Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #2, Hardest working engine

Builders,

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If you have not seen the Intro to this series, you can read it here: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #1, Intro., It will explain the goals of the articles. Please take a moment to read it, including the comments section.

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What is the hardest working flying Corvair engine?

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Without question, The 3,000 cc Corvair in Dan Weseman’s Panther is worked harder than any other flight engine.  Engine loads are determined by the RPM, power output, the G-forces applied, the weight of the prop, the density of the air, and how long these loads are sustained. Cooling is affected to a great extent by sustained climb speeds; the lower the speed the plane can climb at, the better the cooling needs to be.

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Seen as a composite of all of these factors, no other Corvair comes close; The flight rpm is well over 3,000, It is a high compression 120hp engine, the plane is regularly flown to it’s full 6.6 G rating pulling thousands of aerobatic maneuvers in it’s first 100 hours. It has a medium weight prop and is mostly flown in dense sea level air which increases the output. I have personally seen Dan take off for a flight and lock the throttle wide open for 28 minutes. The engine is never babied, and almost all of its tight maneuvering against other aircraft are done at full power and low airspeeds  to take advantage of the plane’s aspect ratio which reduces induced drag in high G turns. If you have not seen Dan fly the plane in person, it is very hard to visualize how extreme his use of the engine is. The video links below give some idea, but to really understand, you have to see it in person.

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The Panther’s engine has a Weseman billet crank in it, but I will also point out that Dan also built and flew ‘The Wicked Cleanex’ several hundred hours on a 3,100 cc Corvair with GM 8409 crank. He flew that plane nearly as hard as the Panther. It’s engine had an additional 100cc, turned more rpm, and flew many of the same maneuvers, also at slower climb speeds. Between the Panther and the Cleanex, Dan has flown about 500 hours, but he has also flown 9 other Corvair powered planes for comparison.

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Why this matters:

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Builders have a perception of what the engine can and can’t do, and how they will configure it partially based on what they believe the engine is proven to do. An extreme example of this is a local guy who has seen one Corvair in a 1970’s Pietenpol assuming that is all that the engine can do. But even in the information age, most builders can not correctly identify Dan’s Panther engine as the hardest working engine.

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Builders look at other installations and make decisions based on the perception that those engines are working very hard. This has two pitfalls: If the engine they assume it working hard really isn’t they falsely conclude they can copy those systems and components into their plane. It also works the other way, and they can falsely conclude that a Corvair will not work in an application because the engine they are looking at has problems. Most often the issues are not generated because the ultimate potential of the Corvair has been met, the issues are caused by choices the builder made. In many case the Panther engine could be transferred to the application in question, and it would work flawlessly. Correctly identifying the Panther’s engine as the hardest working engine allows builders to make better, more informed choices.

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Many builders think that Mark Langford’s 3,100cc Corvair that was in his KR-2s must have been the hardest driven engine.  I know both planes and pilots well, and I want builders to understand that Mark’s goal was mostly efficiency. He did impressive things like getting 150mph at 3 gallons per hour. But that is done at altitude, and it isn’t a very heavy load. A KR can not sustain the G loads that a Panther of Cleanex can, and Mark is not the aggressive aerobatic pilot that Dan is. The KR climbs at a much higher airspeed and requires less power to fly at any airspeed over 120mph. In short, It’s engine is not working nearly as hard.

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Here are two examples why this matters: Frequently builders say to me “I want to use fiberglass plenum cooling on my plane because it worked on Mark’s plane, and it was the most powerful Corvair”. This is a false conclusion. If you put Mark’s cooling ducts on the Panther and flew it the way Dan does, it would overheat. The ducts work on a KR because of it’s higher airspeeds and the fact the plane can not be flown as aggressively or under high loads. A KR builder could use ducts, but we also make a standard Cowl and JSWeseman.com has a baffle kit for it. It is the same type of cooling as the Panther and the Cleanex have.

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The second false perception is when a guy wants to build a 120hp Corvair, but concludes that it can not be done, because Mark had issues, and the builder perceives that these were caused by the engine reaching it’s output limit. Because I know the Panther engine is actually driven harder, that it’s engine, complete with front starter and cooling could be installed in a KR and it would work without issue. I know this because it has been done already by well know KR builders like Steve Makish and Dan Heath.

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The systems we sell and promote work, and they have proven to do so in the most demanding applications. This is easier to see if one understand what the most demanding application actually is. Neither the Panther nor the Cleanex have had significant issues. The engines work and run, period, they both run cool, and neither one has had a single inflight issue. -ww.

