Speaking of Paul Poberezny

Builders,

This week marks one year since the passing of the founder of the EAA, Paul Poberezny.

I stand next to EAA and SAA founder Paul Poberezny at the 2003 SAA Fly In. Paul passed away last August 22nd at age 91. The 25 years I have spent working in the field of Experimental Aviation could not have happened without this man’s tireless efforts to promote and protect our right to build and fly planes.

.

———————————————-

.

At Oshkosh this year, 1,000 guests gathered in the Eagle hangar for the Lifetime member dinner. The subject of the evening was a remembrance of the life of Paul Poberezny. There were a number of very moving tributes from people who knew him well. The common thread through all the stories was that Paul was a regular guy, He was the ‘average’ EAA member.

.

The Lifetime dinner is by and large, a gathering of long time members, but mixed in are a few new arrivals. Two of these were seated at our table were new to the EAA, but had opted to contribute the large sum to become a lifetime member. One of them was a Cirrus owner the other a corporate pilot. Each of them were making their first trip to Oshkosh. I listened to them because I was interested to understand their attachment to the EAA, strong enough to motivate becoming a lifetime member.

.

Both of them cited the EAA style and Oshkosh as motivators. Neither of them had any exposure to Homebuilding. Although it was the Cirrus owners first trip to Oshkosh and his membership number was literally a 1,000,000 numbers higher than mine, He didn’t hesitate to say that he was OK with some homebuilders, referring to them as “Those people”  and “People who couldn’t afford a real plane.” I bit my tongue pretty hard. The icing on the cake was Mr. Cirrus offering that the current EAA president was a lot better at speaking with “those people” than the last one (Rod Hightower).

.

Being polite, I told him that I actually agreed with him, but pointed out that neither man could vaguely hold a candle to Paul Poberezny when it came to speaking to “those people, “ and they never would because, Paul was one of ‘those people’, and he was very proud of it. 

.

———————————————-

.

Had Paul not founded the EAA, his adventures would have been pretty good anyway, it is our lives that changed more than his because of the existence of the EAA. Yes, there were plenty of benefits to being the founder, but if I contrast what I have done in aviation to what my options would look like without the EAA, and it is a stark difference.

.

—————————————————-

.

I met him only a few times, Spending only a few hours in his company. However, I felt I knew something about him  because read almost all of the things he wrote over the years. He was opinionated, and I was from a different generation, but I spent more time listening to our common values than trying to find small points that illustrated that we were born 41 years apart.

.

Grace and I were present at the SAA gatherings, Paul’s core group of people who he thought were the keepers of the original spirit that founded the EAA.At one of these meetings he took to the podium after dinner and gave an hour long speech. He spoke about the changes in aviation, and how newer aviators were not the same. I easily could have found it offensive, as his remarks were sharp, and about my era, but instead, I was awakened to the fact of how rare it is to see the founder of any organization, a major member of any party, any CEO, or head of any large organization stand up in public and say anything real at all. Paul was over 80, and I figured he had earned the right to speak his mind. Some people present were taken aback, but that was just because they wanted Paul to be a squeaky clean Santa Clause character. Not me, I was thankful for the real man, warts and all, a human with opinions and passions, one of “those people.”

.

—————————————————-

.

Grace was invited to be the first guest speaker at the first SAA Gathering. She spoke on carb ice. I also gave a Corvair presentation. The first year, the gathering was well attended. The second year terrible wet weather poured on the Midwest, and I was hesitant to drive the 1,000 miles each way in the old truck, a few weeks before Oshkosh to speak for what was sure to be a tiny group.  I was about to pick up the phone and bow out, when I went to the mailbox and found a small hand written card from Paul that contained the masterful phrase that precluded canceling. It simply said “I told my friends you are coming.”

.

—————————————————————–

.

Our friend Jake Jaks built a Corvair powered Jr. Ace, one of Paul’s designs. I always told Jake that when he got it done, I would have Paul greet him personally at his first fly in. This was a joke between Jake and I, it was mentioned it nearly every time we spoke. When Jake finished it and flew it to sun n fun, by chance Paul was on the grounds. He was older, had many old friends to see and things to do, but it took exactly 1/2 a sentence to explain it to Paul before he got in the golf cart, drove over and warmly greeted Jake and his son. They spent 30 minutes speaking. I stood back out of earshot, but smiles, laughs hand gestures were all there, just two regular homebuilders on a sunny morning at a fly in.

.

Paul’s tribute at the lifetime dinner was filled with such stories, of the head of a 150,000 member organization stopping to speak with the rank and file in the middle of a giant convention. It is very hard to imagine any of the recent heads of the EAA doing this simply because it is textbook poor use of managerial time. That is what any CEO or manager would tell you. But Paul was not from that mindset. Homebuilders and members who saw him in his element understood that this might have been bad management but it was certainly brilliant leadership, especially in an organization driven by volunteer efforts. This is the very core of what made him the right man to found the EAA.

.

————————————————————————

 .
There are more than 300 million Americans, but I don’t need to feel brotherly love with all of them to be a proud American. I try to think about the things we have in common, but don’t always find a lot of bonds. In an era where it is popular to judge the ‘value’ of people by the thickness of their wallet, I still believe that people are to be judged by the content of their character. If a number of people in this country don’t see it that way, it doesn’t bother me, nor diminish my pride in being an American.

