Comments on aircraft accidents

Builders,

I am well known in experimental aviation for speaking of the things we can learn from accidents. I have an entire section of my website devoted to this: Risk Management reference page . Very few people in our field do this. The reluctance of most companies to comment has nothing to do with protecting their work nor our industry, it is simply the unspoken acknowledgement that very few people are listening, and altering their actions as a result of findings. I have worked in experimental aviation for more than a quarter of a century, I was trained as an accident investigator at Embry-Riddle, and the focus of my work is teaching builders, and yet I have to concede that my fellow aviation business owners are actually correct, very few people in experimental aviation are willing to alter or improve their behavior over time. They may want to read about accidents and comment on them, but the statistics say that few people are learning and changing their actions.

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If you are an individual, it doesn’t matter that 90% of people are doing what 90% have always done. This statistic is a concern of the industry, but it need have no effect on you. It applies to people who behave like a herd, but not the individual. I write the following points with the assumption that I am speaking with an individual, but the acknowledgement that this will also be seen ( I don’t use the word read here) by people of the herd who will ignore, take offence at, or misquote it. I can do nothing about that because my craft is teaching aircraft mechanics, and if my goal was to control herds, I would have been a shepherd.

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For individuals who want to learn something, the following points are based on 26 years of continuous work with Experimentals:

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Know the ” WW 100 Rule “: If the prototype breaks or has an accident before anything is being sold, that is called testing and R&D, and that is what responsible companies do; If 3 or the 5 first prototypes have accidents before getting to 100 hours, there is likely an issue with the product; If 2 of the first 10 have accidents before getting to 100 hours, you are likely looking at something about people, not the product; if 20 of the first 100 people have an issue before getting to 100 hours, then you are certainly looking at a human issue because it logged 8,000 hours for people who used it properly, and I have plenty of evidence that more than 20% of people have no judgment around planes. Read : A visit to the insane asylum .

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There will always be accidents with every plane and product, even ones with several hundred examples. Fools would have you believe this a reflection of aircraft companies randomly producing a defective mechanical devices, and that is a joke. What it actually shows is that there is a large persistent group of people who think that transition training, following instructions, biennial pilot reviews, pre-flighting and spending money where it is needed, do not apply to them. This is not unique to flying, think of anything you engage in, boating, shooting, motorcycling, eating, breathing, whatever, there are at least 20% of people who also do these activities with a willful disregard for safety. The only difference with flying is that the results make better TV news.

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The fleet of flying Corvair powered planes is about 400-500 active planes. While my original builders may be as low as 5% fools, there are strong industry records that show second owners of aircraft are a very accident prone herd, for they are drawn from modern societies Darwin candidates, and they are often people who thought learning enough to build a plane was for egg heads who like books when their pre-flight motto is “kick the tires, lit the fires.” These factors produce a steady flow of accidents. In most cases, if the engine is a Corvair, I will get a call from the FAA or the NTSB within 24 hours of the accident.

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Remember Martha Stewart?; most people think that she went to jail for insider trading. She did not, she actually went to jail for simply misleading (not even directly lying to) Federal investigators conducting an investigation. When a billionaire can’t hire enough lawyers to keep them out of jail after misleading Federal investigators, a reasonably intelligent blue collar guy like an aircraft mechanic can conclude that it is a poor idea to say anything but pure factual information to these people. There are also rules about what you can share before the preliminary report is filed. Now, just think about how many times I have been informed about what was found, but got to then read stupid speculation for people on the internet, that I already knew not to be the cause of the accident. In the last 25 years, I am yet to see a single person who was later shown to be absolutely wrong, come back on the net and admit that their speculation was complete BS.

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Random Comments on the Net: Following an accident, there will be people who always comment, and in most cases, they will not use their real name. Understand that this may be the guys friends “sticking up for him”, but you are almost certainly looking at an axe grinder trying to do some PR damage by speculation, but it is also likely to be a small business competitor. The most famous cases of this were on the Matronics/Zenith list where there were it was later shown that many of comments following accidents originated from other aircraft companies. Anything that doesn’t come with a guys name and address, from a known person is to be considered BS.

