-- Most people who are interested in aviation got their first ride in an
airplane as a child and Daniel Chrapczynski is no exception.
52, had his first ride at the old Lorain City Airport, located at Leavitt
and Meister roads, and now has given rides as a pilot to more than 300
''That kind of
stimulated me,'' he said about his first experience off the ground.
Chrapczynski's birthplace may have stimulated him a bit too. He was born
on an Air Force base in Texas where his father Leo, who died in 2002, was
stationed. The family moved back to Ohio a few years later where
Chrapczynski's interest in aviation grew.
''I was into model rocketry early,'' Chrapczynski said. ''I went through
every model there was.''
While attending Lorain High School, Chrapczynski set two goals for
himself -- one was to get a college degree and the second was to get his
pilot's license. Today he can say that he accomplished both of those
Chrapczynski took up flying in 1984 and had his pilot's license nine
months later -- which is pretty quick considering the minimum number of
hours required is 40 and Chrapczynski got his license after 52 hours.
In 1994, Chrapczynski became a member of the Experimental Aircraft
Association. The national association decided it wanted to take one
million kids on plane rides before December 2003 in its Young Eagles
program as a celebration of the Wright Brothers' 100th anniversary of
Cleveland West Chapter 127 of the EAA, which Chrapczynski is a member of,
has flown more than 1,000 youngsters with Chrapczynski flying more than
300 of them.
''I've always enjoyed working with kids,'' he said.
The chapter has worked a lot with the Boy Scouts of America and helped at
least 100 Boy Scouts get their aviation merit badge, Chrapczynski said.
''He's so involved and he just loves to fly the kids. It's such a passion
of his,'' according to Fran Wesley, Chrapczynski's girlfriend of three
and a half years.
If Chrapczynski heard that a child got involved in aviation because of
him, ''that would make his year,'' according to Wesley.
''He wants to show kids that this is all attainable,'' she added.
Joe Berki met Chrapczynski in 1969 when they were both students at Lorain
County Community College.
''He's always been involved in flying to the point that I got interested
in it,'' Berki said. ''I got my own pilot's license because of him.''
Although he owns his own plane, Chrapczynski decided he wanted to build a
plane. Unlike most people who use a kit, Chrapczynski started to build
his from scratch.
''There weren't any kits back then,'' Chrapczynski said about his
construction which began in 1985.
When people ask him where his kit is he shows them a roll of aluminum, he
Wesley said that Chrapczynski works on the plane at least one day of
After 19 years of work, Chrapczynski said his very own Midget Mustang, a
small racing plane, is ''getting very close to completion.''
''When you scratch-build an airplane, you build it three times,'' he said
pointing out that you scrap the first two.
Chrapczynski, who also owns a Bellanca Super Viking he flies out of
Lorain County Regional Airport in New Russia Township said he hopes the
plane will be assembled for the last time in November and will then be
ready for an inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration.
''He's very thorough about what he does,'' Berki said.
''He takes a lot of pride in whatever he does and he'll tackle
anything,'' he said.
There will be a coming out party for the Midget Mustang once it is
complete , said Dick Harmon, a pilot and friend of Chrapczynski.
''I just hope the final does it justice,'' Chrapczynski said.
He hopes to take his homemade plane to the National Championship Air
Races in Reno, Nev. Harmon said he told his friend that his chances of
winning are poor, but Chrapczynski says he doesn't care as long as he can
''He's going to be there one of these days and he will,'' Harmon said.
''I don't know when, but he'll be there.''
Chrapczynski, a Sheffield Village resident, grew up a half mile down the
road from the old Lorain City Airport and his mother, Dolores, still
lives in Lorain. He graduated from Lorain County Community College with a
degree in electronic engineering technology and was hired by Hewlett-Packard
Today, he still works for the company, but under its spin-off of Philips
Medical, installing and supporting computer systems in hospitals. The job
requires him to be away from home during the week.
''I don't think the man sleeps,'' Wesley said.
Although he travels for work Monday through Friday, Chrapczynski is still
up early on Saturday mornings to take kids for plane rides or to work on
his plane, she said.
''It's a balancing act with him. Those are his priorities. He never sits
still,'' Wesley said.