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Thread: Experimentals featured in SA…Really?

  1. #1

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    Experimentals featured in SA…Really?

    The July 2021 issue of Sport Aviation features a couple of airplanes that in my view are abusing the experimental label. The Rearwin with an experimental radial engine uses a certified airplane from the firewall back. I thought you couldn’t use complete assemblies such as a Vagabond wing when building a Wagabond. The “builder” hired out most of the construction. Maybe he’s in the limited factory experimental category but the article didn’t mention that and it didn’t sound like it.
    The Velocity with a turbine engine was built by a small pro shop formed for the purpose with employees with the expertise needed. The company plans to build more planes including a twin turbine Velocity. This one certainly isn’t a factory experimental unless the company is planning on certifying the prototype. The article didn’t say that.
    Neither of the projects were built by amateurs solely for education and entertainment and did not comply with the OBAM 51% rule that the rest of us have to. Why are they being featured as experimental in SA? Am I missing something?

    Just wondering in Michigan,
    Eric Schlanser, EAA forgot#

  2. #2

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    There are different types of experimentals. They are probably registered in the Experimental Exhibition category.

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    Quote Originally Posted by guyfly47 View Post
    The July 2021 issue of Sport Aviation features a couple of airplanes that in my view are abusing the experimental label. The Rearwin with an experimental radial engine uses a certified airplane from the firewall back. I thought you couldn’t use complete assemblies such as a Vagabond wing when building a Wagabond. The “builder” hired out most of the construction. Maybe he’s in the limited factory experimental category but the article didn’t mention that and it didn’t sound like it.
    The Velocity with a turbine engine was built by a small pro shop formed for the purpose with employees with the expertise needed. The company plans to build more planes including a twin turbine Velocity. This one certainly isn’t a factory experimental unless the company is planning on certifying the prototype. The article didn’t say that.
    Neither of the projects were built by amateurs solely for education and entertainment and did not comply with the OBAM 51% rule that the rest of us have to. Why are they being featured as experimental in SA? Am I missing something?

    Just wondering in Michigan,
    Eric Schlanser, EAA forgot#
    There have been a ton of questionable selections (IMO) over the years. The problem is that there's little new under the sun these days. EAA milked the Rutan designs for stories for 20+ years, and has done the same with the designs from Van's. They are starved for something new, but they still have to run something, so you get what you get - articles about award winning aircraft and "the latest, greatest".

    I long for the days of multiple articles about "a guy from nowhere" building a Gold Lindy winning Long EZ or restoring an immaculate Cabin Waco. But there's so much money involved today, many of the award winners are professionally done whether that's explicitly stated or not.

    And don't get me started on all of the recycled content from Budd Davisson. I swear, EAA has published 8 different versions of "Affordable Classics - Taylorcraft, Aeronca, C-120, Luscombe, etc." by Bud in the last 15 years.

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    Alright, why don't YOU try to write something about a local homebuilt, homebuilder, or EAA chapter? The bar for being published is surprisingly low if you can string a coherent sentence together. And every modern cell phone has a good enough camera to take pictures to go with what you write. They even publish ME in the IAC magazine. Give it a try.

    Best of luck,

    Wes

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    Quote Originally Posted by WLIU View Post
    Alright, why don't YOU try to write something about a local homebuilt, homebuilder, or EAA chapter? The bar for being published is surprisingly low if you can string a coherent sentence together. And every modern cell phone has a good enough camera to take pictures to go with what you write. They even publish ME in the IAC magazine. Give it a try.

    Best of luck,

    Wes
    Hi Wes,

    My beef is with the guys abusing the system with hired guns and possibly jeopardizing the whole deal for the ones who aren’t. It wasn’t about ME not getting published.

    But, now that you mention it, why did SA choose to publish features about these guys and their semi-legal experimentals? I’d really, truly like to know. If the projects were in the experimental exhibition category, it wasn’t mentioned. Maybe not so easy to be coherent as you imagine. Maybe I’m missing the point of those articles. Since you’re in a position to know, what was the point?

    Regards,
    Eric

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    The magazine has multiple sections, pretty much offering something for everyone. Some of the folks who write think the airplanes and projects that you see articles on are interesting, exciting, and capture the imagination of a segment of the readers. Some of us know that we will never have the $$ to support some of the restorations but we vicariously enjoy seeing the projects of those who do. Others love the articles about scratch built Pietenpols. I find the magazine has something for everyone and do not begrudge the articles about projects outside my interest. But my point is that the magazine publishes articles that the submitters want to write. Articles about topics that interest them. The editor encourages writing on topics that will interest some large part of the readership but the magazine staff doesn't tell someone who gets excited about composite canards to write and article about Pitts. So if you want to see more articles on the topic that most interests you, don't expect other contributors to do the writing for you.