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When there is an accident, new builders focus on it, but I hold that the time spent learning about accidents, particularly when people are just speculating would be far better spent studying the people who didn’t have an accident. I have seen countless new guys focus on what they ‘think’ happed in some particular accident, but they can’t name a single successful builder’s plane they have studied in the same detail. This is stupid. Their time would be much better invested in learning to emulate the success of another builder who isn’t having accidents. Good flying is about patterning your success after what is proven to work. Even if a builder had a god’s eye view of what went wrong in every accident of the type of plane he is building, this still doesn’t tell him anything about what is right, only what is wrong.

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Study success at least as much as failure. Keep in mind that when you see an accident, you are arguably looking at the guy who wasn’t following proceidures nor exercising good judgment. If he comes right back and says, “I f^#*ked up, let me tell you the mistake I made”, he is the total rarity that can teach you something. but far more often, the person who had an accident says nothing because they didn’t know what they were doing, or still argue that they were doing nothing wrong. A person in that position has nothing to teach you.

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After an accident, out comes the guy who met him: In many cases the speculator that people want to listen to is the guy who knew the guy from his EAA chapter, or knew him from an airshow. Invariably the guy will include a comment like “I thought his plane was nose heavy” OK, and this is based on? Notice the guy never says “I did a weight and balance on it personally and found it to be at the front of the CG range in the drawings” it is always some random judgment, often meant to express how his own personal plane is different. All of these guys “just want to share facts” but in realty they don’t know what they are talking about. Even well meaning guys who post a link and say “He had an engine failure” are jumping to a conclusion themselves. Do you know that the FAA lists running out of gas as a loss of power? I worked for several years with the late Jeremy Monnett trying to get a category called “Gross Pilot Error” to be included in the descriptive terms because we both thought that is a better description of running out of gas than calling it a “loss of power.”

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I have written countless times that any commentary on an accident, other than a PIC report or the actual accident investigation is nothing but speculation, But this never stops idiots from doing it. Consider that both this plane: Flying Zenith 750 w/3000cc Corvair, Doug Stevenson, California and this plane: New Zenith 601 XL(B), Conventional Gear, Jerry Baak, S.C. were destroyed in accidents.  If you search the stories on websites, you will find at least 200 random speculations about what caused these accidents, mostly centered on what a terrible engine choice the Corvair is. Ready for reality? Both aircraft were run out of gas.   I flew to CA and proved this on video:

http://www.flycorvair.com/stevenson.html

  The Federal investigator agreed with the conclusion. Yet not one single speculator had the self-respect to go back on any list and say “I was wrong”. You can wait as long as you like and you will not see that on the internet.

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For people thinking of speculation on vague info, consider how stupid the TV news commentator feels today about reading the “Confirmed Names” of the pilots in the Asiana 214 crash:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1JYHNX8pdo

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-ww.

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Above, a 2007 picture of the homebuilt of Ken Lien of WA state. The following year, he was killed on the very first flight. You can read the story I wrote a long time later here: Risk Management, Judgement Error, money in the wrong place. By an absolute coincidence, a life long best friend of Ken’s, named Denny Jackson became my neighbor at our airport in FL just after the accident. Denny was deeply hurt by his friend’s death, and finding out that I was the ‘Corvair guy’ lead to him angrily confronting me at our EAA chapter. He was 6’5″ and 325 pounds and not to be trifled with. Because I was part of the investigation, I already knew what Denny did not: It was caused by his friend putting his carb together incorrectly, it had nothing to do with Corvair engines, yet I could not say this to him, I could only ask that he withhold judgment. Months later, Denny understood the report, came and explained that he was just hurt at the loss of his friend. I told him I might have done the same thing. We ended up as friends, spent a chunk of time around the airport together. Denny’s picture is now on our EAA chapter wall, as he was taken by cancer 3 years ago.