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Notes:

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Panther Flight Videos:

http://flywithspa.com/videogallery/panther-compilation1181040787/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX_HN–ZQVI and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzZl4gU_6o8 )

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Links to Panther and Cleanex notes:

The Panther’s engine, worlds strongest Corvair flight engine.

Why Not the Panther engine?

http://flywithspa.com/panther.html

Corvair power for Panther and Sonex reference page

3,000 vs 3,100 cc Corvair engines.

Panther Engine propeller test

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Above, the engine is a 3,000 cc engine with a Weseman bearing, Falcon heads and all of our Gold System Parts.

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In the foreground above is Dan Weseman’s Wicked Cleanex. Off his wing, Chris Smith flies the Son Of Cleanex. The photo was taken over a bend in the St. Johns River in North Florida. Today the wicked cleanex is owned and flown by Chuck Gauthier on the west coast. The plane has about 450 hours on it, without issue.

 

Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #1, Intro.

Builders,

Here is a slightly different series, with the goal of giving builders a foundation of facts, which are the basis of all the information I provide.  We present a lot of details, and a fair amount of ‘big picture’ stuff, and philosophy, but I have noticed in conversation with builders at airshows and colleges, they are often missing many fundamental ‘truths’ that my testing has long conclusively proven.

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Here I present a series of perhaps 20 short pieces, Each providing a block for a solid foundation of understanding.  The things I say here are not up for debate. If anyone reading these says “I don’t think so’, they  will do well to consider that no one has been doing this longer, tested more ideas, and seen more Corvair powered planes, and studied the results, both good and bad than I have.

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If someone is betting that I am wrong, understand that their wager is pretty steep: They are betting years of their time, cubic yards of money, their life, and that of their passenger. Plenty of people have been convinced I don’t know what I am speaking of, and lost this bet. In most cases they lost lots of building time, and a fair amount of capital. It often was the undoing of their building momentum and the end of their project, and an exit to homebuilding. In a handful of cases, it cost a lot more. I sincerely suggest evaluating the need, at times emotional, to believe I am wrong on this topic, and then placing one’s  bet accordingly.

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Some people who thought I was wrong:

“If only someone had told him……”

Risk Management, Judgement Error, money in the wrong place.

Cloudn’t have happened to a nicer guy……

How I became a genius in 6 minutes

“Local Expert” convinces builder to use cast pistons

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I have plenty of these stories. A number of them involve the aircraft being destroyed on the first flight.  Dragonfly, Quickie, Zenith, KR you name it, I have a story of a guy who was going to show me how wrong I was, and ended up with a broken plane in a field. Lots of them are just about people spending 8 or 10 years of their life in the shop, much of it building an engine installation I know will not work well.

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I had a guy call me yesterday and tell me he is going to design a gear box for the Corvair, put it on a turbo engine with 140HP heads, set it up for 200HP, and put it on a Zenith 701. He was serious.  Funny, we had a guy come to Corvair College #18 with basically the same engine (not running) to make the point that I wasn’t “the only guy who knew Corvairs”  He envisioned a business building these. A few months ago it was on barnstormers, never flown, asking $7,500, worth perhaps scrap metal value.

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Read the stories, follow the logic, adopt it into your perspective and understanding, plan your progress accordingly. The other option is to stick with an understanding based on an incorrect assumption long ago adopted, even if no evidence supports it. Take your pick, have it any way you like. -ww.

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“If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it–the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.”

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William Clifford, The Ethics of Belief – 1877.

 

How I became a genius in 6 minutes

Builders:

About 6 months ago, a builder finished a Corvair powered 601XL and got ready to take it on it’s first flight. It should have been a low stress event, because we have almost 100 Corvair powered Zeniths that have flown, and we have proved time and time again that if you build the installation exactly how we suggest, the laws of reality insure that the plane has to work with the exact same reliability that numerous well known 601/Corvair pilots like Woody Harris, Phil Maxson and Ken Pavlou have had in their planes. No one need be a pioneer nor a test pilot, they only need to make sure the plane is in the proven configuration, and then get a test program just like the one outlined in our Flight Ops Manual.

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Ah that little phrase “exactly how we suggest”.  Four words, 18 letters. Can’t really make that much difference can it? The builder in question had taken about 10 years to finish the plane.  He was well aware of how we install a Corvair in the 601 airframe. He was a member of the Corvaircraft on line discussion group for years. Before I was banned for life from it, I spent a lot of time there writing stories trying to explain details of what we had learned by meticulous testing and evaluation.

