Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Risk, Cannonballs and Mythbusters

Please note: James' blog has moved to a Wordpress site. To access it, please visit All posts have been transferred to the new site, and all new posts will only be accessible via Wordpress. Thank you for your interest!


Risk, Cannonballs and Mythbusters

Last week, I deliverered an airplane to a new owner.  The airplane had been specially modified to meet the requirements of a handicapped pilot.  We'd modified the control stick and reduced the door entry height.  We'd also installed doors, simply to provide a little comfort on chilly fall and winter flying days.

James Wiebe flies a very special ultralight airplane from Belite; modified for a handicapped pilot

The aircraft had a number of features to increase safety:  aluminum fuel tank, extra wing spar, spring landing gear.  Even the cloth fairings on the landing gear arms cut dag, resulting in increased cruise and climb peformance.

Risk can be measured in many ways.  Flying our aircraft entails risk:  they are not certified; we sell them under the FAR Part 103 exemption which allows all kinds of privileges, in return for risk:  no medical, no pilot license, no aircraft registration.

Earlier today, I flew another ultralight aircraft:

Test Flight of a Belite Ultralight Aircraft (on the ground, actually)
 And I took some risk.  I am interested in providing a high quality product for my customers, so I realize that I must be willing to accept risk.  The engine was running roughly at high power:  a carburetor problem of some sort.  Gene and I fiddled with it, and I had it running acceptably for my test flight purpose, but certainly not acceptable for customer delivery next week.

In one or two days, I will test fly the same plane with a different propeller.  We will evaluate the performance of the propeller, because it is important to add to the body of information available to us, and to our customers as to what works best, and to our vendors, and to the greater community of aviators.

There is a financial reward, if I manage these risks appropriately.  Hopefully, this small business will continue to grow, and will eventually pay me something.  (The financial account has mostly run the wrong way.  Thankfully, that pendulum also is moving in a more positive direction.)  I've risked *a lot* on Belite. 

And now, Mythbusters.

Errantly, they shot a cannonball through the front and back of a house, off the roof of another house, and into a minivan.  They certainly didn't mean to, and before it happened, a lot of very intelligent people thought they had properly mitigated their risks.

Which goes to show, even the smartest of folks can't anticipate everything.  Risk doesn't always pay off (at least for the current account.)

I've read through many articles, I've researched the Mythbuster cannon shot literally from a bird's eye view (thanks to Google Maps), and I've seen what I believe to be factually incorrect (but irrelevant) reporting on their accident.  I read the twitter posts of Grant, Tory and Kari -- they seem to be taking responsibility straight on.  And from my limited experiences working directly with these people, I am confident they will make it right.  They are very proactive, they will rise above this accident, and they will be better for it.

Back to airplanes.

I want to help aviators fly.  This experience doesn't happen: ....

Belite Tricycle Gear Ultralight Aircraft landing
... unless I stick my neck out, invest the money, and fly the plane.  And let my customer do the same.

Risk can produce some beautiful things.

I can't help but think of our aircraft handicapped customers.  We have a couple of them.  Their ability to fly was severely eliminated by the FAA, but then they discovered Part 103 -- and our aircraft.  One of them (Eric) has become a wonderful friend of Belite, and has given Harley a beloved permanent home in our hangar.  He is allowed to risk and fly under Part 103, even though medical certificates would be denied, and Eric has received immense joy as a result.

For further background on why I say these things, consider reading Matthew 25, verses 14 through 28.  It speaks critically of people who don't take risks, and it speaks well of those who do.

Ultralight Aircraft from Belite touching down


Brian FitzGerald said...

Dear James,
I appreciate your sentiments. I have been involved with Ultralight Flying since the 80's. I have spent innumerable hours making movies to direct others toward this sport.
This quest has represented and continues to represent an enormous risk of time and money for a solo operator such as myself.
I applaud your efforts to provide a machine that will permit people to break the surly bonds of earth in a relatively inexpensive manner.
I have been very watchful of your efforts over the years.
As to your choice of Scripture… Interestingly enough I alluded to it a few days ago at our Tuesday Group morning Bible study over at Jimmie's Diner. This parable is so dense I could spend no small amount of time on it. Here is one observation… Because of a Spirit Driven confluence of language in our day, the word "talent", which was then a form of money, today has the meaning of "ability". Most people would limit this word in its sense as "the ability to entertain" but the more expansive use of the term is in order. We are to use any and all of the talents we have been given in service to The Kingdom. Romans 1 teaches us that the existence of God is manifestly evident in His Creation. I believe Jesus is all about Freedom and Flight is one of His greatest gifts to us. Flight allows us to experience the majesty of His creation in a way that "ground pounders" unfortunately cannot appreciate.
Most people get the wrong idea and consider ultralight flying "daredevil behavior". I have often described my aviation experiences flying my MXL as ethereal. They are transcendent moments in time for me.
If you haven't seen it yet, check out my "mythical, low-level Kansas adventure" called "Lil Prop / Big Prop". It is here:

I wrote the music beds and am playing the guitar and bass, too.

Another one was shot out in California. I didn't write the music but I wish I had. It is here:

Brother Brian

No Jesus - No Peace
Know Jesus - Know Peace

Andrew Weaver said...

Thank You James for your words on risk and reward. Im a young guy who just finished up school last spring. I've been debating the prospect of start my own farm oriented business. What a blessing to read your take on what God has to say. Thank you and please continue produce these awsome little aircraft. If my business begins to grow and finances permit, i'll be in contact about a kit

Andrew Weaver