Thought for the Day: “This wasn’t meant to be Disneyland”

Builders,

Yesterday I wrote the story Ken “Adonis” Pavlou advises aviators: “Life is short, Live Large”, today something in the same theme. I am glad that we have all kinds of people in aviation, but in my 27 years in flying, I have seen a constant trend to make general aviation, and experimental aviation in particular, look ‘squeaky clean’ and so inoffensive to anyone that it has had a lot of the character bleached out of it.

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I uphold that this effort is misguided, as it removes one of the greatest attractions of flight, the characters, and it also presents the false image that anyone who looks or acts in anyway other than “Disneyland Vanilla” must be doing it wrong or is dangerous.  If you doubt this effect, watch how people who should know better, assume that a guy with a John Edwards haircut in a polo shirt and khaki slacks standing next to an experimental plane with a $10K paint job is a competent pilot and his airplane is perfect. While many other pursuits are forgiving of people making false judgments based on appearance, aviation has penalties for mistaken assumptions like that.

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The only reason why the industry took this path is because the powers that be thought it was the path to money.  Note that if you are a rank and file homebuilder, you are not in homebuilding to make money, you are here to learn build and fly, and have a good time while doing so. I hold that part of how you succeed at these goals is learning to recognize competence and airworthiness by their function and their performance, not by appearance.

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As a home builder, you will create and fly your own plane, and you have the choice to accept or reject industry judgments.  Since there is no chance that industry will change it’s path, you will have to adjust yours without their support nor guidance.  When you shift from looking at aviation from a consumer-industry perspective, and start evaluating things on performance, you are on the path that holds far richer rewards.  Over the years you will hear endless industry hand wringing about how aviation participation is down, and they are at a loss to offer an explanation that feels right.  When I hear that stuff, I know that a large part of the decline is directly attributable to the fact that most individuals don’t have strong attachments to movements or endeavors which have had all the colorful character removed.

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Do you know this man? Would he look out of place at Disneyland or in the pages of a J-crew catalog? Yes, but should he look out of place in experimental aviation? I say no, because experimental aviation was supposed to be the natural gathering place of aviation’s most individualistic characters, not a Disneyland of conformity and appearance. Besides, the photo was taken in the campgrounds  at Oshkosh 2004. The man in the photo is a highly skilled pilot and instructor and mechanic with an IA,  an aviation historian of sorts, a married man and father…..and a colorful character, with many contributions to the Corvair movement.

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While I have seen countless aviation films, and have many favorites, two films in particular shaped my understanding of aviation, and how it has always been a home to colorful individuals and people of character. I saw the first film before I was a teenager, and the second when I was 20. The first is “The Blue Max” and  second is “The Right Stuff.”

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If you think back, both of these films are celebrations of the spirit of individuals, and how the character of these individuals, and not conformity for it’s own sake,  is an eternal driving force in the spirit of aviation, particularly the advancement of its boundaries. That may sound remote from the project in your garage, but it isn’t. The plane and engine you are building are tremendous advancements in your own personal role in aviation, and for this reason are far more important than any industry marketing program.

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Note on assumptions: Among people I am yet to meet in person, a common misperception is that I must be some type of party guy because I defend the idea that aviation was supposed to be fun, and I have events like the colleges where some builders drink beer after hours. A smaller group of people assume things based on my haircut or lack thereof.  Both of these are mistaken conclusions. At the last 35 Corvair Colleges, I may have had 5 or 6 beers total, and a typical year at Oshkosh means 2 or 3 beers at the homebuilders dinner or the night airshow.  In my 20’s I may have tithed 10% of my income to Anheuser-Busch, but those years are a very distant memory now, and among friends, I am always the assumed designated driver. It isn’t my business how others like to have fun, but I personally like the hours of my day as clear minded as possible.

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-ww.

 

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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 Thought for the Day: “This wasn’t meant to be Disneyland”

  1. Marvin Haught says:

    LOL! My aviation life is totally filled with “characters” that have become life long friends, mainly because they are the off the wall “characters” that they are! They are scattered from the tip of Alaska to the tip of Florida…..don’t get to as many of them as often as I would like, but when we do have time together, it is just like the last session was yesterday! And a couple of them have literally saved my life even though they had to do it long distance! One in particular is the best medical practitioner I have ever had the privilege to know, and he gets the envious duty of a cell phone call to get the results and talk to any medical doctor that is working on me! He certainly does not look like a medical professional, but he has actually saved me from misdiagnosis and malpractice more than once in the last 5 years! All of them have certain things in common…..zest and love of life, sense of humor that does not take self seriously, absolute obsession with flying and aviation, creativity and a work ethic second to none, acute awareness of those around them, and good hearts that love, appreciate and celebrate those people and things that contribute to their lives and well being……family, friends, country, sometime church, but always aviation.

    Looking forward to my first Corvair College!

    M. Haught

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