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For the most part, my contribution to the discussion was not well received. I was often criticized as a damper on ‘creativity.’ In this setting, armchair experts, most of whom had never seen a Corvair fly, far less built one, applauded any effort that was not ‘conformist’ to my suggestions. I made countless posts against people who offered recommendations based on zero personal experience.  It mostly fell on deaf ears.

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The 601 builder in question put many ‘non-conformist’ ideas into his plane. The primary one that sticks out is the selection of carb: he chose to use one of the two carbs off a 60hp 1958 British MGA.  While this strikes me as a legitimate suicide attempt, his selection essentially met with cheers and applause because it went against my suggestion of using an aircraft carb.

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I honestly think that in a normal setting, where experience and facts are valued, the builder would not have followed through with the carb. But on Corvaircraft, there were many, many vocal supporters of crazy ideas. Their advocacy put them in no danger, they were safely at home behind a keyboard, using ‘screen names’ and making recommendations to people they would never meet. All this lead to the 601 builders arriving at two conclusions: his ideas were well thought out, and second, that guy William Wynne was probably some kind of authoritarian dim wit.

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As the builder began his take off roll and all seemed to be going well, my status in his mind must have sunk to a new low…every one of my warnings not to do things now seemed like the babbling of a foolish control freak. He must have thought “I mean, really, what kind of an ego does that guy have to call himself the authority? things are going great!….”

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Once he past 400 feet the engine went into heavy detonation, and by 240 seconds into the flight it was largely destroyed. The last two minutes were limping back to the runway. Ten years of work for 360 seconds in the air. I contacted him after the event, and we had a pretty civil exchange of thoughts.  Although he didn’t say it directly, the general conversation indicated that he was amazed at how I had gone from being an authoritative dim wit to being a mechanical-philosophical genius in 6 minutes. -ww.

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cc30mexico14fiveplanes

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Above, The five Corvair powered Zeniths that flew into Corvair College #30, all parked for a photo in front of the Mexico terminal. These builders decided that the surest path to their own personal goals in building and flying was to utilize the information we provide.  Although I get along with all of them, their choice to use the information was based on it’s credible and proven value, not our personalities.

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There are also plenty of other people who, for a myriad of reasons, chose not to use the information. The great majority of those planes were never finished, and a number of the ones completed were destroyed in “accidents” .  I put quote marks on that word because it may have seemed like an accident to bystanders, but I make the case that if the known expert on an installation publicly says it will not work, and the builder chooses to try it anyway, it is a misnomer to call that event an accident, as it is better described as an “inevitable.” -ww.

 

Thought for the day: The ‘Triple crown’ of Homebuilding.

Builders,

On Saturday night, I wrote that Vern and I worked until 1am before quitting for the night. Sunday I was up from 7am until midnight, and Vern was here from 10am-6pm. Today we worked from 8am until about 10pm. The work isn’t frantic, it is just one long steady flow. We have worked together for a number of years, and there is little conversation during the day. We start every day with Vern’s favorite tune, The Brian Setzer orchestra version of the Hawaii 5-0 theme song. Much of the day was spent listening to old Stones albums like Exile on Main street, a chunk of the day was spent on the BBC sessions of Led Zeppelin, and we spent the evening listening to a loop of Floyd’s Dark side of the Moon and Animals, the last song before I turned off the lights was “Any Colour you like.”

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I drank too much coffee and it is now 2am and I can’t sleep; these random thoughts keep crossing my mind:

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I spent a lot of the day thinking about my personal “Triple Crown” of home building. This revolves around building an airframe, the engine, and knowing how to fly it with a high degree of dexterity. I had touched on this in the story: Thought for the Day: Mastery or?

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I would much rather have built a simple plane than purchase a complex one; I want to be the master of it’s power plant, not merely it’s owner or attendant; I don’t want to be a mediocre instrument or multi pilot, I just was to be a good day-vfr stick and rudder pilot. The world’s best guide for the last leg of the triangle is the book Stick and Rudder, read about why it is important here: Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?)

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I don’t really know how common these goals are in homebuilding. There is plenty of evidence that people feel differently. At our last EAA meeting a man brought pictures of his newly completed RV-7, complete with a $40,000 panel.  One problem: word is that he can’t fly it because he is unwilling to devote the time to really learning how to land conventional geared planes.  It didn’t occur to him that a $20,000 panel and a few months of regular instruction from a skilled CFI might have been a better option. Most people were wowed by the electronics and paint.  It made me think about this story: Risk Management, Judgement Error, money in the wrong place.

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Another member flew up in the plane he has owned for 6 months.. Most people didn’t know what it was, but I pointed out it was a Luscombe 8E. Getting out the owner corrected me and gave a long diatribe about how the plane was an 8A, complete with a comment that I was too young to know classics like his. When he was done, I walked him over and showed him the data plate in the door jam, identifying the plane as an 8E. He is the owner, his name is on the paperwork, but he doesn’t even know what it is.  It was another day like this one: A visit to the insane asylum.

