Sun 'N Fun 2009
My 21st Consecutive Year
In The Company Of
Builders and Friends
Sun 'N Fun 2009 is in the history books. It was a particularly good year with builders coming from far and wide and Corvair
powered airplanes crisscrossing the country to get to the event. In reviewing my photo collection from the week, I noticed that almost all the photos
are of people. You might wonder what could possibly be new at Sun 'N Fun after spending a week there each of the past 20 years. The
answer's easy: There's always new builders and pilots to meet, and it's always nice to hear what's new with old friends as well.
The story of many other powerplants is simply the story of a consumer product. Coversely, the Corvair movement is a story about people:
their learning, craftsmanship and achievement. When I first came to Sun 'N Fun in 1989, I visited just about every corner. At the end
of a very long visit, I got in the car to drive home, and realized that I had just spent a fascinating day, but I could hardly
think of anyone with whom to share it.
If this year marks your first Sun 'N Fun or Oshkosh, take an hour to get to know any of your fellow builders in the Corvair movement.
For me, the experience is much richer for having made countless friends, each and every one of them unique individuals. We'll see you
Let's start with a milestone: Everyone who has bought a Conversion Manual from me in the past six years has read the story of
Corvair College #1 written by graduate Jake Jaks. The first College was a small event, but many of the people who attended are
well known in the community today. This includes Mark Langford from the KR community, Doc Mosher from the world of Pietenpols and beyond, and Wittman builder
Tom Cummings. In the years following, while he was finishing his Junior Ace, I always told Jake that when he flew his plane to an airshow, I'd give him the
red carpet treatment when he arrived. The Junior Ace was designed by Paul Poberezny, founder of the EAA and father of the current EAA president, Tom.
A few years ago, Jake brought the plane by and we worked on it ahead of the firewall one long, cold winter weekend. His build took time because he has a
full life running his own engineering firm in Tallahassee, raising a family and flying his other plane, a Mooney. Jake is a second generation homebuilder, a
VMI graduate and a USMC F-4 Phantom pilot.
When Jake arrived with his son Doug at Sun 'N Fun, I greeted them and quickly cooked up an idea to really give Jake the red carpet treatment I'd promised.
With a few phone calls and quick intervention by Pat Panzera, a breakfast meeting was lined up for Paul and Jake the following morning. It all worked out perfectly
and they toured the airplane together for a photo session. Paul displayed the gentlemanly qualities for which he's legendary, and which also laid the foundation of the
culture of EAA that we enjoy today. Jake and Doug camped out a few nights on the grounds, had a great time and enjoyed a safe trip home. Before they left, we had a
good laugh over the idea that the reality of his red carpet treatment had greatly exceeded all of our imaginations. It had been a number of years in the making, but
the journey was well worth the effort.
Above, Jake Jaks and his son Doug take a self portrait at altitude on their way home from Sun 'N Fun 2009. A priceless father-son moment.
Corvair powered Piet Pilot P.F. Beck, above right, and fellow Sun 'N Fun Wood Shop Volunteer Don Harper check out the
latest in Corvair engines.
We've known P.F. Beck for many years. He flew his Corvair powered Piet to Corvair College #12 in South
Carolina. He's a longtime volunteer at Sun 'N Fun. He's been instrumental in getting many people started building a Piet. I've
encouraged him to consider flying his Piet to Brodhead this year for the 80th anniversary of the design.
Above, the Corvair Personal Cruiser flown down from the Chicago area by Scott Vanderveen, at the tail above. This aircraft is
sporting a new paint job and some interesting mods like a very quiet muffler fed by stock exhaust manifolds. It has an engine and
mount that I built for it several years ago. The plane was built in Florida and has crisscrossed the country attending Sun 'N Fun, Oshkosh,
Corvair College #9 and a KR Gathering. At Sun 'N Fun this year, the EAA photo crew took Scott up for an early morning
air-to-air photo session. This is a good indication the plane is up for a nice magazine article. You can see EAA's Sun 'N Fun photo gallery
Here's a shot inside the Corvair Crusier's very roomy, single-seat cockpit. It is 30" across. Scott offers both plans and kits for the aircraft. There are
several of them fairly far along in construction.
Above right, KR/Vair builder Jack Cooper and my Embry Riddle classmate Brian Tombrowski stop by the Zenith booth for a visit.
