About the Builder

Bill Motes with Rotary Coot-A


Bill and Betty on day of first flight

William James Motes Jr. (Bill) was born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1923. A child of the depression he learned how to make do with the little that was available. His Father William SR. was a fisherman and Master carpenter and taught him a lot about building things and just helping the family to get by in those trying times. This helped kindle a desire to design and build things.  Having an interest in hunting and fishing he first designed and built a kayak that would hold three people. It was stable enough to be able to sit on the side without flipping over. As most know kayaks are bad about tipping if you try to stand or shoot. Good with his hands, Bill chose a trade school at 14 and made up his mind to become a machinist. After his training he moved to Groton, Connecticut and went to work for General Dynamics as a metal smith  working on submarines.  In 1942 he left the company and he joined the Navy. While in the Navy he was encouraged to apply for a variety of schools. One of which was a two year rigorous machinist course condensed to 90 days. Bill graduated 32nd out of 500.   The end of the war reduced the number of available jobs so he worked at a number of different jobs one of which was engine repair.He returned to New England in 1946. He met Betty, who later became his wife while vacationing in coastal North Carolina in 1947. Staying in North Carolina he went to work for civil service at the Overhaul and Repair facility at MCAS Cherry Point as a machinist. Soon after he was called back into the Korean War. After the war he returned home and to his job at Cherry Point where he worked until retiring in 1971. During this time Bill and wife Betty raised their three sons who went on to become engineers following in their father’s footsteps with the desire to design and build.

In the 1960’s he acquired a federal firearms permit to build and repair guns as a hobby. Over the next few years he was able to not only repair people’s firearms but built several for himself and his three sons as well as other family members and friends. “I just started doing it to stay busy.” He said. He would build the rifles from the action on up, fitting new barrels and making custom rifles and shotgun stocks. Many from American Black Walnut trees he gathered himself from old trees taken down on nearby farms and seasoning the wood himself for seven years before using it.

In 1971 because of health reasons he had to retire. He suffered from a rare disease called hypersensitivity, from which he is violently allergic to hydrocarbons. Never being someone to give up on anything easily he ignored doctors that said he should accept the limitations caused by his unusual condition.  Because he did not want to be tied to medicines for the rest of his life, he decided to change his entire way of life. “I had always been interested in parapsychology, so I studied hypnotism and trained myself to use self-hypnotism when I felt an attack coming on. I believe that it’s mind over matter, and because of this I was able to throw most of my medicine away. He went on to show the world just how much he could accomplish. “If you have a mind to do something you can. I found out your mind can’t be on two things at one time, so if you keep your mind busy, you don’t have time to think about pain or discomforts.”

After retiring and trying to overcome the health issues Bill’s renewed a lifelong desire to learn to fly. After obtaining his private pilot’s license he decided he just wanted more. In 1974 and 1975 he decided he wanted to build an airplane. Living on the coast he finally decided he wanted an amphibian aircraft. After much searching he decided to build the Coot A amphibious aircraft. It took Bill almost seven years to build the Coot A which ia a twin seat aircraft that has a wing span of 36 feet and a gross weight of 2,303 pounds. The aircraft was equipped with a rotary automobile engine utilizing a reduction gear system of his design successfully flying its first flight on August 2, 1980. It took three years of this time to convert the rotary engine. My biggest thrill was to find that the plane trims up well and flies hands off. That means that it is rigged well, and that everything is proportioned right with the proper aero dynamics. It’s pretty, it flies nicely, and it is solid. I guess I couldn’t ask for much better.”After conquering the feat of building an aircraft, and living comfortably with a rare disease there was no chance that Bill would be satisfied to sit back, relax and let someone else accept whatever challenges that come along.“Would I build another plane? Yes, if it was a challenge, it would have to be a challenge. I’ve always got to be building something.”

Since his retirement in 1971 Bill has built an experimental airplane, an airboat and a fishing trawler. He also holds the singular distinction of designing a reduction gear that allowed him to modify a Mazda rotary automobile engine to power his experimental aircraft. His aircraft is presently on display in the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.

Never wanting to be idle Bill is presently keeping himself occupied by designing and making jewelry for his wife, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and friends as well as studying a number of subjects and writing.

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