Fall Action Update
August 28, 2006
Following Oshkosh, Grace and I flew commercial to Tacoma, Wash., to see my sister Alison and her husband
John. We had worked the Hangar Gang for countless weeks at a time without
break. Traditionally, the end of August is a slow period in experimental aviation following the peak of
Oshkosh. We made the decision to have the Gang all take a break at once during this period, rather than
staggering it and being one or two people short for a month and a half. Grace enjoyed the Seattle area, while
John and I took two of his BMW motorcycles on a 5,300 mile journey through British Columbia, the Yukon
and Alaska to the Arctic Circle. The spectacular setting and hours without interruption allowed for much
unharried contemplation. A lot of this was spent on formulating the next phase of the Corvair movement.
Needless to say, I think the trip was time well spent from many perspectives.
August 28th marks our first serious day back at the shop. If you've sent us an e-mail in the past weeks,
please give us a few more days to respond. we're still working our way through, but should be caught up shortly.
We shipped an enormous amount of orders just before Oshkosh, and delivered dozens of items in person at the
show. In the days following the events, we mailed out another wave of orders. While there are still some
longstanding orders, we are in better shape today than we were a week before Oshkosh. Many of the subcontracted
parts, such as the propellers from Sensenich, have just arrived at the shop and will be shipped in the next
few days. We're looking forward to a productive Fall, helping many people advance their projects.
Air-to-Air on DVD
One of the best sellers at Oshkosh was Our New Flying DVD. While it effectively
replaces our previous introductory video, it goes well beyond informing those new to Corvair power. The DVD
contains extensive ground to air and air to air footage of five Corvair powered planes. This superb work
was shot and edited by our own Merril Isaacson. It is the first time we've really visually captured the dramatic
element of these aircraft. From the beginning, we intended the DVD to be for both new guys and committed
builders alike. Everyone who's seen the flight sequences said that this professional quality work inspired
them to finish their own project. It's also an excellent visual explanation for non-aviation people of what
our shared passion is all about. We have plenty of these in stock, and the $25 price includes immediate
Priority Mail shipment in the U.S.
We received word through the grapevine that congratulations are in order to Pete Brautigam of Wisconsin
who recently flew his Corvair powered KR-2S for the first time. Pete's first ride in a Corvair powered plane
was at the KR Gathering two years ago. Pete's plane incorporates
many of the innovations that Mark Langford developed. It's a good example of cooperation inside experimental
aviation. Look for an upcoming article about the KR community in Sport Aviation.
At Oshkosh, we also saw Les Laidlaw of Minnesota, who reported his 3,100cc Dragonfly is back in the air with a
nitrided crank. He shared with us videotape that showed the airplane to be a wickedly good performer. We'll
have more information as he flys off the rest of his test period.
We've recently made several Products Page updates. You can now study an
Intake Page, 601 Exhaust System Page, and
Alternator Brackets Page. These pages give full descriptions of these very
popular products. We currently have about 15 Alternator Bracket Sets in stock for
immediate shipment, and components for 18 Exhaust Systems, which are being welded up
one per day. We also have a fresh batch of CNC bent intake pipes with hydrocut carb flanges ready to be welded on.
The flange is welded on in a vertical position for those using an MA3 or a Stromberg, and is angled 13
degrees forward for an Aero-Carb or Ellison. We're currently finish welding one or two intakes per day in the shop.
Please note that our Exhaust Stubs and Clamps are no longer available. Although we produced dozens of sets of these,
and they looked like a fairly simple product, they actually involved a lot of tube swedging, turntable
welding, and lathe work in addition to their CNC hydrocut subcomponents. These were always very labor intensive,
and even with batch production, we barely broke even. These were used as the beginning of our 601 exhausts,
but today's 601 Exhaust System replaces these components with machined billets. The
billets are very expensive, but involve no in-house labor. We are currently working up a universal stainless exhaust
system, which would serve KRs, Dragonflys and Pietenpols. These planes have the option of using the stock
manifolds. 601 installations are the only aircraft which cannot use the stock manifold, because it physically
runs into the Motor Mount down tubes.