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You can’t really claim to be the master of a machine if you don’t know what it is. Being able to page through a ‘menu’ on a glass cockpit to display electronic circuit breakers, but not understanding why having two E-mags is a questionable idea isn’t mastery either. All too frequently in our consumer society, people no longer even understand that there is a difference between legal ownership and technical mastery. The ultimate indictment of the consumer mentality was actually written the same year I was born, 1962. The quote is imbedded in this story: Sterling Hayden – Philosophy

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If merely owning things made people happy for any significant length of time, than Americans would be the happiest people the world has ever known. Driving around, I don’t think we are in any danger of suddenly becoming a nation of whole, self-actualized humans. 16 months ago I covered the perspective in this tale: Turtles and Cell Phones, 6/24/13.

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“If the goal of the captain was to preserve the ship, he would never leave port. Most people never do. The goal of the captain is to seek adventure, to meet all the challenges and still achieve the goals, to be In The Arena, not rusting at the pier in the safe harbor. Make your choice. If it sounds scary, it’s because consumer society has had decades to teach you to doubt yourself, your potential, your dreams and abilities. People who think for and have learned to trust themselves make poor compulsive consumers. Building a plane and learning to master its maintenance and flight is the rejection of these messages, and the replacement of them with the knowledge that you are the master of your own adventure. This is what building and flying is all about.” -ww.

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Luscombe 8A

I was looking on the web for a good picture to illustrate how different Luscombe 8A’s are from 8E’s. I came across this EAA page with a great picture of an 8F…….which of course was identified as an 8A.

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Shop Notes, 10/26/14

Builders,

Vern and I were welding in the shop last night until 1AM. In a few minutes, I will be back out there and working all day. Vern and I are working on a very large batch of motor mounts slated to go into power coating on Wednesday. We have less than two weeks to CC#31, and we are in the phase of back to back 14 hour days. It is productive, and many parts are headed, to builders this week, not just to people headed to the College.

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I have laid off writing in recent weeks as we move closer to the College and the end of the year. Some people miss that I do most of the writing when I am on the road, and don’t have access to the shop. I also go through phases where I am convinced that few people read the stuff in detail. The counter on this site is nearing 700,000 page reads in 33 months, but at a recent college I asked 40 builders if they had seen the detailed story Balancer Installation.  Exactly zero out of forty had read it. Not very encouraging.

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If you would like to review your own reading list, click on this link to 200 of the 589 stories on this site, they are listed in groups. 200 Stories of aircraft building. In the last 5 years, I have seen less than 5 hours worth of television total, but I have read more than 200 books. Everyone can spend their time how they like, but I get a lot more out of reading than entertainment. If you want to have a Corvair powered plane that serves you, that you really know, reading will be the best path to get there.

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Behind the scenes we have had some real advancements in parts and shop ability.  We have had a long wait for intakes because the friend of mine who owns the robotic tubing bending company that made them for us for 10 years has become astronomically wealthy by switching from producing parts for the aircraft industry to the medical industry. O2 concentrators are much better revenue that fuel injection lines. By appealing to our 25 year friendship I have gotten him to agree to make 3 years worth of intake pipes in a single run, and we should have these just after CC#31, and will shortly be sending them out as the flanges and brackets for them are already made.

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This fall I have invested countless hours in getting our Jacksonville cylinder head source perfected. While Mark at Falcon still makes fine heads, his back order list is at least 6 months, and in many cases it has been well over a year. For builders moving faster, we have our new source here. We have had several rounds of test and production heads and we are close to having heads on the shelf to exchange. Right now I have 36 pairs that I own personally lined up to be processed. More news shortly.

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Even shop capability like our cleaning and blasting cabinets are being upgraded here to shorten the time on items like 2000HV oil cases. I bought a compressor so powerful that it can relentlessly  hold 175 psi against an open 3/16″ blast gun nozzle. Yesterday the electrician was in the hangar installing a dedicated 100 amp line to run the unit.  You can never have tools too big or industrial.

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If you have an important question, please send it to my personal email directly, with a number and time I can return the call. It will likely be too loud in the shop today to hear the phone, but I will be glad to get back to you. -ww.

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From our website in 2011: “For the greater part of his years on earth, Vern has been a welder. In the world of experimental aircraft, when a company wants to  sound impressive, they always tout that their welders have “Built race cars.” I welded the frames of lots of NHRA legal dragsters before I was 21, and this experience taught me nothing about aerospace welding. Vern has welded countless race cars together, but that  has nothing to do with why we utilize his skills making Corvair parts. What counts is the little piece of paper on the orange board.”

