What Our Members Are Building/Restoring — Minnesota Glasair IIRG

By Russell Cunningham, EAA 1015123

This piece originally ran in the April 2024 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

This Glasair was started in 1983 from kit 281. It was originally a taildragger, then changed to a retractable gear (RG), and then upgraded to the wider II-model fuselage. I discovered this project when I was out looking for a place to deer hunt, and I saw the partially done wing hanging in a barn. The person had just bought the project from an estate sale and then ended up having a medical issue, so he was not working on it. At that time, I had just sold my company and was semi-retired. I was not a pilot, nor did I have a desire to fly. I thought it would be a great project to finish, and that I would sell it and make a profit — ha!

Well, as I started building where the first builder left off in 2008, it was a big learning experience. It was great having the Glasair builders site to get questions answered and see photos of other builders who were working on the same issues. The first seven years, I was volunteering at a few places to help a couple of businesses, and then my wife and I started pastoring a church, which took a lot of time. Because of this, I worked on it only two days a week.

In the meantime, I realized that if I wanted to sell the airplane, I probably needed to fly it, so I went and got my private pilot certificate. I bought a 172 and built a hangar, and continued to build the Glasair. Many times I was at a point where I thought, “There is no way I will ever be able to finish this.” Then I would go and do some research, ask other builders some questions, and come back at it. In 2018, I bought all of my avionics and thought I was only a year away. That was my favorite part of the build.

Well, it took until October 2021 to finally get my airworthiness certificate. Every time I thought I was ready to fly, a seal would go bad. First, it was all of my actuators, so I rebuilt them. Then, on a high-speed taxi, the strut seals went out, and I rebuilt them. I ended up replacing almost all of the rubber seals as the project is now 40 years old. My first flight was in February 2022.

The kit I bought had a Lycoming IO-320 that was rebuilt and run for four hours, and had been sitting for more than 20 years. The kit had a brand new Hartzell constant-speed prop that was 35 years old. The guy at the local prop shop said he’d never seen one that old still in its box. A couple of friends of mine and I painted the final colors in one long day, working 28 hours straight!

I prepared for the first flight by getting 25 hours in a Glasair I. The first 45-minute flight was amazing, and it’s been so fun. I have 185 hours on the airplane so far, and I’m already starting on a new Glasair III.

Attention — Aircraft Builders and Restorers

We would love to share your story with your fellow EAA members in the pages of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, even if it’s a project that’s been completed for a while. Readers consistently rate the “What Our Members are Building/Restoring” section of the magazine as one of their favorites, so don’t miss the chance to show off your handiwork and inspire your peers to start or complete projects of their own. Learn more ->

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