What defines ‘reputable’ in our industry?

Builders,

I was doing a little post season cleaning in the office and came across a shoe box where Grace had a collection of event souvenirs from the last 18 years. Begs the question: What is the actual material a reputation is made from?

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Above, name tags, buttons, stickers and patches from experimental aviation events around the country. They include press passes from my years working for EAA publications, a great number of exhibitor tags from past Oshkoshes, and a lot of stuff from Corvair Colleges. Yes, ScoobE did get his own passes. They are almost all from 1999 on, the year Grace came into my life. I had been working with Corvairs for 10 years at that point, but had never saved such things. Grace brought many things with her, one of them being a desire to enjoy the ride, not just achieve the goals. Each of the items above draws out memories of days well spent.

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Next year starts my 29th season in experimental aviation. In our branch of aviation, this puts me in some rare company. There are names which seem to have been around longer, but they are mostly businesses that are on their second or third set of owners, who may tout the longevity of their brand, but don’t serve the original builders nor mission. There are a great number of designers who walked away from or were forced out of the market, even if it was with reason, they no longer served the builders who once believed in them.  And there are names who have been around a long time, but in reality they have just led a long series of LLC’s which frequently folded and took people’s money and dreams with them.  Measured by the reasonable standard of being the original owner of the business, continuously active and still being here for builders, I might be one of 8 or 10 experimental aviation businesses with 28 years of service.

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I do not deserve any special recognition for this.  This was the way it was supposed to be. In my world, you don’t get a trophy for not being a scam artist or a thief. Maybe a nod for persistence, but accolades need to be made out of something that actually served builders, but sadly our industry spent a lot of time fawning over hundreds of hopeless things like the C-162, The Icon A-5 and countless ripoffs and serial scam artists who showed up at airshows. ‘Journalists’ in search of a saleable story ignored that many of the people they were writing about had previously scammed builders out of vast sums of money under previous business names. This was frustrating to watch, but my ethic were set not to meet the low bar of industry, but to my fathers harsh standard: Values of my Father.

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Henry Ford famously said “A man cannot base his reputation on what he says he will do.” Today for the sake of comparison, let me offer a list of things which, although common in our industry, I never did:

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I never closed my business and started another to evade previous customers.  I always thought in the era where you could simply google someones name, no one would get away with this, but I was wrong, todays builders don’t care who was robbed before them, what damage was done to the dreams of others or our industry, just as long as they can get their stuff now.

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I never took anyones money. In the last 28 years, I sold several million dollars in parts. It didn’t make me rich because it was all made in America and didn’t have the mark up of imported junk, and I spent a lot of the profits on free events like 41 Colleges. I had times where I was behind on deliveries, and any internet search will reveal this, but the reality of the story is that today, I don’t owe a single person a part, and I never took anyones money.

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I never sued anyone, acted as a paid witness, or profited from any lawsuit. There is a hidden machine in our industry that like product liability just the way it is, because they make piles of money off it, while cultivating a ‘good guy’ image. There are people who work for the EAA right now, as a front to a much more lucrative secret career as a paid expert witness.  In 2002, after surviving a plane crash where I refused to sue the pilot, I was penniless and barely able to work. I was offered $55,000 to testify for one day against Cessna in a frivolous lawsuit. My formal response was “Drop Dead”.  For this, the expert witness club, headed by Richard Finch, conducted a years long campaign to have me black balled from experimental aviation, including a letter writing campaign to the head of the EAA. Read: Expert Witnesses in civil Aviation trials.

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When I got started in 1989, I thought of aviation, particularly experimental aviation as a brotherhood, made of good people. Time showed this was too simplistic an understanding. Reality was both good and bad: The industry proved to have just the same percentage of scum as greater society, but as a consolation, I have made countless friends who are far better people than I ever imagined existed in my 26-year-old mind in 1989. The good people are far better friends than I deserve, and they have been a more than compensation for the slings and arrows of the vermin.

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If you are new to experimental aviation, and have never met me in person, know this simple fact: On the eve of my 29th season in aviation, I remain as willing as ever to share what I have carefully learned with a new generation of builders, and if you decide to be one of them, I will gladly welcome you to the brotherhood I myself joined in 1989. The only asset I had was a desire to learn, and all these years later, it is still all anyone needs to get in the door.

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William Wynne

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Planning Corvair Colleges for 2018

Builders,

With Corvair Colleges #39, #40 and #41 in the books, we have completed the 2017 College season. We use the period of time between thanksgiving and Christmas to consider, evaluate and plan for the next years season. It is a refining process, and we also decide what areas of the country to serve in a season.

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Above, learning how to install ignition systems and time them at Corvair College #41, Barnwell South Carolina , November 2017. The picture contains builders of all experience levels. At Colleges, we rapidly break builders into sub groups of similar experience, and teach each group to its own level. At first glance, Colleges do not appear to have a set format, but in reality, I have a highly refined process which is very flexible, which allows for great variations in experience and rate of learning. This process adjusts to builders, we don’t make individuals conform to a program.

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Many factors go into College planning. Scheduling of the season means that we can’t hold them in the North in cooler months. In the summer, we must place them around events we always attend like Oshkosh and The Zenith Open house. In recent years I have preferred small private airports to public ones, and I have to have the full compliance of the airport manager.

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We also know from experience what the requirements are to successfully host a College. This include previously attending a College, Having your own Corvair project, and being an outstanding organizer.  Merely being part of a local EAA chapter that thinks hosting a college would be neat is not nearly enough.

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Additionally, the venue has to have space for a minimum of 35 builders (this is a 50 x 50 hangar) and it must have good lighting, air, basic tools , restrooms and available camping.  Colleges are free to builders, but the time ways from the shop, travel and expenses, make them very costly to myself and the Weseman’s at SPA, who cover nearly all the events with me. Don’t get me wrong, they are well worth giving our time to, but it must be done wisely.

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When you look at all all the factors, we are effectively constricted to running 3 – 4 Colleges a year, and they are mostly going to be in southern locations. I have held Colleges in Oregon, Ohio, Michigan and Massachusetts, and they were good events, but had to be summer events, the busiest time of the year. I have held colleges that were hosted by EAA chapters, but unless we have an individual you is an active builder in that chapter, it’s not a good idea. I have had offers to host from Arizona and North Dakota, but due to low density of builders in those states, I just encourage those builders to plan on going to a California or a Zenith based college respectively. I have traveled many long miles to colleges , I expect motivated builders will meet me half way on travel.

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Please use the Comments section to cast a vote for a location, share a Corvair College memory, or suggest an idea for the 2018 season. If you are planning on making this comping flying season count for you, let your ideas be heard.

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Wewjr.

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