June 29, 2014

Arlington pilot who died in crash Saturday spent 13 years building plane

Jim Doyle, who would have turned 49 on Monday, was a University of Texas at Arlington alumnus.

A Lockheed Martin engineer from Arlington was identified Sunday as the pilot killed in the crash of a hand-built biplane between Midlothian and Waxahachie.

James Edward “Jim” Doyle, who would have turned 49 on Monday, was performing aerobatic maneuvers in a Skybolt over the runway at Mid-Way Regional Airport when the crash occurred, witnesses told the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA said in a statement that the crash happened shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday at the airport, about 37 miles southeast of downtown Fort Worth.

Trooper James Colunga of the Texas Department of Public Safety identified Doyle as the pilot and aircraft owner.

Doyle was one of two pilots from Arlington to win a prestigious award in July 2011 for building or restoring a biplane. He received a bronze Lindy award at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s fly-in convention, AirVenture, in Oshkosh, Wis.

A few weeks after winning the award, he told the Star-Telegram that since he was a young boy building model planes, with the encouragement of his plastic-surgeon father, his spirit belonged to the deep blue sky.

Flying, he said at the time, is “part of my fabric.”

So was persistence, an attribute gained through his father’s preaching of the value of delayed gratification. The quest to build the Doyle Skybolt took an estimated 5,000 hours over 13 years and required him to learn skills, such as welding, that he had never before needed.

Lamar Steen, a high school shop teacher in Denver, designed the original Skybolt. The prototype he and his students built first flew in 1970. About 400 of the planes have been built.

“I redesigned some features for better performance and to satisfy my own aesthetic taste,” said Doyle, an Arlington native and alumnus of the University of Texas at Arlington.

The Doyle Skybolt was a 180-horsepower, two-seat, open-cockpit biplane. It weighed 1,122 pounds empty and had symmetrical airfoils, giving it equal performance inverted or right side up. It cruised at 133 mph, had a top speed of 146 mph in level flight and could be safely dived to 220 mph.

One of the finishing touches was applying the Doyle family coat of arms to the vertical tail fin. Doyle had been thinking of gold and blue for the plane’s colors, and when he saw that the crest had those colors as well, it was a no-brainer.

Inside the rear cockpit was inscribed the Doyle motto: Fortitudine vincit.

“He conquers with fortitude.”

Doyle had a wife and daughter. Funeral arrangements were pending Monday.

This report includes material from The Associated Press and the Star-Telegram archives.

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