Notes on Corvair flight engine oils.


A friend of ours sent in a question on oils, which was sparked by reading an internet discussion group story about “experimenting” with oils for Corvair flight engines. It is a free world and people can do as they wish, but to my perspective, the subject of oil for Corvair flight engines is very simple.

Below is a picture of Shell Rotella T 15W-40 oil. This is the oil that we suggest people use in their flight engines. I am going to guess that 90 percent of the hours logged on Corvairs last year were done with this oil. We have been using it since 1996, and I have had a very long time to examine the long-term wear characteristics, it’s ability to withstand heat, its compatibility with 100LL, and it anti corrosion characteristics. This oil is a winner on all fronts. Add to this, that it is available at any auto parts store or Wal-Mart and it is fairly cheap, and I begin to ask myself why anyone would be looking for another oil.

In the manual, I try to teach my saying, “It isn’t the probability of being right, it is the cost of being wrong.”  Oil example: Years ago, Woody Harris, our west coast guy thinks that Aeroshell is airplane oil, and may be better for our “Airplane” application. He is pretty sure this has good promise. Here was the cost of being wrong in that instance: His engine ate the new cam and lifters in 1 hour of running on Aeroshell. This is because the element we care about, Zinc Phosphate is about 800 PPM in Rotella, about 200 PPM in normal oil, and ZERO PPM in Aeroshell.

Let’s say you have always used imaginary Dyno-syn 10-40 in every car you have had in the last 10 years with great luck. It doesn’t count: Modern cars have roller cams, and don’t need zinc. Lets say you have used Unicorn 20w-50 in all your cars for the last 30 years, and all your cars were Corvairs. It doesn’t count: You didn’t run your cars on leaded fuel, and this matters. I could go on like this for a while, but you get the point. Any recommendation has to be just about what we do with Corvairs.

OK, what about synthetic? OK, why use it? “It has good heat resistance”. So does Rotella, which you can actually run at 300 F without hurting it. If your engine runs hotter than this, lack of synthetic isn’t your problem. OK, “I want to go 100 hours between oil changes and having to look in the cowl.” If this is a goal of yours,  walk over to your book shelf, take my manual down, put it in an envelope, write “I want a refund because I couldn’t learn anything from WW “ on the outside, and mail it back to me. Oil changes are a very good inspection point on aircraft engines, and a tremendous amount of small issues are caught and corrected before they become a problem.  Your engine is your personal masterpiece. You should be tempted to pull the cowl off and just marvel at it for no reason.  You should drag passers-by at the airport into your hangar and proudly say “LOOK! I built That!” With an arm gesture that magicians use as they say “TAA-DAA!”

25 hours is a reasonable goal on inspections. You could probably run 50 hours on Rotella between changes but learn this phrase that every A&P worth a damn has tattooed on heart: “Gas and oil are the cheapest things you ever put into an engine.” Here is the WW corollary: “Gas and oil are also the easiest ‘parts’ to install.”

 Lets say a real cheap sob likes to lean his engine beyond peak egt because he read an article written by some d-bag in Flying magazine, and this article sounded great because it provided techno-mumbo-jumbo, (complete with graphs!) that justified Mr cheapskates inner need to avoid spending a dime. At the end of the year, he gets out a calculator and finds out he had a 22% better time than other pilots because he “saved” $1,200 by leaning his engine and only changing the Kmart house brand oil once every 100 hours.  Problem: He does a differential compression test and finds out that he detonated his pistons to death and scoured his cylinder walls, You guessed it, he is out $1,200! net savings: ZERO.  But the big one: How much extra time did it take me to change the oil four more times and pump another 200 gallons of gas in my plane? Think that Mr. Cheapskate can overhaul his engine that fast?

Do you want to try some “super special, secret ingredient, made by Amish people who don’t use combustion  engines, purple/green/ yellow, Brad-Penn, Brad Pitt/Sean Penn oil?” Go back to question #1: What ‘problem’ are you ‘solving?’ Read my story about The Panther engine again. It just had a perfect break in run and test period, it has perfect compression, it doesn’t run hot, the oil doesn’t get consumed nor leak, and wait for it…..It was all purchased for $12 a gallon at the 24 hour super Wal-mart. And this is not good enough because???????

One last thought here: If a builder spend many hours talking about super special oils, and how they can fix everything in your life including your 401K, and spend a lot of time talking about this on the net and later comes to a college but has no idea how to install a distributor and set timing, I am going to tease him about spending a lot of time thinking about synthetic oil, an answer in search of a valid question,  when he needed to be reading about the fundamentals of his engine.

Do you want to try synthetic? Look at Amsoil 10w-30. We ran this for many years. It is great stuff. The reason why I trust it is that it has long been proven to work in airplane engines with 100LL. In the 1980s it was marked for general aviation aircraft. It has a track record of working. BTW, I have never seen a Corvair engine run any different pressure or temp with synthetic oil. Anyone who has was probably imagining it because they wanted to see it. The one thing that isn’t imaginary is synthetic oils ability to leak out of engines. If your engine leaks a little with mineral oil, try switching to synthetic, flying an hour and looking at the bottom of your plane. You will be temped to yell out “Jed’s a Millionaire!” (A&P mechanics do this when the spot a giant oil leak.)

Very Important: You should put additional ZDDP in the break in oil, and there is no harm in running it during the rest of the life of the engine. You can learn more about it at this link:

If you would like some more information on why ZDDP is important, read this link:

Core Engine needed, Portland OR. Payback time….


As mentioned in our last story, Zenith builder Spenser Rice, age 15, is our youngest builder. He is working on a plans built 601HD. In addition to going to school, he works to fund his airplane budget. He has been hunting for a core engine for his project. This is kind of tough, because he can’t just jump in the car and go look at them. He has found a few leads, but nothing has panned out yet.

A few months ago, Spenser wanted to place an order with us for a manual and a disassembly DVD. When I learned a little more about his age and project, Grace and I sent him a full set of manuals and DVD’s at no cost to him. I carefully explained that he did not owe us anything for this, and it was not charity. I was simply repaying a 35 year old debt to Mr. Harold Kreiss, a man I has last seen in NJ in 1978.

