Above is a photo of Dr. Mineart and myself. Steve is a 601XL builder. When he heard about our Night School plans, he
called up and placed a quick order for an engine. Three weeks later, here it is, test run and
delivered to his home.
Above is the collection of builders who showed up for the Night School in Steve's garage. The Mineart family hosted
the event, and their hospitality was duly appreciated by all in attendance. From left, in front: Roger Koopman, Iowa;
Dave Harms, Zenair 601XL, IA; William Wynne and Grace Ellen, ZenVair 601XL, Florida; our gracious host,
Dr. Steve Mineart, 601XL; and Dan Wilson, Pietenpol, Minnesota. From left, in back: Norm Muzzy, Pietenpol, IA; Craig and
Jean Foster, Merlin GT, IA; Ted Phillips, Pietenpol, IA; Ronald Franck, Spacewalker II or Zenair 601, Illinois;
Bryce Kibbel, 601XL, IA; and Curtis Mineart, proud patriarch of the Mineart family, Iowa.
Dr. Steve shows his Dad, Curtis, one of our Nosebowls, above.
Steve's airframe is 85% done. The finished wings can be seen above in the background hanging from the wall. He has
been working on it part time for two years. It was very clean and straight workmanship.
A number of the visiting builders brought engine parts, above, which we inspected closely.
Gus shows Steve our very simple dual electric fuel pump setup for the 601XL, above.
Husband and wife team Craig and Jean Foster of Iowa, who are building a Merlin GT, inspect Steve's fuselage, above. We'd
previously exchanged e-mails with Craig about his engine. He has a previously converted Corvair, which he has decided to
update to our current specs for his Merlin. The evening gave us the opportunity to discuss the strategy for the upgrade.
Ted Phillips, Corvair/Pietenpol builder, above, brought a lot of photos of his project. It is about 75% done. The craftsmanship
looked very good. We covered a lot on systems and details so that he can finish up the firewall forward on his plane.
A good learning moment, above. One clean core engine can show all builders present how we take care of something, or
what level of finish is acceptable. Books and videos are great tools, but the third leg of the triangle is face to face
7-9 p.m. Friday, February 18: St. Louis, Missouri
The Night School at Steve's broke up about 11 p.m. Thursday. We got in the truck about midnight and drove 180 miles south to the
Zenith Aircraft Factory in Mexico, Missouri. This gave us a chance to spend most of Friday discussing the 2005 airshow
season with the Heintz family. Our ZenVair 601 and firewall forward display will be in the
Zenith Aircraft display area at Sun 'N Fun in Lakeland, Fla., in April. The Hangar Gang
will be on hand all week there to answer questions. In the above photo, Sebastien Heintz, Grace Ellen and myself are inside the factory with the
company 601 behind us. Friday concluded the latest Zenith workshop. Nick told us that seven of the builders had taken home
601 kits with them.
The Zenith factory is a very interesting mixture of craftsmanship, tooling, efficient layout and organization. Above is
a very accurate articulated drill press being used to drill precision parts.
Above, Gus and I survey the shop. Of all the people I know personally, Gus knows more about the history of light aircraft
manufacturing than anyone. He was very impressed with the Zenith shop.
Another view of the inside of the factory, above. The gentleman in the foreground is one of the workshop participants.
A 601 kit, above, organized to go home with a builder. Looking at it, you wonder how long it will be before you see it
sitting on the flight line at Oshkosh.
After visiting the Zenith factory, we hopped in the truck and drove 120 miles to St. Louis for the Night School that
same evening. This was held in Vince and Louis' hangar. These guys had attended Corvair College #8,
where they completed and test ran their 601 engine. In their hangar is their 50% done 601 airframe. Attending the St. Louis Night
School, are, from left, above: Kerry Owen, Zenair 601XL, Missouri; Larry Gatewood, 601XL, MO; Kevin Work, 601XL, Tennessee; Grace Ellen and
William Wynne, ZenVair 601XL, Florida; Laura Kargacin and Larry Lipe, KR-2, Illinois; Dennis
Engelkenjohn, Pietenpol, MO; co-host Louis Kantor, Zenair 601XL, with co-workers Laurie Deneef, Lynn Gebke, Gary Blawn
of Florida, and co-host Vince Olson.
