In defense of our friend, writer Tim Kern


A number of builders wrote me today pointing out an error in the EAA publications story on engines at Oshkosh. It appeared in the Experimenter magazine.  Basically, the whole coverage we received was just a paragraph, and the picture that went with the story was a Jabbaru engine, and it wasn’t even a good photo of one either. The story was written by Tim Kern. I am typing this because I have known Tim for about 15 years, and he is one of the very few journalists who knows anything about experimental power plants, and he certainly knows what a Corvair looks like. I just didn’t want anyone reading Tim’s byline on the story and discounting his aviation experience. He has written very informative stories on the Corvair previously, and todays glitch had nothing to do with him. This does bring up a bit of a larger discussion. I worked for EAA publications for four years, and I have had about 50 stories published in their periodicals. Let me share some insight on how this type of error happens.

Above, Tim Kern on the left, and Journalist Pat Panzera outside our booth at Sun n Fun 2011. This was the first photo in our files I drew up of Tim, but ironically it actually is an ideal photo to explain a little about how stories get messed up after writers submit them.


Many of the people who have written for EAA publications, Tim and myself included, don’t live anywhere near headquarters at Oshkosh. Many of us set foot inside the publications office in the lower floor of headquarters less than once a year. Even when my name was on the EAA masthead, we just wrote stories and submitted them. If one of them was published in a month, the EAA sent me a check for $200. No one does this to get rich, it is just a good way of making a contribution to the general body of knowledge of the EAA membership.

What made the whole system work smoothly was having outstanding people as editors at headquarters, people who really knew journalism and homebuilts. When I worked there, Scott Spangler was Editor in Chief and Mary Jones as my direct boss. Both of these people love homebuilts, are outstanding in their craft, respected by industry people. In the years I regularly wrote for Publications, nothing like today’s error would have happened, because the teams would have caught that kind of error. Not so today, and I am going to use the other guy in the golf cart to explain why…

When the EAA transitioned the Experimenter to an on line publication, they made a very smart move and made the second guy in the golf cart, Pat Panzera, the editor in chief of it.  I have known Pat for a very long time. We are close friends, to the point of bickering like brothers at times. I will be the first person to tell you that In the several years that he was the editor of the Experimenter, he wasn’t perfect, but he damn sure knew a lot  about homebuilts, flying and builders. He ran the magazine out of his office in California. The EAA had almost no overhead, they didn’t even have to give him a desk. The EAA does waste money on some things, but on line editors salaries isn’t one of them. Pat ran the whole show and wrote a good chunk of the stories for a whopping $15K/year. That had to be the bargain of the century in aviation publishing.  Use this as an example that many of the people who do the hard work at the EAA are barely paid. You are correct in assuming that many of the people higher up in the organizational chart have comparatively astronomical paychecks.

Pat doesn’t work for the EAA anymore. If you are thinking that he quit after realizing that he could earn more money per hour by accepting any minimum wage job in his home state of California, you are not correct. He was terminated when the new director of publications, “J-Mac” Mcllean arrived. Yes, that is correct, the editor infamous for selecting the French TBM-850 turboprop as an “affordable” aircraft to feature in Sport Aviation, the same person who has shown countless times that he doesn’t like homebuilts nor homebuilders, the guy who came to Oshkosh more than 30 times as the editor of flying magazine, but never stooped to becoming an EAA member until the new owners of Flying fired him and he needed a job, yes that same guy decided that the EAA didn’t need anyone working there who knew one homebuilt from another.

“J-Mac” is a hold over from the ill fated time of Rod Hightower trying to be president of the EAA. They were good friends, but now Rod has been dismissed by the BOD, and a number of friends of mine who have been EAA members for the last 25 years are looking forward to ” J-Mac” finding a new employer. I have friends in the position of knowing a lot more about the current outlook of the EAA who assure me that the organization has turned a corner, and things are being fixed. I genuinely hope they are right. One of the first outward signs that will tell me the EAA is back on track is having a new editor in chief of EAA publications, a person who understands and respects the fact that the EAA was founded by, and exists to serve the interests of homebuilders.-ww

Mail Sack, Various topics, 9/27/13, Part two.


