Have You Ever Scared Yourself?


Here at Kitplanes, we are not just dedicated to helping people find, build and fly their experimental aircraft – we want to make sure that people do it safely so that they can do it for a long time. Most aviation magazines have some sort of “confessional” feature, a place where pilots can share their stories of mistakes or fate that lead to a harrowing few moments in the air. While maintenance issues can sometimes provide these stories, experimental aviation, by its very nature, can provide situations that are unique to our field – problems that can be traced back directly to building or design errors. Many times we make decisions during our build that can affect the safety of flight, and sometimes – we make poor decisions, or don’t foresee all of the consequences.

We all know that the statistics show most aviation mishaps are attributable to pilot error in one way or another. But…in the experimental world, a significant number can be traced back to errors in design, modifications that were not well thought out, or errors in construction. From fuel flow issues to fairings popping off and scaring the life out of the pilot – there is a wealth of stories that can help builders avoid similar mistakes and exciting moments.

Let’s face it, everyone makes the occasional mistake or does something that in retrospect, they wish they hadn’t. We’d like to share these with our readers and get more readers to submit their own. Anyone got a hair-raising and educational story?

As an example, we’ll start off with the fuel selector handle that slipped on this editor’s second flight in his RV-3 and caused a total loss of fuel flow, ending up safely on a gravel road. It is a simple story, as are most mishap stories – traceable to a single decision well in the past. These should be written in a narrative form, first person account style, about 1500 words long. Illustrations and pictures of pieces and parts that were the source of the problem would be valuable additions.

We’d love to read your stories – please submit them to [email protected] and include “Builder Error” in the subject line.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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