Something to be grateful for

On this day, on the eve of the holiest day in the Christian year, perhaps it is a good occasion to pause and consider what is worth being thankful for. Aviation is the centerpiece of my life’s work, and it is easy to forget that the achievable dreams of aviators here, are not possible to the great majority of people on earth. By the absolute luck of our birth, something none of us ‘earned’, we live in a world that has freedom for individuals to strive for things that others will never be allowed to know.

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Think about this:

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In the one hundred and eleven years since the wright brothers flew, more than eight billion humans have been born on this planet. Out of this number, perhaps fewer than 450,000 have flown a privately owned plane, and maybe a tenth of that number has flown an aircraft that they built themselves. The overwhelming number of flights of aircraft that were personal creations of the pilot happened in America.

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I do not conjure this thought to congratulate my countrymen; quite the reverse. I mention it as a reminder of their indescribable good fortune of being born in our imperfect country, but the one that affords an incredible head start on an individual achieving flight on their own skills, a dream that predates modern recorded history and perhaps language itself. Consider your good fortune compared to vast majority of humans on this planet: I don’t think your fellow humans begrudge your fortune, but I believe that they would beseech you to do something with it.

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Picture a 15 year old young man in the slums of the Angolan city of Ondjiva. He is watching a Beech 1900 of Air Nambia that comes to his small city twice a week. He wanted to fly planes but he never will. He is missing both of his feet, as he stepped on a land mine when he was 12. It had been put in the ground 24 years before he was born. The helicopter flight that saved his life will be the only time in his life he is airborne, and he does not remember it. He consoles himself that there really was no chance he would have been allowed to fly anyway, as he is a member of one of Angola’s numerous ethnic minorities, he would have been excluded from doing anything meaningful with his life, yet he still looks at the planes.  Had he been born here, his story might have been very different. His handicap would not have stopped him from flying, even racing planes. Even as a minority, could have gone to college and earned a degree in aerospace engineering, serving for decades designing cutting edge aircraft. If he was born here, he could have been Neil Loving

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Imagine a 13 year old girl living in Conakry Guinea, west Africa. It is a city of two million people, and you have never heard of it. She is watching an airliner trace a line across the sky. She has done well in school, and hopes to escape the poverty of her world and her dream is to fly one of those planes. But her dream will never happen. Her culture is world epicenter of the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation, and it is done to 96% of the women there. It is not done by the state, nor the faith, but it will be done to her by her family, who will believe they are making her a much better servant and wife, the only goal they can imagine for her. Had this girl been born here, and dreamed of flying to expand her world beyond being a mother and wife, she could have been Jerrie Mock.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerrie_Mock

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Perhaps there is a 20 year old man in Gansu province China. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, and the average wage is less that $2 a day. He has always liked machines, and harbors a private dream of being a pilot one day, but it will never happen. In a country that still has hundreds of millions of people living on less than $5 a day, there is no opportunity. He is bright, and worked hard in school, but he took a standardized test when he was 14 he didn’t do well. He knows this ended any chance of further schooling and effectively sentenced him to a life of subsistence toil. Still, when a plane flies overhead, he can not help himself, he looks up and follows it path in the sky and wonders what his life might have been. Had this man had the fortune of being born here, he would have found that our system places value on all kinds of thinking. He would be stunned to learn that one of the most influential aviators of all time had an IQ of 88. His name was John Boyd.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Boyd_(military_strategist)

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Think of a 19 year old woman living in Ahvaz, one of the eight cities in Iran with a population over one million. As a girl she listened to her fathers stories of working on F-14s in the Iranian Air force at Mehrabad. When she was too young to know better, she told he father she wanted to be a pilot. She did not understand the look on his face or why he stopped speaking of planes to her. That was many years ago, but she still thinks about her dream when she sees a plane. But this is not her real secret. What she can not share with anyone is far more dangerous, and carries a penalty in her country: She is attracted to other women. She is good at hiding this, but one day when she is older, in a moment of weakness she will confide in the wrong person, and this will end with her in prison for 20 years. It will be considered “merciful”, she could have been sentenced to death by stoning. If this woman had been born here, she could have done anything she wanted in aviation. Her attractions would not have been a crime, and the certainly would not have been the business of the state, or anyone else. Had she been born here, she could have been Sally Ride.

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Ride-s.jpg

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Ride

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 Think about it……….

Sherpas. Part #2

Builders:

Maybe you read yesterdays story on Sherpas and thought my central point, that no one should follow the advice of anyone who has never built a flying plane, was a little obvious, and that everyone knows that, it’s just a given.  If you are aware of that, you have probably been around planes for a while. On the other hand, a great number of new arrivals in homebuilding either don’t know this, or think I am overstating this. I am not.

