Doubt: A Cautionary Tail


Doubt. It’s part of human nature and it loves visiting itself upon homebuilders. We doubt ourselves and the plans. We convince ourselves we don’t know what we’re doing but everyone else does. We seek comfort from those who have gone before. AirVenture provides the ultimate venue for walking among the proven creations of our pioneering brethren. Armed with cameras, we document what others have done, casting our own doubt in bronze. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve helped countless builders get passed it.

The first thing you need to believe is you are no different than most other builders. You may not know everything about building an airplane, but no one does. The airplanes you study and document so carefully on the flight line were built by individuals just like you. Some confidently followed the plans and have superb aircraft. Some followed the plans and do not. Some made modifications and have superb aircraft. Some made modifications and do not. Some made modifications based on sound analysis and many hours of test flying. Some made modifications based on something they overheard somewhere and fly an aircraft they don’t know has been hobbled. How many times have I heard bad advice disseminated at AirVenture? Enough to have written about it. The internet, in particular, which has given us countless cat videos, disperses unvetted opinions better than the AeroShell Team disperses smoke. Thank goodness for the cat videos or what a waste all that technology would be.

AirVenture 2023 is the 70th anniversary of the Wittman Tailwind and they are well-represented on the flight line. I noticed their tails varied from one to the other which is why I chose them to illustrate this essay. Of course, I did so with the confidence I’d introduce doubt in some builders in the Tailwind community so let me allay that straight away; I’m making no editorial comment on these tails. I have no insight on why one is one way and another is another way other than each was built by an individual. For insight on that, re-read the previous paragraph. What I am saying is that if you follow a designer’s plans you can move forward with confidence. On that, I have no doubt.



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