On July 25, 2010, 82-year-old Arnold Ebneter took off from Everett, Washington and flew his small airplane more than 2300 miles across the United States to set a world distance record for aircraft weighing 500 kilograms. His non-stop flight took about eighteen hours, but the design, construction, testing, and pre-flight preparation encompassed fifty years. Although most significant aviation world records in modern times are set with the help of large teams of people and corporate sponsorships, Ebneter did everything on his own. He designed the airplane in 1960 as a project to finish his college degree, collected parts for more than thirty years, built the airplane for ten years in his garage, and finally tested and refined the design for five years before the airplane was ready to set the record.
What drove Ebneter to set a world record in the first place, especially one that requires sitting in a cramped cockpit for more than eighteen hours straight? And how was he able to hold onto his youthful dream for decades despite the realities of a full life that included work, family commitments, and other life events?
My name is Eileen Bjorkman, and I am one of Arnold’s daughters, and also a pilot. I will offer answers to these questions through this website and a book I am writing titled “The Propeller Under the Bed: A Pilot’s Fifty Year Pursuit of an Aviation World Record.”
Written in non-technical jargon, the book will chronicle Arnold’s flying adventures and misadventures as he crisscrossed the United States and the world flying research balloons in Minnesota and New Mexico, fighter airplanes in Vietnam, a cargo airplane carrying fish in Alaska, and a thunderstorm research airplane in New Mexico before finally settling down to build and fly his record setting airplane, the E-1. Along the way lay tales of loss, hope, resiliency, creativity, and finally, the satisfaction of fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Please check back often! As I write the book, I will post excerpts from the book, photos, and content that is interesting but won’t be included in the book. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback or suggestions for content.