Labor Day Update
Here's an overview of what's been going on in the world of Corvairs. This weekend marks the end of a very busy summer.
These photos cover some of it. But the action's not slowing down. We have two events on the schedule right now which are
of great interest to Corvair builders. First, I plan on attending the KR Gathering in Mount Vernon, Ill., the
weekend of Sept. 21. It's the 35th anniversary of KRs, and the KR community is working very hard to make this a special
event. We've heard from six KRVair pilots who plan to fly in to the event. You can find more information on the Gathering at
Second, Corvair College #11 will be held in Cloverdale, Calif., Nov. 9-11. This is the home of Quality Sportplanes, Zenith's
West Coast distribution facility run by Michael Heintz. Last October, we had a tech school and Corvair Day there that were
big successes. This year, we're returning for a full blown College. Keeping our traditions in mind, this will be a free
event where the expenses will be jointly bourne by Grace and I and Michael Heintz. We haven't had a College in California
since #5. We'll have more updates on this in the coming weeks, but you can check Quality Sportplane's
Web site at http://qualitysportplanes.com/ or call Michael at (707) 546-6272. This will be a big event in terms of learning,
working hands on, and meeting many Corvair builders. Mark your calendar now and don't miss it.
Above, straight out of Oregon, Wisc., Mark from Falcon running an electronically fuel injected Corvair engine. His glorious
Corvair van holds our dynomometer in place. After Oshkosh, Grace and I spent several days with Mark testing the engine. It
was very smooth running.
During the testing, we got a surprise visit from KRVair pilot Mark Jones, above right. Although he lives much farther
north, he was in the area picking up family at the airport. Mark opted to have Falcon make up a perfect set of flight heads
to replace the set he's been flying the past two years. Mark Jones is the only pilot I can remember who dropped a
valve seat in the past 10 years. As he will tell you, once is certainly enough. Several years ago, Mark P. and I worked out
in great detail the modifications he performs on heads to eliminate dropped valve seats. It's a matter of personal evaluation,
but know that every engine that we build has Falcon heads on it, and so does our own 601 as well as every Corvair engine
we intend to fly in the future.
Over the summer, on the Internet appeared the names of two companies that do Corvair head work
for cars. One is well known to Corvair car builders as a good guy, but has never built a set that went on an airplane; the
other was the source of three pairs of cylinder heads that passed through my shop, all unairworthy. These stories can be
read on older entries on our Web site. With the Corvair movement getting into high gear, I hate to see anybody taking a
detour and repeating past mistakes.
Above, the EFI at power on the dyno. The urethane wheel directly reads foot pounds of torque off the digital scale. Note
that this engine is using headers with collectors. We also tested it with cast iron manifolds and mufflers. It has
distributorless ignition. Six LS1 coils are mounted on the sides of the black airbox. After a lot of careful calibration
runs, this engine achieved an 8 percent power increase over a carbureted Corvair. Merely saying this will certainly
activate the keyboards of armchair EFI experts, but it's simple measured facts. Before any of the "experts" question the
test methodology or results, consider that Mark has earned his living with these systems for the past 20 years and the
instrumentation included such niceties as a $500 laboratory grade digital oxygen sensor.
The fuel for the tests was 100 octane
unleaded race car gasoline. The RWS controller allowed for immediate reprogramming of both the ignition and fuel circuits.
It made for very flexible and interesting testing.
The conclusion is that EFI is do-able, but it is not worth the complexity or expense on 95 percent of Corvair powered
airplanes. This is not to say that no one should do it, it's merely to say that I've tested both, and I believe the
airplanes that this applies to is a much smaller group than most people would guess. Mark's plan is to finish up some
work on porting on the flow bench, and then make the entire system available - heads, intakes, injectors, ignition sysetm
and controller - to one interested builder for that builder's own personal aircraft. The system is not economical to produce. Mark has
several hundred hours of time and several thousand dollars of parts in it. Those interested should call Mark directly at
his shop, (608) 835-3317.
Even if you're not planning on using this system on your airplane, Mark's willingness to test it, and his track record
of volunteering at Colleges and sharing his knowledge with builders on the phone, should be appreciated by Corvair builders
everywhere. For as long as I've been interested in Corvairs, people have talked about fuel injected versions. It's a
milestone in the devlopment of Corvairs that Mark actually went out and did it.
