By Robert Cutter
Incubation time for Moonpie II was about 7-3/4 years. Just after her first birthday, aka annual condition inspection, she went for a spa visit. Gail and I had agreed on a paint scheme, visited a painter in Georgia who does good work and went over pricing and scheduling. He said he would need to keep the plane for 6-8 weeks. WHAT? Not fly for two months? I wasn’t too sure about that, so I called the “Michael Angelo of RV painters,” Grady L. O’Neal of GLO Custom Aircraft, Inc. Ft. Worth, TX.
GLO Custom has painted more than 200 RVs from around the USA and Canada. Grady started painting airline aircraft in the 70’s and corporate jets and turbo props a few years later. In the RV world, Grady is “The Man.” Well, I knew I couldn’t afford to go to, what I have heard, is the best painter in the US and it was a long trip to Ft. Worth, but I made the call just for grins.
Ironically, the paint scheme we had chosen, GLO had painted in 2013. I believed he could do it again with a few changes we wanted. I was shocked at the quote. Not only was he over $1200 less expensive than the other quote we had, he only wanted the plane for 3-4 weeks!! Now that’s more like it. The flight over was going to be much further and more expensive than going to Ga. It certainly was going to be more complex getting home and then back to get her. Hmmm. What to do, what to do?
I started checking airline flights and found USAir/American Airline had 3 flights a day, non-stop, from DFW to CAE. Now we are getting somewhere. Only $313 one way! That is more my style. But, by the time I got my schedule to have the plane in TX, the weather and my work schedule became a major factors. By the time the weather and my schedule cleared, the airline tickets had increased. Still not too bad though.
Sure, I fly IFR all the time in the corporate world, but I hadn’t in the RV. Maybe I needed to get it certified to make things easier, but I didn’t really want to be in the soup with no practice in the plane. My wallet became $400 lighter, but Moonpie II is now IFR certified for 2 years.
A few days later, MPII and I headed out at 6:20 AM enroute to Starkville, MS, KSTF, and then to Northwest Regional Airport, 52F, in Ft. Worth/Roanoke, TX. They are great people at KSTF and low fuel prices, too. It was also within 5 minutes of being half way.
Five hours and 10 minutes flight time plus a 45 minutes stop in MS, we were there. Finding GLO Custom was easy. There were a few RVs around and one happy owner was taxiing away as I pulled up. Jumped right out of the plane. Not really. Sat for a few minutes and slowly climbed out to meet Grady and Brandon. These guys are very nice and I enjoyed meeting them. Grady and I walked around the plane, making notes of what I wanted and what he was going to do, then headed upstairs to his office. Tons of photos on his walls of RVs he had painted. I recognized quite a few of them from photos on the internet or that I had seen in person.
Deposit paid and Brandon drove me the 20 minutes to DFW to catch a blower home. It is really strange leaving a plane you have spent so long building with someone you just met, over 800 miles from home! Don’t go there Robert. It will be ok. BUT, MPII has never spent the night away from home. She is going to be lonely! Will she get along with Grady and his crew? Will she make new friends with other RVs there? Man, this is hard.
Made my flight from DFW with no problems and was back in Columbia by 6:30PM. So 12 hours later, I had flown almost ½ way across the country in a plane we built and then airlined home.
I did have to get her there a week early due to my work schedule and didn’t expect anything to be done immediately. However, they did start and sent a few photos along the way. With only the primer on, think Tom and Don Roberts RV4, she was already looking better.
Then I didn’t hear anything for about 10 days. I sent Grady an email asking if she was enjoying the spa and could he send some updated photos. Well, Grady is about as crazy as I am, so he emailed back that she was enjoying it, but had seemed to be a bit camera shy. He said he would try to convince her that the pics were for us and take some. She cooperated with him and we got to see her with a new white coat.
The waiting to get her back is getting intense! Then I got photos of the blue on her.
Then nothing… Finally I begged for another teaser photo and got one of one wing!
How exciting! We got to see all four colors together. Grady had mentioned he would not send pics of the completed plane as he wanted us to see it complete in person.
Now if you recall, TX had been getting hit every day with floods and tornados. YES, right in that area! Of course we were worried about the plane, but mostly that everyone there would be safe. Then I got the call that the spa treatment was finished and when did I plan to get her?
Hmmm, weather fronts were either in TX with flooding rains, ½ way between TX and SC or in SC. This is going to be interesting. How long is it going to be before I can get her back? Oh yea, work schedule, too! How much are the one way tickets going to go up because I can’t buy it in advance due to the weather?
Gail suggested I call Ken Harrill to see if he would be available to fly me out there. I had talked with Ken about going out to deliver MPII, but it wasn’t going to work. After some rearranging of his schedule and commitments, Ken gave me the thumbs up. He likes a good adventure! So we set a time to depart and headed out making a stop in Starkville, MS again. While fueling, we talked with the lineman about us stopping back in that night to overnight as we didn’t think we would make it back to Columbia in one day. He offered to rearrange his big hangar to get us in there and offered the loaner car (pickup truck) for us to keep overnight. I told you earlier these were good people! He gave us his business card and asked us to call. Next stop, 52F. As we taxied in, Ken could see the plane, but I couldn’t due to the cowling blocking my view. He was telling me how good it looked and it wasn’t until we stopped that I got my first glimpse!
Words cannot express the feelings that were going on inside me. It looked very similar to the photos we had seen from the plane he had painted before. Well, I guess so. That was the main idea! She was beautiful! The GLO Custom Aircraft spa treatment had done her well. Ken and I both looked her over very carefully and were still speechless. That really is an awesome feeling.
Grady and I finished our business and Ken and I had another pressing matter. Have you noticed that nowhere in this story was food mentioned? We were starving. It was now 4 PM and we hadn’t had a meal all day. Grady gave us a ride to grab a quick bite and then back to the airport. Another thorough preflight and then once around the pattern to make sure everything was working correctly.
With both planes topped off, we headed out as a two ship for Starkville, MS. Again. As we departed about 5 PM on a Friday afternoon, I noticed Grady was in his truck, still there, waiting to make sure we got off the ground and had no problems. This man is the kinda guy you want to do business with.
Landing in Starkville just before sunset, we taxied to the fuel pumps. While Ken was fueling the planes, I made a call to Kenneth, the lineman. Before we finished fueling, he was there to open the hangar and help us secure the planes for the night.
Hot, tired and still hungry, we made our way to check in the hotel and then to grab a real meal and cooling beverages.
After a short night’s sleep and breakfast, we headed back to the airport, preflighted, opened the hangar and pulled the planes out. Just about that time the lineman for the day was showing up and bid us farewell. Ken’s paint scheme is a big hit in Starkville, MS, home of Mississippi State University. Their colors are burgundy and white!
Launching at 8 AM, again we had great weather and smooth air as we made our way back to KCUB. Gail, aka Moonpie, had made a post on Facebook about our arrival and there were more people there than I expected. What a nice greeting party to have some members of 242 there. Thank you all who came out. We enjoyed sharing our excitement with you.
Yes, Grady and crew at the GLO spa, exceeded our expectations. Though never really finished, Moonpie II is complete for now. Stop in if you are around. We would love to share her with you. Thank you to EAA 242 for being here to attract people with similar interest and help others with the depth of knowledge that can only be found through experience. Special thanks go to Ken Harrill as he was the one that gave me many rides in his RV and planted the seed for all this to happen. He also served as my technical counselor throughout the build and made my trip back to Ft. Worth to get MPII home a great one.
Robert Cutter aka RVRC