McLean, Jerry

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                                      JERRY MCLEAN
                                    By Cathy Carnahan


Jerry McLean is fulfilling a dream. That dream is to build his own airplane.

When he and his wife, Lois, were raising their seven children, there wasn’t too much money to pursue the idea, but now his dream is becoming a reality. At 55, he’s just about finished his ultralight Mini-Max.

He has just one regret. “I’m sorry now I didn’t build a two-seater,” he said in an interview at his Chatham shop. “There is a beautiful view from the sky and that’s the idea to share it with somebody else.

“There are a lot of factors why I chose that particular airplane,” McLean added with a nod to the yellow and black trimmed aircraft now under construction. “Your best flying time up here is in the winter time. This has an enclosed cab, a heater, and it’s all made of wood, and I enjoy working with wood. “It’s the type of airplane, if you look after it, that will last you for a lifetime because up until about 1938 the planes were all wood. And some of them from 1915 are still around,” he said. “The secret is not to leave them out in the weather.”

McLean beams with pride as he talks about building the plane, its safety record, and capabilities.

“Some people like snowmobiles and some like motorcycles. “This is the motorcycle of airplanes,” McLean said grinning. ‘It burns mixed gas the same as a snowmobile. It cruises at 2.8 to 3 gallons per hour, so you can operate it, I would say, about the same price as a Ski-doo – about $10 per hour. “A guy will invest $10,000 in a Ski-doo and think nothing of it. This is a year-round thing and I’d much sooner go flying than through the woods on a snowmobile,” he said.

“I guess the big satisfaction is building your own plane and flying it. It’s not something you see every day, but it’s more common than you might think. There are a lot of fellas right here in the province who have built their own planes,” McLean said.

“Before I got into this, I was into radio controlled airplanes. I have a couple out there that are almost as big as this. One has an eight-foot wingspan, so building radio controlled aircraft is quite similar to this. This is just an overgrown radio controlled plane with a pilot in it,” he said. “I built models, too as a kid. It’s something I always liked.”

McLean, originally from Nelson-Miramichi, joined the air force right after finishing school and his interest in planes never waned. “I was an engine mechanic on jets out here (at CFB Chatham) in ’58, ’59 and ’60, and I used to fly a lot in the back seat of jets, so that sort of triggered an interest. I’ve always had it in my mind that I was going to build a plane,” he said.

The Tennessee firm which sold him the kit told him of the 1,000 they manufactured, the average age of the buyers is 57, so he’s two years ahead.

“The airplane, when it’s done, should weigh about 310 pounds,” McLean said. “The Canadian regulations for an ultralight-full of fuel, without the pilot, must be 363 pounds, no more. After that, they’re classified as advanced ultralights and must be government inspected by the department of Transport for air worthiness,” he said.

                           Flying License needed in Canada

Canadians flying ultralight planes need a license. “Now in the States, they don’t. They just build them and fly them, but they have a lot of fatalities too,” said Jerry McLean. “Here, an ultralight licenses allows you to fly anything up to about 1,000 pounds.”

In order to get a license, there are certain requirements that must be met,” he said. “You have to have 10 hours of flying on an ultralight aircraft. The instructor is with you the first five and the last five is solo. Then you have to go down to Moncton, and write a test with the Department of Transportation, and you have to make 90 on the written test. “I still have to go down and write the license,” he said. “I get my instruction from a guy in Eel River Crossing… Pierre Levesque.” A helmet and shoulder safety harness are also required when flying.

       When the weather is right, McLean plans to be ready for takeoff.

His friend, Steve Karasek, has agreed to test fly the yellow and black machine and McLean notes there is a special reason for the colors. “It’s a small plane and it should have high visibility, something you can easily see in the air,” he said. Otherwise, turbulence from big planes which come too handy could destroy it. It’s a situation McLean never wants to face.


Source: Miramichi Leader – January 20, 1993

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