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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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.

7 Responses to What defines ‘reputable’ in our industry?

  1. William,

    I am new to experimental aviation in a relative sense. My daughters and I have been treated very well by most in the local GA community, but there are many asses also. I am not an expert in anything aviation related by any means, so have to constantly evaluate everything I read and everyone I may deal with using a sceptical and sometimes a jaded eye.

    In the few years since I purchased my airframe kit, I have taken a look at a number of powerplant options. Any yes, crossed paths with one of those folks who closed their business to evade previous customers. Now he is around selling another engine. No thanks.

    When I started looking into the Corvair option, I was given a warning about this WW guy. I don’t know what their deal was, but I have found you to be open and honest about the engines, aviation, and yourself. And I find that refreshing. So yeah, I’ll be pulling the trigger on Corvair and College(s) once I get back on my feet financially.

    KC

  2. Glenn Swiatek says:

    I was very pleased to meet you at Oshkosh last July. As I mentioned to you then, I like the way you write.

    Keep Up the Great Work

  3. Larry Nelson says:

    William I am extremely thankful for the work you do. If it wasn’t for your manuals and posts on this site I would have gone down some rabbit holes based on the local “experts” advise. Keep up the great work. I have my DAR coming to inspect my plane this Friday. Hopefully I will be able to fly it to one of the colleges this year. Thanks for your good advise and insight into homebuilding.

  4. jaksno says:

    Even as a lurking lookee lou, I can expertly testify, and I will refuse payment for such service, that you, WW, are ‘the man’ in your sphere of influence and expertise, bar none. Hope your Thanksgiving was full of peace and contentment, and that Miss Grace’s favorite Holiday will bring more.

  5. Tom Henry says:

    William.
    I’m sure our mutual friends Harold and Edi would heartily say AMEN!
    There have been so many “Black Holes” in experimental aviation it is a testament to your ethics and perhaps stubbornness that you are still in business!😀
    Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas to you, Grace and Scooby.
    Please keep up the good work!
    Tom in Nebraska

  6. Harold Bickford says:

    William,
    What Tom said. We’re happy to be participants in this endeavor.

    Harold and Edi in SE Nebraska

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