Grace and I are taking a long planned break to recharge our batteries after the long lead up to Sun 'N Fun.
For the past week, we've been working very hard to get a huge numbered of ordered parts out the door before we leave.
We'll be unavailable till May 16. While this sounds like a long time, in the timeline of building experimentals it's
While a lot of our writing recently has been about parts production and people at Sun 'N Fun, R&D and interesting
personal projects always continue. My crew has always played an aggressive role assisting anyone tackling a challenging
project. Sometimes the role is merely to share the experience of what worked and didn't work in previous tests that relate
to the project. At other times, the assistance has been more direct, when the project's been tackled in the main hangar.
All of these have led to diverse improvements in the body of knowledge of flying Corvairs. Because I'm endeavoring to standardized
production with our own parts, a handful of people mistakenly believe I'm not a supporter of unique and one off projects in the
world of flying Corvairs. We certainly have a track record of doing a lot of these, the
Turbo Skycoupe being a good example. My only reservation is when people want to take truly experimental
stuff like this and sell it untested.
Because the Corvair is a simple, strong, heat tolerant and inexpensive engine, it makes an excellent base from which to
develop modifications, and some builders are interested in this. Examples are the independent EFI projects going on. One is
being designed by Canadian Mike Sharky, an electrical engineer who's put in a lot of work, carefully considering a designed from
scratch EFI system. While many daydreamers simply say, "EFI would be better than carbs," they've never dug into the problem
deep enough to understand such fundamental issues as the fact that almost no EFI system will go into closed loop at an
aircraft's cruise power setting. A look at Mike Sharky's work shows he's addressed many such issues. His electrical engineering
background shows through in his approach to the EFI challenge.
On the other side of the coin is Mark from Falcon, our cylinder head guy. Because he's a head guy, he's predominantly concerned
with flow and porting. He's very close to running a balanced length, independent runner system. He wants to dyno test it to see if
there's any substantial power gain. His choice in electronics is Tracy Crook's RWS system. It's flight proven on other engines, and gives him
an operational system to test his head mods. He's already pointed out to me that it's not economical to perform this mod, as the
intake structure would be cost prohibitive to mass produce. But in the interest of learning, he's going to see the project all
the way through. The runner system was specifically designed to fit inside a 601 cowl so we can flight test it.
Above, our FlyCorvair.com engineer Spencer sits in his all composite and gigantically roomy SP500 fuselage. It's a
one-of-a-kind Corvair powered design Spencer's flight tested as a 1/4 scale model. The fact that he is an aeronautical engineer
with an awesome background in structures allows him to create this plane, which is rated for +- 6 Gs, with a significant margine of safety.
It's intended to be mildly aerobatic and very maneuverable. He gave a great PowerPoint briefing on the project at
Corvair College #10.
Above is a photo of the actual 701 flight engine sitting on the mount. This project is continuing at the main hangar in Edgewater.
Work progresses on it between regular orders.
You can see above how close the Corvair's center of gravity can be brought to the firewall. Geometry of this mount was carefully worked
out to allow the use of our Intake Manifold and a Niagara cooler. When W&B and flight testing data comes back, we'll have more information.
The key to a successful 701 installation is not simply how much the engine weighs, but how close you can bring the engine to the CG.
Above is Gordon's Pegzair in its last week before inspection. We carefully weighed every part, and did a rough W&B on the plane.
It will finish up between 830 and 840 pounds. This is fairly light for a Pegzair. Note that this includes a stainless muffler,
electric start, large tires, leather seats and paint. It is rare that auto engine versions of aircraft are
among the lighter examples. The Corvair makes for a fairly light installation because it's direct drive and air cooled, and we
don't give out misleading statements like "dry weight."
Above, a stainless Supertrapp muffler on the PegVair. It was donated to the project by our neighbor Jan Eggenfellner. This is very
similar to the muffler we had on the Pietenpol. It has a stainless ball joint to allow it to flex. Kevin welded
this exhaust system.
The PegVair has a 601 style airbox fabricated by Kevin. This houses the air filter, forms the bottom of the cowl, and controls carb heat
and cabin air. 2" hole is input from carb heat muff.
Here's the end where incoming air flows through. A lever arm controls the ram air scoop door, which is sealed with felt. Flight proven
on the 601s, this is a very adaptable design.
Above are stacks of every backordered Ring Gear. We're working very hard to get as much stuff in the mail
on the way to the airport as possible. Anything that doesn't make it in the mail will be shipped by Priority Mail upon our return, along
with a packing list and order summary. By the third week in May, every builder will have an order update letter or e-mail from us.
