What's New At The Hangar
Above is Kevin "The Mangler" Fahy working on a 601 engine which will be delivered to a customer at Sun 'N Fun. It's 1 a.m. in this photo. As anybody who's attended a Corvair College can tell you, he's actually a very friendly person.
Putting the wings back on the "Turbo" Skycoupe, above. It's 2 a.m. Putting root fairings on takes time and makes you want to pull out your hair.
3 a.m. Ready for morning test flight.
The display engine, above, which will be in the Zenith Aircraft booth all week, is coming together with one of our new 304 stainless exhausts.
Above, at 8 a.m., Gus and Grace are airborne in the 601, flying as chase plane as the Turbo Skycoupe taxis out below.
Gus tightens the turn for a closer view of the Turbo Skycoupe. Grace shot this photo over Gus' shoulder, down the wing of the 601.
The 601 makes a low, parallel pass to the runway just as the Turbo Skycoupe rotates and begins climbing, above.
Running great and flying smoothly. The Atlantic Ocean is on the horizon, above.
The low angle of the sun shows you how early it is.
View from below. Note the turbo outlet on the left side of the cowl, above. Click on the photo above to see a Quicktime Movie (click here to download player) of the Turbo Skycoupe in flight. A successful test flight was followed by numerous flights in the following days.
The plane flew several hours today. We inspected the engine very carefully after every flight and found absolutely no problems. We were looking very closely for anything damaged by heat, and things stressed by metal expansion, like the exhaust system and turbo brackets. We ran the boost fairly conservatively, but still Gary reported the plane had noticably more power than its naturally aspirated configuration. The plane is flying on Amsoil 10-30, running about 240 oil temp before the cooler. CHT is 325-350F, and EGT under boost is 1400. These are very good numbers and clear the way for the real testing work to begin after the airshow.
Gary flew the Turbo Skycoupe to Sun 'N Fun today. It is two days before the official start, but he wanted to get a good spot in the auto engine row in the Homebuilt Section. The rest of the Gang and the 601 will arive late Monday. Hope to see you there.
Above is a shot of our new CNC bent intake manifold. It is designed to mate perfectly with our welded-on intake pipe mod. The first batch of these is being finished now. We are welding on the carb flanges so that this manifold can serve people who will either use a vertical mount MA3-SPA or Stromberg, or a horizontal mount Ellison or Aero-Carb. The tubing is 1.5" thin wall 304 stainless. This is the same size and material used in certified Lycoming exhausts. It's surprisingly light. The manifold weighs just over 2 1/2 pounds. This is far lighter than mild steel manifolds that we've built, and of course, it's free of joints. While a welded aluminum intake theoretically would be lighter, the 304 is immune to cracks in comparison to complex welded aluminum setups. We'll have more information on pricing at Sun 'N Fun, and we'll post it on www.FlyCorvair.com after the show.
Above is Chuck Ufkes' Corvair powered Dragonfly. I took this photo a few weeks ago when Grace and I drove across the state in the middle of the night to inspect the installation in Chuck's hangar. Chuck is a resident of Leeward Air Ranch in Ocala, and is a very experienced homebuilder. He built the airplane and flew it several hundred hours on VW power. Chuck re-engined it with a 2,700cc Corvair, and began ground testing late in 2004. Today, Chuck called to say that he was doing his first real airborne tests and flying in the pattern. Congratulations to Chuck Ufkes. I'm pretty sure he's the first guy to ever fly Corvair power in a Dragonfly. Chuck told me he intends to fly the airplane to Sun 'N Fun 2005.
Many people have been eagerly following the progress of Dave The Bear's Corvair/Wagabond. As you can see from the photo above, the fuselage is entirely covered and painted. It's assembled here to check the final rigging a few weeks ago, and make all the control cables before the wings are covered. Putting the fabric on the wings is just about the only job left on the airframe. It won't fly to Sun 'N Fun, but we'll have it airborne shortly afterward.
Our ZenVair 601 in the process of getting gear leg fairings, above. These airfoil shapes are sanded out of blocks of balsa I ordered from Aircraft Spruce. The balsa cost about $30. I glued it on the gear legs, sanded it to shape, put a sheetmetal trailing edge on it, and then covered it in Stits fabric. Why balsa and fabric? Because it's light, cheap, quick and good looking. Both sides together don't weigh 1 1/2 pounds, I did the whole job in about 2 1/2 hours and spent less than $50. I chose balsa over foam because Stits fabric is shrunk with an iron at 350F; most foam will not tolerate that high heat.
Grace decided to polish the whole 601 herself this year. We hadn't touched it since we finished the plane a year ago. Grace invested several days in cleaning the plane and bringing the finish up one level above where it was last year. It takes some time, but the results are very satisfying.
Above is Christoph Steiner with Whobiscat. Christoph called on the phone and, with a strong accent, asked me if he could stop by and disassemble a core motor he had. I told him we were kind of busy that day, but when he added that he'd come all the way from Switzerland, we obviously invited him right over. He had purchased an engine in Indiana on eBay, flown over and picked it up, then drove it to Florida. The Hangar Gang was truly impressed with this level of initiative. As seen in the photo, even Whobiscat liked him.
Christoph's core turned out to be a completely frozen waste product. Perhaps the worst core I've seen in several years. He had been told by the seller that the engine had been just removed from a running car. Note to guy in Indiana: We know who you are, and we're looking forward to having a "talk" with you.
