William Wynne

"The Corvair Authority"
5000-18 HWY 17 #247
Orange Park, FL 32003

Corvair Crew Makes It Through Mexico
Without Incident May 20-21, 2006

Learning is Fun at Corvair Day at the Zenith Factory

Saturday, May 20, 2006, marked the first Corvair Day Open House at the Zenith Factory in Mexico, Missouri. Despite extremely short notice, the event drew more than 50 serious builders. They came from places far and wide, including Colorado Springs, Colo., San Diego, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. The Zenith crew opened their hangar early, and put on a giant vat of coffee. The builders streamed in early in the morning, and by 9:45 a.m., I started the day with a general briefing and a short question and answer session.

The theme of the talk was people and Corvairs. Many times, newcomers will ask "What makes the Corvair any different? And why do we frequently refer to Corvair building as a movement?" The answer is easy to understand even if you attend a small event like a Night School or even a mid-size event, like this Corvair Day. Corvair engines themselves are made out of steel and aluminum, just like any other airplane engine. However, most other engines are simply a manufactured product sent out to consumers who never meet each other, and whose engine acquisition experience is largely limited to unpacking the box and installing it at home. Conversely, Corvair building is correctly called a movement because builders are engaged as people getting to know each other as fellow builders and flyers.

This unique aspect of the world of Corvairs was intentionally integrated into the program by me from Day One. Years ago, while I was still a student at Embry Riddle, I made a point to go to Sun 'N Fun and Oshkosh every year. Although I was initially dazzled by the size and variety of everything going on, I quickly came to see that I often did not know a single other person in crowds of 200,000-500,000 other aviators who were theoretically my peers. This highlighted to me the missing element of the people side of my aviation world at the time.

Although I knew many good guys in my local EAA Chapter, not all of them were homebuilders, and few had a response to match my newcomer's enthusiasm and long range ideas. In a small geographic group, it was unfair to expect a lot of people to feel the same way I did. But I had a gut reaction that there were an awful lot of people in the country who, given the right focal point, felt the same way I did and would look forward to participating in events that would have looked like the EAA events at Rockford in the pre-Oshkosh era.

Today, looking back on 10 Corvair Colleges, dozens of airshows, and a decade of experiences that combined the best of people and their craftsmenship applied to Corvair engines, it's easy to see my hunch was right. From this perspective, the Mexico Event fits right into The Big Picture.

The builders were a mixture of old and new friends. Pietenpol builder Dan Wilson of Minnesota on the far right in back, above, and 601XL builder Harlan Nelson of Minnesota, left of Dan in the back, are both veterans of Corvair College #9. Dan also attended our Midwest Night School in Iowa. New friends Paul Beaulieu and John Fravel are directly to my right, along with two other new friends. In the foreground on the right is Vernon Lehman, to whom we delivered a pair of Dragonfly wings which he'll be mating to a Q-200. His first project was a Cozy, so he's up for the task.

In the center is Dr. Steve Mineart's engine, which we're taking back to Florida to upgrade with a nitrided crank. If you follow our travels, you'll remember we delivered Dr. Mineart's engine during Our Midwest Night School Tour. He wisely took my counsel and chose to have us upgrade his engine. We'll complete this and deliver his engine before Oshkosh. Before the January Crank Update, about 55 engines had been built and test run at our Edgewater hangar. The majority of these involved us assisting customers with the assembly of components they had gathered and the test run of their engines. This labor was free at Corvair Colleges, or available at very modest cost outside the Colleges. All of these builders left not only with a running engine, but with a sound understanding of how it was assembled and how to work on it. When our testing revealed that nitriding cranks was necessary, I felt comfortable with almost all of these builders taking care of the replacement at home. After all, the engine's intended to be built at home, and these people had received direct training from us, supported by text in the Conversion Manual, and visual aids in the Assembly Videos. A good example of a builder from this group is 601 builder Craig Payne of Utah. After talking on the phone, Craig told me he felt comfortable changing the crank at home, then followed the instructions on our FlyCorvair.com Web site and sent his crank off to Nitron himself.

