The Captain Zoom FAQ

While there is no Captain Zoom FAQ, the best single document is Ron Wanttaja's 1998 post on
rec.aviation.homebuilt responds in detail to the question "Why Does Everyone Hate USAviator?"

Link to Ron's original post via Google Groups.

Newsgroup: rec.aviation.homebuilt

Subject: Re: Why does everyone hate USAviator?
Date: 1998/03/09
Author: Ronald James Wanttaja <>

I'm going to save a bit of bandwidth and answer two posters in this one

In article <>, Charles Troy Tripp
<> wrote:

< OK, not 'everyone', but why do I see all these threads that seem
< dedicated to trashing this mag? I don't subscribe but I've picked
< it at the newsstand from time to time and it looks decent to me.
< So, what's the problem?

The fundamental issue is the truthfulness of the Publisher/Editor-in-
Chief of the magazine. Eighteen years ago, he was such an
uncontrollable liar that it led to a diagnosis of a personality
disorder. Some people, including myself, see strong similarities
between his behavior then (as documented in Federal Record) and his
behavior now. I posted summary of the earlier court action a few months
back, with specific comparisons between his behavior as documented in
the NTSB record and his statements on his web page and in the
magazine. You might look it up on Dejanews.

Having an investigative reporter with a history of lying is bad enough.
But make that reporter his own editor AND his own publisher, and you
have a recipe for disaster.

The two sides of the debate can be roughly split as follows: On one
side, you have people who have worked FOR Campbell or in the same
industry long enough to observe him. On the other side, you have folks
who have only read his magazine, or met him once at a Fly-In.

In article <6dp7gq$>, Geoff Thistlethwaite
<> wrote:

> I helped a friend build a 2 seat Hawk Arrow, and the manuel and
> prints left quite a bit to be desired(putting it mildly). Chuck
> said all the parts to the kit were there and they weren't, when
> this was pointed out he call my friend a liar, and it was only
> with repeated phone calls and pressure that we were able to get
> all the parts that were paid for.

> So if Campbell was right about Chuck is it possible that he could
> be right about other matters?

Like, for instance, that "Terrorists" caused the destruction of Airdale
Press? That he moved the headquarters of his magazine out of its large
airport office to his own small apartment because it was a "more
defendable" location, and NOT because the city evicted USA for non-
payment of rent? Or like just last January, when he claimed that the
NTSB "tasked" him to perform the "initial investigation" of a
homebuilt accident...which the NTSB Regional Director has since

Campbell once gave a negative recommendation about a company. I
personally know a builder who had the same problems Campbell reported.
We agree as far as that company goes.

But without any similar personal experience, how do I dare believe him
in regards to any other? How do I know if there have been legitimate
beefs against the company, as opposed to Campbell having a personal
disagreement with its owner? Is the suspected company indeed throwing
any semblance to good customer relations to the winds...or did they
merely stop advertising in US AVIATOR, a common denominator in the
CGS, Adventure Air, Flightworks, Parascender, Carlson, and who knows
how many other cases?

Are there THAT many more complaints against CGS than against companies
like, say, Quicksilver?

The only one who knows is James R. Campbell. The "Zoomed" posting
referred to by another poster was Chuck Slusarzik's version of events.
The negative coverage of CGS, according to Chuck, started AFTER he
quit advertising in US AVIATOR magazine. Campbell kept running his ad
and billing him. When Chuck protested the negative coverage started.

But let's compare US AVIATOR's coverage of CGS to its coverage of
another company. The president and chief designer of this company
designed a light plane that went into production in the 1960s and was
produced until about 1980.

It has the highest fatality rate in its class.

He went on to design a small homebuilt. He accepted deposits from
THOUSANDS of potential builders. He then announced that the homebuilt
would also be a certified production airplane, and again, thousands of
dollars were taken in deposits.

The company went bankrupt in the late 70s. The company had never got
the airplane working right.

Out of desperation, some builders went on to complete their partial
kits on their own. Many tried to fly them.

This homebuilt design accrued a fatality rate of ONE MILLION PER
HUNDRED THOUSAND HOURS. Legend has it that only one man was ever able
to fly the original design without crashing...and he was the company
test pilot.

