By Erin Crowell
Nothing says do-it-yourself like building your own car. Today, youll see
self-assembly kit cars driving all over the highway, thanks to 50
automobile manufacturers offering packages ranging anywhere from $6,000 to
Why not take it a step further and build your own plane? Given pilot
certification and FAA regulations, homebuilt airplane kits allow you to
assemble and fly your very own ticket to the skies costing a gaping
$10,000 to nearly $1 million (depending on your aircraft and budget).
Do-it-Yourself father/son duo Gary and Kevin Copeland of Williamsburg have
been working on their own homebuilt aircraft, a 23-foot-long GlaStar, for
the past 10 years.
Were hoping to fly it by this time next summer, said 23-year-old Kevin.
ITS A FAMILY THING
With over 110 acres of land overlooking Skegemog Lake, the Copelands have
plenty of spaceand airfieldto take off and land their homemade aircraft.
Their grass airstrip, which takes approximately three hours to mow,
according to Kevin, already allows friends to touch down and say hello.
The do-it-yourself attitude seems to be a common trait among the Copeland
men, dating back to 1859 when William Copeland, Garys great grandfather,
purchased the property.
My great grandfather was the first known white settler of Kalkaska
County, said Gary, adding the trailblazer was unable to enlist during the
Civil War. Back then, there needed to be a citizen represented in every
county and since my great grandfather was the only one
The Copelands have the original deed signed by President Buchanan in 1859.
We have a newspaper article around here somewhere talking about how the
county population doubled the day my great grandfather took a wife, he
This wont be the first do-it-yourself plane for Gary. In the 1980s, he
built a Thorp T18; unfortunately he couldnt utilize his home airstrip.
With nearly 25 years experience as a corporate pilot, it wasnt that Gary
lacked the skills to handle such a plane; it was just too fast for the
runway, says Kevin, a second-generation pilot and instructor at
Northwestern Michigan College.
Several years later, the two decided to build a new plane that could
easily handle the small, uneven surface of the airstrip.
Kevin says they have put in the most work these past three years, with
Garynow retiredhaving more time to work on the project while Kevin
teaches (and competes in) aerobatics.
Right now I compete throughout the region where they grade you on your
maneuvering of the plane, he said.
Think barrel rolls, flips, sharp turns everything that gets us
My goal is to compete on a national team, he added. Im also looking at
building experience and starting a company working on air shows.
For now, the plane is just a skeleton of its true self nameless and
paint-less, it sits in the Copelands barn.
Weve come up with a few nicknames but nothings really stuck yet,