.

In the same way, I am proud to be in the EAA, and this doesn’t change if there are members who don’t understand the values of the EAA the way I do. That’s ok, I was fortunate enough to have known the founder, and I can say with some confidence that he was at heart, a regular member, and he valued aviators by the content of their character. My continued attachment to the EAA through all its changes is based solely on my belief that homebuilding was the very heart of everything to Paul, and it attracted the very best of people, and I a proud to consider myself, first and foremost, a homebuilder, just like Paul.

.

 

 

Schedule Aug. 18 – November 18

Builders:

Grace and I are with family today, but we will be back in the shop on the 23rd. From that point forward, we will be working in the shop every day until we depart for Corvair College #30 at the Zenith Factory in Mexico MO September 16th-18th. Sign up for #30 was open for 90 days, but is now closed. After the college we will be staying at for 2 more days for the Zenith open house before heading back to Florida. If you couldn’t make it to the college, but are thinking of heading to the open house, please attend, we will no longer be wrenching on engines but we will have a full compliment of our parts, be doing core inspections, and most of the pilots planning on flying in for the College are planning on staying through the open house. It is a good chance to meet other Corvair builders.

.

If you are one of the builders who signed up for #30, we will be shortly sending a series of emails with more information. This is standard procedure for colleges. We send the bulk of the prep work info after the sign up closes because we send it as a block email to everyone and if builders have questions we cover the answers in a FAQ page for everyone to read.

.

Corvair College #31 will be in Barnwell South Carolina, November 7th -9th. Be aware that the sign up is more than half full already, and November sounds like a long way off, but it isn’t. I have no definite date to close the sign up, but I would be surprised if it doesn’t fill up by the end of the Zenith Open house September 20th. Last year after CC#26, we attended the open house the next day, and there was a large number of people who heard about the College and signed up for #27 that day. If you have plans to attend Barnwell, do not get shut out, sign up today, here is the link:

.

https://corvaircollege.wufoo.com/forms/corvair-college-31-registration/

.

Barnwell is always our year end event, it is the classiest show of the year. If you are considering bringing your spouse or family to any event, Barnwell is perhaps the best one on the calendar. We always have a very special dinner and award the Cherry Grove trophy to the aviator who has made the greatest contribution to Corvair powered flight that year. P.F. Beck and his crew make the event classy, and this year will be their 5th consecutive event at Barnwell. Don’t miss it.

.

Get a look at this link: The Cherry Grove Trophy

.

……………………………………………………

American Hank Wharton, legendary arms smuggler, who used planes like the Lockheed Constellation above on repeated missions to fly food to starving Biafrans through Nigerian jet air defenses in 1968-69. A ‘Humanitarian’ with solid brass balls. There is a fair chance that a man standing in parents home in NJ today survived on food that came off this aircraft.

.

I write this from my parents home in NJ. Traditionally we stop here for a few days on our way home from Oshkosh, a 1,000 mile detour we also use to make summer house calls. This year we have extended the stop to 14 days because my Father broke his leg in a fall just before Oshkosh. Grace the dog and I are now taking a turn caring for him at home, following all the other children who have been here already to relieve my brother and his wife who have done the lion’s share of the work thus far. Dad is doing much better, and Grace and I will drive back to the shop in Florida and be at work by the 23rd.

.

Over the years I have shared a number of stories about my father because I am very blessed to be his son, but I has always been my hope that these stories were a catalyst for friends to consider how all of our Fathers who made us who we are. Countless builders have also shared stories of their own Fathers in letters and in person, and I have listened to them all with admiration for the love they contained.

.

To assist with the care at night, the family has brought in skilled CNAs. One of them named ‘Remmy’, was very moved that in our family he could not differentiate children from spouses by watching us; everyone calls my father ‘Dad’, and my mother and father treat us all the same.  He took a moment to explain that he had emigrated to the US, but his childhood was in Africa, and he said “This kind of family, it is the strength and the riches of Nigeria.” He went on to explain that he was from the eastern half of the country which was Biafra, and he was a three year old during the war, surviving what many others did not. When a man born into war in one of the poorest countries on Earth takes a moment to remind you that the greatest poverty is not the absence of wealth, nor even of sustenance, but it is the absence of family and love, his words are worth considering at length. -ww.

.

 

 

 

Pictures from Oshkosh 2014

Builders:

Here are a few photos from Oshkosh this year. We have a lot more, but these will give some flavor of the event, along with comments to give some idea of what I still find interesting about Oshkosh, even after making 24 trips there.

.

…………………………….

.

608581

Above, myself, Grace and the legendary Chris Heintz, inside the “One week wonder” tent where the Zenith 750 was built in a single week. Chris is autographing a copy of his design book to Grace and myself. I consider this man on a plateau with Bernard Pietenpol and Steve Wittman.

.

