A good memory: Standing with my father at Sun n Fun 2006, in front of a piece of hardware from his era of Naval Aviation, an F8F Bearcat. Although Dad’s hat says CVN-65, he joined the USN in an earlier era, 3 July 1943.
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Grace and I have been collecting stories and grouping them together on the “reference pages.” We are doing this to have the stories that were written individually now grouped together by subject. The location of these reference pages is right on the front of the main page of our traditional website : http://flycorvair.com/
If you have not looked at in in a while, about 70% of the subject entries have had their content changed in the last 30 days. Almost all of the headings on the main page are now reference pages. For example, both the Engine Operations reference page and Corvair College reference page that we just put up here yesterday, will also be conveniently accessible on the main page of our other site.
I would like to draw attention to the Risk Management reference page, I wrote it a week ago, but last night I took some time to update it with some short biographies and pictures of friends. While you are there notice that last nights story Concerned about your potential? was specifically written as an introduction to the risk management page and it has already been installed there.
This last point shows that I can update the reference pages easily, the way I put the story DonPietenpol Passes, 1/8/14 into our existing Corvair – Pietenpol Reference page. I am going to keep updating rhe new stories into the reference pages like this to keep them up to date. Our traditional site will be a lot less dated this way.
A very important act that our friends can do for us is to post the appropriate link on discussion groups when the topic comes up. If you belong to any of the airframe discussion groups, you are aware of how often a new guy will ask a legitimate question on where to get started or ask for more reading on his choice of airframe. I ask that friends post a short direct link to the appropriate reference page. Mind you, the discussion does not have to be focused on Corvairs. There are many stories and useful information for Pietenpol builders using various engines on our page, and last week about 60 of the page reads on the risk management page came from a like that a friend shared on a forum devoted to gyroplanes.
Besides the fact that I think there are direct safety benefits to builders reading the comments, I think it does demonstrate to other members of the experimental aircraft building world that the Corvair movement is made up of traditional home builders who are thinking people. There are benefits to the efforts of all Corvair builders being better appreciated. It attracts a better cross section of builders for next year, and it also tends to discourage the imbeciles who worship stupidity from spending time in our camp, doing some damage and departing. If I gently roll up the welcome mat on the latter group by mocking people who trust ‘luck’ over preparation, and using two syllable words, all of our lives will be a little more sane in the next years to come. -ww
Here is something I would like to specifically address to builders new in flying, people without a license, ones who have not soloed, or may not even have more than an hour or two flying around in light aircraft.
What I want to directly say to these people is simple: It does not take any special talent, ability or IQ to safely fly a light aircraft, and do it well enough to enjoy yourself. Flying is enough of a challenge to require you to apply yourself, but it is certainly not reserved for ‘special’ people.
I am a safe pilot, and I know my limits and operate inside them, but I can easily and vividly remember when I didn’t know how to fly at all. Because many of my Fathers friends were military pilots that I was impressed with, I started off with the childhood perspective that all pilots were supermen. I never stopped to consider that it might take less skill and courage to be a good stick and rudder pilot than it took to attack the Thanh Hóa Bridge. Even though I knew better, some small element of self doubt lingered in the back of my brain well into my adult years.
I know how I got started thinking that way, but the things that reinforced it later were subtle; Think of how few times in your life a pilot has come up to you and said something like; “I am no where near as skilled as you are thinking” or “Airplanes have stability, and they do a lot of the flying by themselves.” Pilots just don’t share that stuff with new comers, but it is true. It takes a lot of precision practice to be a really good aerobatic pilot or to be a really good instrument pilot. But, these are skills you can focus on much later, or never at all. I possess neither skill, yet I do have the skill set to be a very competent day-VFR pilot.
I can’t dance, I probably have a two digit IQ, I have 20/30 vision and I am not particularly physically agile. If I was a new pilot going to the front in WWI, I would be in trouble, but none of those extremes matter in regular recreation flying. The only four things that any person needs here are simple: 1) You need to be willing to learn, 2)You need to have good instruction, 3)You need to be alert and focused around planes, and after you are started, 4) You need to stay away from people who missed any of 1) through 3). That is all that is required to be a good pilot and have one of the most enriching experiences of being alive, all at very low risk.
