|Lou Seno attended his first EAA convention in 1955 and has not missed a single one since.
Historical: Lou Seno Sr. supervises Lou Jr.'s work on the wing of their Corben Baby Ace. Photo courtesy of JSSI.
By Randy Dufault
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012 is the 60th annual gathering for EAA, and that means No. 58 for Lou Seno; he missed the first two, in 1953 and 1954, but since age 6 he hasn't missed any of them.
"My father has a three-digit EAA number," Seno said. "He joined in 1955 and he always wanted to build an open-cockpit airplane."
In 1955, Paul Poberezny penned the famous airplane construction article for Mechanics Illustrated. Seno's father (also named Lou) became one of many aviation enthusiasts drawn into the world of homebuilding by Poberezny's Corben Baby Ace project.
"The magazine came out in May and we attended [the EAA fly-in convention] later that summer," Seno said.
The Senos moved to a new house with a big basement in suburban Chicago in 1956. It took about five years to build the Baby Ace, and it flew for the first time in July 1961 at DuPage County airport.
"Dad had measured it out and he knew that the two wing panels - it was a single-place fuselage so that was not very wide - would all come out. For five years the neighbors would all say, 'The Senos are building an airplane in their basement; how are they going to get it out?' But it came out perfectly, no issues at all."
Unfortunately the Baby Ace was a single-seat airplane, meaning the younger Seno could not fly with his dad. "The Ace Aircraft Company came out with a set of plans for a two-place side-by-side called the Junior Ace," he said. "So we built one of those. It used the same wings and tail as the Baby Ace. We got it done for [the EAA convention in Rockford] in 1966."
Seno's father flew the Junior Ace continuously up until five years ago when it found a new home in the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum in Poplar Grove, Illinois.
EAA conventions over the years saw a number of other Seno homebuilt projects. They won the Outstanding Workmanship Award at the 1988 convention in Oshkosh for their Wag-Aero Sport Trainer (the Cub replica).
Seno is CEO and chairman of Jet Support Services Inc., an independent supplier of hourly cost maintenance programs for turbine-powered business aircraft.
He first soloed an airplane when he was 16 years old, and received his private ticket a year later 17. Senos currently flies an F33 Bonanza.
After working in the family clothing business for a few years, Seno followed his passion for aviation and took a job selling GA airplanes. That was followed by a long career in aircraft financing and his current position at JSSI.
When asked to describe the changes over his long tenure, Seno was quick to reply that technology drove much of that change.
"In 1955 we were doing tube and fabric airplanes," he said. "Then there were all-metal homebuilts, then came the composite age.
"I was telling [a JSSI staffer] that a lot of the technology we see today in business aviation started here. Clearly, composites lived here in Oshkosh long before the business guys started using them."
Seno is not sure what he might be flying to future AirVentures.
"I think my building days are over," he said. "My father and I were a great team but at this point I'm flying the Bonanza, which is fine."
There might be one other project or airplane on the horizon, he said, "but I'm not sure at this point in my life that I'm ready to go back in the basement and start grinding one out."