By Gilbert E. Davis
Avaiator Test Pilot
Sue was beautiful with dark hair and brown eyes. It all started when
Ralph Peters and I went down to their apartment; which was called the
Pink Pad, to pick up two girls and take them to a stake conference. One
of the girls was Dorothy, who Ross, my brother had been dating, and her
roommate. At the time, I didn’t know that Sue was Ralph’s date and
Ralph didn’t say anything. So I took Sue by the arm. When we took the
girls home, Sue stood on the steps of the Pink Pad and leaned up and
kissed me. Well, Ralph was mad at me, but how was I to know what was
going on. I went home and got my car and came back to see if Sue wanted
to go to the church dance with me. While I was visiting with Sue, Ralph
drove in, saw my car and drove out. Sue said she would like to go to
the dance—and that’s how it all started.
The next morning Ross said, “Do you like Ralph?” He said, Sue was to be
Ralph’s date to conference and he was going to take her to the dance.
So I said, tell Sue I had to go to California or something. Ralph said,
for me to go ahead and take Sue to the dance. From that first date Sue
and I started to fall in love.
I took Sue to get a banana split and just before we ordered, I was
madly counting my money under the table to see if I had enough money
for two and I didn’t. I said, let’s buy one and split it. Sue thought
it was romantic, but I was just broke. We used to go over to Jakeen
School and swing and talk about, “ what ifs”. What if we fell in love?
What if we got married? What if we had children? It wasn’t long before
we were in love. When Sue and I were “what-if-ing” I told Sue that if
we got married, she would be not only taking me, but my guns,
motorcycles, sports cars, boats, and airplanes.
Sue knew my mother lived in Provo but couldn’t understand why I didn’t
take her over to meet her. When I did take her over to meet my mother,
my mother was in the front of the house on the walk and said; “that I
was a bastard, that I was the milkman’s son.” She was manic. At this
point we left.
Sue wanted me to drive up to Boise, Idaho to meet her family and I did.
I parked in her parent’s driveway and to this day I know the Spirit
spoke to my mind and not from me, it said “ask her to marry you.” Sue
and I went to meet Clair and Mary and told them that we wanted to get
married. They were very supportive and were happy for us.
During that summer Sue worked in her uncle’s store and I closed up my
company. Sue and I met at the airport in Idaho Falls and were married
the next day in the temple, August 5, 1969.
Sue is beautiful and was a fine wife. She and I used her grandfather’s
truck and Air Stream trailer for our honeymoon. We drove to Salt Lake
City only to find that because of the “Conference On Records” the
motels were all full. As we got to Provo, we were able to find a room
but by now we were dead tired. What a way to start a honeymoon!
In the morning we got off to a late start. Now we drove to Las Vegas
and at midnight the temperature was over a hundred degrees. When we
started the next day, we put a plastic pan between us with a block of
ice in it. We would put a washrag on the ice and then wipe it on our
heads and faces. Sure was nice when we got over the mountains and into
California. We had a wonderful time at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry
Farm and as I remember we visited the wax museum. We also went by to
see my old friend Carl DiProfio in Anaheim. As we headed out of L.A. on
Highway 1 we parked by the side of the road to sleep. About 5 o’clock
in the morning we were awakened by a fast train about twenty feet from
our trailer. What a way to wake up, the trailer just shook.
I went back to BYU in the fall of 1969 and we moved into the married
student dorms. Sue was teaching school in Sandy. My sister Bea and
brother Danny were living with my mother. Bea was 17 and Danny was 14.
About January Sue started having morning sickness and had to quit
teaching school. My GPA for the fall semester was 2.08. In the winter
term of 1969 my GPA was 4.0. By the winter semester of 1970 my GPA was
2.93 and all this time my mother was in and out of the mental hospital.
Mary was born September 24, 1970. Danny went to live with Sue’s parents
in Idaho and a friend Sally Cole was helping Bea with her problem.
The Round Table
Sue and I took Clair’s advice and borrowed the money to buy Gary’s
sweater shop. (Big mistake.) My GPA for the winter 1971 term was 2.30.
