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Q-talk 86 - Featured Pilot - Bob Malechek

Bob Malechek showed signs of mechanical abilities at very young age. When he was about six years old, growing up in Rhodes, Iowa, a farming community in the center of the state, he decided he was going to build an airplane. He gathered discarded orange crates, removed the wheels from his wagon and began working on his project. He had entered into negotiations with his father for the motor on the lawn mower when his father put a stop to his creation. The drive to build remained with him, however. A few years later he had the opportunity to produce another project with great success. Bob mowed a man's lawn all summer just to earn his Maytag washing machine motor. He mounted the coveted single cylinder, two-cycle engine on a wooden frame, added four wheels and created his first kit-type project, a go-cart. He terrorized the streets until he made the fine citizens of Rhodes angry. He was forced into an early retirement from the neighborhood go-cart circuit.

After Bob graduated from high school, he entered motorcycle races. While racing, he fell off the bike and was run over by another driver. Although not hurt, his mother made him promise not to ride again. Bob kept his promise but began to build and drive stock cars instead. He won a lot of local races and became the season champion and Rookie of the Year. He entered the circuit but found himself competing against drivers who were supported by companies. They would come to the races every week with brand new equipment. Bob said, "I would come with the same old tired engine, old shocks, maybe a couple new tires." It got too expensive to stay competitive and he dropped out.

Bob worked for Lennox Industries for over forty years. He is now retired. He started as a welder for the heating and air conditioner company and moved up to become a supervisor on the test floor in the development of new residential and commercial heating products. He also worked part-time in a machine shop.

Bob earned his private pilot's license twenty-three years ago from instructor, Edna Whyte. She was a friend and competitor of Amelia Earhart. She also helped train many WWII pilots. One method of correcting Bob while in the cockpit was to pull on his earlobe. Bob said, "To this day, I think my right earlobe is a little bit longer than the left." Bob also was given three hours of tail dragger time in a Cessna 120 but he said, "I should have had about three hundred hours to help me learn to fly the Quickie. The bottom line is I had three hours of tail dragger time and survived it."

A friend and Bob decided to build a Long-EZ together. Unfortunately, before the project was completed, the friend had a heart attack. He survived but had to stop building. They sold the plane and Bob invested his share into a Quickie. He felt the cockpit would have more room. He also liked the side-by-side seat arrangement. He started his Q-200 in 1982 and finished it five years later.

Years ago, while at Oshkosh, WS, Mike Melvill, Burt and Dick Rutan use to have mini forums under the wing of an airplane. People would gather to ask questions. One time a man asked, " Hey Burt, I have a VariEze I am building. Can I put this thing in it?" (Bob could not remember the item mentioned.) Burt said, "Before you put anything in my VariEze, you have to give it the Rutan test." Everyone's mouth dropped open, ready for words of wisdom. Burt continued, "What you do is, take that item you are going to put in the airplane and throw it up in the air. If it comes back down, you don't put it in that airplane." Bob has heeded that advice in the building of his aircraft. He has spent a lot of time evaluating new ideas carefully before implementing because changes can cause weight. Bob said, "Before you know it, you are building a Sherman tank instead of a light weight airplane."

If Bob had a chance to redo the construction of his Quickie, he would have spent more time finishing the airplane before taking it to the airport. He grew tired of the sanding and painting process and was anxious to begin flying. He cut corners on a few things, thinking he could finish them later. He also would not have wasted so much time on the Hurst brakes. He has since found that the Mateo wheel arrangement works better. He also advises that builders purchase an air file. It is flat, twelve-inches long, two-inches wide and attaches to your air compressor. It vibrates a spline board and when passed over surfaces lightly, it produces a leveling effect. A lot of sand paper is needed but the results are good. A drill press and lathe would be a big help as well. He would also suggest a ride and taxi, taxi, taxi before a builder's first flight.

Bob's workshop was a two bay garage. The wing tips were three or four feet from the walls. He said, "I learned how to twist, take a half of a step, step up over the wing and down. If I had a video camera set up in there, it would have been a real interesting ballet."

One time on a trip from Texas to Iowa, Bob and his wife, Jean, went through three big weather fronts. They went from clear blue skies to lighting. All of a sudden, they realized they could no longer see out of the windshield. It was covered in ice. The temperature had dropped tremendously in the cockpit. They reduced their altitude and soon small openings began to appear in the ice until it all broke apart. They landed at a nearby airport safe and sound.

Bob and Jean are involved in several interests now. They are traveling and enjoying the use of a brand new motor home. They are also in the process of building a new home that includes a hanger.

We enjoyed interviewing Bob and found him to be very willing to share his wealth of building information. He is a real asset to the Quickie Builders Association.

You can order a printed copy of Q-talk #86 by using the Q-talk Back Issue Order Page.