We have a target date of June 6 to be free of all backordered parts, with the exception of production engines and electronic ignition option
The longest backordered items have traditionally been Nosebowls. Through steady hard work, our supplier Matt Latti has
worked our backorder list down to four weeks. Every Nosebowl currently on order will be in the hands of its customer by June 6.
With the backorders gone, Nosebowls will become a regularly stocked "Class A" part on our shelves. Happy building and flying.
Sun 'N Fun 2007:
A Great Show For Corvairs
After weeks of work and preparation, the first major air show of the year, Sun 'N Fun, got started on April 17 and
continued through the 23rd, Monday. The week before the show, we heard from many friends planning on attending, and this
always adds a positive tone to the last hours of preparation. Being the CEO at FlyCorvair.com always qualifies me for the cush
jobs: Driving Corvair parts through the night for a dawn arrival on the first day of
the show. It's a long drive, and gave me time to put things in perspective. This year is the 19th in a row I've attended
Sun 'N Fun, spending the entire week most years. My first year was spent in awe of the creative possibilities open to homebuilders.
By the second year, I realized that as an A&P mechanic and college student, there weren't exactly dozens of companies lining up to
provide me with affordable ways to finish my homebuilt. This period was when I began to realize there had to be a lot of people
in this same position.
I was working on a Corvair for my Pietenpol project as early as the Spring of 1989, and had certainly read about the work of
guys like Waldo Waterman and Bernie, but there was none of it to be seen at Sun 'N Fun. When my Corvair powered Piet did arrive at
Sun 'N Fun, it was the first Corvair powered plane I could ever remember seeing there. Working with my notes and support, the next
arrival was Steve Makish in his KR-2, followed the next year by Bob Lester in his KR-2. This year, seven Corvair powered
airplanes flew in for the air show. Three were making their first visit.
Over the years, 14 different Corvair powered aircraft have been to the show, some many times. I'm proud to say that my crew and
myself were a part of each of these arrivals. If you're at home reading this, thinking about where you're going to fly your
Corvair powered plane when it's all done, put Sun 'N Fun 2008 on your list. You'll be joining some pretty good company.
SNF 2007 was the Corvair Personal Crusiser's air show debut, above. The plane is a joint effort of Morgan Hunter and Scott VanderVeen. You
can read all about it on http://www.corvaircruiser.com/
Early in the project, I built the motor mount for this airplane, and last year, we built the engine for it.
The airplane was a big hit at the show. Morgan flew it around the showcase pattern daily, and answered questions relentlessly.
Scott was inside, answering questions about the Corvair Cruiser and assisting the Contact! staff in their booth.
Morgan and Scott made quite a team at the show, and left quite an impression. Scott tells me that kits are available now for
anyone who's ready to move.
We first met Morgan when we were operating out of the Spruce Creek airport 3 1/2 years ago. Even then, at age 19, it was
apparent he was bright and gifted, the kind of young man whom old school builders really want to see succeed. In his journey were
many frustrating moments, like having the Hurricanes of 2004 blow the door off his hangar. Others would have bowed out, but Morgan
stuck with it. Now, with Scott as a teammate, they were the toast of homebuilders at Sun 'N Fun. Persistence pays.
Joe Horton of Pennsylvania won the long distance award with a flight of nearly 1,000 miles to Sun 'N Fun in N357CJ, above.
Joe's KRVair is a stretched S model with the new airfoils. His 3,100cc Corvair turns a 54x60 Sensenich. This gives him a top speed of
more than 170 mph.
Joe left early in the morning, and arrived before the field closed for the afternoon airshow.
The fact he can cover the majority of the length of the East Coast before mid-afternoon says a lot about the cross country capability of
This was his second Corvair powered
flight to Florida; he also flew in for Corvair College #10.
We first met Joe in person at Sun 'N Fun 2002, where he shared with us some photos of his KR in the boat stage. He was very modest about
his workmanship, but the photos revealed outstanding craftsmanship. Today the plane takes him where he wants to go with swiftness and
efficiency. He wrote his own chapter in the Golden Book of Homebuilding: Persistence Pays. Grace greeted him with a big hug and a
Miller Lite upon his arrival at the air show.