We decided to call the shop The Round Table and we remodeled it. I
built a 300 lb. iron and oak door, a big green and white banner that
said Round Table, built a big round table covered in brown and tan
naugahide, and a 300 lb. granite boulder with the following blasted
into it-who so ever pulls this sword from this stone is rightful king
of all England. Then I put a big broad sword into a slot in the stone.
Sue and I worked hard and sold a lot of sweaters but not enough. My GPA
for the summer term was 3.33. We sold our stock and closed the shop.
The DX-1 Darter
I enrolled in the fall term 1971 at BYU, with 12 hours and then
everything broke loose. My mother, who was in the mental hospital, sued
me for $10,000. Sue and I decided that we couldn't fight it, so we
packed up over night. I withdrew from BYU and we left for Idaho. I was
told that if I didn’t come back to Utah I’d be in contempt of court. I
met with my mother’s lawyer. After showing him $1,100 of my mother’s
unpaid telephone bills, we got the suit dropped.
While in Utah, I met with my old friend Marvin Cartwright. We decided
to build a ducted fan airplane, the DX-1 Darter. It looked like a Lear
jet with oversized engine pods. We were using a Jaguar engine with twin
ducted fan pods. The airframe was aluminum with a fiberglass nose cone
and tip fuel tanks. With the spring of 1972 everything was going well.
On March 24, 1972 Katie was born. Now we had two little girls.
Marvin and I had decided to get as much of the Darter finished as we
could and take it to Oshkosh, the big air show. By summer the airframe
was about 30% finished. I took my drawings, photographs, and text to
the printer in Provo. The result was a nice brochure that we could sell
at Oshkosh. At this time, I found a windfall in the form of surplus
aircraft parts, hardware, and bolts. We took the girls to Boise to stay
with Clair and Mary. We went to American Fork and picked up the
airplane, surplus, and brochures. The trip went well and we got to the
air show in time to get a good display area. We talked to hundreds of
people, sold hundreds of brochures, and much more surplus than Sue
thought we would. When the week was over we took the trailer to Iowa
and left it with Mel and Gladys, friends of Sue’s parents.
Sue and I had sold enough at Oshkosh to pay for a trip to Florida.
Everything went well on the trip until we were in Missouri. We turned
off the road to rest for a few minutes. As soon as I was off the road,
I was stuck in the mud. A car finally stopped and pulled us back on the
road, but in the process he burned up his transmission. We stopped at a
gas station in Missouri and there was a 300-pound girl sitting on the
ice cream freezer and flies everywhere. Sue went to use the rest room
and found that there was no doorknob in the door. Before we were done
we had towed their car to Georgia.
Our first stop in Florida was St. Augustine with the old fort and the
oldest city in the United States. If I remember right, I bought a small
brass cannon. Sue wanted to see the old cemetery. We both had a good
Next was Daytona Beach. It is so nice at Daytona because you can drive
right down on the beach. A little sunburn later we left for Orlando. In
Orlando we visited the Johnsons and the Butzers. We then drove to
Apopka to visit with the Blackwelders. Then it was on to Disney World.
It was so much bigger than Disneyland. We had a wonderful time and then
left to see Tampa and St. Petersburg and the Gulf of Mexico. We swam in
the Gulf and Sue couldn’t get over how warm the water was. We went to
San Belle Island where the whole island and the beaches were all
What a collection of seashells we took with us. It would have been nice
to stay longer but we had get back to our daughters Mary and Katie.
American Fork, Utah
We were back in American Fork now and I was back at work on the DX 1. I
built a 24-inch lathe using a Brigs motor, a 24-inch flywheel from a
tank engine, and some steel pipe. I was then able to machine the mold
for the ducted fan pod. When the pod was finished and tested, it was
putting air out the nozzle at about 250 mph. At this time my father was
sleeping in the shop and machining parts for his airplane wheels and
Sue wanted to reupholster the couch and showed me the cloth samples. I
looked at them and picked out the sample I liked best. It was hard to
believe but she and I had picked out the same sample. This kind of
seeing things the same had happened once before when we picked out
While talking to my father in American Fork he was complaining about
how much trouble the aircraft brakes were to make. He said it took
three hours to cut and finish the caliper slot. I thought a few
minutes, and said I’d subcontract the calipers for $1.00 a piece. I
figured that I could, with my Time Machine, cut one piece in one minute
thus I could make $60 dollars an hour on a part that my father was
making for 33 cents an hour. I started building the Time Machine with
parts from the junk yard, tool steel, a lathe rack and pinion, milling
cutters, and an electric motor.
