Hangar And Business Developments
We've recently put several changes into effect aimed at providing better service to our customers.
We're implementing these after careful consideration after years of experience helping countless
successful homebuilders. We share them here so our builders can better understand the adjusted operational
format and, very important, understand we're working very hard to provide the best service possible
within the obvious constraint of providing the most affordable engine on the marketplace.
Most builders understand that brand new, expensive, imported engines have very high profit margins.
Being simple consumer products, imports require and are given very modest tech support. Our situation, although
we're providing an engine alternative, is entirely different. Our product is the least expensive engine on
the market, and has vastly lower cost markup. Our Mission is educational, and
therefore requires far greater exchange of information with builders. This technical support takes the
form of phone calls, e-mails, Night Schools, Colleges,
demo flights, and air show appearances.
Reasonable builders recognize that our efforts to share what we know with the maximum amount of
builders funded solely from the efficiency of our modest cost operation is a challenge. But one we
have met on a weekly basis for more than a decade. This latest round of fine tuning and adjustments to
our operations will work to improve our efficiency without burning out My Crew
or overtaxing the patience of our builders.
Visitors to our hangar quickly understand that the hangar is the center of building and flying activity,
but Web and office work has always been done out of the office we maintain at our residence. Three weeks ago,
Grace and I moved to a new residence, which has much more dedicated office space. Office reorganization will
be completed shortly. Our mailing address remains the
same one it has been for the past 13 years. The move provided a brief
interruption and start up period on Web information, the most visible of which was that our Web site
was down briefly to modify servers. This prompted about a dozen phone calls every day; most friendly
reminders, one or two from concerned builders who had diplomatic questions about business stability.
These are fair questions in an era when major industry names like Kitfox and Glasair,
providers of proven products, disappeared into bankruptcy. This doesn't even touch on colossal ripoff schemes
like Dreamwings. To better understand why businesses in our industry disappear, let me give you the insider
perspective: Most experimental aviation businesses have financial partners, underwriters or money people involved.
When the operation has been mismanaged or a downturn has struck, or perhaps development of a new product has
overextended the company, the financial people, who only care about money, pull the plug. Conversely,
the most successful and durable of aviation companies, ours included, all have the common thread of having
no investors, just dedicated ownership. Van's Aircraft, Zenith, Sonex and Corvairs all are brought to you by
dedicated airplane people who replaced investors with hard work and efficiency.
In our case, and I'm sure it's true with the other companies, the support of dedicated and faithful builders
was much more of an asset than any financial deep pocket. Money people blindly chasing profits forget that
safety is paramount in aviation, and profitability must always take a back seat to it. If turning a profit by
the end of a quarter was ever important, we would have long ago been doing something else. We've been around
more than 10 years, we'll certainly be around another 10, God willing.
One of the biggest builder complaints was our phone system. Previously, the answering machine was tied into
an Internet based answering system which made message retrieval problematic. The solution to this is surprisingly
low tech: A regular desktop answering machine is in place and working as of Monday, June 12, 2006. Merrill
returned Monday after a week out of the shop and used his Skymanta broadcast radio voice to place a very
melodic message on the hangar line. We all watched to see who would be the first person to listen to the
new message. I recognized the number as 601/Corvair builder Bill Howerton of Colorado. Bill promptly got
the machine, and left a puzzled "What the ______ " message, then called back a moment later. Although he
wasn't expeting Merrill's voice, I pointed out to him that Merrill has done all the narration on our
videotape series for years. Bill said it was just a bit unexpected.
Merrill is in our shop and covers the phone Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. He's an experienced
builder, and a regular member of our crew, and can easily cover most questions. This is an excellent time
to call the shop. If the line is busy, call back. We're politely asking builders to organize their questions
before they call in order to keep the phone line available. As we approach Oshkosh, we're working an awful lot
of late hours, and we may be able to answer some evening questions, but it's not unusual to get the machine after dinner.
Please leave us a number where we can call you during the following day during business hours, and your
calls will be returned far faster than previously.
We'll try to cover some calls Fridays and Saturdays, but Mondays through Thursdays will remain the optimum
days to call. The hangar line remains (386) 478-0396. The cell phone messages are far harder to retrieve than
the hangar line. Please try to contact us on the hangar phone.
