It was the fifth of July, and Jay Martin and his wife Joan were on their way to the San Juan Islands in Washington State from Wisconsin in a Van’s RV-8A. It was their first time going to the San Juan Islands, and they were looking forward to riding the dismantled tandem bicycle which they had somehow fit into the back of the already cramped kit airplane. The San Juan Islands are known for its scenic bike trails, and the two didn’t want to come unprepared.
The trip was very memorable for the two. Martin remembers monitoring ATC about 110 miles East of Billings, Mont., when he recognized the call sign of another aircraft that called in. Martin asked ATC if he could talk with the pilot. ATC obliged, and Martin was patched through. “Your brother Fred just proposed,” the pilot said to Martin. Martin and his brother, Fred, talked for nearly 50 miles. Learning his brother was engaged while in the air with him, in different airplanes, will be something Martin always remembers. “The trip was awesome,” said Martin.
Their trip was plotted by AOPA’s Internet Flight Planner. “I’ve been using IFP since it first became available. I like the features of the new one and love the fact that it’s web based,” said Martin. He found the new flight planner especially useful due to the dramatic terrain they would be flying over. “I like being able to pan and zoom easily, and I think the terrain background view is fantastic.”
As a mechanical engineer and professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Martin built and flies his RV-8A. His research and teaching focuses largely on aiding those with limited mobility. “One of the reasons I chose to build an RV-8 was because the canopy is tandem. I can easily get someone with limited mobility in the rear seat,” said Martin.
As the director of UW-CREATe (University of Wisconsin Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology), Martin has a team of about 50 people in the program, all working on mobility issues. Every semester, Martin heads the ARTe (Assistive Rehab Technology) Design Project.
This past semester, his class developed an overhead crane system that could lift person with limited mobility and move him or her sideways over the rear seat of the RV-8. The bubble canopy of the RV-8A, in addition to providing outstanding visibility, can slide back past the rear seat, allowing full and easier access to someone with limited mobility. “I’ve already got quite a list of people who want to take a ride,” Martin said. The list goes from people who can’t walk well to people with Cerebral Palsy.