Dave The Bear's Wagabond, above, was the first Corvair powered airplane to show up this year. He was visiting his Mom and Dad, who live in the
area. Several times during the week, people asked me questions like "Does a direct drive Corvair have enough thrust to power a J-3
Cub?" Rather than answer their question in technical terms, I merely directed their attention to Dave's plane. If they needed further
convincing, I pointed out it also carries 36 gallons of fuel, and would easily be capable of carrying several 170 pound FAA Legal Adults.
The project started in 2001 when Dave and I took a long drive to Terry Bailey's place in Alto Mud Creek, Ga., to pick up a
rusty, bare Colt fuselage. Through thick and thin, Dave chipped away at it after hours while working in our hangar. On many nights when
it would have been much more comfortable to sit at home with his children and lovely wife Tammy, whom you may have also met at
Sun 'N Fun, Dave was in our hangar working on a
small task on his plane. A little more than a year ago, the plane made its first flight, and today it's closing in on its first hundred
hours of flight. Although progress at times was measured in very small increments, Dave stuck with it.
Grace stayed home an extra day to fill orders before heading to Sun 'N Fun.
We received a lot of products from our CNC suppliers before the show and Grace wanted to get them out the door before leaving for the
Many people don't realize a lot of Florida looks
like this photo, which Grace took on her way across the state to my first of this year's Sun 'N Fun forums.
I gave four forums in the Contact! magazine tent. As usual, attendance was good. Above is a quick shot of the first forum.
More than half the people at the forum were new faces. This influx of new people is a good indication of the broadening appeal of the
Rick Lindstrom's N42KP 601XL, which he built from a quick build kit with the assistance of my crew the past year, was the
centerpiece of the Zenith Aircraft Co. booth. I shot the photo above early in the morning, when the plane was still dewy.
The reflection on the wings, flaps and tail shows off the high degree of finish on the airplane.
2007 was the second year in a row for builders to get a good look at the Wicked Cleanex.
Dan Weseman flew the airplane down on Thursday with his son Brett. This year, it's sporting a fresh paint and polish job that
Dan did himself. Although you can't see it in the photo above, this airplane is equipped with Gold Hub #1.
From Sweet Home Alabama, Mark Langford's well known KR-2S N56ML making a return appearance at Sun 'N Fun, above. The plane now
has in excess of 400 hours on it. Mark also flew in to Corvair College #10, and we gave him the
Steve Jones Memorial Award for flying 292 hours over a 365 consecutive-day period. Mark has recently gone back to a 3,100 cc powerplant.
This afforded him a boost in performance. Mark left Sun 'N Fun with a 64x52 Sensenich prop that we had on the shelf. He's installing
gear leg extensions to give him a better deck angle on the ground. This will afford him enough clearance for the test prop.
I'm very interested in the comparison of data from the 64" and 54" props on his plane. My prediction is that it will dispell a lot
of pet theories on prop diameter amongst armchair experts. A more practical use of the data will give a look at climb rates and speeds,
and allow people building Corvair twins to integrate the appropriate prop diameter in their design.
A photo Grace took at the Zenith booth mid-show reveals some diverse and friendly faces: Left of the tail, Ralph Mirabal and his son,
ZenVair 601 builders from Miami, myself, and to my right, Matt Latti, our Nosebowl subcontractor.
As Sun 'N Fun drew near, I enlisted two Embry-Riddle students to help fly off hours on the plane: CFIs for hire Ryan Olson and
Bruce Williams. They're both members of Embry-Riddle's Sport Aerobatics Club, and fly the club's aerobatic machinery, and each gave the
601 very positive reviews. On Thursday we attended the Zenith Webmasters BBQ, hosted by ZenVair 601 builder Mark Townsend of Can-Zac. It was a good
chance to socialize, and we ran into ZenVair 601HD builder/pilot Randy Stout and his lovely wife Sandra.
Rick's airplane is headed to Quality Sportplanes, http://qualitysportplanes.com/, Zenith's West Coast facility run by Michael Heintz.
Although it won't make it for the May 5 Open House, West Coast ZenVair 601 builder
Woody Harris will be on hand with a limited number of Conversion Manuals and DVDs.
Grace shot the above photo at my second forum. The photo captures four pilots of high performance Corvair powered aircraft:
The two in back from left are Chris Smith with The Son of Cleanex and Wicked Cleanex builder and pilot Dan Weseman. From right in front, KRVair pilots
Bob Lester and Steve Makish. Between them, they have about 500 hours of Corvair flight time. Conservatively
estimating it at 150 miles an hour, they've flown enough miles to fly around the earth at the Equator more than 3 times.
