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Ultimate project

As a woodworker who might have had some electrical experience in the past, have you ever thought about what you would do when you retire? This is a story that truly shows that patience is a virtue - a nine-year project that still isn't finished.

The progression of Gayl Boddy's 10-year airplane "project" takes shape in his garage.

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"I started building my Falco F-8L airplane in March of 2000," says Gayl Boddy of Santee, Calif. "Many people are interested in this kind of project, but several run out of wind a long time before completion. My project is built from scratch because I needed a project that I would not tire of. And I can build in my garage every day with the door open, because I live in Southern California.

"I'm a designer by trade and I worked on Titan missiles, atomic bombs, and escape systems for pilots and sky raiders. If you built a model airplane as a kid, well, this is just a great big model airplane. It's built exactly like wooden model airplanes."

The wooden airplane is sold by Sequoia Aircraft and built primarily of spruce. The first parts of the aircraft constructed were the tail surfaces: rudder, stabilizer, elevator and vertical fin. That was followed by fuselage frames and the structure with plywood skins. The third phase included the wing spars and ribs, and the ailerons and flaps, which were followed by an aluminum instrument panel, electrical lines and fuel lines. Throw in a few fiberglass parts such as the center console, the cowl, the seats, the gear doors, all the fairings and you almost have an airplane.

But back to woodworking. The word "spruce," as in Howard Hughes' "Spruce Goose," doesn't sound like the greatest wood to use for an airplane.

"Spruce is a very light, strong, material," Boddy says. "The Spruce Goose didn't have any spruce in it - it was Douglas-fir [and birch] - that's a fact. It was heavy and it didn't have the engines to pull it. One of the big jet engines now would have pulled the whole airplane."

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This is the third long-term project for Boddy.

"I've always needed a project to keep me from going insane," says the retiree. "I've always had something to do. Many years ago, I was going to build a rowboat and my wife at the time said 'Why are you doing that? Why don't you build something that we can use?' So I built a 16' cabin cruiser. That was many years ago and then the next project I built was a Thorpe T18, which is an all-metal airplane. I just need something to do and I knew this project was going to be a project."

Boddy expects to have his plane up and running in January.

This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue.

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