Monday, August 29, 2011

USA Today on experimentals

There'll probably be the usual amount of anti-media braying about the media treatment of experimental aircraft following the weekend USA Today story (from the Detroit Free Press) about the NTSB probe into why experimentals are crashing at a greater rate than certified airplanes.

But did you notice how Detroit Free Press treated the story? They started it with the perspective of a homebuilder. A real, honest-to-goodness builder of airplanes! Someone somewhere was smart enough to develop a relationship with a reporter so that when a story came along, the perspective of the builder dominated it. (We know it wasn't you, AOPA!)

The hand-built biplane pilot Bob Richards brought to an air show in a neighboring county Sunday is the type of aircraft that has come under scrutiny by federal safety officials studying the accident rate among amateur-built planes.

Tom Vukonich of Metamora, Mich., tries to determine the best way to install a rod into the fuselage of the biplane that he's building.

Richards, 41, of Joliet, Ill., once glided another hand-built plane down after the engine quit because the person who built it wired the battery wrong.

Yet he doesn't worry about his safety in a hand-built plane. "There are a lot of accidents that don't have anything to do with how it was built," said Richards, noting pilot error, weather and the difficulty of flying high-performance planes.

I presume some people will kvetch that the paper did the story at all. But the truth is that the NTSB is looking into it, and homebuilts are going down at a fairly high rate.

We could save a lot of kvetching if we simply fly better and smarter because, it's true, they don't usually crash for structural reasons.

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