Bill Roerig

Oshkosh Grand Champion Plans-Built 2016



Bill Roerig

by Dave Nason
October 2010

Bill Roerig is a rare individual. He calls himself "cheap Charlie," because he doesn't buy a lot of stuff, but the fact of the matter is he would rather build the item himself. He has the skills to do it too!

Bill was in the Navy in World War II. He got his schooling through the service after the war. He went to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and an engineering school in Troy, NY.

Bill is now retired from the school district where he was a high school Industrial Arts teacher. He has volunteered at the EAA Air Academy for over 20 years teaching welding to the students. The EAA welding videos are also done by him. You see the back of his head in all those pictures, and you hear his voice. He is in his 80s now and has been building his Falco for some 20 years. And it is a work of art.

He has built everything for his Falco -- he has done everything but dig the ore! Usually people start with the wood parts, but Bill started out with making all the metal parts; landing gear, struts, linkages ... everything.

Then, when he got that done, he started the wood work; building all the ribs, fuselage frames and the spars. For some reason he didn't like the way the landing gear box was designed, so he changed it. He made the patterns, cast the gear box, and then machined it. He wanted different threads on the shafts, so he made the die to cut the threads the way he wanted them to be. He didn't like the fittings that go on the vacuum pump -- too expensive -- so he made his own.

When he built his house he made provisions for the Falco project. He was able to remove the center post between the garage doors to get his Falco out of the garage. When he was making the gas tanks he needed to put the grooves in the sides of the tank for strength so he made a press to form them. Then he jacked up the house from the basement until the house creaked, then put the weight of the house down on the press to form the parts. He also beat on it with a 'heavy, 30 pound' maul to make them. The parts look just like they came from the factory.

His airplane is now at the Appleton Airport, 20 miles north of Oshkosh, WI. He has purchased a nice, new hanger to finish his plane in. He is working on the finish details. The canopy and interior are mainly all that needs to be installed. "Still some final assembly required."

His is one of the projects that is almost too pretty to cover up and paint. The detail work that is hidden shows off the workmanship, besides all that is visible. The rudder pedals have an extra nice touch, the Falco emblem is cut into them, which of course, he made himself.

Like all of us builders, the completion date isn't set on the calendar yet, but he has enjoyed the 20 years that he has spent so far. He just stands back and grins when people look at it, which is a common problem that other Falco builders have had.