July, August & September 2019 - Eldon Deardorf's Untimely Death Placed N724DT On Hold, with the Exception of OSHKOSH 2019

Eldon N. Deardorf

Eldon N. Deardorf

Eldon Deardorf
a Tribute by Lawrence K. Smiley
July 29, 2019

My business partner, mentor, encourager; and the best friend one could ever have!

I met Eldon while he was working as a mechanical engineer for Butler Engineering – an engineering subcontractor to Delco Electronics (Delphi) in Kokomo, IN.  As a molded rubber manufacturer’s representative selling rubber switch pads, I worked on many HVAC and Steering Wheel projects with Eldon.

One would have never guess that beneath this soft-spoken, gentleman of a gentleman’s exterior, was a courageous navigator who flew 103 missions in jet fighters during the Vietnam War.  A Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, Eldon was true hero, who placed himself in harm’s way 103 times to serve his country.

Following his retirement from Butler Engineering, he agreed to work for me and SMS Technologies, a division of SMS Marketing, Inc., helping develop a new type of turbine engine.  His creativeness (Holder of 3 US Patents) complimented, well, his creative mind, determination and work ethic to not only find solutions, but also to bring them to life, as functional mechanisms.  We turned the attic over his garage into a working laboratory, where we built a working, instrumented, turbine prototype when injected with room temperature, pressurized air.

However, we were limited by the low working temperatures of existing materials of construction.  As a result, the project was placed on hold, until a new, high temperature (2600°F) material was developed that could be, successfully, manufactured.

At that point, my largest customer, Delphi, went bankrupt, which put SMS Marketing, Inc. out of business.  As a result, I had no funds to pay Eldon for his efforts.  We, mutually, agreed to bring another product (ladder related) to market, as business partners.  Eldon and I engineered this product and built a prototype.  After setting up a production line and building and boxing 100 ladder platforms, manufacturing liability insurance premiums stopped us cold.  We couldn’t, profitably produce enough platforms to pay the huge premiums; so that project also hit a brick wall.

At that point in time, I came to the conclusion that another, smaller, project (building my 70% completed home-built airplane, LongEZ N724DT) had to be completed before I would have success building a high temperature turbine engine.  So, Eldon, once again, came along side of me to help finish N724DT.  And, that is another factor that makes his untimely death SO sad.  He will never get to ride in the plane in which he invested SO many hours working, together, with me.

Even though we never discussed this, Eldon was, sort of, a second father to me.  I depended upon him in many ways.  One could not find a better friend, business partner and a fellow engineer. He taught me to be more compassionate by suggesting that we use JANUS’ workers, many with Down Syndrome, as our workforce.  He taught me persistence, by diligently working though any problems and successfully bringing to life his creations. I will miss him very, VERY much. 

However, I do know that he knew Jesus and believed that Jesus, the Messiah, was God’s son.  As I told him the day before he departed his body and ‘flew’ through the light-lined tunnel from this earthly existence to his heavenly home, “Eldon, in heaven time disappears, so if you die you will find yourself in heaven, where it will seem, to you, that we will be right there with you in the blink of your eye.”

I, truly, thought Eldon would survive for another 10 years, or so; and that is what we were all praying for. However, the good Lord had another outcome planned. Eldon is, now, enjoying paradise, after leaving his weakened body. It is we, who are left behind that grieve, deeply, his passing. Lord, please help us all find comfort; and, yes, even joy; as time heals us of our great loss.

Eldon’s untimely death left a huge hole in my heart and completely brought the plane project to a standstill with the many business and personal details surrounding Eldon’s departure needing addressed.

The good news: EAA’s AirVenture 2019, two days following his funeral jump-started my healing. I knew Eldon would have wanted me to keep pursuing my lifetime dream of finishing N724DT. At Oshkosh, I gave MT Propeller the go ahead to ship the variable speed, 3-bladed prop that I had purchased the year before.



At Oshkosh, I also received help in the form of unexpected support from AWI, ROTAX and Swift Fuel! After four days of catching up with vendors, learning through seminars and sharing aviation’s largest air extravaganza with a good friend, Jim Cook, my sadness was, somewhat, tempered. Once again, through the ‘magic’ of both airplanes and friendship, I found the silver linings that lifted my spirits!