I learned a valuable lesson; don’t brag, it gets you in trouble. I
machined the first part with my father watching. The first part was a
perfect part and all in one minute. It was more than my father could
take. He looked at the part and said; apparently this part is all
right. I said obviously this part is all right! My father said, “I
can’t pay you that $1 per part you’ll be getting all my profit.” This
wasn’t true, but that was the way he now saw it. I should have kept my
Time Machine in the dark, machined the parts, and then delivered the
finished parts two weeks later. As it was, I was mad and told my father
he should go by our original agreement, buy me out, or be sued. He
decided to buy the machine, so much for my Time Machine and my $60
dollars an hour.
Engine Research (1973)
We were running out of money for the DX 1, so I had to sell some
things. I sold the Jaguar engine for the plane and repainted my 1950
Jaguar roadster and sold it. What I needed now was a job. I happened to
be down at the Provo airport and ran into a man named Roger Billings.
He told me he was going to be building a hydrogen engine. When I told
him I had built an engine of my own he said he wanted to give me a job.
My first job for Engine Research was to design a cam for their
six-cylinder engine. I worked at it and came up with a very good cam
design. Roger asked me if I could build the engine for $50,000 and I
told him I could. I went to California and took some of the prints of
parts we needed made and took them to my friend Joe Rosales. Joe was
able to make the crankcase; got me a good used lathe and milling
machine. I put the machines in a U-Haul trailer and took them back to
At this time the girls were growing up and I couldn’t get over how much
they both looked like their mother.
By summer work was going well on the engine and our family had moved
into a friend’s apartment in Y mount. Dr. Hammond operated on Mary’s
ear and I had my tonsils taken out. Mary looked like an onion all
wrapped up in her bandages. I just hurt. My operation was a little
unusual as Dr. Hammond put up a mirror so I could watch the operation.
Roger sent me to the bank to get $10,000 in cash so I could buy
some machines. Since the deal fell through, I came home that night with
the $10,000 in cash. We put it in the freezer and went to bed. I rode
to work the next day with $10,000 cash in a paper sack on my bicycle.
Work had gone well on the hydrogen engine. Finally, we had a problem
which none of us could solve. It was the manifold to cylinder seal. One
day I was walking between the lab and the machine shop. I saw the
solution. It was just like color TV turned on in my head. I had just
received a vision. When I made the seal it sealed just like we needed.
Roger gave me a $1,000 bonus. I gave the $1,000 to Sue and she bought a
Bernina sewing machine.
Piper Arrow (1973)
Roger needed a pilot so he paid for me to get checked out in a 200 mph,
200 hp Piper Arrow. I got checked out and became the corporate pilot.
September 15th Roger, his wife Tonya as well as Sue and I got in the
Piper Arrow and took off for Riverside, California. It was a little
hard on Sue. She was pregnant and got airsick. I was going to land at
St. George and fill up the fuel tanks. Roger said we could make it with
the fuel we had. We flew on and by the time we got to Ontario we had to
get radar vectors because of the smog. At last we were vectored into
the Riverside airport. When I had the airplane filled with fuel we
found that we had landed with only three usable gallons of fuel. Next
time I would stop for fuel. Sue and I had just gone to our motel when
Roger called. He said that the weather was getting bad and we had
better fly out tonight. I drove to the airport and filed for a special
VFR clearance. After leaving Riverside we headed for Las Vegas. It was
zero visibility to 4,000 feet. We landed in Las Vegas to fuel up and
get some cold drinks. Sue didn’t want all of her cold drink so I drank
hers too. We flew on toward Provo and now about half way, I had to go
real bad. Milford, Utah was nearby and had lights. When I landed at
Milford, I had to go so bad that when I shut down the engine, I jumped
off the wing while the plane was still moving. The rest of the trip to
Provo was uneventful.
On September the 16th, I flew an oilman from Japan on a trip from Provo
to Delta, to Manti, and back to Provo. For some reason I had a hard
time getting the engine to start that day.