    I find that the magazine covers such a broad range of topics that I can't read it in one sitting. I may skim through one article on some turbine project, but I read a lot of the articles from beginning to end.

    M $0.02

    Wes

  7. #7
    I suggest you read Sport Aviation mags from the early 60's through the mid 70's. Lots of great educational content and the first time through on a lot of stuff thats been repeated over and over again. The Midget Mustang construction articles come to mind. No kits or "finishing firms". Raw stock and basic tools.
    Cheers
    Gerry

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    Quote Originally Posted by geraldmorrissey View Post
    I suggest you read Sport Aviation mags from the early 60's through the mid 70's. Lots of great educational content and the first time through on a lot of stuff thats been repeated over and over again. The Midget Mustang construction articles come to mind. No kits or "finishing firms". Raw stock and basic tools.
    Cheers
    Gerry
    Absolutely true. I used to buy a year or three of old SA's at the fly-market every year at Oshkosh or SnF. The magazine may not have looked as pretty 40 years ago, but there were lots of great articles and the magazine was 100% focused on hands on the hands on aspect of this hobby.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Boatright View Post
    And don't get me started on all of the recycled content from Budd Davisson. I swear, EAA has published 8 different versions of "Affordable Classics - Taylorcraft, Aeronca, C-120, Luscombe, etc." by Bud in the last 15 years.
    By coincidence, my new e-edition of Vintage magazine arrived today. One of the articles is "Comparing the Class of '46 - Cub vs Taylorcraft vs 120/140 vs Luscombe vs Aeronca Champ." by Bud Davission. I guess we're up to 9 versions of the same recycled content.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Boatright View Post
    By coincidence, my new e-edition of Vintage magazine arrived today. One of the articles is "Comparing the Class of '46 - Cub vs Taylorcraft vs 120/140 vs Luscombe vs Aeronca Champ." by Bud Davission. I guess we're up to 9 versions of the same recycled content.
    Well… as an “inkstained wretch” myself, I should give the other side’s perspective. This isn’t directed towards Kyle per se, but I’d like to talk about what it’s like from the point of view of the writers and editors for our aviation publications.

    So… let’s assume you want to write an article about affordable aircraft. What can you say that HASN’T BEEN COVERED in the nearly *75* years since these planes were introduced?

    Champs and T-carts were old used aircraft in the 1960s. No doubt there were articles about how affordable these planes were, and how just about anyone could own them. Just like there were similar articles in the ‘70s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s, etc. etc. etc.

    What new approach could one take? Point of view of a first-type buyer? Undoubtedly done. A woman? Old stuff. A teenager who has just soloed? Seen it.

    Commercial General Aviation has pretty much stagnated since the 1960s. The same old Piper/Cessna/Beech airplanes grace our ramps. No wonder articles about them seem recycled.

    Yes, we’ve seen some exciting new airplanes…the Cirrus, the Diamond, the Icon, etc. And the magazines have covered them. But for the most part, these are high-buck machines. Probably few folks reading these can afford to dash out and buy a brand-new Cirrus. So I could dig out my cleanest shirt from the laundry pile, put on my nicest tennis shoes, and show up at Cirrus to write a pilot report.

    Yet…how many Cirrus pilot reports is FLYING going to publish? PRIVATE PILOT? SPORT PILOT? And the Cirrus and Diamond, at least, have been around for twenty years. How is my article going to stand out from what’s previously been published?

    Leaving out the Experimental world for now, there are only two areas of continuous innovation in General Aviation: Avionics, and Light Sport.

    It’s hard to get enthusiastic about the latest electronic gee gaws for our panels. Integrated nav/transponder/ADS-B in/out? Yay. Not exactly *flying*, is it?

    And, of course, since the boxes perform similar functions, the reviews of them tend to be similar…even between different writers or magazines.

    Light Sport seems to have a target on its back, with a lot of people in the industry trying to sweep it under the rug. There’s much more interest in changing the rules to widen the Light Sport definition than in publicizing the planes currently produced. And if you’re building a 1320-pound two-seater and you think the rules are going to be changed to allow folks to fly 172-class airplanes under Sport Pilot…how much effort do you put into it?
    And, again: If a poor inkstained wretch *is* planning to write about a given LSA…how does he or she make his article stand out from all the OTHERS that have been written about that type of airplane…or similar models?

