At Oshkosh in 2003, General Aviation News met Tim Garrett, an aerospace engineer from Indianapolis and a private pilot who has Multiple Sclerosis. Hanging out at the Zenith Aircraft Co. exhibit, Garrett told us his dream was to build his own airplane and fly it to the big show.
His plane, a Zenith 601 XL, was finished in November 2006. On Tuesday, July 28, 2009, Garrett touched down at Wittman Field, fulfilling the promise he made to himself years before.
“Right when you turn downwind, when you can look out and finally see the whole place from the air, I found myself getting emotional,” he said. “I was not expecting that. To see all those airplanes! I thought,’ this is it, I did it!’”
Garrett, who learned to fly in 1983, was diagnosed with MS in 1987. Symptoms of the disease, which attacks the nervous system, include numbness, weakness, vision and balance disturbances. The cause of the illness is not known and there is no cure. Garrett quit flying for a time and thought that he would have to give up his dream of building his own airplane. Then in 2000, a new drug, Copaxone, helped him better manage his symptoms.
He decided to build a Zenith because the metal construction is easy to walk away from when fatigue, so common with MS, sets in. He vowed that once the airplane was ready, he’d fly it to AirVenture.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to make this trip,” Garrett said, standing next to his airplane, which was parked in the experimental aircraft area. “The tail number is significant. It’s N360TM, which stands for coming 360° because I decided to build a Zenith after seeing one at AirVenture.”
For more information: FlyingwithMS.com.