2015 Your year in aviation?

Builders:

I pose the title as a question because what you get out of aviation in 2015 will largely be up to you.

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Ken Pavlou holds the Cherry Grove trophy at CC#31 Barnwell 2014. His aircraft is named “The Blue Speedo.”  He just wrote in yesterday to say the plane now has 200 hours on it, about 30 hours a month since it was finished. In 2014 this included flying off his 40 hours, a week at Oshkosh, and a long trip to Barnwell SC. These events came to his life, not because he was lucky, but rather because he was willing years before, to head out to the shop and make an hours progress on that day. It doesn’t matter who you are, the golden rule of success in homebuilding remains the same: Persistence Pays.

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2014 was a year of solid progress for us. We accomplished many things that laid a solid foundation for smooth, production in 2015.  First and foremost, the introduction of the new conversion manual. Brand New 250 page 2014 Manual- Done.  Although it took about 2,500 hours of writing and editing over 24 months to produce, it was well worth it because it makes building an engine far easier than the previous manual, and it effectively puts more working hours in every one of my weeks from now on, because it comprehensively answers most builders questions that they previously called about or wrote in with.

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The year also saw a lot of long term projects become fully tested and evolve to regular product status. 2400-L Starter, the 3,000 cc Corvair Engine Details, our new source for heads here in Jacksonville, and 1100-WW Camshaft Group along with details like All about Dipsticks, Part #2206 and Adjustable Oil Pressure Regulator, #2010A, and systems like the Bearhawk LSA Engine Mount, P/N #4201-E are a few that come to mind. It is a long list of R&D items that came to active duty. These were all time and resource consuming, but allow us to fill the existing orders for production engines with better cleaner, lighter designs. The reward is engines like this one: Night Engine Run, December 20, 2014, will be smoothly coming off the production line in our shop this year, and builders around the country will be building their own, just like them, in their shops, just like this:12 Cylinders / 6.0L of Corvair Power for JAG-2 run at CC#31 

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Along with the new manual and many new parts and systems, New EAA video on Corvair College#27, Barnwell 2013., the SPA/ Panther with it’s Corvair, Panther Prototype Engine 3,000 cc/120 hp to OSH (  https://flywithspa.com/  ) made it to the cover of a number of magazines including Kitplanes and The Experimenter, a very effective demonstration of the popularity and potential of the Corvair. ( see: 3,000 cc Panther flight videos) There were many other notable flights including Coast to Coast and back in Corvair powered KR-2S and 1,500 mile Corvair College flight in a 601XL. We had four Colleges that were attended by almost 300 builders, and a very productive week at Airventure; Pictures from Oshkosh 2014

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Looking at the above three paragraphs and their links, most people would conclude that Corvairs had a pretty good year in 2014.  Most does not mean all: I had an aviation salesman who doesn’t like me send an email saying that he knows Corvairs are fading out and we can’t be getting many new people involved. Evidently people are entitled to their own set of facts. People will believe what they need to, and you will always encounter such people. If the first two elements of decision making in aviation are being able to accurately observe events and then evaluate their meaning, you can question such a persons judgment. You will find one of these negative people in nearly every EAA chapter and on every discussion group, Even when presented with a full years worth of success and advancements, they will still insist that Corvairs don’t really work.

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I once thought that our continued success on a national stage would change this, but it never has. Most of the people who make these comments are driven by long held bias, based on little or no information and/or a personal dislike for things I have said or advocated. Either way, if someone allows such talk to sap their actions in experimental aviation, they are effectively ceding control of their personal destiny to a negative person they have never met.

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Above, myself, Grace and the legendary Chris Heintz, at Oshkosh 2014. In the pantheon of men who have championed affordable aircraft for working people, I consider this man on a plateau with Bernard Pietenpol and Steve Wittman. 25 years ago I was a student at Embry-Riddle, and Heintz’s published work on aircraft design and structures had a profound influence on my understanding.

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As a guest speaker at Zenith events in the last 10 years, I have always taken the opportunity to highlight this man’s work and direct service to homebuilders. In person, the man is relaxed and approachable, his insight available for the asking. Some of the best designers have been this way, For a look at what is available to anyone who simply decides that he will not sit on the sidelines of the Arena, read this: From The Past: With Steve Wittman 20 years ago today

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Over the last 15 years I have been outspoken on the topic of risk management. You can get an introduction to this here: Risk Management reference page. This will not change in 2015. One of the largest issues facing homebuilding is a 2011 federal report highlighting the elevated homebuilt accident rate. If you read the report, the source of trouble is no mystery: it is people willfully doing stupid things like being the second owner of a homebuilt and trying to fly it with no transition training. see: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #7, Nothing to Learn. Anyone who doubts this needs to know that it has been statistically proven that the first flight of an experimental’s second owner is actually more dangerous than the first flight the plane made. I find that astounding, but it is true.

