ERAU – models of integrity #3

Builders:

Because the two previous stories said something unflattering about Embry-Riddles’s administration, let me share another, with the other side of the coin. My time at the University bridged two very different presidents. The latter was a bean counter with an MBA named Sliwa.  The Board of Directors got him because they bought some line that the school had too many former Military men, and they needed ‘a corporate business’ man. Sliwa was a disaster, and the board learned that the Military is a more reliable developer of leadership and integrity than 1990’s corporate offices.

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When I arrived in 1989, the University was in an era of outstanding leadership, defined by the president, Lieutenant General Kenneth L. Tallman, USAF.  If the leader is dynamic enough, the institution can operate with his ideals, all the way down to the day to day operations. This was the case with president Tallman.  He had set a policy that the school’s sole reason for existence was to train America’s next wave of aviators; it was not there as anyone’s place of employment, it was not there to serve the alumni, it was not there to be some monument. All that mattered was the caliber of student it was going to generate with each graduating class.  He distilled this policy into a 100 word statement, had it framed, and required it to be prominently displayed in all the departments offices. There would be no ivory tower building on his watch. It was a pretty enlightened attitude for a guy who was West Point graduate, a three star General, and a serious Fighter jock.

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Gen, Tallman, when he was Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy. His experience included  graduating from West Point, being USN carrier qualified, graduating from Marine Corps Senior Staff School at Quantico. Note that he had served with every branch of the US Armed Forces.

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Let me share a singe story to illustrate the man’s approach: In 1989, the School lost a plane on a solo night flight, the crash found the next day. Although the school flew up to 250,000 hours a year, this was the first fatality in a long time. The school had a new public relations guy who faced this. The PR guy gave an interview to the News Journal where he took the initiave to  cleverly insert the detail that the student pilot lived alone, and the school had not found any friends on campus for background information. In print the next day, it was hardly three sentances, be it read as if the word loner was used. It set a tone that maybe it wasn’t the schools fault at all. Very clever and slick.

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A friend of mine worked in the adjoining office to the PR guy. When President Tallman read the morning paper, he was enraged. My friend said he physically stormed into the PR office, fists clenched, shaking with anger. He backed the PR guy to the wall and uttered just three words “You’re done here.”  President Tallman didn’t consult human resources nor the legal department to asses options, he just shit canned the PR guy. Tallman understood what command and leadership was about; The student pilot had been in his command, and now he was dead, and he would accept responsibility for this. It did not matter what the eventual outcome of the investigation would be, it would never change the fact that this student was gone, and there was no way of bringing him back. Tallman would not tolerate any disrespect or attempt to evade this. It is one of the strongest examples I can think of that demonstrates that the ethics and leadership requirements of flight are very different than what is considered acceptable in the corporate world.

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On our Carburetor Reference page, there is a story that relates to this; I wrote it last year, and I am sure that many people thought it was heavy handed at the time. Stop to now consider men that I was educated by, Men like Dick Ulm, Chandler Titus and Kenneth Tallman, and really ask yourself if someone going through a 40 Rotax course has really learned enough about decision making to do an annual on an aircraft that other humans will fly in. The answer is “no”. The people who would even propose this as acceptable maintenance have ‘corporate money values’, and they are in search of cheap and profitable. Historically, that doesn’t lead to good results in flight.

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“If someone chooses to buy a Rotax with their two German Bing motorcycle carbs, they are only fueling the trade deficit, and doing nothing to support American manufacturing and aircraft maintenance systems. And no, a person who took a 40 hour Rotax ‘mechanics’ class is not a trained aviation professional, they are just an extension of a foreign companies sales staff. For a reality check, my A&P training at Embry Riddle had the strict FAA requirement of 2,800 classroom hours.
If I had told the maintenance department chairman, Dick Ulm USMC ret. that I was ready to evaluate airworthyness on aircraft at the end of my first 40 hour week in the program, he would have laughed his ass off, and then punched my lights out. If I then complained to the University president, Kenneth Tallman, Maj. Gen. USAF, ret., I am pretty sure it would have had the same result. If anyone asks in 5 years why S-LSA”Light Sport category” failed live up to any of its potential to do positive lasting good for aviation, at least part of the blame will be on the fact the ASTM ‘certification’ standards on these planes are a bad joke, and the maintenance on them is done by woefully underqualified people.”

About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

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