A modified version, with a longer set of wings, turned out to be much
safer. But the airplane is one of the least crashworthy in the
homebuilt fleet (small pusher, pilot sits practically on the belly
skin). Crash = Serious injury (usually to the back) or death.

So, in the late 80s/early 90s, the same designer has a new company. A
homebuilt *supersonic* jet. During a demonstration flight at Reno, the
vertical tail suffered a structural failure. The company designed a
strengthening mod, which was included when the rights to the design
was sold to another company.

The vertical stabilizer of the new company's "supersonic" plane failed
at 380 knots, killing the test pilot.

The NTSB determined the cause was "...due to inadequate substantiation
by the designer." In other words, the designer didn't properly
determine the aerodynamic loads on the tail. Another of these
airplanes crashed, again killing the pilot.

The current score: Four planes built, two fatal crashes.

While this was going on, the designer's NEW new company had a hot new
propeller- powered two-seat homebuilt design. They started a marketing
blitz, hauling mockups to the big airshows and collecting deposits.
Big change this time, though...the deposits would actually be put into
an escrow account to protect the buyers.

The airplane crashed on its first flight.

Details from the company waffled. Builders grumbled. Rosy press reports
were issued. Then little clues started coming out: For instance, the
airplane's CG had been too far back EVEN WITH 170 POUNDS OF LEAD IN
THE NOSE. The airplane would be rebuilt...with changes to the landing
gear and to the wing position. This was a kit ready for market?

The company entered financial difficulties. Then it turned out that the
money in the buyer's "escrow" account HAD BEEN SPENT.

While all this has been going on, Chuck Slusarzik had been delivering
airplanes since the mid '70s. He apparently had a problem in the '80s
when ultralight companies were folding left and right, but came back.
According to the KITPLANES December issue and the AEROCRAFTER book, he
has delivered well over a thousand kits.

Now the $100 question: Who has received more negative press in US
AVIATOR magazine: Chuck Slusarzik, or Jim Bede?

Even more telling, compare the NEGATIVE coverage CGS gets to the
positive, even GLOWING coverage Jim Bede got. Do a Dejanews search for
Campbell's postings under his old AOL account. You'll find a number of
postings announcing the status of the BD-12. They read like Bede press

A couple of years back on AOL, some BD-12 customers were grousing about
the company's problems.

Jim Campbell's response: "I've talked to Jim a bit... and it's obvious
that he's really under the gun. He's having some financial and vendor
problems. And the naysayers aren't helping any." (AOL 2/26/96)

"The naysayers aren't helping"? Is this the kind of statement an
unbiased journalist makes? An investigative journalist is SUPPOSED to
be a nay-sayer. Is SUPPOSED to doubt what the company press flacks
tell him.

"The naysayers aren't helping" can be equally applied to many
companies. Has Campbell ever said it about CGS? About Adventure Air?

Why is CGS vilified for a SINGLE delivery problem dating from fifteen
years ago, when Campbell's most cutting comment about Bede is, "...I
had once hoped that Bede's worst days were behind him"?

It should be perfectly obvious that US AVIATOR's negative coverage of
CGS has NOTHING to do with how the company treats their customers. The
complaints that arise are but sawdust thrown into an already-roaring

> My father owned,edited and published the worlds first daily offset
> newspaper, and I was brought up to believe in the constitution of the
> United States, especially the 1st amendment... So when I see personal
> attacks on an editor or publisher it really raised my hackles.

Unfortunately, because Campbell is the publisher and editor of the
magazine, any discussion regarding the fairness or truth of his
coverage MUST touch on something quite personal: His history of mental

But perhaps what you mean is that you want actual examples, not one-
liners about how crazy he is. All right. Let's examine how Campbell's
"personal" problems may have affected the coverage in his magazine.
Let's look at what I believe is the most telling example in the
checkered history of US AVIATOR magazine.

First off, let's establish one fact: James R. Campbell has a large ego.
There shouldn't be an argument there...Campbell admits it.

