By Tony Boom
JACKSONVILLE — After spending 3,000 hours over six years to build his Van's RV-10 four-seat aircraft, pilot Al Dinardi of Jacksonville was rewarded with one of the top shout-outs in experimental aircraft: a Lindy.
It was Dinardi's second bronze Lindy recognizing high achievement in aircraft construction at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture, a weeklong air show that draws 500,000 people from 60 countries to Oshkosh, Wis., every year.
Fewer than 75 Lindys were awarded among more than 2,900 planes eligible for judging at this year's show, held July 29 through Aug. 4. Bryan Milani of Medford's Showplanes, which makes custom products, was technical adviser and mechanic for Dinardi's plane.
"I loved what I was doing, working alongside Bryan, trying to make everything as perfect as possible," Dinardi said. "There's literally dozens if not hundreds of little modifications, things to improve the aircraft."
Dinardi's first Lindy came in 2000 for a Van's RV-8 he built with Butch Milani, Bryan's father. The RV-8 is a two-seater that is lighter and designed for aerobatics, unlike the RV-10, which is designed for travel and can accommodate four people and 60 pounds of luggage.
The RV-10 incorporates features that make it fun to fly like other RV planes — named for their creator, Richard VanGrunsven, who over 40 years built his kit-aircraft company from a home shop in Reedville to a 60,000-square-foot facility in Aurora. The RV-10 can cruise at 210 mph.
"They can be both fast and slow," said Dinardi. "They can work small strips."
"It's a very nice aircraft. It was well-deserving of that award," said Bryan Milani.
RV-10s typically cost around $200,000 to build, but Dinardi said the upgrades to his plane pushed up the cost. He and Milani built a more powerful engine and better avionics as they worked in a hangar at the Medford airport.
"When I first saw the RV-10 ... I wasn't particularly excited about some of the aesthetics, i.e. the engine cowl and back," said the pilot. He talked to Milani about developing new pieces for his plane and for sale to others.
FAA certification to fly the aircraft is a rigorous process, said Dinardi. An inspector usually spends at least a day checking the entire plane. A permit is then issued that allows flying for 25 to 40 hours within 50 to 100 miles of the home airport. After completion of that cycle, the aircraft is fully certified.
Two years ago, just after gaining certification, Dinardi flew the unpainted RV-10 to Oshkosh but didn't enter in the competition. This year's award was a bronze in the Homebuilt Kit category.
Dinardi and Milani flew to Oshkosh via Provo, Utah, and Rapid City, S.D. Dinardi returned with his wife, Sheri, who had attended a painting school in Wisconsin. They left on Aug. 10, made a fuel stop in Nebraska, stayed overnight in Jackson Hole, Wyo., then returned to Medford the next day in one hop.
Dinardi was flying Cessnas and Super Cubs when he saw the Milanis working on a Van's RV in a nearby hangar. They advised him not to fly one because he'd become hooked. Flying an RV is like driving a sports car instead of a minivan, said the pilot.
"The neat thing about experimental aviation is that it allows people to explore new avenues that you can't necessarily explore in the certified world because of the regulations," said Milani. "That's the beauty of the experimental market, being able to develop some new things and new designs."
Dinardi uses the craft mostly for visits to relatives in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Occasionally he flies a friend who likes In-N-Out Burger down to Redding, Calif., for lunch.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.