Above, Lincoln Probst of Canada gives a visual representation of how it feels to complete your own ZenVair 601XL. Again, this
is why we call it the Corvair movement: Although I've relentlessly promoted it, the land of Corvairs is much bigger than
what we produce in our own shop. There are many automotive engine conversion companies which have a pretty good product that
serves a need. But an objective look will reveal that there's very few Web sites that can even come close to matching
the amount of customer built airplanes done or flying in the land of Corvairs. Hats off to Lincoln.
The other end of the air/fuel mixture spectrum, above. This is a 35mm Aero-Carb from Sonex mounted on our 701 project.
I spoke with Jeremy Monnett just before Oshkosh, and although he was busy, he got us this carb in short order. This flange
mount 35mm model is the correct one for Corvair engines. Corvairs have flown about 600 hours on these carbs, and they
have a good track record on gravity feed airplanes. It should be noted that this carb is not recommended for XL model
Above, KR-1/Corvair for Sale. This project belongs to our friend Gary Coppen, best known as the owner of the
Turbo Skycoupe. In addition to overhauling the Skycoupe, Gary is going to rework his BD-4.
Rather than keep this KR on the back, back burner, he's decided to put it up for sale. As a bonus to anyone interested,
Gary has offered to deliver it for free to the KR Gathering in Illinois in September. The aircraft comes complete with a
Corvair core engine and a custom Deep Sump Aluminum Oil Pan I made for it which directly mounts an Aero-Carb a la Lycoming.
The stepped firewall allows the engine to be placed far enough aft to avoid carrying a lot of ballast. We reinforced the front
of this airplane to allow it to carry the weight of the Corvair.
This KR-1 was built in the 1980s and flew several hundred hours on an 1835 VW. Gary has all the logs and the plans, but the
airplane was deregistered. The aluminum spring gear allows clearance for a 64" diameter prop. His plan was to produce a very
sporting aircraft with a very high rate of climb. The cockpit on this aircraft is 3" longer than a standard KR-1. Gary's price
on the project is $3,400. Considering it's flown before, the engine mounting is done, it includes the pan, core engine and
delivery halfway across the U.S., it's a pretty good deal. A builder could easily overhaul the engine and
have this ready to fly for much less than $10k total. It needs a fair amount of work, but it's way better than
starting from scratch. Call Gary at (904) 449-0039.
Jay Bannister's 601XL engine in the photo above. Jay is one of the builders who ordered a production engine from us whose
patient waiting has paid off. This overhead view of his engine shows it incorporates a Gold Hub, and Gold Oil Filter Housing with
Top Cover. Like all our other engines, it is equipped with Falcon heads and our new Points/Electronic Distributor.
Builders with sharp eyes will notice that done engines no longer appear on our Products
Page. Kevin and I are working very hard to finish the four remaining engines we have on longstanding order. At the
conclusion, we're going to reevaluate and reorganize the engine building program. It may very well emerge as a separate
spin off business as our airframe work did. We'll keep everyone posted as it develops, but Goal One remains to complete all
remaining engine orders.
Above is an action shot of our engineer Spenser Gould running up Jay's engine during the break-in phase. While we were
getting it ready for the test run, Kevin and I had a long discussion on how many engines we've worked on that were destined
to turn a propeller. It taxed our memory, but the best estimate we could come up with was somewhere between 225 and 250.
While every now and then there appears someone who wants to build up Corvair flight engines for others, you really have to
say that their experience falls short in comparison. Jay's plane is almost complete, and we may very well see this airborne by
the end of the year. He and Lincoln are two of a large wave of 601/Corvair builders approaching the finish line. We'd like
to further update www.ZenVair.com, so please send us your photos.
An Electronic/Points Distributor in the machine, above. The flash is caused by the additional strobe I added to the machine to
allow it to run both ignitions at the same time. In the upper left corner, an actual sparkplug is testing the complete function
of the electronic system. This particular distributor will be flying in Mark Jones' KR-2S by the time you read this. That makes
six of these in the field, completing phase two of our broader test program. We'll shortly have the rest of the story
in another update on distributors. Again, we've temporarily removed these from our Products
Page until we have complete pricing and details. They'll return shortly.
Above is a photo I took of a Cleanex motor mount welded by a builder. It is a good beginning to a discussion on component
weights. At 13.8 pounds, it is the heaviest motor mount for a Corvair powered airplane. The reason for this is quite simple:
The landing gear truss is integrated into the motor mount the same way it is on a Tailwind or RV. For comparison purposes,
the motor mount for a Jabbiru 3,300 in the same airframe weighs 4 pounds less. The Corvair is a bed-mounted engine, and
requires a more elaborate structure. The Cleanex mount is very robust, and has been proven so with countless light aerobatic
maneuvers (good viewing on Corvair Flyer DVD I).
