Van’s Aircraft Lawsuit from another angle

Builders,

By now, most homebuilders have heard that Van’s Aircraft, the largest company in homebuilding, is being sued for millions of dollars over what most people consider a baseless claim. While rank and file homebuilders may see this as just another get rich quick scheme from an ambulance chasing attorney and a lottery ticket mentality client, I would like to draw your attention to another possibility to explain the motivation for such a suit.

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I have seen the ugly underbelly of homebuilding and written a number of stories about it. These do not endear the powerful in our industry. If you have not read them, take 10 minutes to read this: Expert Witnesses in civil Aviation trials. and this one also: An opinion in search of a lawsuit. Because it relates to this story, it is worth looking at ‘hired guns’ in homebuilding: 2,500 words about levels of aircraft finish……

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A bit of history: 20 years ago Mooney was going broke producing a few dozen planes a year. The perceived that part of their issue was they were trying to sell very expensive 4 seat, 250mph planes, but many potential customers were instead opting to have ‘hired guns’ build them a 4 seat, 350 mph Lancair IV-P, because it was pressurized, went 100 mph faster on the same fuel burn, and finished up about $100K less. (If you question this history, read the ‘hired gun’ story above, where I confess to being one of these people.) Mooney successfully lobbied the FAA to issue a directive to all the DAR’s in the country to have them specifically deny airworthiness certificates to Lancair IV’s they suspected of being built by hired guns. It had little effect, there was a lot of money in the game, and owners who wanted to get around the letter could always find a DAR who liked green money. But, none the less, it was established that high end homebuilts were the potential economic enemy of overpriced or antiquated certificated designs. The main reason why Mooney didn’t get far was they had no money nor strong influence in industry. A few years later they ended their run as a public company, and their stock was bought back for something like 17 cents a share.

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Fast forward to todays lawsuit: First a disclaimer: I have no evidence that my point here is the actual motivation, or partial motivation for the suit. What I am doing here is discussing the possibility that it is, and my suspicions. That is called my right to think, and it isn’t actionable slander nor libel. Read the idea, consider it, come to your own conclusions. It would be very nice if my idea was proven to be paranoid, but I have learned it is not wise to place great faith in all humans when a lot of money is involved.

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Read the lawsuit carefully. It describes homebuilding as a ‘loop hole” in the federal regulations. (this is a joke, but consider the possible goal) It also mentions that parties that produce certificated aircraft like Cirrus and Mooney, suffer economic damage from homebuilding. (In the era of ‘hired guns’ and lax enforcement of rules, this was partially true, but your average RV builder isn’t detracting anything from certificated sales today)  Although I have no direct evidence, I have some strong suspicions that today’s ownership of certificated planes strongly supports the wording of this lawsuit, and would gleefully support a decision that would cripple Van’s Aircraft, particularly if it would knock the RV-10 from the market place.

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In the 1990’s Money was powerless to sustain an attack on homebuilding because they were going broke. Conversely, today Both Cirrus and Mooney are owned by a very deep pocket, The government of the Peoples ‘Republic’ of China.  Read the words of the lawsuit and decide for yourself who’s interest it is in that homebuilts be considered a “loop hole”.

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You will not hear any discussion from official sources, nor industry people about the potential role of deep pockets in this lawsuit.  In the ‘new EAA’ a company like Cirrus is more important than Van’s aircraft.  This is an effect of having the ‘big tent’ approach and forgetting what the first initial of the EAA stands for. Our President, is the former CEO of Cessna who moved the C-162 production to China. I suspect he has a great number of friends from the PRC, and recognizes that they are too big a contributor to the ‘corporate’ EAA to be pissed off.

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It is very hard to overstate the influence of foreign money in general aviation today.  Read this: Communist Chinese government at Oshkosh, for a bit of perspective. If you want to have a clearer picture of how they also own a lot of ‘journalists’, go back and read how many prominent writers came out of the woodwork when the Chinese bought Continental motors to write positive reviews of how great this was going to be for everyone. You would have to be a stooge to think that these were not written for money or serious perks. Consider this when reading any industry persons comments, or even considering why they would be silent when a great company like Van’s is being attacked by a baseless lawsuit.

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If you think this all sounds preposterous, do a little research and read up on how Superior engines, once an American owned business, was purchased by the Chinese. Their major competitor was ECI. Superior supported an all out effort to get the FAA to issue a massive AD on ECI products. ‘Engine experts’ pretending to be on no ones payroll, chimed in on this in support of Superior. In time this drastically affected the value of ECI as a business.  And just like that, Superior turned around and Purchased ECI, at a greatly reduced value. Follow that: A foreign owned company plays a role lobbying the US federal agency, the FAA to take an action that will reduce the value of a US owned company so they can buy it cheaper. After the sale, the same ‘engine experts’ are silent about ECI’s products. If Van’s aircraft is laid low by a judgment in this suit, have zero surprise if the Chinese government shows up as a new potential owner.