The norm in experimental aviation is that very talented designers start by making affordable designs for rank and file EAA members, and after they are known, they ‘progress’ to just making ultra-expensive toys for the wealthy. Rutan is an easy example, going from the Vari-Eze and Long-Eze to working with Richard Brandson on ‘affordable’ spaceflight. A “Lancer 200″, (the first Lancair), was a neat affordable plane, and a long way from a turbine IVP.  To a lesser extent, An RV-3 is not the same idea as an RV-12 nor RV-14. There are a wealth of products for the wealthy not just because you make more money selling them, but it is actually easier to design things for people with bigger budgets. The simplest product requires the cleverest designer.

.

 There have been only handful of designers who have continued to meet the far tougher challenge of designing  good planes for people with a tighter budgets. As a servant of the rank and file EAA builder,  Chris Heintz has produced 14 commercially successful affordable designs in succession. He is ‘retired’ today, and makes the trip from his home in rural France to Oshkosh infrequently. He made it this year to participate in the “One week wonder” build. This was a recreation on a grand scale of Chris and a small crew building an early Zenith kit at Oshkosh in the 1970s in a single week.

.

Chris is by far the most approachable of all the well known experimental designers. I have met many of them, and respect them all for different reasons. In recent years, many of these designers  wrote their memoirs. Almost all the other books were a look back at their work for people to admire. Conversely, when Chris wrote his book, it was a design textbook, because first and foremost, he is a teacher.

…………….

.

135759

Above, a Martin WRB-57D flying for NASA at Oshkosh. This is a good example of something you can only see at Oshkosh. This aircraft was the predecessor to the U-2. Want to know what really exacting engineering with slide rules was? To get performance, the wing was engineered with a 500 hr fatigue life span. It did not have one spare ounce of weight in it. There is modified B-57 on static display at Warner-Robbins AFB that claims it carried a 1,000 kg payload to 100,000′, but nothing is like seeing the plane fly in person. This particular one spent 41 years in storage at Davis-Monthan before being brought back to service. This is the record for longest storage a return to flight from the D-M bone yard.

.

135496

Above, the EAA is actually investing in homebuilding education. I had a strong attachment to the low wooden workshop buildings because I gave nearly 20 years of forums there, but these have been torn down and replaced by first class buildings on the same site. Mark Forss, who does an outstanding job of organizing all the forums at Airventure, set us up with several in the new buildings. They were well attended and lively.

.

135524

Above, Our booth was packed at peak times of the week, I am standing on the display conducting a Q&A on Corvairs for a large group of builders, Inside the tent, we have a large amount of educational information. This year, Roy brought his actual water brake dyno to display. As I said previously, most companies claim to have run their engines on a dyno, but can’t produce a single photo of the alleged test. The world of Corvair building is different: we display the dyno itself. If you look closely at the photo you can see ScoobE in the arms of 3,000cc Corvair/Kitfox builder Mike Marury. Because the dog is looking right at the camera, you can tell Grace took this photo.

.

135542

Above, Old breed EAA member Marv Hoppenworth, a class act guy who is well known among 50 year veteran EAA members. Years ago Marv designed all the pedal planes for kids seen at Oshkosh. He took his wife on their first date in an L-4. For Oshkosh this year, Marv made a special hand powered trike to get him around, He will not let advanced years keep him from getting around and staying in shape. For at moving father-son story, read the last photo down on this 11 year old link  http://www.flycorvair.com/osh2003.html ,it is about Marv and his son Jay. As much as I love planes, it is the people who love planes that make aviation captivating.

.

135548

Above, To balance all the rotten things I have said about the Internet over the years, here is something good: The couple above stopped by my booth to talk about Corvairs, but particularly mentioned things I had written here, singling out the story I wrote in June about a friend of mine who died at 23. The length of their trip is worth noting; they are from New Zealand.  I am well aware that we present a lot of things here that are beyond the scope of ‘technical Corvair details and sales’, things that don’t belong on proper business sites.  I try to keep Flycorvair.com more business like, and then have this site flexible enough to cover thoughts and ideas that compliment building and flying.  As I said before, no one is required to read it all, far less agree with it. At best, I hope it is thought provoking, and I never intend for it to be thought providing.  Not every story or perspective will appeal to everyone, and some of the most unusual stories have the smallest group to connect with, but if you are one of those people, the connection can be very strong, even if you live half way around the world in New Zealand.

.

135559

Above, the turtle deck of Ken Pavlou’s  2700 cc powered 601XL-B. Some explanation is in order: The autograph is that of Chris Heintz, who paid a personal visit to Ken’s plane; the 2014 decal is for flying into Oshkosh; Our logo is a thank you note from Ken. The Speedo bathing suit logo is part of a joke around Ken’s friends. A year ago, Ken said that if he didn’t get his plane done and fly it to Oshkosh in 2014, he was going to come to Airventure wearing only a blue speedo suit (not a pretty picture of a 260 lb Greek guy). Ken is a man of his word, and this motivated him to work like a dog the last 12 months.  Many of Ken’s friends stopped by the booth of the first day to find out if Ken made the dead line. Upon seeing his plane the most common expression was “Oh, thank God!” Having averted a visual image that would have been very difficult to later block out of the mind.

.

.

135562

Above, a look at Ken’s dual Dynon cockpit. Although I like simple old school panels, I will be the first to admit that this is a very nice, well executed glass cockpit. Corvairs are fully compatible with just about any type of instrumentation. If you compare the price of a top end Corvair build with an imported engine like a Rotax 912si or a UL-350, you can basically have the panel above with a very nice Corvair for the same price of the imported engine alone. That is a very, very large cost savings for anyone will to put in some effort to attain their goals in flight.

