go by.”

The RV-12 is capable of flying 600 miles on a tank of gas and is fueled with premium auto fuel.

Using auto fuel instead of aviation fuel keeps the cost down.

Lynch said assembling the plane was a lot like putting together a toy model.

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Instrument panels have changed drastically over the years, most planes now have video readouts and GPS screens that track your flight as you move through the air with the greatest of ease.

After receiving numerous boxes of all shapes and sizes, Lynch unloaded each and using detailed instructions, pieced the fuselage, wings and other parts together. The lightweight wings are easily removed for storage or repair by releasing a few pins inside the fuselage. Routing the plane’s wires and avionics was the most difficult part of assembly, he said. The plane is equipped with the latest GPS technology.

For Lynch, this is not the first time he has toiled on a plane.

Since the late 1950s, Lynch has worked on planes, first as a mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps aircraft wing and then with a major airline for 25 years.

Growing up, Lynch said he never dreamed he would become a mechanic, much less a pilot. When he joined the Marine Corps, he “kind of fell into,” the field, he said. After his first flight lesson, Lynch was hooked on the feeling of freedom flying gave him.

“There are no stop signs up there,” he said. “You can fly high, low or do whatever you want.”

By the early 1960s, Lynch owned his own plane.

While he has owned several types of planes, experimental or amateur-built aircraft most appeal to Lynch today because of their versatility.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an experimental aircraft is fabricated and assembled by people for their own education or recreation.

Although owners can modify the planes to their liking, the FAA or a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) must certify them for airworthiness.

Lynch plans to add fenders to the RV-12 to improve its aerodynamics and possibly a few other upgrades.

Catch a glimpse of Lynch and his plane from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, May 15 at the Payson Municipal Airport.

The Payson Pilot Association will sell a pancake breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. The cost is $7 for adults and $4 for children under 10. Special programs and activities will be offered for children, including a kid-size model of a Bee Gee airplane. The Experimental Aircraft Association #810 will offer airplane rides for $25 per person and there will be a Learn to Fly seminar at 11 a.m.

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Catch a glimpse of Jerry Lynch and his RV-12 light sport aircraft at the Aero Fair, May 15 at the Payson Municipal Airport.

New and classic airplanes, cars and tractors will also be on display, as well as food and craft vendors.

Enter to win a Magellan RoadMate 1440 GPS device at the PRAA information booth. Tickets are $1 for one or $5 for six tickets.

For more information on this free event, visit www.paysonairport.com.

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