The engine clearly had not run in 20+ years, and had spent time submerged in a flood because the inside of the crank case was filled with sediment. Eager to display to Christoph a better side of Americans, Kevin and Steve used every trick in the book to disassemble the engine without harming it. This involved heating and cooling, every solvent in the shop, air tools, clever planning and the liberal use of salty language. Christoph was mightily impressed when the entire engine was disassembled with the only casualty being a broken cylinder fin. The majority of the engine cleaned up nicely. Christoph will be returning to Corvair College #9 to assemble and run his engine.
Above is a stack of Deep Sump Oil Pans. I welded these up in one very long sitting. This photo is about two weeks old. These Oil Pans are in the hands of builders right now. To give you an idea of how much welding this is, it beat out an entire 22 cubic foot argon bottle. Note the pile of rod stubs on the floor.
Above is Grace with 601/Corvair builder Dick Proos. Dick had briefly attended Corvair College #8 until a family matter drew him away. He impressed the Hangar Gang enough that we told him to return any time. He's since brought back his exceptionally well prepared parts, and we've assembled about half his engine. One of the enjoyable aspects of our business is being able to help out friendly guys like Dick.
Grace spent several hours polishing the airplane one day while Whobis sat on top of the canopy and refused to get down. In a very rare display of bad manners, Whobis is taking a swipe at Grace here.
Two weeks ago, Gary Coppen flew down in the Corvair Skycoupe N7230K. As many of you know, the Skycoupe was our main testbed between the Pietenpol and the 601. It pioneered the second generation of Front Mount Starters, Deep Sump Oil Systems, Stromberg carburetor venturis, and eight-tube Motor Mounts. It's been flying on Corvair power for more than three years. Gary keeps it as Spenser Field outside of Jacksonville, Fla. Gary flew the plane 100 miles down to our shop for a special project.
In the background is my 1966 Corvair. We all drove to lunch in it. Gus flew Gary home in our 601. Thus, every motor vehicle Gary traveled in that day was powered by a Corvair engine.
The photo above was taken when Gus returned from flying Gary home. It was a cool evening, and Whobiscat ran right out to sit on the warm cowl. On the way back from Gary's, Gus buzzed Corvair builder Dan Weseman's house at Haller Airpark. Dan was actually outside running his engine on the front end of his plane, the Cleanex. Long before Gus got back, Dan telephoned the hangar to tell us about the perfect timing. He said that Gus flew by at 25 feet and 150mph (Dan's house is directly adjacent to the runway at Haller). When Gus returned, I told him about Dan's calls. Gus shrugged it off and calmly said, "It was more like 35 feet."
Whobiscat likes to check out every new arrival at the hangar. The first evening the Skycoupe was in the hangar, Whobis slept on the dashboard all night. It's shedding season, so thank goodness Gary isn't allergic to cats.
Above is the new exhaust system we fabricated for the Skycoupe. Looking at it, can you tell what we're up to?
A week later, the Skycoupe emerges from the hangar. Look closely, because it now has a complete turbocharging system retrofitted to its existing engine. For space considerations, we removed the Skycoupe's wings when it arrived. They can be replaced in about an hour. Gary came down for the first startup and test runs. Grace's polish job on the 601 stands out in the sunshine in the background.
We did a few brief runs to check the boost level. The brakes couldn't even come close to holding it. It's chained to my blue pickup truck in the photo. It is a simple draw through setup like we ground tested last year. It's a specifically modified Garrett turbo on a draw through Stromberg setup. The exhaust system is 304 stainless. The ignition curve has been modified to restrict the total advance. It has passed all of its tests with flying colors and will be airborne shortly. Many people who visited the hangar while we were installing it asked if the 12" exhaust pipe would be loud. Turbos work by extracting heat and pressure energy out of the exhaust stream. This installation is quieter than many aircraft sporting full mufflers.
A glance at the instruments tells an interesting story. At 40" MAP, the engine turns its 66" Warp Drive prop 400 rpm higher than it did when it was naturally aspirated. The second needle on the MAP gauge is reading the pressure between the carburetor and the turbo. Even though the intake air was being compressed from 25-40", the evaporative cooling of the fuel kept the upper intake manifold cool to the touch. The engine ran smoothly without missing a beat. The Hobbs meter shows the 115 hours the airplane has logged on Corvair power.
After some test flying, it's our intention to display the plane and installation over at Sun 'N Fun. I'll be glad to answer any questions about it then. As a special request to our friends, I'd like to avoid answering a lot of questions by e-mail on it now. Fans of the Corvair and our R&D should just know that we're testing it now, and we'll have more answers in the coming months. Keep in mind that this is a pure retrofit of an existing airplane, so there's no reason for anybody building a regular Corvair engine now to stop making progress on their airframe and engine. Using the Skycoupe as a testbed makes a lot of sense because we already know how it performs as a naturally aspirated airplane, and using the 601 in this same capacity would cut back on our ability to fly visiting builders, etc. While people can always talk, speculate and calculate, real learning takes place in the workshop and in the air. In the coming months, we'll learn a lot more than anybody now knows about flying turbocharged Corvairs. We'll be happy to share it all with you, just give us a chance to collect the data. (Historic Note: The first person to fly a turbocharged Corvair engine was Waldo Waterman in 1968.)
Here, Gary, Grace and I take a self portrait crammed into the Skycoupe's cockpit, a space which is much smaller than any photo booth. It's all smiles and fun at the end of the first run. We're looking forward to a very productive season in 2005, and we're glad to have you enjoy it with us. Stay tuned for more news and information, and we'll see you out there on the flightline.