Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #7, Nothing to Learn

Builders:

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If you have not seen the Intro to this series, you can read it here: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #1, Intro., It will explain the goals of the articles. Please take a moment to read it, including the comments section.

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In 2011 the feds concluded an intensive study of homebuilts, and published a report that stated Experimental amateur built aircraft (Homebuilts) had an unacceptably high accident rate. They carefully pointed out where serious improvements could be made, and recommended that unless the rate got better voluntarily, they would seek some type of restrictions on hombuilt operations.

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Below is a summary of major points of the report, provided by Corvair builder/pilot Dale Williams: (New 3,000 cc Cleanex, Dale Williams, SC )

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1 )The largest proportion of E-AB aircraft accidents involved loss of control in flight
and power plant failures, and loss of control in flight has been the greatest contributor
to fatal E-AB aircraft accidents.

2) More than one-half of the E-AB aircraft accidents investigated in 2011 were aircraft
that had been purchased used, rather than built by the current owner.

3) A large proportion of accidents occurs early in the operating life of a new E-AB
aircraft, or shortly after being purchased by a new owner.

4) During 2011, more E-AB aircraft accidents occurred during the first flight by a new
 owner of a used E-AB aircraft than during the first flight of a newly-built aircraft.

5) The most common accident occurrence for first flights of both newly-built and newly
purchased aircraft was loss of control in flight.

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One of the really starting things in the report was that the accident rate for second owners with 2,500 or more hours as PIC in LSA legal homebuilts  is actually higher than 60 hour brand new light sport pilots in the same planes. A great part of this is Light Sport pilots are required to get specific transition instruction to fly a new type, and traditional pilots are not, and frequently don’t. The real culprit is that many pilots who have accumulated hours don’t feel they have anything to learn about their new homebuilt, especially if they perceive it to be simpler than what they were flying……many of his people have been dead wrong about this.

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Last month, I received an email from a pilot with a lot of ratings who had just become the second owner of a Corvair powered 601XL. In the email, and in a phone conversation he stated that he didn’t find a single word in the flight operations manual worth reading, and specifically stated that he was against transition training. Below, a verbatim excerpt from one of his emails:

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“I’m sure my flight might be of interest to your customers. And I intend to share my flight with the 601xl crowd. I have found little if any use in the corvair flight manual ( I am a professional pilot ATP-ME, Comm  A+I, CFI-IAME, AGI,  and A&P). “

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This is the exact attitude that produces a higher accident rate than 60 hr pilots. I will never teach one of these guys anything, and it isn’t my goal to do so. My goal is to teach people who want to learn. In you are new to flying, please read this story: Concerned about your potential?. Never believe the myth that pilots with 4 or 5 digits worth of hours are “safer” than you. Actual risk management lies not with hours, but with attitude, and the willingness to exercise good judgment. The accumulation of hours and ratings are not synonymous with possession of attitude and judgment. You don’t have to take my word for this, or even the evidence of the email above. This has now been statistically proven in the 2011 report.

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Use this understanding to choose who you fly with carefully. In our own EAA chapter we have several airline pilots with more than 25,000 hours who went out and bought RV’s as second owners. Some of them did it the right way, but a number of them never had a tail wheel rating, no transition training, and lacked any kind of basic information on the plane before flying it.

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One of them fly his new plane at 140 mph for many hours back home because he thought 2,300 rpm was the redline of a Lycoming (It’s 2,700) He never leaned it out even though he went above 10,000′, and arrived after dark and ran over three runway lights because he of course had no tailwheel experience. This man flew in the Navy, and then earned his living as an airline pilot. He has all the posturing one associates with the phrase ‘highly experienced pilot’. Meaningless to me, I would never fly in a light plane with him because he has no judgment. If you are new to flying, consider yourself un poisoned by that man’s disease, stay away from him, after prolonged exposure it is contagious. Set your goal today to be better than him. It may take time, but statistically speaking by the time you have 60 hours, you will be at lower risk. -ww.

 

Thought for the Day: J.S. Mill – On Liberty.

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right…The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign” – On Liberty, 1859

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A very long time ago, before I came to aviation, I earned a degree in Political Science and Philosophy from St. Leo University. I had a number of really outstanding professors, and the program was very heavy on reading classics. In the decades since, I have continued extensively reading on the topics.

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No other man had greater effect on my personal perspective than John Stuart Mill. He was arguably the most brilliant English philosopher who ever lived, and his personal master work, On Liberty is the last word on defining the values and rights of individuals, particularly when they are in conflict with the desires of conformist society. These were not abstract points to Mill. Although he was fluent in Greek and Latin by age 7, and may have had an IQ north of 180, he was denied entrance to Oxford and Cambridge because he would not pledge allegiance to the dogma of the Church of England. This has direct relation to homebuilding today, take a minute to read this link: Thought for the day: Building as an individual.

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A required corollary to my belief in individuals is that I must also respect their right to kill themselves. Mill’s quote above states this. Today we have the “nanny state” attempting to make everything “safe” which can’t be done. They always fall back on trying to remove tools and opportunity from the individual, all allegedly for the individual’s good. If you follow Mill’s argument in depth, he explains why this ends up degrading the value of all lives, not just the ones belonging to self destructive people, morons and people yet unacquainted with the finality of death.

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My personal oath as an Aircraft Mechanic requires me to take action on behalf of unwitting passengers, not foolish airmen. (read below) As a human being, my code requires me to speak up and alert the person who may be doing something foolish out of ignorance. (read Effective Risk Management – 2,903 words) in the end, when someone has heard me out, and still wants to go ahead, my personal philosophy, patterned on Mill’s,  requires me to not to impede their trek to the cemetery. 

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A few weeks ago I wrote this story: How I became a genius in 6 minutes. It is about a builder who tried using an MGA carb from the British car on his Zenith, destroying the engine on the first climb out. Today came word that the same guy is back on the Zenith builders sight saying he is going to try essentially the same experiment again, but he is expecting a different result. I am at peace with the eventual outcome, I only ask that when we hear of it, a friendly builder post a link to this story. Tonight before I sleep I will take my copies of On Liberty and Origin of the Species off the shelf and thumb through their dog eared pages, and Consider how Mill and Darwin, men who lived and passed before the Wright brothers flew, understood so much about the animals that would later inhabit the world of flight. -ww.

 

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I earned my A&P license from Embry-Riddle in 1991. It was in an era when the department was run by men who were former military, who had come of age in WWII,  Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam. They took aviation very seriously, they all had seen its potential costs. They were tough.  I am biased, but I do think the program was without peer.  At the end of training, a handful of select students, I among them, elected to take a solemn oath in a private ceremony  to swear our unwavering allegiance to aviation safety.

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We did not swear to protect our employers, nor to defend the FAA or their rules, nor did we swear to defend our friends, careers or egos. We didn’t even take an oath to protect pilots. The only people we were taking an oath to protect was unwitting passengers who would fly in planes, people who had supreme trust and the belief that their fellow man, an aviation professional, was trustworthy with their very life.  The critical element of the oath is that we might be the passengers last line of defense, and if it was so, we were to “forsake every other consideration to protect them.”

– From the story Pietenpol Weight and Balance project