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Old 01-27-2017, 09:34 PM
jeterjim jeterjim is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Orange Beach, AL
Posts: 31
Default Jake's New Hand Controls

I would like to introduce my son Jake. In 2000 he was in a diving accident resulting in a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Jake pushes a manual wheelchair; however, he is considered a quadriplegic because he has limited hand function. He was 17 years old, had soloed, and was on his way to getting his private pilot's license just before his accident.

After a six month stay at the Shepherd Spinal Center Jake returned home and we started formulating a plan to get him back into the air. We picked out an ultralight kit we thought would be a good fit. After a one year build and some initial flying we encountered a problem installing hand controls. Because it was a tail dragger we were never able to overcome the rudder force on the controls while the aircraft was on the ground. It became obvious that Jake was not going to be able to solo the aircraft we had chosen. We chalked it up to a learning experience and sold the ultralight.

A short time later Jake was awarded an Ableflight scholarship to get his sport pilot's license. If you have not heard of Ableflight they are an outstanding organization whose mission is to help people with disabilities learn to fly. I truly cannot express how Ableflight was able to give Jacob back that feeling of accomplishment and pride in being able to fly by himself.

Ableflight uses the Sky Arrow 600 Sport as their training aircraft because it comes with factory installed hand controls. It is a great trainer; however, we took our time to find an aircraft that was a better fit.

About this time Van's introduced the RV-12. Jake wanted an aircraft that his wheelchair would fit in and still carry bags and another passenger.

Jake also wanted an aircraft he could get into on his own. It took him about two months to figure out how he could climb into the RV-12 by himself. Now he is able to transfer from his wheelchair into the cockpit in no time at all.

Jake biggest goal was to be able to fly by himself. Now it was my turn to figure out how to fabricate hand controls for the RV-12. I started with the brakes which turned out to be easier than I had thought. The brakes are in series so I came off the left pedals and ran brake lines to two additional cylinders mounted on the left floorboard. From there I ran lines from the back of the cylinders to the brakes. The big challenge turned out to be the position and design of the handles. Jake sits with his legs crossed in the aircraft and his knee was up against the break handles. After four sets of handle designs I finally got it right.

After the brakes were finished I focused my attention on the rudders. The challenge was to be able to leave the rudders as is for me and provide hand controls for Jake. I knew Jake would easily fly with hand controls but this "old dog" didn't want to learn the new trick of using my hands instead of my feet. I came off the connection where the cables attach to the rudder pedals with 2 rods that attached to a bell crank.

Then I attached a handle to the bottom of the floor board and reinforced it with a plate on the bottom side of the aircraft. I attached the handle using a push pull rod that attached to the bell crank from the opposite side.

The design provides full throw of the rudders and just enough friction to help provide a little rudder trim while in level flight.

It took me three days of multiple touch-and-goes before I would learn to use the hand controls without my feet firmly on the rudder pedals. Jake mastered the hand controls in a couple of hours. All of the practice in the SkyArrow and 16 years of driving a car with hand controls helped make his transition easy. This is Jake taxiing out for his first solo with the new hand controls. He has since logged over 35 hours of flight time.

Jake's next goal is to go on what he calls "Walkabout". He is planning on trips around the country by himself. If you see him at your local airport please say hello.

I really want to thank Van for this wonderful aircraft. Its' combination of light touch and stability have made it the perfect platform to meet our needs. Easy to build, maintain and fly while providing fun beyond belief. I would also like to thank Charlie Stites the founder of Ableflight for making Jakes dreams a reality. If you know of anyone with a disability who has an interest in flying please tell them about Ableflight. There is a lot of information at

DISCLAIMER: This is what I did with an idea, some graph paper, and a band saw. I understand there are many different ways to develop these hand controls. After a lot of discussions and design modifications this was the best we felt we could come up with. I'm always open to suggestions on how to improve my design. Please feel free to share any suggestions.

The double RV grin.

Last edited by jeterjim : 01-27-2017 at 09:48 PM.
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Old 01-27-2017, 10:18 PM
DaAV8R DaAV8R is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Lee's Summit, MO
Posts: 749
Default Building Stuff

I've built a lot of stuff in my life (although still building this #%*! airplane ) but I think that is probably the most worthwhile project I have ever seen. Good on both of you. Best of luck to your son on his journey!
Robert Williams
Lee's Summit, MO
RV-8 - Empennage & Wings Done
Working on Fuse

1946 Cessna 120
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Old 01-27-2017, 10:21 PM
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DaleB DaleB is offline
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Omaha, NE (KMLE)
Posts: 2,331

That is just... freaking... awesome. Great job, and I hope Jake enjoys the airplane for many years to come.

