Special Personal Flight May Set Record

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At 82 years of age, Arnold Ebneter has realized his dream of building his own aircraft and flying it solo and nonstop across the country, and he's possibly set a record along the way. Ebneter believes he may have set the new mark for distance in a small aircraft weighing less than 500 kilograms. Ebneter's E-1 weighs just 580 pounds, empty. With wet wings and its pilot aboard, the starting weight is about 1,100 pounds. The fuel load puts 2,327 miles (west to east) in easy reach and that's what Ebneter says he's flown. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale will now decide if he's met the standards and bested a 1984 record set by Frank Hertzler (and his VariEze) of nearly 2,214 miles. Ebneter began his 18 hour and 27 minute flight at Paine Field in Washington on July 25 and first landed the next day at Fredericksburg, Va. The aircraft was ten years in the making; the dream started earlier.

Ebneter has had an interest in record-breaking distance flights since he wrote a paper on the topic while studying at Texas A&M in the mid-50s. He began his own project about a decade ago when his all-metal, single-engine low wing, now called E-1, began to take shape and first flew it in July 2005. Leaving at 2 p.m. local time, he flew his custom-built airplane through the night, burning all but two of its 58.5-gallon fuel load. Ebneter has previously won two awards from the FAA: The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. He still works out of Harvey Field a few days each week as a flight instructor and FAA inspector. He's expecting to hear back from the FAI, soon.