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SOUTHPORT—A wish by Norman “Brock” Lewis to set an aviation world record aboard his homemade ultralight is more than just a flight of fancy.
It’s become an obsession he hopes will come full circle in a few weeks.
For the past year, the Southport land surveyor has been building his own ultralight plane at his home on N.C. 133.
“I built all this from scratch,” Lewis said, strolling on the grass around the lightweight aluminum frame that’s gradually filling out.
Lewis got the landing gear from a go-cart company—the tires and rims, that is.
“I built the landing gear,” he said.
He ordered the propeller from a Texas company, Power Fin Propellers.
As for the plane’s power, “I took a generator engine and souped it up,” Lewis said.
In just a few weeks he plans to add the aluminum wings, which he’s been building from scratch in his shop.
“That’s the reason I haven’t put a side on [the plane] yet,” Lewis said.
He’s also having a custom set of cushions made for the craft’s tiny single seat. He’ll add an instrument panel equipped with standard aircraft flight controls, along with a radio and GPS. When he’s done, Lewis estimates the craft will only weigh between 165 and 170 pounds, easily qualifying it for ultralight status.
“After I get it tested and good and broke in, I’m going to go to Brunswick Airport and fly to Brunswick, Ga.,” Lewis said.
From there, he plans to fly to Opa-locka, Fla., then to Grand Bahama Island where Lewis and his family own land.
The thing is, Lewis doesn’t have a pilot’s license.
“You don’t have to have a license to fly [an ultralight],” he said, as long as the craft weighs no more than 254 pounds. But his dad, Alvie, is a pilot, and Lewis has flown before.
“I have no formal training,” said Lewis, who works by day and night as a land surveyor and musician.
Lewis also doesn’t know how fast his ultralight will go because he hasn’t flown it yet.
“It’s the only one of its kind in the world, and it’s a prototype,” he said.
Is he apprehensive about this flight he hopes to be ready for around mid-November?
“Yes, but that’s the fun of it,” Lewis said, adding if he achieves his high-flying goal he will set a world record.
“No one has ever flown an ultralight internationally before, as far as I know,” he said. “I’ve researched and researched.”
Lewis has his passport ready. His wife, Jennie Loo, isn’t sure about his plans to set an ultralight world record.
“Well, she was excited when I first came up with the idea,” Lewis said.
But the closer he gets to the time he plans to fly, the more nervous she’s getting.
“She knows I ain’t gonna back out of it,” Lewis said. “I guess [she’ll] grin and bear it. She’s taking a ground crew to drive down to meet me.”
Lewis estimates it will take him about five-and-a-half to six hours to get to Florida and only about 45 minutes to make his one-man, 52-mile international ultralight flight across the Florida Strait to reach the Bahamas.
“The amazing thing is it’ll only cost about $16 to $20 bucks [for gas],” he said. “It’s fuel-efficient.”
Right now he has “no clue” exactly how fast the plane will go or what the mileage will be because he hasn’t flown it yet.
“There’s no way to judge [mileage] until I know what the speed is,” he said.
Once he’s completed his plane and tested it, Lewis plans to take flight across the Atlantic.
“If I pull it off, I might just make the dadgum world news,” he said.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.