With Mark Langford, Joe Horton, Morgan Hunter and Dick Schmidt also in the tent, there was another 650 hours of experience on hand. Later in the day we
saw Randy Stout and Greg Jannakos, both 601 guys with another 240 hours between them.
Above is Pramod Kotwal of Nitron, Inc., our crankshaft nitrider in Massachusetts. He came down to the show to meet Corvair builders
in person and display his new aluminum cylinders with ductile iron liners. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum:
Pramod, Grace and I caught a ride with City of Lakeland Volunteer Stu Hall. Pramod and I sat on the tailgate of Stu's dump body
John Deere Gator. Stylishly approaching the forums in limo style service at 15 mph, the bed latch popped and unceremoniously dumped us on our
butts and spread all our display items on the grass in front of the tents. After discovering we'd only bruised our dignity and derrieres,
we had a very good laugh over how important image and dignity is in industry. Pramod nitrided many of the cranks in the Corvair powered
planes that flew to SNF.
At Sun 'N Fun, Grace researches her new book: The Beer and Cracker Diet: Not Recommended By Any Doctor. Look for it on
the New York Times Best Seller List soon. Do not accept any substitutes. Our friend, old school Corvair builder Terry Bailey,
assisted in the "Beer Only" control group in Grace's study.
Our families are great supporters of Sun 'N Fun, and endeavour not to miss
the event. Above are Grace and I with her father on the left,
friend from Newfoundland, Ray Whalen at far left. Both Grace's mom and Ray's wife Juanita were taking photos of the family.
Ray and Juanita were visiting from their new home in Labrador, and enjoyed immersing themselves in the airshow experience for the
first time. The whole family stayed for the 601 builders barbecue. A good day at Sun 'N Fun.
Remembering Les Van Meter
After a forum, California builder Frank Gaggia approached me to say that Les Van Meter had passed away after an extended illness.
It caught me off guard. I collected
my thoughts and tried to explain why the passing of a man I only met once for an hour in my life bothered me so. The explanation turned out to
be unnecessary, for Frank had been a good friend of Les Van Meter, and was well aware of what made Les so unique.
For the rest of the builders reading this, here's how Les Van Meter played an important role in the engine sitting in your workshop.
In the very early years of working with the Corvair, I still had day jobs building Lancairs, and working on props. In the days before the Internet,
people who lived to criticize would frequently phone or show up at forums and make bold statements like: "Any propeller turning more than
2,000 rpm makes no thrust and is just a big flywheel turning." These people didn't listen to logic like Lancair IVs and Glasair IIIs turn 2,700
rpm and seem to be getting some thrust. I frequently asked myself: Why bother trying to share any of my research in this climate?
If you've ever wondered why no one else worked with the Corvair like we have, it's because they did not have Les Van Meter. Les purchased a
Manual from me because he intended to install a Corvair on a modified Europa. Like magic, whenever I was most frustrated with the negative Nancys,
a short phone call would come in from Les with his authoritative tone, telling me how important the work was and that there were many, many
more people who were using it for good than were arguing about it. He'd do this once every three months or so at the moment most needed.
It was very much like Leslie Nielsen in Airplane! repeatedly entering the cockpit to say to Ted Stryker, "I just want to let you know, we're all
counting on you."
The only time Grace and I met Les in person was at the 1999 Laughlin Fly In. I thanked him for his unending positive support,
and we joked that since he'd kept me from corporate America, he owed me a 401K program.
In the following years, I found that Les had played this role in the success of other small aviation businesses. If you're building a
Corvair flight engine today, you're the indirect beneficiary of this man's positive energy.
Notes On Counterfeiting
Above is a photo illustrating why counterfeiters soon will be moot. These are more of the CNC manufactured components we've
mentioned previously. These are on the shelf and ready for immediate shipment. On the left is a 5" stack of CNC cut flight tested
Top Covers we sell for $49. Center top are enough CNC cut stainless heat muff ends for 45
Exhaust Systems. Lower middle are 200 stainless exhaust clamps which are not only CNC cut, but bent in a
CNC press brake, eliminating the traditional welded on fulcrom. On the right are a pile of Alternator
Brackets. The small brackets at the bottom of the photo are the small interior brackets included with the set. We thank everyone at
our gracious supplier who helped deliver these directly to us at Sun 'N Fun.
Looking at the Gold Hubs we picked up just before Sun 'N Fun, and the photos of our
large collection of CNC bent intake and exhaust
pipes posted in Grace's Sun 'N Fun update below, anyone can see we've entered a new chapter of our business. The loyalty of our builders and
availability of these flight tested products leave no room in the marketplace for knockoffs.