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” If you are one of the people I am giving a hard time over poor decisions, it is your right to think of me as an A-hole. I’ll live with it. I don’t need to be liked, I am not in this to hold the hand of people without judgment and listen to their rationalizations while they walk straight to the graveyard.” -ww-2013

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Ignition timing on Corvairs, Part 2

Builders:

Eighteen months ago I wrote a comprehensive story on ignition advance and timing on Corvair flight engines. I consider the story one of the most important and fundamental elements of mastering your Corvair. If you have not seen it in a while, or you have joined up since then, I suggest making 15 minutes in your schedule to read this and give it your full attention. The story is here: Ignition Timing on Corvairs.

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I use the term “suggest” above because I am my brother’s keeper, but not his jailer. I care about people, but I can only appeal to their willingness to learn and do a good job, their ethical responsibility as an airman to take risk management seriously. I can not force anyone to do anything with their own property. If you would like a real world example of this, we have this story from last year: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #6, 98% DNA not enough. In it you can read about a person who destroyed his plane on it’s first ‘flight’,  severely injuring himself and a passenger, simply because he didn’t care to understand timing, long refused to buy a timing light, and refused to stop what he was doing when I warned him.

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For Part 2 , a slight update: On the internet, there is a suggestion being made by a non-pilot, that fliers using Corvairs should only use 24 degrees total of ignition advance on their planes, because this will allegedly make the same power as using the full advance we recommend. After 25 years of doing this, building several hundred Corvair flight engines, countless tests and having spent 5 years of my life at Embry-Riddle, I an assure builders that they should simply follow my timing recommendations for best results. To offer some further ‘why’ to expand the understanding.

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Ignition advance isn’t magic, it is Chemistry in action, particularly a branch of study in it called ‘rate of reaction.’ While I am not a Chemical Engineer, I was fortunate enough to have a number of classes with Dr. D. Cameron at Embry-Riddle, and he was an outstanding professor who really understood and could teach the physical properties of this branch, and he also knew internal combustion engines very well. This doesn’t make me an expert, but compared to a guy who slept through 9th grade Chem class, I am Alfred Nobel on the topic.

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How long it takes to burn the air and fuel in the cylinder, and thus how much ignition advance the engine needs, is a rate of reaction problem. Combustion dynamics in a real running engine are very complex, driven by the fact that once the combustion starts, the reaction itself is changing the dynamics of remaining unburned fuel and air. This acknowledged, the principles still apply, and they can be seen in action and tested easily for their proportion and effect.

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I could list 10 factors playing a role, but let’s look at just two of the ones that make using too little ignition advance an issue:

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The lower the pressure in the cylinder, the more advance it will need to make full power: Rate of combustion is greatly affected by the pressure in the cylinder when the spark happens. Three factors on this are the compression ratio, how wide the throttle is open, and what is the atmospheric pressure outside. While a max power test on a high compression engine, at sea level with the throttle wide open, may show OK results with less advance, That isn’t how planes go flying. Lower the compression to what most builders are using, understand that much of flying is cruising at part throttle, and the critical item a car mechanic never sees, the reduction of atmospheric pressure as the plane climbs, all call for more ignition advance for the engine to make best power and run efficiently.

The lower the starting temperature (given the same density)  the more advance it will need to make full power: While cold dense air burns fairly quick, cold thin air does not, and it needs more ignition advance to run efficiently. Again, this is a common factor to planes that few car mechanics consider. As a plane climbs it will do much better with even a slight increase in timing. Many people know that Klaus Savier’s Vari-eze is one of the most efficient homebuilts ever made, particularly in any contest where he can get some time at altitude, and he primarily credits his ignition that has far greater total timing than the magneto it replaces.

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There are plenty of myths about aircraft timing. I have people tell me every year that “aircraft engines all have 25 degrees advance” Really? evidently this people missed all the manufactures data working A&P mechanics use. Look at this Mandatory Service Bulletin from Continental:   http://www.tcmlink.com/pdf2/msb94-8d.pdf  Notice how the A-65’s all use 30 degrees of advance on both mags. People tell hangar stories about ‘the big bore of aircraft engines needing two plugs’ ignoring the idea that an O-200 continental’s piston is just 5/16″ larger in diameter than the one in a 3,000cc Corvair. The internet theories are endless, but mostly based on things easily disproven on inspection.

