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Midland Park Pilot, 83, Primed for Takeoff

Pilot Elmer Hymen, a member of the United Flying Octogenarians and 60-member Hudson Valley Hornets aviation-education club, keeps two Thorp T-18 airplanes that he built in a hangar at Old Orchard Airport in Ulster County, N.Y. Hymen stays in such good shape he is considered a fitness guru among aviators in the organizations. "I have to stay in good physical shape to be a pilot," Hymen says. Speaking of the planes he chose to build, Hymen notes "[t]here are many different categories of airplane construction, and the reason I chose to make sheet metal airplanes is that my career is in sheet metal." Home-built aircraft are classified as "experimental" because they are amateur-built in garages and hangars. The Thorp T-18s are high-performance aluminum home-built planes capable of a top speed of 190 miles per hour. "They're very solid," Hymen says. "Just great to fly." He adds that "[t]here's just nothing like building an airplane and knowing how to do it." Hymen's devotion to flying began with radio-control model airplanes, but one of his three older brothers was a licensed pilot with the Civil Air Patrol. Hymen turned to home-built airplanes after attending air shows held by the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh. "Eventually I found the airplane that I would like to try to build--the Thorp T-18," he says. "At that time, the parts came in flat sheet metal and I formed them all from a set of plans for every single piece of the airplane." He finished the first plane in eight years. "It's really something when you get to finally fly something you've put together yourself, even if it's taken years to build," he said. "It's a great experience. It's very, very exciting."

February 2, 2009

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