The last trip in the Piper Arrow was when my brother Ross and I flew to
Mesa, Arizona. We went to see my brother Douglas and his wife Faith. We
flew about 200 feet over the rim of the Grand Canyon (it is against the
law now). We flew around the Mesa area some 380 miles. Douglas, Faith,
and Nancy had a big time. While in Mesa it was so hot Ross and I just
couldn’t get enough to drink. We had a fine trip back to Provo.
Mike was born Dec. 14, 1973, while we lived in the apartment behind
Fred Myers in Orem. While we were in that same apartment, I remember
Katie standing on her crib rail with no hands saying, “Look Mom funny
trick.” Katie would also roll off the couch arm backwards to the floor.
When I finished my work I packed up the family and we drove up to
Boise, Idaho. I then went to work for Western Equipment. With Clair’s
help we bought a house on Cole Haven. Aaron was born May 16, 1975 at
St. Luke’s hospital.
I worked out a deal with Bob Nikkel for $25,000 with which I would
build the YF 80 powered with the Davis Cold Jet. Bob had a big trailer
built and painted up with red, white and blue and on the side it had YF
80 Windstar. We packed up the airplane, Cold Jet, and brochures. We
drove to Oshkosh and put it on display. There was a lot of interest in
our project. After we came back from Oshkosh Bob sold out to Sid
Hendricks and I worked on to finish the airplane. The Cold Jet had been
tested to 16,000 rpm and about 300 mph air speed.
About this time I got a phone call from Bill Lear, the inventor of the
Lear Jet, car radio, and 8-track stereo (also some 300 other
inventions). He wanted me to come down to Reno to see him and expressed
interest in my Cold Jet. I flew to Reno and the next day took a cab to
Lear Avia to see Mr. Lear. I spent about 3 hours with the chief
engineer and half an hour with Mr. Lear. I got some good ideas from
Lear but didn’t give away much about my Cold Jet. Mr. Lear said, “My
Lear Jet is leaving for Oklahoma City would you like a ride?” I had to
say no because I didn’t have enough money to fly from Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma back to Boise.
Sarah was born February 14, 1977 at St. Luke’s hospital. She was our
one and only Valentine girl. I just knew that there was some thing
special about that little girl.
Sid was coming from California to see the Cold Jet run and wanted to
fund the project. Richard Shannon came from Seattle and said my Cold
Jet couldn’t do 300 mph, but didn’t know why. It looked like my project
was over. Why not call Joe Rosales, if any one knew what to do, Joe
would. I figured out the answer to the problem. The pressure ratio was
too low. We needed about a 1.4 to 1 pressure rise. I then called Joe,
who said, “Hello Gil.” Joe said he knew the man that could give us a
1.4 to 1 pressure ratio design. He said he was up the valley and he
would find him and call me back. Joe said the man for us to try was
Homer Wood, an aeronautical engineer. Mr. Wood could give us what we
needed. When Sid came, I put on a good show with my 16,000 rpm Cold
Jet. Then I told Sid that it couldn’t give us 300 mph. I told him the
pressure ratio of 1.12 to 1 was too low. Then I told him Joe had a man
in California that could give us what we needed, a 1.4 to 1 pressure
rise unit. I went to L.A. and met with Homer Wood. When he found out
what we were going to do with the compressor he backed out. He was
afraid he might be sued, so back to Joe. This time we got a real
winner. Robert Carmade was the man. He was only one of about five men
who worked in high-pressure ratio axel flow compressors.
D 340 Cold Jet
The Davis D-340
Cold Jet was a single staged high-pressure ratio axel
flow compressor driven by an internal combustion engine. Its maximum
rpm was just over 18,000. The maximum tail pipe velocity was just over
500 mph. The rotor blades were stainless steel and made to a tolerance
of .005 inches, with 350 hp. At 18,000 feet. it would be able to reach
300 mph. One day I was testing the Cold Jet at 300 mph tail pipe
velocity and here came Aaron. I picked him up under his armpits and
held him in the air stream and it blew his pants off.
