- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) - A Brookings man who has built radio-controlled models for 20 years has progressed into building full-size airplanes.

Steve Pofahl has always been mechanically inclined, so it seemed like a natural fit to build a plane, he told the Brookings Register (https://bit.ly/1Jgtsvu).

Pofahl, a pilot for 10 years, built his two-seater using a kit from Van’s Aircraft, and it’s designed to be agile, lightweight and fast.

“It’s also a great traveling plane,” he said. “It can cruise at 200 miles an hour. Leave in the morning and be in the East Coast or West Coast by suppertime. My wife likes the fact we can be in Minneapolis in about an hour.”

The plane is categorized by the FAA as an experimental home-built aircraft, which means Pofahl could build it for cheaper than it would cost to buy a new plane. The kit-building program rule requires a person to build 51 percent of the plane themselves.

“The kit manufacturer has figured out just how much 49 percent is, and they pre-build the plane to 49 percent and then you finish it,” he said.

But even at 51 percent, it took Pofahl more than 2,000 hours to complete the project.

Another advantage of building his own plane is Pofahl got just what he wanted.

“I really spent a lot of time on ergonomics,” he said. “Everything from the placement of the controls to the fabric on the seats is tailored to my personal preferences and my body.” he said.

Once he completed construction, the plane had to be inspected by a representative of the FAA to make sure it was airworthy and safe.

The first 40 hours of flight are considered a test period in which Pofahl can’t fly at night or take passengers. He also can only fly under Visual Flight Rules, meaning he can’t fly in clouds or fog using only his instruments.

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Information from: Brookings Register, https://www.brookingsregister.com/

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