.

135568

Above, Ken with his plane.  All week, it was parked with Lynn Dingfelder’s 2700cc 601XL and Pat and Mary Hoyts 2700cc 601XL right behind our tent. It was very nice to say to any Zenith builder, “Follow me behind the tent, where I can show you a 3D, real time, interactive display representation of just the plane you are thinking of building.” Having these four on hand was a lot of fun and a very good look at the diversity of people that consider the Corvair movement as their “Home in Homebuilding.”

.

135577

Pat and Mary Hoyt’s 601XL (it has a 650 canopy) on the flight line at night. Our booth was a focal point of fun and conversation until late into the night. This was the most fun I have had at Oshkosh in many years.

.

135706

Above, Grace snapped this photo of four of the F-16’s of the Thunderbirds in action. I may have seen my lifetime quota of T-6’s in airshows, but for just about anything else flying in the show I will spend a few minutes looking up. What I like best about the Jets in afterburner: It drowns out the at yelling announcer voices.  I would much prefer to listen to any aircraft, even the supersonic prop tips on a T-6, than to listen to the shouting announcers on a PA system. For a long time, the silent aerobatic glider routine of Manfred Radius set to classical music was my favorite act, and one day I realized that a big part of the appeal was the lack of narration in voices borrowed from used car commercials.

.

135864

Above, Roys dyno in action. The day after Oshkosh we drove the 8 hours to Roy’s in Michigan to complete a break in on a 2,850cc engine.  In the photo Roy is leaning forward checking the discharge from the pump. The dark blue box is a very large squirrel cage fan used to pump cooling air (because this does not have a prop for a load.) Roy spend a lot of time and bucks to set the unit up to work with Corvair flight engines. It is very heavily instrumented and has data collection by lap top. A very useful device for fine tuning and R&D. Measurement,testing learning and teaching are core elements in the world of Corvair powered flight. It isn’t for everyone, but if you got into Experimental aviation to Learn, Build and Fly, than we have an outstanding opportunity for you. -ww.

.

 

 

“Local Expert” convinces builder to use cast pistons

Builders:

When we were at Oshkosh this year, a man walked into the booth on a slow afternoon. After 20 years of doing presentations at airshows, I can say that it is very hard to predict who the serious builders are when they walk in for a look, but I can always tell in 10 seconds who is there with an “issue.”  None of these people are actual builders, they are all “Local experts” who want to tell me that they know more about Corvair flight engines than I do. Mostly, they are harmless blowhards there to complain that none of our builders respect their “advice.” But the particular guy who walked into my booth was a dangerous idiot because he had actually convinced a Corvair builder at his local airport to use cast pistons in his engine, completely against advice I have been giving for 25 years. He came to the booth to gloat over his success. In reality he had just seriously endangered the builder, and every one of the man’s future passengers, all for the sake of his own ego.

.

Above, BHP’s Corvair powered plane The Last Original. This plane has 800 hours on it today. It lives at Brodhead and belongs to our friend Bill Knight. Contrary to what some people think, this plane has forged pistons in it.

.

The builder in question is a guy I have known for years; He is a very nice guy, his Pietenpol is almost done and it is outstanding in appearance. At any grass strip, this man and his plane  would inspire confidence to allow many people to let their child take a flight in his plane. Externally, this engine would even look like one “built to WW’s specs.” But with Chinese cast pistons in it, this plane contains a very dangerous hidden flaw with a very high probability of a disaster awaiting.

.

Most planes that are the aviation equivalent of an IED look the part, and are presented by people who are easily recognizable as mentally ill. People understand to stay away. What makes the plane described to me at Oshkosh so dangerous is that the finish and demeanor of the builder will be very disarming. I don’t have to warn people about what to do if they meet a guy with a wild look, speaking about the afterlife and holding a grenade with no pin. This warning is about recognizing that sometimes the same grenade is wrapped in a very nice gift box, and the pleasant guy offering to let your kid look inside doesn’t himself understand the contents. All he knows is that his “local expert” (who will not be flying in the plane) assured him that he and his passengers were in no danger at all.

.

The dangerous idiot local expert stood in my booth and offered these reasons why he told the Pietenpol builder not to use forged pistons: 1) the cast pistons were made in the U.S., and our forged ones were made in China, 2) Bernard Pietenpol’s own plane The Last Original has cast pistons, 3) The engine only makes 70 HP so it doesn’t need the extra $80 expense (per set) that forged pistons cost. Everything this man said is a vile lie, but dangerous idiots never restrict themselves to the truth nor reality when dispensing “advice.”

.

Lets look at the lies one by one: 1) In reality, it is the “High Tech” cast pistons the idiot advocated putting in the engine that are made by the Chinese. Every forged piston we have ever sold was made in California, so the idiot had it 100% backwards. Every cast piston for the Corvair that I have seen for sale is a product of China. They may say “ISO-9001″ on the box, but that is just printed words from a culture of corruption.

.

