Middleton, who has worked on Spitfires and other British aircraft most of his adult life, good-naturedly dressed down his impatient customer. “Ray told me, ‘The owners are just a transient thing. I’ve been maintaining these airplanes longer than you’ve been flying,’ ” Kurdziel says. Further clarity came from Kurdziel’s girlfriend, who asked him if he’d ever considered that the aircraft was more important to the restorers than it was to him. The epiphany was complete—Kurdziel gave in to the Zen of the process and threw away the timelines.
Now, while he’s on the airshow circuit and something goes amiss on the Firefly, Kurdziel knows his place: “I call Ray up and say, ‘Your airplane’s broken. What do I do?’ ”