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Record-Setting Homebuilder Featured in New Book

March 29, 2018 - When we last wrote about Eileen Bjorkman, EAA Lifetime 435061, a few years ago, she was “blogging her way to a book” titled The Propeller under the Bed, which she intended as a recounting of her father Arnold Ebneter’s 50-year quest to set an aviation distance record. The book became a reality and was recently published by the University of Washington Press.

On July 25, 2010, 82-year-old Ebneter, EAA 450548, set an aviation world record for flying nonstop across the U.S. in an aircraft weighing less than 500 kg — an airplane he himself had built (see “Scratchbuilt Record-Breaker” in the January 2011 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine). The flight took about 18 hours, but the design, construction, testing, and preparation took 50 years.

Ebneter donated the airplane, designated E-1, to the EAA Aviation Museum in 2017. The Propeller under the Bed: A Personal History of Homebuilt Aircraft, frames Ebneter’s journey from teenage airplane enthusiast to Air Force pilot and Boeing engineer in the context of the decades-long homebuilt movement in the United States.

As Bjorkman, a retired military officer, civilian pilot, and aeronautical engineer, blogged her father’s experiences and searched for a publisher, the final book began to take shape.

“I realized early on that my father’s dream would not have been possible without the contributions to homebuilding by the EAA, well-known designers such as Jim Bede, Burt Rutan, and Richard VanGrunsven, and prior visionaries such as Ed Heath and Leslie Long,” she said.

“My first manuscript had about one chapter on those contributions, but when I pitched the project to the University of Washington Press, they suggested I beef up the homebuilt aircraft history portion of the book. The result was the weaving of the two stories together.”

In addition to a short course on how to design and build airplanes, Bjorkman said the book gives readers a glimpse into life growing up in a “flying family” with two pilots for parents, a family plane named Charlie, and — quite literally — a propeller under her parents’ bed.

The book is available for purchase directly from EAA, and other booksellers and retailers.