Mr Kriess was the guidance counselor at Millburn Jr. High School when I was Spenser’s age. In a nutshell, I was a rotten kid at 15. I was a good student academically, but I had terrible friends, and they didn’t have to twist my arm very hard to get me to go along. In a short time, I was in frequent trouble. I once drew detention 22 days in a row. Most of this was over fighting. at 5’7′-130 lbs I was not on the winning end of this, but I didn’t back down from bullies. After an incident that Mr Kriess would have been justified in turning me over to the Juvenile Officer at MPD, he chose to do something different. He spoke with me for 30 minutes and found out that I really liked airplanes. On his own personal time he went to West Caldwell airport, and arranged to get me a weekend job as a helper at an Aircraft Maintenance shop. Although I thanked him at the time, you are not aware at 15 that it wasn’t really this mans job to do this. You would really have to be a clairvoyant optimist to think that anything good would come the effort, or my life for that matter. Harold Kriess was such an optimist, just when I really needed to have someone believe there was something good hiding in me.

If any of you Corvair builders out there have an outstanding debt to your own Mr Kriess, let me know and I will share Spenser’s email address with you. Perhaps someone in his part of the country can find a good core? Maybe several people who were the recipients of unwarranted generosity in your formative years would like to contribute to its purchase cost? I will gladly tell you that it felt pretty good to unload a part of my 35 year old account with Mr Kriess.

I would like to have Spenser meet Dick Otto, 92, on the northern leg of our October CA tour.( Dick Otto in California, S.R.B. (Senior Ranking Builder)  ) I like the idea that they have a 77 year age spread. Let’s see if we can find Spenser a core so that he can compare engine building notes with Dick in October.-ww

Why Not the Panther engine?


I just spent the last two days in the shop, working on a number of things from 8am until 10 p.m. The bulk of this time was assembling an engine for a builder who opted to have us reassemble his engine after he upgraded to a billet crank. The engine is a Gen. 1 Weseman bearing, 2700cc engine with all of our Gold Systems. We ran it on the test stand just before sundown.  It was perfectly smooth. I wondered how many sunsets this engine would see from the vantage point of several thousand feet.  With luck it will be more than a thousand.  Spending the time wrenching on this gave me a lot of time to think, and many of the ideas came back to the simple statement: Why not the Panther engine?

Above, Dan Weseman and I stand in our front yard last October. This was the first run of the Panther’s engine. Dan picked up all the parts for the engine, but I assembled it for him and ran it as a small contribution to the success of his project.

The engine above performed flawlessly through the 40 hour test period on the Panther. Dan and Rachel have many flight videos on the Panther site, showing that this engine has been run as hard as any Corvair ever flown. In the 40 hours, the plane flew literally hundreds of aerobatic maneuvers and spent a lot of time wide open on the power. (Look at these YouTube links:–ZQVI and )

It needed absolutely no maintenance nor adjustment, other than oil changes in this period. It is dry as a bone, and has not leaked a single drop of oil. On some other non-Corvair engines, running that hard would produce detectable stress. There would be overheating, required re-torque on heads, or valve adjustments. Conversely, a differential compression test on the Panther’s engine near the end of the test cycle revealed near perfect 79/80 compression: The operation had merely served as a good break in procedure on a Corvair.

Other people promoting car engine conversions don’t run them like this. You may not be planning on this type of operation, but it is a very effective demonstration that the Corvair, as we promote it and teach people to build it, isn’t anywhere near the margins. The Panther engine is well built, and made of good stuff, but it isn’t “special” at all. It is made the exact same way we teach builders to make them at Colleges, it is made of standard off the shelf items that we and the Wesemans sell. Anyone willing to invest some time, follow directions and get their hands dirty can build a clone of it and get the exact same consistent performance that Dan has. Builders are doing just this; read this story from last year: World’s Strongest 3,000cc Corvair, built by Greg Crouchley  as an example.  Corvairs are not for everyone, but if you are going to build one, Why not a Panther engine?

Why not a Panther engine? What do I mean by this? I am not speaking about everyone opting for a billet crank, nor am I speaking of having myself assemble your engine. What I am saying is that every builder should decide now what level of operation they are aiming for, and make sure they have a proven plan in place to get this. I can think of no rational reason why any builder would want less reliability that Dan had through all of his flights. Why not have an engine that has the same predictable, boring 40 hour test period?

 Almost all builders would agree that they want this type of service from their engine, yet many people get derailed from this. There are some obvious examples: in the last 10 years, there have been two KR-2′s destroyed on their first flight from power loss. Each of these builders elected to build ‘unique’ engines that many ‘features’ I had long told people not to do. The first person who flew a Corvair powered Dragonfly ended in a field with a motor that detonated until it stopped. Cause? He made his own ignition system because he though his would be better than ours. He determined this, yet he didn’t know that 32 degrees is a total advance not a static idle setting.How far will a Corvair fly with 55 degrees of advance? About 1/2 a mile. About 50 people witnessed that ‘flight’. I am sure that every one of them told friends that Corvairs were bad. Not a single one of them understood that the real mechanical problem was the nut holding the stick.

On the other end of the scale, we have people whose engines don’t work as well as they should for small simple reasons. We have people with engines that leak oil from many locations simply because they refuse to use the sealers that my instructions say to. The most common thing these builders say is “you shouldn’t have to use sealers on gaskets.” While that is a wonderful perspective, it falls in the category of “you shouldn’t have to pay taxes” and “you shouldn’t have to get old.”  As crazy as this sounds, I don’t think flying around with an oily engine as a protest against major gasket companies is a very effective form of protest.

I still get photos of engine installations that have many ideas that I have long asked people not to do. Alternators on the back of engines driven by belts are a prime example, especially if that belt runs right beside the distributor. Want an alternator on the back? Use Dan’s direct drive set up. Want more than 20 amps for some reason? Run both front and rear ones.  Sound crazy? It actually weighs less than a single 40 amp unit, and it doesn’t require a belt on the back.  The number one reason why builders tell me they don’t want to use one of the proven systems is “I need more than 20 amps.” I try to kindly point out that they are yet to understand the concept of intermittent vs continuous loads. Yet rather than read and learn about this, many builders will spend months trying to figure out how to mount a giant alternator on their engine. Only much later will they find out they never needed it. Decisions people make about planes while armed with insufficient information to make such choices wastes a staggering about of time and money in homebuilding. This can always be avoided by just studying things that are out there flying without issue, learning more about why they work, and patterning your plan after these examples.