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Limited timing does appear on some other engines, like Jabarus and some VW’s, but this is driven by the mechanical design of those ignitions. Such engine are not noted for easy starting nor high altitude efficiency. Some people tout that Continental reduced the timing on O-200’s years ago, but his was actually driven by pilots using auto fuel that didn’t meet the STC requirements, and doing damage to the cylinder mounting studs on certain models. Car mechanics don’t know this, but ask anyone who flew a 150 before and after the timing reduction, and they will tell you the 4 degrees Continental ‘dumbed down’ the engine made a power difference.

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On it’s face, saying the Corvair makes full power at 24 degrees doesn’t make sense. What would GM, the original manufacturer use far more advance than this if that was all it took to make full power? Even the most torque oriented Corvair engine, the 95hp model, which had a peak torque at just 2,400 rpm and made it’s full rated power at 3,600, arguably closest to the flight engines we build, used 32 degrees of total advance (with the vacuum advance disconnected). If the engine made full power with 24 degrees, GM would have made them that way.

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The only possible motivation for a car mechanic to recommend using less ignition advance is if he is concerned about an engine having been assembled with substandard parts, like Chinese valves, and he is trying to convince people to lower the power output to protect the cheap parts. This also applies to telling people the engine can not fly with cht’s that touch the 400’s like this: CHT info taken from test flight of 601XL  Many of the issues where builders have been told they hurt their engine by running it to hot and be re-evaluated. There have been plenty of builders who made poor cowling choices who damaged engines, but we have positive evidence and factual data that shows the Corvair can run the CHT at my recommendations, provided of course, it doesn’t have sub standard valves in it.

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Above, a closer look at an E/P distributor in my distributor machine ( circa 2008). The machine has a large electric motor inside that spins the distributor. I have made hundred’s of Corvair ignition systems over the years.

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From  Ignition Timing on Corvairs :

“If a builder reads and follows the directions, he has mastered level 1). If he reads, considers and understand this story, he has moved his understanding up to level 2). Does he need to know more than this to effectively use the engine? No, but if he would like to know far more, it is one of the things I have a good understanding of in engines. This did not come from years of being a mechanic. The further understanding came from a number of years in Engineering classes at Embry-Riddle, Particularly the Chemistry classes. While the subjects we studied were academic examples for almost all of my younger classmates, I was 26-28 years old then, and the information was enlightening when I had a sudden understanding of combustion dynamics that I had observed for years in automotive racing, but didn’t have a detailed view of how the factors worked together, far less that you could make calculated and predictable changes.”

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Above, as you see it, this is a non-running model, but it has a serious purpose. The red parts you see are plastic, and were made for us by Corvair/Panther builder Paul Salter. Read the story here: Ignition system, experimental “E/E-T”

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Rain, Snakes, and Power Testing

Builders:

In between thunderstorms today, Dan Weseman suggested we do some test runs and compare the static rpm output with 3 different props on two Corvairs, the 3,000 cc engine on his Panther (Why Not the Panther engine?) and his 3.3 liter engine on my run stand. (SPA / Weseman 3.3 Liter Corvair now running). The idea was to run both engines with three different props in rapid succession and compare the peak static rpm’s with a very accurate optical tach. The work went pretty quick because we also had Corvair/Panther builder Paul Salter on hand. It took about 90 minutes, but this was broken up by several thunderstorms that drove us back in the hangar.

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Summer is the wet season in Florida, and although these numbers may seem astronomical to Californians, We had 5″ of rain here today, bringing the week’s total to 16″, and the remains of Hurricane Erica have not even arrived yet. We are on high alert for any more rain because we are now at the flood stage.

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Above, a 2013 photo of our yard, illustrating “Flood stage.” Read the story : Let It Not Rain.

