Friday, April 28, 2017

For aerial challenge, Spruce Creek Fly-In pilot travels back to WWI (with video)

Tim Plunkett, a Vietnam veteran, Delta Airlines pilot and retired Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor.

SPRUCE CREEK FLY-IN — Artists paint or sculpt. Tim Plunkett builds World War I-era airplanes.

His live-in girlfriend of six years, Carolyn Paul, tells Plunkett he is an artist and this is his art.

“I had never thought about it that way,” said Plunkett, a 67-year-old Air Force and Delta Airlines veteran and retired Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor who remains active as a test pilot. “In a lot of ways, she’s right.”

Building, displaying and flying these planes are a perfect expression of Plunkett’s passions: aviation, aeronautical engineering and history. Next to soaring through the clear blue, he’s in his element showing his red and white German Fokker D7, explaining all of its features, from its distinctive markings to the stirrups at the bottom of the cockpit and the machine gun mounted on top.

“You want to pay homage to the people in 1917 who flew and built these planes,” Plunkett said. “These airplanes are like a historical character, like Lincoln or Washington. ... You would not want an inaccurate depiction. You have to be true to history.”

Plunkett, who owns eight airplanes, has built three fully functioning World War I-era airplanes, the German Fokker D7 and Dr1 Triplane and a British Sopwith Camel. He’s building a fourth, a British 1917 Royal Air Force SE5a, and regularly flies a friend’s German Albatross DVa.

He keeps them at his home hangar and in the Fly-In community hangars and shops, flies them at airshows and has attracted interest from other enthusiasts from around the globe.

He calls the planes “unstable, uncoordinated, unbalanced, tail heavy, high drag, slow turning ... hard to land and unpredictable.”

Anything else?

“And about the most fun you can have as a pilot,” he wrote in a blog post a few years ago.

Story, video and photo gallery:

1 comment:

  1. Recently met you and Carolyn on a Viking River Cruise in France. Had no idea you rebuilt World War I airplanes. You are so fascinating and enjoyed talking to you. I can't remember when I have laughed so much,loved your jokes. Hope you and Carolyn had a safe trip home. Jan and Marge Losey and Linda Gardner