April, May & June 2019

  1. Designing the Engine Mount for ROTAX’s 915iS, incorporating the same Lycoming 0-235 propeller spinner tip coordinates consumed many, many hours that turned into days, then months! An RFQ was sent to Aerospace Welding, Inc. (AWI) on May 13. Following clarifications, a PO was awarded on June 24, 2019.

This is N724DT’s Initial tack-welded, engine mount fabricated by Aerospace Welding, Inc. One change of tube ID on four (4) tubes on the engine side (my mistake) set the project back one month.

This is N724DT’s Initial tack-welded, engine mount fabricated by Aerospace Welding, Inc. One change of tube ID on four (4) tubes on the engine side (my mistake) set the project back one month.

JAN, FEB & MAR 2019 SolidWorks CAD Upgrade

JAN, FEB & MAR 2019 SolidWorks CAD Upgrade

Upgrading our SolidWorks CAD from a 2010 to a 2019 Revision required much work to relearn the software, as we designed a new Engine Mount to connect the ROTAX 915 iS to our fuselage.

Squared Engine_Prop_Fuselage Asmbly.JPG

September, Oct, Nov & Dec Sanding, Filling & Priming (6 Coats) + Nose Gear Mod.

Primed Fuselage Bottom

Primed Fuselage Bottom

Primed Fuselage Bottom

Primed Fuselage Bottom:

Primed Fuselage Bottom:

Rear Top View #1 Strake Sanding.JPG

Fuselage Bottom Primed, Top Ready for Sanding, Filling & Priming.

Photo #1: Canopy being faired into Canard.
Photo #2: First Sanding, Filling & Priming of Canopy & Canard
Photo #3: Third and Final Priming of Same Area

Nose Raised to Upgrade NG6 to Tapered Ball Bearing

Nose Raised to Upgrade NG6 to Tapered Ball Bearing

New NG6 Fitting with Bearing Race and Conical Tapered Bearings

NG6 with Tapered Bearing.JPG

NG6 Tapered Bearings

Bearing Race in NG6 Fitting

Photo #1: Gap to House New NG6 Widened with Steel Brush
Photo #2: Trial Fitting New NG6 into Nose Gear Housing
Photo #3: Top View Looking at NG6’s Fit in Nose Gear Housing
Photo #4: NG6 Mounted to Nose Gear being Installed

Installed Nose Gear with New NG6

Installed Nose Gear with New NG6

Installed Nose Gear with New NG6!

Oshkosh 2018 - mt-propeller Purchased for January 2019 Delivery !

Gene Soucey's Night Performance

The 7 hour drive to Oshkosh from Indianapolis this year was well worth the effort.  Four days and three nights of forums, talking to vendors and observing air shows and more airplanes than one can imagine culminated Saturday morning at MT-PROPELLER's booth:

MT-PROPELLERS:   Following three days of coordinating engine, instrumentation,  control  functions and propeller information, I came to the conclusion that mt-propeller's Variable Pitch, 3-Bladed, 63" OD propeller was the best choice to absorb the 141 HP generated by ROTAX's 915 iS, engine.  Rachel and I will not only visit their German based factory, but will also promote MT-PROPELLERS, worldwide, during our 2021 around-the-world trip. 

Variable Pitch, 63"OD, 3-Bladed MT-Propeller driven by ROTAX's 915 iS Engine on Searey's Amphibian LSA 

Variable Pitch, 63"OD, 3-Bladed MT-Propeller driven by ROTAX's 915 iS Engine on Searey's Amphibian LSA 

ROTAX 915 iS Engine:  Four days of discussions with many of ROTAX's representatives generated the following details:

  1. The 915 iS can burn either General Aviation Fuel (unavailable in 75% of countries, worldwide), or Auto Fuel with a 91 or greater Anti Knock Index like SWIFT fuel.  Search availability at www.flyunleaded.com.  
  2. ROTAX's Installation Manual is, now, on-line with CG's, electrical & fuel line interfaces and cooling requirements.  
  3. Single-lever (prop pitch/engine power) control using Stock System's computer controller that sets the propeller pitch at an optimum setting.
  4. Prop stops windmilling at 135 mph due to reduction gears.
  5. ROTAX representatives expressed an interest in assisting us finish N724DT.