New Product Availability Classification System
By popular request, our Web site Products Page will have a new availability classification system:
A: Denotes readily available. These are items like Gold Hubs, Studs, Safety Shafts, Alternator Brackets, Manuals and DVDs. We now have these
on the shelf and they'll remain continuously available to ship your order within a day or two of receipt. Keep in mind that if we're at
Sun 'N Fun, Oshkosh or on vacation, we'll receive your order on our return and will fill it then.
B: Products available in 7-21 days. This includes items like Oil Pans, which are fabricated in batches for efficiency. We're working toward
having them continuously on the shelf. Right now, if someone needs one immediately in order to make progress, I can fill their order by making
a single one.
C: These are products available in 21-60 days. Two notable examples here are Intake and Exhaust Systems. These have been very popular, and their
transition to being fabricated from 100% CNC components has been a challenge. However, as we work our way through the back orders, it is our
goal to move these to a B then an A availability product.
D: Special order items. This would be a unique item, one-of-a-kind motor mount, or product of reduced demand. Speaking with us on the phone will
give you a date to expect these items.
In the age of the Internet, delivery of our products is a little bit like airline flights. Nobody reports the airplane getting there safely; only
crashes are news. In the U.S. alone, there's about 30,000 domestic airline flights a day. Some years, not a single one is an accident. Very few
people chime in to a discussion group to say they got a part they ordered from us in a timely fashion. It's just not news. Conversely, we have
four or five vocal people who will type in on any discussion of delays and distort the stories to make every delay sound years long, denying some
airplane the Grand Champion trophy at Oshkosh. Some of these detractors have no Corvair engine, have never purchased anything from us and have
no dog in the fight, ah, but that's all part of the fun brought to you by the Internet. (Damn you, Al Gore!)
We do have many builders who have been very patient in waiting for parts from us, and we're very grateful for this.
I'm not proud of the delays we've encountered in developing parts
to a better standard, then flight testing them and adapting them to affordable mass manufacture. But we've never compromised by sending out second
rate or untested pieces. The pieces we send out today
are exactly the kind of hardware I dreamed of making when I started this business many years ago. Look for the product
availability classification system in place at
Our Online Catalog shortly.
Progress marches on
Above is our integrated oil filter assembly with our heavy duty cooler bypass. This is round two of the
design. Compare the subtle differences with the first one pictured 13 photos below. CNC allows very rapid updates to designs.
Testing and updates to follow shortly.
Sun 'N Fun 2007
Check Your Mailbox
Warm Greetings From Grace Ellen in Florida. I'm on my way to Sun 'N Fun, while William's had a full day already at the show.
For those who can't
make it to the annual air show, we offer our best wishes, these photos and select shipping notification. At top and below are samples of
what's going out: Safety Shafts, Low Profile Starters with Fine Gears, Spinner Bulkheads,
Gold Hubs, Studs, Full On Spinner Bulkheads with Crushplates and Zipper's brackets are on the way. We appreciate all our
loyal builders out there, and have plenty of products
on hand at Sun 'N Fun as well. To the gentleman who e-mailed re: Will we have Manuals at the show? Yes, thanks kindly to a lottle help from our
friends Doc and Dee. If you're a Pietenpol guy, look up Doc at the show. He looks like Obi Wan Kenobi with a camera, and he's gathering info for their
BPA Newsletter, which is a great read no matter what you're building. We highly recommend a subscription for yourself,
and they make great gifts as well for people like neighbors, helpers and nephews who like airplanes and perhaps have flown in a Pietenpol.
These photos gives you an idea of what we'll be working on after the show. CNC bent exhaust pipes and Niagara Coolers are in the boxes pictured below.
This will be a short update as there's a bit of work to do before I head over to Sun 'N Fun, but we'll have another post shortly.
Take Care and God Bless.
Aluminum Cylinders, R&D Insight
A Close Look At How CNC Parts Boost Our Product Availability
New Order Classification System
Above, a 10-day old photo of Gordon Alexander throwing a salute to his man Don Cornelius. His goal is to fly his Peg-Vair, at right above, at the end of the month. Today, it's a lot
closer than this photo shows. In order to give Gordon a shot at achieving his goal, I've had the phones forwarded to our Northern shop.
