Mail Sack, 4/21/13, Risk management.


Here is a sample of the mail on this topic:

Zenith 601 Builder Ken Pavlou writes:

“William, I’m glad you write stories like these. It’s easy and nice to read about success stories, operational techniques, and product announcements, but I would argue that stories about judgment and consequences are far more important and valuable.

You would think that preservation of one’s life is more than enough motivation to do things right and practice good judgment. In the bigger picture though its more than just our own life that we are preserving. When we decide to learn to fly or build an airplane we become stewards of our hobby and aviation as a whole. We assume the responsibility of preserving our life, that of our passengers, and those on the ground.

We are also preserving our privilege to build and fly. Safety is absolute, it’s not an option. One can not and should not try to rationally talk themselves out of doing what is best for safety. If we stray too far from this we will see our privilege of flight regulated to the point of extinction. Thank you, Ken Pavlou”

On the topic of VE airframes, CC#17 &25 Host Arnold Holmes writes:

“Having read all of WW’s post on risk management, I can tell you that he is EXACTLY correct about the Varieze. I love flying my VE but I can honestly tell you that of all the airplanes I have flown I give the VE the widest margins. I find myself more alert and more attentive while flying it than any other airframe. It is not an unsafe design and it handles nicely but it is much less forgiving when you loose your engine on take off or need to land off field. In fact it is at least as bad at those things as it is good at others. That little canard up front has to work really hard and MUST have adequate airspeed to work. 50 feet in air in a climb configuration is no place to loose your engine or have a major power reduction in these airplanes.WW is giving everyone who takes time to read his post good, valid, experienced recommendations and you are foolish not to listen to what he has to say. He and I have known far too many that have died tragic horrible deaths simply because they refused to exercise good judgement, don’t be one of them!”

Builder Matthew Lockwood writes:

“There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots” In this case, ‘bold’ means ‘lacking judgement’

Builder/DAR Jon Ross writes:

“William, Your interest in philosophy is appealing. That said, your comments about risk management and judgment are opinionated, yet correct.

Like you, I express many of the same sentiments to those that will listen. The problem is, most people will not listen. I am often disappointed by people who seemingly seek sound advice when I later learn that they are simply trolling for someone to tell them what they want to hear. With the Internet being what it is, there are many so-called experts who will provide just about any opinion needed to satisfy almost anyone. It would seem that decisions based upon little or no sound reasoning or factual engineering basis would not be commonplace; yet they are.

In my travels as a an amateur built DAR, I am often queried by many builders about their projects. Many of the questions I am asked are related to advice that these builders have been given. You see some very interesting things in the field; and I often fly home with the thought of impending disaster after what I have seen.

With the cost of aircraft engines being what it is, I often am told that the power plant of choice will be the Corvair. I politely ask if they have seen your engine builders manual and recommend that they buy a copy and consider attending one of your workshops. Being around like-minded people (I am talking about a culture of safety) can have a very positive effect; it can be contagious. Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well.

My own current project is a Breezy, and the engine I am using is the Continental O-200B. I am often told (it is always an unsolicited comment) that I should use a Corvair power plant. While I believe that this could be safely done, the O-200 is in my opinion, a better choice for my intended application. While I am interested in the Corvair, I will likely never build one up for flight. But I find this suggestion to use a Corvair to be common; and the person making the suggestion is almost always someone with no credentials to be making such a recommendation. (With one exception; and that person is a mutual friend of us both). The point I am making is that builders are often bombarded by what may sound like seemingly good advice. When that advice is coupled with saving money, the advice given moves closer to being regarded as sound in the mind of the listener, that’s just human nature.

I admire your efforts to counsel builders on evaluating their decision-making process; but I have learned in my life that sound judgement comes from the heart. Like you I will keep trying, but I often take heat for doing so.”

Builder Rhett Ashton writes:

“I don’t usually comment on internet articles or blogs, but I feel compelled to make a comment here. Well said William. Rhett, Royal Oak, MI”

Builder Bruce Culver writes:

“This is all really quite sad, people paying you for your experience with the Corvair and the custom quality parts, and then not following your advice, but then I am reminded of what an old flight instructor told me years ago, “Remember, the pilot is always the first one to arrive at the scene of the accident.” Would that more people remembered that”