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Flood waters bring out Snakes looking for higher ground. At our airport that means water moccasins. Dan went over to Uncle Bob’s hangar to retrieve the prop tach. Bob wasn’t home and walking up to Bobs shop door Dan saw a giant water moccasin hiding right next to the entrance. He called me on his cell with the short message “I am at Bob’s, bring a gun, now.” 1 minute later I arrive on the dirt bike with a 20 gauge. A single shot dispatches him instantly. Oddly, he doesn’t have the typical behavior (snakes without heads still squirm and strike for 20 minutes) Measured he is 44″ long, very large for a Moccasin, potentially deadly to a human. They have very heavy bodies, when I pick him up he weighs as much as a starter motor.

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Above, In 2013, Vern stands by our pond with a 42″ moccasin. This was the same week he stepped on one in my hangar. read the story: Fun with Agkistrodon Piscivorus and Vern’s Aero-Trike.

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Testing went smoothly. For a good comparison we made sure the full power ignition advance as set on both engines to exactly 30 degrees. They were both fueled with 100LL. Both my stand and Dan’s plane have MA3-SPA carbs, and we verified on EGTs that at full power both engines had the same peak EGT (1300F- That is the effect of the carb going slightly rich at wide open throttle, as desired.)

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One of the props we used in the Comparison was the same 2 blade warp drive that I run on every engine on my test stand. It is 60″ in diameter and pitched low. It isn’t meant to replicate a flying condition, it is sized and set to optimize it as a break in prop. Over the last 12 years I have run more than 300 engines with it, so it is an excellent comparative tool. Today the 3.3 engine cranked out a record 3400 rpm with it. This is a full 100 rpm over what a 3,000 cc engine will do.  At lower rpms with Sensenich props, the difference was even greater. This is a power difference that you can feel with the seat of your pants in a plane. While most people understand bigger motor = more power, there was actually a guy at Oshkosh who saw Dan’s larger engine on display and felt obligated to say that the larger engine would make less power because of some reason that made sense only to him. Another case of reality getting in the way of a pet theory. Paul Collected all the data, and Dan will write it up on his website later, but it was a good comparison on the flight props also.

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Snake Postscript: Bob comes home later and tells us why the giant moccasin ‘died instantly”…..Bob had already shot him point blank with a .22……….Bob also said that oddly, the snake hardly moved either, but he was on his way to Church and he just left him were he has laying by the shop door, where Dan later saw him……..and later our neighbor Richard asked what the shot was, and when I was about to tell him he mentioned the night before using his dodge 2500 to run over a “four foot” Moccasin that was crossing the road “down by Bob’s pond”……Evidently we had through combined effort killed the same snake three times over.

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Corvair College #35, now full, sign up closed

Builders:

Corvair College #35 at Barnwell SC in November is now full. The sign up has been closed.  For people who missed this, a friendly reminder that This is the 6th consecutive College we have had on the same weekend at the same location. I published the dates 10 months ago, and the sign up went active before Oshkosh. I have reminded readers about the sign up in many stories that appeared here. We do our best to let everyone know in advance.

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If you are signed up, you will begin receiving emails about the college shortly. If you are new to colleges, please read them carefully, they have a lot of detailed information.

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Above, a picture from Corvair College #31 at Barnwell last year. Tim Hansen sent in this  photo he entitled “Chuck Callahan is a Good Sport about helping with my engine  until 2:30 a.m.”  Yes, builders do work every late at Colleges, particularly Barnwell events. No one is required to work until the middle of the night, but many people do, and there is also the crowd that gets to see each other only once or twice a year that stays up late socializing. The events are productive and fun.

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-ww.

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Running your engine “Over-square”?

Builders:

There is a long standing piece of “hangar wisdom” That says you should never fly a plane “Over-square” . This condition is defined has having a higher manifold pressure in inches of Hg than you have RPM in  hundreds. Example: 25″ map and 2400 rpm is said to be “over-square”, where as the reverse, 24″ map at 2500 rpm is said to be “under-square”. This rule is brought up primarily to warn pilots about putting the engine in a condition where it might be prone to detonation.

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Like many things said in hangar stories, there is some element of original truth in this, but it doesn’t apply to all engines nor conditions. In the end it was supposed to be a little memory device for those unwilling to understand the larger principle.

