Back to the Future: New Focus for the New Year

by Ed Leineweber

A New Year brings the opportunity for new beginnings. So it will be with my regular Midwest Flyer Magazine column, which will henceforth broaden its focus beyond Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft to encompass all of grassroots, recreational flying. Sounds exciting? Read on.

I especially want to write about what I see as the looming fate of thousands of low-end, nothing-fancy light aircraft, as baby-boomers age and adapt to life changes; as the rate of student starts improves or worsens in the future; as fuel changes in price, availability and type; and as the economy fluctuates. These factors can create a scenario in which many of these aircraft, now in flyable condition, begin to head to the barns, hangar back corners, and “back 40s,” or are refurbished and maintained at record numbers!

In many ways, this is a great time to own and fly an old certified or experimental amateur-built airplane. Prices are way down, interest rates remain low, and there are still decent GA airports on the outskirts of small towns all across America, with lots of capacity, hangar availability and activity. This glass is indeed at least half-full, and I’d like to help others appreciate that fact, and to take advantage of it.

The Legacy Log of Homebuilt Airplanes, an initiative of Robert Taylor, founder of the Antique Airplane Association, has really focused my attention on what can be done to fill the glass a little further. If you haven’t read about it, take a look at my article in the October/November 2012 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine ( More recently, Dan Wegmueller inspired me to make this topic a focus for the New Year. What follows is his account of the restoration of his father’s 1939 Fairchild 24R. It is young people like Dan who will keep ’em flying, and out of abandoned barns.

I’d like to hear from you about your experiences buying, repairing, restoring and flying old, and not-so-old, airplanes, both certified and homebuilt, and I’d like to pass your stories on to others, in the hopes they might help to keep these older planes flying.

Finally, I will highlight affordable flying success stories when I find them, about flying clubs, small partnerships, leaseback arrangements, and other ways – old and new – that pilots across the Midwest have found viable, even in bad economic times.  And I still intend to cover the big developments in the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft movement, and some of the little ones as well.

Let’s make it a great year for grassroots aviation!

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