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Binscarth pilot takes on ultimate DIY project

Walter Thickett spent four years building his own plane with family help

Binscarth pilot takes on ultimate DIY project

Having the freedom to go anywhere without the limitation of roads or speed limits sparked a Binscarth business owner’s interest in becoming a pilot.

Walter Thickett, owner of Thickett Engine Rebuilding, has always been fascinated by machines, so it came as no surprise when he pursued an ultralight licence in 1993, followed by a pilot’s licence in 1994.

Thickett then spent four years building his own plane, with help from son, Darrell, and brother, Les.

“After getting to sit in and check out an RV-10 at E.A.A. Airventure in Wisconsin in the summer of 2012, we (Thickett and wife Arlene) knew we had to have one,” said Thickett, who is a longtime fan of the Vans series of high-performance aircraft.

It was the couple’s passion for flight that spurred Thickett to take on the ultimate DIY project, ordering a kit from Van’s Aircraft in Oregon. The kit was delivered in four large wooden boxes and it would take four years to put it all together.

Walter and Arlene Thickett with their work-in-progress RV-10 airplane. photo: Courtesy Thickett family

Thickett and his son began working on the plane in one of the four bays of the family’s diesel engine shop, situated northwest of Binscarth, working in the morning and evening around customer jobs. Les came on board during the final year of the project.

“Assembly required dimpling and deburring holes and installing thousands of flush rivets,” said Thickett. “At first we ended up drilling out and redoing rivets that were sticking up too far or sunken too low, but after awhile we got quite good at it and having to redo a rivet became a rare occurrence.”

The kit did not come with instruments or engine, so Thickett ordered a Garmin G3X glass panel with two flight displays and did all the electrical wiring himself.

For an engine, a timed-out fuel-injected Lycoming IO-540, which came from the right wing of a parted-out Piper Aztec, was purchased and shipped from Florida. Once delivered, it was rebuilt with all brand new parts.

When it got to the stage where the wings needed to be added, the plane was towed out of the shop and finished in an 85×45-foot hangar/storage shed located on the farm. The finished aircraft has a wingspan of just over 31 feet.

At various stages during the build, and after completion, Transport Canada inspector Norm Seiferling flew out to their farm airstrip from Regina to perform the mandatory inspections, (as well as the final pre-flight inspection and sign-off).

Rather than painting the plane, a 3M vinyl wrap was done by Cory Deslauriers (Auto Trim Design) at Yorkton, Sask., and Fred and Barb Clearwater of Silverton Upholstery covered and finished the seats.

The first flight of the RV-10 was in 2017 at the Russell airport, with flight instructor Doug Reetz from Champion Air Park, Estevan, Sask. at the controls and next to him, Thickett, who eventually got his Certificate of Airworthiness, which allowed flight beyond the 40-kilometre limit and to carry passengers.

Thickett has come a long way since purchasing a Husky Norseman advanced ultralight and getting his ultralight licence with instructor Harold Rudy in 1993. That aircraft was replaced with a Cessna 150 in 1994 and Thickett upgraded to his pilot’s licence at the Shoal Lake airport with instructor Andrew Critchley of Shoal Lake Aviation.

Now, in addition to his own custom-built Van’s RV-10, Thickett owns a restored Champ and Quad City Challenger 11, which are kept at the farm and used for local sightseeing flights.

Among the 13 active members of the Russell Flying Club, Thickett enjoys being involved in monthly meetings, and hosting the annual fly/drive/walk-in breakfast at the Russell airport. He is also a member of COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) and an EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) member.

“Arlene and I love travelling in our own plane,” said Thickett. “It has opened up a whole new world of adventure and freedom.”

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