Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
Five years ago, my wife, Linda, and I were happily members of a flying club that had a Cessna Cardinal. Then one day I went to the doctor andwas diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. We sold our share in the Cardinal, and I went down that terrifying path that only cancer patients truly understand. To make a long story short, a year later the lump was gone.
However, I doubted if I would ever feel healthy again.
One day, when I was feeling sorry for myself, I met Doug Dugger, the West Coast rep for Zenith Aircraft. Somehow Doug and my wife convinced me to build an airplane. I was skeptical, especially in my deteriorated condition and with the uncertainty of being able to fly again.
I ended up buying a partially complete Zenith CH 601 XLB kit from a local builder. Unlike others, I didn’t have any “happy hours puttering away in my garage.” The whole experience was physically painful and distressing.
I don’t know how my wife put up with me through this period — I was always tired, sore, and frustrated.
We’re not rich, and I continued to rack up hundreds of dollars in parts every month. Yet, throughout the entire build, my wife, Linda, never complained about the money and just kept saying, “I’ll make it work; you just build the plane.”
And then one day my box of parts was empty. After a mountain of preflight checks, Doug Dugger lifted the airplane off the runway at Cloverdale Airport for its first flight. Linda and I stood on the side of the runway and screamed like idiots.
N972GL is powered by a Lycoming O-235-C1 engine and has a basic VFR panel. The 360-degree view from the wraparound canopy is truly appreciated here in Northern California where there are stunning views in every direction.
I am fortunate in so many ways. I got a second chance at life, I have a wonderful adventure machine, and I have the best wife in the world."
Gary Welch, Cloverdale, California.
Reprinted from EAA Sport Aviation magazine, December 2018