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The origins of the statement are of attributed to being a good way to run Lycomings, or more particularly Lycomings with constant speed props. Over time, the “over-square” rule became something that people tried to apply to any engine in any situation. But a basic look at a trip around the pattern shows that the rule doesn’t work, not even in Lycomings; If you are near sea level and begin your take off roll at wide open throttle, your map will be darn near the outside air pressure, very close to 29.92″ on a standard day. Since no direct drive Lycoming with a fixed pitch prop turns 2990 rpm static, every take off is “Over square.” Even Constant speed equipped planes have redlines between 2700 and 2800 rpm, and thus would still be “over-square on take off.

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So what protecting these over-square planes from detonation on takeoff? Something very simple. Aircraft carbs, by design, run rich at wide open throttle. In private pilot school many people were told this was for “Fuel Cooling” the air-cooled engines, but that isn’t what is going on. The mixture running rich at wide open throttle effectively increases the comparative octane of the fuel. When you look at Octane ratings of old fuels like 80/87 or 100/130 or 115/145, these dual ratings reflect the comparative detonation resistance both lean and rich.  regardless of it’s name, any fuel will have more detonation resistance when the mixture is rich, and aircraft carbs set properly do this for you.

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Lycomings and continentals are configured this way, and if you have a properly set Stromberg or Marvel carb on your Corvair, it will do it also. However, you have to remember that it is always preferable to run the carb wide open when it is heavily loaded, ie, “Over-square”. Never let anyone talk you into backing off the throttle slightly on climb out, it is a very poor practice.

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The way to make sure your carb is set correctly is to tie the tail of the plane to something solid (not just chocks) and run the engine up to full static rpm. Give the engine a few seconds to stabilize, and then just barely pull the mixture out slightly. If it is set correctly, the rpm will increase as you lean it out, because you are going from an anti-detonation air/fuel mixture of say 10:1 toward best power at 12:1.  The power goes up, so the rpm will climb slightly. This is a good condition. If your carb doesn’t do this, it isn’t set rich enough. You can also watch this on your EGT.

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Where the warning comes into play is avoiding running an engine over-square in cruise settings where the throttle is partial open, and there is no additional richness to suppress detonation. Many times people refer this condition as “Lugging” the engine.  With Corvairs, I consider it very important that the engine turn at least 2,700 rpm static with the prop pitch set for flight. This way, on every take off and climb out, The engine will be operating close to “square” which minimizes the chance of detonation, and additionally the engine has substantially better seat of the pants detectable performance with just 100 more rpm static.

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Some builders, particularly Pietenpol builders like bigger wood props that often yield low static rpms in the 2400-2550 rpm range. I feel that this is an undesirable condition because such a prop tends to “lug” the engine, not just restraining it’s performance, but it is prone to cruising in a condition of low rpm and higher manifold pressure, but without the carb being in the wide open throttle position. Many guys feel that flying around with a larger wood prop at lower rpm is easier on the engine, but I can make a pretty good case that just the reverse is true, especially if the builder ever runs car gas.

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More Rpm will not hurt the Corvair, keep in mind that it did more than 5,500 rpm in the car and was designed to cruise in the car over 3,000 rpm. Your aircraft engine is far better built than any stock Corvair Car engine from the factory, so more rpm will not hurt it, but loading it at lower rpm just might.

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-ww.

 

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Above, a new 2,850 running  on the test stand in our front yard. During the cam break in period, (20-30 minutes) We run the engine between 1800 and 2200 rpm. The throttle is only part of the way open to do this. During the later part of the break in runs we run the engine as high as 3,200 rpm. At that condition the MA3-spa carb on the run stand is wide open and the O2 sensors and the egt’s indicate the engine is in the anti-detonation rich zone. Read more at this link:  New 2850cc / 110hp Corvair in photos.

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Center, above Joe Foss (USMC-CMH) stands with Charles Lindbergh in the south Pacific in WWII. Lindbergh was a factory rep for Vought, and one of the things he taught pilots was how to get extremely good range by running their engines massively “Over-square”, (very low rpm, high blower and high prop pitch) It worked, but the training included elements of making sure the air/fuel was very rich. Foss went on to be the Governor of South Dakota, Commissioner of the AFL, host of “The American Sportsman” and president of NRA.