2) BHP’s own plane, The Last Original, does not have cast pistons in it. A number of years ago, Bill Knight, the owner, contacted us about upgrading the engine to my spec’s internally. The only visible external change is that the engine has our black prop hub, but internally, it is all modern stuff out of our Conversion Manual, including forged pistons. I have one of the original GM pistons in my shop, and it is in poor shape. Bill Knight made a very good call on standing the plane down until it was updated. The actual engine assembly on the update was done by Mark Petz, who was standing in the booth when the idiot was saying his lie. When I asked the idiot if he would like to personally meet the man who put the forged pistons in The Last Original, the idiot was dumbfounded.

.

3) Everyone who came to our booth at Oshkosh this year saw both the display engine I built and Roy’s water brake dyno.  After Oshkosh, we went to Roy’s in Michigan for a day and did a complete break in run on the display engine before delivering it to a Canadian Zenith 650 builder. Because the engine was brand new, I didn’t lean on it very hard, but the engine pulled 76.5 HP at 2,675 rpm, which is below the static take off rpm of a Pietenpol. If the idiot was counting on a modern Corvair to only make 70 HP he is very wrong. I owned a dyno for years that we ran countless engines on in public, Roy has a better one, and Mark owns an even more sophisticated one. I am sure that the idiot based his guess on nothing, because that is what idiots do.

.

Even if the engine was to produce only 70 HP, it should still have forged pistons. In reality, all the original GM pistons were cast, but they were vast better quality that the Chinese junk sold today. The GM pistons were all U.S. made and had a steel belt cast inside to control expansion and strengthen them. Because people flew them in the 1970s means nothing about Chinese parts today.

.

The great danger in using cast pistons is that undoubtably the builder is going to use our CHT limits, ignition advance curves, carb jetting. cam, rpm, spark plug and prop recommendations, which are all based on the engine having forged pistons, a requirement I have held for 25 years. It is my prediction that the builder will blow a hole in one of his Chinese pistons in the first 25 hours of operation. When he does this, he may not get back to the airport, and he may wreck the plane and get hurt. Does anyone think that the idiot will then show up and build him a new plane and pay his medical bills? And then people will say, “See Corvair engines don’t work,” neatly ignoring that Continentals with the wrong pistons in them don’t work either.

.

I have not included the name of the builder here, because I want people to focus on not listening to local idiots. I have said this countless times, and I have no idea why the builder couldn’t just say, “Sorry, no offense, but I am going to just follow WW’s recommendations.” After I publish this I am going to go on the Matronics Pietenpol list and state the builder’s name, and say that I do like the guy, but his engine is unairworthy.  I will do this in hopes that he will change them, but if he doesn’t, and his Chinese cast pistons fail, it will be public record that I warned him, and maybe the next guy will learn not to listen to idiots.

…………………………

Above, Tom Brown’s Pietenpol, flying since 1982. It has more than 1,500 hours on it. It is often said that this plane has cast pistons in it, but we are very good friends with Tom, and he has told me that he and his dad rebuilt the engine after briefly flying it in 1982. It may have forged pistons, but if it does have cast ones, they are U.S. made ones from GM, and they are vastly better quality than any cast piston from China. This plane does not use the full ignition advance, cam nor carb jetting we use today.

.

…………………………………………….

It is not possible for me to express how much I detest people who will not fly in planes, but give advice to others contrary to what our testing has shown. Words like “Vermin” hardly cover it. I suggest that people read my story about how fools in aviation have an ironic way of hurting others and walking away without a scratch, at this link: Effective Risk Management – 2,903 words.

.

The link contains the story of a great aviator, Phil Schact, a man hugely influential on Grace’s flying, who burned to death as the direct result of an idiot’s actions. In the year that followed that accident, I spent a number of long quiet nights sitting on the front porch thinking, and came to the conclusion that I will never be a good Christian, because I was not willing to even contemplate forgiving that idiot. I understand the power of forgiveness, in my life I have been both the recipient and the grantor, but we know the real measure is can you forgive the unforgivable? By this measure, I will always fail to forgive dangerous idiots in aviation. No matter how long I live, I will go to my grave with this black mark on my heart. -ww.

Corvair College #30, sign up closes at midnight 8/15

Builders,

If you are planning on attending the College #30 in Mexico MO in September, we are now just 36 hours from the sign up deadline. I am closing the sign up sheet Friday night at midnight, from that point the college is just one month away.

.

For more information on the sign-up click on this link below:

.

Corvair College #30 and #31 sign up now open

.

Blast from the past 2005: Sebastien Heintz, Grace and myself at the Zenith factory in Mexico MO in 2005. It was a stop on our Midwest night school tour that year.  Over the last 11 years we have had two ‘Corvair days’ and two Corvair Colleges at Zenith’s facilities. We have purchased both 601 and 701 kits from the Heintz family and enjoyed a long standing cooperative working relationship that directly benefited countless builders.

.

 

Pros and Cons of Roller Rockers

Builders:

In the discussion of rocker arms, the subject of roller rockers comes up occasionally as an alternative to the stock ball type. While they are made in America and very fine quality, there are actually some pros and cons to using them in a flight engine.

.

