An opinion in search of a lawsuit


It is often hard to make sense of something you read until you better understand the motivation of the person writing it. Let me share with you an insiders understanding that will allow you to better evaluate why some people write aviation articles that on the surface make little sense. What many of these people are doing is making a small investment with great hopes of a very lucrative future payday. Some people think that this is unethical,  and raises the cost of everything in aviation, and does nothing to promote ‘safety’.


What these people are doing is writing a story to say that they are aware of some ‘safety issue’ that is going unaddressed by others with deep pockets. They are expressing an opinion, that often sounds OK, but doesn’t hold up to statistical analysis, in hopes that they will later be called, as a well paid expert witness in any later civil trial. Even if they have to assist in creation of the issue in that trial.


To get a better understating of how this deceitful system functions behind closed doors and away from the eyes of rank and file homebuilders, please take 5 minutes to read this story: Expert Witnesses in civil Aviation trials. There are builders who dislike the fact I use the actual names of men they have respected for other deeds, but reality is that the men I name actually engaged in promoting lawsuits that they were later paid gigantic amounts of money to act as expert witnesses in. I wrote that story almost two years ago, it has been read by thousands of people, and not one single person has emerged to debate the truth of what I wrote. Pointing out something that is unpleasant about a man isn’t wrong if it is true.


Here are two more articles, recently published by the EAA, our membership organization,  that many people couldn’t make heads or tails of, but they set off my personal alarm, and it is my strongest suspicion, particularly the article by Busch, is an attempt to foment a lawsuit, that he will later be paid for.


Mac McClellan, the EAA editor published this story last week:

From a practical and engineering perspective, it is a joke. He is promoting the idea that light stick forces in planes are a significant source of fatal accidents, and he falsely claims that experimental planes have not addressed this, and have not all been made to conform to his idealized control force ratio, ignoring the idea that there is no such thing as an ideal stick force. Be suspicious of any story that ignores training and CG issues, focusing on manufactures’ design. No one got rich suing a dead pilot or a broke CFI, but plenty of people have made money off the deep pockets of manufacturers. Again, his opinion doesn’t hold water to people who know anything about planes and know that every experimental plane, by law, must have a placard on the panel stating that the plane does not conform to federal standards. It was probably not written as much for aviators as it was for 12 people sitting in the jury box on a lucrative civil trial.


The other EAA published article that raised many industry people’s attention was the June article by Mike Busch titled  “Cylinder work : Be afraid. ” you can read it here:


I flat out state that my belief is Busch is solely trying to foment a giant civil lawsuit against Lycoming or Continental. The very title “Be afraid” goes against everything I think about aviators: We train people to be Alert, not Afraid. Scaring people doesn’t promote rational actions, but it is a great way to make money. I have been an A&P for almost 25 years, and I don’t know a single mechanic who agrees with Busch’s statements. Again, when reading it, note how he ties the claim to unspecified fatal accidents, but it isn’t the mechanics he is after, it is the deep pockets of the manufacturers. If I am wrong about this, let Busch put directly on his website that he has never, and will never, act as a paid witness in a civil aviation trial. I have no issue men who have opinions, even controversial ones, it is the money for sworn truth I take issue with, and anyone who is telling people to “Be Afraid”.


A large part of my  objection to the above two articles is these men being paid to write them by our membership organization, having them published in our magazines, and then potentially turning around and getting a giant payday from telling the membership to “Be Afraid” of a boogey man they made. It is vile enough when people act as paid expert witnesses in lawsuits they drummed up, but I find the very idea that anyone might do this while employed by the EAA repugnant.


Spend a moment reading this story: Speaking of Paul Poberezny to understand how much I respect the life work of Paul Poberezney.  He wrote many articles speaking in anger over pointless lawsuits in aviation, and said a few individuals were profiting while great damage was being done to aviation.  He wrote that “Our grandparents heads would have burst with indignation” at the very concept of the evasion of personal accountability in pursuit of a payday.


Today, we are direct beneficiaries of decades of honest and hard work that made homebuilding possible, and protected it, awaiting our arrival. It has been given to us for free, by good men, most of whom you will never be able to thank.  It is now your watch, your hour of duty, and I ask, “Where is your indignation?”




“This country has nothing to fear from the crooked man who fails. We put him in jail. It is the crooked man who succeeds who is a threat to this country.” -T.R. 1905.




On this eve of Thanksgiving, I am most grateful for the fortune of being born in a country that has the rule of law, not a police state. As imperfect as it is, America is my home and by luck of my birth, my life has had the great blessing of happening in a land where men are to be judged by the content of their character.


It is not our faith, color, money, size, brains nor natural resources that make our society different; many other lands have appreciable amounts of these elements. But here, we have a fundamental belief in justice and fair play, as T.R. said “No man is above the law and no man is below it.” We do not settle these matters in the media, at the altar, nor in the private rooms of the privileged. We settle them in courts, in a flawed system that still functions, just as long as people entering it are doing so to speak the truth and bear honest witness. When they enter the halls of justice to seek fortune and offer lies for money, they are to be regarded as vermin, corroding the very quality that our fathers toiled their entire lives to bequeath to us. To be tolerant of the abuse of the justice system for personal gain is to admit that one didn’t deserve to live under it’s protection in the first place.-ww.