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My favorite lie ever told at Oshkosh: When Kim Winner, Continental’s marketing rep. at Oshkosh was asked about the company moving production from the US to China, she came up with this spin: She told everyone present that this was just the company moving parts to China to ‘service the underground private flying market in China that the Government didn’t know about’.  I asked how it was that Continental could be owned by the Chinese government, and be shipping parts to people who were allegedly flying Continental powered light aircraft in China, yet the same government, in a police state, would be totally unaware that such flying was taking place. No answer. Evidently the people who dreamed up that spin for Kim to present at Oshkosh were from the same school as the ones who told a guy from Arkansas that saying he “didn’t inhale” would allow him to pass as an honest person.

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-ww.

 

The Vindication of Persistence

Builders,

November may be the best month in Florida. The leaves are still on the trees, the grass is green, and most days are spectacularly clear, while tee shirt weather stays for a few more weeks. These were the conditions present at our airport over the holiday weekend, and it was perfect weather for the test flights of the third SPA/Panther.

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You can read the story at this link:

http://flywithspa.com/stephen-pedanos-panther-ls-maiden-flight-is-a-success/

But I would like to share some of the unspoken larger picture brought in focus by this flight.  Understand that for every 100 new experimental designs announced, maybe 50 actually have a flying prototype built; of these 50, maybe 25 ever accumulate 100 hours;  of those 25, maybe 10 have a second one ever built, and of those 10, perhaps 2 designs ever see a third airframe built. It is from these two of a hundred come all the long lived homebuilt companies that provide proven opportunities  to homebuilders.

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In the few short years of the Panther’s history, it has been met with near universal praise. They have sold, and delivered more than 50 kits, and have expanded to not only fill this demand, but also have kits ‘on the shelf.’ Most people focus on the design itself as the source of the success. I disagree; I believe that it is the people, not the plane. The right people will produce the right design. The wrong people, even if the stumble into a clever layout, will still not be successful in the long run.

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To people who know Dan and Rachel Weseman, there was never any question they would succeed in the world of homebuilts, because people who know them understand they are the ‘right’ people. They have the characteristics of success, read this story for some insight: Panther Roll out.

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I personally think that the #1 quality of success is persistence. At Oshkosh forums when people ask: ‘who is more likely to finish a homebuilt, a guy with cubic dollars but few skills, or a highly skilled guy with few funds?’ I always point out that smart money is on which ever of the two is persistent. (The concept is the root of this story: 100 HP Corvair, Tim Hansen , Persistence Pays.)

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As 2015 is winding down, and you look for ways to improve your progress in 2016, I suggest focusing on developing persistence. The coming year will not likely have a greatly different disposable income, nor will it have more than 24 hours in a day. The one variable that you do control is how determined you are to make progress and achieve your goals. How consistently you can focus your resources, while remaining positive, is the measure of your persistence.  This will be the most important factor, and it is entirely up to you.

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Above, A twelve year old photo of Dan Weseman, taken at Corvair College #8 at our old Edgewater hangar. There were 70 people at CC #8, but few are in the photo because it was well past midnight. The picture speaks volumes about persistence. Dan had a lot of fun as a builder at those early colleges, but he also stayed up very late and got everything out of the events, which was how he has always approached homebuilding. The following year he flew his Corvair powered Sonex back to Corvair College #9.

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The fact he is an incredibly valuable industry asset, playing a positive role in countless homebuilders projects dozen years later comes as little surprise. He relentlessly applied himself to every opportunity to learn and expand his own personal skill set, and worked to share this with others. This is what you get when you distill the homebuilding experience to it most fundamental elements. It also happens to be a blueprint for any builders personal path to find the real rewards in building and mastering your own aircraft.

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Dan never pays attention to trolls, but I am cursed with the memory of an elephant and a contempt for people who are compulsive critics, particularly critics without the courage to use their real names. When the Panther was the most talked about aircraft Oshkosh, one of the few negative people was a ‘personality’ on Homebuiltaircraft.com who is an expatriate living in China, who never met Dan, nor saw the plane, but felt it was his duty to condemn it from his safe anonymity in the land of Chairman Mao.  As the Panther success story has vindicated the program, the ‘personality’ has gone on to hundreds of other negative comments on other designs. I guess everyone works to create the reality they feel they deserve. For some people, this means creating a highly successful aircraft company, and for others it means being an anonymous person complaining on the net while kowtowing to police state masters.

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-ww.