The second biggest reason why people don’t end up with an engine that works like the Panther’s is the builder starts listening to a buddy, a local expert, or a guy on the net who gradually over time talks the builder into building his engine differently. Without fail, none of the advisors can ever say, “I have this on my Corvair powered plane, and it works flawlessly. ” Instead their advice is always “we did this on race cars” or I know someone who did this on a Mooney” You would think that people would restrict their plans to following things that have proven to work on Corvair powered planes, but they don’t.

Historically, the biggest reason why people don’t build better engines is they are trying to “save money.”  I am not wealthy, and I understand this. First, let me say, if your primary goal is to save money, the easiest way to save the most money is to get out of aviation. If your primary goal is to build a good airplane, there are times where you will have to spend money. There are many places where learning and putting in work can offset huge amounts of cash outlay, (Corvair vs Rotax 912) but there are very few places where you can significantly trim the budget just by using cheaper parts Learn this WW aircraft philosophy axiom, and your airplane building will be a lot happier:

“Doing things the right way usually costs a fair amount of money, but doing them the cheap way always costs a fortune.”

I am typing this at the dining room table, finishing off the last of a pot of coffee. If you were my neighbor at the airpark, you could sit here with me and I would pour you a cup and listen to your plans to build your Corvair powered plane. When you were done, I could take you to the filling cabinets in the office and show you the two sold drawers of photos and stories from people who were “going to show everyone” something, or “really build something different” or who “know a lot of people who built race cars” or “read on the net about a new cheap way that will…”

Yes, I know how to build Corvair that give good reliable trouble-free service, but I also know almost all the ways that people have tried and failed to do this. We have been working with Corvairs long enough that new builders very rarely have an original bad idea these days. They are almost always a rerun that has been long proven to work poorly or not at all. It is a free world, and you can elect to replicate any previous bad experiment and see if physics, chemistry and gravity change their rules and give you a different result…. Or you can just as easily follow good examples that are long proven to work, and have Physics, Chemistry and gravity work as your loyal allies. Your life, your move, chose wisely, you are going to have to accept either result.

Because of the way we run the Corvair movement, Building an outstanding engine is available to any builder who decides that it will be his path, and is willing to put in the effort to get it. It isn’t just for sale to the wealthy, it is available in steps to builders who really understand why Learn build and fly is all about. Builders who decide that they are not just going to be appliance owners, they are going to be skilled operators of solid machinery that they fully understand and are the master of. This is the real reward of being part of the Corvair movement. -ww.


If you would like to read more about the Panther engine, here is a story about how it was built before Oshkosh 2012:

Panther Prototype Engine 3,000 cc/120 hp to OSH

Here is one about upgrading it to a billet crank:

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

And here is one about testing props:

Panther Engine propeller test

Cooling with J-3 style cowls. (Pietenpols, Cubs, Biplanes, etc)


Several people have been discussing these types of cowls for their Corvair powered planes. Clearly they work on 65 hp Cubs, why not on a Corvair powered Piet? Well, they can and do, but there are subtile points to the design of these things that are just as critical as enclosed cowls. I am quite sure that Piper learned these by trial and error before standardizing the “J-3 Eyebrows” that people tend to use on 65 hp Continentals. As we go over this, keep in mind that when Piper went to 90 Hp engines in Cubs after the war, they switched to regular pressure cowls. Every Super Cub has one of these, and there is little argument against the proof  that they work better, even on slow planes. However, if your heart is set on a J-3 style cowl, please read the following notes to avoid harming your engine.

Above, Frank Metcalfe’s plane at sun n fun. This installation works. Look at how large the eyebrows are in relation to other examples. If a 65 hp Piet and a 100 hp Piet are both climbing at 55 mph (They will have a very different rate of climb) it makes sense that the 100 hp plane will need more cooling air. Yet, I see too many Corvair powered planes with eyebrows that are smaller than the ones on a J-3. Think that over.

Above, our Pietenpol in 1999. This system worked great, but the two versions I made before it didn’t. TLAR (that looks about right) does not apply here, evaluation and testing does. In a phone call today, a Piet builder told me that a set of Corvair eyebrow scoop drawings are circulation on the net. What is the first question to ask? Have they ever flown and been proven on high hp Corvairs in hot weather? He was not so sure. If you want advice on down parkas, I am not your guy. If you need advice on cooling systems that work in hot weather, ask the guy in Florida.

Above, several details, some visible, some not. Notice that the scoops extend downward. They capture air that would run under the front cylinders at high angle of attack and ruin cooling. Notice the rounded nose bowl and spinner. If you want to have a flat plate as big as an end table, you will need to have much larger scoops to make up for this. Note also that the alternator is in the back. If you have a front one, it will work, but again the scoop must be bigger. (Dan Weseman has just finished testing his rear alternator, and it is the only one I endorse) The most critical part of this whole equation can not be seen: under the cowl there is a 3.5″ diameter hose connecting the two sides together. Without this, you are hurting the engine. You have a choice: connect the two sides, or use scoops 50% bigger. If you copy the size here, and then use a very blunt cowl and no transfer hose, than you are not doing anything positive for yourself, my reputation as an engine instructor, or the Corvair movement.

OK, now we get to the big quiz: Would you rather spend an hour reading something that requires a little thinking, or would you rather fry the heads on your engine, spend $1,000 or so, and loose half a seasons flying doing a rebuild? Right now you are thinking that 100% of the builders thinking of J-3 cowls are going to choose the first option, but you are not right……

This link :

goes straight to a 16 page story ( it has pictures, it is only about 5,000 words) about how I had to rebuild Gardiner Mason’s engine several years ago after he used TLAR to design a very blunt cowl. I like Gardiner, so he just bought the parts, I did the work, then wrote the story. KNOW THIS: I am not ever going to assist anyone for free to rebuild another engine that cooked it because: “I saw that story but I didn’t have time to read it because 1) It was sooo long 2) The big game was on 3) I didn’t think it applied to me because my plane is gray not red.” All future rebuilds will be done at the shop labor rate that Lockwood Aviation charges (the US importer of Rotax engines) Just read the story, learn something, save yourself a $1,000 in damage and preserve a little of my sanity. Please.

Above is Gardiner’s plane, the focus of the 16 page story. It does not look like it has a J-3 cowling, but it functions like one. This is a blunt cowl. This means you need bigger scoops. It isn’t hard to put some effort into making the front end smaller. It doesn’t just help cooling, the plane will be faster and look better. On a Pietenpol, a plane with a bad cowl and poor windshields actually has less elevator and rudder feel.  If the entire fuselage is bathed in a foot thick boundary layer of very turbulent air, you can feel this when it gets back to the tail.

