By Robbie Culver
Every year at Oshkosh, hundreds of Van’s RV aircraft are on display at AirVenture. Every one of them is a story of commitment and dedication, but Jason Seavolt’s RV-8, N143MS, is a story of that and more — personal redemption.
Jason is a 52-year old radiation oncologist from Columbus, Ohio, who completed a six-and-a-half year quick-build kit in 2017 and first flew his RV-8 into Oshkosh the same year. Building an aircraft is a deeply personal adventure, often with unexpected challenges and life-changing events that interfere. Jason’s experience was no exception, and he spent much of the time when not actively working on the project compiling a list of modifications he wanted to make to the project, as well as designing a custom paint scheme based on U.S. Air Force Arctic Aggressor F-16s. The result was that at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 the aircraft won a Bronze Lindy award.
Aircraft owners can develop relationships with their aircraft that can appear excessively deep and emotional to those on the “outside.” Those who build their own aircraft often develop an even deeper bond with their creation. This can sometimes result in actions that may not make sense to those not involved in the activity.
Jason had a landing incident at AirVenture 2019 as a flight of two RVs that resulted in severe damage to his aircraft’s landing gear and fuselage, as well as a prop strike. Some builders may have considered allowing the insurance company to total the aircraft. Jason pursued a different path. The result was an almost complete rebuild of the aircraft. The incident left Jason and his rear-seat passenger, Will Westfall, physically uninjured, but Jason had a need to exorcise a personal demon and return to Oshkosh again in the RV.
Following the landing incident, Jason discovered a true community of new friends (some would call them strangers) and old friends who stepped up to help in ways he never imagined. From the moment the aircraft was damaged to the “second first flight” in 2022, he found encouragement and assistance at every step of the process. It took that same community several years to bring the aircraft back to flying condition, including a new fuselage, new propeller, upgraded avionics, and an engine rebuild.
When he arrived for AirVenture 2022, Jason said it felt like a victory. The taxi in from a “squeaker” wheel landing on Runway 36L was his own personal victory parade, complete with close friends there to share the moment and welcome him. Redemption at last!
Jason’s RV-8 is parked at the north end of Row 332 in homebuilt aircraft camping.