On the other side of the coin, there were about a dozen people who'd purchased a Complete Engine built by Kevin and I. These engines sold for in excess of $6,000, and went to builders who generally had not received any direct training from us. These people had not been counting on working on the inside of their engines, and certainly had spent a significant sum with us. We contacted them all individually, either offering a nitrided crank or replacing the crank for them for a very modest charge. They all agreed we'd made them a more than fair offer to keep their projects moving forward without undue cost or stress. As a rule, these guys had a lot of experience in general aviation and understood that no other engine manufacturer, certified or experimental, went to these lengths to make available an important update that was unknown at the time of the sale. Builders like Vance Wiley opted to accept a nitrided crank from us at Sun 'N Fun 2006, and the return of Dr. Mineart's engine to him will close the chapter on nitriding cranks on engines we've built and sold for full price.

While the vast majority of builders respected and understood our position on crankshafts and assistance we were willing and able to give, more than one builder told me they felt somehow neglected or not prioritized. Keep in mind that we have literally more than 1,000 active builders. We went out of our way to find solutions that were possible for everyone, spent an enormous amount of time offering technical assistance, and we're glad to help builders - from people who purchased a Manual from us simply looking for information, to the opposite end of the spectrum. The guiding principal was what is fair and equitable. It's no secret that a lot of priority went to people currently flying aircraft who were willing to share costs with us and be part of setting the precedent and ethic that nitriding was easy, reasonably inexpensive and an integral part of a good engine.

To the few who feel slighted, let me offer my apologies and merely ask everyone to consider what the limits of generosity and responsibility are, from myself, a person who has championed the least expensive motor on the market and consistently shared our time and knowledge freely at events like the Colleges. If my product had financially matched the expensive imports, and we'd never given away any time, or shared any of the fun events for free, then we certainly would have had a giant war chest of money to buy everyone a new crank (keep in mind expensive engine companies, although they have the resources, don't do this either). With the imports, they would not work with anyone who did not have the $15 grand up front to buy their product. They're not bad people, but that's reality. Conversely, we are willing to work with anyone with a budget big enough to buy a $59 Conversion Manual. If there are complaints, it's fair to ask if perhaps they only purchased a Conversion Manual or perhaps additionally a core motor from us years ago. It saddens me that we may lose one or two customers over expectations about what we can do for everyone, but looking at the big picture, it's simply not reality.

Mark Langford, above in the yellow MY EX WANTED ME TO QUIT FLYING shirt, with a crowd admiring his Corvair installation. Mark told Grace he was sorry he missed the first half of my speech, but since he's flying now, he's really more interested in the flyng, travel and people aspect of the movement rather than the technical side. Grace told him he didn't really miss it because that's what the first half of my speech was about.

Corvair/KR builder/pilot Mark Langford, above right, departed first thing in the morning from the Huntsville, Ala., area, to fly the 425 miles to Mexico. He made a brief stop in southern Illinois to pick up O-200 powered KR-2 pilot Larry Flesner of Carterville, Ill., as a wingman. Together they flew into Mexico. Mark reported the time en route was 2 hours 20 minutes from Alabama. Larry, at left above with his KR, is the host of the KR Gathering which will be in Mount Vernon, Ill., again this Fall. In acknowledgement of the popularity of the Corvair/KR combination, Larry graciously invited us to speak at the event. We'd never seen Larry's KR in person, only read his Web site. He has a very interesting and unique bird himself.

At left above, the lovely Grace Ellen presents Mark Langford with one of our ever popular MY EX WANTED ME TO QUIT FLYING T-shirts. Fortuitously, Mark's gracious wife Jeanie has a very good sense of humor about this, because Mark can't seem to get enough of these shirts.

From right above, Nick and Sebastien Heintz, and their shop tech Caleb are very happy to see another 701 leave the Zenith factory. We're bringing this one back to Merrill, a.k.a. Skymanta. However, we're considering leaving it at an undisclosed location in Georgia until Merrill gets one or three more new DVDs done to our liking. All we need to begin working on the installation package is the firewall. Hope you're reading this Skymanata.

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