Also note that The Corvair Flyer newsletter is on hiatus in favor of our new Flying DVD
series, bringing you the same news of Corvair Flyers, along with visual technical notes and the latest
developments from the Hangar. We produced and distributed 11 quarterly Corvair Flyers in the modern era
(we also had early Corvair Flyers when we first started the business. We regret that we have none of the Flyer back
issues available.). Most of the Flyer subscribers told me
that it served several purposes, but mainly was a real motivator to keep going on your project. The proliferation
of Web sites, and frequent updates to our own www.FlyCorvair.com Web site, make a lot
of information in a quarterly printed newsletter seem stale. Our intention has been to transition The Flyer into
a DVD with a heavy emphasis on flying aircraft. Film of this quality is a lasting
motivator that you can watch again and again. It's also a visual presentation that a printed newsletter or a
Web site cannot match. I consider our new Flying DVD to be the first of the DVDs in
the transition of The Corvair Flyer from paper to disc.
Our First Flying DVD took a tremendous effort to bring together, but like any other
task, I'm sure the next films in the series will be a lot easier to shoot, edit and package now that we
have the system down.
And Sensenich propellers have also been added to the Product Page lineup. We've
delivered about two dozen Sensenich props. About half of thse are currently flying, while the other half
were ordered in advance of their projects' completions. As an example of how popular these props are, I pointed
out at Sun 'N Fun that every flying Corvair powered KR in North America was using one. This held true at
Oshkosh, as witnessed on the Flightline. While this isn't a giant number of planes, 100% market share is
very unusual in homebuilt props, and the fact that many of these pilots had previously flown other types of
props speaks volumes about them.
The end of Oshkosh meant that we had more than a full year of flying on the experimental 3,100cc engine in
our 601. This was a high output race engine designed for the Sun 100 air race. Based on 170 hours of flight time,
I opted to give it a very thorough top end inspection. While reading the following comments, you should
remember that after years of doing this, we're very good at performing controlled tests. When one of our
friends says that they're evaluating one piece, often they have several other things going on simultaneously
that cloud the real evaluation. The following notes can be considered free of such issues.
The engine has 11:1 compression. Yet removal of the heads showed absolutely no indentation of the head
gaskets. Indented head gaskets are the absolute litmus test of detonation. We ran this high compression
ratio successfully by using 100ll, 30 degrees of maximum timing advance, and never leaning out the engine
excessively. This goes a long way to show that the engine is strong, and lesser compression ratios can be
run by utilizing the same factors.
The lifters in the engine were rebuilt Corvair lifters done in California. I chose them because they
allegedly pumped a lot more oil to the valve train. Inspection revealed that they actually pump significantly
less. Removal showed that one of the lifters was partially collapsed and had not been working for some time.
Since they offer no benefit, and this is the only time I've ever seen a lifter in a Corvair quit, we now
know that no one should ever use these lifters. We've had more than 10 years of trouble free service using
regular small block Chevy 350 lifters in the Corvair (Sealed Power part no. HT-817), so I consider the lifters
a closed case.
Bosch Platinum plugs
Because a number of land-based people recommended them, we flight tested a set of Bosch Platinum plugs in
the plane. Gus detected a very slight uneven operation in the engine on a direct swap. After 15 hours, we
talked to a number of fans of Bosch plugs who readily told us that the Platinums frequently produce erratic
operation, and lead in fuel may be a contributing factor. A pilot used to the operation of four-cylinder
engines only exposed to a Corvair operating these plugs may have felt it ran perfectly, but Gus is a very
sensitive pilot with 500 hours of Corvair powered flight in a variety of our aircraft. He can say without
dispute the Platinums weren't right. Thus, nobody need fly these plugs in a Corvair again.
Falcon vs. local machine shops
I had the heads for the 3,100cc motor done in California six years ago. By land standards, it was top
notch, first class and expensive. After the teardown, I sent the heads to Falcon, where Mark Petniuas carefully
evaluated the workmanship and how it held up. He said it was good, but not at the level we do heads today.
We considered freshening them up, but I followed Mark's judgement and allowed him to change the springs, guides and
valves to the materials we use today. The engine's reassembled and it runs like a banshee. The disassembly
and reassembly totaled less than one working day.
