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

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