First, a bit of history: Roller rockers were developed to replace ball types so V-8s could use 7,500 rpm and cams with .650″ lift. They were never designed with simplicity and longevity in mind. Back more than 12 years ago, there were several Corvair car parts outfits like SC performance and Clarks selling roller rockers, and most of the literature implied that they were developed by these companies. This all seemed reasonable in a black and white photo. However, the first time I saw an SC performance rocker in person, I saw it was orange in color. Because I spend my youth on NJ drag strips like Englishtown, Atco and McCarter highway, I instantly knew they were made by a company in the middle of America called Harland-Sharp. H-S didn’t have a website as late as 2003, but they directly sold to builders and they were a lot cheaper than SC Performance, which carefully trimmed the H-S name off the packaging before marking them up for resale.

.

Part of the internet hype at the time was roller rockers lowering oil temps and boosting power in Corvair engines. Neither of these are vaguely true. I bought a set just to test, and when our 601XL flew in early 2004, I am pretty sure it was the first Corvair powered plane to fly with roller rockers. We flew it several hundred hours and checked the valve train intermittently. They worked, but just as I predicted, no change in power nor oil temp. Other builders followed this with even more hours, notably Mark Langford who eventually flew more than 1,000 hours on the same set without issue.

.

When installing roller Rockers several other items must be changed. They need to be mounted on longer rocker studs, commonly sold by Clarks as #9295.  (The studs that Langford and I used were made by ARP in California, and the current Clarks item looks visibly different, but I don’t know their origin.) They must have deeper than stock valve covers, custom length pushrods and Poly-locks.

.

Roller rockers have their own adjustment nuts called “poly-locks” It is basically a threaded tube with an Allen set screw up the middle that jams on the top of the stud. Most builders and car people don’t understand the two reasons for the existence of Ploy-locks are very rapid adjustment of the clearance on mechanical lifer cams on V-8s (This is not for maintenance, it is to alter the power delivery on the engine, often to suit traction conditions in drag racing. These went with the little T-handle hold downs bolts on valve covers) and second was to allow the use of a device called a ‘Stud Girdle’ that clamped the tops of all the Poly-locks rigidly together to prevent the from flexing when using combination of very high lift,  very high spring pressure and astronomical rpm limits, none of which is ever remotely seen in Corvair flight engines.

.

………………………………………………..

.

PRO: Dan Weseman, Florida, 400 hrs on 3,100cc Cleanex , 125 hrs on 3,000 cc Panther.

Above, Dan Weseman and I stand in our front yard. This was the first run of the Panther’s engine.

.

I spoke with Panther designer and builder Dan Weseman on the phone yesterday. When his Corvair was assembled we put it together with new rockers, which turned out to be Chinese ones. He is going to replace them before flying again. Dan said he is thinking about a set of H-S roller rockers. His engine was already built with longer studs, so all he needs are the rockers, a new set of pushrods, and perhaps doubling up valve cover gaskets. Dan was a hard core hot rodding guy before getting into planes, mostly working with small block Fords in Mustangs. He has had many sets of roller rockers and is pretty confident that he isn’t going to have a reliability issue. He points to our experience and that of Langford. It isn’t a guarantee, but he finds it it be a good indicator. He is well aware of the life-span limitations on roller rockers at very high loads, but judges that operating them on flight engines are well below this threshold.

……..

CON: Woody Harris, California, 440 hours on 2,850cc 601XL


Woody Harris, above left, and his friend Steve celebrate with cigars and Piper Heidsieck champagne after the first flight of his 601.

.

I spoke with Woody today. He is the guy who just broke the exhaust rocker on 9 August. He is going to change all his all his rockers out before flying again. He took a moment to amend my notes saying he had 160 hours on his rockers; after that first guess, he checked his records and found out that he actually had 350 hours on the Chinese rockers. He strongly suspects that he got that far because before installing them he did a very careful job of meticulously de-burring all the surfaces in the ball area. I include this because if anyone suggests that the issue with Chinese rockers was improper installation, we can just put that to rest now. The issue with them is poor quality control in manufacturing, period.

.

Woody is pretty sure that he is heading back to GM original rockers, not roller rockers. Woody functions as our ‘man on the west coast.’ Many builders have met him this was and have had a glimpse of his racing background. Lots of people have had something to do with ‘race cars.’ On the other hand Woody has run a Ford GT-40 to the lap record at Brands Hatch and was McLaren’s rep in North America. He also has a lot of experience with roller rockers, and he isn’t going to put them in his plane. He ran roller rockers in very demanding situations and thought they required constant attention. He concedes that our application, doesn’t stress them anywhere near that far, but his point is that the original GM rockers have a very long history of working, and he simply wants to move back and tap into that reliability. Nothing wrong with the ball design, it is just a question of who made the parts. To Woody, roller rockers are an answer to a question that our application is not asking. Today he is just looking through his collection of used GM original rockers from core engines to find 12 in good shape. We additional spoke about looking at several different brands of grooved balls to see if they are made differently, but I pointed our that I have been using the ones from Clarks with GM rockers on all of our engines in the last 12-14 years, without issue.

…………

“Tell me what to do.”:  Obviously I make recommendations about how to build Corvair engines, but I always first try to lay out the background information. I am here to share what we know, not simply tell people what to do, and I thought this was an ideal question to highlight this on.