The only argument is to the *size* of his ego, and whether it's just
the manifestation of an accomplished individual or a sign of mental

The diagnosis of the court-appointed psychiatrist back in the '80s was
that of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The Diagnostic and
Statistics Manual of Mental Diseases makes it clear to this layman
that when psychiatrist talk about NPD, they're talking about an ego

"...A persuasive pattern of grandiosity...hypersensitivity to the
evaluation of others...a grandiose sense of self-importance...expect
to be noted as "special...the person may be preoccupied with how well
he or she is regarded by response to criticism, he or she
may react with rage..."

In the July 1994 issue of US AVIATOR, in an article titled "An Exercise
in Absurdity... US AVIATOR Under Attack," Campbell makes charges about
an employee of Flightworks aircraft.

"...Threats of extortion issued to us by Flightworks employee Laurel

"...caught in the lie, Flightwork's Ramey then said she had 'no

"...Flightworks' Sales Manager also accosted, confronted, or called my
writers and staffers..."

...[the postmark of an alleged anonymous mailing] reads "Fox Valley
IL", which...just happens to be a stone's throw from the relative of a
certain Flightworks employee."

"...this Flightworks staffer (Ramey, again) upset at having been
questioned by the local police over a grand theft matter..."

One problem: Laurel Ramey was a former employee of US AVIATOR... a fact
that Campbell didn't deem important enough to mention. At one point,
she was his Managing Editor (US AVIATOR magazine, January 1993, page

Even worse: Ramey was Campbell's ex-fiance. She'd left him less than a
year earlier.

Don't take my word for it. About ten months after she left, Campbell
filed a complaint against Ramey with the Winter Haven Police

Department, alleging theft. Quoting from the report: "Victim (J.
Campbell) advised in a sworn-taped statement that the suspect was
employed by him and was also engaged to him." (Agency Number
FL0531600, Agency Case Number 94-11954).

Campbell has a large ego. And what's the worst possible blow to one's
ego? Having one's SO break off a relationship has to rank right up

With Campbell's medically-documented ego problems...we're expected to
believe that the failed relationship had NOTHING to do with the way he
covered the story?

If so, when confronted with it in this newsgroup back in '94, Campbell
could have shrugged, admitted the relationship, and stated that he
felt it hadn't affected his story. Or even just ignored the

He didn't. He denied the relationship in his postings in this
newsgroup. He referred to Ramey as his "alleged fiance." He threatened
to sue those who questioned his judgement.

As far as the article itself, journalistic ethics demand that the
reader be notified of such a relationship. Campbell didn't do so. If
he'd worked for another publication, he would have been fired.

But of course, he was the Publisher of US AVIATOR. He could print
whatever he wanted, subject only to his victim's ability to scrape
together $30,000 or so for a libel lawsuit. Thirty grand was probably
more than Ramey made in a year. And as the former Managing Editor and
Marketing Manager of the magazine, she would have known there would be
no money to pay any judgement to her.

The Campbell-Ramey relationship wasn't a secret to anyone working in
the homebuilt industry.

Any Campbell critic knew it.

But most of the readers of the magazine didn't know. Had no way of
finding out.

If you are a fan of Campbell's, consider: If Zoom had prefaced the
article with a comment like "I know this looks bad, but I have to
admit that Ramey is my former fiance," would you have thought the
lesser of him?

Probably not. You would have been impressed by his honesty. You would
have believed him even more.

Campbell insists the relationship had nothing to do with the content of
the story. Why not state that in the story itself?

It wasn't to keep the information from his critics...they already knew.

The only possible explanation: He didn't trust that his readers would
come to the "right" conclusion. Unless he kept them in the dark.

I repeat: He doesn't trust his readers with all the facts...only those
that match the message he wants to send. He wanted his readers to
believe that Laurel Ramey was a criminal. Any facts that got in the
way of this message were suppressed.

As an example, recall Campbell's comment about Ramey being "...upset at
having been questioned by the local police over a grand theft

The grand theft matter was Campbell's *own* accusation; the same one
where he admitted under oath that she had been his fiance. One that,
at press time of the magazine, Campbell already KNEW that the State
Attorney had refused to bring charges (Agency Case #94-11954, Page #3:
"No criminal prosecution. Case closed.")