    From the magazine editor’s point of view, it all boils down to how they can get us excited enough to buy the latest issue. And the 20th flight report on the Luscombe since 1950 is not likely to do that.

    The late, great, Dave Martin, former editor of KITPLANES magazine, was my mentor…he bought about 18 of my first 20 magazine articles. He said he looked for “Nut Value”: Something offbeat enough to attract buyers to buy the magazine…or for subscribers to feel they’re getting their money’s worth. I tagged his “Nut Value” bell once, with a cover shot of an RV-6 on floats (supplied by the owner, sadly).

    So…this takes us to homebuilts.

    And you have to realize that homebuilts have stagnated as well. The innovation just isn’t there, anymore. The airplanes are (mostly) conventionally configured, and they offer the same kind of performance we saw 30 years ago. The Canard revolution has mostly faded to just upgraded versions of the Velocity, Van’s has a lock on the tin-airplane world, and there’s only a little roiling at the intersection of the Sport Pilot/EAB world.

    So, you’re a magazine editor. What are you going to put on the cover for “Nut value,” when 60% of the customers who are building airplanes are making some model of RV?

    There’s been a sea change in the homebuilt world, since the 1960s. Back then, the primary goal was to get an airplane flying for less money. The answer to that is scratch-building.

    Now? Performance and reduced build time. Shove money at it, get flying as soon as possible, leave the Cessna 172 and Cherokees in the dust.

    There are still people scratch-building airplanes. But when most of flying public wants something fast and NOW, scratch-building won’t do. They want to read something that scratches their OWN itch, not how some old retired guy built a Pietenpol.

    There were plenty of people interested in building Fly Babies in the 1960s. And Tailwinds. And T-18s. And KR-2s.

    They just don’t seem to be around any more. So if you *don’t* want write about that latest RV model, your options are rather sparse. Basic construction articles, on stuff like welding, just doesn’t have the market. Most kits come with all pre-welded parts.

    One poster mentioned that more articles should appear about individual builders who have completed their aircraft. I wrote a number of those, in my early days…if I had a friend with a homebuilt, I usually tried to construct an article around it.

    The trouble is, these days, most of the folks I know finishing airplanes have RVs.

    Now, don’t get me wrong: RVs are fine airplanes. But as far as writing an article on a given RV’s construction, if you write ONE…well, then all you typically have to do is plug in some of the minor details of another RV and presto, a brand-new article.

    Beyond that, there’s the effect of the anticipated market. There’s a guy in the Fly Baby clan that just completed a gorgeous, GORGEOUS aircraft. Love to write an article on it.

    But then…how’s the typical magazine clientele going to react to it. “Cute…now tell us what’s the latest from Van’s….”

    Comments have been made about how SPORT AVIATION covered fundamental construction much more extensively in the early days. Certainly, people like Tony Bingelis made the magazine great.

    Yet…what would a writer do THESE days? If they’re building, it’s likely an RV, which has pretty good instructions. People aren’t building from scratch to any extent anymore. There’s not as big of a market for the nitty-gritty technical articles.

    Then there’s the whole time aspect, from the writer’s point of view. I have been asked several times to write a monthly column. My usual response is HELL NO.

    Money isn’t an attraction…aviation magazines don’t pay beans. If I sold an article to KITPLANES every month, I’d make less than four percent of my pre-retirement salary.

    From the start, I did it for the love of writing. A bit of teacher DNA passed down from my mother’s side of the family also factored in. My mother, her siblings, and her mother were all teachers, with Grandma teaching in a one-room North Dakota schoolhouse.

    So I basically write for entertainment. And having to come up with an article, each and every month, is too much like work. So I write when, and what, I care to.

    The final aspect I’ll mention is boredom…I *hate* writing the same sort of thing over and over again. I could dash off an article about Fly Babies in an afternoon. But I’ve already WRITTEN and had published three or four articles about Fly Babies. I dislike covering the same ground again.

    But…to bring this full-circle, let me harken back to Kyle’s comment: “I guess we're up to 9 versions of the same recycled content.” I COULD easily recycle my old homebuilt articles. I kept a scrapbook in my early writing days, and just went through it. Article about the Fly Baby, sharing hangars, basic metal bashing, propeller basics, buying used homebuilts, buying uncompleted projects, etc. etc. etc.

    All subject you’ve seen before. And likely will see again.

    So don’t blame the writers or the magazine editors for the seeming lack of variety in the publishing world. The capability for variation just isn’t there.


    Ron Wanttaja

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