I met the person who may be one of the smartest people I' ve ever heard speak at Oshkosh tonight and it's a shame -- a damned shame -- that more people in the RV community and the experimental aviation community didn't turn out to here him too.
Mark Giron is an FAA safety inspector. He's also the guy who's going to start putting a response together to the National Transportation Safety Board recommendations on experimental aviation. Did I mention he's also an RV-6 owner?
Mark is one of us. By the warped thinking of a lot of people in the homebuilding community, he's also "one of them."
He held a safety chat out in the homebuilt camping area of Oshkosh tonight and it wasn't much of an accident -- no pun intended -- that he didn't do in the big FAA pavilion, standing up on a stage at a podium with the big FAA shield. He invited people just to sit around on the grass, enjoy some free corn on the cob and talk as if we actually are adults about how we can fly safer.
I spent a few minutes with him today when he was a guest on my EAA Radio show (it'll be archived and you can hear it probably next week). I'm impressed. I'm impressed with his thoughtfulness and his insight and his position and his guts and his willingness to extend a hand to the EAB community to help formulate that response.
And so it was disheartening around 6:30 when only a handful of people -- Andrew Barker and the TruTrak staff, Mike Regan, the Dynon folks -- showed up to listen to him. It was more disheartening when I overheard his cellphone conversation to the AOPA government affairs official when he said, "the experimental community doesn't care."
That one's on us and we deserve what we get. The notice was posted on Van's Air Force site, I made it clear on the EAA radio site, and you can draw a crowd at Oshkosh by burping loudly. So there was no legitimate excuse for not having more people show up.
Those recommendations are going to come out, and then people will have a lot to say.
The crowd did get larger over the course of our discussion and it was just the people you'd expect to see -- the best and the brightest: Paul Rosales, Paul Dye, Kyle Boatright, Gary Sobek, to name a few.
Admittedly, I'm in the minority in the RV community and in particular, at Oshkosh -- the world's largest Tea Party convention. If it takes a regulation to start to ground some of the idiots who are flying homebuilts, I'm all for it. I was alone in this thought. The AOPA official, in particular, seemed to make it clear that that organization is against any addition regulation of any kind. I get the sentiment, I just don't think it gets us anywhere.
The discussion was quality stuff, however. Should people be allowed to take a person on a first flight as part of transition training? From the sound of things, it sounds like that will be recommendation.
And Mark is no fool. He knows people are faking their test periods and logging enough hours to say they've properly tested their plane. He wasn't surprised when I told him I've met at least three people at Oshkosh who flew up here while in Phase I testing. This guy is not a fool. But he should be our friend and we should've been there and nobody should ever be saying the homebuilt community doesn't care about having a seat at the table of recommendations.
In the end, the sentiment seems to be that peer education is the way to go, rather than education. Twenty-five hours? Forty hours? Mark isn't sure how arbitrary those numbers are. What he is sure of, though, is that people are testing their planes, and that people are using Phase I as pilot training. That's not what Phase I is for.
It falls to use -- especially in the stance of AOPA that no regulation, no policy is acceptable -- to police ourselves. That doesn't make me very confident. Maybe if people had showed up to partake in tonight's conversation, it would. Trust me, when the recommendations come out, people will be complaining on all the bulletin boards and at Oshkosh. My response? Where were you when you had your chance?
There is some progress being made. Mark says Chad Jensen, EAA's homebuilt community now has a list of everyone who offers transition training by type. You'll be able to find a trainer, presumably off the EAA website, instead of hearing things through word of mouth.