Often, the purpose of a column like this is to create an opportunity to begin a discussion. By opening the floor to a wide-ranging collection of potential readers, especially because many of those readers can share real insights and personal experiences on the topics raised, the community as a whole can benefit.
That sounds good in theory, but this process is not without occasional discomfort.
The ideas expressed may challenge firmly held beliefs. Practices and procedures that are recommended may rub any one of us the wrong way for a variety of reasons.
Opinions vary, and can sometimes lead to heated exchanges and hurt feelings.
There is also the distinct possibility that any one of us may find ourselves in the unenviable position of being flat out wrong, in public. Ouch.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
As regular readers know, I am not immune from this experience. The piece that ran in this space last week, “Ask an Expert,” was 80% on point.
In most respects it was true, and it was entirely well intentioned. But it was also wrong — at least in the latter portion where I related a story about a gentleman who suggested it was acceptable for an owner to make parts for their own airplane even if they aren’t an A&P mechanic.
I took the opposite position. I said owners could not make their own parts unless the airplane was a classic or antique that was out of production, making factory parts unavailable as a result.
I was wrong. Entirely, completely, absolutely wrong. You can make your own parts and be completely within your privileges doing it. The FAA says so.
Imagine my surprise!
The regulation that allows for an action I’d always believed to be unacceptable is one I’d never heard of, and frankly, probably wouldn’t have found had I searched the regs for a considerably longer period of time.
It’s in 14 CFR Part 21, which is not a section I spent time in when doing my research for that piece.
Thankfully, the cumulative brain power of General Aviation News’ readership is considerably more powerful than the limited gray matter encased in my skull.
Two readers brought my error to light, and I’d like to thank them for doing so.
Jim Hausch shared the correction first in the comments section of the online blog post, complete with a link to an article that dealt very specifically with the issue of owner made parts.
A couple hours later, a reader known only as DeWayne shared his correction, as well as a link to a column written by the renowned aviation mechanic, Mike Busch, on the exact topic I’d stumbled over.
Later, he cited Advisory Circular 20-62E, which spells out the procedure for how an owner can make their own parts for the aircraft they own.
While I was initially less than pleased with myself, I have to admit, I’m thrilled to have been corrected. While being outed for being wrong may be unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In fact, it can be quite enlightening.
Remember the first paragraph of this piece, the one that explains the reason for writing and publishing columns like this one? Well, that’s exactly what happened. The column sparked discussion, and the discussion was beneficial.
And while I would love to be able to say I have never been wrong, both you and I know that would be a ridiculous assertion to make.
After years of writing about aviation, aviators, and the machines we enjoy so much, I can readily admit I have been wrong often enough to recognize my errors as prime opportunities for learning.
Like you, I don’t know everything. Age and an overload of information leads me to forget some things, too.
Perhaps this is one of those cases, perhaps not. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is, a column resulted in a discussion of the topics expressed, and the readership (as well as the writer) came away better informed as a result.
Best of all, if you go to that column and read those comments, you’ll notice there is no animosity. The readers who had something productive to offer weren’t slinging mud or proclaiming superiority. They were, simply and graciously, offering their own insights and knowledge for the benefit of others.
Oh, if only all human discourse could be conducted so well. What a wonderland we would live in.
Thank you, Jim Hausch. Thank you, DeWayne. You both offered a great service to the rest of us, and I am truly grateful.
Humble pie really isn’t all that bad. Especially in a case like this, when I can take it a la mode.