Six months ago I wrote this story: Comments on aircraft accidents, and I would hope that builders who missed it then will take 5 minutes to read it now. It includes important perspectives I would like builders to stop and really consider, like this:
“Even if a builder had a god’s eye view of what went wrong in every accident of the type of plane he is building, this still doesn’t tell him anything about what is right, only what is wrong. Study success at least as much as failure.”
One of the elements of the story is how often I am called to provide information on experimental aircraft accidents, and the strong restrictions on disclosing any information about ongoing investigations before the final report is issued. To give you some idea about how long a process is, I spent some time last week working with the feds on an accident from the middle of last year. The investigation is now done, but the report isn’t out yet, so there isn’t much I can say about it, but here are a few things:
None of the things speculators said on the net were even remotely close to the probable cause, and that includes what the pilot initially thought the issue was. Like the great number of experimental accidents. it would have been prevented if the pilot had just exercised better judgment. The one fortunate thing about the accident was the pilots injuries were low. Most of the people looking at the accident were very surprised he lived. Even people who have seen a great number of accidents, and know the damage can appear random, made comments about how lucky this guy was in light of the choices he made.
On this last point, I made the comment in the title of this story. I can share it now because it was not put in the official record. Over the years I have supplied background information and test data for a number of accidents, and you can see it in a number of older final reports. While there isn’t a section for philosophy in final reports, maybe there should be one day. I would certainly like reader of the report to understand that if they replicated the decision making of pilot, they would likely not live. No one should take this mans survival as an endorsement of his choices, skills or even the strength of the airframe design. When I have to consider it in comparison to a number of very skilled pilots I knew who did not survive their own accidents, (Risk Management reference page), I can only conclude that “God has a sense of humor I am yet to understand.”
Above, the 1894 Paul Gauguin Painting “Day of the god.”It was inspired by his first visit to Polynesia, today it is in the Art institute in Chicago. I have long studied the work and life of Gauguin. He was a French impressionist painter who worked beside many of the greatest artists ever; he was close friends with Van Gogh. He spend almost all of his life without success, in poverty. In 2015, one of his paintings broke the absolute record for highest price ever paid for any painting, $300,000,000 dollars. When negative people criticize your choice to build a homebuilt aircraft, reflect on how many people must have told Gauguin to give up painting.
Take a moment to consider that Gauguin thought Paris in the 1890’s, the worlds art and pleasure capitol, was too pedestrian, predictable and moralistic; he spent most of the last decade of his life exploring his primitive side in Tahiti and the Marquesas. The academic description of the painting above is a number of long paragraphs on themes, influences and movements. I tend to think it is better understood after considering Gauguin’s affections for Drink, Morphine, Laudanum and Native women.
In the last year of his life, Gauguin wrote:
“No one is good; no one is evil; everyone is both, in the same way and in different ways. … It is so small a thing, the life of a man, and yet there is time to do great things, fragments of the common task.”
He died in 1903 at age 54.
Please note: The title of this article is said in jest, It is not a serious comment on Faith, not intended to be offensive to anyone. It should be considered in the same category as A.E. Houseman’s poignant observation: “Ale does more than Milton can, to justify Gods ways with man.”
5 Replies to ““God has a sense of humor I am yet to understand””
I had an automobile “accident” a long time ago in Sweden. The car was not damaged (it was a rolling wreck already), and it was driven for hundreds of miles afterwards. It was the result of making some poor decisions. When the police rolled up, and were surprised at how both I and the car had fared (believe it or not, I didn’t break any laws, and the car ended up in an unfenced field), they directed me on my way.
My parting comment to them was something I’d heard growing up. “God takes care of babies and fools.” They chuckled at that. After that, I tried not to make any more foolish decisions. Thankfully, I learned from the experience.
One of the best undregrad courses I ever took was titled “Human Factors and Physiology of Flight”. As the name implies the content was about the human factor. The basis was that virtually any mishap occurred due to a failure of the pilot to make adequate preparation either prior to or during the flight. Key to this was understanding how people make all kinds of choices without really thinking about the possible consequences. Inevitably the error chain started with one bad judgement (often seemingly inconsequential) which led to more and more bad decisions until a predictable outcome resulted. By no means did we become experts yet the course certainly pointed out the need to get reliable, factual information and then use that information. The emphasis is on “use” and follow the directions. That is also the hardest psychological factor to implement as people want to be right.
Studying what works and understanding why most certainly yields better results than any form of speculation. The humor of the title and a good glass of ale seem to underscore the process.
Another way to put “use” and follow the directions is, for a start, RTFM: Read The Friggin’ Manual.
Most accidents are not caused by two Taylor ham and cheese on a hard roll, but by the decision to consume them on passover.
I try to share “experience” to help others learn, Below is an excerpt from a post I put on our Piet-Vair discussion group referencing the story you are hinting at. I remember you putting quite a dent in the back of the front seat. Corvairs “unsafe at any speed?” I think not Mr Nader, perhaps it was the 1982 Olds Vista cruiser that lacked cornering power….
“A New Jersey story: April 1982, my friend Steve is driving one handed while eating a Taylor Ham and Cheese on a hard roll, cuts a turn too tight on a wet road and puts the Olds wagon on it’s roof. I was in the passenger seat, no one hurt. After the cops established that it didn’t involve drinking or racing and no one was injured, they found the half eaten remains of Steve’s sandwich, and jokingly said they were going to write it up as an “act of God” because clearly no one should taunt God by eating Taylor ham on the first day of Passover.”
Your Cousin, -ww.