Steve Vihlen earned his pilot's license at an early age and joined the Air Force. After spending eight years as an F-16 combat pilot, he left the service and began a 30-year career with FedEx. His job would seem exciting--piloting a 767 cargo plane to destinations spanning the globe--but Vihlen's passion is sailplanes. He owns two, in addition to other private craft, which he stores in a hangar adjacent to his house. To keep his prized possessions safe and secure, the hangar is outfitted with liftstrap bifold door from Schweiss Doors.
Vihlen's 70' x 70' hangar is next to the runway at the Mallards Landing Airpark in Locust Grove, GA. The four-plane hangar was erected by Watford Steel Buildings of Adel, GA, and features a Schweiss Doors 60' x 12' Schweiss door with a manual side-latch system and exterior sheet metal cladding. The interior of the hangar is insulated with 4"-thick, white-faced insulation and contains a 15' x 32' mancave that connects to an outside bar; guest quarters with a living room; and a bathroom, shower and kitchenette.
“The hangar is wonderful,” Vihlen says. “We poured the foundation within a week of when we poured the foundation for our own house. When we lived in Memphis, I rented a hangar at a nearby public-use grass airstrip. We built this hangar because we wanted our own hangar near our home.”
Vihlen owns a 1964 American-made Schweizer 126-B glider with a 59-foot wingspan, and a German-made Alexander Schleicher ASG-29 single-place racing glider that he bought new from the factory
in 2006. The ASG-29 has a wingspan over 113 feet! He also flies a 7AC Aeronca Champ and uses his vintage 1952 Cessna L-19/0-1 to tow the gliders. The L-19 is in its original colors and was Air Force from 1952-1973. Civil Air Patrol used it until is
was civilianized in 1978.
The Schweiss bifold liftstrap door was hung by Premier Building Systems of Lawrenceville, GA. Vihlen finished the installation by putting in the motors, liftstraps and autolatches all by himself.
“I first learned about Schweiss Doors through fellow FedEx pilot friends that had their own hangar at an airpark in Memphis,” Vihlen says. “It was an old cable version bifold door. I got a lot of information and advice from them
when I was putting plans together to build our hangar. I started looking about 10 years ago and checked with another hangar door manufacturer. Schweiss seemed so much more developed and evolved and it seemed like Schweiss was well established. I felt
more comfortable knowing Schweiss would back up their product better.”
Vihlen went with a bifold door over a hydraulic door because he was more familiar with bifolds and always liked the look of the bifold door better. He also liked the fact that he could park closer to the outside of the door.
“The Schweiss door is easy to install, as long as you follow the instructions,” Vihlen says. “It’s not complicated and it’s easy to maintain. It met my expectations and I haven’t had any difficulty with it. My glider
club in Arkansas had the non-powered accordion doors on its hangar. They scared me a lot because of the pinching hazard. I really don’t have any experience with the hydraulic door.”