The direct number is (904) 529-0006. Keep in mind we're madly preparing for Sun 'N Fun, and would deeply appreciate builders' understanding
in keeping calls to a minimum till after the airshow. The best hours to call are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
The above photo shows six new Corvair cylinders. These are the first photos of a new product being developed by our friend Pramod
at Nitron Inc. He's had them in the works about a year, and is now getting very close to running a set on an engine. They have free-floating,
centrifugally cast, ductile iron liners. The cylinder fins are cast aluminum, made in a mold very similar to original Corvair cylinders.
There's an extremely close tolerance fit between the two. The liners are thick enough to be bored. They're starting in .040 over.
As you can see from the scale, they're very light. Our friend John Bolding is getting ready to test all aluminum Corvair cylinders which
would naturally be even lighter than these. However, the potential advantage of Nitron's cylinders is that only the liner will be in
compression when the engine heats up and expands. This favors the use of stock cylinder head studs, and the iron liner should work with
the same chrome rings we now use. In time, both types will likely be developed with their own installation procedures. After flight testing,
Corvair builders will have their choice of two more ultra-light-weight cylinders.
For comparison, above is a set of stock Corvair cylinders bored .030 over. Many numbers on engine weights are accurate, yet misleading.
A 3,100cc engine is often said to be 8 pounds lighter than a 2,700cc Corvair engine. It is only this much lighter than a stock bored Corvair.
A Corvair bored .060 over loses 4 pounds. The most often overlooked item on Corvairs is that 1964 and '65 cylinder heads weigh nearly 2 pounds
less each than 1966-69 heads. Many people with years of experience in land-based Corvairs are unaware of the weight differences in cylinder
heads. Having owned hundreds of Corvair heads, and working very closely with Mark at Falcon Automotive has allowed us to compare notes
and amass a very extensive database on Corvair heads. This is a good example of how we're continuously catloging new information. We received
an e-mail from a friend this week who commented that our work serves people who want to build standard proven Corvair conversions, but
he was interested in more outside the box stuff. I hastened to point out that our research serves both the guys wanting to build proven
clone engines, and people looking at totally unique engines. Two quick examples of our work with head studs and oil systems serve both
types of builders. I see little need to separate and categorize builders where no natural division exists. Note that there are two sets of
Nitron Cylinders in the photo.
Above, an individual cylinder sits on the scale with its two components separated. The discrepancy between its 2.5 pound weight and the
17 pound weight of six of them is due to the scale reading only in half pound increments. Inevitably, some old fan of Corvair cars will write
us with something to say about a sahil cylinder. Forty years ago, these were made in a limited number for Corvairs. I've only ever seen
one set, and it had a damaged cylinder in it. There was a set on eBay a while back, but I didn't bother to follow them. The sahil cylinders
may have been good or available decades ago, but they're a footnote in Corvair history kept alive in mythology, not reality. Nitron's are brand
new designs made with modern techniques. When this design is finalized and flight proven, Pramod intends to mass produce them. He also has a
second design in the works for a 92mm cylinder. He will be on hand at Sun 'N Fun after the 18th with samples to show, and will be glad to answer
builders' questions on cylinders or crank nitriding.
All over our Web site, you'll see the letters "CNC". Most people around machinery know that this means Computer Numerically Controlled.
After World War II, NC machines were developed to replace turret lathes. Many of these were controlled by punch cards or paper tapes.
With the advent of computers, all serious machine shops today operate equipment which has no direct input from operators. Today, engineers use
computer aided design programs to design parts and e-mail these directly to machine shops, which download this information directly into
several hundred thousand dollar robotic lathes, mills, brakes, punches and cutters. The result is it's far easier for machine shops to produce extremely accurate short runs
of parts. Design changes are easy because the "tooling" exists only in computer memory. While CNC production has revolutionized manufacturing,
especially products made of metals, this revolution carries all the way to our work with the Corvair. Even builders familiar with CNC rarely
understand how integrated into the affordable production of parts this concept is.
Above are 40 perfect Safety Shafts. Years ago, we handmade the first Safety Shafts. It was a time consuming process.
We later farmed them out to an old school machine shop which served us well, but each Shaft had to be hand checked for compliance. Today, when
we need Safety Shafts, a two-sentence e-mail sent to our CNC shop and any quantity we need is manufactured by machines that will run 24 hours
a day if necessary. They're all identical and perfect. Unlike traditional machining, there's no set up charge, and there's no significant price
variation in quantity. If 200 builders a month need Safety Shafts, it makes no special demands on our crew to make the call.
