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David Anders displays restored WWII biplane at Hesperia Airport
It’s not often that a hobby such as restoring and flying antique airplanes can be enjoyed in one’s own backyard, but for Hesperia resident David Anders, it’s a daily reality.
“Anytime I want, I can go work on my airplane or go out for a flight and clear my head,” said Anders, who has lived in Hesperia for three years.
Airport homes are a rarity in Southern California, according to Anders, whose home sits up against the Hesperia Airport.
“I fly for the pure enjoyment of flying, not to go anywhere,” Anders said. He navigates during flights with a compass, stopwatch and by using landmarks, he said.
Anders, 58, has been flying for 30 years, but had an interest in it since he was a child.
“I’m a hands-on self-taught engineer. I designed my own airplane in 1977 or ’78,” Anders said. “I taught myself how to fly out here in El Mirage.”
“My goal is not to have a finished flying airplane — well it is — but it’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” said Anders, whose “pure joy” comes from what he creates by building and restoring airplanes.
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month, Anders will give the public a chance to see his 1942 World War II Boeing Model 75 Cadet Primary Trainer (PT-17) biplane on display at the Hesperia Airport off Santa Fe Avenue.
The U.S. Army and Navy used the biplanes for training purposes with the number 17 representing the engine, which determined the branch of military that used it, according to Anders.
“This airplane is pretty rare,” Anders said. “It never ended up being a trainer; it was supposed to go to Canada on the Lend-Lease Program and sat in its original shipping crate until 1973.”
Recently Anders said he had “nose art” added to the plane, a feature on World War II planes, such as the American B-29 bomber the Enola Gay had, even though such art wasn’t on trainer planes. His wife, Elena, posed for the original artwork, which says “teacher’s pet,” features the equation “2+2=8” written on a chalkboard with two plus two equals eight and a book that says, “basic training flight manual.”
The numbers on the chalkboard and also emblazoned on the opposite side, 228, represent the field number of the plane, which signified its base location in the United States.
“It’s like part of the family — I’ve owned it for 28 years,” said Anders, who has considered selling the plane, but will most likely pass it down to his son, Alex. “It’s like selling your child — actually it’s harder.”
According to Anders, in order to not have to pay property taxes on the plane, it has to be displayed publicly 12 days each year. His next display day is Jan. 18.
Anders said he hopes others will bring their antique planes on display days. The display plane has to be older than 1965, used as a hobby and not used “for hire or for resale,” he said.
Anders is working on restoring a rare “home built plane from the ’30s” called a “Ramsey Flying Bathtub,” he said.
His Ramsey plane is currently the only one registered with the FAA, with the existence of only two previously, he said.
And the plane lives up to its name.
“To a lot of people it’s a bad dream, to me this is unique, I love it,” said Anders of the uncovered plane that’s “like sitting in a bathtub” with the engine in the plane’s middle and the pilot facing the back of it.
“It’s history — we can’t forget the history,” Anders said. “We can’t forget the past. It’s a line to our ancestors. For me it’s a line to a different time of life when things were simpler.”