While we lived at Grandpa Blair’s house, since it was small, I built
two playrooms in the rafters in the garage. They were hot most of the
time but the children played there any way. One room was for the girls
and the other for the boys. The rooms were about 4 feet by 5 feet by 3
feet high. It was fun and got the children out of the crowded house. In
the house, Mike and Aaron slept on the back porch, Mary and Katie slept
in the north bedroom, Sue and I were in the south bedroom, and Sarah
was in the laundry room.
During about six months of work on the Cold Jet my father moved into
the office I built in the garage. He slept on a cot and machined many
of the parts of the Cold Jet. This worked out well as my father got to
spend time with his grandchildren.
Clair gave each of his children $32,000 and Sue and I decided to build
a two story five bedroom house. I did the sheet rock, trim and the
roof. When we moved in I moved the airplane and shop in the two-car
garage. There was just enough room for the airplane and the machinery.
Sarah had the little bedroom over the stairs and she was the princess.
One day Sarah threw a temper fit and I had to hold her down until she
stopped. Sue did all the wallpaper and she did a perfect job. One day
she was down in the kitchen. She stomped the cover on the glue bucket
then her foot went into the glue. Our roof had a steep pitch and when I
was roofing the garage I slid off and landed in the mud. During this
time I had adhesive encapsulitis and my shoulder hurt all the time.
Many nights I sat in the study and read all kinds of books until 2
o’clock in the morning.
Joe was a friend I had known for years. He was one of the greatest men
I have ever known. He was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. His
grandmother was a full-blooded Mayan Indian. Joe came to the United
States and went to New York City and started working. He finally
learned English and enrolled in Columbia. During WW-2 Joe started
Airesearch and by 1949 he had 4,000 people working for him. Anything
you wanted he could get. He had helped so many people that everybody
owed him favors. He had made parts for the hydrogen engine and the Cold
Jet. While working on the slots on the rotor shaft Joe was slowing
down. I flew to L.A. to see what was wrong. The truth was Joe had
cancer and was dying. Just before he went into a coma Joe told his
wife, Camilla, “I love that kid; he’s just like me, only younger.” When
Camilla told me what Joe had said I couldn’t believe it. I just decided
I’d work to make Joe’s statement come true. Joe went into a coma a few
days later and died. I worked in Joe’s research machine shop so as to
finish the rotor for the Cold Jet. Joe’s death depressed me and I’d
find myself in the movies trying to overcome the effect of Joe’s death.
Joe’s wife gave me the keys to Joe’s shop and then gave me a key to
their house and told me to stay in the spare bedroom any time I was in
At Joe’s funeral his old friend Paul Silva came to me and said, “Come
to my company in Los Angeles.” He said he owed Joe a favor and now he
was paying it off to me. Paul took a new $30,000 computer controlled
mill out of the crate and set it up for me. We made all the stator
blades for me at no cost. The whole process took about a week.
I contacted President Tanner (a member of the first presidency of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints) through a Bishop in Salt
Lake City. I needed to see if the Church would be interested in
financing an invention, a magnetic motor.
President Tanner said in part, “Why don’t you talk to Roger Billings.”
When he made this suggestion, I thought Roger Billings had repented
from past dealings. So I went to Provo and talked to Roger. He wasn’t
interested in the magnetic motor.
He wanted me to go to Independence, Missouri and be his Project
Engineer and to finish the hydrogen engine. We decided to work together
When I got to Missouri, I found that I was to be in charge of the dyno
lab, the machine lab, the engine lab and the stock room. It took us
five months to sell our house in Boise. I had to send so much of my
money to Sue that I was nearly broke all the time. I couldn’t afford an
My Hole in the Wall (1980)
Since coming to Independence I had lived in the family room of some of
the members in Blue Springs. It was cheap but still meant I could only
afford peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I had bought a nice 10-speed
bicycle for Mary when she came to Missouri. I had to ride 10 to 15
miles a day on the bike.
