CAMARILLO : Dream Planes, Imagination to Take Off

With a "hacksaw and file," Howard Harder crafted a two-seat biplane out of a few hundred pounds of sheet metal, nuts and bolts.

It took the Somis resident 16 years of hammering, sawing and cursing to get to Dec. 17, 1988--the experimental airplane's maiden voyage.

"It was the biggest day of my life," Harder said Thursday as he showed off his sleek red flying machine at a Camarillo Airport hangar. This weekend, Harder will get a chance to show off his plane during the annual Experimental Aircraft Assn. Air Show at the Camarillo Airport.

A few hangars over, Kitty Alegre of Santa Paula is pushing her 3,000-pound restored Navy T-34 back into its storage space.

"I have hidden talents," she said when asked if pushing and pulling the plane in and out of its hangar is a strain.

Dubbed "Miss Kitty" by her husband, the bright yellow two-seater has a painting of a blonde curled around the airplane's nose.

"That was me 20 years ago," the registered nurse said modestly. Alegre, who said she is "older than 39," has been flying since 1984. She also has plans to show off Miss Kitty this weekend.

The plane was built for the Navy in 1957. Alegre's husband bought it in poor condition in 1991 and spent a year restoring the craft.

"He won't tell me how much he spent on it," Alegre said. "Some things should just stay secrets."

Thousand Oaks resident Dick Davis, 57, said he spent $55,000 and nine years building his tiny Glasair airplane from a kit. He won a "best of class" award at last year's air show. His economical plane burns about 9 1/2 gallons of gasoline every hour it's aloft.

"You can't hardly drive a Volkswagen that long with that little gas," he said.

Organizers expect 150 experimental, ultralight and homemade planes to descend on the airport this weekend and draw 20,000 visitors.

The experimental air show is being held in conjunction with a display of World War II-vintage planes. Admission to the experimental show is $3 and to the vintage airplane display is $5. Both shows will be open from 9 a.m. to dusk Saturday and Sunday.

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