By Larry Buerk
I STARTED OUT AS AN AEROSPACE ENGINEER
I started out as an aerospace engineer, getting a BS AME from Parks College back in the days when it was located in Cahokia, IL right next to the Bi-State Parks airport (KCPS, now called St. Louis Downtown airport). The first 18 months of the degree program was totally devoted to getting an A&P license. I got my private pilot’s license at 19 and flew around St. Louis with my Parks friends–we even did one memorable cross country to Pennsylvania in a C-172, where weather turned a weekend trip into a five-day adventure.
The engineer’s life, sitting for eight hours a day at a drafting table designing connectors (or other stuff, but always specialized) didn’t sound like enough challenge or variety for me. So I went right back to school for an AA in Communications and went to work for (then) McDonnell Douglas in the Film and Television group. Mac paid for my MBA—four years of night classes—and we moved to San Antonio for my wife’s job, where I connected with a startup tech company as their corporate communications guy and then their VP of Quality (couldn’t keep the engineer bottled up). From there, I managed projects for Microsoft and Amazon in Seattle, including a one-of-a-kind from-scratch custom home automation project.
RETIRING FROM AMAZON
Flying didn’t fit the budget very well, or the workload, so I stopped while still in St. Louis. Through all the tech jobs, though, I never lost my interest in aviation, and kept reading Aviation Week and Flying. I retired from Amazon in June, 2020 and am now returning to my roots by building an RV-14A. The skills are a bit rusty but things are coming back to me pretty fast. (And we didn’t have rivet squeezers back in the day—what a fantastic invention!)
BUILDING A VANS RV-14A
As I thought about whether to start this project, I spent lots of time scanning RV builder project websites. I noticed that most focused more on the fact of the build—a straight record of what was accomplished—rather than the experience, including tips, tricks and trip hazards. I hope to provide more of that in this blog so you get a feel for what it’s like to bite off a project like this, maybe help other builders avoid some of the mistakes and extra work I create for myself, and (assuming I finish) reassure you that ups and downs are totally normal and that persevering through the low times is doable.
ABOUT VAN’S AIRCRAFT
To learn more about Vans kitplanes, visit https://www.vansaircraft.com