Carson City native building airplane in garage
Few know the highs and lows of life the way Michael Kubel does.
Like many, the depths and uplifting times in Kubel’s life mirror the mountains and valleys everyone experiences, but unlike most are the sheer heights and chasms in his world.
Such is the life of a mine engineer who spends the majority of his time working in an open pit gold and silver mine planning how to mine the rock beneath him as his thoughts drift above the clouds and the day he will be flying in them in the private plane he is building in his garage.
Kubel, a Carson City native and 2009 graduate of Sierra Lutheran High School, now resides in Winnemucca and works for Hycroft Mine, where he plans how to mine rock for the life of the mine. However, when he is not studying what lies below, Kubel’s focus is trained on the possibilities above — and how to get there in the Vans RV10 private plane he is building in his garage.
The love of flight that ultimately spawned his unique project is rooted in a background that has always been fascinated with motion.
“I have always enjoyed really any that moved,” Kubel explained. “Aviation was part of this, but I didn’t start pursuing aviation until college.”
Kubel begin his training in Reno and soloed at Reno-Tahoe International Airport before flying regularly out of Minden. He earned his private pilot’s lesson in spring 2012, which then gave rise to a pilot’s dream — his, or her, own plane.
“When I moved to Winnemucca, I met another pilot who was building a plane,” Kubel recounted. “He got me interested enough in home building to start really looking into doing it.”
Using a kit that resembles large Legos, Kubel has worked about 30 hours a month since starting the project in March 2017. At completion, the plane will be 24 feet long with a 31-foot wingspan and able to carry four passengers. The aircraft will have a cruising capacity of 200 mph and a range of 800 miles. Kubel also will have a plane that rivals commercially-built aircraft at a fraction of the cost.
“Price and operating costs are key,” he said. “I could get a nice plane that was 30 years old; however, those planes are easily $150,000 and up. With this kit, I can have a new plane that rivals these new planes for a fraction of the cost,” which Kubel estimates to be approximately $170,000 when the project is complete and be on par with a new plane with a $700,000 price tag.
Kubel, who graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2013 with a bachelor of science in mining engineering, came into the venture with a keen mind for taking on the project, but he did have to become a quick study in some areas.
“I had to learn various building techniques,” he continued. “I had never riveted before or worked with fiberglass. However, I have a good technical counselor who is highly qualified and looks over my work.”
Kubel’s current projection is that the plane will be completed within the next 18 months, marking the end of a two- to three-year journey. And once the last bolt is tightened and the final inspection completed, Kubel plans to take his maiden test flights around Winnemucca.
For other pilots aspiring to take flight in their own planes, Kubel advises them to “go flying with a private pilot and take an exploration flight with your local flight school.”
Highs and lows are part of life. Kubel just happens to live life to the extremes.