Build it and dreams will come

After eight years of labour, an Air Force traffic controller went from managing air traffic to flying a plane he built himself.

CAPTIONSquadron Leader Daniel Olsen with the plane he built, at Canberra Aero Club. Story and photo by Corporal Luke Bellman.

“I wanted to give my son a similar experience to what I had as a child,” Squadron Leader Daniel Olsen said.

“I grew up watching my Dad restore classic cars, which he taught me to drive in. I now get to teach my son to fly a plane he watched me build.”

In June this year Squadron Leader Olsen flew his kit-built aircraft for the first time.

“It was a surreal feeling. However, it took time to sink in, given initial cockpit workload during departure,” he said.

The Vans RV-7A aircraft kit was delivered from America and was required to obtain a civil certificate of airworthiness prior to its test flight.

“I didn’t feel nervous but I was apprehensive. I knew it would fly as designed, but it was the first time the engine had been pushed to full power,” Squadron Leader Olsen said.

First flight was commanded by test pilot Wing Commander Ian Warburton, with Squadron Leader Olsen monitoring the systems.

They spent one and a half hours in the air around Canberra airport to break in the new engine and conduct basic handling checks.

Wing Commander Stuart Hutchison, who in his spare time volunteers at the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia as a technical counsellor, supported Squadron Leader Olsen through final inspection and the certification process.

“The build was 99 per cent myself, often with my wife Nikki on the rivet gun. However, it was a bit of a combined RAAF affair to bring her to life,” Squadron Leader Olsen said.

“Achieving compliance and first flight wouldn’t have been as successful as it was without Ian and Stu’s invaluable experience, guidance and professionalism towards managing some very real risks.”

The kit was delivered in stages and assembled using traditional aircraft construction methods. The plane now needs to complete 25 hours of Phase 1 flight testing at Canberra before travelling abroad.

“I plan to travel around Australia, visit family and friends that I haven’t spent much time with throughout the build, teach my son to fly and one day follow a historic route to Europe, which is a dream Nikki and I would like to achieve.”

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CAPTION: Squadron Leader Daniel Olsen flying his Vans RV-7A kit-built aircraft for the first time over Canberra.


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