.

There will be plenty of people who chime in with no personal experience and tell others what to do about rockers. I try to be polite, but that kind of info doesn’t help anyone.  Second there are people who will point out one other person’s experience, like Mark Langford’s 1,000 hours on roller rockers. Information like that doesn’t help either, because in many cases the person bringing it up doesn’t know many of the important difference in assembly or operation that may be a factor. It is my business to understand these, and I politely point out that many comments chimed in often miss details or are off the issue and outside the cause-effect-solution chain. Last let me point out that even one guy point out what has worked for him for 1,000 hours is just a good data point. To have the complete picture, one must have the global view, and include all data points (with their details and conditions) including all the parts that never broke. I am in a good position to provide that perspective on Corvair engines.

.

To me, the best solution for most builders is the path that Woody is taking, to go back to having GM original rockers on flight engines. These have a very long track record of working, they are very cheap, and they can be retrofitted in a few hours, end of story.  However, there are a number of builders like Dan who will consider roller rockers, and for those builders I wanted to provide the pros and cons here, to have them make a far more informed choice.  We have our own 3,000cc Corvair going together for our Wagabond, and I have both a set of Harland-Sharp rockers and plenty of GM ones. I would not be reluctant to fly it either way, but in the next weak or two I am going to give some consideration to which to do the final assembly with.

………………………………………………………………………………….

Below, some notes and photos from the archives:

……………

.

 Below, a picture from the Summit Racing website. There are different sets for 140 hp heads and another for 110/95 hp heads. You can not mix them because the splay angle of the valves in the heads are different. The ball design of the original rockes negates this, because the axis is free to float on a ball rocker and it is rigidly set by the trunion angle on a roller rocker. Most sets sold to car people are the 140 hp sets, the difference is so fine that it can’t be seen holding it in your hand. Keep this in mind before buying a cheap used set off ebay.

.

Harland Sharp SC110 – Harland Sharp Original Roller Rockers

Click here for more information about Harland Sharp SC110 - Harland Sharp Original Roller Rockers

Rocker Arms, Stud, Full Roller, 1.58 Ratio, Aluminum, Orange Anodized, Chevy, 2.7L, Set of 12

Part Number: CSP-SC110

…………………………………………

Above, a 2005 photo of an engine we built in our old Edgewater hangar, sitting on the old dynamometer, showing the roller rockers. We built about eight engines like this. All the pushrods we used came from the Smith Brothers on the west coast. Every engine with roller rockers requires non-stock length pushrods to have correct valve geometry. It is not tough to measure, but we met many builders who guessed wrong  on their first try. Old 3,100 engines all required custom length pushrods, and this was an Achilles heel of the engine for first time builders. We eliminated the custom length pushrod issue when we went to the 3,000 cc engines six years ago.

…………………………………….

Above, a 2003 photo of the 2,700 engine we assembled and flew in our 601XL. This was the first Corvair powered plane to fly roller rockers. The longer studs required by these rockers, and their poly-locks (the locking nut system for a roller rocker) dictate deeper valve covers than stock. Traditionally, car people used heavy cast aluminum valve covers. Above is my solution: I milled away the center flat portion of the valve cover, folded up two boxes which were 3/8″ deep, out of .020 steel. I welded these on in place of the removed flat spot. This was not a particularly easy weld bead.

.

Here is the modified valve cover installed, above. Also visible in this shot is titanium-ceramic exhaust coated by the Moore brothers, a famous shop which does STC’d coating on aircraft parts. This design and method was superseded by all of our 304 stainless steel exhaust systems

 

Safety Alert: Chinese Rocker Arm Failures

DATE and REVISION: 10 August, 2014. Original Safety Alert.

.

- 18 Aug.2014 – amended with ‘further reading’ with link to Roller rocker story.

.

……..

.

SUBJECT: Failure of Chinese made “New” rocker arms for Corvairs, marketed by several firms in the US, most commonly sold by Clark’s Corvairs as “new replacement rocker arms,” sold as set #C-8641.

.

………

.

APPLICABILITY: Recommendation for all Corvair flight engines that have these installed.

.

…………

.

EXCLUSION: This does NOT apply to any Corvair flight engine using original GM US made rocker arms, just engines using the Chinese replacements. NOTE: We have never built any production FlyCorvair.com engine using these rocker arms. If you own an engine actually built by myself, this Safety Alert does not apply to it. This Safety Alert is issued for the benefit of builders who may have independently elected to purchase the Chinese rockers for their personal engines.

.

………..

.

COMMENTARY: Yesterday (9 August, 2014) in California, a Corvair powered aircraft experienced a severe loss of power following a failure of an exhaust rocker arm. The power loss was progressive over a few minutes. Excellent pilot judgment, to turn to the nearest airport at the first sign of an issue, paid off. The airplane landed on the runway back at the airport without damage.

.

( When a four stroke engine has an intake rocker arm fail, the engine only looses power from that cylinder. Conversely, an exhaust rocker failure does not allow burning air/fuel to exit the combustion chamber, and when the intake valve opens it tends to “flash back” up the intake tract and rob power from the neighboring cylinders.  Intake rocker failure on a Corvair would be less than a 20% power loss, but an exhaust rocker failure could be up to a 50% power loss.)

