How To Make An Air Fair Fun

Verne "Catman" Simon

Originally published September 1997

What really bugs me--other than not having a five cent drunk--is exhibiting your airplane and having the same insipid questions asked about it over and over. In an effort to reduce the senseless chatter to a low roar and to retain sanity many builder/pilots display signage which boasts of spectacular, possibly fictional, performance data. The unwashed masses are largely clueless as to the meaning of the specifications, and will happily suck your brain out of your skull with questions like "I don't care what Vmax is, how fast does it go?". They will ask the questions no matter what you do. Even worse is a visitor who looks at your airplane and then will tell you their life's story no matter how tangential it is to flying. Norm Howell calls these people 'boogers' since they stick with you no matter how you try to shake them off. When assigned to accompany an F-16 at an airshow Norm advises them to leave or the "geek proximity fuse" will set off the nuclear device under the wing. Oh, to be so fortunate.

To the general public, small airplanes are a mystery. They know they have wings and an engine and make noise, but little else. When one adds a Long-EZ to the mix it thoroughly confuses them. On the occasion of the Hawthorne Air Fair I displayed my EZ for the sole purpose of tormenting the public. The fact that the airplane is apparently built backwards and is parked on its nose creates a sense of pointed unease for the casual observer. In an effort to make the planform somewhat more comprehensible to children, a parent will sometimes concoct the most fantastic explanations. While eavesdropping over an exchange between father and son I heard one brilliant interpretation. "Well junior, the reason this airplane is parked on its nose is that it was in an accident". Tempted though I was, I resisted the urge to demonstrate the father was woefully uninformed. It's bad enough the kid is stuck growing up with this creature as a father figure, there was no point in humiliating him further. But there were times when I surrendered to my baser nature. In one instance a pompous drunk came forward and declared, to his tattooed sweetie, that my airplane had forward swept wings. I asked him how he arrived at that conclusion. He stated confidently that the main wings are always behind the engine and therefore, based on the planform, I had forward swept wings. I nodded slowly, smiled and mimed taking a drag of something powerfully narcotic.

After the first day of the Air Fair I resolved to make the experience less tedious and more entertaining for myself. Instead of displaying the usual bill board with all the meaningless specifications I decided that I would create one that addressed the most frequently asked questions. To make it more interesting I made some of the answers multiple choice. The purpose of this was to minimize repetitive conversations and see how gullible people were. I attached my sign to a fence post adjacent to my airplane and sat underneath the wing waiting for the public to take the bait. The sign contained the following:

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT LONG-EZ'S BUT WERE EMBARRASSED TO ASK.

1. WHY IS IT PARKED ON ITS NOSE ?

2. IF IT DOESN'T HAVE A NOSE WHEEL HOW DOES IT GET OFF THE GROUND? 3. HOW OLD IS THE AIRPLANE AND HOW MANY HOURS DOES IT HAVE ? 4. HOW MUCH DID IT COST TO BUILD ? 5. HOW DOES ONE RELIEVE ONESELF WHILE FLYING ? 6. WHERE HAVE YOU FLOWN YOUR AIRPLANE ? 7. WHERE WAS THE AIRPLANE BUILT ? 8. IS THIS A GLIDER? 9. IS THIS A POWERED AIRPLANE ? 10. WHAT DO YOU DO IF THE ENGINE QUITS? 11. IS THE AIRPLANE NOISY INSIDE ? In spite of my demonstrated cynicism the sign achieved its intended purpose; it informed the public and kept the nattering to a minimum. If you or anyone you know is going to exhibit their airplane please feel free to plagiarize any of my questions and answers. It'll keep you from going nuts.
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Revised -- 8 April 1998