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Sunday September 26, 2004
Final Edition

Richter: "I've seen so much truly atrocious work, much of it per Bob's book"

Dateline Copperhill, TN
September 24, 2004

Mr. Greg Richter of Blue Mountain Avionics has published a treatise for the Owner Built and Maintained (OBAM) aircraft industry titled "Aircraft Wiring for Smart People" wherein the author suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to the wiring of OBAM light aircraft.

  • (I had a link to the original document but it's been removed from the website. In the interest of preserving facts pertaining to the discussion, the document has be preserved and linked below:)

    The document offers a "100% fool proof" methodology that appears to be offered for all airplanes irrespective of engine type and how the owner intends to use the airplane.

    The author's opening words seem to raise issues with recommendations and techniques offered by the work of author/teacher Bob Nuckolls in a publication called the AeroElectric Connection. In fact, one wonders if the the "Bare Knuckles Approach" subtitle of Richter's work is a direct challenge to Nuckolls.

    Never so shy as to let a challenge go unanswered, Nuckolls crafted a first pass review of Richter's document. A response by Richter and others was noted on the Blue Mountain Discussion Board. In his response, Richter states, "I've seen so much truly atrocious work, much of it per Bob's book". However, in spite of his displeasure with a piece that has been in publication for over 15 years, Richter has never contacted the author pointing out errors. He characterizes the 'Connection as eminently criticizable but he's never offered a review of fundamentals or designs on which the work is based. He has never offered recommendations for clarification or alternative techniques.

    As outlined by the stated Peer Review Policy of the AeroElectric Connection, Richter and others have always had and open invitation to critique the website, and the AeroElectric-List.

  • Hundreds of folks are continuously engaged in discussions upon which the AeroElectric Connection relies for future update materials. There is nothing preventing Richter from putting feedback into those open conduits.

    In a second response Nuckolls seeks clarification of specific statements in Richter's writing. Nuckolls also asks for specific objections and recommendations for anything in print on any venue supported by AeroElectric Connection including book, website and list server. Richter expresses concerns about this becoming a "flame war". To dispel any such notions being applied to his intent, Nuckolls offers free review copies of the book and a 100% scholarship for any weekend seminar Richter would care to attend. Nuckolls makes it clear that this is not a battle of personalities but a common sense quest for good science, good art and a recognition of duties for those who would aspire to the title of "teacher."

    As stated in response documents, Nuckolls would welcome any discussion that discovers and/or defines simple-ideas in physics that support the OBAM aircraft mission. He's also interested in an accurate and helpful chronicling of the history of simple-ideas and inventions. Finally, he's stated a willingness to support practical inventions and designs that reduce parts count, increase reliability, and reduce cost of ownership.

    Nuckolls further suggests that any and all discussions be conducted in open forum, with full view and participation of the OBAM aircraft community. As the casual reader will note, every exchange thus far has been chronicled on Nuckolls invites Richter to make the same information available to visitors of

    A developing story. Watch this space . . .