In the foreground above are 20 CNC crushplates that will be integrated into Front Spinner Bulkheads for Warp Drive
Propellers. The very high quality fiberglas Bulkheads are already farmed out to our cowling supplier. We're now working on getting
more molds made so more Bulkheads can be made at one time. Again, the parts are highly accurate, and we only need assemble the two components before
shipping. This is a gigantic leap forward over the prototypes built two years ago, which were all handmade.
Above, an Ultra Low Profile Starter is bench tested after re-assembly. The battery is an Interstate SLA1116. It also
carries the number DCM0018. It's an inexpensive alternative to an Odyssey battery. To illustrate the depth to which CNC is integrated into
our manufacturing, the aluminum ear on the Starter is actually cut on a CNC mill. We have a special set of tools used just for modifying
Starters, and we have the drill down to the point where two people can modify a great amount of them in a day. But the CNC ear shaves off
important time from the process. Previously, they were handcut on a bandsaw. We handed one to our engineer, Spenser, who drew it on CAD and
e-mailed it to our machine shop. Within two days, we had as many as needed, and the amount of Starters that could be turned out in a day
was significantly increased.
Above is a Stainless Intake Manifold for an MA3 or Stromberg carburetor. In my hands I hold the stainless mounting
bracket and carb flange. These parts were made on a CNC hydrocutter. Again, they're perfect, identical and as many as we want are available with a phone call
or e-mail. The tube for the Intake is made at a different shop which specializes in robotically bent tubing. They bend the tubing for all
our Intake Manifolds and Exhausts. Years ago, building an Intake Manifold from mild steel tubing and plate took a
skilled guy the better part of a day. They worked, but had a certain handmade look about them that was fine at the time, but looks Stone Age
compared to the Manifolds we make today. Bringing together the CNC components and welding them in the purple jig is lightning fast by
comparison. To build a handmade manifold required a mill or drill press, metal saws, and a skilled welder. Handmade manifolds simply could not
be farmed out. Today, with all the CNC subcomponents, if demand warrants it, we need only bring in a person whose talent is welding, not
The cost of materials that go into an Intake Manifold are more than 10 times higher than the mild steel that went into the original handmade
manifolds. Yet the stainless manifold is higher quality and is the best way to serve the needs of our expanding builder base.
In the above photo are a number of CNC stainless Exhaust System components. The two shiny stacks are exhaust stubs perfectly manufactured from
3046 stainless billet. A close look shows they're perfectly mouthed to intersect the main tube in the Exhaust. The gasket surface is machined
for a perfect match to a stock Corvair exhaust gasket. On the right side is an old style exhaust stack we used to make in house. It looks
simple, but it's actually a very complicated piece. The tubing had to be swedged to fit over the stack. This was done in a 20-ton press. Then
I Tig welded it by hand on a motorized turntable I fabricated. From there, it was chucked in the lathe to be truthed and throated. Cutting it
to fit other tubes was a still more labor intensive process. Our record day was having three skilled people in the shop produce five sets in
a long session. Today, we can order five, 10 or 30 sets of CNC stacks with a phone call. Although they're expensive, they're well worth it and
have the same production effect on Exhaust Systems that the CNC components have on Intake Manifolds. The A-shaped clamp is a 316 stainless
steel exhaust clamp for our Exhaust Systems. It's cut on a CNC hydrocutter that uses a 70,000 psi stream of water with abrasive garnet in it to
cut the 1/4" stainless at blinding speed. The two sheetmetal pieces are the ends of the carb heat muff. They're also hydrocut, and then
bent on a CNC press brake. If you've ever worked with stainless sheet, you know how tough it is to get a clean looking part, yet these are
now also available to us perfectly made in any quantity. Again, the materials and components make the costs involved in the Exhaust Systems
high, but bring perfect quality and mass production within our reach.
Two Oil System Top Covers, above. The gold anodized model is CNC manufactured. The silver model is DTB (Dave The Bear) manufactured.
The silver model was removed from the Turbo Skycoupe, which is undergoing a complete airframe overhaul. Look for it
at Oshkosh. I welded the machined fittings on it, but all the handwork was done by Dave. He's a very skilled millwright and could produce
eight or 10 of these in a long day. The gold model looks similar, but it's a perfectly accurate CNC manufactured part. The only hand
manufactured part is the welding on of the fittings, which are themselves CNC manufactured. CNC allows quick alteration of the design. The
next round of these will have threaded in fittings that will remove all handwork. The easy way to visually distinguish between the two parts
is the rounded corner on the CNC part. Again, our prior production was Dave limited, and required a lot of tooling and shop space. Today
production is just a phone call away.