 So, you were planning on reading the 16 page story after watching Dancing with the Stars and the Celine Dion concert? Keep in mind that this website has story tracking on it, and I will tell if 600 people read this but only 150 click on the link to the Gardiner story. Lucky for all the Celine Dion fans it doesn’t keep track of who didn’t read what. Just how many people didn’t. Don’t worry, I will still be able to tell who read it by reading the Pietenpol archives and seeing who writes in asking what to do after their engine severely overheats…….

Below is a sample from the 16 page story:

” Here is the major cooling issue of a propeller-driven aircraft that many builders don’t understand. When the plane is climbing at a 10 degree angle of attack, the blade roots near the cooling inlets have a 20 degree difference in their angle of attack between the effective angle of the ascending and the descending blades. They pump very different amounts of cooling air into each side of the engine. This is not theory, it is fact. Get into a light plane, fly to a safe altitude, slow it down to its best angle of climb speed and set it to full power. Notice how much rudder you have to put in to hold the aircraft heading. You may have been told that this was some swirling slipstream or “P” factor. Discard those ideas. A strand of yarn behind an engine on a test stand will show you the air even at zero airspeed doesn’t corkscrew much, and “P” factor does not apply to aircraft in steady flight like a continuous climb on one heading. What is going on is far more simple; the ascending and descending blades are making very different amounts of thrust. You feel it in the rudder pedals, the engine feels it in differential cooling.”

Above, the Pietenpol of Kurt Shipman. This plane won the Bronze Lindbergh trophy at Oshkosh. Before anyone starts saying how nice work Kurt does, keep in mind that there were 24,500 other planes at Oshkosh that year, and the judges were able to find four others that they thought were ‘better’ than Kurt’s. So he beat out 24,495 other planes…..that still isn’t first place. Nice try Kurt, maybe you can do better on your second home built.

Seriously, I flew in this plane and it is phenomenally well done. Look at the cowl. This is a typical pressure cowl. This is built off the nose bowl mold that Piet builder/flyer Shad Bell made. Rounded edges and reduced area like this make a huge difference. If you don’t have a committed feeling about cowling design, I highly encourage you to look at this set up. It works very well, and has a front alternator. Either system you choose, use all the available data that has been flight proven in hot weather, do a good job, and don’t alter the details without good reason.-ww

MA3-spa carb pictures, Wagabond notes.


In the last few days we have featured some stories on Carbs. Today I went to the mail box and picked up a package that happened to be my MA3 carb returning from overhaul.  It was gone about two weeks.


Above is the MA3, freshly overhauled by D&G Suppy in Niles MI, (269)-684-4440. This is the FAA fuel system repair station that is run by Russ Romey. We have been sending builders there for 10 years. He is an excellent source of rebuilt MA3′s and Stromberg NAS-3s.

Several points here; It is hard to see, but the carb is sitting on my receipt from Russ. Although we are friends, note that the overhaul cost me the same price as he charges any other person, $650. Years ago, a handful of people on the web, led by Lon Wall of the Corvair Underground inc, frequently spread the lie that I made money and kick backs off the products I recommend to builders. This was Lon’s explanation why I suggested people shop with Clarks rather than him.

He didn’t understand that he lost the business solely because he wanted to sell builders cast pistons and old rod bolts. His claims went on the net for several years, mostly unchallenged or unmoderated. They sounded good to a handful of people who liked a good conspiracy theory or hated me since I first used the term “The Corvair authority”, (All of them missed that the acronym TCA at the time was a FAA airspace called a Terminal Control Area, and the letters stuck in aviators memories, and “WilliamTCA” my email address, predates our name “FlyCorvair” by several years.) Let the receipt be one more piece of evidence that my endorsements are not for sale.

My allegiance is only to the best interests of builders. In the last 10 years, lets conservatively say 1,000 people have built a complete corvair aircraft engine. On average, between cams, pistons, bearings cylinders, balancers, gaskets etc they spent $1,750 each on parts from a Corvair parts house.  Thats $1,750,000 in shopping. The lion’s share of this went to Clarks. I did not make a single dime off any of this. If Lon or any other parts house wanted a part of it, all they had to do was sell the parts we recommend and not offer advice like using cast pistons in flight engines. Evidently, he couldn’t do this.

Second; An MA3 is a simple carb, I have been an A&P for 22 years, I am qualified to overhaul this myself, but parts are expensive, more than half the price of the complete job. In the end, I am glad to pay Russ a few hundred dollars to make it perfect. I have no problem paying another American aviation professional for his expertise. This is how the infrastructure of aviation as we know it in this country stays in place.

If someone chooses to buy a Rotax with their two German Bing motorcycle carbs, they are only fueling the trade deficit, and doing nothing to support American manufacturing and aircraft maintenance systems. And no, a person who took a 40 hour Rotax ‘mechanics’ class is not a trained aviation professional, they are just an extension of a foreign companies sales staff.  For a reality check, my A&P training at Embry Riddle had the strict FAA requirement of 2,800 classroom hours.

If I had told the maintenance department chairman, Dick Ulm USMC ret. that I was ready to evaluate airworthyness on aircraft at the end of my first 40 hour week in the program, he would have laughed his ass off, and then punched my lights out. If I then complained to the University president, Kenneth Tallman, Maj. Gen. USAF, ret., I am pretty sure it would have had the same result. If anyone asks in 5 years why S-LSA”Light Sport category” failed live up to any of its potential to do positive lasting good for aviation, at least part of the blame will be on the fact the ASTM ‘certification’ standards on these planes are a bad joke, and the maintenance on them is done by woefully underqualified people.

Third; This carb is going on our own Wagabond, the plane that my wife will also fly, and we will bring the dog. The day it flies it will not have a radio, a transponder, a GPS, a Glass anything, an interior or a fancy paint job. Those things don’t make planes fly. It will however have this carb and it will have a 5th bearing, and a very well-built engine. Aviation is about good decision-making, and placing any of the first items ahead of the latter ones is an example of poor decision-making, and no one can offer a rational argument otherwise. Looks and tech toys come after airworthness items. If you have budget left over, add those things if you wish, but only after it is mechanically as good as you can make it.