Thought for the Day: Attitudes are not Ideas

“Ideas that fit on bumper stickers are not ideas at all, they simply are attitudes. And attitudinizing is no substitute for analysis. Unfortunately, too often television is to news as bumper stickers are to philosophy, and this has a corrosive effect on public understanding of those issues on which national survival may depend.”

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-RMN, 1980

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The quote above is a very good explanation of the reason why rule #1 at Corvair Colleges is “no politics and no religion” on the discussion topics. I point out to builders that we have much to do, and a limited amount of hours at the College, so we can’t spare the time.  As a practice, I like people to discover what they have in common before they find out what divides them, but the real issue is related to the quote; most things people say on these topics are neither philosophy nor analysis, they are mostly attitudes and bumper sticker slogans, driven by declining quality of ‘news’ in this country, tied with the fact few people read books anymore. (Books written by tv news personalities are not a good substitute for reading original texts.)

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Here is your aviation connection: Too many people in aviation today rely on the stuff printed in magazines and hangar flying stories for their ‘education’ on important topics. The typical magazine story on flying is bumper sticker compared with a book like this: Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?).

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You can be mad at the media if you like, but they are just responding to the ever shorter average attention span. Several years ago, the word went out among aviation writers that we were to limit every story to 1,500 words or less, no matter what the topic. It wasn’t a print space vs ad space issue, because the request applied to on-line writing also.  When questioned, editors were able to produce convincing evidence that most people just skimmed articles, and 90% never read anything longer than 1,200 words. There was proof that people, even ones engaged in something serious like aviation, really preferred bumper stickers. For the 10% or so that got into aviation to find out how much they could learn by reading and learning and building, I offer a different path: Thought for the Day: Mastery or?. If you are an individual, it doesn’t matter what the majority are doing, it is only important to find a path that suits you.

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Above, a 2009 photo. I stand between Bob Burbank, 20,000 flight CFIG on the left, and on the right is my instructor and mentor is flying, the legendary Chuck Nelson. Chuck has been flying for 65 years. He bought his first plane, a ’38 Cub, when he was 15.  . His background includes flying in the U.S. Air Force, crop dusting, water bombing, weather modification, racing at Reno, and working with both Duane Cole and Curtis Pitts. He became an instructor in the USAF in the early 1950s, and it emerged as the calling of his life. A long list of former students covers people working in every branch of the military, most major airlines, a U.S. aerobatic champion, and a guy who builds Corvairs for a living.

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To qualify as an idea, it must require thought to consider. Any statement or slogan that just stirs an emotional response isn’t being presented as an idea. Slogans stir up the converted, but only ideas breed understanding.

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You will often see writers using the excuse of safety to write things that are designed to alarm people. On serious subjects, there is no valid excuse to resort to alarming people. There is a big difference between making people Alert to something opposed to making them Afraid of it. The first asks that they think about it, and the second is designed to produce a knee-jerk emotional reaction. In my book that is a form of conditioning people to get them to react in a desired way without thinking. It isn’t a positive view of individuals.  I like people who are passionate about flying, but this doesn’t extend to people who default to being emotional about it because they were unwilling to read about and consider the concepts that aviation is built on.

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Some people who know the quote above, get distracted by the source. To me, it isn’t an issue. In my experience, not all smart men are good, and many good men succumb to doing things which are not smart. In either case, it provides food for thought. The quote above is from Richard M. Nixon’s memoirs.

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-ww.

Colleges #34 and #35 updates; a Plan for Progress

Builders:

We are getting in high gear for the upcoming College #34. If you are one of the 70 builders signed up, we will shortly be sending out the detailed instructions to your email on getting the most out of the College. If you have been to a college before, they will be familiar, with a few new details. If this is your first college, please take the time to read them in detail, it will make a large difference in what you will learn and accomplish.

