82-year-old St Albans pilot flying high with new project

PILOT Don Kendall has spent most of his 82 years flying planes and he has now decided to take his hobby one step further and build one.

He is constructing a light plane in his garage practically single-handedly with a do-it-yourself kit imported from the Czech Republic.

Don, who lives off Watling Street in St Albans, started the painstaking project around six weeks ago and is hoping to have the two-seater Sportcruiser, which will weigh no more than 600 kilos, ready for take-off within four months.

An engineer friend, David Page, pops in regularly to ensure that Don’s plane is being assembled correctly before it is finally granted a certificate of airworthiness, enabling him to speed down the runway at Elstree Aerodrome for the inaugural flight.

Frequent inspections – there will be 24 in all – are also carried out by the Light Aircraft Association (LAA).

The fuselage is currently being housed in a workshop at Coupers, the St Albans car sales company which Don bought in 1976 and where the plane will be painted and completed. The kit cost about �52,000 and the bill for the engine amounted to �12,000.

Don, who is a highly experienced pilot, has held a licence since 1964 and currently holds shares in a plane at Elstree.

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His interest in flying began during his service in the Royal Air Force, soon after World War Two ended, and he has clocked up many flying hours since.

Don said: “It gives you a great ability to get to places, like flying to France for lunch. It’s the thrill of the acceleration when you are taking off.”

But he admits that building his own plane will be “a bit of a challenge”.

Don’s enthusiasm for travel has not been restricted to the skies. He owns a yacht which he currently moors at Soto Grande, on the Spanish Costa del Sol.

Liverpool-born Don’s early working life saw him spend some time in journalism, following in his father’s footsteps, and then advertising before moving to London where he struggled to make a living washing cars for millionaires in and around Berkeley Square.

He eventually moved into car sales and the purchase of Coupers, in Catherine Street, St Albans, was to prove the turning point in his career.

Don remains chairman of the company, with his sons Paul and Stephen as managing director and finance director respectively. Don, who is keen on painting, is also a regular golfer and proudly sponsors local golf tournaments twice a year under the Coupers banner.