As you're reading this, take special note of Kevin Work, third from left. I predict this builder will accomplish great
things in 2005. Why? Because this guy drove 300+ miles each way to spend a few hours in a cold hangar so that we could
inspect his case and cover his questions in person. When we meet a builder with determination like this, my experience tells
me that he will succeed where others may fail for lack of perseverance. Kevin Work is a standout amongst the high quality
builders we've met on this tour.
Yes it was chilly, but we spent a good 2 1/2 hours with the builders who drove in. Braving the cold, from left, above: myself, Larry Gatewood, Zenair 601XL, MO; Kevin Work, 601XL, Tennessee; David Munson, 601XL, MO; and
Kerry Owen, 601XL, MO. Vince and Louis are eagerly
anticipating the return of better weather. They were making fantastic progress on their kit before the weather turned. They
utilized the first part of the cold season to finish their engine. If they get back to their previous pace, their airplane
could fly by mid-summer, marking a one-year build. Not bad for two first-time builders who fly for the airlines as a day job.
4-6 p.m. Saturday, February 19: Casey, Illinois
Here's a small but skilled and motivated group of builders. They took the time to come out to visit Cleone
Markwell's hangar at Casey Municipal Airport and see the progress we're making on the Corvair/601HD installation.
Outside, it was freezing rain, but it was fairly warm inside Cleone's heated hangar. The atmosphere was conducive to
the exchange of information and comfortable conversation. From left, above, are: Bob Glidden, KR-2S, Indiana; Eric
Pitts, KR-2S, Indiana; myself and Grace Ellen, 601XL, Florida; Mark Sandidge, 601HDS, Kentucky; and
Larry Kyle, strongly considering a 601, Indiana. Each of these guys has a farily good background in aviation. It was a
good discussion, and the reasonable approach and quality of questions reflected their experience with airplanes.
Although most of our customers are just starting to follow their dreams in aviation, it is a good indication of the
appeal of the Corvair when you meet several experienced aviators who are planning on Corvair power for their own projects.
The photo above is a good indication of an afternoon well spent. Notice that every person is smiling. We're examining
Mark Sandidge's heads and crank.
A few minutes worth of close examination, and four more builders know exactly what a good head gasket area looks like.
We also took a look at corrosion in the cylinder chamber, and I gave everyone an overview of what is cosmetic and what really
matters. Mark took his heads home for more work, and left his crank with us so we could take it back to Florida for the
full treatment. The group arrived early and stayed late. After they departed, Gus and I did some more work on Cleone's
plane while Grace updated the Web site. We called it quits for the evening at 11 p.m.
Sunday, February 20: Whiteland, Indiana
The following afternoon, we stopped by the workshop of Larry Hudson, above left. If there's a single notable characteristic
about Larry, it's his enthusiasm. Of the thousands of builders we've dealt with, Larry has to be in the top 10 for most
Colleges and airshows attended. He's always quick to point out all the building projects mades possible by the economical
Corvair engine. Larry's project is a 7/8 scale Fokker D-8. Before the trip, we built a custom motor mount for him. This is
the 26th different mount design I've done to mate the Corvair to more than two dozen different airframes. Gus painted it purple
as a joke.
The photo above shows the riveted aluminum tube structure of Larry's Fokker. Larry's engine is completely done and
was test run last year at our hangar. The design of the plane is pure and simple, with very few complex systems. We're
looking forward to seeing this fly toward the end of the year.
