Parked near the Brown Arch on the AirVenture flight line is what at first appears to be a Super Cub on amphibious floats. Walking by, our attention was first caught by the miniature seaplane base in a wading pool displayed in front of the right float of the airplane.
We met the owners, Gordon and Patty Gilchrist of Cedar Springs, MI, and quickly learned there was a lot more to the airplane than initially met the eye. The PA-14EXP is an entirely scratch-built original design, passed on components of the high-wing Pipers. It has components form the PA-14, PA-18, Vagabond and TriPacer, along with a dash of Gordon's own ideas, such as the electric tail trim driven by and RV-10 flap motor. Unlike the Super Cub it is a true 4-place airplane.
Shortly before we met them, the Gilcrists had been given an “Award Winning Homebuilt” sign by the judges and asked to attend the upcoming award ceremony. They did not know what award their airplane had one when we talked to them.
The Gilchrists' award-winning status is all the more remarkable since the airplane made its first flight only 2 weeks before it arrived at Oshkosh. Gordon said he flew it 20.7 hours the first week on conventional landing gear, and then put it on its amphibious floats and flew another 20 hours before starting towards Oshkosh.
Gordon has only been flying for 4 years. He told me that he had gotten into aviation initially for business and then gotten hooked. He must be very hooked, since he has logged over 900 hours in those four years. He quickly joined EAA and started building. Gordon says he was helped immensely by the knowledge and assistance form his fellow EAAers.
When they started towards Oshkosh the Gilcrists were just happy to be heading for the show. They had no intention of having their airplane judged. A friend persuaded them to put a “judge me” sticker on their prop card, and now the will be flying home as AirVenture award winners. Its well deserved. The workmanship and finish on the airplane are superb, and Gordon should be very proud of what he has created.