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Two First-Time Builders Let Others Observe, Critique with Live Video Blog

Caleb
Caleb Ihrig uses a hammer to form a wing rib on his Bearhawk. The DreamBuildFly project streams live from his Oshkosh basement most Tuesday nights.

January 27, 2011 —Most days, Brady Lane and Caleb Ihrig are just two normal guys in their 20s: They like sports, video games, music, and, of course, their families. They also have embarked upon an ambitious project to build a four-place Bearhawk from scratch. Caleb is an engineer and likes mechanical things; Brady is a multimedia journalist for EAA. With just basic skills and tools, the two friends are inviting the world to watch them build an airplane through their Dream Build Fly blog, featuring weekly build sessions streamed live from Caleb’s basement.

Brady is barely two years removed from his quest to earn his sport pilot certificate, which was followed by legions of readers through his video blog. He met Caleb through his church and they agreed to embark on this project, building at a pace that money and family would allow. The project is now three months old and they are hot and heavy into cutting and forming aluminum wing ribs.

“We wanted to show people that two regular guys could do this project and succeed,” Brady said. “There are tons of resources out there for the inexperienced builder and we hope to demonstrate especially to the younger crowd that this is possible.”

The resources are evident each time Caleb and Brady head to the basement. With the help of DataToys.com, a local electronics supplier, they use a lipstick camera mounted on a hat to show a point-of-view angle as they build. Viewers can watch and hear as the “Bearhawk Boys” drill, hammer, and use a router to slow-form the pieces of the aircraft. To demonstrate how intimate the viewing experience can become, just before they turn on a loud tool they usually shout “Mute!” to warn their viewers to virtually cover their ears.

Between fabrications, Caleb and Brady will talk out loud about what their next step will be so that viewers at home are involved in the process. They often ask questions of the virtual audience, which has proved valuable. The blog has a chat function, which allows them to communicate with the viewers.

“I remember one night we were having trouble cutting circular holes in our wing ribs with a fly cutter and it was causing the wood forms we were using to smoke,” Caleb recalled. “There were at least three other builders with metal experience watching that night and they quickly had the solution for us. We were cutting at the wrong rpm. Soon the smoke cleared and we began to really crank out the parts.”

That kind of interplay is the main goal of the blog, Brady said. “We want people to see our ups and downs. We want their help, and we want to encourage others who may not have considered building an airplane that they can learn and there is help.”

Their project has already been encouraging to several - both to experienced builders and not-yet builders. Lane says they have viewers each week from many states including New York, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington, Illinois, and Wisconsin, just to name a few. One viewer from nearby Neenah, Wisconsin, dropped by the Bearhawk Den after watching several online sessions. Brady says the man told him he always thought one needed special tools and expertise to build a plane. Once he saw that Brady and Caleb were in a normal basement with basic tools he knew he could do it, too.

"That’s one of the goals of our project: to show how accessible aircraft homebuilding can be and inspire others to find that passion inside of them," Lane said. "We hope current builders will join us as well to share advice and tips, enjoy the comradarie, and maybe even learn a tip or two from the other watchers as well."

You can watch Brady and Caleb most Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. CST and maybe even help their project take shape. If your EAA chapter or hobby group meets on Tuesday nights and would like the "Bearhawk Boys" to address your chapter during one of their live build sessions contact Brady at blane@eaa.org

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