Elizabeth Szoke FerrellElizabeth Szoke Ferrell

UD Flyers If you are reading this you must be bored or want to see what sort of person would build/fly an experimental aircraft.To start at the beginning I suppose you should know that I was raised by people who encouraged my dreams and made sure I knew that I could be/do anything I wanted should I set my mind to it. I started at the University of Dayton as a double major in Physics and Mechanical Engineering/Aerospace. In my third year my side job at UDRI (University of Dayton Research Institute), writing Fortran 77 code to determine optimal runway length, ran out of funding. The aerospace industry jobs had dried up. I did a 180 and decided that my roommate’s classes seemed OK. I fell into accounting, go figure. It is not my passion but, as I see it I was good at engineering but I am a kick-butt accountant. Now you know what I do- don’t tell me I didn’t warn you of the boredom.I have to say this is more then I expect I have told any one individual person – I hope Brett edits this!

UltralightTo get to the heart of things, I have always wanted to fly. My mother soloed at thirty-something and my godfather had a Mooney. When he took me up for the first time at about eight I was hooked. It never occurred to me that you could own a plane and fly it yourself. I thought they were all at the giant airport and called Delta. Well, I knew that I would someday have one just as my dad had a boat. He piloted the boat why couldn’t I have a plane?

As time went on I realized that they cost money and I had all of mine had already spoken been for. I did read that you could get a little one called an ultralight and you could save money by building it yourself. I knew I would do that sometime.

Time passed and I was absorbed in my career, trying to prove something to no-one in particular. (I have come to see this now).

Cozy Mark IVThen I met Brett.  We were set up on a blind date with the promise of “you will really like him; he is funny and says the cleverest things”. Now how is that for a sale? We actually had some pigheaded incidents during this time. I thought he just wanted to chase tail in his new Porsche (and I did not intend to be the latest conquest) and he thought I was a pretentious ‘banker’. As a funny aside, his friends all called me his “Lawyer Friend” due to some error in the gossip. When you boil the whole thing down it came was the fact that he was the first guy to stand up to me (again, those of you who know me, know that I have a ‘strong’ personality). I was smitten and I didn’t know why this infuriating man had a hold on me. Then the real guts of it came out when we started sharing dreams and hobbies. He wanted a Plane!

Of course then he pulled out an OLD and I mean old issue of ‘kitplanes’ and showed me a Cozy. He then showed me the Velocity noting that ‘this was the dream one’. He told me the story you probably read about his friend and his nine year dream. I could not believe people build actual airplanes. I just wanted to build the ultralight to start and get the big one when (and if) I could afford it. The idea of owning an airplane seemed so far away but he was making it REAL. I know he had doubts as to his ability to build but there was not a doubt in my mind that he would be a great builder. He was a natural and I never found a project I wouldn’t tackle (that doesn’t imply finishing). Skip to the engagement ring (and exit the Porsche) a year later and we were talking about it regularly and subscribing to the magazines and such. We started the work on our licenses, figuring that would help eventually.

EAA LogoWe found the local EAA chapters and tried several on for a good “fit”. We went to our first WINGS weekend in Hamilton and I made the most astonishing acquaintance, The President of the local EAA chapter 974, BJ Graumlich. Thus far I had been a bit of an oddity at the Lebanon airport where linemen would come running when a girl pulled out the fuel pump. BJ was wonderful. She was warm, friendly, and inviting. She introduced us around to the other members (who incidentally were working the food booth). She then sealed the deal – she was an EZ driver! She had not one but TWO canard aircraft. A woman, a pilot, and a canard owner, I was sold. After hearing about all the other projects, seeing how active the members were, and finding out about the number of composite aircraft, it was a sealed deal and we joined EAA chapter 974 that day.

We have since made some of our best friends from those members and I feel very close to a great many. I do not think I could say enough about how much the EAA and our chapter in particular has given us. We have since tried to repay this through service to the chapter but have received even more back. (I became president of the chapter for 2007! and Brett has held Newsletter and Website Editor jobs for years)

And, now for the rest of the story!

That summer we bought the kit – The Oshkosh trip was fateful. Scott Baker asked us if we were interested and I went into our research and that we thought it was the choice for us. (You all probably know how I do the talking, Brett nods, and then I put him on the spot for some answer to some part of the conversation – which he may, or may not, have tuned out by now.) Then Duane Swing walked up; the conversation at this point went something like this:

Duane “You only need to put down ten percent to reserve a kit.”
Me “We don’t have that much right now.”
Duane “Well, how much do you have?”
Me “about $1500 total”
Duane “That will work.”
Me  “OK”

At that point Brett (gazing lovingly at Wes Rose’s XL) turned around and burst, “did you just buy a plane?!!” I said yes and Duane took us into the trailer for the paperwork. Brett barely said a word for some time so I told him that I did not know why we were waiting if we had already decided to do it. I love him.