Maiden flight of Dick Edgington's homebuilt plane back on hold


January 13, 2021

This is a photo of the RagWing4 fuselage in a Great Falls shop without tail or wings. George and Shirley Wermling attached the outer skin fabric to the wooden frame. The Wermlings bought the uncompleted plane in 2018. Dick Edgington, of Chinook, started the project in 2004 but stopped working on it about 2012 when his eyesight began to fail. Dick died in 2016.

Another glitch has halted the runup to the maiden flight of Dick Edgington's homebuilt RagWing4 single engine plane. Many locals recall the plane that Edgington, a longtime resident of Chinook, built from scratch in his house on Pennsylvania Street. According to Dick's son, Danny Lee, "Dad retired from the county road department in 2004 and started acquiring parts and building the plane. A few years later, after his eyesight failed, he had to abandon the project." Dick Edgington died in 2016.

In 2018 I learned that various components, parts and some completed sections of the plane were still in Dick's house. In the spring of 2018 I asked to do a story about the plane. Dick's son Danny Lee said, "You'd better do it soon, we are planning to sell it. None of the family is interested in completing the plane." He added that local flying enthusiast John Hebbelman had placed a sales ad for the plane in a hobbyists' magazine. Danny Lee added, "John is not optimistic as the liability with a homebuilt plane makes them hard to sell."

Through contacts in Great Falls, where Danny Lee's sister lives, a local pilot and 'tinkerer' expressed an interest. George Wermling was a retired electrician who, after rebuilding a couple of old cars, bought and completed a kit for a single engine metal plane.

He learned of Edgington's plane came to Chinook to see the unfinished plane. He bought it noting, "Dick Edgington did really nice work. I basically took over where he left off." Danny Lee said, "George Wermling later told me that if the craftsmanship hadn't been so good he wouldn't have been interested in the plane." Wermling took the completed components and remaining parts to his three-stall garage in his backyard in Great Falls and started the final assembly.

On a couple of occasions after George Wermling bought the RagWing4 I followed up on his progress to complete the plane. He told me he didn't have to buy any additional materials or parts, everything needed was included in what he bought. He and his wife, Shirley, added the 'skin' to the wooden frame, assembled the plane and painted it.

George had planned to fly the plane in the fall of 2018 but there was a possible glitch: he was trying to schedule a needed heart operation and would need time to recover from that. The maiden flight was on hold for what he hoped would be a short time.

George Wermling died on December 31, 2020

I would see Danny Lee in town and ask if had heard from George and when we might expect to see the plane fly (George had promised he would get word to Danny Lee when he was going to fly and Danny Lee would notify me so I could see the first flight as well). But George's heart surgery did not go well.

I spoke after his death with Shirley Wermling, George's wife and helper on his mechanical projects. Shirley's father operated an auto repair shop and she was quite comfortable helping George in his home shop. She said,

"George got a pacemaker for his heart but he never really recovered." He went on hospice for the better part of a year. She added, "He finally gave up."

Asked about the status of the plane, Shirley said, "It's complete. George actually had it running, while tied down, and was doing some of the balancing and tweaking of the controls necessary to fly safely." The plane is still in the shop, completed but idle.

I knew of the difficulties of selling homebuilt planes. But per Shirley there are no current plans to sell the plane. "I'll have to get my adult kids involved with that decision, she explained." She said there were no pilots in the family though her sons, and grandsons, are mechanically inclined and race stock cars for a hobby. She was not optimistic about her family showing interest to fly the plane.

Despite all the setbacks of seeing Dick Edgington's RagWing4 finally take flight, I'm hopeful someday to make good on the comment George Wermling made by phone the last time I visited with him: "I might just fly up to Chinook so you can see it up close." And I'm pretty sure Danny Lee Edgington would like to see the plane flying as a tribute to the memory of his dad. Perhaps the maiden flight will yet occur.

In 2018 Shirley and George Wermling (in photo), of Great Falls, bought the plane that Chinook resident Dick Edgington started building in 2004. The Wermlings completed work on the plane and even test ran it while tied to the ground. George Wermling died this past December so the plane has not yet flown.


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