Scot Wood was just 10 years old when he had the opportunity to fly with his father in a friend’s ultralight plane. He was immediately hooked on airplanes and flying.
By the time he was a freshman in high school, in Christmas 1994, he had begun building his own plane, with the help of his father, Tom. But, as Scot put it, “Life got in the way,” and the craft wasn’t ready for its maiden flight until Jan. 1, 2015.
As Scot tells the story of his 20-year love affair with all things flight related, and the decades of father-son building and sharing experience, it all began with his own father’s own passion.
In 1968, when Tom Wood was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, he learned to fly in a 1946 Taylorcraft. Finding that his son shared his interest in planes, he bought an identical 1946 Taylorcraft BC-12D in 1990. Together they took it apart, rebuilt it and in 1991 “we had the airplane back flying,” Scot said.
Over the next four years, Scot learned to fly the Taylorcraft and other airplanes, including some built for aerobatics.
“I knew that I wanted to one day have an airplane that I could do that kind of stuff in [but] I doubted that I would ever be able to afford one,” he said.
So why not build one?
“I knew I had a world of experience in my dad,” he said.
When he was in 9th grade, Scot said, “my parents bought me a ‘raw materials’ kit, which consisted of a bundle of chromoly steel tubing and several pieces of wood.”
Scot began building ribs for the wings before moving on to the “spars,” which support the length of the wing structure.
“Once the basic wing structures were completed, dad and I worked on the fuselage together,” he said.
The fuselage is built from pieces of the chromoly steel tubing cut to specific lengths and welded together.
“Dad and I took turns making the pieces and welding them.”
This process took much of the 20-year timeframe because, as Scot reiterated, “life happened.”
He went to Alba High School, where he was a member of the Scott Hi-Q Team, the Math Team, Ambassadors and the National Honor Society. He took AP courses and was salutatorian of his graduating class. He continued to fly in his spare time.
“Flying was more fun than working on the [building] project,” he admitted. “The project would go for months on end without being touched,” he said.
He went away to college, first to Mississippi State and then to the University of South Alabama. He came home and married his high school sweetheart, Daphne, and became the father of two children. He went to work for a tech company he now owns.
But he didn’t give up flying and never gave up his dream of building his own plane. His father, he said, never pressured him to finish the plane they started.
“He never encouraged nor discouraged me,” Scot said.
By the time he was 16, in 1995, he could fly “a vast array of aircraft,” he said; he had more than 200 hours of logged flight time, and soloed that year. He earned his pilot’s license at 17. It was time to complete the plane, get it out of the hangar, off the ground and into the air.
The maiden flight rang in the New Year in 2015.
Scot posted the results and photos of his experience at www.biplaneforum.com/showthread.php?t=11177.
“The airplane,” he wrote, “is almost entirely built from the plans, with a couple of modifications. He noted the spring aluminum gear and a two-place canopy.
“During the test flight, the airplane flew perfectly. Hands off, straight and level,” he continued in the forum. “We could not have gotten the rigging any better. At 2,400 RPM, we cruised at 140 MPH. At 2,700 RPM, we cruised at 150 MPH. We were extremely pleased,” he said.
The 20 years of working together nights, holidays, weekends and summer breaks was a sort of bonding experience for Scot Wood and his father. As for his own boys, Lucas, 6, and Bryant, 4, Scot said, “At some point in the future, when they are older, I would absolutely love to build an airplane with them. It offers so many teaching moments.”