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Home project takes Hastings family to the sky

Ed and Colleen Kranz and their son, EJ, stand next to their new plane. Soon, they’ll be able to use it for long-distance trips. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Syx)2 / 8
Ed Kranz poses with one of the first parts he worked with, the stabilizer. This picture was taken in February of 2012, the same month he started working on the plane. (Submitted photo)3 / 8
Ed and Colleen built the plane in the garage of their Hastings home. It is pictured here in March of 2014. (Submitted photo)4 / 8
Ed Kranz is pictured flying the plane he spent more than three years building, just days after its initial test flight. (Submitted photo)5 / 8
Inside the plane is a triple screen display that’s one of the first of its kind. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)6 / 8
Colleen Kranz works on part of the plane in one of the earlier stages of the process. Although it was Ed’s passion that launched the project, Colleen was involved every step of the way. (Submitted photo)7 / 8
It’s not a large plane, but it’s big enough to handle four adults as well as luggage and fuel, making it just what the Kranz needed for family trips. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Syx)8 / 8

A Hastings couple just completed a three and a half year long project, and soon they’ll be using their handiwork to fly all across the country. On Aug. 29, Ed and Colleen Kranz watched as a test pilot flew their homemade airplane for the very first time.

It started when Ed got his pilot’s license, he said. License in hand, he joined a flying club, where he could use other people’s planes to get air time. But the planes he was flying were old – most from the 1970s or 1980s. He had to pay to use them, and he never knew what might go wrong during a flight.

“And you can’t do any maintenance yourself on a club airplane,” Colleen said.

“I knew that I wanted to get my own airplane,” Ed said.

But he couldn’t afford to buy the kind of plane he wanted, with the features he wanted. So he decided to build one.

Ed said he’s always been handy, but he had never attempted to build a plane before. Fortunately, there are plenty of airplane kits to choose from that provide the bulk of the materials needed for construction. He chose the RV 10, a design by Van’s Aircraft in Oregon. That particular design had all the features he was after – big enough to fit his family and their luggage, fast and efficient, making cross country trips more manageable.

He also chose that particular plane for the builders community associated with it. His is the 777th RV 10 to fly, he said, so there are plenty of other people to offer support and help throughout the process. Now, since they recorded time lapse videos of the build work, Ed and Colleen have become a valuable resource themselves to other builders.

The construction project started in the Kranz garage on Feb. 14, 2012, Valentine’s Day.

“I thought it was kind of fun and exciting,” Colleen said. “… I knew that he would love it.”

Although it was a project that grew out of Ed’s love for planes, it was something that the couple ended up working on together. And it taught them quite a bit as well, Colleen said.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But it’s been such a journey.”

They’ve learned to be more efficient with how they spend their time and money, to focus on the things they really want to do and let other distractions (like television) fade away.

When they set out to build the plane, they thought it would take about two and a half years. In all, it took exactly three and a half years to finish. Ed made some custom changes along the way, such as the interior finish, custom fiberglass, interior lighting system (the lights come on when the doors open, just like a car), electric cowl flaps, custom overhead switch panel for all aircraft lighting controls, dual Lightspeed electronic ignition, custom backlit switch labels and a throttle quadrant mounted in the center console. The plane also has a new IO540 Hartzell two-blade prop and it’s one of the first planes to have a full triple screen Garmin G3X touch avionics system.

Also in that time, the couple had their first child, EJ, in January of 2014. They also lost three months of work when Ed came down with pneumonia. But on Aug. 29 – which also happens to be the Kranz’s anniversary – the plane took off. The first flight was handled by test pilot Doug Weiler. Ed flew it for the first time the following Monday.

They weren’t too nervous about the first flight. During the build process, they took advantage of a technical counselor provided through the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), so they were getting expert help over the course of the whole project. And before it flew, three technical experts inspected the entire plane. After they were done, Ed and Colleen knew there wouldn’t be any catastrophic failures.

Still, it took some time for Ed to really realize what he’d accomplished.

“I don’t think it sank in until a couple hours later,” he said.

Now, the plane has relocated from the couple’s garage to the Red Wing Regional Airport. The only thing that’s not done is the paint job, which Ed said will probably be done next spring.

For now, Ed can only fly the plane solo, at least until it’s had 40 hours of flight time, just to make sure everything is in good working order. After that, he’ll be able to fly with his whole family.

Benefits of owning a plane

Now that they’ve got their wings, Ed and Colleen are looking forward to the opportunities it will provide their family. With a plane that can reach 200 miles per hour, they’ll be able to access more distant locations in a fraction of the time it would take in a car.

“You can do just amazing trips,” Ed said. “On a Friday morning, Colleen and I could say … hey, let’s go camping in Yellowstone.”

That trip would take just five hours, and they could easily be back the following Monday.

Colleen said she’s excited to raise a family with a plane. By increasing their children’s travel, they can also increase their exposure to history and educational opportunities.

And an added perk is that the plane is pretty fuel efficient as well. It gets about 18 miles per gallon, and can fly about 800 to 1,000 miles before needing to refuel.

Added to all of that is the airplane community itself. The family has already made friends around the nation just through the build process. And everyone at the airports has always been friendly as well.

“You go to pretty much any airport and people are so nice,” Colleen said.

The entire build process has been documented on the family’s blog. More photos and video can be found at www.EdandColleen.com.

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