It is a free world, and  you can use any carb you like on your Corvair.  Physics, Chemistry and Gravity also think it is a free world, and they fully support your right to make a poor choice, even one that will harm you if it doesn’t work within their system of laws.  If you wanted to run a German motorcycle carb, don’t be mad at me if it doesn’t work. I didn’t make up the laws of the physical world. I am just the messenger here to remind people that Physics, Chemistry and Gravity are great allies if you play by their rules. They are also absolutely remorseless in dealing with people who feel like the rules don’t apply to them. Be advised, if they find you guilty, the penalty phase of the system moves much faster than our criminal courts, and does not have an appeals system.

It is no secret that I like aircraft carbs. Look at the photo above, the lettering cast into the body says “Marvel Schebler Aircraft”, the logo in the middle is a propeller. This was not designed for use on motorcycles. Look at the silver throttle arm. I could literally hang the entire weight if the engine off this arm. It is not fragile. In contrast the throttle cable on a Bing carb is a tiny bicycle cable, the exact same kind that you see on cheap bmx bikes at Wal-mart. A long time ago I flew ultralights with set ups like that, and justified it by the low landing speeds. Today, I am older and somewhat smarter, and I would not fly in any plane that used a bicycle cable as a primary engine control, especially not one where the carb is going to close if the cable breaks. If the cable falls off an aircraft carb, suction alone will generally make them run at full power.

In mechanical situations, I am a traditionalist. If we are going deer hunting, no one can argue that my choice to bring a .30-06 will not work. If we were going to sea in a storm, no one could argue that my choice of going in a USCG 44′ motor lifeboat would not work. If we needed a light truck engine, no one could argue that my choice of a 350 v-8 would not work. If the goal is to put a carb on a Corvair flight engine, no one can argue that my choice to use a MA3-spa will not work. They might say it was expensive, (valid, but not in the big picture) hard to find (not valid, just call Russ) or less efficient that EFI (not valid, see my testing), but no one can even begin to say that this carb is not reliable. It works and does this task with stone reliability, end of story.


Above, this side of the carb shows the accelerator pump, and the bronze mixture control arm. the orange plug it covering the threaded fuel inlet port which an AN fitting goes in. Just to beat a dead horse, let me point out that Bing carbs on Rotaxes just have barbed slip on fittings for rubber hose and hose clamps for fuel inlets.

The intake in the background is for our Wagabond. It is stainless, just like our others, but I elected to have it powder coated. It has a longer, one of a kind up pipe between the carb flange and the main pipe, on production manifolds this is about 1/2 that length. The small tube was for a primer line when the plane  was equipped with a Stromberg carb. Going to an MA3, I have deleted the primer system. I will just have to find a plug to fill the hole….or maybe just screw a NOS nitrous fogger nozzle into it….-ww.

Starting procedures on Corvairs, 2,000 words of experience.


I recently had some conversations with out neighbor Bob Woolley. He is building a Panther, and he is the second pilot who is working with Dan to fly the test program on the Panther prototype. You can read this link about Bob on the Panther website:

Bob is the F-4 Phantom pilot in this story I wrote last year about Marvel Shebler (MA) Carbs:

Carb applications, choices people make

Above, three aircraft with carbs below the engine parked in our front yard. L to R, Louis’s 601XL – MA3-spa, Grace’s Taylorcraft – Stromberg, and Dan Weseman’s Cleanex-MA3-spa. The 601/650 is one of the few Corvair powered airframes that uses fuel pumps, almost all others are gravity feed. You might not guess this at first glance, but the Cleanex has no fuel pumps, it is only gravity feed, but it worked great, even during aerobatics. Do not accept complexity without good reason. The 601/650 have the fuel in the wings, which is a good trade-off for complexity. High wing planes can also have the fuel in the wings, but they don’t need pumps.

Bob is a outstanding pilot with a lot of experience both in building and flying, his professional approach rooted in his years in the USAF. Although his homebuilt experience runs from Pitts Specials to Glassair IIIs, almost all of the time is behind Lycomings. The panther was the first Corvair powered aircraft that he flew, and I wanted to catch his first impressions the same day he flew it. Came down to three points: It was the smoothest engine he could remember, It had more power than he expected, and it started easily.

Anyone who has been to a college and seen a Corvair that has never run before fire right up after 3 or 4 seconds of cranking will attest to Bob’s last point. When I put up the video of the test run on the 2,850 a few days ago, I intentionally showed how well the engine will repeatedly hot start. Between videos like this, colleges and flying planes, there are countless examples of how well the engine starts.

A second thing that came out of the conversations with Bob was that part of his Lycoming experience was different from Corvair procedure. With Lycomings, the major concern in starting operation is not flooding the engine, because if you do, it can be very hard to restart. For this reason, Lycoming pilots shut their engines off by pulling the mixture to idle cut off and starving the engine for fuel. When starting, they are very cautious not to get too much fuel in the engine by priming. The biggest factor on why Lycomings flood is their magneto ignition producing a low voltage, low energy spark, a plug gap of only .016″ and fairly low compression. If you get too much fuel in a Lycoming cylinder, the ignition can’t burn it off the plugs, and the lower compression will not vaporize the fuel just from the heat of compressing the air in the cylinder. It is a big issue, and if you are at an airport and you hear someone grinding away on a Lycoming starter, they probably flooded the engine.

The Corvair is a contrast to this. The 40,000 volt high energy ignition and .035″ plug gap is comparatively immune to flooding. The ignitions that we build have enough energy to fire plugs that are dripping with fuel, and when they do start, they will generally burn the carbon off the electrodes. The Corvair’s compression being one point higher doesn’t sound like much, but it gets it over the threshold of vaporizing fuel. If a corvair is cranked, it will vaporize excessive fuel and blow it out the exhaust, where a Lycoming will often leave wet drops of fuel in the cylinder even when it is cranked repeatedly.

When a piston comes to top dead center on the power stroke the air and fuel in the cylinder gets instantaneously hot. This is called adiabatic heating. The higher the compression, the hotter it gets. Our thermodynamics teachers loved pure textbook examples, where there was no heat transfer to the container, but those scenarios only exist in textbook land and unicorn world. Professors actually love things like “Carnot cycle engines”  which we paid money to learn was perfect, albeit with the small flaw of just being theoretical and not possible to build. Thermo is the only branch of science that devotes time to studying and being fascinated with perpetual motion machines. Ah, but I digress…….

