All of us have curious habits that we'd just as soon have no one know about. Some are gross. Some are endearing. Most aren't. One of mine, which tempts some folks to call the guys in white coats carrying nets, is that I talk to myself. Out loud. And certain phrases tend to repeat themselves at predicable times. Others just pop out of nowhere for no particular reason. Those are the ones I worry about.
When I've made a particularly bad landing, which happens more often than I wish, my student is likely to hear me say, "And for my next stupid-people trick...," over the intercom. I do the same thing in the workshop, although there the trickle of blood generally points out that this time, I really did do something stupid.
Another phrase that I'll blurt out is, "Damn, Budd, that was really stupid." This is almost always while I'm attempting to demonstrate something to a student, my wife or to the universe in general, but failing miserably. Those are the "do as I say, not as I do" moments.
One phrase, however, that often escapes from my mouth totally unannounced (thankfully, only when I'm alone) is very hard, almost explosive declarative statement, "I wanna build an airplane." That happens a couple of times a week, when I least expect it. However, I don't have a driving urge to build an airplane, but apparently, I'm not seeing something that's crouching in a corner of my subconscious.
There's a large segment of society, probably many reading these words, who, without knowing it, are compulsive builders. They're really only alive when they're either in a cockpit or sitting in their workshops building something. Anything. When on the ground, they're at their happiest when sawdust or sparks are flying.
Further, just as there's that moment when you slide into a cockpit and sit there for a moment, letting your mind and body assume the identity of "pilot," the same thing happens to some folks when walking into their workshop. The lights come on, the worn workshop radio begins playing tunes from the designated workshop station (in my case a classic, hard-rock station) and there's a settling of the soul. You are, for that moment, just as when settling into the cockpit, exactly where you want to be. Where you should be.
A lot of the born-to-be-pilot types that I know are also of the born-to-build persuasion. They can't stop themselves. They're infected with what I call the Geppetto Syndrome: They just love making toys, both large and small. I fall very much into that category. And I'm assuming that's where the impulsive/compulsive comment, "I wanna build an airplane," is rooted. Even though I'm building a lot of stuff (and finishing very little), some part of me thinks I should be building an airplane. And the conscious part of me doesn't totally disagree. However…
First, I've very much done the airplane-building thing, although without much success. I started a Thorp T-18 while in college. I rebuilt and flew a damaged Cessna 195 in graduate school. Clipped a Cub in the living room of a tiny rental cottage the first year I was married. Built most of a self-designed, scratch-built, full-scale replica of the 1930 Howard DGA-3 "Pete" racer.
I was the designer for a series of full-scale replicas of the Wedell-Williams Model 44 racers (450 hp P&W). Plus, I write a monthly homebuilding column for EAA's magazine, Sport Aviation, called Shop Talk. So, it's not as if I don't have some attachment to homebuilding. Still…
While I don't know why I'm continually saying I want to build an airplane, I do see a multitude of reasons why I won't/shouldn't build an airplane. I've had a number of solid false starts (the Pete was really far along and the 195 flew), but the truth is, I'm not the greatest at finishing things. A casual tour of my workshop provides proof that I get more pleasure out of starting and working on projects than I do finishing them.
Every time I hear my own voice chastising me for not building an airplane, another voice, this one unheard, starts running down the reasons I can't build an airplane. It begins with the dozens of unfinished projects that are constantly competing for my attention. Then the question of workshop space pops up (easily solved with an extension out the back of the garage).
Then, even if I had an airplane, where would I keep it? The hangar is full. Don't want to tie it down in the sun (ideas for wing/canopy covers immediately begin forming in my mind…more projects).
If I were to build an airplane, when would I fly it? I already fly almost every day. And my lifestyle doesn't lend itself to using airplanes for going places. The time just isn't there for that.
Every time I say I want to build an airplane, my brain follows up with a rapid- fire series of very logical reasons not to do it. However, the sequence always winds up with the same question/comment, "…besides, which one would I build?"
When the question of what to build surfaces, my brain always spins off in many directions: a flying replica of Betty Skelton's 'Lil Stinker Pitts? A Bearhawk? A Knight Twister? How about the funky little, super-easy-to-build Steward Headwind (one of my long-time favorites)? The latter has really been on my mind of late.
I wonder if I'll keep badgering myself until I finally decide what I want to build and I pull the trigger on another airplane project. I hope not. However, The Roadster is running and will soon be on the street ("soon" is a relative term). And I've got the wheels for the artillery piece finished. Yeah, there's probably room to squeeze another project in there.
I guess it's a good thing that I can't decide what to build, eh?