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Although I have worked very hard to make the Corvair movement an oasis of good judgment and risk management, 2014 saw a large number of stupid accidents in Corvair powered planes, including one running out of gas and one crashing on the first flight with two people in the plane: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #6, 98% DNA not enough. These accidents are an unnecessary stain on the good work of everyone in the Corvair movement. It is an unfair fact that few, if any of the people hearing of these correctly understood that these events had nothing to do with the type of powerlant on the plane. These accidents do not happen by random chance, and all any new builder has to do to exempt himself is decide right now that he will read and understand directions, seek information and training only from qualified people, not cut corners, and stop what he is doing when I suggest he does. If you are new to homebuilding please read this for a fresh perspective on your control of your own path: Concerned about your potential?

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On her 51st birthday, my oldest friend in the world shared a lesson she would have liked to learn sooner: “One is not required to show up for every fight you are invited to.”  To people who lead their entire lives trying to avoid conflict at any cost, this is totally obvious. However to people like me it comes as something of a bit of late arriving wisdom.

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In keeping with this, here is something that will be different in 2015: After 10 years of being willing to publish experimental aviation’s’ dirty little secrets that the connected, powerful and those with a scam don’t want rank and file builders to know, I am dropping it. Writting these stories was important, but it has earned me a very long list of people who dislike me.  I have come to the conclusion it isn’t worth it because 90% of homebuilders don’t care, they are only focused typically on “what is in it for them.” They have no allegiance protecting our industry so it will be here for the builders who will follow after us. Writing stories like Communist Chinese government at Oshkosh should have sparked some outrage, but really the only effect was a number of connected people, like Richard Finch working very hard to get me black listed as a writer. If I had any significant evidence that the writing had an effect, I would still do it, but I will freely admit that most people who read it do not care.

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Here is excellent example; in the story: An opinion in search of a lawsuit I pointed out the case that an EAA employee was using the magazine to lay the ground work for making himself rich as an expert witness. Some people who read this openly debated if I was right. Here is the answer: after the story was published, the Man’s personal website was amended with a highlighted statement on the front page advertising that he is available as a paid expert witness. But, critically, I don’t feel that many people even care.

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We are now, generally speaking, a country of complacent cynics. As much as I hate to concede this, we are getting the level of honesty and aviation leadership that we deserve for this, which is pretty low. If a man doesn’t demand better, he will not have it; He does not have free speech if he is intimidated or too lazy to use it, and if he never once spoke up because he was always afraid for his job, then he was never a free man, the system simply owned him. I have had a 10 year run in the batters box, but have just come to the awareness that there is almost no one in the stadium and people long ago stopped caring what the score was.

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After a quarter of a century of working in experimental aviation every day, I will flatly state that the most interesting part of aviation to me remains what the setting reveals about the real character of humans. This is the same subject that Ernest Gann was always focused on. He didn’t write about planes, be wrote about people, and that is where my interest is.

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I have been fortunate to have met many real humans of character in the last 25 years; I have read the biographies of several hundred aviators, and to me, there is always some connection that even the novice homebuilder or student pilot will have with these people that outsiders, or people content to sit as spectators outside the arena, will not have. Character is not just in the famous nor the heroic; it is revealed in how anyone faces conflict. To understand my perspective on human character, read: The cost of being Charles Lindbergh.

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Aviators have some insight to human condition that few people take the time to develop. If one takes the time to consider what is real and what is important, you will then find meaning in many other lives, their lessons overlooked or forgotten by the majority of people who are simply taking another spin on the hamster wheel of day-to-day consumer life. You can find a very insightful story on a mans life and death at this link: Something worth an hour’s read

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I do not need, nor wish that characters be spotless heros or knights. Pappy Boyington was neither. He was a warrior and a deeply flawed human being. He was never in control of how the world wanted to see him. He was the recipient of the adoration many have for heros, but this is no substitute for the actual care and love of friends, which he was incapable of finding and keeping. That curse would be punishment enough for a man who flew for the Third Reich, but fate inflicted it on a man who was one of our own.

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The general public can debate the man’s life without connection. But an aviator with some sense of awareness can have a far greater insight. Any pilot who has written “1.0 hr.” in a log book when the flight was really 40 minutes, or ever said something after drinking that he never would have sober, has had a chance to look over the edge of a Grand Canyon sized abyss, a bottomless pit that Boyington fell into. The other side of this: if you are alone, aloft in a plane at the end of the day, and there is an inner, inexpressible sense of being in the right place, you are also connected to one of the very few elements of life that ever served Boyington a moments rest.

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I stand next to EAA and SAA founder Paul Poberezny at the 2003 SAA Fly In.  Read the story at: Speaking of Paul Poberezny He will always remain experimental aviation’s #1 character.

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What will your year in aviation hold for 2015? Only the things you are willing to work for, invest yourself in, and treat as an real endeavor. It is entirely up to you, you just have to show up for it like it was your own life. -ww.

 

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Consider reading: Thought for the Day: Time…..Your enemy.

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