December 2009
Featuring N836EC

The rebirth of serial number 1452
The dreams and dedication of
Keith Richbourg
Brings this Swift back flying

I've been flying since I was 7 years old... Control Line - that is. My Dad and I spent untold hours enjoying many of life's mysteries: how hot should the iron be to shrink the Monocote, how to hold your fingers so you don't Superglue them together, why does model airplane fuel feel cool on your hands but burn your fingers like "H-E-double hockey sticks" when you stick your finger in the prop? From there we moved on to ".049 Free Flight" and finally progressed to killing hot summer days flying R/C models in the Trinity River bottoms of Fort Worth.

My infatuation with the Swift began some 20 years ago on a frosty morning during an EAA "Blue Nose" breakfast fly-in at Weatherford, Texas. I was having a big adventure as a new pilot getting to see all sorts of antique and homebuilt aircraft descend from the crisp country sky for some hanger flying, pancakes and hot coffee. As my Dad and I watched several classic fabric birds grease their landings to the north, we saw a beast of an airplane; by comparison, landing fast and commanding everyone's attention as it took the balance of the runway to come to a stop. "What is that?!?", I asked my Dad, fascinated with the sleek, yet wicked looking airplane sporting wide gear, obvious power, and a "work of art" cowling. Every other plane at the fly-in seemed to be of no consequence after the Swift made its appearance. That first impression was probably enough to seal my fate, but after it roared overhead on takeoff, war bird-like gear retracting, I was hooked.

Then life happened. I went to college at Texas A&M to study Aerospace Engineering, discovered physics wasn't as much fun in the classroom as it was in an airplane and wound up with a business degree like so many other aspiring engineers. Fortunately, there was not a recession going on when I graduated and I found a job that would wind up being my career. Along the way, I have been blessed with a great wife, little girl, sporadic airplanes that I have been proud to own and fly, and the joys (?) and challenges (!) of being self employed in the floor covering business.

Unlike many of the Swifters I have met recently, I have no military or career aviation experience, just a lifelong fascination with flight and its machines. I have had the opportunity to fly Cessna 150's, 172's, restore (with my Dad) and get tailwheel certified in an L2-B Taylorcraft, speed things up with a Piper Clipper, and most recently enjoy a Culver Cadet as my first retractable experience.

After buying and selling those that were mine over the years to "make payroll" for the business, buy a house, start a family, etc., I was ready for the next step in my flying "education". After three-pointing the Culver, it was hard to get excited about the thought of buying another tricycle gear. I started getting the itch for flying again around Thanksgiving '08, so I began looking at Swifts on the Web over the holidays. It was my first time to really learn anything about the Swift airplane. Wow - that was a lot of information to digest! Having been a Culver Cadet owner with virtually no "Type" association to be a part of, I was really impressed with the way Swift "Caretakers" had developed a sense of community and purpose to further and preserve this special aircraft. Reading all the information I could and searching for Swifts for sale became somewhat of an obsession every night when I would come home from work. At the least, it was a distraction from what I did everyday at the office!

Finally, in the Spring, I saw a project advertised that seemed to have all the right ingredients: reworked vertical and horizontal stabilizers, new .040 skin on the fuselage and turtle deck, low time 180 Lycoming, rebuilt gear, updated panel, good aluminum for a polished plane, good logs, the right price, etc. I had found her! Serial number 1452, born in 1945 as a GC-1B originally N3759K, then N388L, currently N836EC.









Due to my schedule and the likelihood of stalling on the project myself, I enlisted the help of Jim McNitt of Julesburg, CO to complete the restoration and reassembly. He is a perfectionist and a real pro. Thank you thank you Jim! Much of the work had been done by Vaughn Armstrong of Swiftworks in Tennessee prior to my ownership. I am the 15th Caretaker of this bird - 15!! Amazing. For the last two months, I have been telling people that I'm "two weeks away" from trailering her home! But I realistically expect to have her in Waco for final wing assembly and rigging by November 1st. I was hoping to have her flying by the RRSW gathering in Granbury but no such luck.







Once my bird is ready, Ed Lloyd has been gracious to offer me his instruction. I have a lot to learn but I am confident that I can master the flying characteristics of this aircraft with Ed's help. I am taking every opportunity to learn from those that have "gone before" including attending the Tennessee and West Coast Nationals this year.

Since I began this journey about one year ago, I have met a lot of great folks who have been eager to help and share their enthusiasm for this wonderful plane. My thanks to David Turner, Stan Price, and Kyle Hooks for letting me fly right seat. I had to wipe the smile off my face each time.

Here are three shots from the transport and unloading.

The first shot is where I met up with Jim McNitt, bound from Colorado, on a busy highway in Austin, TX in route to the San Antonio area. You can imagine my excitement as I approached the unmistakable target on the road ahead....

The second shot is rolling into Zuehl Airpark where Duane Golding lives. Duane, whom I met at the RRSW event in October, graciously agreed to come out of "swift retirement" to help me with some mods including gross weight increase and battery access door, as well as custom upholstery and final assembly. Seeing Duane's memorabilia on his swifts over the years was inspiring to say the least.

The third shot is unloading the swift into Duane's hanger from Jim's "custom" trailer made especially for hauling aircraft. Pretty clever indeed.

I'll get you some more shots on my next trip to Duane's for some more weekend warrior airplane work! If anyone is selling any of the following - extended fuel wing tanks, wing fillets, steerable tailwheel, and potentially a new cowling for the 180 Lycoming - I'm looking!

Keith Richbourg
Waco, Texas