At Oshkosh, a friendly but misinformed potential 601 builder told me that the Corvair to 601 Motor Mount
was 10 pounds heavier than the 3,300/601 mount. I suggested he was incorrect, and pointed out that the ZenVair mount only
weighed 6 pounds, so I had a hard time believing the other mount weighed -4 pounds. A lot of people freely toss around numbers
like they just weighed the part themselves at the National Bureau of Standards. A lot of quoted numbers have to be taken with
a grain of salt. In the highly competitive kit industry, most companies publish extremely optimized weights that don't reflect
what even good, skilled builders actually accomplish in the field. The easiest way to end all these discussions is to simply
take out a scale and weigh it, and only count on information that's presented in this manner from credible sources.
Grace and I both wish all of you a happy Labor Day weekend. We're still catching up on backorders on some popular items like
DVDs and Manuals. By Tuesday, we'll have these out by Priority Mail. We've had quite flurry of phone calls lately, and it's been
great to talk to everyone. Clearly I write the next sentence with a very guilty conscience: I respectfully ask that builders
calling have pencil and paper in hand and questions written down so we can quickly cover a lot of ground. As king of the
rambling conversation, I ask our friends to help us to get the maximum amount of calls answered in a day. Remember, we don't use
call waiting, and if you receive a busy signal, it means I'm speaking with another builder. If you get the machine, leave one
quick message and the best number at which to call you back.
Every hour we can save on the phone brings us that much closer to finishing backordered hardware and the near complete
601 Installation Manual. Thank you for your cooperation.
Oshkosh 2007 Update Part II
First Stop: Brodhead, Wisc.
The first stop on our annual pilgrimage to AirVenture Oshkosh is the annual Pietenpol Gathering at Brodhead, Wisc.
For more than 30 years, people have flown their Pietenpols to this grass strip outside a quiet little Wisconsin town.
The day we flew our own Piet here in 2000 stands out as my single favorite day in all my years of aviation. More than
20 Piets of all descriptions were at this year's event.
Grace and I worked 20 hours straight before leaving Florida
at 4 a.m. We drove a mini pickup truck loaded with parts, towing the dynomometer. Seven miles into the 1,400 mile
journey we got our first flat tire. An inauspicious start, but we were led North by the prospect of a fun week of
seeing friends and planes. Many driving swaps and uncomfortable naps put us in Brodhead 26 hours later.
To give you some idea of how much fun it is to be at Brodhead, we arrived just in time for breakfast and a shower,
skipped napping, headed to the airfield and hung out with friends well past midnight.
In the photo above, I'm speaking on Corvairs in front of a dining hall full of builders. Piet/Corvair builder/pilot
P.F. Beck was on hand from Barnwell, S.C., to attest to the affordability, reliability and fun of building and
flying his Corvair powered Pietenpol. While some people who've never heard me speak before expect a dry dissertation
on rod bolt torque, I generally spend much more time on the philosophy behind building a Corvair as opposed to
buying some other consumer engine. If a builder is looking for learning, pride of creation, and the company of
like-minded fellow aviators, and he's willing to work in exchange for this, then the Corvair movement will serve him
well. If these points don't appeal to a builder, it matters little how easy it is to torque a rod bolt.
The afternoon brought a pleasant surprise when Joe Horton, KR-2S pilot from Pennsylvania, flew in direct from the
East coast. He was in a particularly good mood, stating that it may very well have been the nicest flying day in all
his time aloft. Later in the afternoon, KR pilot Mark Langford of Alabama also flew in for
his first visit to one of America's greatest small airports.
Late in the evening, long after the sun went down, we went to work in Bill and Sue Knight's hangar to perform a
weight and balance on Bernard Pietenpol's Last Original Air Camper. We wanted to gather data from the airplane
with electronic scales and laser levels in order to publish it in an upcoming issue of the Brodhead Pietenpol Association newsletter,
available for $16 a year from http://pietenpols.org/. A few people helped us level the tail and get the airplane up on the scales. It was a fun
project and a good chance to get to know some friendly people we'd only previously known as colorful characters
in the written history of Pietenpols.
After sleeping like logs, we awoke to an airport where most of the guests had headed home. I was treated to a quiet
tour of the antiques by our friend Lee Stinson.