Monday, February 21:
Atlanta, Georgia, Area
After the visit at Larry's, we drove late into the night and made it to Murfreesboro, Tenn. We got a late start and
ran right into some really horrendous weather on the highway. It took an extra few hours to make our way down to the
Atlanta area. Our first stop was to see the six Big Piet builders in Carrolton. These guys are getting to be better
known in homebuilding circles because they are group building six identical Corvair powered Pietenpols with steel tube
fuselages. Although it had to be a brief visit, it was an impressive one. Over the years, I've seen many, many Pietenpol
projects, which have demonstrated the complete range from fantastic craftsmanship to the design's tolerance of sloppy
building. Out of the 80 or so Pietenpols I've seen in person, here is some of the nicest craftsmanship I've seen.
Although they've modified the design slightly, the changes are subtle and the details are all exceptionally good. The
world of Pietenpol builders will have a bright day when these airplanes are rolled out for the first time.
In the photo above are Big Piet builders Frank Metcalfe, Tom Howard and Mike Annas, in front, with helper Jay
Morrow in back, and myself and Gus at right.
Here's a view inside the Big Piet factory. On the table are wings undergoing final assembly. The airframes are about
80% complete. In the foreground is one of the engines. These guys came down to our hangar, and we assembled one engine
all the way through while they took notes and asked a lot of good questions. They returned home and later built the
rest of their engines. They spared no expense in the building of these engines, and yet they have less money in them
than you would in a Continental core engine. Their engines will provide years of trouble free service to match their
high quality airframes.
Our next stop was to visit the Lawrenceville Airport on the diagonally opposite side of Atlanta. I'd heard stories
about legendary Atlanta traffic, but since I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, I never gave it much thought. To
be on the safe side, we allowed 1.5 hours to drive across town. I asked Mike Annas about it, and he simply said, "You're
not going to make it, it'll take two hours." He was wrong. It took 2.5 hours. The storm we'd seen earlier in the day caught
up with us and grew to include hail and pelting rain. We called ahead to warn our host, Greg Jannakos, that we'd be
running late. He had a warm reception waiting of about a dozen builders from his EAA Chapter 690 and beyond. After apologizing
for being late, we got started on a two hour question and answer session. In the foreground of the photo above is
Greg's completed Zenith 601HDS wing. The Night School was held in the EAA Chapter 690 hangar, a very nice facility.
Greg's airplane, sitting out on the ramp, above. Greg ran his engine at Corvair College #8. His
airplane is plans built, and exceptionally nice. The plane has one of our Nosebowls installed
on it, and looked very sharp, even without paint. The plane is very close to flying. Greg dropped us an e-mail
after the event, telling us the plane weighed 677 pounds fully assembled, but without a battery. If the paint is applied
sparingly, and the battery small, this plane will finish up below 700 pounds. An impressive accomplishment that speaks
highly of Greg's clean and simple building style.
The following day, we made it back to the hangar by dinner time. When I arrived, I found out that in addition to regular
work, the rest of the Hangar Gang had assisted visiting builder Paul Chandler in the
assembly and test run of his Zenith 601HDS engine. The engine had a few spots that needed some special attention, and
Kevin had burned the midnight oil to ensure Paul went home with a running engine. I stayed up late with Kevin going over some details on the
last night Paul was in town. Shown in the photo above, Paul stopped by the following morning and we ran his engine.
He was very thankful, and commented that with a test run engine and a virtually complete airframe, he's looking at
finishing and flying the plane this season.
Overall, I declare the trip a big success. The number and quality of builders we met along the way, and their appreciation
for the personal contact made it all worthwhile. The fact that at our hangar thousands of miles away a builder was still
getting personal service from our crew shows the extent we're willing to go to in order to promote the motto,
"Learn, build and fly." The last act that officially closed the trip was driving across town to Budget to return the
Excursion. The manager did a doubletake when he saw that we'd driven 4,620 miles. He smiled when he finally understood why
I asked him three times if there were any milage charges before we rented it. It was a long trip, but certainly one
we'll remember, and I trust builders also will remember, for a long time.