One night I was working late in the dyno lab when I looked at the wall
by the stairs. Then I looked at the outside wall of the building. I
started thinking; there must be some 8 feet between the walls. I took a
screwdriver and removed the heater that was in the inside wall and
looked in. It was like looking into King Tut’s tomb. It was even larger
than I had thought. I started building shelves in the stock room with a
closet for lab coats in the north wall. I now cut a door in the closet
wall and screwed a piano hinge on one side and used a cabinet screw on
the other side for a door lock. When I started moving my things inside
no one was the wiser as I did it at night. I was always the last person
in the building at night. Next I ran electric wires through the ceiling
so I had lights, a plug in for my tape player and electric clock.
Everyone at work knew I moved but no one knew where. When I washed up I
used the mop sink in the machine lab. Then I took my towel and washrag
back with me. I took my bicycle in my hole in the wall at night and
parked it in the hall during the day while I was working. Now I had a
little money for a steak at the steak house or dinner at Mrs. A’s
place. The hole in the wall worked out very well until I moved the
family from Idaho to Missouri. I also went to an Osmond's concert that
was held in the field by the LDS visitor’s center. If I remember right,
It was on the fourth of July.
The Little Green House
We rented a little green house over near the Missouri River and moved
in. We had so many boxes that we just about filled up the garage. I had
my knee operated on and we would sit on the bed and play Uno. Aaron won
so much we called him Mr. Uno. The principal of the elementary school
said the boys would all be happy to have our two good-looking girls in
school. While in the Independence first ward I was called to be the
president of the Young Men’s M.I.A. And then it happened, Jenny was
born at the Independence Hospital November 16, 1980.
Roger Billings had conned me again. He was telling employees lies,
involved in dishonest business practices and immoral acts. I fasted and
prayed. The result was a meeting with Steve, myself, Roger, and the
Bishop. Roger was finally excommunicated a year later
Return to Boise, Idaho
When we went back to Boise we moved into the Blair house. I got in
contact with Sid Hendricks about completing and testing the D 340 Cold
Jet. It would be tested to 340 lbs. of thrust. The 350 Chevrolet had
been built up by Keith Black in California. I put the Cold Jet together
and started testing it. The test worked out well and with a
supercharger I finally got 340 lbs. of static thrust.
We were having so much trouble getting the 350-engine into the YF–80
that we decided to build a 2/3rd scale of the T33.
My mother died in 1982 at 68.
I drew up the 3 view drawings of the 2/3rd scale T-33 and drove to
Scale Composites in California. They said they would build an airframe,
with no propulsion system, for $180,000. Well, I was broke, two car
payments behind and it was a cold winter. Sid finally offered me the
contract for $80,000. I told Sid it had to be $180,000 or we would both
hate each other before it is finished. Sid insisted on $80,000; which
seemed like a lot of money, so I decided to go ahead with the project.
Back in Nampa I built a research hanger 30 feet by 30 feet. When I
finished the hanger, Sue and I took the children to Disneyland.
When we went to Universal Studios Jenny was so tired that she stopped,
put her hands in her pockets and wouldn’t move. I finally got her to
come with us to Disneyland. Jenny liked Small World so much that while
we were leaving Jenny kept saying, “Small World one more time.” So
there I was with Jenny over my shoulder. She was pounding on my back
and still saying, “Small World one more time.”
The Replica T-33
I finally started work on the 2/3rd scale T-33. The first piece I made
was the nose section. My father was in town machining parts, and was
watching while I poured the foam for the nose. I had a Kentucky Fried
Chicken bucket full of two-part foam. It foamed up so fast that I had
to throw the bucket and all into the core. Work went well with the help
of Gary Crawford.
Levi was born at St. Luke's hospital October 23, 1982. I couldn’t
believe how blessed Sue and I could be to have so many beautiful babies.
In the summer of 1983 it was easy to see that with about $15,000 left
of the $80,000 it wasn’t going to work. Sid wouldn’t renegotiate so I
formed a corporation to design and build the Davis Flying Wing Starship
Davis Wing, Ltd.
I worked on the design and construction of the Davis Flying Wing
Starship Alpha. All the while I was waiting for Sid to come up with
more money. To get more money to live on, I worked on contracted parts
for the Kit Fox of Dan Denny. My father also invested money in my
flying wing project and he machined many of the parts.
Cow Kills Car
I was driving home one night about 11 o’clock on Franklin Road about
halfway between Nampa and Meridian when Bang! My car had been hit hard.
