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Winged Wonders : Aeronautics: Flying buffs who build or restore experimental and antique aircraft will touch down this weekend in Camarillo.


Dave Timms slowly ran his finger along the orange lettering that spells out the name "The Sun Dancer" on the yellow tail of his 20-foot-long, hand-built airplane.

"I can relate to every little piece of this airplane," the 53-year-old Simi Valley resident said. "I put a lot of my life in this."

Over a period of 8 1/2 years, Timms said, he spent 3,000 hours in his garage sawing, sanding and gluing pieces of his airplane until, when it was ready to assemble, he rented a hangar at Camarillo Airport to put the pieces together.

This weekend, Timms and more than 100 other proud owners of hand-built, antique and renovated military aircraft will show off their treasures at the annual Experimental Aircraft Assn. Fly-in at Camarillo Airport. The show will begin at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and admission is $3, with no charge for children under 12.

About half of the planes that will be flown or displayed on the ground at the show are antiques.

Most of the others are hand-built planes such as Timms' that the Federal Aviation Administration categorizes as experimental because they are not manufactured according to set standards, according to members of the Camarillo chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Assn.

Although Timms has flown since he joined the Air Force in 1956 and worked at an aerospace company for many years, he said he knew nothing about building aircraft until he began following the plans.

"I don't ever want to have to build another one," he said. "It's very taxing."

But, to get the kind of plane he wanted, he had to do it himself, he said.

Although he spent about $13,000 on building materials, Timms said purchasing a similar-sized airplane ready-made would have cost him $125,000, more money than he had.

"This is not a rich man's hobby," said Timms, a property manager. "We're all working types."

Building his own aircraft also allowed him to pick exactly the type of plane he wanted--a Long EZ, of which there are about 400 to 500 in existence.

The Sun Dancer, which weighs only about 900 pounds and has wings filled with foam plastic, goes faster and higher than most manufactured single-engine and many twin-engine planes, Timms said. "I like to go out for fun and find a twin-engine plane and just fly right by it," he said.

And, in his class of planes, he set a world record for altitude last December when he took it to 30,500 feet.

Santa Paula resident Dick Alegre agreed that a pilot can have more confidence in a plane he built or renovated himself.

"You don't want someone else's work," said Alegre, who will display the 1957 Navy fighter plane that he rebuilt. "You don't know if they've dotted the i's and crossed the t's. If you've done it you know the bolts are tightened and everything and when you're flying upside down it's not going to fly apart."

Alegre, an avocado rancher, said he bought and rebuilt his plane mainly as an investment, paying $100,000 plus sales tax when he purchased the plane from the Palm Springs Police Department in 1990.

"It was falling apart," he said.

Unlike Alegre, most pilots who build their own planes plan to keep them, members of the association said.

Santa Barbara resident John Blackwell, 41, who has started building his second airplane, said he could never sell his first plane for what it cost him in toil to build.

But the persistence and dedication arise from a simple motivation, he said.

"We all like airplanes and we like flying," Blackwell said.

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