I spent just about my whole week at Sun 'N Fun 2009 in the Zenith Aircraft booth. This was my sixth year in a row working in direct cooperation with the
Heintz family in their booth. I've been working with alternative engines for more than 20 years. More than 90% of the engine companies that crop up have disappeared
into oblivion. Some of these were small, enjoying only one or two magazine articles; others had big flashy displays and appeared to have deep pockets. A common theme
among most of these now defunct organizations was having an antagonistic or uncooperative relationship with airframe manufacturers.
On the opposite side of the coin, our success has always been assured by having cooperative and productive relationships with airplane designers and factories.
There is no greater evidence of this than my years of working directly with the Zenith organization. This started when we purchased our own 601. Very, very
few of the comapnies that attempt to offer alternative engine packages bother to own and operate their own aircraft with their own version of an engine.
Pick any experimental airframe you like, enter its name into a search engine with the words "alternative engine" and you'll hit on tons of Web sites
offering all manner of firewall forward packages. The required follow up is to note that you can go to landings.com to search out aircraft registrations,
pilot licenses and addresses through the FAA database. You'll often see that the principals of the company don't own any aircraft, don't have the ratings they claim,
and in extreme cases, their customer references are completely fictitious. If the offers were any good, these people would fly them for themselves, and have at least
half a dozen customers with real photos and bona fide testamonials, and these same people and planes would have been seen at airshows.
Above left, a warm but happy Joe Horton after his arrival at Sun 'N Fun via KR/VAIR N357CJ. His KR-2S trip to Sun 'N Fun was one leg of a 4,000 mile
East Coast tour that he did in a few days of flying. He wrote a very nice summary of it upon his return home, noting he'd flown as high as 17,000' on his way home
to Pennsylvania. He noted that the plane would still climb several hundred feet per minute at that altitude and this is the definition of reserve power in a
naturally aspirated airplane.
Above, Father-Son team Pat and Antonio Panzera man the Contact! magazine booth. Pat is also the online editor for the EAA's new Experimenter. Pat has used
his organizational and communication skills to support experimental aviation in many ways. He is the host of the Jean, Nevada, Experimental Engine Roundup, hosted
Corvair College #5 and attended many others, was past editor of the Dragonfly newsletter, and has played a behind the scenes role in many other
aviation projects. He's a talented pilot who got his start flying gliders as a teenager. Even though I've known Pat for 10 years, like everyone else, I have a very
difficult time telling him apart from his son on the telephone.
Above, an early morning photo of the Corvair Personal Cruiser N331PC. The aircraft had been dormant almost all of the harsh Chicago winter. After the eight hour flight down,
it needed an alternator belt adjustment and one of the exhaust gaskets in Scott's new system tightened. Scott struck up an immediate friendship with Corvair builder/pilot
Lynn Dingfelder of Pennsylvania. Lynn was on hand all week, and assisted Scott with the adjustments. This spirit of friendship that permeates the Corvair movement is
one of its defining characteristics. It's very hard for me to imagine people striking up a friendship as quickly just because they both own a Rotax. The social side of
the Corvair movement that's developed over the years of Colleges and fly ins is woven into the very structure of the movement.
Above is a shot of Joe Horton's KR-2S N357CJ. We'd last seen it at Corvair College #12 in November. The plane has several hundred hours on it
now. The engine is a 3,100 cc Corvair with a Dan Weseman fifth bearing and a Mark Langford rear starter. Joe built most of his own installation, including the
mount, exhaust and intake. All of his flight time has been done on our Dual Ignition System. His prop is a Sensenich 54x60. At 150 mph,
Joe's plane can touch on 45 mpg. The top speed is in the high 170s.
ZenVair 601 XL builder/pilot Phil Maxson of New Jersey, above left, stops by the Zenith booth. Phil's aircraft, N601MX, was finished in our shop in 2006 and first
publicly displayed in the Zenith booth at Sun 'N Fun 2006. Since then, Phil has been continuously flying the plane and making small improvements,
such as upgrading to Dynon instrumentation. Phil recently posted on the Zenith Builders and Flyers Web site some outstanding photos taken from his cockpit while flying
around lower Manhattan.
For many years, Friday night at Sun 'N Fun has meant Dave and Fran Stroud's barbecue. Dave and his lovely better half Fran always put on a fun social event that
generates a lot of memories. The cookout always starts in the late afternoon as a fun family event, and over a period of hours, occasionally metamorphisizes into a bit
of adult raucous mischief. The latter part of this year's event was made more colorful by Dave and Fran's Pineapple Rum Punch, which came out after dark. To
protect the dignity of all involved, note that all our photos were taken in daylight. Above, Joe Horton checks in the guests. Dave and Fran are from Canada, and
thus the party requires a lot of pre-planning on their part. They have a very effective RSVP system. Don't miss it next year.