I couldn’t see because the hood was smashed up in front of the
windshield. I finally got the car stopped, oh yes, I had hit a cow. The
front end was wiped out and the radiator was smashed back into the
engine. Mr. Hart said he was in a hearing district and he had never had
a cow out before. To make a long story short, as Aaron said, “Cow
killed Dad’s car.” Hart didn’t want to pay, his insurance company
didn’t want to pay, so we went to a small claims court and Hart had to
The Secret Room
When I designed the hanger I made provisions for an attic room six feet
high, six feet wide, and 30 feet long. It also had a big door on the
north end that would swing open upward. The attic was a secret and as
the flying wing was being built, nobody could see it unless they signed
a nondisclosure agreement. To see the flying wing they had to go
through the closet door, up the stepladder, open the trap door, open an
attic door and then turn on the light. There it was a Flying Wing in
the secret room.
It was this time, July 13, 1984 that Lynsey was born at St. Luke's
hospital. Sarah wrote on a piece of wood, “Baby sister, Sarah is a
Star.” She put it in by the baby crib.
My father invested enough money to build a Quonset hanger 7 feet high,
14 feet wide, and 36 feet long. Since Sid and Elray had the Sheriff
lock me out of the big hanger, I had to have some place to finish work
on the flying wing. I built a six feet by three feet shelf about five
feet off the ground. It hung from the steel bows. I slept up there in
my sleeping bag so the mice couldn’t get me. I also had a refrigerator
and hot plate in the long hanger. I still had a lot of work to do. When
I did the weight and balance, I found that the 25 hp K.F.M. just wasn’t
enough. I traded my metal lathe for a new 40 hp Kawasaki engine.
Now it was my birthday and what a birthday present Sue gave me! It was
a beautiful dark haired brown-eyed baby girl. Mallory was born January
3, 1986 at St. Luke’s hospital.
Starship Alpha Flies
the flying wing I had to borrow $3,000 from Clair, my
father-in-law. The first public flight was June 10, 1986 and it was a
great success. I was coming in to land but when I pushed the left
rudder pedal down nothing happened. Here I was in front of the
newspapers and everybody. What if I crashed? I tried to make a good
level approach to land. Everything was all right; I was now on the
runway. I was having trouble with cracks in my exhaust pipes until I
installed springs at the joint. We wanted to fly the wing at Oshkosh in
July, but we lacked the needed 40 hours of flight time. July 14, 1986
The Idaho Statesman published a one and a half page article on the
Flying Wing and me the ‘Wing Man’.
Ross was excited about the Flying Wing since he was one of three pilots
that had flown it. We talked it over and decided to take the Flying
Wing to Oshkosh. To get enough money for the trip to the big fly in
Ross took out a mortgage on his house. Ross gave me $15,000 and we got
a Ryder truck and packed up the plane with Ross’s motorbike and all the
tapes and brochures. Ross, Frank Hennis and I made the trip. Thousands
of people saw our Flying Wing. We sold loads of our brochures and met
Jim Campbell who said he could get us a big article in Popular
Mechanics if we let him fly the Wing. All in all, Oshkosh was a big
success. We drove back to Nampa with no problems.
Reno Air Races (1986)
Now that Oshkosh was over I flew off the 40 hours on Alpha. I got a
phone call from one of the promoters at the Reno Air Races. He said he
would put us right up at the front gate if we would fly down. We would
get a $500 spot for free. Frank and I went down. I would fly the Flying
Wing and Frank would be my mobile gas station. I took off a little late
from Winnemucca on my flight to Lovelock. Once the sun was behind the
mountains it was pitch black. There was no way I could see the airport.
Then I remembered I had Frank’s aircraft radio. I keyed the radio five
times and it was a path to heaven. The runway lights at Lovelock turned
on. I had no panel lights so I came in hot and used up almost all the
runway. Frank and I slept in his camper at Lovelock and I flew out to
Reno in the morning. We got the front row spot they had said we would
have. Thousands of people saw our Flying Wing.
