Experimenter

December 2013

Experimenter is a magazine created by EAA for people who build airplanes. We will report on amateur-built aircraft as well as ultralights and other light aircraft.

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A Ta l e o f 10 Ta il w in d s…a n d C o un t in g Steve Wittman will forever be known as the master of low-dollar speed. He's the guy with the reputation for taking less and making it more. He will, however, never be known as a lover of compound curves and the complexity contained therein. Just about everything he ever built was flat, square, and comically simple and went like stink. And his Tailwind, which debuted along with the fledgling EAA in 1953, exemplified those traits. And it still does. With many hundreds of Tailwinds having been built and the design's 60th anniversary celebrated in 2013, Tailwind fever is still with us today and for good reason: It would be difficult to build a two-place, side-by-side airplane that is as inexpensive as the Tailwind, goes as fast, or is as easy to build. These may be the reasons why Jim Clement of Baraboo, Wisconsin, has built 10 of them. That's right, 10 Tailwinds. All but one built completely from scratch. Born and raised in Baraboo, northwest of Madison, Wisconsin, Jim was quick to discover aviation. "In high school, I flew U-control models and had friends whose fathers had airplanes, so the interest was always there," he said. "It was airplanes and cars. My dad had a car dealership with a body shop, and I was always hanging around that. So, I've been building stuff, including a Model A roadster hot rod, my entire life. In fact, I've waffled back and forth between cars and airplanes constantly. "I started flying the summer I got out of high school and then went to airframe and powerplant (A&P) school. I started working at a small local airport, but I had made more money working part-time at a gas station in high school. So, I worked for a body shop for a few years before opening my own. And that's what I did until retiring. I was always pretty much a one-man show, but that let me be my own boss. And no one could complain about airplane parts being scattered around the shop. "I got interested in homebuilding aircraft in '59, when I was only a couple years out of high school. A friend in town had built a Baby Ace from Popular Mechanics plans, and he showed me an article on Tom Cassutt and his little racer. So, a few years later, I ordered a set of plans and started building. When I finished and flew it, I only missed being the first plans-built Cassutt by one month. The first one has since been destroyed, so mine, which is now in Texas, is the oldest Cassutt racer flying. The owner has a little container in it holding his dad's ashes, so he's always flying with his father. That airplane sure taught me a lot about building airplanes." Enter the Tailwind "I was racing the Cassutt at Cleveland when I met Steve Wittman," Jim said. "He had brought a Tailwind down, and in talking with him, I realized that the two-place Tailwind was almost as fast as my racer and a lot more practical." Like so many young homebuilders, Jim quickly found that as his personal life took off, including a wife and kids, aircraft became too expensive, so he drifted into building and racing midget race cars. Te Dietrichs are now the caretakers of this Tailwind that Jim built. 12 Vol.2 No.12 / December 2013 Photography courtesy of Jim Clement

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