A Few Words On Custom Products
Over the years, it's easy to see that the small percentage of custom pieces we did for builders took
disproportionate amounts of time and never paid for themselves. I'm making a conscious effort to eliminate
these from our work schedule. Here's a good example: At a recent air show, a builder approached me and
said that he didn't want to "waste any of his time gathering up the parts to build an engine." He wanted
me to find them all, ship them to him so he could assemble the engine (because he didn't want to travel to
a College), then ship it back to me for a checkup and test run, with me providing log books in
the engine crate I shipped back to him. Mind you, this was said with a straight face by someone who appeared to
First off, this obviously would take twice the effort and three times the shipping as it would for us to
build one of our complete engines for him. Even with the wild assumption that he was willing to pay for the
actual cost of this entire endeavor, such a project would be a ridiculous distraction from regular work.
We have a long history of going much further to help out people in a jam than any other company would, but
reasonable people will understand that if it's not in our regular catalog, we will try to help you out of
a jam, but certainly not at the expense of builders following the plans and not at the expense of our sanity. If you have something
that is outside our normal catalog, call and specifically speak to me, and we'll see if we can find you a
solution. Keep in mind that custom parts take both extra time and money.
Corvair Fly In Events
A special thanks to Pete Klapp. Two weekends ago was the scheduled Corvair Wings and Wheels event in
Alliance, Ohio. Because Grace and I were burned out after Sun 'N Fun, the
3,500 mile Canadian trip, followed two weeks later by the
2,500 mile Zenith Factory Corvair Day trip, we asked several of the KR/Vair pilots to make it. We were in the middle of moving, and had just completed it
the day before the event. Although we had told people that we had penciled it in on our calendar, I had
reservations about missing the event. If one of our customers was planning on seeing us there, I take
even the implied commitment of the intention to show up very seriously. I discussed this with Kevin at 6 p.m.
on Friday, and he felt we should get in his 1967 Corvair coupe to drive the thousand miles to Ohio overnight.
Although the weather looked poor, he was more than willing to go.
My sole reservation was that neither one of us had slept in 24 hours, and good judgment said it was a dumb
idea to start a long trip in that physical state.
The weather was terrible, but three things worked to make the event a success:
One Corvair pilot successfully flew up there.
About a dozen Corvair car owners drove their vehicles to the event, much to the appreciation of the
airplane people, who rarely see such fine examples of the car in good working order. Several airplane builders
in attendance told me that they plan to become Corvair car owners also based on what they saw in Ohio.
The real hero of the story is Corvair/KR builder Pete Klapp. When the original promoter of the event
had difficulty getting it together, into the breach steps Pete Klapp. On very short notice, Pete did
exceptional work to sew together a good event out of difficult weather circumstances. Corvair builders
everywhere should note his name and recognize his contribution to the spirit of building when you meet him
The positive outlook of the Corvair movement is driven by the countless contributions, large and small, of
builders working to make it their movement. Pete Klapp's work on the Ohio event is an outstanding example of this.
SAA Fly In At Frasca
The annual SAA gathering at Frasca Field in Urbana, Ill., is June 23-25, 2006. Although we have attended the
past four years in a row, and Grace was in fact the very first speaker at the very first SAA fly in, an important
family event prevents us from attending this year.
If you have never attended, you would serve yourself well to make the trip. It is a small, non-commercial
event. But over the past four years, it's been attended by owners of many beautiful aircraft, and some of the
most outstanding contributors to the experimental aircraft movement. Several Corvair pilots have discussed
privately with me plans to go, but beyond this, I believe the event is worth attending and we'd certainly be
going if it weren't the first opportunity for all the children in my parents' family to be in the same place
on the same day in several years.
EAA Headquarters has returned to us the preliminary forum schedule for AirVenture 2006. We have five events
scheduled, and a sixth one pending with the Replica Fighters Association. The amount of forums you receive
at Oshkosh is based on the number of people who stayed the full length of your forums the previous year.