Above, My friend Gus Warren shot this photo at his home airport in Michigan yesterday. It is a twin engine Beechcraft with the nose gear collapsed and perhaps $50K in damage. No one was hurt. A non-soloed pilot with some self doubt might look at this from afar and have an inner voice that says “That guy had a multi engine rating, probably was IFR rated and maybe had been flying for years, and he still has an accident…planes are dangerous and if that guy had trouble I must be at very high risk.” I understand that, I used to think that way.
Here is reality: Gus got out his camera because when the plane was on final he could see that the pilot had left the gasoline powered tow tug attached to the nose gear of the plane before he took off. Yes, you read that correctly, this person taxied all the way to the runway, did his run up, and took off, never noticing that he had a, large, 80 pound object still clamped on to the nose gear of his plane. Would you bet that this guy pre-flighted the plane while talking on a cell phone? If we asked his neighbors at the airport, would they tell you he was always in a rush? My point is things like above do not happen out of the blue nor by random chance. They happen when people get stupidly complacent and bring bad habits like having the attention span on a gnat to the airport.
These are entirely avoidable, and if you are concerned about your own security and potential, I say Good, this means that you are alert and thinking. If you focus on the four factors above, you will do fine. There is no photo like the one above in your future.
I share a number of tragic stories under the topic of “Risk Management.” What makes them tragedies is they were preventable. I want people to learn from them, not be scared off from flying. In reality, if you are new and worried a bit, this is good. The people I am concerned about is any knew guy who isn’t concerned. It is far easier to teach you, the alert student, what you need to know, than it is to raise some sense of awareness in the complacent or distracted.
The stories I share reflect that I have lost a number of friends and acquaintances in planes. I have been in Aviation for 25 years, I do it for a living, and I travel and communicate a lot. I have met many people in flight. Do not be put off because I speak of people I knew. I also know legions of pilots who have a fantastic time flying at very low risk. Many of the people in my stories did also, but on their day in question, they chose to do something that they knew was probably not smart. I want to share that with you so you always listen to the voice inside that says “This is dumb,” especially when others around you are saying “Come on, it will be alright.”
Read the stories and learn. If you have questions, write me an email, or come see me at an airshow and we will have a cup of coffee and talk. Above all, know that it is good to be concerned, and that you have plenty of months to learn the things you need to know from good people, pilots with life-long habits of good risk management. You are not in a race, do not feel hurried in your learning. There is a lot to know, but you are going to take it one bite at a time, with a good instructor who will not advance you until you master the step. When you master enough basics, he will solo you. It is a building process, you don’t need to know everything at once. If you operate inside the envelope of skills you have and exercise awareness and some judgment, you are at low risk. You will expand your personal envelope over time, but you will do this with good instruction, not by taking risks or being pressured by others to fly outside your skills.
There are a lifetime of adventures out there waiting for you. Do not discount your potential. If you have little experience, good, you are a clean slate and a thoroughbred. Just stick to the four principles and keep learning from others examples, both good and bad. -ww
Here are links to a great number of stories on operations. Many companies have no such data on their website. Their goal may be just to simply sell engines, and that is easiest if the potential buyer is never brought into a mechanical discussion. On the other hand, we have data because we are in the business of teaching builders to be the master of their engine, and this involves some reading.
If your goals are those of the traditional home builder, to learn, build and fly, to be the master of your plane not just the guy that owns it, then read on. All of the stories below are written by myself, and reflect my 25 years of working with Corvairs. Contrast this experience with the fact that more than 50% of the engine sales people at Oshkosh have never put a wrench on the inside of an engine, not even the one they are selling.
In the 100-120HP range, just 3 engines have a 50+ year track record of flying: Lycoming O-235, Continental O-200 and the Corvair. I have worked with the Corvair since 1989, and slowly evolved it to the engine we have today. Along the way, we learned a lot, both about the engine and the needs of builders. The stories below are a reflection of this knowledge that we stand ready to share with any builder who has set his goal on learning and mastery.
Above, a winter 2005 photo of our 601XL, N-1777W with hangar cat “Whobiscat” warming herself on the Cowl. We have been working with Corvairs a long time. Gus Warren in the cockpit at the end of a long day of flying.