Mail Sack, 4/23/13, Plain speaking


The note on ‘plain speaking’ generated more mail than we have seen in a while. The quality of the thoughts are a real stand out. To my personal perspective, aviation is for thinking people, those that consider and evaluate, then act. The letters written tell me that we have this kind of people at the center of the Corvair movement. Not everyone has to come to the same conclusion or think alike, but the quality of the experience is always better with people who do think.

Several of the letters expressed concern that I might not continue to write quite the same stuff. I am guessing some of this came from my choice of the word ‘defense.’ It might have been more descriptive to say, ‘the value of plain speaking.’ My concern was that new people might be put off by this stuff because it is in such contrast to the things people hear in aviation magazines. And, it is these new people who are most in need of this type of ‘wake up call.’ My concern was that I didn’t want to scare anyone off before they had a chance to read, think and consider the message. Sitting here, it is hard to tell how ‘Joe Smith’ out there reads this. I have feedback in letters, and almost every topic here is something I have said in an in person forum where you gauge how receptive people are. The only things that I don’t cover in forums are the things Like the Ken Terry story because it isn’t the right setting. For this reason, I appreciate all the letters  people sent offering their thoughts on the subject.

I chose not to put the hand full of notes that questioned the series up here for this reason: They are mostly from new people, and there people have probably not been a part of this kind of conversation in aviation before. Where else would they have come across it? Not in the magazines, not at the chain link fence FBO’s, not at Oshkosh and not from the home computer flight simulators. It is my hope that these people will read the letters here from many ‘old school’ aviators and think about why traditional builders find value in this type of conversation. Not printing their notes makes it easier for them to redefine their thinking in our community. 

A few days ago I saw a film that I have found moving since I saw it in the theater 30 years ago, “Tender Mercies.” Near the end of the film Robert Duval’s character gives a very painful speech where he says  “I never trusted happiness, and I never will”, the implication being that happiness in his life has proven to be fleeting, but over time he had come to trust mercy instead. I am nowhere near that extreme, but I will say that I learned a whole lot more about life and the strength of human beings by learning from their adversities and struggles than I ever have by listening to the stories about the good times. -ww. 

 International Aviator of adventure Tom Graziano writes:

“William, People who call what you wrote morbid and not about planes apparently don’t yet fully understand the fact that aviation is a deadly serious business and “is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity, or neglect.”

Winston Churchill once remarked:
“The air is an extremely dangerous, jealous and exacting mistress. Once under the spell most lovers are faithful to the end, which is not always old age. Even those masters and princes of aerial fighting, the survivors of fifty mortal duels in the high air who have come scatheless through the War and all its perils, have returned again and again to their love and perished too often in some ordinary commonplace flight undertaken for pure amusement.”— Sir Winston Churchill, ‘Thoughts and Adventures,’ 1932….Tom “

Zenith 750 builder Dan Glaze Writes:

“You just keep writing William, the life you save might be mine. Dont worry what some people might say.Years ago my teenage son was getting into some trouble by hanging out with the wrong type of kids, I made him watch a show called sacred straight on tv. It was a real life prison show. some people thought it was too harsh and morbid, he is now 36 years old and has 3 kids of his own and to this day he claims that show changed his life for the better. Dan-o”

Builder Pete Chmura writes:

“You know what you’re doing. Keep doing it. Pete”

Builder Dan Branstrom Writes:

“Your post reminded me of what one of the American rocket scientists said after the public was disheartened to see so many failures: that much more was learned from their failures than from their successes.”

Zenith 750 builder Blaine Schwartz writes:

“William, Keep the philosophical comments coming! The people, the ideas, and the different perspectives we share is all part of our journey in building and flying what we built and quite rewarding. Consider it a bonus; you get good common sense knowledge about building an engine or plane plus comments that may enhance other parts of your life. I have come away with two of the most thought-provoking phrases from your musings and have shared those with others who were equally “blown away” after contemplating them. The first is your’s: “Real freedom is the sustained act of being an individual.” and the second is from someone who responded to one of your posts by quoting Rabbi Harold Kushner: “I used to admire people who are intelligent; now I admire people who are kind”. We have a world full of mis-information and craziness coming at us all day, every day. Your site is a refreshing departure!”

About the Ken Terry story, builder Jeff Smith writes:

“One of the most moving things I’ve read – thanks Wiliam”

Builder Ryan Michalkiewicz writes:

“William, I’ve enjoyed this series of writings on decision-making. You are telling the stories these lost builders can’t.”

Aero Engineer and Cruiser builder Sarah Ashmore writes:

“Some people will always be “Disturbed” by a frank and open discussion of serious topic. Maybe they want to hide their heads in the sand but experimental aviation, as is all flying, is inherently dangerous. Then again so is driving a car or taking a walk. If we are going to improve our accident rate in experimental aviation we MUST objectively look at the failures of those who have gone before us and determine what they did wrong so we do not do the same things. This is just common sense and such discussions are not morbid. If it offends them then maybe they should give up flying for something safer.”

