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Local man building an airplane in his basement

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‘I just thought, how cool would that be, to be able to fly like that.’

By Zac Oakes

 

David Banahan was 16 years old, traveling on a school bus through the mountains, when something piqued his interest. The birds flying overhead caught his eye.

“I just thought, how cool would that be, to be able to fly like that,” Banahan said.

And from there, Banahan’s love of aviation was born. He went on to begin taking lessons, working at the local airport and earning his pilot license, and his passion for flying is still with him today.

While Banahan’s love of aircraft and aviation has always been a source of recreation, it has also recently led him to embark on a new project: building his own airplane in the basement of his Campbellsville residence.

Banahan’s basement seems normal at first glance. A door opens into a large area with tools and other equipment placed throughout. However, in an area off to the side through a doorway, one can find a sight that seems unusual: an experimental aircraft. The finished product will be 21’ 10”  long, with a horizontal wing span just shy of 30 feet. 

Banahan started the project of building the Xenith 750 Cruzer two years and 10 months ago to be exact, according to Banahan. He retired as a registered nurse in Bowling Green after 22 years, and he and his wife recently moved to Campbellsville around six months ago to be closer to her family. Banahan spends a large portion of his time in the airplane room of the basement, chipping away on different aspects of the plane to make it functional and ready to go, hopefully by May.

“I am hoping to be able to have it finished in five months,” Banahan said. “There is a lot of work to do, but it’s been almost three years in the making.”

Banahan has big plans for his experimental aircraft. He wants to fly it to Florida for a vacation, and most of all, he wants to take it to Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, in July.

Why Osh Kosh, Wisconsin? It is the site of the Experimental Aircraft Association Airventure. According to the event’s website, the event attracts around 550,000 aviation enthusiasts and 10,000 aircraft from more than 80 countries each year for a week of air shows, aerobatics and pyrotechnics, workshops, demonstrations, and fellowship between like-minded individuals with a love of flying and aircraft.

For Banahan, being able to fly his own experimental aircraft into Osh Kosh that week in July is one of his ultimate goals and has been for quite some time, as Banahan is a normal attendee of the Airventure.

“I’ve never been treated as well as I am in Osh Kosh,” Banahan said. “And when you fly an airplane into there, they really love it. There is nothing like it.” 

The Federal Aviation Administration has requirements for those wishing to fly experimental aircraft. The pilot and plane have to pass inspection from an FAA representative, and then there are 40 trial hours. During those trial hours, the pilot has to fly the plane within a certain radius.   

As one could imagine, building an airplane is no easy task. There are many different aspects to it and a lot of trial and error in the process. For Banahan, it meant becoming knowledgeable in the field of electricity.

“I basically had to teach myself electricity while doing this,” Banahan said. “You can learn anything you want to if you really apply yourself to it.”

Along with that, it has also taken a great deal of time. He credits his wife for being understanding as he has worked on the plane.  In total, he estimates that the whole project will take 1,200-1,300 hours.

“She has been great,” Banahan said.

He said he can’t imagine his life without flying.

“It keeps me sane,” he said. “It gives me something to do. When I am flying, I don’t worry about anything else. I have no worries. Everything else just goes away.”

Banahan hopes to be able to share his interest in aviation and experimental aircraft with like-minded individuals in the area. He is planning to start an Experimental Aircraft Association Club locally, and is planning the first meeting for January.

“What I am hoping to do is have adults and young people to form a club for learning and social activities,” Banahan said. “Kind of a life-long learning thing for people who enjoy this.”

He said he hopes to especially see young people become involved because of the number of career opportunities available in the aviation field.

“There are a lot of career options in aviation,” Banahan said. “Mechanics, schedulers, all that. It’s a great time to be young and get into this field.”

Banahan said everyone is welcome to attend the meeting, which will be held Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in the terminal building of the Campbellsville/Taylor County Airport (AAS) at 360 Airport Road.