The Log book or The Check book?

Builders;

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I spoke with a new home builder on the phone the other night. I listened to him for most of an hour; He told me he had always loved planes, but was just now becoming a student pilot; He had found an inexpensive CFI; Although he is building a plane known to be a fun, 80mph day/VFR plane, This man told me a great length about the “Full IFR” package he had ‘selected’ for his plane, and spoke of how he decided what the ‘best’ auto pilot was.

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He went on this way about paint and interiors. He repeated used words like ‘buy‘ and ‘have’  in the places where homebuilders  use the words ‘make’ or ‘build’. This isn’t a question of saving money, people who use the latter words actually like creating things and learning, they are vastly more successful in home building.

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 When it came to talking about power plants, he had only two questions: “How much does it weigh?’ and “What is the lowest cost for a ‘Firewall forward Package’?” I was polite, but this man expressed no interest in building or learning, the acts which transform an individual into an Aviator. This man was just on a shopping trip, a pure consumer experience, which by deffiniton and design, can not bring the participant lasting satisfaction. 

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Above, a small sample of timeless Aviation information from my home. The Copy of Flying for 1937carries an inscription to my 11 year old Father, from Frank Walsh, VP of Chance-Vought. Walsh was my Grandfather’s closest friend, they had fought side by side in the trenches in 1918. 

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Looking for a starting point from which I could turn his attention to the learning part of home building, I asked the man if he had always loved aviation, and was now a student pilot, what aviation books he had read? I asked him about a dozen classics I consider important. None of the titles even registered with him. He offered that he had learned a lot from reading about avionics websites and some discussion groups. He said he know “Who made the best stuff and who the good people are”.  I pointed out that I had been in aviation for more than 30 years, and my evaluations of products and people sounded less judgmental than his, and I figured I was better informed than him. His only reply was something about  him being good at “Evaluating anything”. The certainty that he said this with was a bit disturbing. 

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Not once in the hour did the man mention any book he wished to read; nor any tool he would like to master, and building skill he would like to posses, any aviator he looked forward to meeting, any instruction he wished to receive beyond the lowest cost minimum; he never mentioned anything he looked forward to building. When he kept speaking of IFR ‘glass’ cockpits, I asked he had ever heard that the #1 killer in aviation perennially was “Continued VFR flight into IMC conditions”.  He had not heard of this.

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It’s hard to exactly say where hubris like this comes from, but it isn’t rare anymore in world taken over by consumerism. When these ‘values’ are applied to aviation, the consumer mentality person is actually accepting an enormous risk, without even being aware of it.  The marketing forces effect everyone to some extent, and everyone in aviation should have self awareness of how it might color your own decisions or attitudes.

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When the EAA began, all attention was focused on learning and creating, skill building and sharing experience. Now the pendulum has swung all the way to the far side, and consumerism has taken over, and most journalism, discussion and displays are directly focused on selling things. Armies of salesmen both seen and secretly compensated people producing discussions and ‘evaluations’, are now pervasive. The man I was speaking with felt he was on the right track in home building, because his communications with others validated his focus on buying things. He just didn’t see that many of the ‘influential’ builders he was speaking with were actually compensated salesmen. Conversely, No one is promoting and selling learning, it has no dealer network, you have to understand for yourself its value. 

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If you are new to experimental aviation, let me make the very strong suggestion that you consciously invest your time, money and attention on things that are based on learning things, rather than owning things. I refer to this as “Log Book” items.  This is deciding you will read a classic aviation book once every 3 months, making the time for this by cutting back on websites that sell stuff and discussion groups.  This is deciding, that after being inactive for years, you will work with an instructor to be come current.  This is hiring a CFI to put you under the hood for an hour, so you can tell if you actually like IFR flying and are up for the challenge. This is getting a tailwheel rating. This is buying a set of plans you have wanted for a long time, and picking one part on them and making it this month, without  worrying about how long it will take to build the whole plane. This is taking a demo flight in a plane that you have spent a lot of time thinking of building. This is buying a tool that you have always wanted to be skilled with, and inventing a project to use it on, just for the personal satisfaction of having physical evidence that you have skills today, which you only daydreamed of yesterday.  

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As you select something from the paragraph above, realize that there is no external validation coming from the discussion groups people or the FB pages. The validation that you get will have two unique characteristics: It will be internal, and it will be real. You will be selecting skills and experiences that can not be lost nor taken away, they will be with you for good, unlike most of the consumer products marketed in aviation, which will have short lives in the sunshine and then spend a 1,000 years at the bottom of a landfill, alongside used diapers and copies of People magazine with pictures of the Kardashians on the cover.  It’s your time in Aviation, select wisely. 

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“At any real level, flying is not a sport, a hobby, a pastime nor entertainment. It is An Endeavor, worthy of every hour of your life you invest; Those who dabble in it find only high cost, poor reward and serious risk. They are approaching it as consumers. Conversely, for those who devote their best efforts and their serious commitment, the rewards are without compare.”  -ww-2006

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6 Replies to “The Log book or The Check book?”

  1. Sounds like the kid who just crashed his airplane and when they interviewed him he had zero flight time or instruction other than computer simulators….

    1. Please don’t dismiss simulators out of hand as just a game or toy. They can be a serious learning tool if used with the right mindset. Lessons in the air are much more productive if procedures are practiced ahead of time. I teach kids on a simulator at Young Eagles events and help a retired TWA captain teach at the Flight Path Learning Center at LAX.

  2. You are correct that Hubris is not rare. Just this morning, I was browsing Kathryns Report and reading about the guy who bought an Aerostar and crashed it on the way home. Despite bragging to the ramp guy about owing 6 airplanes over the years, records showed he never went past STUDENT PILOT rating, had been up all day, almost ran out of gas (right engine quit after landing), took off again at 9PM, no flight plan, no communication with ATC all the way to 23,000 ft over the Rockies and spun down from there into the mountains. (Heavy Sigh)

  3. Paragraph #8 of “The Log book or The Check book?”
    of 05May20—…some of your best advice and inspiration.

  4. Hey William. Could you list the classic aviation titles you were asking him about?

    On the bright side, my Innova 5568 timing light arrived in today’s mail. Gotta love Summit, ordered on Friday delivered on Saturday.

    Thanks

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