Stupid or daring?

Earlier this week, we took a look at some quirky, homemade planes built by some more and less serious people, propelled by motorcycle engines. Don’t get me wrong: I love planes and I am not afraid of flying, but heck, I also don’t have a death wish.

Story time: at one point in my life, I very briefly dated an airplane mechanic who worked on the assembly of commercial planes. The level of precision, details and the minuscule margins he worked with and would explain to me was staggering. He would tell me how for a day, or a shift, one mechanic was assigned to one very specific chain of tasks and had to excel at it.

I wasn’t exactly surprised by it—you would expect a vessel capable of carrying hundreds of people at a height of close to 40,000feet to be built under very strict and stringent standards. As a “civilian” who only enjoyed the fruit of their labor and had never had a chance to peek behind the scenes, I was fascinated with that aspect of things we rarely consider.

With that in mind, when I look at builds like this one by Harry Doskicz, interviewed by Andy Greaser of Revzilla, I can’t help but wonder: why, oh why? For instance: why doesn’t this scream “disaster waiting to happen” to anyone?

Ok, so the guy and his buddy bought a plane kit, took a few years to build it, and slapped a Kawasaki 2-stroke engine with a propeller on it. On paper, it’s a really cool project and the end result is just as cool-looking. Then I start thinking about actually taking flight with that thing and I get uneasy. I mean, the suspension on the landing gear is a set of bungee cords.

Motorcycle engines have to be stretched thin flying these rigs, revving at the maximum of their capacity 100% of the time—not something they’ve been built for. True, two-stroke engines have a reputation for being resilient. In a bike. That’s why a lot of these DIYs use car engines instead which are easier to adapt to the needs of a plane.

Obviously, if you seriously plan to fly that thing, you need an inspector from the FAA to check it out it and certify it. For instance, I couldn’t decide tomorrow morning to grab three Ikea boxes and some duct tape, slap a Kawasaki Ninja engine on it, and head over to the local airport with my Calvin & Hobbes airplane with the intention of taking off and running away to Mexico. Even homemade planes are regulated. Even with a stamp of approval, I somehow trust a Boeing more than a labor of love. Go figure.

I’m talking specifically about planes built at home here. Some of these projects are existing ultralights fitted with a motorcycle engine—they sound stupid, but for some reason that’s slightly less scary—the original structure has been manufactured for flight anyway.

So I had the discussion with Director Jason, about whether he’d try to fly this thing. Without skipping a beat he said he totally would and apparently, so would an impressive number of users who commented on forums and other articles on the subject. Now the question is: am I being the reasonable one here and everyone else is an idiot (I mean, they do say women tend to live longer…), or am I missing out on life big time and should live a little? I still won’t fly in any of these things, so you can call me a loser, it’s ok, it won’t change my mind. I’m just curious to know what you guys think. Would you try to fly Harry Doskicz’ creation?