The cost of tolerating fools


My Father related this story yesterday:

It is the spring of 1945, and the freshmen midshipmen, Dad included, are at the Naval Academy 500 yard rifle range across the Severn river. It is the introduction to weapons for many men. The instructors are all USMC Gunnery Sergeants, veterans of savage pacific battles. Each of them has seen many men, friend and enemy alike, die of wounds inflicted by rifle bullets.


They reiterate many times that inviolable rule #1 of firearms is to never point one at anything which is not to be destroyed. One must be absolutely conscious of the muzzle direction 100% of the time, there are no excuses, there is no talk of unloaded, or safeties, it is never done. Period.


Within the first hour, a midshipman approaches a Sargent to ask a question, the muzzle of his M-1 carelessly pointed at the Marine’s chest. The Sargent delivers a lightning quick punch to the face, the midshipman is an unconscious pile on the ground with a very bloody nose. The Marine picks up the rifle and continues the lesson, pausing only briefly to say that he didn’t survive Guadalcanal only to killed by moron in Maryland.


It is very harsh, but instinctively the others do not rush assist the crumpled figure. They are all starting down a path of a very dangerous career, and if today’s lesson has exposed a dangerous fool who couldn’t follow a simple instruction in a serious setting, maybe they were better off never having to later trust that man as wingman or a shipmate. They were starting a life that didn’t afford second chances nor much forgiveness, and it might cost you dearly to cling to things from less serious settings. The lesson was harsh, but it served my Father for 33 years of active duty and it is with him 69 years later.




Here is your aviation connection: In the last 50 years, life in America has gotten very forgiving, we have had a giant national shift away from personal accountability.


I am not just speaking about teenagers here. It is pervasive; Airbags in cars allow people to drive like idiots; lawyers show people how to win the lottery for stupid things they do; one can shoot public officials and claim to have eaten too many Twinkies; advances in medical science often allow very expensive life extensions for people who made 5 decades of poor choices; we no longer think it is abnormal that corporate CEO’s get giant bonuses after taking bailouts; celebrities can say any racist thing they like if they later go to a posh ‘rehab’ for 20 days; The government gave Wen Ho Lee $1.6 million instead of executing him as it did the Rosenburgs. The pilots of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 were released without even being drug tested….. the list is endless.


The general public goes along because they are afraid of the safety net not being there for them. We have been transformed to a society where everything is someone else’s fault, people forgetting that in a world where the individual is never responsible, neither can he ever make a legitimate claim of personal achievement.


 In this setting, it is very good to understand that we still have a few places where personal responsibility reigns supreme, and building an flying planes is perhaps the single best example left. No matter what anyone tells you, Physics, Chemistry and Gravity will always remain just as unforgiving as 1945 USMC Gunnery Sergeants. People who wish to just ‘drift’ into experimental aviation may find this disturbing, but I am actually attracted to the unforgiving nature of flying; the rules are not arbitrary, they are not subject to popularity contests and they don’t change. In a world that is ever more fake, manipulated and plastic, flying remains something very real, and I like it that way.


If you are new to flying, do not let any of this bother you. Please read this story, it may be the most influential piece of data a new guy can read this year: Concerned about your potential? . All new people should understand that first and foremost, I am an instructor, and my goal is to share what I have painstakingly learned, not just about Corvairs, but building and flying planes as well. If you are new you have plenty of time to learn this, and a Corvair College is an excellent place to start. If you attend just one, you will then have a good yardstick to measure other settings by.


If you are new to homebuilding, I can not over emphasize the importance of investing your time with good people. You need to spend time in a setting where knowledgeable professionals are, who are in a community of builders who are focused on doing everything that has long been proven to work, where skilled people are committed to sharing this knowledge with new aviators. This goes all the way from who you speak with at your airport, what books you read, which websites you follow, and especially where you spend your money and find your training. Fools and morons tend to collect at places that tolerate stupidity. You can rest assured that I have not spent the last 25 years developing the community of Corvair builders to allow such people space in our Arena.




The rest of society long ago set out on the fools errand to make the world a “safe” place. It starts with making things ‘Child Proof’ , then fool proof, and later it moves to treating all adults as children or fools, in a vain attempt to keep people from hurting themselves, because this can never be done, the final result is always not allowing people to engage in these activities, because they can not be made safe for fools and idiots without judgment.


Fortunately, aviation resists this pretty well.  There will always be some jackass trying to show people how little you need to learn to go flying. That a GPS means you don’t have to know how to read a map and a Bing carb is for people who don’t want to spend a hour to learn how mixture controls work, but these are not the values nor ethics of the Corvair movement. Here we are looking for people who want to learn as much as possible, not as little as they can get by with.  If that sounds like your goals, I say “Welcome aboard.” -ww.




img003Above, Dad, the Seabee base XO at Davisville RI in 1967, with a Garand. He is wearing a shooting jacket, but the uniform and the shoes suggest he came straight from the office. He held Expert ratings with both rifle and pistol. Dad has always been good at anything that required hand eye coordination.

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 and in more than 50 magazine articles.

4 Responses to The cost of tolerating fools

  1. David Covert says:

    When I finish my Corvair CH-750 I am flying it to Galt’s Gulch… see you there…

    Keep up the good work, I read (and think though) every word.


  2. joe says:

    My rifle range story 1964 Fort Dix, NJ: Big strong GI, me, got measles towards the end of basic training. The mad 1st Sarge, who hated everybody especially Jews wanted to make me do it all over as I missed record fire where you get rated how well you can use your M-14. He also had been pulling all my passes that he could. He had to let me go for the Jewish Holidays. The look on his face was priceless. The Captain disliked paper work so he let me take it with another company along with a guy in our company that was going to be discharged as he should not have been here in the first place. The company was down as it was a really bad thing not to get a 100% score. He knew enough to point his rifle down range but hit anything took luck. So I started shooting down my targets with my trusty M-14. I figured I shot enough of mine so I started on his. Between the two of us we killed enough of his pop ups for him to pass. That weekend my Sarge, who always put me in for a pass, which first Sarge pulled, told me the pass was there. I got dressed in the cab. The only way the 1st Sarge could say thanks was by coming in late.
    Joe G.

  3. Tom says:

    “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incapacity, or neglect.” Same goes for firearms.

    For those who don’t know:

    The four rules of firearms safety – FOUR – simple ain’t it (not a question):

    1. ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED. (Even if they are not, treat them as if they are!)
    2. NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
    3. KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER TILL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET. (This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for the majority of inadvertent – read that negligent – discharges.)
    4. BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEHIND IT. (Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified, and be sure about what is beyond your target – bullets tend to go through things.)

    Unlike other branches of the services these days, the Marines still know how to shoot.

    Semper Fi


  4. jaksno says:

    April, 1966, Fort Bliss, TX, basic training, approx. week 4. Back from first day at the range with the M-14, cleaning weapons in the courtyard between 2 barracks. ‘Bolo’ has not turned in all ammunition, somehow retaining one in the chamber. ‘Bolo’ manages to fire a live .308 round in the midst of his fellow ‘boots’. Some mayhem results, ‘Bolo’ rescued; ‘Bolo’ does not return to the training company. Fox, fool, or both?

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