SteinAir, Inc:   The panel maker worked with us to upgrade our panel to include an Intercom and a digital ILS-VOR in place of an analogue version.  We will also be replacing Electronic International Engine Instruments with Stock System's Engine Module and their one-lever, computerized control display module.


Canopy Installation: Mounting, Sealing & Locking

The painted wings were moved from the paint booth & covered; making room for the fuselage. 

Mark Helping Move & Cover Painted Wings .JPG

Hinges, previously mounted on the canopy, were positioned on the fuselage and secured with taper headed bolts.  The canopy locking mechanism [3 latches, push-tubes and an added U-shaped aluminum strap to bypass the added carbon tube (9-G's for parachute deployment)] were manufactured, using a computer driven water-jet; then mounted on the fuselage longerons, aligned with canopy mounted brackets and synchronized to securely close the canopy.   

Then 3/8" OD surgical tubing, squeeze bulb with a check valve and a ball shutoff valve was secured to the fuselage with thin strips of Duct Tape every 6". Micro was then troweled around the lower 1/2 of the tube all the way around the path where the fuselage and the canopy mated.  The Saran wrapped canopy was then lowered, secured and pressurized; and allowed to cure for 24 hours.

The canopy was then popped open; and all was well, until I discovered that the canopy locking mechanism interfered with one of my IP instruments.   

On line I found a rotary latch; purchased it; modified it; and installed it on 7/21/2018. A final micro coat will complete the canopy installation. 

February 2018 - Main Wings (2), Canard top (1) and Ailerons (2) Painted

I learned that seven painting variables (gun quality, gun cleanliness, shop & surface cleanliness, distance, speed, overlap and spray angle) must be combined in just the right way to assure a flawless paint job.  The only way to achieve the perfect paint job is to PRACTICE painting.  

Main Wings - (Port) I painted too fast and ended up with orange peel that I had to sand.  Brian, my mentor, painted it a second time.  (Starboard)  My gun clogged and ruined the perfect surface.  Brian painted it a second time.

Ailerons - I painted.  Statically induced dust particles settled on the surface.  I sanded. Brian painted.

Canard's Top Surface - I taped off the bottom surface and painted the top.  It came out flawless! The bottom surface is to be painted brown.

December 2017 & January 2018 - Wings & Control Surface Final Prep for Paint

Priming, filling, sanding (X4) the surfaces of two rear wings, one canard, two elevators and two ailerons, Eldon, Doug, Brian, Nyle, Greg, John, Dave and I worked for ~250 hours to prepare the surfaces for the final two coats of color (GM Frost White).  My first painting attempt of the port wing resulted in a defective surface with surface orange peel, as depicted below:

First Try at Spray Painting White Final Color

November 2017 - Sand, Sand ............ and Sand Some More!

Eldon and I worked (280 man-hours) 5 days a week, 7 hours/day, prepping the wings, canard, ailerons and elevators for painting. We learned that preparing the surface for paint takes 99% of the total painting time.  Why? Any imperfections (waviness, divots, scratches, dust, unevenness, etc.) that are essentially invisible before painting, become very visible after painting.  Time after time our painting mentors, Doug White and Brian Story, would stress the importance of "doing it right by working hard and going slowly" in preparing our surfaces for painting! "Why work SO long building the plane; and then short-cut the painting process?  Sure it will fly, great.  But you want it to look great too, right?" 

Many times when I was satisfied, Doug would say, "Feel this depression?" or "You can't see this unevenness now.  However, following the final paint coat, you will!  If I were you, I would work a bit longer before painting."  Time-after-time this happened.  And then Brian entered the scene and verified everything that Doug had been saying!

All to say that both Doug and Brian were God-sent Sparkles of major importance! We can't thank them enough for their guidance, patience and interest!