.

32 days earlier we had received a detailed report on the failure of a Chinese made Corvair rocker arm in Arizona, in the intake position on a 3,000cc Corvair.  This happened on a ground run up, not in the air.  Obviously as a ground issue, there was no damage to the airframe. It was of concern to the owner, but not the kind of stress as in the 9 August failure.  Although there had been a report of 1 other failure in the previous 5 years, that engine had many extenuating conditions such as a previous piston/valve collision. The 6 July 2014 failure was the first one that was on a “pure” engine. The parts were carefully inspected by a professional engineer, and the probable conclusion was that they were incorrectly made. The rockers had been purchased from Clark’s Corvairs, and they were contacted for a failure history in cars. They stated that they had seen a very low rate of returns in cars. (As a reminder, Clark’s does not sell these as “aircraft” parts, that is a builder choice.) I supplied a set of GM rockers to the flyer in Arizona and his aircraft was returned to flight with about 2 hours of work and less than $100 in parts.

.

At Oshkosh I spoke with a number of builders of flying Corvair powered planes to asses how widespread the use of these Chinese rockers are. I had previously thought it was a small number, as I used none of them in our production engines, I have never sold nor promoted the Chinese part, and I have been long recognized as a tireless critic of Chinese manufactured parts. My estimate is now that 20% of flying planes may have these rockers, it was our intention to make a comment on them upon our return to Florida.

.

We have not yet returned to our shop, we are still on the road, but in light of yesterday’s failure, we are issuing this Safety Alert immediately. The fleet of Corvair powered planes is less than 500 aircraft, and the number of engines built to our exact recommendations is a still smaller number. A single failure gets my attention and is worthy of comment, however, a second failure of the same part, even if it is one we do not recommend, warrants a Safety Alert.

.

………………….

.

SUGGESTED ACTION: I highly recommend that all flying Corvair engines with the Chinese rockers remove them before further flight and replace them with cleaned and inspected original GM rockers. The failed rockers had 80 and 350 hours on them. These are roughly the equivalent of 2,000-4,000 miles of operation in a car. It is important to understand that this is not an “infant mortality issue,” and having 100, 200, or even 400 hours of operation on Chinese rockers without issue does not justify their further use.

.

The rocker arm is a deceptively simple looking part, but it’s correct manufacture is a complex process involving careful quality control and very high levels of manufacturing expertise. By comparison, a small, but highly skilled shop of precision machinists can make a billet crankshaft, but it is highly unlikely that any small shop could make a Corvair rocker arm. The design is a deep stamping done under very controlled conditions. The GM rockers were done in several hits on a blank that was thicker in areas that would be stretched. The Chinese units appear to be made from uniform thickness blanks, which leads to very thin sections in the ball area. That is the location of both failures. GM units are twice as thick in the ball area. There will always be some fool to say that GM’s design was not good but this is pure BS; it is the most prolific rocker arm in history, also on almost every small block Chevy 1955-2003. We are speaking of nearly 1 billion rocker arms. Since 1978 I have owned about 40 cars and trucks. Other than 2 Buicks, every one of them has been a Chevy, a Chevy truck, or a GMC. They all had these rockers, I have never broken one. I have seen the inside of more than 500 Corvair core engines, and I am pretty sure I have never seen a broken GM rocker arm. If your local ‘expert’ tells you he has seen dozens of broken rockers of this design, nod politely, but understand he is dishonest and a liar.

.

This is a “Safety Alert” and I am issuing a “Suggested Action” because Corvairs are experimental engines, and as such do not have Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins in the same form as certified engines do. I cannot require any builder to take any action, I can only appeal to his better judgment by making a serious recommendation. Airworthiness Directives are only issued by the federal government, and Service Bulletins are issued by certified part manufacturers, thus the difference in the Safety Alert.

.

This said, I appeal to builders to follow this recommendation. The most frequent form of push back on suggestions of this kind is a builder who is myopically looking at his one plane and making a conclusion based on his impression of his own plane. Conversely I get to see all the data, understand the extenuating or aggravating conditions, I had world class training in statistical decision making at Embry-Riddle, and I always further consider what still works, not just looking at what broke.  I am not a genius, but for the above reasons, my recommendations on Corvair flight engines carry more weight than those of one guy with a flying plane, even a well intentioned one. We don’t have to speak of opinions of internet personalities that have no direct personal involvement nor experience with flying Corvairs.

.

…………..

.

DISTRIBUTION: I ask that this information be shared with others who personally involved in building a Corvair flight engine. This should be done just by people who have read and understood the information themselves, who also are Corvair builders.  If someone named “Flyboy26″ shares this with an airframe builders group or a general pilot discussion board, and includes a comment like “no one should fly car engines” or “Corvairs break”, neatly deleting the Chinese source of this issue, you can be assured that their motivation for commenting has nothing to do with promoting safety or assisting others in managing risk.

.

……………………………………..

.

FURTHER READING:

.

Pros and Cons of Roller Rockers

Chinese Crankshafts for Corvairs, update 2/17/13.

Cessna’s Chinese adventure a failure.

Communist Chinese government at Oshkosh

Mooney sold to Chinese, Fake endorsements.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 363 other followers