ERAU – models of integrity #4

Builders,

Bear with me for one more story; This one is taken from our old website, specifically the coverage of Sun n Fun 2010, When we were in the Zenith booth with our 701 Test bed aircraft. Into the booth walked Embry-Riddle Engineering Professor Joe Martin. The story below does a lot to explain my perspective on the men who shaped my understanding of aviation.

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I never actually had a single class with Joe Martin. But he was the best kind of professor, the guy with a lot of practical knowledge, who would spend a hour (or two) teaching you stuff in his office on a Friday, long after office hours were over, even if you were not one of his students. If you wanted to learn, he was there to teach.

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Years later, I got to know him much better, as he was retired (from teaching), and our hangar was only 100 feet from his hangar and shop. With the formality of the University in the past and two hangars full of practical examples, the setting was very good, and I look back on the period of 1996-1999, glad that I had it just as it was, but a little sad that I can now only visit in my memory.

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In a story about House calls I wrote the following comments. Although I didn’t say so at the time, I was thinking of Joe Martin when I wrote it:

“There are plenty of things we do just because I am a home builder and I like builders. People who have yet to meet me often incorrectly assume that things like house calls are just for friends. In reality, the recipient has little to do with my motivation. I know a lot about home builts, and a great part of this was taught to me by experts, mostly gone now. Those men didn’t charge me for their time. My willingness to pay attention and take their message seriously was enough. I also suspect that they were paying back a previous generation of aviators also. I have many flaws as a person, but being an ingrate isn’t one of them.”

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From 2010: “I often reference my years at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. A small number of people dislike this, because they feel I am trying to tell people how smart I am. I will gladly tell anyone that I’m  not really clever, and when viewed in the larger group of educated aviation professionals, I hold only working class guy status.

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Want to know what a really brilliant aeronautical engineer with a lifetime of experience looks like?  Above is Joe Martin, with his lovely wife Mary. Joe was, and is, my mentor in structural analysis of aircraft. His years as a professor at Embry-Riddle capped a career that started with  bucking rivets on the F-104 production line. He put himself through night school and went on to a distinguished engineering career, mostly with Convair and General Dynamics. Want to know  the mathematical models used to analyze the F-106 wing? Anything you want to know about F-111s? Wind tunnels? Close coupled canards? Semi tension fields? Indeterminate structures?  Where Fortan 77 is still a viable tool? When you’re all done talking, he will take you out to the shop and show you how rivets are set to Lockheed standards.

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Joe’s background extends to very practical matters on light aircraft. He did the structural analysis on the Stewart-51 Mustang, and has designed a number of other light aircraft. In 1997, I was making  new landing gear for our Pietenpol. The legs were 4″ taller and had steel springs in place of the bungees. Joe’s hangar was next to ours, and I wanted to have him check the tear out strength  on the connection bolts for me. I came back from dinner and found a very neat hand calculation of the forces done by Joe on a little piece of paper. It was sitting on my cowl held  down by an empty Pabst Blue Ribbon can, and on the bottom it had the date, a line that said “it checks ok,” and the initials “JM.” A visitor to the hangar who also had been at dinner  was alarmed, and said they would never trust such a person, and that the empty can was “a bad image.” I told them that I felt sorry for anyone who went through life more concerned about  the right image instead of the right answer.

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Many years ago, I used to sit in on a Tai Chi class. Our instructor was African American, who had the improbable path of growing up impoverished in the U.S., joining the Navy, visiting  Okinawa, and later returning to spend 15 years adopted into a monastery on the island, where he began intense martial arts study. When entering the room, he demonstrated how we were to bow slightly and say “Sir.” One night a visiting  middle aged woman, with a certain dress and manner that implied she was worldly, open minded and enlightened, walked in and gave a full five minute dissertation to the instructor on  how she didn’t accept the “Paradigm of a male centric world” and that she was in no way obligated to bow to him, and that years of sisterhood allowed her to unlearn “self nullifying behavior,”  shaving her legs and saying thank you to men who opened the door for her. When she was all done, he simply said that it was a sign of respect for his instructor and his adopted family in Okinawa, and it had  nothing to do with him. Her entire response was to say “Ohh…”

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When I speak about my alma mater, I am not congratulating myself for attendance, I am really just making a note of thanks  to the professors like Joe Martin who made a very large difference in my life.

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.

2 Responses to ERAU – models of integrity #4

  1. jaksno says:

    Anyone who could possibly take offense at someone having gone to Embry-Riddle and/or talking about it often must hate airplanes and flight in general and should be given a slight smile, a head nod, and avoided like death. No need to apologize. Those people will never like or appreciate you; people who like airplanes, love the idea of flight and building airplanes will want to hear every word. I know I do. So just do it.

  2. Michael W. McKosky says:

    Whether or not I agree with you in all or some things, it is clear that you give a damn. Thank you, Sir.

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