Monday, February 13, 2006

Building a plane?

Read in yesterday's NST about an OP that is currently building a plane.

Yeap, a plane.

OP Lee BL sir, i must say i envy you for being able to do what you are doing!

News Excerpt:


Dr Lee and his flying machine
By Sumitha Martin

Meet Dr Lee Boon Leong — cardiologist by day and experimental aircraft builder by night. The 57-year-old doctor, who has been flying planes since the 1970s, is building an RV-7, an experimental two-seater aircraft made of aluminum alloy.

The RM200,000 RV-7 is his second attempt at aircraft assembly.

His first, a Trike, was completed in 2003 and it flew for 16 months until it met its end in April 2004 when Dr Lee crash-landed in Kota Baru.

The doctor, who learned to fly at the Royal Selangor Flying Club and has since clocked 250 flying hours, is building the RV-7 for a number of reasons.

Mainly, he wants the freedom to "bush fly" — to land an airplane "anywhere" — and have the ability to service his aircraft himself, before taking to the skies again.

"I can’t do this with conventional light aircraft because Department of Civil Aviation rules require such planes to be checked by certified engineers who cannot be found in remote areas," he said.

Successfully completing his RV-7 will give him the necessary DCA certification.

His long-term goal is to fly the route taken by fighter pilots of the US Tiger Squadron from Burma (now Myanmar) to Chongqing, China, during World War II.

"Yes, people think I’m crazy," he said of his aircraft-building, explaining that it’s the challenge of "getting it right" that excites him.

It’s a challenge that is time-consuming — of the 2,000 hours of building time needed, Dr Lee has completed 350 and hopes to have his aircraft ready in two years’ time.

Unlike the Trike, which took a mere 50 hours to build, the RV-7 is serious business.

The plane has more than 600 parts and it will need "some 50,000 rivets to be set with precision" and "each part of the plane will need to be perfectly matched with the other".

The scene in Dr Lee’s shoplot workshop in Kota Laksamana bears testimony to the work in progress — scores of shiny blue metal sheets, a welding machine, all kinds of gadgetry and lots of nuts and bolts in plastic medicine bottles.

The amateur engineer himself sports overalls, boots, ear plugs and protective eyewear.

The doctor is at his workshop every night, after a full day at his private medical centre located five minutes away.

So passionate is he that he has travelled to the Blue Mountains in Australia, Arizona in the US, and Yorkshire, England, for necessary training in bush flying and aircraft assembly.

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