Born into an aviation family, Eric Rench first steered a plane at 4 years old. He joined the Air Force in 1982; but it wasn’t until 1996 that he obtained his official pilot’s license, even though he had been flying airplanes unofficially his whole life. Eric, employed at SC Johnson in their Aviation Maintenance department, now flies all over the world. The pinnacle of his career, he said, was in 1998 when he was part of Sam Johnson’s team that recreated the historical 1935 trip to Brazil with the Spirit of Carnauba flight. A team of six company aircrafts flew as support for the replicated S-38 Sikorsky seaplane. Though he did not fly on the plane going down, he flew in it for the return flight. It was a thrilling 64 days of traveling, and this flight’s historical significance was not lost on Eric. He was also part of the team that maneuvered the amphibian plane into its final resting place in Fortaleza Hall.
Eric’s father, and former RBC entrepreneur, T.R. Rench, earned his pilot’s license at 16 and later flew his family in a Gullwing Stinson, a vintage plane that he painstakingly restored in the 1960’s. The wings were covered in fabric held together with rib stitching done by hand that were then treated with finishing chemicals, making it a resilient surface. At one time T.R. planned on restoring vintage aircraft as a business, but after all the TLC and hundreds of hours of meticulous work, he didn’t want to sell them, so he turned it into a hobby instead.
Watching his father restore and rebuild a couple planes himself, the Gullwing and a Staggerwing Beechcraft, Eric was no stranger to the process. He decided he was going to build himself a kit plane, specifically a Sportsman 2 + 2 replica Piper PA-14 Family Cruiser. This kit is manufactured by Wag-Aero, located in Lyons, WI, west of Burlington. In order to bankroll a project this size, he came up with a brilliant idea: he quit smoking. He bought the plans and materials kit, and has cut and fit every tube to build the fuselage and tail, and has welded all the joints. He plans on sewing the canvas seats on his mother’s antique Singer sewing machine. All his and his father’s canvas projects have been done either by hand or on this machine. Eric and his father are not the only hobbyists to build or rebuild airplanes in RBC. Gary Thompson of Gary’s Hobby Shop built a Skybolt.
Once the airplane is completed, the tail and stabilizers can be removed for transport, and then 50 hours of test flights are needed to obtain an Experimental Certificate of Conformance in order to leave the test flight area. Eric plans on flying off into his retirement to Rhinelander, WI in his Piper PA-14.