Here is the second half of the mail:


On the topic of: Bob Barrows to Fly LSA Bearhawk to CC #27, Barnwell, S.C., Nov. 2013

Builder in Hati, Howard Horner writes:

I have been a member of the Bearhawk builder’s groups for years and really admire Bob’s designs and the support he and the more experienced builders provide not to mention his character. I spoke to Bob some time ago to inquire about the possibility of hiring him to engineer a folding wings option for the LSA as I wish to pull my plane behind my motor home when I travel. He very kindly and graciously said no and suggested I buy a powered parachute. Still chuckling…


On the topic of: Larry Hudson, Master Upholsterer, parts and core for sale

Zenith 650 builder Paul Normandin  writes:

William, glad the Zenith college went so well, good to have you back! Just to let you know, I took that core off Larry’s hands about two hours ago. My original core is so badly corroded that I was never going to get it apart in time for college 27. I will keep it and continue to work on it but it is destined for something other than my 650… I am thinking maybe a Tailwind sometime in the future! Paul


On the topic of : Communist  Chinese government at Oshkosh

Builder Jon Ross writes:

William: So at EAA you would prefer Hightower over Pelton? :)

The Chinese are indeed very underhanded, and having spent time there I can tell you that they are very nefarious. Like you, I am concerned about the transfer of technology to China, and it usually begins with the search for cheap manufacturing; American companies begin by selling expertise and tooling to China and the products end up being cheaply made in China. Try buying an American made air compressor… And that Chinese 4130 tubing that is available is real junk, I tell builders not to use it. Almost all the tubing Wicks sells is of Chinese origin. All that said, one cannot deny the Chinese display space at Oshkosh. American companies are free to sell their stock to any buyer, and that includes the Chinese. Most business owners are fully aware of the real facts behind this situation, and  they make a choice to knowingly sell to China. It’s an old trick in aviation called find a bigger sucker. I remember a phase some years ago where American companies were selling like crazy to the Japanese, that did not work out very well did it? Likely, the same will occur with respect to China, and  it will be exacerbated by the huge amount of “American Paper” that they now hold. This will not end pleasantly… of that I am certain. Warm Regards, Jon Ross


Parting Shot; On the topic of:  Deal of the Day,  simple MA3 carb. (Sold at 1 am, 9/1/13)

Zenith 650 builder Becky Shipman writes:

When my instructor first showed me an aircraft carburetor, I laughed. Even the low end motorcycles I was riding at the time had much more sophisticated carburetors. This looked like something off a 1930′s tractor, to my untrained eye. Later, thinking on it, the words of my Dad came back to me. Dad was a combustion expert, and during long car drives I would ask a question and he would “pontificate”. I will paraphrase one of these discussions that hit me. The internal combustion engine is a constant speed device. The car is a variable speed application. Carburetor design is the art of making one fit the other. The reason we use it is because gasoline is light, compact, and powerful.  A car engine runs most efficiently on a small engine with its throttle open. But we put tremendous demands for acceleration on our cars, and years of engineering have been spent adapting the engine to a task for which it is ill suited. It is much better for boats or airplanes.

So now it has become clear to me the differences in carburetor design. Freed from the constraints of acceleration against a fixed object (the road), aircraft carburetor designers can concentrate on the important factors, which are reliability, and ability to adapt to different air densities. And I no longer laugh when I see an aircraft carburetor.

And in your business, I get a better understanding of the decision making and challenges involved in taking an auto engine and converting it to an aircraft engine.

Progress – mounted my nose gear, and the motor mount, and now I can start working on the jigsaw puzzle of installing the fuel, ignition, air, and cooling flow paths.