Priming & Painting Process

  • 1) Spray 3 Coats Gray Primer letting each coat flash dry no longer than 10 minutes.
  • 2) Spray 1 very light black guide coat.
  • 3) Hard Block Sand (150 grit) to reveal black low spots.
  • 4) Fill low spots with putty glaze filler
  • 5) Spray 2 Coats Gray Primer. 
  • 6) Spray 1 very light black guide coat.
  • 7) Soft Block Sand (320 grit) to reveal black low spots.
  • 8) Fill Low spots with putty glaze filler
  • 9) Spray 1 Heavy Coat Gray Primer
  • 10) Soft Block Sand (400 grit) to glassy finish. 
  • 11) If any high spots (grey primer completely removed) appear, touch up with grey primer. 
  • 12) Paint color coat

Once all the wings and control surfaces are painted, they will be transported back to our garage.  The fuselage will, then, replace the wings in the paint booth; and the whole paint preparation process will begin again - all in anticipation of the final product:      

Starburst Design.jpg

GM Olympic white, Burnt Sugar Brown, with Sparkle Gold Decal Starburst Overlay

August, Sept & October Update

August:  Upholstered Seats received and installed.

September:  Large Wheels & Brakes replace small versions. 

Move from garage to factory paint shop with dry, clean pneumatic air supply, heat, overhead crane and large makeup air and exhaust system for completing plane. 

Moving Plane from Garage to Factory Paint Booth

October:  Skim coat, sand, prime plane.  Install VOR antenna in canard.

EAA's Airventure - OshKosh 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017 at Oshkosh's EAA's AirVenture, Rachel, my wife, and I entered the final year of our 42-year LongEZ building marathon.   We discovered that each member of our vendor team was not only working on their latest and greatest designs, but was also working hand-in-hand with other team members.  In the order of our visits last Friday:

1.    SteinAir, Inc., www.SteinAir.com  (panel maker & avionics distributor) – Mr. Stein Bruch, president, informed us that it was good that we waited a year for Dynon’s (EFIS), most recent product from pricing, hardware and software perspectives.  

2.    ROTAX Aircraft Engines  We learned about Stock System's computer-controlled, single controlled, pitch, mixture and RPM system; the cooling systems (water, oil & turbo-charger); the dual-ignition electrical system; the electronically controlled fuel injection system and real time engine Telemetry available to users, worldwide, via satellite.  All the above to support ROTAX’s belief of placing SAFETY as job Number ONE ! 

3.   MT-Propeller - MT is working closely with ROTAX, to develop an efficient 915is engine-variable pitch propeller system for ROTAX’s customers.   Since I will have a BRS Parachute on board, I will also need two (2) [one front seat, one back seat] manually activated switches that will feather the propeller prior to chute deployment.  

All the above to say that Rachel and I are very excited that our ‘never ending project’ is nearing completion with the latest and best that technology can offer.  We are committed to fly by 7/24/2019.

Seat Pan Back & Head Support Extensions

N724DT's seats were created from a mold lifted from the seat of a cousin's sea kayak during our 2014 Spring Break.  Why? Because Rachel's back didn't hurt after paddling the kayak 3 hours in the Florida Keys, during our Spring Break the previous year!  That Sparkle (God-generated set of circumstances & resulting insight) was critical for our around-the-world plans!  

 After lining the Kayak's front seat with silver duct tape, I laid up 2 layers of BID fiberglass and let the layup cure for 12 hours. Any longer, and it would have been almost impossible to pull the mold from the Kayak!  

At home the mold was inverted and a layer, the thickness of the foam seats, was laminated to the underside of the mold.  

Then a thin foam sheet was bent with a heat gun to the shape of the laminated layer.  Three plies of BID Fiberglass were then laid up, cured and flipped over to repeat on the other side. A second thin foam sheet was glassed with a cutout for the gas selector valve for the pilot's seat. The great news:  Both seats fit perfectly in N724DT!

Yesterday, June 26, I UPS'd the final cardboard templates along with foam cores to Oregon Aero, the company with which we chose to fabricate and upholster our cushions 2015 at Oshkosh, WI. They will upholster the foam cores with tan leather and golden tweed cloth.  The finished cushions are to be shipped to us in August.  

Total time from idea (ocean Kayaking) to reality (completed seats):  ~4 years!  Actual building time, which includes two (2) road trips to the Florida Keys:  ~124 hours!

First 'Touch & Go' in 10 Years!