Omaha, NE
RV-12 # 222 N980KM "Screamin' Canary" (bought flying)
Fisher Celebrity (under construction)
Previous RV-7 project (sold)
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Old 01-27-2017, 10:36 PM
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Piper J3 Piper J3 is offline
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Hinckley, Ohio
Posts: 2,567

You touched my heart. If you get to Ohio you have a place to stay...
Jim Stricker - EAA #499867
PPL/ASEL 1970 - Sport Pilot since 2007
80 hrs Flying Aeronca Chief 11AC N86203
1130 hrs Flying 46 Piper J-3 Cub N6841H
Bought Flying RV-12 #120058 Oct 2015 with 48TT - Hobbs now 750

LSRM-A Certificate 2016 for RV-12 N633CM
Special Thanks... EJ Trucks - USN Crew Chief A-4 Skyhawk
MJ Stricker (Father - CFI) - USAAF 1st Lt. Captain B-17H
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Old 01-27-2017, 11:14 PM
rockwoodrv9 rockwoodrv9 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Meridian ID, Aspen CO, Okemos MI
Posts: 2,867

Great story. Made my already good day better. As was mentioned above, it you get to the KEUL - Caldwell ID area, we have a place to stay and park your plane.

Best of luck on the fun ahead.
Williamston MI
O-320 D2A
Flying N376E
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Old 01-27-2017, 11:17 PM
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Snowflake Snowflake is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Sidney, BC, Canada
Posts: 4,280

Just to see if I understand this right: Forward and back on the "skull" translates to left and right for rudder? So you can have brakes in left hand, stick in right, or stick in left hand, rudder in right?

The engineer in me wonders if there would be a way to get rudder and brakes on the same hand without needing to switch around like that... Then combine throttle somewhere (motorcycle twist grip?) so you could have full-time hands-on control of everything. But that's just me trying to optimize something that already seems to work just fine!

Nice work, and great to see your son in the air.
Rob Prior
1996 RV-6 "Tweety" C-FRBP (formerly N196RV)
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Old 01-28-2017, 04:58 AM
vic syracuse vic syracuse is offline
Super Moderator
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Locust Grove, GA
Posts: 2,715

That is so cool!!! Congratulations to both of you for your attitudes and accomplishments!

Vic Syracuse

Built RV-4, RV-6, 2-RV-10's, RV-7A, RV-8, Prescott Pusher, Kitfox Model II, Kitfox Speedster, Kitfox 7 Super Sport, Just Superstol, DAR, A&P/IA, EAA Tech Counselor/Flight Advisor, CFII-ASMEL/ASES/RW
Kitplanes "Unairworthy" "Diagnostics" monthly feature
EAA Sport Aviation "Checkpoints" monthly column
Author "Pre-Buy Guide for Amateur-Built Aircraft" & "Are your Nuts Tight?"
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Old 01-28-2017, 06:09 AM
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Red Voodoo Red Voodoo is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Eagle Neck, Georgia
Posts: 211

Remarkable! Well done jeterjim.
Ben Ridgdill
VAF #1497
RV-9A Kit #90217 Sold;
Scrounging RV-3 parts
RV-9 Tail Kit #91415 on Deck


I love it when a plane comes together!
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Old 01-28-2017, 06:23 AM
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Skykingbob Skykingbob is offline
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Bealeton Virginia
Posts: 577
Default Fantastic!

Awesome . YOL BOLSON JAKE!!!
Bob "Skyking" Corriveau
Yes I paid my =VAF= membership dues!
RV-8 QB Reserved N212KB

Build Site:

"Nothing worthwhile has ever been accomplished without inspiration, determination, and perspiration!"
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Old 01-28-2017, 07:05 AM
jeterjim jeterjim is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Orange Beach, AL
Posts: 31

The problem with duel controls on one stick is that Jake has limited hand function. He can't grip things the way we do. I'm sure the controls will evolve but I can't get him out of the plane long enough to work on further designs. I'm hoping the newness will wear off.

The rudder translates to forward for right rudder and back for left rudder. If you have the control in your right hand and look to your left to turn left the natural motion is to push on the stick which translates to left rudder. The opposite is true while turning right, where the natural movement is to pull. It seems to work.

We looked at putting a throttle on the rudder handle but that went way past my simple mind. The SkyArrow had both on their rudder; however, after talking with Jake he said he didn't use it in the SkyArrow because it felt awkward.

Last edited by jeterjim : 01-28-2017 at 07:33 AM.
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