Tips From the New Guy

Dealing with builders fear.

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This is not fear of flying, fear of failure, or fear of your uncle Bob, the clown. Builder’s fear is the continuous fear of the next thing. It can be small, like the fear of a bad trimtab, or a major fear like getting a straight trailing edge, sealing tanks, or getting the wings to fit correctly. Builder’s fear can keep you awake at night. It can be a minor distraction, or it can stall a project.

One of my biggest fears—the dreaded taper pin!

Here are my 10 quick tips for overcoming builder’s fear:

1. The best defense for builder’s fear is knowledge. If you fully understand the problem, you have already worked out the solution.

2. If you are building a kit or from plans, remember that many people have gone before you and were able to complete the project. Based on the law of averages, you are probably at least as smart as half of them.

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3. Documentation and photographs can protect against the “Did I remember…?” kind of builder’s fear. If you wake up screaming in the middle of the night about a cotter pin, a photo will let you sleep.

4. Understand that builder’s fear is a natural part of the building process. It is fear of the next unknown thing. As you move forward you will gain confidence and skills, so keep moving forward.

5. Don’t be afraid to get assistance. Lack of a certain skill can generate builder’s fear. Inexperience can generate builder’s fear. Learning from an expert such as an EAA tech counselor can help. Keep involved in the process; don’t just let the expert do all the work. Being part of the process will build confidence.

6. Sometimes builder’s fear is a fear of what’s coming up in the future. Stay in the here and now. If you’re working on the vertical stabilizer, don’t worry about sealing the tanks. Remember, every step gives you more knowledge that will support the next step.

That’s never going to be straight!

7. Keep your builder’s fear focused. Being afraid of “all that wiring” is different than being afraid that you do not know how to correctly install D-sub connectors. Vague fears should become focused fears and attacked with knowledge.

8. Share the fear. Talk to others, call friends, discuss on blogs and forums. Usually, someone has already had to face your problem and can help.

9. If you are really stalled on one task, do another. Work on a different subassembly. Clean the shop. Review the plans. Build a table or a part stand. After some successes, focus on the problem that is causing the fear.

10. Get project reviews. Have some EAA folks or other project builders come by and review your work to date. If you have picked your DAR, see if he will stop by and let you know what he thinks so far. If he comes by at lunchtime, feed him.

I continue to have builder’s fear as I progress. I worried about a straight trailing edge, building the trimtab, sealing tanks, cutting the nosegear taper pin, and cutting the canopy. My next challenges are electrical wiring, fiberglass work, fitting the wings, and installing the engine. But I know that focus, documentation, knowledge, skills, and builder friends will help me move forward to get this plane in the air.

Now, if I can just get over the clown thing.


David Boeshaar is a systems analyst for corporate Disney. A former mechanic, teacher, and computer help desk guru at a major university, he is now building a Van’s RV-9A for fun with his brother-in-law. As the new guy in aviation, Dave has learned lots, both good and expensive, and hopes to pass along a little help to the builders coming up behind him.

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