Yesterday morning, April 24**, 2017, I drove to Purdue Aviation* in West Lafayette, IN to meet, John, my brother, rent a Cessna 172 and fly to Danville, Illinois to fulfill his currency requirements and brush the rust off my flying skills.  The weather was perfect: calm winds, unlimited visibility and not a cloud in the sky!  During the pre-flight inspection, John couldn't find the plane's key.  As a result, we changed planes and ended up flying N51204**.  

We overflew very familiar terrain with the exception of the addition of hundreds of wind turbines scattered like foreign white invaders marching over the pristine farmlands sliding below.  

My downwind at DNV was wide and low; and the landing a bit bouncy. The second was a better, however  still a little low.  And the third? Not too bad!  

After turning a right downwind at 1600' MSL and flying an extended final to Runway 10 at LAF, John greased the landing. Upon shutdown the Hobbs Meter read 7242.43**. We had flown 1.3 hours.

*Fifty (50) years before, I landed at Lafayette Aviation (now Purdue Aviation). It was the first leg of my first solo cross-country from the University of Illinois' School of Aviation based at Willard Airport south of Champaign-Urbana!  That day, as yesterday's, opened a new chapter in my life!!!     

**Over time, the number 24 has become very special to me. It is one of God's fingerprints (one of the signs of His reoccurring presence) in my life.  That is one of the reasons that I chose N724DT as the tail number of our LongEZ. These 'coincidences' are personal faith builders, signifying God's nearness, guidance and protection! Not planned, nor even expected, these rare occurrences are faith-building Sparkles that highlight my life journey, as they energize me and propel me forward with a song of thanksgiving in my heart.  Sparkles of many shapes and forms have kept this 42 year-long project alive!     


October through February 2017

We were given 90 days to tear down our assembly line, clear our warehouse space and move N724DT out of the space that we had rented for 8+ years.  So that pushed building the plane from the middle burner clean off the stove.  I did manage to glass an area around the parachute rocket, foam fill an area just in front of the Instrument Panel, skim coat the entire fuselage and sand the skim coat on the fuselage's bottom.   Total work time:  54 hours

December 31, 2016 marked the last day of my BSA Troop 191's 28 year existence with its 32 Eagles and countless high adventure memories of Christ-centered, father-son bonding during camping, skiing, rappelling, mountain climbing, shot gun shooting, caving, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, sailing, etc.  

Allen Kay's Eagle Court of Honor

Allen Kay's Eagle Court of Honor

Simultaneously, Platform PRO, Inc, closed shop at Janus for a 2 year sabbatical.  This decision catapulted finishing N724DT into my job #1.  The first time in N724DT's 40 year history to hold that position!  Over the years, as a result of countless God-inputs, I have come to realize that getting N724DT into the air MUST be accomplished before I will be allowed success on larger life- projects.  I'll not know if the above understanding is true, until N724DT flies.

It has taken 4 months to move Platform PRO, Inc and N724DT, organize and get ready to, once again initiate building our LongEZ on April 3, 2017.   

3'rd Class Medical Passed. At FAA in Oklahoma waiting for verifying paperwork.

September 23, 2016 - Cleaned and organized N724DT workshop, getting ready for skim coating upper surface of port strake.

September 9, 2016 - Visited Jerry Mundell and his LongEZ at Metropolitan Airport (KUMP).  Jerry purchased his LongEZ, and upgraded his IP with a Garmin Touch Screen EFIS.  Very professional looking Instrument Panel.  

Sept 6, 2016 - FAA Doctor in Peoria performed physical, gave me a thumbs up and forwarded the paperwork to Oklahoma City.  Expecting 3'rd Class Medical within 30 days.

August 22, 2016 - Stress Test (Bruce Profile - 150 pulse for 2 minutes) passed with flying colors!  