But if he HAD mentioned those facts...well, it wouldn't make his ex-
fiance look so much like a criminal, eh?

Do journalist ethics demand that Campbell reveal both that the "grand
theft matter" was his own accusation and that the authorities declined
to prosecute? I believe so. Here's an example as to the dangers:

Suppose you're a critic of US AVIATOR. The Zoomer calls your local
police department and accuses you of being a child molester. Note that
in most communities, the names of the accusers in such cases are never

The cops look into it (as the law requires) but quickly dismiss it.

But in his next editorial, Campbell can casually refer to your being
"Investigated for child molestation." And you can't do a DAMNED thing
about it. It's not WERE investigated.

There's no law that requires Campbell to mention that it was his own
accusation, or that you were cleared of the charges. Unless you can
convince your local authorities to release the name of your accuser
(which they usually won't do), you have no legal remedy.

The 1994 article is a mass of twisted information and suppressed truth.
A man named Frank Hitlaw is accused of a number of things, including
an unrequited love affair with Ramey. What's NOT mentioned is that
when Ramey decided to move out, Hitlaw helped her get her property out
of the house before Campbell found out.

Campbell accuses Hitlaw of threatening him...yet when the police
investigated, they ejected Campbell, not Hitlaw, from the Fly-In.

In an earlier section of the article, Campbell says he filed a lawsuit
against Flightworks "to end this harassment." I happen to believe that
he filed the suit for that purpose...but the suit itself wasn't for
libel or slander or harassment.

It claimed Flightworks hadn't paid an advertising bill.

I believe this called a "SLAPP" action...Strategic Lawsuit against
Public Participation. The tobacco companies use them to silence
critics. Campbell says he won the suit by default when Flightworks
didn't show up in court. Oddly enough, he's subsequently stated that
the monetary judgement wasn't even enough to pay his legal fees. You'd
think a default judgement would AT LEAST cover those, wouldn't

Campbell claims in the article that Brady of Parascender assaulted him,
and that Brady made threats that Campbell caught on tape. Yet the
police report in this case lists Campbell as the SUSPECT...and Brady
as the victim! Some quotes from the investigating officer's report, as
posted here back in July: "I did listen to the tape...but heard no
such threats." "I later learned the SU [Suspect, Campbell] told SGT
Smith that VI [Victim, Brady] attacked SU by the throat, but he
[Campbell] mentioned nothing about this to me when I interviewed him.
Additionally, there were no marks on the SU's neck." And, of course,
Campbell couldn't produce any witnesses to an assault that supposedly
happened in the midst of the world's second-largest Fly-In.

The result of the police investigation? Campbell was ejected from the
Fly-In FOR A SECOND TIME. (The ejections are documented on two
trespass notices issued to Campbell. Event Number 94-04-2935, 4/12/94,
where the ejection was at the request of the Lakeland Airport
director, and the second was Event Number 94-04- 3775, 4/15/94, at the
request of the President of Sun-N-Fun.)

The ejections best-illustrate the reality of the Campbell situation.
Every time an unbiased observer examines his claims, Campbell's
accusations are rejected. The only time Campbell wins is when his is
the only voice heard, like the "default" judgement in the Flightworks
He knows it. The steps he takes to try to silence critics have been
well- documented in this newsgroup.
This is a free country. If Mr. Thistlethwaite wants to believe that
Campbell's actions as a journalist were perfectly ethical when he
attacked his own ex- fiance in print, Mr. Thistlethwaite is free to do
so. If he believes Campbell's claims of "terrorism," he's free to
publicly support Campbell.
Just as I...and others...are free to express our contrary opinions. And
back them up with documented records, not skewed interpretation and
unsupported accusations.
If a lawyer is unethical, the Bar Association can take action. If a cop
is dishonest, there are internal investigators that find the truth. If
a hairdresser is incompetent, his or her professional license can be
But if a magazine or newspaper publisher is unethical, dishonest, and
incompetent...there's no "publishing license" to remove, no board of
ethics that can "disbar" them.
When the power of the press is abused, the Truth is the only weapon
left to the common man.
Ron Wanttaja                                                                                    


Updated 03-09-1998