Rod Schapel had two engineering degrees and lots of money but his
Flying Wing never flew. He had a big hanger and his Flying Wing was on
static display. Schapel came over to me as I was ready to take off on
Sunday morning and said I could put my Flying Wing in his hanger until
the wind calmed down. I told him I could handle the wind and took off
Rough Landing at Lovelock
As I got near Lovelock I noticed vibrations and popping sounds from the
engine compartment. As I turned final I was looking right into the sun.
When I landed I found that I had landed in 3 and 4 foot sagebrush
growing through the runway. The sagebrush had knocked holes in my
wings. I checked the propeller and to my surprise, the reduction back
plate was broken. Frank and I removed the broken backing plate and
drove back to Nampa. I machined a new backing plate and installed it on
the airplane. Made it to Winnemucca and then to MacDermitt.
Wind Shift at Mac Dermitt
I flew to MacDermitt and Frank topped off my fuel tanks. The southern
windsock showed a headwind and after I took off the wind shifted to a
tailwind. The plane pancaked from about eight feet. Result was a broken
propeller, a broken landing gear link, and a broken ventral fin. Frank
and I went back to Nampa and got a hay trailer to carry the Flying Wing.
I stayed up all
night repairing the plane because Jim Campbell was
coming to fly the Wing and take pictures for the Popular Mechanics
article. Jim was too big to fit in the Flying Wing and I flew instead.
Jim took a couple rolls of film and said if we got the right shot, we’d
make the front cover of the magazine. The front cover, no way! So, six
million copies of Popular Mechanics with Starship Alpha on the front
cover were printed. Jim was also editor of Sport Pilot and was doing an
article and a front cover.
Professional Air Show Performer
After getting three front covers of magazines (Popular Mechanics,
Homebuilt Aircraft and Sport Pilot) and flying the radar approach at
Hill Air Force Base for the Major General, I wondered-what is next? The
next thing to happen was a phone call from Pasco, Washington. They
wanted me to come up and fly in their air show. They would pay me to
fly in their air show. I flew in July 11, 1987 and took the rental car
they gave me, went to the Holiday Inn they paid for, and had a
wonderful meal they also paid for. The next day, July 12th, I flew in
the air show and had a wonderful day. I picked up my money and flew
back to Nampa.
Work was progressing on the two place-Flying Wing Gemini. I made many
demo flights and then in July was getting ready to fly to Oshkosh. They
were having a 24th of July parade in Rexburg, Idaho and wanted me to
over fly the parade.
On the morning of the 24th I fueled up my plane and took off from the
Burley airport run way 2. Everything seemed right for a perfect
takeoff. My rate of climb was low. Something was very wrong; I wasn’t
climbing fast enough to clear the potato warehouses across the river.
Since there was a railroad bridge to the left and a concrete highway
bridge to the right, the Snake River was the only place to go. I
skimmed across the water at 50 mph and then hit the water with all the
landing gear down. About 20 feet after I hit the water I was stopped.
My flight helmet smashed the canopy and even tore out the bolts on the
canopy hinges. Four feet of the right wing tip was gone. Five feet of
the leading edge of the wing left of center was gone and pieces of
fiberglass and foam were floating all over the river. I shut down the
engine and sat up to my waist in water. I pulled my brief case and
everything else I could out of the water and put it on top of the wing.
I swam to shore and got a boat to pull the wreck to Tom’s Marina. It
looked like it was ready for the junkyard. The pilots that saw it were
amazed that I could come out of a plane that looked like that and not
be hurt. It proved that the Davis Flying Wing was a very good airplane
to ditch in water. It didn’t flip upside down and it couldn’t sink.
I worked on in 1987 to build the prototype Starcruiser Gemini and then
started to repair Alpha.
Bethany was born January 18, 1988. I was in the delivery room and got
to see another miracle, number ten in fact. God blessed us again.
Test Pilots (1988)
I was in California and had a chance to meet both Chuck Yeager and the
chief test pilot for Lockheed, Toni LeVier, both professional test
pilots, two of the best of the best. Toni LeVier talked to me for about
30 minutes and was very interested in my ditching of a flying wing in
water, as I was the only pilot to do it.
Even though my flying wing was laying in pieces in the hanger, the Los
Angeles Times newspaper (with a circulation of 1,136,816 papers) put me
on the front page on the 4th of July 1988. I was to be found three
places in the article and in the caption of the only picture.
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