Above, an overhaulled NAS-3 that went on the Pietenpol of Dave Minsink. Read the story at: Stromberg Carbs

What you can take away from this is if you ever have a hard time cranking a Corvair, it is far more likely to be under primed than flooded. Dan provided Bob with a detailed procedure checklist to adapt his Lycoming experience to Corvairs. This included stopping the engine with the ignition switch rather than the mixture, priming the engine with the MA3′s accelerator pump one second before cranking, and starting the engine with the throttle cracked open slightly opposed to on the idle stop.

With these differences, the Corvair will start instantaneously. These procedures apply to MA3-SPA planes, but a variation on them also works well for Corvairs with other carbs. Our test stand has an old MA3-SPA on it, and it has done the first run on more than 150 engines. It has no primer, other than the accelerator pump in the carb, but I can generally get a brand new Corvair to fire off in 3 seconds at a College. Builders at these events in cold weather have seen me use the accelerator pump with as many a four shots before starting. This will make fuel drip out of the corers of the airbox. This leads people to think of the engine as potentially ‘flooded’, but in reality, excess fuel in the airbox doesn’t mean it got to the cylinder head.

With a warm engine or in warm weather, as seen in the video, the engine will start without any priming at all, unless the last operator shut it down by pulling the mixture. Again, other carbs will have slightly different procedures on a Corvair, but the concepts are the same, and I can think of many flying examples of Corvair powered planes for all of the popular carb choices that are capable of starting instantly. There is no reason to accept less than this on your own aircraft.

An entirely separate issue is engines that don’t crank well. Over the years I have had a handful of builders report to me that their Corvair powered plane had difficulty starting. One of the common things that these people said was that it could start easier on the points side of the ignition than it can on the electronic. More than one builder went to putting a very small second battery just to power the ignition during cranking or as some sort of back up. The fact this ‘worked’ seemed to validate their conclusion. In reality something else was likely at work. Read on;

First, let me say that several hundred running Corvairs use our E/P ignition. It completely dominates the flying Corvair community. Aircraft as diverse as Mark Langfords KR2S and Bernard Pietenpol’s “Last Original” have used our system. It is on the vast majority of all the Corvair powered planes you have ever heard of or seen pictures of flying. It works period. One of the things that any operator can tell you is that going from E to P, the ignition is on the other side instantly. Going from P to E, there is an audible delay of perhaps 1/4 of a second. Most people would not notice it without the comparison. From this, people with a starting issue often conclude that the two different sides should have different starting behavior. If they are just looking at one plane, this looks like reality. However, I have seen countless planes start easily on the Electronic side. Since we know that the modules, coils, and effectively the engines on these planes are the same, why are some people having an ‘issue’?

The most common answer is not the ignition, but the cranking end of the equation. Several things I have seen on planes have caused enough voltage drop on particular planes that the Electronic side had difficulty getting the voltage to start instantly.

Before we get to specifics, a quick test: If a plane is hard to start on the electronic side, hook a second, fully charged, 12 volt battery just to the E-coil with little jumper wires. If this ‘cures’ the problem, you almost certainly have one of the following going on:

-Low Main battery, or a dead cell in it.

-Missing or barely connected ground wire or strap causing high resistance and a system voltage drop.

-Starter shimmed too tight and binding, causing excessive current draw/voltage drop.

-undersized or poorly connected positive power cables.

-a separate ‘starter solenoid’ on the firewall (your starter has one, and if you put a second in, a-la the aeroconnection work book, you will cause yourself issues.)

radically advanced timing, incorrectly set.

Putting a second battery in is not the ideal way to correct the problem, the right way to do it is to fix the direct issue that is making the hard starting plane different from the others that function correctly.

The battery on the test stand is just a cheap one I borrowed from a garden tractor 9 years ago. It has less than 40% of the cranking power of a Oddessy 680. Yet it will go for a College and many months without being charged, happily starting Corvairs instantly. If an engine does this on my stand for its first fire up at a College, but is a hard starter when later installed in a plane, chances are, it has something to do with the airframe installation.

You might scoff at this, but last year, Dan and I had a series of phone calls with a Corvair pilot, a second owner who didn’t build his plane,  who was having an ‘issue’ with a ‘bad’ starter. Dan specifically told him to get a set of jumper cables, and jump the starter off a car directly as a test. Pilot claimed to have done this, but didn’t actually try it. Instead he replaced the battery; borrowed a car and drove 100 miles and paid a guy to rebuild the starter in spite of the fact the rebuilder said there was nothing wrong with it; called me and asked if we could send him an entirely new starter: went on the internet and asked local experts for help; nothing worked. The issue? Of course his ground wire to the engine had fallen off. If he had followed the test of the jumpers, he could have saved several frustrating days and about $1,000. Experimental aviation is a very expensive hobby if you have trouble with following good advice.

Here are things that are not likely to be an issue:

-”stuck weights” in the distributor. I have had people claim this as a possibility on a hard start, but I can show anyone that the starter we use on the Corvair can crank the engine with 30 degrees of static advance.

-a variation in parts i.e. “My Crane E unit must have a different character than all the others” Mass produced electronic devices are not like this. There is far more variation in the quality of ground straps and battery connections made by homebuilders.

If any builder experiences anything other than quick starting, I encourage them to write me or call. There is no reason to tolerate sub-standard operation, and there is really no reason to follow sub-standard advice. ww.

Group Sources for the new numbering system.


Below I have stripped down the new numbering system to just the group headings. Now it is forming something of a check list for a builder. Without the details drawing your attention, you can get a bigger picture of the build as a path.

In this segment I want to show builders where the primary sources are for people finishing most engines today. Again, this isn’t a detailed shopping list right now, It is just a big picture overview of the best route to success now days.

If the task of building still looks long even with all the details removed, first note this: Groups 3400 through 4300 are in this color brown. They are best understood as the airframe installation part of the engine build. If your goal is to get an engine running on the stand at a college, you will not need any of the parts from these groups yet. So lets stay focused on the groups through 3300. 

Next, understand that you will not need to use all 34 of the other groups to have a running engine, There are 3 different 5th bearing choices listed, Dan’s is 3000 in blue, Roy’s is 3100 in green, and mine is 3200 in black. There are other choices on oil systems, charging systems, and other parts that mean a running engine is built out of roughly 28 groups.