Builder Charles Nowlin writes:

William, as far as I know, the first amendment is still in effect. However I don’t know of any adjudication  that mandates people read what they don’t like. I say, if it is offensive, troublesome, or, Downright irritating, no one is stopping anyone from copious use of the delete key. I, on the other hand, applaud your efforts at applying the past attempting to prevent future events of a disastrous nature from happening. I see no need for explaining the exercise of your right to free speech. Those that wish to curtail your, and my Right to say what is on our mind, by any of the methods available, need to revisit history and learn a thing or two.Charles Nowlin Houston Tx. US Military, veteran, who only gave “some”, to defend this right.

Charles, Thank you for your service. I understand I have the ‘right’ to say it, (provided by yourself and others) my question was revolving around how to say it, what delivery would reach people who need it. People, like yourself, who have been in very serious settings, value blunt talk. Here we have to speak to some new people, people who have not been in a serious setting, but will be when their plane is done. Today, that mindset change is a big jump for some people. On the subject of listening, I always take the time to hear Veterans out on any topic. It fits with the concept of learning more from a man who has known adversity. My father is a WWII, Korea, Vietnam vet. He came from an era where men didn’t speak about things. When I was young, I can think of only one or two things he ever said about what he saw. Keeping it to himself allowed him to do his duty, but in the long run it didn’t do him any good. He is 87 now. In recent years he has tried speaking much more about things he saw, but it is very difficult for him. Over time he has written at length of things, but most days he can only get 2 or 3 sentences into something he wants to speak of it, before he stops. He is always able to tell you the facts of an event, like how 23 of his high school class mates were killed in a single day. But if he wants to tell you one of their names, or say something about what kind of person they were, this is very hard. I have learned from this bitter lesson.  I still find it hard to speak about Ken Terry, Mike Holey and Ben Mcmillan, but I can write about them and feel better for doing so. Because of my Father, I am much more alert to people who have had to digest more than humans can, and I try to hear them out when ever they need to speak.-ww

Builder Howard Horner writes:

“Thanks for sharing your shop with us and working to keep us safe. I am living in Haiti and miss my shop in Colorado every day. The smell of wood and grease and the smoker out back… the satisfaction in creation…and the conversations with the watchers. But the thing I miss most are the memories lived late early in the morning, of the ones that came and touched me deep and went: Brute the dog, Doug that lost his battle with depression, Mom, and the toddler days with the kids and so many more. I’ve only met you once, but your raw humanity demands I call you friend.-Howard, College 25 (I love the nuts and bolts stuff too!)

Builder Kim Anderson Writes:

“You don’t have to defend yourself……….they have articles every month in AOPA magazine of stupid things we do as pilots, and survive……me included. I hope I make good decisions forever, but you never know.”

Builder Bruce Culver writes:

“No, no, don’t you dare stop writing about your friends and the lessons they can teach us. The philosophy you bring to this enterprise is one of the most valuable things in your writing to me. Anyone can write about the technical stuff, pistons and cranks and 5th bearings, etc. But it is the telling of stories that teaches us about life, and life is what it’s all about. Maturity is accepting that we have faults, and haven’t always done the right thing, or have judged people, or have done other stuff that shouldn’t have been done. It is in accepting that we are flawed that we learn compassion and understanding, and appreciation for the lives of others. These friends of yours are alive to us because of what you have written; in that sense, they live still. And yes, they still have much to teach those who will listen. So, press on – these days we have a shortage of practical philosophers, those who have been in the Arena, who have worked and struggled to achieve. We who read these reminiscences can learn from them, and through the lessons they teach us, we can keep fate from being our hunter, and send him down to the guy in the next hangar, or the next airport, or the next state, the guy who doesn’t respect fate, or the odds of taking chances, who tries to short-sheet the system. Let someone else be the object lesson. That is what you give us, and it’s free, but priceless…..”

601XL Builder/flyer Dr. Gary Ray writes:

“William, I found the stories spiritual and a reminder to me of those that changed my life in a significant way. Sometimes an event, sometimes a role model but once you live it, you are never the same. It did not come off as morbid .. , likely just missed the point. I just lost my mother.
She made me and many others a better person in at least a thousand ways and still, she was a better person than me.”

Dragonfly builder and engineer Guy Bowen writes:

“My take on your reflection of past acquaintances and lessons learned is simply this: one cannot accomplish that task while underscoring the gravity of failure to do proper risk management by simply kind-speak and soft-peddling. Any amount of squishy, feel good sales speak cannot forewarn folks as to the seriousness of loss or express the hollowness of a senseless or avoidable tragedy. Any soul scared off from the experimental endeavor by an expression of truth, often presented in it’s rawest of states, probably should buy off-the-shelf…at least they will have someone to blame when it eventually fails them anyway.

My personal experience has taught me that Sir Isaac’s second law applies to idiots as well as it does to mass: An idiot’s momentum change is proportional to the impulse impressed upon the idiot. Hence: an idiot with momentum will have a linear path unless a truthful impulse acts upon it at some point along the way. The point here is that the impulse of truth, in this equation, is inversely proportional to how the idiot receives the message. If the message is aligned closely to how the idiot want’s to hear it the impulse limit approaches one…if the message diverges from the idiot’s ideal: the impulse has negligible effect approaching zero. I other words: if the message bothers you, and you are an idiot…you will dismiss it as unimportant and continue on your merry way.”

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