Flying has always been a part of life for Jayson Chappell and his father, Chip. So when the time came to look for an aircraft the entire family could fly and enjoy, they leapt at the chance to bring home and restore a 1975 Bellanca Super Decathlon. As it turns out, the airplane had a remarkable backstory: it was serial number 219-76, the very first Bellanca “Super” Decathlon certified by the FAA.
Taking on the restoration project wouldn’t be easy, especially since the airplane was mostly disassembled and hadn’t been airborne in over 23 years. But Jayson and Chip were determined to put in the effort to restore the Super Decathlon to flying condition. Finally, after more than two years of restoration work, the airplane returned to the skies in July 2019.
We recently sat down with Jayson and Chip to talk about the story behind the airplane and their impressive restoration project.
Tell us about the airplane’s background.
Our airplane is a 1975 Bellanca Super Decathlon, S/N 219-76. The fuselage itself came off of the Bellanca assembly line and had an 180-horsepower Lycoming engine installed for testing. After all of the testing was completed, the FAA certified the airplane and our “Super” Decathlon was born. The logbooks have all the FAA certification markings. It’s amazing to look at it and see all the history.
How did you start the restoration process?
We started the restoration by stripping the fuselage down to the bare frame, bead blasting it, and working our way up from there. Every nut, bolt, wire–you name it–has been replaced with new parts, plus we installed an all-new instrument panel and a brand new interior. We complied with all the current service modifications and Airworthiness Directives.
We did all of the painting ourselves, in our garage at home in West Virginia. The red, white, and blue paint scheme we selected tributes the original vintage Bellanca design, but also incorporates a classy look. The tail number “N180SD” stands for “180hp Super Decathlon.”
We think the project came out wonderful!
What have been some of the challenges you faced in the restoration? What have been some of the highlights?
When we purchased the airplane, it was mostly disassembled, so not having the benefit of taking things apart ourselves was difficult. The service and parts manuals lack some of the finer details, but thanks to the great people at American Champion Aircraft, we were able to work through the challenges that came up. Another challenge we faced was coordinating painting the fuselage and wings since we painted them ourselves in our garage during the cold winter months.
Some of the highlights include seeing the airplane come together over time, transforming it from a trailer full of parts to a flying airplane. The pinnacle of this entire project was our first flight in the airplane together. It was a blast!
What’s the plan now that the airplane is flying again?
The plan is to enjoy the airplane for what it is, and enjoy all of the work we have put into it over the past two and a half years!
Overall, this has been a wonderful project for our entire family. We met a lot of interesting people along the way, and would like to say thank you to anybody who has helped or contributed to our project!
To see more photos and videos of the Chappells’ Super Decathlon restoration, click here.
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