Here's a good look at the party people. It was another fun event where people whom you'd only know as an e-mail name come alive as real human beings full of character.
One of the most memorable guests was Joe Goldman of New York City. He's building a Corvair powered Sprint, at a shop in Long Island City. He brought a lot of
photos, and told fun stories about commuting to work on the project by taking the subway there. A good reminder of the diversity of homebuilders. It was a nice mixture of
old friends and new ones.
Above left, Dan Weseman of Cleanex/Fly5thBearing.com fame, with Corvair/601 metal master Ron Lendon. Ron is best known to Corvair builders as the GM guy who has a
complete set of factory original drawings for the engine.
Above left, KR/Vair builder Jack Cooper, veteran of numerous Corvair Colleges, enjoys the barbecue in the company of his daughter.
Hosts Fran and Dave Stroud, standing at left above, with Corvair Cruiser entrepreneur Scott VanderVeen in the foreground. In the background is Dean Goldsmith, a
Corvair/601 builder originally from Canada, who provided the barbecue grill for both Dave's event and the Zenith cookout.
Dean's wife Michelle, above left, and Fran Stroud. Dave and Fran Stroud again did an excellent job of cooking a feast for the Corvair barbecue.
Above, Chris Smith's Son Of Cleanex on the flight line at Sun 'N Fun. This is his third appearance at Sun 'N Fun. His Cleanex has a 3,100 cc Corvair fed by an
MA3 carburetor. His engine now features a Dan Weseman Fly5thBearing.com front bearing. Dan's highly economical bearing solution is now flying on aircraft from
coast to coast. It is success after several years of planning, testing and development. Jake Jaks' Corvair powered Junior Ace is in the background.
The well known and ever popular Wicked Cleanex of Dan Weseman. The 3,100 cc MA3 fed engine of course features one of Dan's bearings. Dan
is a good friend, and did the flight testing on most of our Gold System parts.
A close-up of Jake Jaks' Junior Ace on the flightline at Sun 'N Fun 2009. Sharp eyes will notice this aircraft utilizes our Nosebowl and
a 13" spinner. It has a super simple engine installation that can be replicated for about $3,400. Its exhaust system utilizes stock Corvair exhaust logs. You can learn
more about the details of this installation by typing "Jake Jaks" into the Google search box at the bottom of our Home Page.
Joe Horton, above left, washing his wings just before departure. His KR-2S now has 370 hours on it. Look for him at Corvair College #14 in Massachusetts in May (Get CC#14
Anybody who's ever seen any of our video or DVD series has seen the work of Merrill Issaacson, aka Skymanta, above left. Merrill is a pilot, A&P and airplane builder.
His understanding of aircraft makes his video work a lot better, and the editing a smooth process.
My favorite story of Sun 'N Fun 2009: In the photo above, 601/Corvair builder/pilot Zersis Mehta at left with his fiancee Jennifer, and Sebastien Heintz. Jennifer is proudly
flaunting a very large engagement ring from Zersis. Three years ago at Sun 'N Fun, Zersis and Jennifer came through the Zenith booth toward the end of the show. Like many
first time builders, Zersis was innundated with marketing from numerous aircraft companies. To help him make up his mind, I tried an unusual and blunt approach: In front of
Jennifer, I told him that with such an attractive, intelligent woman in his life, certainly she would settle for nothing less than a bold and decisive man in hers. Therefore,
he needed to form a plan of action that day, or he might live to regret it in a lonely future. I was either overloaded on coffee or desparately short of it that day;
I don't remember. I could tell from Sebastien's reaction that this was not a tactic he might have taken himself. A scant 36 months later, here's the photo of the happy
ending. Zersis came to Corvair College #9 and got a core engine. He simultaneously ordered a 601XL Quick Build kit. Over the months, he got
Every Installation Piece We Make as he needed them. At the end of last year, his airplane passed inspection and he's flying it. Few things in this
world compare to the feeling of building your own airplane and engine and flying the combination. The icing on the cake is getting the girl too.
I took this photo at the Ultralight Party. With me are Dave and Carmen, good friends to Grace and me. Spending five minutes in their company will show you that they have an
extraordinary marriage. Their lives are an interesting juxtaposition. Dave has flown many of the aviation scenes in James Bond films, yet they choose to live deep in nature in rural
Florida, in a primitive setting, not unlike life in the novel The Yearling. Deeply spiritual people, the first wedding gift we received was a Bible we treasure from Dave and Carmen
a few years ago at the Ultralight Party.