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If you are thinking about heading to CC#35 at Barnwell, you are down to the wire on the sign up. There are just a few seats left. Sign up is here: Corvair College #35, Barnwell SC, only 20 seats left . (the title is from a week ago, there are just a few seats now.) If you would like a visual look at what a Barnwell College looks like, check out this video that the EAA made: New EAA video on Corvair College#27, Barnwell 2013.

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This week has been very busy with College prep. The day before we leave is busy, but the peak pressure is actually about 10-14 days out, because there are several deadlines like tomorrow being the last day we can get things into the powder coater. There are similar deadlines for each of our machine shops. Besides this, the phone has rung off the hook and we have had a good backlog of email to deal with. If you have called but had an issue getting the machine, it is because I am on the other line. If you need to contact us, send an email with your phone number and the latest hour I can call you back. In a few days I will be able to cover these, we generally try to call every person headed to the college to touch base before we leave. As Grace is out of town this week taking care of her parents, we are trying to coordinate contacts over email and the phone, please be patient, we will gladly cover your questions.

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A Few words about sticking to your own “Plan for Progress”:

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Above, a photo from CC#30 in Mexico one year ago. On the left, Allan Macklem, right, Dick Navratil…… I glanced at the EAA video mentioned above to make sure the link worked. If you look at the 1:10 mark on it, you will see a short interview with Dick……If you didn’t know him, and didn’t immediately make the connection, he is the man in this story I wrote from June: Dick Navratil Passes from this earth, June 4th, 2015.

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I knew Dick a long time, and I would like to say I am sorry at his passing, but anyone who knew him can tell you he got nearly everything a man could out of homebuilding. He was 66, and that is not long enough. We don’t have ultimate control over how long we have, but Dick’s life remains a lesson that you do control how much you get out of every week, and what your attitude is about events. To Dick, life was a challenge and an adventure to be shared with friends. He built and flew seven or eight home builts, had countless hours aloft, and friends near and far. He started every new flying season in his life with a Plan for Progress.

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This last week saw a public shift in some of my suggestions for sources, and a little bit of the drama club stuff as a reaction to this change. The new sources will allow builders to fine tune their own Plan for Progress, and part of it is geared to give me more hours in the shop, to work with builders. These are good things, but there are people stuck on internet debates and entertainment which should have no effect on their plan, but it does.

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There were things in homebuilding that Dick cared about greatly. When he no longer felt up for publicly advocating them, he often spoke to me and asked that I keep themes he cared about in the forefront of discussions, particularly in the world of Pietenpols. But none of that ever stopped Dick from making progress on all the planes he finished and flew. He was neither optimistic nor pessimistic, he was simply determined. This is a perspective worthy of emulation.

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In the next few weeks over 160 builders will head to a Corvair College. The will learn and make progress meet friends, have an outstanding experience. Others at home will make solid progress, getting closer to running and flying one day at a time. But there will also be another group who get distracted from keeping their own plan for progress. These people don’t have much positive inertia on their project because they stop and wait to see how every promised distraction turns out. They feel like they are planning but if Dick were here to say it, he would tell them they are only waiting and wasting time, hours that none of us have a guarantee on. Dicks success in homebuilding came from planning and progress, and not being dissuaded. If you will or will not complete and fly your plane is primarily determined by your decision tonight: will you make a plan and progress or will you wait and see?

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-ww.

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Many people want to believe that some new product in aviation will arrive and ‘revolutionize’ everything. I think the root of this fantasy is that they would like the work and learning to be removed and save them the effort required to stand in front of a machine and say “I built this plane.” I have been in aviation for 25 years, I have seen 25 seasons of ‘revolutionary!’ things come and go with little or no affect on accessibility to flight for working Americans.

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I have watched many of the same people get taken in by a new ‘revolutionary!’ idea every few years, never seeing that they would have been long flying if they had just given up on ‘new revolutionary!’ products with lottery ticket odds of success, and instead embraced the philosophy of proven designs with a track record in place of a promise. They will be waiting there in another 10 years because that bus isn’t ever going to come. The rainbow bus line from Unicorntown doesn’t have a stop on reality street, it only is headed to cyberville, and there is no airport in cyberville.

Read the whole story here: Waiting for the bus from Unicorntown to Cyberville

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