On To Oshkosh
As always, we had a number of heavily attended engine workshops at Oshkosh. Having done hundreds of speaking
engagements on the Corvair over the years, I'm pretty good at it as long as I'm not accidentally drinking decaf coffee
(my apologies to the Oshkosh 2002 forum attendees for that mistake). Once in a while, you get the right combination
of mood, people and caffeine, and the discussion becomes a real standout. Our second workshop was one of those events,
where I shared highlights from a year's worth of e-mail, including several from a builder who proposed an
around the world flight and needed to know about the availability of av gas in Yemen. The forums as a whole were
attended by far more practical people, and the questions reflected this. They were also the first chance for many
builders to see the Gold Hubs and Filter Housings, as well as dual electronic/points ignition, in person.
For the first half of the week at AirVenture, the centerpiece in the Zenith Aircraft Company's booth was
Dr. Gary Ray's beautiful ZenVair 601 XL. He flew it in from Michigan. In addition to a very clean Corvair installation,
the aircraft sported a sophisticated panel, full interior and very nice finish work. The completion and flight of
any aircraft is a milestone in any builder's life, but displaying it at Oshkosh and sharing it with your fellow builders
is the icing on the cake.
Check out the latest flying ZenVairs at www.ZenVair.com.
In the above photos, you can see high tech Corvair progress in action. The iron lined, aluminum finned cylinders
previously seen on our Web site, manufactured by Pramod at Nitron Inc., flew to Oshkosh as a perfect fit and flawless performer.
Pramod, whom I first met at Oshkosh 2003, was on hand
all week explaining the manufacture and design of the cylinders. This approach of expertise, aviation background, flight
testing and in person introduction and tech support stands in total contrast to the companies that crop up on the
Internet from time to time in an attempt to sell untested products in order to cash in on the Corvair movement. At times,
people new to aviation have not understood my insistence that all aviation products, not just those that apply to Corvairs,
need to be rigorously flight tested before they're sold, and then supported by people who are real humans, not mysterious
business names from Web sites without a photo of a single flying plane they've completed. I'm never against individuals
being able to build whatever they want. Over the years, I've supported countless people by sharing all kinds of
information with builders working on one-off projects. My standards for testing and support apply only to commercial
products. This has consistently been my policy.
Mark Langford's 3,100cc KR-2S returns to the flightline at Oshkosh, above. Somewhere en route home, Mark crossed the 500 hour
milestone, a very significant accomplishment especially when considering he did it in three years. Mark's plane is
one of the four test aircraft we have flying our electronic/points distributor. We intend to turn this into a regular
production item with complete information on pricing, availability and cost of upgrading our previous distributors to
this standard upon completion of flight testing. It will be a modest cost and requires no changes to the coils or switcher. Look for a Web site update
on this near the end of August.
I sat in on the KR forum at Oshkosh that Mark moderated. Although he's obviously an advocate of Corvair power, and
four Corvair powered KRs flew in to OSH '07, the tone of the presentation was unbiased. The KR community clearly supports
VW, Continental and Corvair builders. It's good to see builders supporting each other with shared information. It all
goes back to the point that builders should only be concerned about choosing the right engine for themselves, and
not worrying about what everyone else is doing.
Here's a shot of Joe Horton's 3,100cc KR-2S at AirVenture 2007, center above. Weeks ago, Joe splintered a prop when running over a
very rough section of runway at his home airport. He was quickly back in the air with the loan of a prop from another
member of the KR community. His airplane's coming up on 200 hours now.
Above, Mark Jones of Wisconsin warms up his KR-2S for departure from Oshkosh '07. One of the friendliest people in the world of
Corvairs, Mark had a small group of people see him off at the end of the row when he left at the end of the day. Getting
to know people who have the same outlook on homebuilding is the best part of attending an event like Oshkosh. Mark's
friendly demeanor assures him he has friends no matter where he flys.