The popularity of the Corvair movement with builders is reflected in this solid schedule:
8:30-9:45 a.m. Monday, July 24, 2006, in Engine Workshop #20
11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, in Pavilion #8
8:30-9:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 26, in Engine Workshop #20
8:30-9:45 a.m. Saturday, July 29, in Engine Workshop #20
10-11:15 a.m. Saturday, July 29, in Pavilion #5
When not in the Engine Workshop and Pavilions, we'll be in the Zenith Aircraft Company booth.
We're also going to try to attend the annual Pietenpol Gathering in Brodhead, Wisc., the weekend before
Oshkosh. But this may prove, like last year, a weather issue.
Corvair Flyer Newsletter On Hiatus
As most people know, we suspended publication of The Corvair Flyer newsletter about this time last year.
It was an enormous amount of work to pump out, and we were very pleased with it, but something in the schedule
had to give. If you're one of the handful of people who had a paid subscription and would like a refund, just
call me up or send me an e-mail. Otherwise, we're going to send everyone with a paid subscription a copy of
our new Flying Corvairs DVD when it's done. If you had a lapsed subscription to The Flyer and you'd like a refund,
you can call me if you must and we'll have a good chuckle (this has been tried already).
Goodbye to John Monday
I was in the shop yesterday when Steve Glover called from California to say that John Monday had been
killed in the crash of a certified airplane near Reno, Nev. This was certainly somber news. John and his
son were very popular guests at Corvair College #5 in Hanford, Calif. They were working
on a 3,100cc KR-2 project at the time. This was the beginning of numerous exchanges by telephone and e-mail.
As in the photo above, John (at right with his son in the center and Grace Ellen at left) always came through as
a work hard, play hard, energetic character, the best kind of people that
seem to be generated and most at home in California. Although he'd recently sold his project and purchased
a Beechcraft, he's still in my mind a Corvair builder. Steve filled me in that our brief in person experience
with John was a small sample of his everyday life. Many people enjoyed his company, and there was a memorial
service at his home airport for him over the weekend. All the aviators who crossed paths with him will have
their own private thoughts on his passing. Monday night was rainy and I had a long drive to do in the pickup
without a radio. I spent the time thinking about what his loss meant to his family. It's also a loss to
his friends in aviation who certainly would have enjoyed his company for many years to come.
Now At The Hangar
April 2011 At The Hangar
March 2011 At The Hangar
January 2011 At The Hangar
December 2010 At The Hangar
November 2010 At The Hangar
October 2010 At The Hangar
August 2010 At The Hangar
July 2010 At The Hangar
May 2010 At The Hangar
April 2010 At The Hangar
January 2010 At The Hangar
December 2009 At The Hangar
November 2009 At The Hangar
October 2009 At The Hangar
September 2009 At The Hangar
August 2009 At The Hangar
July 2009 At The Hangar
June 2009 At The Hangar
May 2009 At The Hangar
April 2009 At The Hangar
March 2009 At The Hangar
January 2009 At The Hangar
December 2008 At The Hangar
October 2008 At The Hangar
September 2008 At The Hangar
August 2008 At The Hangar
July 2008 At The Hangar
June 2008 At The Hangar
May 2008 At The Hangar
April 2008 At The Hangar
March 2008 At The Hangar
February 2008 At The Hangar
January 2008 At The Hangar
Christmas 2007 At The Hangar
November 2007 At The Hangar
October 2007 At The Hangar
September 2007 At The Hangar
August 2007 At The Hangar
July 2007 At The Hangar
June 2007 At The Hangar
April 2007 At The Hangar
March 2007 At The Hangar
February 2007 At The Hangar
January 2007 At The Hangar
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 1
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 2
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 3
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 4
November 2006 At The Hangar
October 2006 At The Hangar
September 2006 At The Hangar
August 2006 At The Hangar
At The Hangar In July 2006
At The Hangar In May 2006
At The Hangar In April 2006
At The Hangar In March 2006
At The Hangar In February 2006
At The Hangar In January 2006
At The Hangar In December 2005
At The Hangar In November 2005
At The Hangar In October 2005
At The Hangar In September 2005
At The Hangar In July 2005
OSH, Illinois and SAA June 13, 2005
At The Hangar June 13, 2005 Part II
At The Hangar In May 2005
At The Hangar In April 2005