The Good Life: Up in the air

Jim Phillips, shareholder and attorney at Godfrey and Kahn S.C., has always been interested in aviation. A friend of his obtained his private pilot’s license when he was just 17 and the two regularly talked about traveling the world in planes they would each build.

Over the past 30 years, Phillips has obtained his private pilot’s license and has built two experimental aircrafts that he has flown to locations throughout the Midwest and even as far as California.

“It might seem unique, but aviation is actually quite popular and quite a few people build their own planes,” Phillips said.

According to Phillips, the Federal Aviation Administration requires extensive certification and testing for commercial airplanes but does not require the same rigorous treatment for experimental aircraft.

“The experimental designation is reserved for people who want to build and fly a plane for their own education or those who are using it as a prototype to ultimately build a production plane,” Phillips said.

The world becomes a lot smaller when you have a plane, Phillips said.

“I went to have dinner in a small town north of Des Moines, Iowa last Saturday,” Phillips said. “It would have been a seven hour drive, but by plane it was only an hour and a half. I’ve had lunch in Ann Arbor and breakfast in St. Louis. There are no stoplights, there is no traffic or construction. It’s a lot of fun.”

During the airplane building process Phillips has learned about welding, aerodynamics, computers, electronics and meteorology.

“I consider flying a life skill,” he said. “It’s a great way to expand your horizons. It’s an interesting community full of interesting people. I really enjoy it and I think a lot of people would if they got into it, especially if they like building things. It’s a great feeling taking something that you’ve built up into the air for the first time.”

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