“If you look closely, it shows that Vern has every aerospace material welding rating in every thickness recognized by his employer, the United States Naval Aviation Depot. In this facility inside NAS Jacksonville, Vern has welded every kind of material that goes into modern combat aircraft. This includes titanium, Hastelloy X and magnesium. While some people can weld this when it is new in a purged box, Vern can weld things like the inside of a jet’s burner can while looking through one bleed hole and feeding the rod through another.”

Woody Harris and 601XL flying to Copper State

Builders:

I received an email an hour ago from “our man on the West Coast” Woody Harris, stating that he is leaving Vacaville in Northern CA at first light and flying his 601XL the 750 miles to the Copper State fly-in in AZ.

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Woody has a limited number of our new 2014 manuals, a number of Dvds, a great 400+ hour plane to study, and of course a wealth of knowledge on building, flying and good decision making. If you are in the area, take the time to head out and meet him.

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Woody in the Grand Teton National Park WY

 Woody flying over Grand Teton.

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Doug and Woody in South Dakota

Woody and Doug Dougger over South Dakota.

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Woody Harris and Sebastien Heintz in front of Woody's 601 at QSP open house May 5, 2012

 Woody needs little excuse to fly places; Above he is speaking with Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith Aircraft, at a West Coast Zenith fly in at Quality Sport Planes in Santa Rosa. This facility was the site of Corvair College #11.

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Three Zenith Aircraft at the Chicken Strip, Death Valley, CA

From Steve Smiths Website: “Left to right: Woody’s  Zodiac XL, Doug Dugger’s 750, Steve Smith’s Zodiac XL. The Chicken Strip is a dirt/gravel landing strip in the Saline Valley of Death Valley National Park. Lat/long is 36.807,-117.782. This was one of the stops on our trip home from the 2013 Copperstate flyin in Casa Grande AZ.”

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For more reading on Woody’s adventures, check out these links:

Woody’s 2,850cc Corvair/601XL hits 400 hours.

Zenith 601XL-2,850cc, Woody Harris

16 Flying Corvair powered Zenith 601/ 650s

Zenith 601/650 – Corvair reference page November 2013

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In our booth at Oshkosh 2011, I stand with three pilots who flew in their Corvair powered Zeniths. From left to right, Shane McDaniels who flew in a 2,700cc 650 from Missouri, Woody Harris in a 2,850cc  601-XLB from California, and Andy Elliott in a 3,000cc 601-XLB from Arizona. If you would like to be in a future version of this photo, you must willfully decide to advance your dreams.

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Above, the 601XL of Woody Harris. It has flown all over the country on a 2,850. Note that Woody is from northern California and the photo above is at Kitty Hawk NC. -ww.

 

2014 Conversion Manual Upgrades.

Builders,

In the last few weeks we have sent out a great number of 2014 manuals to builders who chose to upgrade their information, which I highly suggest. Grace and I were working from a list of builders that sent in a email request.

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However, I suspect that we have missed about 6-10 builders who sent in a request, but we didn’t send a manual to. If these were placed through our regular order system, we have excellent automated records, but most of the requests for an upgrade were simply sent as a request, not into the normal system. Making the tracking more complicated is the fact that Grace and I have not been in the location for almost a month. Right after CC#30 I headed to NJ to care for my parents, and just before I got back Grace left on a long scheduled trip with her family to Europe.

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Grace will be back shortly, and we will get things into high gear for the prep leading to CC#31. But, I am headed to the Post office at 11:00 am Saturday 10/18, and I will be glad to send a new 2014 manual to any builder we missed. If you put in a request or an order, and it has not made it to your door yet, please send me a direct email to:

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WilliamTCA@aol.com

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And please include your full USPS shipping address. and any notes on your order, and I will get it out in the morning. If you miss the chance, send the note anyway, I will get it out Monday.

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Please note that we are asking. Owners of older manuals who original purchased them from us to send in $50 to cover the printing and shipping costs on the new manual. If you would like a manual upgrade, just send me the shipping info and your old manual number. I will gladly send the manual right out, builders can send the payment when the manual gets there. -ww.

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Blast from the past, 2006:

Above is a photo of Grace Ellen, high in the Andes at Macchu Picchu. Her T-shirt is from Corvair College #4. Once a year, Grace takes time to spend it with her parents abroad. 1,600 years ago St Augustine pointed out that the world was like a book, and people who do not travel consent to read only one page.

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