Above, the most popular display we had all week was our engine featuring a Fly5thBearing.com installation. Over many years, Dan Weseman had discussed with me
his belief that the Corvair should remain true to its affordable roots. We've often discussed writing a supplement to the Conversion Manual for just such an
engine. The total parts cost, including Dan's bearing, was carefully listed part by part on the display. The total comes to $4,654. This includes everything: from core to
cleaning expenses, nuts and bolts, gasket sealer, gaskets, etc. Our years of success with the Corvair has on occasion sparked a handful of here-today-gone-tomorrow
outfits trying to make a buck off selling Corvair engines. In order to sell people on their concept, their central message has always been that 'You can't do it yourself,'
'The parts alone cost $7,500,' and 'You can pay us to take care of your interests.' These three things are the complete opposite of the very fiber of homebuilding.
My message from day one decades ago is that:
1. We can teach anyone what it takes to build a good engine.
2. Even an engine outfitted with a fifth bearing is still buildable at home and affordable.
3. No matter where your experience base is today, and no matter what anyone else allegedly knows, in the long run, you will always be safer with yourself as
builder in command of your own project.
The very mentality that you can assign part of your safety to anyone else, especially someone from a newly minted LLC, is a bad joke with a potentially ugly ending.
While I've built many engines complete and for sale, and we have dozens of happy builders operating them, I have a much longer list of people who came to us for
an engine because they wanted to save money, didn't want to learn anything and wished to abdicate command of their own project; I built an engine for none of them.
They would be easy customers to sell to, but difficult to satisfy because what they're looking for is not available at any price in homebuilding. Homebuilding is
for people who want to be in command of their project, their safety and their life.
Here is the rear view of the same engine. Notice that this engine does not use our Gold Oil System. While we have sold countless
sets of Gold Oil Components, and they are required on some aircraft, like 701s and 750s, we will still gladly teach anyone on a tight budget how to build the most economical
of engines. Our Pietenpol and more recently, Jake Jaks' Junior Ace, both utilize the style of oil system pictured above. Even with its low price,
this engine still features forged pistons, stainless steel valves, a nitrided crankshaft, a Gold Hub, fifth bearing and
Dual Ignition. It would take about 50-70 hours to go through all three engine phases:
Disassembly, Parts Acquisition and Reassembly.
We received an enormous amount of positive response to the recent issue of Kitplanes magazine. I have read just about all the issues of Kitplanes from the
past 25 years. While the title hasn't changed, the focus of the magazine and the leadership have gone through different eras. Years ago, I found it difficult to explain the
Corvair movement to the editor at the time because you have to view it as a philosophy, rather than a product, to get the full understanding of it. Marc Cook, who has been
editor the past few years, had no difficulty at all understanding the Corvair movement. This is because he's a hardcore airplane builder himself. Many people new to homebuilding
assume that the staff of every publication are all successful homebuilders. In reality, very few people in the publication end of our industry are homebuilders. Truth be told,
it is not a requirement to understand things that are offered as products in our industry. To get the full grasp of something like the Corvair movement, or to understand
all the challenges facing a homebuilder, it really helps to be one yourself.
Around The Patch is Marc's editorial column in Kitplanes. His article in this issue, "Cult of Personality," focused on the day he spent at Corvair
College #13 in January 2009. This issue of Kitplanes heavily covers the alternative engine scene. I'd also like to thank again Rick Lindstrom for his
positive review of our work with Corvairs. Rick's writing shows him to be broad based in his practical knowledge of light aircraft. He's been immersed in general
aviation for more than 20 years, and always offers a unique and valuable take on a subject.
As you read these words, you can gain some idea of the fun, learning and camaraderie packed into a handful of days at Sun 'N Fun. While it will be a full year before
Sun 'N Fun rolls round again, we're only a few weeks away from your next opportunity to get involved in the Corvair movement. I am holding the next Corvair College, #14,
in a few weeks. Our host, Pramod Kotwal, and sidekick Ken Pavlou have gone to extraordinary lengths to make this a special event. Please visit the link below and
realize you can make the time to get started in writing your own Chapter in the land of Corvairs. The adventure begins again ...
Sun 'N Fun 2012 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2011 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2010 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2008 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2007 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2006 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2005 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2004 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2003 With FlyCorvair.com
Sun 'N Fun 2002 With FlyCorvair.com