    Mailed: 9/27/04 at 10:00 am
    I've published an update to the discussions prompted by your
    booklet, "Aircraft Wiring for Smart People" at:
    I'd be pleased to engage you in an open, constructive dialog
    so that any interested observer will have a crack at
    understanding what we are about.
               Bob . . .
               ( Experience and common sense cannot be )
               ( replaced with policy and procedures.  )
               (                  R. L. Nuckolls III   )
    Reply received 9-28-4
    To: "Robert L. Nuckolls, III" 
    Subject: Re: Wiring for Smart People 
    Sure thing, Bob.  Always open to talking shop.  What I want to avoid is a flame
    war over who invented electricity.
    I don't like flame wars either. I don't participate in them.
    The way you styled my page (which is a bit much, frankly) on your site as "Breaking
    News" shows that you are making a far bigger deal over my little book of notes
    than I am.  It's a simple guide to answer questions I get asked a lot by my customers.
    I put it together for a friend who asked for some guidance on tools and techniques,
    and it grew into a bigger book of notes as time went on. It's not a replacement
    for your book, web site and lecture tour, so relax.
    Thank you for your concerns but I'm not the least bit tense . . . Now,
    I WAS a bit excited. If I had stood in front of my contemporaries at RAC
    and made statements like some of yours, I'd be fielding cabbages and
    tomatoes from all over the room. A teacher's first tool is precise use
    of words. I WAS whacking away with enthusiasm but not out of any sense of
    self defense or ill will. I was just holding you to the same standards
    I would expect of any engineer whether they work for a big aerospace company
    or simply attempting to educate neophyte airplane builders.
    You are trying to develop a set of solutions for the community.  My booklet is on
    my web site and is geared to help my customers, who have very similar electrical
    requirements.  It's a narrow population segment and the booklet is geared (wired?)
    to them.  It is a draft, has some unfinished sections and some things in it that
    are confusing or not exactly as they should be just yet.  I really didn't expect
    or want a full-on review, page by page.  A private email comment would have been
    more appropriate, and I have taken some of your suggestions.
    I had three or four e-mails from folks who were aware of your posting and
    and already picked up on major issues of both technology and fact. Your target
    market may indeed be limited to your customers but that's not at all clear
    in the text. There are broad statements about system voltage selection, supported
    by energy discussions and weights that simply didn't compute. You were using
    the term "energy" to describe what now appears to be a discussion on effects
    of internal impedance of batteries during starter inrush currents.	 
    If you had sent me a document for review, then things would have undoubtedly
    spun up in a different manner. But you published it I was receiving questions
    from the field concerning variability of facts, suppositions, etc.
    Thanks for the comments, by the way, on some of the things that were unclear,
    in error or needed revision.  It's a draft, and its getting better with each
    review; yours and others.  Another few rounds it'll be a nice little booklet.
    Great. Please consider any future comments as being crafted with
    that spirit and intent.
    Also -- the "Bare Knuckles" comment isn't a jab at you.
    I didn't even consider it until one of my readers wondered out loud . . . it
    was an interesting question.
    We've never met, and I don't know you well enough to take a cheap shot at you.
    This is a reference to a simple, "gloves off" approach to doing a job.  It's a
    common expression in my shop, but as I noted, we don't know each other and you've
    never been out here. Lighten up, Bob.  The world isn't out to get you and neither
    am I.
    If anybody perceives some value in an effort to "get me" with
    any sort of activity, I hope they enjoy their illusion. Honorable
    folks cannot be "got" and it is my intention to conduct myself honorably.
    If someone wants to attack ideas I've embraced, that's fine too. Flimsy,
    unsupported ideas are indefensible and need to fall. Good ideas will
    stand on their own and don't require a defense by me or anyone else, only
    lucid explanation. I readily confess to being enthusiastic about my profession
    but if anybody reads a degree of tension, jealousy, ill will or paranoia into
    my words, they're simply mistaken or wishfully thinking.
    I have no issue with how you propose to wire and connect things and I am not
    attacking your text, your Website or you personally.
    I am observing that your approach requires more learning and studying than most
    builders are willing to do and not all of them get good results.
    I'd really like to understand this statement. How do you perceive "my
    approach"? The first 16 chapters of the 'Connection have to do with hardware.
    These discussions are common to any DC power system in any vehicle. 
    What is the goal of your publishing effort? Are you suggesting that bypassing
    the first 16 chapters is a useful mission? For the sake of discussion, I'll assume
    that's true. This condition in fact is how most pilots understand and operate their
    cookie-cutter spam-cans. EVERYTHING used in the airplane is holy-watered
    and few pilots perceive value in understanding anything about it . . . and
    most don't understand it.
    The last two chapters deal with suggestions for architecture described
    in terms of engine options, perceived mission, and builder choices
    based on knowledge and budget. The vast majority of OBAM aircraft could
    be wired per figure Z-11 which is only very slightly different than
    the current fleet of spam cans. There are no more switches and no more
    busses than found on a 1968 C-172 or 2004 Bonanza. Except for the
    dual feed-path e-bus concept, Z-11 is no different than the system suggested
    in Van's kits or Tony Bengelis' books.
    What follows after Z-11 are step ups from "stone simple" that address opportunities
    that only OBAM aircraft owners are allowed to consider. Each has features
    that address specific goals and concerns. I have to presume that if
    someone doesn't understand the "step up" systems, he will opt for the
    "stone simple" route with features that eliminates potential for a lot
    of dark-n-stormy-night-stories. 
    The really dangerous, scary installations I've seen that are "per AeroElectric" would
    not make muster with you either, I'd hope.  From what I see, some builders just
    don't get what you were trying to say and subsequently made a hash of it. That doesn't
    make your book wrong.
    Can you give me one suggestion from the 'Connection that a builder "hashed"?
    I'm having trouble visualizing what words or illustrations in the book drove
