Thought for the day: Finishing planes

Builders:

I wrote the comments below in response to a guy saying that he was glad to see any homebuilt get done, and that even if the plane wasn’t very good and didn’t fly much it was still a victory to him. He made this comment about a plane that was for sale on Barnstormers with 2 hours on it. Read on, you will find out why I think differently

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To finish a plane, it is a requirement that a builder not listen to all the people who tell him he will fail or is doing it wrong. In a 6 year build, this might mean ignoring several hundred people, running from guys in your EAA chapter, your brother in law, people on line, the airport expert and a parade of others. Most of these people will simply be playing the role of ‘Eeyore’ the pessimistic donkey, (polite term for a negative Jackass) but understand that many others will be posing as ‘friendly advisors’, trying to ‘help.’ If you ignore every person you come in contact with, keep working, and the plane will get done.

Is this the definition of successful homebuilding? I say it isn’t. Completing the plane isn’t success, learning is. A guy who listens to no one learns nothing and often creates the poor flying hangar queen. His completed plane might be a rarity, but the mindset of not being willing to consider anything that might evolve one’s views is quite common today.

My definition of success is the guy who finishes the plane, ignores the 98% of the people who are negative, but learns from 4 or 5 trusted advisors who get him to consider things that make his plane far better than it would have been. This guy not only has a good flying plane, has learned a lot, he also has trusted friends and is in a position to share something. The actual rarity in society is not the bullheaded man who will not stop, it is the man wise enough to listen, examine evidence, and change his perspective if it improves what he is making.

The biggest difference between a poor plane for sale on barnstormers with 2 hours on it and a great one sitting at Brodhead with 500 hours on the tach is mostly in the mindset of the builder. Both planes are made of roughly the same quantity of wood, metal and fabric, and the likely took about the same effort to build. The difference is mostly in what the builder was willing to learn.

The barnstormer plane, and the dozens like it that were never completed are not a good use of materials nor human time. They are not art either. They are monuments to people who refuse to learn, something common enough in everyday life to need no commemoration.-ww.

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To read a story about a plane that changed the builders life and has flown more than 500 hours click on this link:

Randy Bush’s Pietenpol hits 500 hours.

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Above, Randy’s aircraft at Brodhead

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Letter of the day: Stockdale on Philosophy

Builders:

Ray Richards sent me the letter printed below in response to a story I wrote about James Stockdale, one of the greatest leaders aviation has ever known. The story focuses on Stockdale’s code of ethics, his will power, and his source of strength. I tie this to homebuilding with points like this:

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“In Stockdale’s test of wills, his enemy’s goal was to make him succumb to fear. If he did, they could determine his mindset and actions from there forward.  It is easy to say that 99.99% of us will not find ourselves in such circumstances. Literally true enough, but perhaps misleading. Stoic philosophy is all about being in command of yourself, and not letting anyone or any circumstance dictate your opinions, attitudes or actions. Stockdale’s enemy was obvious, his goals were clear.

Your life and the challenges you choose may not be as dramatically profound as Stockdale’s, but they are no less important. These things literally are the value of your life and your satisfaction with leading it. Choosing to learn, build and fly are not common goals. The vast majority of people are afraid of these things. If this fear stops them from acting on their ideas and dreams, then someone else is controlling them.

People are not born to be afraid, they are taught this. Stoic philosophy is a method of undoing this, recognizing your own value and sovereignty as an individual. Aviation is a singularly appropriate Arena to develop one’s personal codes.  It offers near limitless potential to those who take it seriously, it holds serious risks and penalties for those who do not.  At any level worth engaging, it is not a pastime, a game, nor a sport. It is a real endeavor worthy of your devotion.”

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Above, James Stockdale before his aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. As Commander of the Air Wing he flew all of the aircraft types they operated. At the Gulf of Tonkin, he flew an F-8 Crusader; later he was shot down flying an A-4 Skyhawk. You can read the complete story at this link:

James Stockdale – Philosophy

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Letter from Ray Richards:

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“Very well written Sir. I thought that you may enjoy reading a response from someone who has found a considerable applicability in their personal life when related to several of the points you have written about.
My Daughter is finishing her Freshman “Doolie” year at the United States Air Force Academy. She has been laboring over the selection of her major, running through a number of Engineering options intended to help with her future aspiration of becoming a pilot. Last week, she made a decision that at first seemed quite a departure from her end goal. She decided to select Philosophy as a major. Her reasoning went back to High School when an exceptional Teacher spoke about Admiral Stockdale and his personal success with the effective use of Philosophical teachings to control his own actions through Stoicism and how it has continued to be a model for the development of future Officers. Looking back on those dinner time conversations when her eyes would light up explaining to me the writing’s of Epictetus, it all makes perfect sense that she follow this path of education. I believe that this may be the most valuable decision she will make while preparing to become an effective Air Force Officer, potential Pilot, and any other aspirations she may pursue in the future.
Thank you for the clean and understandable read. I’m sure my Daughter will enjoy it as well. Perhaps she and I will discuss it, not over the dinner table, but on Skype this evening. Regards, Ray Richards.”

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Read further comments on the philosophy of James Stockdale from fellow Corvair builders at this link:  Mail Sack – James Stockdale

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