Aiming High, Real High
Daniel Parker’s hobby isn’t for everyone. He’s
devoted most of the last five years to designing and
building his own high-altitude airplane.
Parker, 33, started flying in high school, joined
the Experimental Aircraft Association at age 15, and
built his first plane (an all-wood biplane) in college.
Now he’s hoping his current project might just beat
the altitude record for small piston-engine aircraft.
Parker’s background lends itself to such a
complex hobby. He has a bachelor’s in mechanical
engineering and a master’s in aeronautics and
astronautics, both from Stanford. Taking time off
from school to work at a composite airplane shop
in Santa Monica, Calif., Parker was fortunate to
find a friendly and skilled airplane builder/mentor,
Building a lightweight high-alt plane was attractive because it combined low mass, which Parker
assumed meant less stuff to buy and build, with a
definite yardstick for measuring success. Dubbed
the Parker P1, the plane is made from aluminum
and carbon fiber, and uses a Rotax 503 two-cylinder
single-carb engine. The initial assembly began in
Parker’s one-bedroom apartment.
24 Make: Volume 24