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Above, the EFI 2,700cc Corvair in 2007, at power on my dyno. This was built as a joint project with Mark at Falcon. Conclusion: It offered little or no benefit while adopting a giant level of additional risk over a simple carb. Read more here: Testing and Data Collection reference page If you want to understand what successful people are doing, read this: Carburetor Reference page

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Case in point: A potential builder contacted today expresses an interest in EFI, specifically one promoted by a guy named Robert Haynes. New guy undoubtably read Haynes’s website, which clearly states that Haynes has been working on this project for 11 years, and it has never satisfactory run, far less flown. That  is the definition of a guy standing in the village for more than a decade telling people that he is going to climb the mountain real soon, just as soon as he gets his electronic climbing gadget to work. The new arrival is yet to understand why people who want to climb the mountain work with Sherpas.

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Haynes is at least direct and honest, if misguided. He says he doesn’t believe in 5th bearings, and he is so cheap that he assembled his engine with an old worn stock cam and gear. He changed the rod bolts and goes through an elaborate balancing routine, completely missing that resizing the rods is the critical element of rebuilding them, the one step he didn’t do. His basic engine is flawed, and represents an obsession with rationalizing not doing any of the advancements we have made in Corvair in the last 15 years. He then uses this as the basis of a decade long search for a way to make a cheap homebuilt EFI system. If you are thinking I am kidding about this, the site is: http://www.hainesengineering.com/rhaines/aircraft/corvair.htm. If you think I am judging harshly, read the part where he took apart a very filthy, internally rusty core, and he is actually going to use the same lifters again, because spending $3.60 each for new ones is a waste of money in his book.

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Now think that our new arrival looked at Haynes’s website, including his wooden motor mount and plywood disc in place of a test prop, the engine roughly running for 20 seconds in a video clip without a cooling shroud, nor even a rudimentary exhaust system, read descriptions of going through a series of batteries trying to make it run, even looked at Haynes welding skills like the photo below, and believes that this guy is on to something that negates my observations on EFI : Fuel Injection – Corvair flight engines reference page

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thatcher cx4

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Above, a photo of the motor mount weld Hanes did for his VW powered Thacher CX4 project. If this was good enough to photograph and use, I contend that Mr. Haynes doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know about aircraft construction. If you are not familiar with the definition of the word “Hubris”, take a moment to look it up, it will enrich your understanding of a mindset that does not match well with building planes.

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Haynes might be a very nice family man, clever with computers, but his value system and workmanship has not generated anything one would include in their Corvair with the expectation of trouble free reliable performance, but evidently the new arrival to village saw this and still thought that some of these ideas were better than what the Sherpas of the flying Corvair world are doing. In 25 years of homebuiling, I have met countless people who held the same perspective, yet I can’t think of any who built a reliable plane.

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There is a mindset that wants to believe that there are countless ‘un discovered’ improvements to any system developed over 25 years that can be revealed by an amateur who looks at it for a week, particularly if that amateur is going to apply high tech in the form of electronics. The root interest is almost always the promise of saving money, or not having to put in some type of work.  It doesn’t matter that they have thought this most of their life but can’t cite 2 example cases of it being true.  If any new arrival thinks that a guy with rusty old lifters in an engine he thinks he will fly with his kids, has discovered something about Corvair powered flight that I don’t know, he is working with a mindset that is common to many people who have not, and will likely never build and fly a plane. People can send me hate mail over that, but they can’t send evidence refuting it.

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It is important to me that Homebuilding find better ways of binging new people in, not just as a spectator/ EAA member but as real, active builders with an effective plan for success, which I define as finishing a good, reliable plane and really learning skills, traditions and ethics of aviation. That is transformative in a persons life, most other aviation experiences pale in comparison.

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So, How do we get more people into a position where they have a fair chance at success in homebuilding? First, you have to be honest with them. You have to tell then that the odds are against them going in, so before they look at anything else about it, they should me most interested in one single thing: Understanding the different approaches between the 20% who make it and the 80% who don’t. If they are focused on anything else, but have not even considered this, they are almost certainly in the 80%.

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In reality the new builders don’t divide into neat groups of reasonable and unreasonable. This division and the percentages actually exist inside each new builder, and I believe that you can appeal to the reasonable side of each builder by articulately explaining why he might want to invest the real effort in transforming is abilities and knowledge, and how merely finding a short cut to a finished plane is not synonymous with this. You will not reach all people, and some will take time, but after decades of hands on teach in writing, I still think it is worth the effort. -ww.