5 Replies to “An opinion in search of a lawsuit”

  1. William:

    I read your original article about Expert Witnesses in aviation trials when you published it. I knew two of the three men very well, and the third only superficially. Being in corporate aviation and having friends that are aviation attorneys I have been encouraged to get into the business of being a witness myself. I was told I would be good at it; and that I could make a lot of money… I wanted no part of it for the same reasons you cite; and let’s face it, nobody has to pay me to tell the truth.

    Like you, I feel that Busch has a tendency of sensationalizing issues; if he had his way nobody would ever change a cylinder on an engine. While it is true that mechanics in the field may not do the job right, he ignores the fact that it can be done right if one follows the instructions carefully. I wonder how Busch will feel when he gets sued for offering the advice that he promulgates in some of his writings. Chances are he is not a big insurance target be cause he is a small fish in a shrinking pond, but he is vulnerable just the same.

    It is widely known that lawyers have long been trying to go after one particular engine manufacturer with a record of broken crankshafts with respect to one series of engine. In the end it comes down to settlements, and most people do not want to go the distance. Articles like the one Busch published are indeed directed at cracking that case, and gathering the data needed to gain the much sought after victory against this manufacturer. I do not like some of the advice given by Busch; although he makes a good deal of truthful points, his opinions are subjective.

    With respect to the other article concerning flight control sensitivity by McClellan,this is another attempt at sensationalizing something he is not qualified to comment on. I’d like to know what flight test experience McClellan has and what his ulterior motives are. It is my opinion that he too will likely enter the ranks of exert witnesses available for hire. After all, his tenure at Sport Aviation is nearly up, and I am thankful for that.

    All that said, I would not refuse to testify at a trial if it was concerning something I could provide to the court as what I believed to be the truth. I would however, refuse payment for performing that service, which I would classify as my civic duty.

    Happy Thanksgiving William, I hope tomorrow is a good day for you and your family.

    Warm Regards,
    Jon Ross

  2. William,

    Silly me. When I read J Mac’s latest blog, I thought he was just out there in left field talking about something he knew nothing about. I was half right.

    I just did not understand the ulterior motives of people like he and Mr. Busch. Your explanation is scarily plausible. If not llikely

    Semper Fi,

    Terry Hand

  3. While I can agree that many EAB aircraft could stand some improvement in handling qualities I can say that as someone who actually has an Aeronautical Engineering degree and has worked in the Flight Test and Certification of aircraft (Piper Cheyenne III). Mr McClellan can make neither such claim and is just a writer with a lot of flight time in expensive certified aircraft who is struggling to come up with ideas to fulfill his commitment for output of articles for print and blog.

    The bottom line is that EAB aircraft are in no way certified by the FAA and in many cases the high control response is a factor that was designed into the aircraft when one considers that many claim acrobatic capabilities. That is why you have to put that passenger warning decal in the cockpit and it says it all. That the EAA would hire this person who has no experience with or interest in EAB aircraft to come in and manage its flagship publication is an outrage. Yes an RV-8 does not fly like his prized Baron but I would guess that few if any RV-8 builders/owners would be interested in a trade. If he was ever to go out and serve as an expert witness against a kit supplier or designer he would probably find his reseption at the next Oshkosh to be chilley if not outright hostile.

    As for paid experts in civil litigation I personally would never pay them any attention if I was on a jury. When was the last time that a paid expert actually had something to say that was not in support of the position of the party who is paying. It is not unlike getting testimony from a criminal who is getting reduced charges or sentence in exchange for helpful testimony. You have to wonder if either is really being honest or just saying what is in their best interest.

    Keep up the good articles William, someone has to expose these people for what they are.

  4. The sad fact is that almost no one under the age of 30 knows who the initials T.R. belong to. Even 30 may be generous.

  5. I want to add a small counterpoint – I am an regular working engineer who has occasionally done expert witness work for lawyers representing people suing large organizations (both government and industry) and at other times for lawyers defending same (but of course in a different case). These were all “class action” lawsuits where the defendant was accused of neglect or malfeasance leading to injury.

    In doing this work, I developed some appreciation for the plaintiffs’ law firm, who typically is representing the “poor little guys” going up against the “big bad machine”, and doing it on a 100% contingency fee basis. No win, no paycheck. Think about the recent large recalls by GM, where it was shown that they ignored the public’s safety on purpose, just for monetary reasons.

    I also came to sometimes appreciate the position of the large companies or governmental agencies, who because of their deep pockets are targeted by every Tom, Dick and Harry who thinks he can get an easy payday. Think about all the companies that were sued after Payne Stewart’s jet crash, or how Parker-Hannefin was targeted after Gov. Carnahan’s Cessna 335 went down, and finally later forced out of the business, even though the NTSB assigned no blame to them and showed that all the vacuum powered instruments were working at the time of the crash!

    Since it is company I work for that is contracted at a standard rate (no contingency money), and since this kind of work is covered by my regular salary, I have no “skin in the game”. When being deposed in these cases, the other side’s lawyers will often waste 15 minutes learning that I am NOT a professional expert witness and that I do NOT get directly paid by the side I am working for, and that I’m doing it for regular rates that are 1/2 or less what the “experts” get paid. Usually lends some credibility to my results.

    Of course, it is up to any professional engineer to maintain his own analytical integrity and to attempt to find true and correct results. Whether these results help or hinder the side we’ve contracted to is not known beforehand. Of course, there *is* a contract and if my work shows the other side is probably right, I don’t get deposed and I’m legally bound to keep my mouth shut about it. But I get paid the same either way.

    Andy Elliott

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