Native Vermonter and Vietnam War veteran Pete Laframboise of New Haven has had a long affinity for things with wings. The 62-year-old private pilot got a real taste for flying as a gunner aboard a Huey helicopter in Southeast Asia during the 1960s. Later, he learned to fly at the Middlebury State Airport. And now with more than 30 years of VFR (visual flight rules) flying experience under his belt, Laframboise has completed the dazzling task of building a first-class experimental aircraft called the RV-7A.
Classified as "experimental," a new class of civilian sport planes came on strong in the private aviation market starting in the 1980s. By the 1990s, homebuilders could purchase planes as kits, building and paying for sections as they go - everything from gyrocopters to private jets.
"I was attracted to the experimental RV-7A manufactured by Van's Aircraft; it's the most popular kit plane on the market," he said. "It's fast, very sleek, and ideal for aerobatics."
Lamframboise began building the highly aerodynamic RV-7A in the basement of his New Haven home in early 2006. Crates arrived over the span of a year as the pilot began the tedious assembly process. He taught himself how to read aircraft blueprints and even rivet aluminum to complete the airplane.
"When the plane got to be almost too big to fit through the door of my basement," he said. "I moved it to my garage. Once the fuselage and tail assembly was complete, I moved everything to the Middlebury Airport."
Laframboise encountered some technical roadblocks. However, he found virtual friends on a Van's Internet forum who were also building their own "X-planes" (not to be confused with the USAF's and NASA's storied series of research X-planes). Bloggers shared their tricks and secrets. Before long, Laframboise was confident that he could complete assembly by the end of summer 2008.