Above, the Corvair Personal Cruiser parked near the AirVenture arch, a spot reserved for outstanding and interesting
homebuilts. Morgan Hunter flew it up from his homebase in Florida and arrived late in the day. An older
gentleman with a Wisconsin accent saw him having difficulty finding a parking spot, and summoned a number of volunteers
with a wave of his arm. Morgan's plane was ushered to its spot at the arch. Only much later did Morgan realize that
he had met Paul Poberezny, founder of the EAA. Paul's reputation is built on thousands of acts of quiet generosity such
as this parking assistance. Morgan stayed all week, and had a great time meeting dozens of new people. Scott Vanderveen,
the other half of the PC Cruiser enterprise, was on hand early in the week. Morgan's girlfriend Ashlin spent the whole
week also, and made as many friends as Morgan. For people who need evidence that the EAA has always cared about simple,
affordable homebuilts, you need look no further than the royal treatment Morgan received during the busiest week of the
AirVenture is a chance to get to know people beyond the world of Corvairs. Above, Jeff Lange of Oshkosh, noted VW guy,
sits on the wheelpant of his Soneraii I. Jeff built his own 2,180 powerplant which easily cruised him to a 171 mph
average in the 2007 AirVenture Cup Race. Next time someone's pontificating about long propellers, come back to this
photo and get a good look at Jeff's 48" diameter prop.
Jeff's done extraordinary work to get the AirVenture Cup organizers to include a separate class for VWs and Corvairs.
He's planning on putting in an extensive promotional effort throughout the next year to get as many people as possible
registered for the 2008 event. He said the race was a lot of fun, and as the lightest plane in a field of many heavy duty
homebuilts, he was a standout and crowd favorite.
My work with Corvairs is based on longstanding personal service. Above, Ken Pavlou of Connecticut with his Corvair
at Camp Schoeller at AirVenture Oshkosh '07. After the air show one day, we all took a trip out to inspect it, and it
proved to be an outstanding, super clean engine. Mark from Falcon delivered the heads for it in person at the end of the week.
Ken treated us to dinner that he cooked himself, and we had a wonderful evening enjoying Ken's childhood memories,
worthy of any national comedy tour.
Dick Schmidt of Wisconsin flew in his beautiful Corvair powered 601 HD to the Zenith Aircraft Company booth for the
second half of the AirVenture week. Many people commented on how clean Dick's installation of the engine was. The
airplane also sports a very sharp silver and blue paint job, and a full interior. It has an all glass cockpit panel,
featuring a Dynon D-10 for flight instruments, with the engine instrumentation covered by Grand Rapids. Dick has the
plane up for sale for $49,900. His plan is to turn around and build another Corvair powered plane, most likely a
Now In Oregon
After Oshkosh, Grace and I headed down to the Falcon Automotive facility to assist Mark with the testing of his
electronically fuel injected Corvair on our dyno. He's been working on it for quite a while, and is very eager to get
real numbers off the dyno. Viewed from above, you can easily see the equal length runners he's integrated into the
cylinder heads. Although they enter a square plenum, they have carefully formed bell mouths on them internally. The
ignition and injection are controlled by a Tracy Crook RWS unit. Tracy is best known as a rotary engine guy, but
his controller can be custom configured to piston engines. Mark and I selected this controller because it has a long,
flight proven history, as well as a lot of redundancy built in. It's a very simple speed-density system.
Obviously the fuel line routing is just for the dyno. However, all the runners and injectors were carefully developed
to fit inside a 601 cowling should the system merit flight testing. The injector mounts are
from SDS, and the injectors and throttle body are from a GM 3.1 liter V-6. The Crook controller utilizes six LS1 coils
for distributorless ignition. Although I've seen photos of fuel injected Corvair cars, I'm pretty sure that Mark's engine
will be the first running EFI Corvair engine to turn a propeller. Significantly, the systems are directly intended for
use in flight, and the dyno will give us exact numbers to compare with carbureted engines. Mark carefully selected and
sized the intake runners to address the torque peak we're shooting for on the flight engine. The tests will reveal what
type of improvement is available.
As is, the system is cost prohibitive, even compared to a brand new MA3-SPA carburetor. But not all aspects of the
Corvair world must serve the task of affordability. The time Mark's spent on this is really in pursuit of his own
creativity, and it's little different than someone building a custom plane rather than building a readily available kit.
An excellent demonstration of the versatility of the Corvair to serve the needs of many different creative builders.
We're headed for a family cruise August 3-13 and will be unavailable for phone calls and e-mails. Although we
can't answer the phone and e-mail from the road, we did mail out all the Manual and DVD orders that arrived via
PayPal during the week of AirVenture. Orders placed now will be promptly dealt with upon our return. Special note to builders
from Spain and Australia: Your orders were shipped from Oshkosh. We'll post another update upon our return.
Thank you for your patience.
Now At The Hangar
June 2011 At The Hangar
May 2011 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
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August 2009 At The Hangar
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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
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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
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
July 2006 At The Hangar
June 2006 At The Hangar
May 2006 At The Hangar
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