    a poor decision on the part of a builder. If your book of 40+ pages is for smart
    people then my book of 270+ pages is for dumb people. If I fell short of the goals
    for raising some individual's level of understanding to the degree necessary to
    "pass muster", I'd sure like to understand how it happened so I can fix it. When
    the Seawind builder showed up, what was the first thing you saw that needed fixed
    and what did he read in the 'Connection that drove the situation?"
    Suppose the Seawind builder had come in the door with a system per Tony
    B's book?  Would the system have been in any better shape? If the system was
    still hosed, would you have been equally inclined to state, "I've see so much
    atrocious work, most of it per Firewall Forward? There are 100 times more airplanes
    out there wired per Firewall Forward than per the 'Connection.  Is it your
    perception that Tony's work produces more consistently successful results then
    there has to be a profound difference in teaching approaches for Tony's work
    versus my work. Is Tony's work also too complicated and you're proposing an
    approach that is simpler still? I'm really trying to understand.
    It may make it overly complex in some cases, but that's my opinion and is noted
    as such.
    Complex in what ways? If you were going to red-line any page of
    the 'Connection what would you mark for deletion or modification?
    What page depicts a concept that could be simpler? Do you have a
    suggestion for a new Z-figure that illustrates your proposal?
    My little booklet isn't a substitute for the many good wiring books out there, yours
    among them.  It describes a simplified approach suitable for a hobbyist who doesn't
    want to engineer a cut-and-dried task like installing a radio, or an EFIS. In the
    world of small, homebuilt, single-engine airplanes there's enough commonality to do
    things in a much, much simpler manner than is now common.  
    I've read your publication many times and forgive me . . . I'm trying
    to visualize what you're suggesting. Maybe I'm too educated. If you
    handed me a bag full of parts and wire, a box full of tools, and a copy
    of the booklet, I cannot visualize how the system you are proposing
    describe comes into being. I tried to "reverse engineer" the schematic
    for the board and couldn't perceive the big picture. If somebody wanted to
    hire me to install a system per "Wiring for Smart People", I could not quote
    the task.
    You speak of what's "common" . . . as being more complex than what your
    book suggests. I can tell you that 90% of the OBAM aircraft are wired
    very much like Tony B's work and Van's wiring which is just like a current
    production C-172 and can't be simpler.
    You an I are offering some quantum jumps in capability. Glass cockpits
    are anything BUT common in light aircraft. Similarly, it will be a BIG milestone
    in GA when the numbers of airplanes with two alternators exceeds 10% of
    the whole fleet. The 'Connection offers a variety of choices ranging from
    systems only slightly different that a current production spam can up to
    a fully redundant, dual electrical system.
    The vast bulk of what we do is very cut and dried.  Why spec out, in detail, things
    like coax when a single part number will work admirably for everything in a homebuilt?
    I've seen quite a few planes with three (3) kinds of coaxial cable, for example,
    since the builder thought that's what he had to do.
    So there were 3-kinds of coax. Was each one adequate to the task?
    I discuss various kinds of coax in the 'Connection but at
    no place do I recall making a recommendation for any single style
    of coax much less three different kinds applied to different radios.
    If  you had a builder come in the door with three different coaxes when
    one coax would do, it was because he followed three different recommendations
    in three different installation manuals for his radios . . . not because
    of anything he read in the 'Connection.
    Nice tag at the bottom of your email, BTW.  It's essentially what I'm suggesting -- 
    experience and common sense dictate that out of 100 airplanes I see in my work, 
    90 of them could have been wired the same way.  Why are we reinventing the wheel
    with every new ship, and even worse making the non-electronically inclined builder
    fight his way up the learning curve?
    Of all the OBAM aircraft being built, 90% of them ARE indeed wired the same
    way. The electrical systems are clones of a Cherokee or Skyhawk. I
    I don't expect more than a tiny percentage of all OBAM aircraft builders
    to rely on the AeroElectric Connection for assistance with their projects. Further,
    most of those will choose Z-11 which is very nearly a clone of the Cherokee/Skyhawk
    It's also unrealistic to expect more than a small percentage of total
    new OBAM aircraft to carry a BMA EFIS system or any other glass cockpit.
    We're both seeking the EXCEPTIONAL customer. But here's where we
    diverge. You seem to believe that the technically inept or disinterested
    builder is a member of your consumer demographic and would benefit from
    a cookie-cutter approach to system configuration. Conversely I am quite
    certain that most OBAM aircraft builders, ESPECIALLY the disinterested
    and inept are NOT part of my consumer demographic. I've had e-mails and
    phone calls from folks who I wished had NOT purchased the 'Connection.
    They clearly had no business building an airplane. I generally hear
    from them only a few times. I hope that's because they took up rock collecting
    and not because they didn't survive first flight.
    The anecdotes you've cited as argument for a "bare bones" document are
    unconvincing. If some guy walks up to you lamenting a failed attempt
    at brain surgery and says he did relied on Dr. Excellent's book, is there
    a logical basis to believe the outcome would have been satisfactory
    if he had relied on Dr. Easy's book instead? It seems to me that a sure
    formula for failure is to ignore or discount the fundamentals irrespective
    of who writes the book. Ultimate responsibility for this outcome rests with
    the builder alone. The only time an author gets to take on any blame is when they
    publish bad stuff. It's the duty of folks who know better to advise against
    bad work before it's published or to shine spotlights of warning on bad work
    after it's published.
    My thesis is not everyone wants to, or needs to spent the time reinventing
    the same circuit diagram.  You and I are essentially pushing the same program -- I
    am asking for simplification where it can had.  If you want to kick around
    specifics, I'm open to that.
    Great. I'll let you lead. Take any page or concept described in the
    'Connection and suggest how it can be simplified. I'd be pleased to include
    your suggestion in Rev 11.
               Bob . . .
               ( Experience and common sense cannot be )
               ( replaced with policy and procedures.  )
               (                  R. L. Nuckolls III   )