Jim's wife Mary Jane, their daughter and the Kelheler Lark - early 70's".
KELEHER LARK JK1-A
The Keleher Lark, resting in EAA Hangar 1221, was built from a set of plans by the late Jim Johnson. After Jim’s passing his wife, Mary Jane, agreed to donate the Lark to our Chapter in the hopes that its restoration would be completed and the Lark would one day fly again. Our Chapter members are following through on that vision and the Lark will soon be airworthy.
History of the Keleher Lark
Shortly after obtaining a set of plans in October of 1965, Jim began construction of his airplane, as many of us have done, by starting with the wing’s ribs. Over the next five years of sourcing materials and building each sub assembly piece by piece, Jim would finally end up with a completed airplane. No more work was required. There wasn’t anything left to assemble. All of the miscellaneous parts, assembled one by one and then attached to one another, finally became an airplane. It was time to go flying.
Three hours of taxing testing were logged just days before the Airworthiness Certificate was issued. It’s likely that the FAA’s inspection went well because the first flight occurred on July 22, 1970, the same day of the inspection.
During the first couple flights Jim found that the tail and right wing were heavy and the engine would only develop 2,050 RPM. Trim adjustments and a change in propeller’s pitch resulted in an airplane that “flew much better”. Now, a 2,150 RPM cruise resulted in 95 MPH. Also, flying with the canopy on and closed resulted in a “big difference” in flying qualities, so much so that Jim placarded the Lark to fly only with the “Canopy On and Closed”.
When placing the airplane in a shallow dive Jim noted that he could obtain 140 MPH. Jim also noted 130 MPH on the airspeed indicator while doing some “fly-bys”. Perhaps this was the maximum speed achievable in level flight. I seem to remember that Jim told me that the Lark would cruise at 125 MPH. Not a bad number for flying on just 65 horsepower.
Over the next few years Jim would fly his Lark at least 133 hours – perhaps more were flown but this is what Jim noted in his log books. The last recorded flight was on 10/23/76 however, the Lark received an annual inspection the following June, so it’s possible a number of flights were made after that inspection. Since no other annual inspections were recorded, Jim’s last flight in the Lark probably occurred on or before June of 1978.
Returning the Lark to Service
Jim was in the process of recovering and restoring his plane when he passed away. The work that remains is not physically difficult but requires a good deal of aircraft knowledge, a steady hand and a bit of patience. This is where EAA Chapter 1221 stepped in and become the new owner of N24050. Our members have the skills necessary to see that the aircraft can be made airworthy. A new sheet metal cowling is currently being fabricated and will be installed. The canopy glass must be replaced. The wings and tail will be bolted on and rigged. An annual inspection must be completed and then she’ll be ready to fly. A new paint job on the newly formed parts will complete the restoration.
As a member of our Chapter you are encouraged to participate in the restoration of our Keleher Lark. In just a short time the work will be done and, as Jim experienced in July of 1970, there will be nothing left to do. It will be time for the Lark to fly.
If you’re in the market for an airplane, the finished Lark will be up for sale. It will need a new home as our Chapter is not allowed to have a flying airplane. So whether you’re an EAA Chapter 1221 Member or not, come see us if you’re interested and make us an offer. As its new owner you’ll find the single seat Lark to be a fun and very affordable airplane. And you will help us complete our mission of returning a great little airplane back to the sky.