RENTON, Wash. - Retired Boeing R&D man Bob Dempster is setting out on an expedition to fly around the world. That's not an especially daunting task these days -- until you realize that he's doing it in a plane designed more than 80 years ago, and that he's building the plane himself.
"It's a big model airplane," said Dempster. "I guess some of us never grow up."
With the precision of fine craftsmen, Dempster's five-man team is building an almost exact replica of the "Seattle" -- a Douglas World Cruiser -- the first plane to circumnavigate the globe back in 1924.
"This was akin to going to the moon in 1924," said the bright-eyed Dempster with an infectious, Santa-like laugh.
Many of the plane's parts held together with simple glue and nails, just like the original.
The original "Seattle" took off from Lake Washington 86 years ago -- on a 6-month, 26,000-mile mission to circle the planet. It only got as far as Alaska, though, when it hit bad weather and crashed. Three other Douglas cruisers did complete the journey.
But building the Seattle II is an inexact science at best, as there is no single set of complete plans for how the original was built.
"The general thought might be that everybody knows what they're doing," said project worker Keith Murphy. "The reality of it is, we learn as we go."
Like the original expedition, this will be a two-person crew. However, this time the person in the second seat is someone who has been co-piloting Bob for more than 20 years.
Diane Dempster, Bob's wife, will run logistics and act as backup pilot, but she insists there will be no "backseat piloting."
"We have an agreement," she said with a smile. "The driver is the driver and the other person will assist when asked."
Bob and Diane plan to take off on their adventure in April 2011. When they return, the plane will be donated to the Museum of Flight.
For details, go to seattleworldcruiser.org.