Theft of the blog: He can build the plane and fly the plane

Editor's note: Bob Collins will get the last word today, his last with MPR News. Before that, however, we tossed the NewsCut keys to a few folks who know the guy and the things he’s built. Next up is editor Bill Catlin.

Building an airplane solo is among the more noteworthy accomplishments in Bob Collins’ remarkable turn on this planet.

It was a yearslong, painstaking journey that turned out beautifully.

After all the expense of purchasing the airframe parts, the tooling, the engine, the electronics, the safety harnesses, he also had to pay a pilot to test fly his new bird to achieve FAA certification.

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That’s a white-knuckle day at the airstrip. But November 614 Echo Foxtrot received her airworthiness certification in May, 2012.

Being a wannabe pilot, I’d followed Bob’s progress and gave him a bottle of Champagne worthy of the occasion and the accomplishment. And he invited me to take a ride with him in his new two-seater RV-7.

So, on a perfect day for flying in early September, we met at his hangar at the South St. Paul airport.

The plane was wasn’t painted yet, and the glare off the shiny aluminum was searing.

Up we went, and headed south across Minnesota, following the Mississippi River to Winona. We passed over a squadron of pelicans on the way and landed at the otherwise deserted airport. We hung out, chatted with a guy who seemed to be the resident elder, whether in an official capacity or not. We mentioned the pelicans. He said they’re dumb as rocks.

Then we were wheels up again, heading back north to Rushford, to enjoy one of the well-hidden perks of general aviation.

The Rushford "airport" is a strip, two hangar buildings, a fuel pump, and a house masquerading as a terminal building, "with accommodations that you’ll have to see to believe," according to the city.

Inside it looked like a home with lots of comfy furniture and stocked with provisions. I seem to recall burger patties in the freezer, and maybe a grill and charcoal. There was ice cream and pop, for sure. So, we helped ourselves to some root beer floats and sat on the deck watching the hummingbirds zoom around the feeder.

We probably left a few bucks in the kitty.

Then we headed back to South St. Paul. On final approach, close to touch down in a crosswind, Bob felt a wind shear, pushed the throttle forward, cool as a cucumber, and we went around again. A few more glorious minutes aloft.

Bob finished the paint job and eventually decided to sell N614EF.

Now he’s building another aircraft -- because, well, planes.

Happy landings, Bob, and thanks! In thrust we trust.