Here's a glance into the future. Above is a prototype of the integrated Oil Filter Housing. Here's a part where CNC shines. A skilled
machinist would take a week to make this with all its complex passages and threading inside. This is a very complex part, but a CNC mill
can make many of these in an hour. We'll have these on display at Sun 'N Fun. It's the centerpiece of an Oil System that integrates all
my years of research, testing and flight experience. I'll reserve the in depth explanation for a later post. But know that CNC
manufacturing makes this part not only possible, but affordable.
There is almost no part of our production which is untouched by CNC. Our Prop Hubs, Black and now Gold, have always been made on this
type of equipment. Our Oil Pan rails have gone through three generations of development to become perfect
subcomponents of our Oil Pans. Our Points Plates have always been made on a CNC hydrocutter. But in the past
18 months, it's taken a titanic effort to convert all of our production possible into CNC methodology. Even where just the subcomponents
are made this way, enormous time saving and increase in production capability is now at hand. It's taken months of effort working back
and forth with our engineer and the four CNC shops we use to get here. There have been many prototypes, test parts, second and
third iterations. This conversion to give us the capability of mass production of the highest quality pieces while maintaining our
reputation of knowing every component of the Corvair as a flight engine inside and out has required as many man hours and as much dollars
of investment as we've spent on all other aspects of R&D combined.
In the past year, there have been delays in this process that have taxed the patience of our loyal builders. When builders needed them
at a critical juncture, we handmade parts to get some builders airborne. But we're just now coming to fruition in all this hard work.
And it is not a moment too soon. The coming weeks will see a large increase in the flow of parts to our builders. The investment in manpower
and prototyping limited the size of orders we could place with the CNC houses. With the completion of that phase, we now have very large
quantity orders with each of the suppliers. The size of these orders brings us up several notches in significance in their customer bases.
Customers who've been patient will be rewarded with the finest flight proven parts ever put on Corvair engines. All the parts we sell
will still have the same characteristics of everything we've ever done: They're all flight proven and they each involve the best design,
craftsmanship and quality that can be brought to the marketplace. With this increased production, there will obviously be more free time
for builder events and R&D on complex projects like EFI. It's a bright future, and we're determined to improve customer service.
The payoff for all this effort is that we'll be able to treat tomorrow's customers with the same type of attention afforded our early
customers when we were just starting.
The Rating System
At the suggestion of several of our customers, we'll be modifying the Products Page with an availability rating
on each product. The majority of our products, such as Manuals, DVDs, Safety Shafts, Hybrid Studs and Gold Prop Hubs, are readily
available. Some items have experienced delays and take longer to ship, although our new production and quantity purchasing have
alleviated this. The Web site will be updated so customers can check the exact status of a part before ordering. We're shooting to
have this in place the week after Sun 'N Fun.
Countdown to Sun 'N Fun
Sun 'N Fun is less than a week away April 17-23, 2007 at Lakeland Linder Airport in Florida. It's America's second largest air show. I've
been to every Sun 'N Fun since 1989, and we've had a commercial presence there for 10 years. As always, this year Corvair
fans will have a lot to check out. The centerpiece of this year's display will be Rick Lindstrom's 601 XL N42KP in the
Zenith booth. This is a good place to find me. Zenith Aircraft is one of Sun 'N Fun's most senior vendors, and they have a
great location at the main intersection. Check out the Corvair presence at Sun 'N Fun 2004, Sun 'N Fun 2005 and
Sun 'N Fun 2006.
A number of Corvair pilots have called to say they'll be flying in for the show. Sun 'N Fun maintains a traditional Auto
Engine Conversion Parking area on the North end of the Homebuilt Field. You'll have the chance here to meet many of the
Corvair builder/pilots you've only seen in photos. The Corvair movement is set apart by the craftsmanship and camaraderie of the
builders involved. Air shows are a great opportunity to meet the people who've successfully built and flown their own Corvair engines.
As in the past 10 years, I'll be giving forums in the Auto Engine Forum Tent sponsored by Contact! magazine. The Forums Area is south of the
Museum near the Main Gate to the automobile parking lot. A map and
daily schedules are available at
Sun-n-Fun.org. You'll find me giving forums in Tent #10 at:
Noon Wednesday, April 18, 2007
10 a.m. Friday, April 20
Noon Saturday, April 21
Noon Sunday, April 22