Tuesday, May 11, 2010
It shouldn't surprise long-time readers of Letters from Flyover Country to know that I fried my communications radio when I was installing it last month. If there's a hurdle to be encountered in building your own airplane, I believe I've encountered it.
Over time, you begin to wonder whether I'm just unlucky with this sort of stuff, or is it all related to flunking shop back in school? Building an airplane requires a comprehensive set of skills -- most of which you develop over the course of a project -- but the most important one is the ability to stick to it.
That sounds like a "duh" thing to say and it sounds like it's something anybody can do. But this week I passed 2,100 hours on the project so far and over the last few hundred hours I've crossed over into the camp that says not everyone can or should build an airplane.
Arrogant? Perhaps, but I'm in no position to to hold myself above anyone else and I've got a $300 unpaid bill to fix my $1,200 airplane to prove it. But here's the thing: We live in an increasingly "right-now" society and I believe we're evolving into a less patient, less persistent, less dedicated civilization. Those are three traits that are required in order to build an airplane.
I see people looking at their blackberries and iPads and iPhones all day long because they haven't looked at them for the last 30 seconds. What are they looking for? What is it about the moment that's missing, that leads you to live like that?
Building an airplane requires you to live in the moment -- 2,100 hours of them. You're not going to get what you ultimately want right now. If you're one of the people considering undertaking this task, you should obviously run the numbers, buy the tools, and prepare your family and friends. You should find a test project that will take at least a week to accomplish -- reading a book, for example -- and accomplish it. If you can, build on! If you can't, you should probably find another outlet.
It wasn't that many years ago that my family referred to me as the "Scotch Tape Kid," because I always took the shortest route to getting things done, even if I did a crappy job. That kid is dead. Just yesterday I rewired the communications radio and intercom connection after talking with my pals Kevin Faris and Stein Bruch. It would have been easier to just keep it the way I had it -- it might even have worked -- and I could've gone ahead and plugged the radios in and played; it's what I wanted right now.
But I didn't and, instead, rewired the harness and then tonight started reinstalling everything.
These are exciting times -- final installation of components. You begin to realize that this is the way it's going to be when you're thousands of feet in the air. It's not a time when you want to be wondering about that half-ass job you did on a part 2,100 hours ago. You want the plane to fly, the engine to run, and the radios to work.
Hopefully at that point, my propensity to encounter unseen hurdles will have vanished.