Notes About Personalities
Although we write a lot, I've always felt that the proof of our work is that
we build and fly it.
Many times in the Internet era, you hear derogatory things from people who have little idea of how much
work we put into Corvairs. I've always upheld the belief that virtually all reasonable people, when examining
our work in person, will easily concede that it's well thought out and it works. A good example that this
is very true, but not 100% true, was forwarded to us from an Internet discussion group about Wagabonds.
Since we built one of these in our shops, it's currently flying, we took it to a major air show and it's
included in our latest flying DVD, you'd think that reasonable people who've never
built or flown one would concede our credibility on the design. Yet someone who attended my forum at
Oshkosh called into question whether I was telling the truth that a Corvair is lighter than an O-200.
Despite the fact the weigh in is clearly shown on our Web page, and I have years of work in this industry,
sharing facts that we've measured with people.
Two quick lessons:
1. If you're currently building, take the stuff from these discussion groups with a giant grain of
salt. The weight number for the O-200 on the Wagabond discussion group was a ridiculously low figure printed
in textbooks. When I see anybody use it, I know they have no practical experience with the engine.
2. If you're near completing your project, realize that when it's done, and you fly it and enjoy it,
there will still be people like this telling you what "they're going to do", i.e., when Hell freezes over.
Do not be put off by them. When you complete one part on your homebuilt airplane, these people are no longer
your peers. When you make solid progress on your airplane, you're leaving the group of critics behind, and
while they'll still be chattering in the background, you'll have plenty of solid, real friends among people
who recognize the accomplishment of anybody who builds and flys their own homebuilt.
August 5, 2006
Here are three photos of Grace flying in The Last Original, Bernie Pietenpol's
Corvair powered Air Camper. It is owned by Bill and Sue Knight of Brodhead, Wisc.
Flying with Grace is noted Corvair powered Pietenpol pilot Tom Brown.
This is the eighth Corvair powered airplane in which Grace has flown.
Our first stop on any Oshkosh trip is Brodhead, Wisc., for the annual Pietenpol Gathering.
If you're a fan of Pietenpols, this is the beginning of a great era. Our friends
Doc and Dee Mosher
are bringing back the BPA newsletter to its full glory. They are good writers, and Doc has a lifetime of
flying all types of aircraft, as well as being officially recognized by the FAA as one of the foremost
aircraft mechanics in the country. Known to many as an extremely friendly guy, the newsletter has never
been in better hands. Additionally, writer Chet Peek has just finished a new book on Pietenpols that
promises to bring many new, quality people into the fold. Several homebuilders with years of experience
designing and building parts have spoken about small upgrades and technical support for new builders.
In short, there's a lot of behind the scenes energy that will blossom shortly into a lot of good things
for Pietenpol fans.
I gave five forums at Oshkosh this year. As usual, the popularity of the Corvair meant they were all packed.
To me, the best one was Monday at 8:30 a.m. because in the back rows were Mark Jones and Mark Langford. These two Corvair/KR-2S pilots,
with 400+ flight hours between them, deserve high praise
for their work popularizing the combination. I can encourage and educate builders, but the example that these
two set by flying into Oshkosh goes a long way toward getting people to the flightline themselves.
The theme of many of my forums this year was "The Flightline Or The Flymart: Your Airplane Will End Up At
One Or Another Given Enough Time." My work is aimed at guiding as many people as possible to successfully
flying their homebuilt. I go a long way to steer people away from poor advice and bad choices, which my experience
teaches me will only result in your unfinished project being for sale for 10 cents on the dollar at the Flymart.
These forums were received well, and we look forward to seeing more Corvair powered planes at the next airshows.
We spent the balance of our time as guests again of the Heintz family in the Zenith Aircraft booth.
In the photo above, Nick and Sebastien Heintz park our airplane in the Zenith booth.
For now, we are taking a well deserved vacation in the Pacific Northwest. We're visiting family for two
weeks and will be back in Florida at the end of August. We look forward to hearing from you then.
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OSH, Illinois and SAA June 13, 2005
At The Hangar June 13, 2005 Part II
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