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.
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.
Oshkosh 2010 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2009 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2008 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2006 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2005 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2004 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2003 With FlyCorvair.com
Oshkosh 2000 With FlyCorvair.com