Every group that most builders today get from Dan is coded in blue. Looking at Group 1000, it is blue because Dan is now processing the majority of cranks going into engines, and supplying a flow of new billet ones. He isn’t the only place, Moldex is still doing cranks, but I want this list to focus on what is popular now, not every possible path. Shortly, Rachel is going to have the same numbering system on their website as we use here to make processing easier to follow.

Parts from Roy are coded green and those from Mark at Falcon are coded red here. I left everything else in black. A little later I will introduce our own detailed parts list with new numbers, but for now, the majority of the remaining items in black are from us or through basic sources like Clarks.

While getting this overview, feel free to go back and look at the 20 parts I wrote in the last 60 days under the heading “Getting Started in 2013.” They provide an in-depth look at builder choices for the Groups 1000-1600. This is what the new numbering system is about; having the ability to have a good overview of the process by looking at the checklist below, then getting a more detailed look at each step and the required parts by studying the full list presented in the two previous parts, and finally, having each component numbered so that you can read and understand anything I share about my experience on that exact part, without loosing your place on where that specific part will be serving in your own engine build.

In the next segment, I am going to build up some typical engines and show exactly which groups they draw on, and in which order you work them to get to the finish line of a running engine this season.


(1000) Crank group


(1100) Cam group


(1200) Case group


(1300) Piston and rod group


(1400) Cylinder group


(1500) Head group


(1600) Valve train group


(1700) Head clamping hardware


(1800) Steel engine cooling baffles


(1900) Valve Cover Group


(2000) Rear oil case group


(2100) Oil pump and regulator group


(2200) Oil Pan Group


(2300) Front cover group


(2400) Starter group


(2500) Hub group


(2600) Top oil group


(2700) Oil cooler group

NOTE: If you opt for group 2700, then delete group 2800.


(2800) Heavy duty oil cooler group

NOTE: If you opt for group 2800, then delete group 2700.


(2900) Standard charging system group

NOTE: If you opt for group 2900, then delete group 2950.


(2950) Rear charging system group

NOTE: If you opt for group 2950, then delete group 2900.


 (3000) Weseman 5th bearing group

NOTE: If you opt for group 3000, then delete the 2300 group. Contact for more information.

(3050) 5th bearing oil line group


(3100) 5th bearing group

 NOTE: Typically, builders selecting this option will be fulfilling the following groups: 1000, 1100, 1200 and deleting 2300. Contact for detailed pricing.

 (3200) William Wynne 5th bearing group

NOTE: This bearing takes the place of groups 1000, 1100, 1200 and deletes 2300. Bearing system is not in production at this time.


(3300) Ignition group


(3400) Airframe ignition group


(3500) Airframe charging group


(3600) Intakes and carburetors

(3700) EFI Electronic fuel injection

Note: included only for later discussion.


(3800) Mechanical fuel injection

Note: included only for later discussion.


(3900) Stainless exhaust systems


(4000) Propellers and spinners

(4100) Baffling and cowls

(4200) Motor mounts


(4300) Airframe fuel systems



Revised number system……Second half.


Here is the second half of the revised numbering system:

I revised the 2600 group at 8:30 pm est 3/21 

I revised the 3300 group at 10:25 pm est 3/21

Starter group (2400)

2401- Starter

2402- Starter brackets w/hardware

2403- Tail bracket

2404- Fine gear

2405- Top cover

2406- Top cover gasket

2407- 5/16″ top cover hardware

2408- Ring gear


Hub group (2500)

2501(A)- Gold hub

2501(B)- Short gold hub

2501(C)- Black hub

2502- Hybrid studs and washers  -6-

2503- Safety shaft, nut, washer and cotter pin


Top oil group (2600)

2601 (S)-  Standard Gold Oil filter housing with 5/16″ hardware

2601 (R)- Reverse Gold Oil filter housing with 5/16″ hardware

2602- Oil filter housing gasket


Oil cooler group (2700)

2701- Stock oil cooler

2702- Oil cooler mount

2703- Oil cooler mount gasket

2704- Oil cooler O-rings

2705- Oil cooler mount bolts 5/16″

2706- 3/8″ oil cooler mount bolt

2707- GM oil cooler side baffling

2708- Outboard oil cooler mount bolt

2709- Oil filter nipple (20mm)

2710- Oil filter


Heavy duty oil cooler group (2800)

2801- Heavy duty aircraft oil cooler

2802- Gold sandwich adapter

2803- NPT to -6 fittings -4-

2804- AN-6 hoses to cooler

2805- Cooler block off plate and hardware

2810- Oil filter (same part as 2710 filter)

NOTE: If you opt for group 2800, then delete group 2700.


Standard charging system group (2900)

2901- Front alternator bracket set

2902- Mounting hardware

2903- Permanent magnet alternator

2904- Altermator mounting hardware

2905- Drive belt

NOTE: If you opt for group 2900, then delete group 2950.


Rear charging system group (2950)

2951- Rear alternator bracket

2952- Mounting hardware

2953- Permanent magnet alternator

2954- Alternator mounting hardware

2955- Drive coupling

NOTE: If you opt for group 2950, then delete group 2900.


Weseman 5th bearing group (3000)

3001- Bearing kit (designed for short gold hub 2501B)

3002- Alteration to standard gold hub (2501A)

3003- Alteration to black hub (2501C)

NOTES: Selecting this bearing option allows deleting the 2300 group. Contact Dan Weseman directly at for more information.


5th bearing oil line group (3050)

3051(A) – Oil feed line & fittings, Standard oil filter housing

3051(B) – Oil feed line & fittings, Reverse oil filter housing 5th bearing group (3100)

3100- Bearing system assembly, Alteration to  gold hub, oil feed line and  fittings and modified starter brackets, etc. NOTE: Typically, builders selecting this option will be fulfilling the following groups: 1000, 1100, 1200 and deleting 2300. Contact for detailed pricing.


William Wynne 5th bearing group (3200)

3200- Bearing assembly system and sub components

NOTE: This bearing takes the place of groups 1000, 1100, 1200 and deletes 2300. Bearing system is not in production at this time.


