HOVERING THRU WEBER HISTORY, Page 2..

"When the twins are not busy on their farm or doing carpenter work they build flying machines.  The Weber Dream is only the latest of a long line of homemade aircraft they have built and flown since their teens.  The airplane was completed last winter.  The twins pulled it farther up the hill and began to test it cautiously on a grass runway in the middle of an alfalfa field.

"They did little more than taxi it back and forth.  The weather was too cold for anything more.  Their pilot logs show the plane made its first official flight on April 6.  Verdon sped down the runway at an altitude of two feet.  As the weather grew warmer the brothers became more confident with their plane.

"After puttering around at cornstalk height for a few weeks, Verdon finally got enough courage to take it up to 200 feet.  The twins have reached 500 feet and think the plane could make 10,000, 'but it would take a long time."  Vernon said.  Flying the Weber Dream is a little nerve-wracking.  Verdon confessed.

"Their homemade plane only needs 250 to 500 feet of runway before taking off, but the hot, thin air in the summer requires more runway.  The Webers report that the plane 'really flies easy.'  And they haven't heard any complaints from the FAA officials who had to check it out three times.  The FAA has awarded the Weber Dream an airworthiness certificate."

5th picture caption:  The Weber twins played with the idea of a twin-engined monoplane where the pilot lay prone on the wing like Orville Wright. 

The reporter went on to relate how Vernon and Verdon started experimenting with flying machines on their father's farm 10 years before, when they were 19.  First they built models, then graduated to gliders towed across the fields.

(Timespan note from Linda:  1958:  The first Weber hovercraft was actually two round shapes created from a couple of 1x4's which had been split into strips, bent into 7 ft. circles and glued together. Stakes were driven into the ground to provide the bend for the 1x4's. The circles were held with a framework of two 1x6's 14' ft. long. The skirt consisted of 10" strips of oil-cloth draped around each circle. Cardboard was the basic floor. The engine was offset from the center and would power both the lift and the thrust. The 3 ft. propeller was a variable pitch device the teenage boys designed and built themselves. Crude as it may have looked back then, they had created it, and were proud. I could not find a picture of the original craft but do have a sketch.)

(The Story continues) "While serving in the Army in Philadelphia from 1963 to 1965," the story continued, "the twins built a gyroglider, which they explained is like a maple seed spinning to the ground.  It has no power and achieves lift from the rotor blade overhead, which spins when towed into the wind.  The twins installed pontoons on the craft and pulled it behind a speedboat.  They've also experimented with gyrocopters.

"Not satisifed with the barebones Weber Dream, they have a new, smaller plane on the drawing board.  This one, they figure, will weigh about 150 pounds and have only two or three engines.  They're not sure of the exact specifications of the new craft, but there is no doubt in their minds that it will fly."

After reading about the exploits of the Weber twins, the editors of Homebuilt Aircraft magazine contacted them to get the rest of their intriguing story.  Vernon Weber told it as follows:  "We (my brother and I) built the Weber Dream about 10 years ago.  It took three months of spare time and cost $550.  It was built of steel tubing, the wings and tail covered with fiberglass.  It has two West Bend and two McCulloch go-kart  engines with a total of about 35 hp.

"The wingspan was 18 feet, and it weighed 245 pounds.  It would take off with a 200-pound pilot in 200 feet at 35 mph.  It would climb very steep to any altitude we were brave enough to take it, and cruise at 55 mph.  It was very easy and fun to fly and was very stable, but because of vibration problems and the chore of starting four engines and keeping them running, we only flew it a couple of years and then dismantled it to use the parts for a different design.  By that time we had bought an old Taylorcraft, which we flew regularly - less exciting but more dependable!"

And how did they get into the homebuilt scene?

"We started, I suppose, the typical way," Vernon went on, "as kids flying models made from cereal box cardboard, and most of them flew quite well.  Being twins, we have been very close most of our lives.  In 1960 we built our first plane, a Rogallo wing machine with a landing gear, to be towed behind a car.  Vernon was the pilot, with absolutely no experience, young, foolish, and 20 years old.

"The first flight went rather well - 30 feet high and completely uncontrollable, but no serous problem.  On the second flight the tow line came off, causing an instant stall and vertical descent from about 30 feet.  Again no injuries, but a totaled glider.

"A couple of years later we built a gyroglider from a set of Bensen plans.  Rather than spend money on aluminum, though, we built it almost entirely from wood.  We were a little wiser and a little more careful now, but not much, and we both learned to fly it by towing it up and down the highway past our house, very early in the morning when there  was no traffic.  Occasionally we did meet a car, and talk about surprised looks!"

It was about that time - 1963 - when the Weber twins got their Greetings! from the draft board and switched from mufti to GI uniforms.  "We were stationed in Philadelphia, where they gave us our own apartment - we were lucky, huh?  So naturally we decided to build again, right in our apartment in the middle of Philly.  This was another gyro, only this time we took our time, spent our money and really built a good one.

"After completion we took it apart, loaded it on top of our car and took it outside the city to a farmer-pilot whom we had met.  He had an airstrip on his farm, and we spent nearly every weekend being towed behind the car.  We also spent many hours flying with pontoons behind his motorboat on a large lake.

"When we were discharged from the Army, we hauled the gyroglider home and flew it quite a lot, sometimes carrying three people in it, until one day, with the both of us on it, somehow the rotor blade struck the ground while landing, and a totaled gyro resulted.

"We then rebuilt it and mounted our four go-kart engines on it.  We flew it that way a few times, but it was very much underpowered.  Then one day, while Verdon was trying to take off, a gust of wind took him off the strip and into a corn field, upside down, but no injuries.

"That's when we decided to try a fixed winger of our own design.  The result was the small plane in one of the pictures we're sending to you. This was really our most successful plane, and it appeared in several newspapers and magazines.  We called it the Weber Dream.  We would have flown it longer, except that when you're 500 feet up in the air and you look over at those vibrating struts, you wonder, will they last indefinitely?  Besides, those four engines were a real bother.

"We both got our student pilot licenses while we had the four-engined Weber Dream, and later on we bought a 1940 Taylorcraft.  After that we built a smaller lighter twin-engine plane that weighed 190 pounds.  To fly it, the pilot would lie prone over the wing.  We flew it a little, but it wasn't really very successful.  

HAPPY HOVERING to Page 3!