After seven years of tinkering out in the garage, Pat Martin’s
handbuilt aircraft flies high…with a little help from his friends
Some build birdhouses. Some build Adirondack chairs for the deck. Others escape to their shop to tinker with gun cases, craft hobbies and various furnishings.
Pat Martin…he builds an airplane.
In the garage…
Over the course of seven years…
With a little help from his friends…
Shortly after retiring from his military career, Martin decided to “build his wife an airplane.”
With a long, distinguished career in the military, Martin spent alot of time around aircraft–though he wasn’t a flyer in the service.
He earned his civilian pilot license not long after graduating from Pelican Rapids High School in 1973. Martin served four years active duty with the U.S. Air Force, then continued his career with the Fargo Air National Guard–attaining the rank of general.
Martin’s craft will be on display August 10 at the Pelican Rapids city airport for the Fly-In Drive-In breakfast, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It had long been on Martin’s mind when his lifelong flying friend, Steve Johnston, built a Zenith CH701 (the predecessor to the Zenith CH-750) in 2006 and spoke very favorably about its performance.
But Martin, and several volunteer flying enthusiasts, decided to dabble even further as they built the craft–with several modifications and enhancements.
Both Martin and Johnston share a lot of similarities: love of aviation, never ending curiosity, tinkering to see “what would happen if we did this?”
Steve and Pat “re-designed” the horizontal tail on Steve’s CH-701 to make it not only a little longer, but they also changed the leading-edge airfoil design. After this was shown to improve how it handled, they did a similar change to the main wings – redesigning the leading-edge airfoil with one of their own designs – and the results were equally satisfying.
With over 400 hours on his CH-701, Steve fully tested the new design and gave it “two-thumbs up.” Pat decided to incorporate this “proven design” into his aircraft.
Don Ness, a local pilot and builder, has been with Pat “since the first rivet was pulled on N750TD” seven years ago. Don is equally skilled like Steve and came up with a few ideas of his own during the building process.
He designed a “push-rod system” for the elevators, that originally were to use a cabling system. The push-rod system allows for tighter control of the elevators and also allowed for a greater travel range – something other builders were saying needed improvement.
The results were “better than anticipated” when Martin first flew his airplane on July 6 after a thorough FAA inspection.
Probably the most notable change from the original aircraft kit was the tailwheel in the back. The CH-750 STOL kit comes with a nose wheel, but Martin had always flown with “conventional gear” and decided that if he was only going to have one airplane for many years, it had to have a tailwheel on it. Thus the selected FAA designator of N750TD – “750” for the Zenith model CH750, and “TD” for TailDragger. When he went to get insurance, the insurer wanted him to have “10 hours of dual in a tailwheel CH-750”.
When Martin explained, “that would be quite impossible because I have the only tailwheel CH-750 in existence,” they decided to waive that requirement, but stated he had to “have 10 hours of solo time before taking any passengers with.”
Over the seven years of building, many friends have stopped by to have coffee and share stories. Some stayed to visit longer than others, and some provided valuable help.
The four main “helpers” were Don Ness since day one; Bob Babler, who unfortunately passed away in January 2015; Steve Foster who stayed to help after Bob passed away; and a young, homeschooled Noah Bradrick who stopped by one Wednesday to see what this was all about and decided to return every Wednesday for a couple years while building the wings – receiving an unexpected hands-on lesson in aircraft construction.
An article in the January 2015 Kitplanes magazine stated: “There’s little doubt that the two events that captured the most attention at AirVenture 2014 were the Thunderbirds and the One Week Wonder.”
The One Week Wonder was a Zenith CH750 Cruzer – very similar to Pat Martin’s CH-750 STOL, that came out of a crate of materials and was assembled and flown one week later to demonstrate that the kit can be built in minimal time.
“Ours took slightly longer…” commented Martin, “Whenever a modification is incorporated there are always additional hours involved, and N750TD incorporated numerous modifications. However, I believe the real reason it took so long is that we all enjoyed my wife Norma’s cooking – whether it be orange rolls, scones, etc. for morning coffee, or a delicious noon meal. We realized that the sooner we finished, the sooner the delicious meals would disappear! Also, whenever pilots meet over coffee, there are numerous stories to be told and heard – and they too take time!”
When N750TD first took flight on July 6 “it was a very satisfying moment to realize the many hours of dedication and labor by many friends finally, successfully, came together. The dream is alive!”