Experimental does not mean what you think it does

I was recently killing some time on YouTube. Not the greatest use of my time, but I was sitting at my desk waiting for a video court hearing and it was what I had available. I have not spent a lot of time just poking through all the videos there and I had no idea that people actually made a living off of this. Apparently they do. And to get “clicks,” they are willing to do some pretty stupid things.

There appears to be a subset of people in aviation who are posting about flights that are not exactly the picture of safety and good decision making. While I understand that these are entertainment and not education, I still think they create some serious problems. People watching these videos can be drawn into the sense of “adventure” not realizing that it isn’t adventure at all. It is unnecessary risk taking, bad decision making, and, frankly, bad piloting.

My readers may not have realized this yet, but I am not a 20-year-old young man. Maybe middle aged women have a different perspective on life. Maybe it’s just me. But caution should be the rule, not the exception when it comes to aviation.

One of the videos out there is a man who bought and picked up an RV, sight unseen, flew it across the country, sometimes at night, sometimes in questionable weather, after about 4 hours of transition training, running into all sorts of problems and issues, which he brushes off. That’s not what experimental was supposed to mean and filming and posting stuff like that does not help promote the good name of experimental aircraft.

Experimental homebuilts are a fascinating part of aviation and I am coming to learn that they draw a couple of very distinct groups of people – the tool lovers and the thrill seekers. The tool lovers are in it for the glory of the build and the satisfaction of flying a plane they built with their own hands. The thrill seekers usually buy aerobatic, fast, already flying airplanes. Not all the thrill seekers are bad. But some of them are.

Call me old and crotchety (you won’t be the first or the last), but a big part of the build for me is that I know and understand this airplane, down to the last tiny rivet and wire. For me, it is about learning to be safer. That it will be fast and fun is an added bonus. I can assure you that you won’t see that part of the bonus on YouTube.

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