The Klapmeier Brothers…Homebuilts to Factory Builts

A rare story of transition.

Klapmeier Brothers

Klapmeier Brothers

The Klapmeier Brothers

While he was in high school, Alan Klapmeier told his friends that he wanted to design and build airplanes. Determined and tenacious, he never wavered in his commitment. In the summer of 1976, after graduating from high school, Alan went to Oshkosh to look at homebuilts. That fall he went to Ripon College in Wisconsin where he majored in Economics and minored in Physics. While there, he met Jeff Viken, a fellow student majoring in Aeronautical Engineering. It was a providential meeting.

In 1978, Alan went back to Oshkosh with his brother, Dale (three years younger), to learn more about homebuilding. They were both thrilled with what they saw. Two years later, they were on Wittman Field when Tom Hamilton arrived for the first time in his new Glasair I. Alan and Dale had to have one. Since they could barely afford a Big Mac between them, they went to their parents to see if they could borrow the money to order a kit. Thinking it would deter them, their parents asked the young men to write up a business plan explaining how a homebuilt aircraft project would further their education and careers. Though unexpected, the parents got their business plan after which Alan and Dale went out to the Glasair factory to place their order. The kit arrived in 1982 and the brothers got busy.

Though they had dreamed and talked about designing their own airplane, a certified airplane, they began to shift their focus to homebuilts where they could enjoy the freedom the Experimental Amateur-Built environment offered to designers. They came to believe that the future of aviation was in homebuilding. By the time they had their Glasair flying, in the spring of 1984; Alan had already begun developing sketches for what would become the world’s largest homebuilt: the first five place kitplane.