Waiting for the bus from Unicorntown to Cyberville

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Many people want to believe that some new product in aviation will arrive and ‘revolutionize’ everything. I think the root of this fantasy is that they would like the work and learning to be removed and save them the effort required to stand in front of a machine and say “I built this plane.” I have been in aviation for 25 years, I have seen 25 seasons of ‘revolutionary!’ things come and go with little or no affect on accessibility to flight for working Americans.

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I have watched many of the same people get taken in by a new ‘revolutionary!’ idea every few years, never seeing that they would have been long flying if they had just given up on ‘new revolutionary!’ products with lottery ticket odds of success, and instead embraced the philosophy of proven designs with a track record in place of a promise. These people often willfully ignore that the providers of this years miracle product are frequently the same people behind a previously promoted miracle.

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( I have published some elements of this before, but it is worth reading at the start of a new year, now when the is an opportunity to consider and plan for 2015. I guarantee progress for people who plan and work, people who choose to wait also have a guarantee: that nothing will happen.-ww. )

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Above, Phil Maxon’s 601XL airborne over the Florida coast at Ponce Inlet, 2006. Phil started the kit in NJ in 2000, worked on it until bringing it down to our hangar at the end of 2005 for engine installation, inspection and having it’s test time flown off. It was the second Corvair powered 601XL, after our own.

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Phil has a very busy life as a husband, father, corporate program manager, and community member. He did not neglect these commitments, he fit the kit in around them. Five years may sound like a long time, but consider that he has now had the aircraft flying for 8 years of adventures. This includes many long trips, perfect flights, and moments that last a lifetime. He is a vastly more knowledgeable mechanic now, and something of a motorhead. He did not endlessly look for a short cut. Conversely, he studied his options, made a plan, and stuck with it. The golden rule of homebuilding: Persistence Pays. Read more at this link: Phil Maxson goes to 3,000 cc for his 601XL

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Getting out the book, rolling up ones sleeves and getting your hands dirty is a serious act of self-empowerment, the acknowledgement that your own aircraft will only come from your understanding and labor. There is no ‘miracle, revolutionary, high tech’ white knight solution that will arrive at your shop and suddenly provide you with access to the world of personal experimental flight without learning and work. Yet, this year, as all previous years, we will see a majority of potential builders sit and wait and exchange rumors of the imminent arrival of their white knight. Often their adherence to this philosophy is absolute, they will still be waiting many years from now,when the last page of their story is written.

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Here is my perspective: Aviation costs money. About the least expensive plane I can picture has an all up cost of $10,000. Let’s say that you take 8 years to build it, that’s $1,250/year or $3 and 42 cents a day. If you smoke or drink coffee, you spend a lot more than this. Don’t like to hear about 8 years? Want to change that? Here is the easy way: Do nothing this year, and next year it will be nine years. $20 a day for 3 years is $21,900. For that kind of money you can have many airplanes. Being wealthy isn’t the key, getting started is.

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Take this thought with you: You can’t really change the cost of planes by more than 25% or 35% even by extreme scrounging and plans building. There is no way to drop the cost by 75%, stuff just costs money at some point. Here is what you do control: What you get out of building and flying. Picture two guys, both spend 4 years, and 2,000 hours building a plane, and 50 hours aloft and 200 studying to get a LSA rating. It’s five years into it. If guy “A” was a super scrounger, bought a used kit and spent only $20K vs guy “B” who spent $34K for the same plane by purchasing a kit and getting all his parts from Aircraft Spruce instead of the flymart, Which builder got the better value? Who won?

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The correct answer: The guy who actually mastered each skill, learned the why’s of every step, didn’t just do every task to minimums, but aimed to master it. The guy who sought to know every piece and part of his plane and its correct care, feeding and operation. He aimed higher, did more. He has been changed by the experience, the guy who just did the minimums only accomplished the task, but it wasn’t transformative. Real value isn’t based just on what it cost, it is far more affected by the other side of the equation…what did you get out of it? On this point, the majority of builders cheat themselves. Reading the book Stick and Rudder is all about aiming to get the best value out of the hours of your life you invest in homebuilding and flying. The book is for aviators who will master light plane flight, not just be adequate at it. Use this pattern in everything you do in aviation. It is far better to be the master of a simplified plane and flight plan than just barely in control of a set of circumstances. Let aviation be the part of your life without compromise.

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Years ago I was a contributor to a large Internet discussion group. If you read the archives, I left 400 stories there, before I was banned for life due to poor etiquette. In retrospect, most of my time there was wasted. In 10 years, the site produced only a handful of flyers, most of whom were already regular builders of ours. The great majority of the several hundred readers there were just doing one thing: Waiting.

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What for you ask? Something better than what I was showing them could be done. I was basically showing how a very good engine that weighed 225 pounds, cost $5,000, burned 5 gallons an hour, and lasted 1,000 hours could be built, if you were willing to learn a little and get your hands dirty, and think some. Yet the vast majority of readers thought that was not good enough. Every time some troll/daydreamer/psycho surfaced and said “I know how to save 35 pounds!” they waited to see how he would do it. When people said “I know how to have an EFI system for $200,” they waited to see how it worked. When people said “We can use shareware and develop this as a Net group,” people waited. Every new thing discussed, virtually all of which turned out to be pure unicorns, was cause for these men to wait.

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Their waiting is partially driven by the “consumer electronics experience.” To these people, their cell phones were vastly better and far cheaper than the ones they had 10 years before, why shouldn’t they expect the same from Corvairs? Because it is the mechanical world, not electronics, and it doesn’t work that way in metal, and things that you can fly. Popular Mechanics has been telling readers for 60 years that personal helicopters are 2 years away,  People who wait eat this stuff up as the sand runs out of their personal hour-glass.

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Many of the ones who were there 10 years ago are still there waiting, certain that this week, someone will show up and tell them how to build a 170 pound Corvair that has EFI, is reliable, burns 2.5 gallons per hour, makes 130 hp, assembles itself, lasts 2,500 hours for an investment of $1,500, no check that, $995. They will be waiting there in another 10 years because that bus isn’t ever going to come. The rainbow bus line from Unicorntown doesn’t have a stop on reality street, it only is headed to cyberville, and there is no airport in cyberville.

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Decide tonight that you will not be one of these people.

Corvair College #32, Texas, 27 Feb. 2015

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-ww.

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Further reading: Unicorns vs Ponies.

 

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 www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

One Response to Waiting for the bus from Unicorntown to Cyberville

  1. John Edwards says:

    WELL SAID!

    Getting off my lazy butt and back to work on my CH701/Corvair project!

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