William Shook remembers one conversation in particular.
His wife, Tonia, asked her aeronautically enthusiastic husband why he would want to build an airplane.
Initially, Shook didn’t quite know what to say, but after giving it some thought, he found the perfect analogy: The Denver resident wanted the freedom.
“Remember when you were a kid, a little kid, your world was as big as you could walk to,” Shook said. “And then you got a bicycle, and your world got bigger because you could get to it. And then you’re 16, and you get a car.
Now your world is that much bigger.
“Your world gets bigger as your technology gets bigger,” he said. “I can fly to Dallas for lunch. My world is bigger. And that was the purpose for the plane.”
Shook, 47, was one of the many owners showing off their experimental, homemade aircraft Tuesday during the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.
With him was his shimmering blue plane, a Vans RV-8. With a 24-foot wingspan and a splash of silver and white, Shook stood with a smile as he showcased and discussed his plane — a plane that he began building in his home’s basement.
“It is a lot of work,” said Shook, who is a general contractor. “Every part of it is enjoyable. You get done with the wing, and you look at it and go, ‘I built that from a pile of nothing.’ So every part you finish up is a pride thing. You get little chunks of pride as you’re moving along.”
Shook estimates that he worked 10-plus hours, seven days a week on the plane, and about one year into that effort, he needed to add the landing gear. That is when the plane outgrew the basement.
That was also the time that his wife became pregnant with their now-18-month-old daughter, Taylor. Shook knew he needed to finish and he needed to do it before Taylor was walking.
“It’s like eating an elephant,” said friend Scott Taylor, who helped build the plane. “You just bite one bite at a time. If you just take it small sections, small bites at a time, and all of a sudden before you know it, you’re over here getting judged for Sun ‘n Fun.”
Flying has been a part of Shook’s life since he was a student at the Florida Air Academy in Melbourne. He’s proud of what he’s built. Plus, being able to fly with his wife to dinner in California on a whim isn’t bad, either.
“It does everything,” Shook said. “Anybody can do it; you don’t have to be mechanical. … They’re just astonishing airplanes, I mean, they’re just unbelievably capable.”