Scared to Dream

One Big Happy cartoon.

You know what I really want to do for a living, besides write novels (help a guy out, buy my book)? I would love to create and build. I am not talking about scarfs, kitchen cabinets, or colored lug nut covers for your luxury cars. I would like to build airplanes. Not RC aircraft, but the real deal. Climb in, pull the straps tight, and fly off into the wild blue yonder.

A long time ago, when I was struggling with a means to still support my family, but escape the mind-numbing boredom of truck driving, several ideas rose to the top. Oddly enough, a couple of those ideas involved the trucking industry.

First, and I ran with this one, but with limited success. A hands-free microphone for the CB radio. With over a million truck drivers at that time, it seemed like a shoe in for a big payday. I built a prototype, tested it, and put it on the market. I sold maybe a handful before deciding I spent enough money on the venture. The one thing that niggled away at my entrepreneurial spirit was the fear of some sleepless driver crashing while using my invention and suing the shit out of me. Sure, I never sold enough to worry about it in the long term, but I still went through the expense and hassle of forming an LLC. I was also shopping product liability insurance and didn’t like what I saw.

Then there was the idea to build custom truck interiors. I played with this idea a long time, but with the shrinking number of owner-operators, I was not sure of the long-time viability of this plan. Oh, and again, product liabilities specter hung like a dark cloud over the whole process.

The last idea was building semitruck replicas on pickup truck chassis. There was no doubt in my mind I could sell these creations to all those truckers who just didn’t get enough big rigging on the road. Nothing better than climbing out of your Peterbilt big rig and climbing into a Peterbilt medium rig. Licensing obviously was a concern. But if just one of those truckers blew a front tire and flipped his Peterbilt clad Dodge dually and killed himself, his spouse would sue me out of existence.

Even though I did not make the tire. Or, the simple fact that a blown tire should never, ever, ever, result in a crash…ever! What causes a crash when someone blows a tire, no matter which one, is the driver over reacting to the situation…period. No Ford Expeditions ever caused a roll over crash, it was their drivers.

Okay, climbing down off my soap box…for now.

Imagine, taking a year out of my life and lovingly building the best built Vans RV-10 ever built. Doing everything in my power to make sure it was airworthy and getting the FAA to sign off on it. I sell it off to an eager pilot and she flies off into the sunset. For the most part, she does a decent job of taking care of it, but maybe is a little sloppy about testing the fuel before taking off (part of standard preflight checks). The airplane is parked outside, and as the years have passed, water accumulates in the tanks. One morning she takes off, and just as the runways slips from under her aircraft, the engine quits.

Engine failures, like tire blow outs, are not cause for a crash. The airplane still has wings, and forward momentum.

However, she panics, does not follow her training, and augers into the ground. Tragic for her, her family, and everyone involved.

Her estate sues me.

This plays out all over the country every day. I did nothing wrong. The aircraft performed as designed. There is an “experimental” placard boldly displayed in the cockpit. That means the aircraft might be a little riskier to fly than a factory build aircraft.

But none of that matters, the crash was entirely the pilot’s fault. Yet, in today’s f’d up, no one is responsible for their own actions, I am suing the deepest pockets I can find, society. A person who did everything right, goes broke trying to defend himself from a frivolous lawsuit.

And that is if I win.

I would love to spend my days building one airplane at a time, getting it certified, and selling it. Will I get rich? No. Can I make a living, doing something with my hands and using my mind to find creative solutions to the problems that will inevitably come up? Yes. But it will take only one accident to destroy everything I worked for, and this late in my life, steal any security I hoped to have in retirement.

Not that long ago I toured the Air and Space Smithsonian. One of my favorite displays was the early flight. These people poured their heart and souls into garnering powered flight for all of humanity. The Wright Brothers, and others like them made a living selling flimsy tube and fabric aircraft to the masses. Okay, to those with gonads big enough to fly those things. There was no concern for liability insurance. Those that bought the planes knew they were dangerous. People died!

Yet no one was blaming anything but gravity when there was a tragic accident.

It is my belief that the Wright Brothers would never have allowed their dream to come to fruition in todays society. They may have invented the airplane. They may have made that historical flight, but then they would have gone back to their bicycle shop, renewed their liability policy on their bicycles, and let the military develop the airplane for fear of getting sued out of existence the first time someone crashed their tube and fabric contraption into a barn.

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