By TED LUEBBERS
The bright yellow single-seat Light-Sport Aircraft had been nearly destroyed in a tornado. The original builder threw in the towel and decided to donate the remains to EAA Chapter 534 thinking members could use it as a restoration project for the Aviation Youth Program.
The plane was in sad shape when it arrived at the chapter’s hangar at Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) in Leesburg, Florida.
Its wings had been badly damaged in the tornado. When the old fabric was removed from what remained of the wings, the proposed restoration project was looking very challenging. Many of the wooden ribs needed to be replaced and it would need new spars. When this part of the project was completed, new fabric covering and a new paint job would be needed.
The fuselage was in fairly good condition, but required a few patches and some new paint. The engine had not been run for a long time, so it was decided to remove it and check it out.
Over the next two years the Mini Max project was the center piece in the chapter’s hangar. The adult members, sometimes called hangar monkeys, meet on Thursday mornings to work on aircraft projects in the hangar. They decided it would be a good idea to use the project to teach members of the Aviation Youth Program how to restore a damaged airplane.
Fortunately, some of the members had experience with building their own airplanes and so had the skills necessary to teach the kids and other adult members the fine art of building a wood and fabric airplane.
The idea was to restore the plane, then sell it, using the proceeds to buy another project for the Aviation Youth Program. Hopefully, they can keep this going for years to come.
With the project now completed, the Mini Max was put up for sale and was purchased by a new pilot from New Hampshire, Rick Finethy. This is his first airplane.
He arrived at the EAA Chapter 534 hangar on June 27, 2019, with a large rented box truck to pick up his like-new airplane and drive it back to New Hampshire.
This necessitated removing the plane’s wings and, with the help of the hangar monkeys, stuffing the plane in the back of the truck. This took most of the morning and it was discovered that the fuselage was just about two inches too long and the door of the truck could not be closed.
Fortunately, the resourceful chapter members suggested removing the prop spinner, and that did the trick. They were then able to pull down the truck’s door with a couple inches to spare.
The hangar monkeys then helped Rick secure the fuselage and wings in the truck to make the long road trip back to New Hampshire.
As EAA members watched the truck pull out of the airport gate, many of them had lumps in their throats as they said goodbye to the yellow bird that had helped teach them so many aircraft building skills.