2016 to Present

January 1, 2016 to July 10, 2016:  267 Hrs - Firewall Al Chute Straps Milled, Skim Coat Underside Strakes & Fuselage Sides, Port Riser Valley Cut, Riser Foam Covered & Glassed (3 BID), Glass (17 BID) Inside Firewall Flanges, Finish Glassing Carbon Tube (17 BID) Front Seat Back

Construction History:

2015 -  526.0 Hrs - Headrest cutout of fuselage; carbon tube and flange boxes installed and glassed in (17 BID); Riser Valley; Skim coat top Strake

2014 - 120 Hrs - LEXAN IP Template transferred to cockpit IP.  Buy BRS Parachute

Instrument Panel Assembly

Instrument Panel Assembly

2013 -

2012 -

2011 -

2010 -

2009 -

2008 -

2007 - 4.0 Hrs - Landing Light & Panel Layout

2006 -

2005 -

2004 - 0.0 Hrs

2003 - 36.5 Hrs - Canard Cover & Fire Wall Engine Mounts  (Zaugg Resort - July 27 + Spaceship 1 at Oshkosh)

2002 - ? Hrs - Chart Calendar smudged beyond recognition?

2001 -

2000 - 87.0 Hrs - Brakes & Lycoming Engine  (RJS)

1999 - 107 Hrs - Port & Starboard Strakes (Fuel & Baggage) (CLS & END)

1998 -

1997 -

1996 - 120.5 Hrs - Craig helped with Port & Starboard Winglet/ Rudder fabrication.

1995 -

1994 -

1993 -

1992 - 16.0 Hrs -  Glass & Knife Trim Canopy  (JMS & Al Townsend)

1991 -

1990 -

1989 -

1988 - 15.2 Hrs - Fabricate Canopy Hard Points  (Disney World - April 5 through April 8)

1987 -

1986 - 9.0 Hrs - Pour Foam Canopy (April 23 start 21 Day Stryker Fst)

1985 - 64.3 Hrs - Green Foam Canopy & Cut off of Fuselage, Fab Rudders, COM Antenna                               (JMS)

1984 - 191.1 - Roll & Pitch Trim, Control Stick & System, Spar Fabricated & Mounted, Canopy Mounted to Fuselage 

1983 - 493.9 Hrs -  Glass Port Wing, Winglet, COM Antenna, Port and Starboard Ailerons. Fabricate & Mount Fuselage Control System, Pitot Tube Htr. & Firewall   (Ryan Born Aug 4)

1982 - 181.4 Hrs - Carve Landing Light in Nose, Glass Starboard Wing and Winglet & Install COM Antenna. (JMS & RAS)

1981 -  389.5 Hrs - Main Gear, Nose Gear, Speed Brake, Wing Cores Hot Wired, Nose Sculpted & Pitot Tube Instld, Canopy, Moved Fuselage to Attached Garage (Duke) (Mark Born Jan 27)

1980 - 373.0 Hrs - Finish Rear Wings. Fabricate Fuselage Bulkheads, Seats, Sides and Glass. Fabricate Spar.

1979 - 29.95 Hrs - Rear Wings: Fabricate plywood wing jigs.

1978 - 424.00 Hrs. - Purchase LongEZ Plans at OshKosh. VariEZE Canard interchangeable with LongEZ canard, after trimming 2 inches off both ends. Fabricate masonite rear wing templates. Hot wire cores. Cut cores. Layup wing spars. Jig leading and trailing edge cores together and glass outside surfaces with 3 layers BID. Cut out ailerons. (Ericka born Oct 8)

1977 - 142.5 Hrs - Canard Fabricated

1976 - 96.5 Hrs - Buy VariEZE plans at OshKosh. Clean basement. Build table. Read plans. (Craig born October 27)

Initial Construction

Burt Rutan & Mike Melville demonstrating basic construction techniques of laying up hot wired foam cores:

August 1976 - Long Table Constructed for creating our Canard, Wing and Fuselage 

Wing Jig Table built straight & level was first major project of building our plane.  Craig was born in October of 1976; and the reason that we purchased our home at 2424 E 91st.

Oshkosh 1976 - Burt Rutan's VariEZE introduction!

Oshkosh 1976 - Burt Rutan's VariEZE introduction!


I purchased VariEZE plans during my visit to EAA's Oshkosh Home-built Aircraft Convention in July of 1976; and proceeded to build the canard.  In 1978 I upgraded to LongEZ plans because the LongEZ was longer, wider and a better cross-country plane than the the VariEZE.  Fortunately, by trimming a couple inches off of each end of my, already built VariEZE canard, it became interchangeable with the new LongEZ canard!