I (Andy Humphrey) grew up in the farm house that I now live in with my wife and three children. When I was 8 years old, my neighbor, Jerry, took me for a ride in his 1946 J-3 cub. From that day on, all I wanted to do was fly.
My family farmed for a living in those days and money was tight. Flying lessons just were not possible. I was able to earn enough money working on the farm to fly RC planes on our farm, but that was all. After graduating from the vocational high school with a diploma in diesel technology, I graduated from Northwestern College in Lima, Ohio, with a college degree in diesel technology, and later became an ASE Master Technician. I then went on to Moody Bible Institute to study Missionary Aviation. As life makes it’s twists and turns, I met this beautiful girl and… well, I ended up leaving college, going to work in the diesel trade and in 1996 married my wife Amy. We settled down on our family farm near Johnstown, Ohio. Of course, I still could not afford to fly. Finally, in 2000, I scraped together enough money to buy an old 80’s Phantom ultralight. The only thing I had less of than money in those days was patience. I could not find any training for an ultralight, so I just hopped in and took off. Fortunately, the phantom is a very gentle flying airplane and the first flight was without incident. From then on, I flew every chance I got. I first flew in September and by early November I had logged 40 hours! In 2001, I traded the Phantom for a Fisher Avenger, a little low wing tail dragger “ultralight”. I flew the Avenger for three years, sold it locally to a friend, and bought my first Challenger in September of 2004. I found that Challenger in North Carolina. I drove down, inspected it, took it apart, put it in a Budget truck, and with the car on a dolly behind the truck, drove home. In November, I earned my Ultralight Instructor endorsement and began logging many hours of instruction. I have been able to see many of my students solo and join me in the sky. It is one of the greatest joys of my life to share the wonders of flying with others.
Along the way, I learned many things the hard way. Because I did not have any formal training in flying or maintaining aircraft, I had to learn from experience. Although I have never been hurt with the exception of my pride, I have banged up a few airplanes along the way. I have had many friends and customers who have also banged up airplanes, and nearly all of them could have easily been prevented with proper training. One thing this has taught me is the value of instruction. I have made it a priority in this business to make instruction available to everyone, both flight instruction and maintenance instruction. Now you have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes rather than your own. While it may appear that instruction is expensive, trust me, the alternative is more expensive!
In September of 2005, I found out that Dennis Carley of U-Fly-It Ultralights was moving his business to Florida. I quickly realized that this would leave central and southern Ohio without a Challenger dealer. I contacted the Challenger factory, became a dealer, and formed Heavenbound Aviation.
In October of 2005, I attended Rotax factory training and became a certified independent Rotax Repair Center. As a technician by trade, this came natural to me and it quickly became the bulk of my business. A couple years later, wanting to add more power to my clipped wing Challenger 2, I decided to try the Hirth 3203 with EFI. After installing that on my Challenger and working a few bugs out of the installation, I became very impressed with that engine. Soon after that, I became a dealer and service center for Hirth engines as well, a line that has continued to grow rapidly in popularity.
In 2006, as the Sport Pilot rule had become a reality and was going into effect, I decided that getting a pilot’s license would be necessary. It seemed to be better to simply get a Private Pilot license rather than deal with the Sport Pilot rating which was still very new and confusing at that point. I started looking around and ended up buying a Cessna 150. I owned that for about a year and a half and obtained my Private ticket and about 100 hours of Cessna 150 time in my logbook. Now, back to light sport!
In 2008, I became involved in missions in Peru, South America. I have been back many times since and continue to work with an American couple living there in the jungle, as well as some Peruvian national missionaries. In the jungles of South America, aviation is still a huge need. It takes days to travel through the jungle where an airplane would take minutes. But GA aircraft are just too expensive to operate for most missionaries and are really not capable of the performance necessary for that environment. One of my goals for the future is to help develop experimental aircraft that will be safe and practical for that application. We are currently working with a missionary in Mexico who is using a small fleet of light experimental aircraft with great success. I hope to see this grow in the future.
In August of 2012, I finally worked up the nerve to resign from a very good job of 12 years and go to work full time pursuing my dream of not only working in aviation, but more importantly, working from home with my family. My highest priority in life is to train up my children to follow Christ. We homeschool our children, and now I am able to be with them everyday. That is by far the greatest joy of this business! It is hard work and long hours, but sometimes I go a whole week without leaving my property (except in an airplane)! As of 2015, I now have an 11-year old daughter, an 8-year old daughter, and a 2-year old son. My 11-year old loves to fly with me. My 8-year old finally worked up the nerve to fly with me this Spring (2015) in the Quicksilver Sport 2 SE and LOVES it! I will probably never be able to fly solo again! My son who is 2 is anxiously awaiting his chance to fly!
In March of 2014 I became a Certified Flight Instructor and began to provide instruction again. However, I am limited as to what I can do as far as instruction in the Challenger because it is an EAB aircraft. I began looking for a better solution that would allow me to train for hire, to have insurance to allow for student solo, yet be cost effective.
In December 2014, the decision was made to expand our business. We officially became a Quicksilver dealer and an Aerolite 103 dealer. We recognized that these two aircraft manufacturers were the most promising companies for the future of our industry. At Sun N Fun 2015, we took delivery of a brand new Quicksilver Sport 2SE, a factory built, certified SLSA, which is our primary training aircraft as well as our demo plane for Quicksilver. Since it is an SLSA, we can legally train for hire, as well as do sight seeing flights and fully insure it, including student solo flights. This is something that is not possible with an Experimental aircraft. Now we can quickly and easily train people up through their Sport Pilot rating, give flight reviews, or simply train folks to fly Part 103 ultralights. The Challenger will still be available for transition training and demo flights.