Bruce, 100% of people are never going to listen, but the goal is to make it 1% more than it was yesterday. In homebuilding, we have time to get people to listen and think. A flight instructor has but a few hours over a few weeks. I have many hours, often over several years. It is very hard to get people to change their ways on most subjects, but people do listen when things are said directly. I think too many aviation messages are blurred in with the rest of the ignored warnings in life because for the sake of family presentation and marketing, the warnings are ‘cleaned up’,  Without frank discussion between thinking adults, the warning gets ignored just like the ones that came with every consumer appliance.ww

Cleanex Builder and flyer Dale Williams writes:

Hi William, This story reminds me of a choice I had to make on my Cleanex when building it. I had bought a brand new Aerocarb from another builder at a fair price. It was the size recommended for the Corvair. I had read your manual and seen stories where others were getting good results although some were having difficulty getting them to set correctly. I had even flown one before on an Aerovee powered Sonex that I used to own. But then something happened.

Dan Weseman had agreed, early on, to do the first flight of my Cleanex when it was finished as I didn’t have a tail wheel endorsement and Dan had built the engine and was confident in the building abilities of Dick Fisher who was my building mentor and is currently a beta builder for the tri-gear Panther.

But when Dan learned that I was considering using an Aerocarb he flatly stated, “I will not fly it with an Aerocarb on it.” I asked why and he plainly told me that he did not believe them to be airworthy. I mentioned that you had seen them used and they were a choice given in your manual. He told me that he believed that your view of the carb may have changed but nevertheless, he would not fly behind an Aerocarb. I respect Dan Weseman and yourself greatly and took those words to heart.

I earned my tail wheel endorsement and performed the first flight last year. BTW … she performs very well with a Marvel Schebler MA3-SPA Carburetor. Thank you for your brutal honesty. Dale N319WF”

PS: If you want to share this story and decide to “change the names to protect the innocent” I understand. If you decide not to protect the innocent, I understand that too.

 Dale, Between thinking people having an important discussion, there is no need to shield anyones identity. I only do that when a builder makes a mistake and I want people to learn from it without having them focus on the ‘who’, as much as the ‘why.’ In this case, we are only covering builders perspectives on decision making. Not everyone comes to the same conclusion, but how they get there, the evaluation process is what we want to develop.

Notice, I don’t tell people ‘never do this’ without a reason. I am far more likely to say ‘I choose not to, and here is why.’ The first is only about controlling others actions. May work for a moment, but does not help the guy at the next decision. The second approach is a building process where the guy starts evaluating things for himself. Neither me, his airframe designer nor his flight instructor will be with the guy when he goes to fly. At that point, he is far better prepared if he has developed judgement than a list of do’s and don’ts.

The Aerocarb is a mixed bag. On a Corvair, it should never be used in an application with a fuel pump. Gravity feed, it has flown a long time. I would not use one personally. If I tell people simply not to use them, or if I ignored their existence, builders would rapidly find out that Joe Horton has flown on for 800 hours on a Corvair, and then many people would just skip to ‘it must be fine’ without a thoughtful evaluation of its qualities, limitations and their specific needs.

Reducing Dan’s perspective on Aerocarbs to ‘not airworthy’ is an over simplification of his evaluation of wether he would choose to use the carb on a Corvair powered plane he was going to fly. Neither Dan nor myself would pick an Aerocarb for our own planes. That doesn’t mean they have not worked for others, but it is an important judgement call. No one should take this as a knock at the Monnetts; Look at it in reverse, they would not choose to put a Corvair on their Sonex, even though it has long been shown to function. I am not offended by this, it is a judgment choice of theirs, just like the carb evaluation is mine.

The underlying theme in your story from successful builder to successful flyer is about developing your own judgement, but being willing to alter it when you are presented with more information. The number one reason why people resist altering perspective is they find out that they have to spend more money. Even 25 years after starting this, I still have never grown thick skin about people being cheap around planes. There is a very different perspective to working on a budget or looking for value. Cheap is a guy who lives in a $400K house, just drove to the airport in a $40K car, telling me that aviation is the most important thing in his life, and then complaining that an MA3 costs $400 more than an Aerocarb. Cheap will hem and haw and ask things like “well what if I” and point to examples, often on other airframes and engines, ones he has never seen in person. I have no tolerance for that. He isn’t looking for ‘why’ or even ‘how’, he is just being cheap, and people like that have harmed a lot of people in aviation, not just themselves.

Mentoring is important in this field. If you experience doesn’t cover the topic you need to exercise judgement on, then find someone who’s perspective you respect, a person with a proven track record that you wish to emulate. This is just what you did with Dan. You have plenty of opportunity when following his path to ask ‘why’ and understand the logic of his judgement, and in the process expand your own. -ww.

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