Note: This is a story told in six chapters.
Let me tell you yet another story about an RV that helped one pilot’s dream come true. As you may remember, I flew our RV-7A for the first time this spring. It took 4.5 years and 1560 hours to build N260KM, our quick-build tip-up dream machine. This fall, my bride Kelli and I took those final steps to unveil KELLI GIRL, and with her a dream that has resided in my head and heart since I was a child.
I grew up in Harlingen, Texas, at a time when the organization now known as the Commemorative Air Force was headquartered there. How many wee lads of the ‘70s can say they heard the growling drone of Merlins and Allisons on an almost daily basis? Until I went to college, I never missed the annual 4-day CAF Airshows. To this day, one aircraft in particular has resided solidly as my favorite:
Reg Urscher’s P-51 “Gunfighter”
Gunfighter meant business. It just looked like a fighter ought to look. I knew that if I ever had an aircraft, I would paint it in some way to match this spectacular machine.
Thirty-odd years later, at the end of a 27-year Air Force career, Kelli, Houston, Chase, and I built and flew N260KM. What a great airplane! It takes us where we want to go…FAST. I can fling it around like a fighter. Every flight reminds me that we made the best airframe choice. So late this summer, Kelli confirmed that it’s time to put clothes on our naked plane. It’s time for KELLI GIRL to be born.
Here is the bare canvass with which our artists worked their magic:
After a LOT of research on these VAF fora, I concluded that a high quality vinyl wrap is the best way to cover and protect our aircraft. (Nothing against paint. I won’t enter into the wrap vs paint debate: My mind’s made up, and that discussion lives on in a different forum). I contacted Scott Farnsworth at AircraftWraps.Com:
I described my wishes to Scott and to his design partner, Jason Knolls at Dream Scheme Designs. My concept: A P-51 motif, WW2 8th Air Force, but based on Reg Urschler’s Gunfighter. However, what’s green on Gunfighter will be cobalt metallic blue, and what’s yellow on Gunfighter would be white. The silver part will be silver metal flake, not bare aluminum. Unlike Gunfighter, I wanted invasion stripes in memory of my Dad’s service: He was an US Army artillery captain who landed with the invasion force at Normandy. I wanted my sons’ initials on the side: HHM (Houston Hunter Mayeux) and CAM (Chase Austin Mayeux). Oh, and let’s add those hi-def images of the exhaust headers and gun ports.
Jason sent the first of several designs. First we worked the left side:
Really close, but I wanted that red stripe marking the border between the blue and silver.
Now we worked the top and bottom:
This was just too busy, so I had him drop the stripes from the top, but leave them on the bottom:
I liked it. Meanwhile, while Jason and Scott worked hard on the design in the center and eastern parts of this nation, I was working with an artistic goddess on the west coast on KELLI GIRL’s centerpiece…