Ignition group (3300)

3301 (E/P)- Electronic/points distributor with gasket

3301 (E/P/X)- E/P Deluxe w/ connector, studs, and gasket

3301 (D-P)- Dual points distributor assembly with gasket

3302- Hold down clamp, spring and nut

3303- Secondary wire set

3304- Sparkplug set -6-


Airframe ignition group (3400)

3401- Ignition coils -2-

3402- Condensors  -1 or 2-

3403- HT switch unit (MSD)

3404- Coil to switch wires

3405- HT pass through

3406- Coil to pass through wire

3407- Pass through to distributor cap wire

3408- SPDT-DPDT switch

3409- Ignition fuse box

3410- Nason switch

3411- Tach pickup


Airframe charging group (3500)

3501- Voltage regulator

3502- PMOV

3503- Master solenoid

3504- Power bus/fuse box

3505- Main electrical pass through

3506- Battery


Intakes and carburetors (3600)

3601- Intake manifolds

3602(A)- Marvel MA3-SPA

3602(B)- Stromberg NAS-3

3602(C)- Ellison EFS-3A

3602(D)- Sonex AeroCarb  -  38mm

3602(E)- Zenith 268

3602(F)- Rotec #3

3602(G)- 1 barrel Carter downdraft

3602(H)- Reserved

3602(I)- Reserved

3603- Carb heat

3604- Air filters

3605- Throttle cables

3606- Primers


EFI Electronic fuel injection (3700)

3701- FlyCorvair/Falcon

3702- RoysGarage

3703- Johnson/Holley


Mechanical fuel injection (3800)

3801- Airflow performance

3802- Precision systems


Stainless exhaust systems (3900)

3901(A)- Zenith 601/650/750/705 system

3901(B)- Universal #1 – KR-2, 2S, etc.

3901(C)- Universal #2 – Piet, Kitfox, Wagabond, etc.

3901(D)- Universal #3 – Tailwind, etc.

3901(E)- Reserved

3901(F)- Reserved

3902- Mufflers

3903- Y-pipes

Notes on turbo/321 pipes

Notes on iron manifold systems


Propellers and spinners (4000)

4001- Vans 13″ spinner assembly

4002- Front spinner bulkhead for Warp Drive props

4003- Warp Drive props

4004- Warp Drive mounting hardware

4005- Wood prop crushplate

4006- Sensenich props

4007- Tennessee props

4008- Reserved

4009- Reserved

4010- Reserved


Baffling and cowls (4100)

4101- Baffle kits

4102- Universal nosebowl with round inlets

4103- Zenith cowling

4104- Eyebrow cooling

4105- Rubber baffling seal


Motor mounts (4200)

4201(A)- Zenith 601/650 mount, all models

4201(B)- Zenith 750/705 mount

4201(C)- Pietenpol mount, high thrust line

4201(D)- KR2/2S mount, conventional gear

4201(E)- KR2/2S mount, tricycle gear

4201(F)- Custom mounts

4202- Tray and spools

4203- Bushings

4204- Bolts, nuts, clips, tubes

Notes on weight and balance

Notes on Cleanex mount, Panther mount


Airframe fuel systems (4300)

4301- Firewall pass through

Notes on gascolators, valves, braided lines

Revised number system….First half.

Note, group 1000 was revised at 6:15 pm est 3/21

Note, group 2200 was revised at 8:50 pm est 3/21


Here is the first half of the revised numbering system.  I will have the second half out later today. After that we will have a builder check list, sample build options based on the ‘Alan Able- Eddie easy’ models we discussed last month, I will introduce boxed ‘kits’ that will cover whole groups, and we will revise our parts catalog to reflect these new numbers. All on target to get done this week. Good thing I broke my new years resolution to drink less coffee. Everyone should print out copies of the posts in this series for their own shop build note-book. If you are heading to CC#25 or to sun n fun, having these in your hand will allow us to cover a lot of ground and take notes for your particular plan of progress.  When I am standing at Sun n Fun, and guy has a notebook in his hand, and right beside him is a guy who claims to have followed our webpages but has no idea about this numbering system, I am going to be polite to both of them, but who do you think is going to get the bulk of my time? Which guy gets a regular answer, and which guy gets me to dig out the rear oil case and show him the flow pattern in detail?….. Correct, the guy who brought me another coffee……Just kidding.

Crank group (1000)

1001 (A)- Crank (8409 mark, GM)

1001 (B)-  Billet Crank (Fly5th Bearing)

1002- Crank gear

1003- Crank gear key

1004- Crank gear gasket

1005- Rear keys -2-

1006- Fuel pump eccentric

1007- Spacer

1008- Bronze distributor drive gear

1009- Oil slinger

1010- Main bearings

1011- Connecting rod bearings


Cam group (1100)

1101- Cam

1102- Thrust washer

1103- Key

1104- Cam gear

1105- Hydraulic lifter set  -12 total-

1106- Cam lubricant

1107- ZDDP oil additive



Case group (1200)

1201- Case -2 halves with studs-

1202- Main case bolts -8-                                                                 

1203- Main case nuts -8-


 Piston and rod group (1300)

1301- Piston set with wrist pins

1302- Ring set

1303- Connecting rods  -6-



Cylinder group (1400)

1401- Cylinders -6-

1402- Base gaskets -6-

1403- Head gasket set



Head group (1500)

1501- Pair of heads with seats and guides

1502- Valve spring set

1503- Retainer set for intakes and keepers

1504- Exhaust valve rotators and keepers

1505- Intake valves -6-

1506- Valve seals

1507- Exhaust valves -6-

1508- Exhaust stacks -6-

1509- Welded on intake pipes



Valve train group (1600)

1601- Pushrods  -12-

1602- Pushrod tubes  -12-

1603- Pushrod O-rings  -24-

1604- Rocker arm set  -12-

1605- Rocker balls  -12-

1606- Nuts  -12-

1607- Lock nuts  -12-



Head clamping hardware (1700)

1701- Guide plates -6-

1702- Stud O-rings -12-

1703- Rocker studs -12-

1704- Upper head nuts -12-

1705- Upper head washers -12-



Steel engine cooling baffles (1800)

1801- Under cylinder cooling baffles -2-

1802- Clips to retain engine cooling baffles -4-

1803- Baffle between #1 cylinder and distributor

1804- Baffle between #2 cylinder and oil cooler


Valve Cover Group (1900)

1901- Valve covers -1 pair-

1902- Hold down clamps -8-

1903- Hold down hardware 1/4″-20 -8-

1904- Valve cover gaskets -2-

1905- Oil fill cap



Rear oil case group (2000)

2001- Rear oil case casting

2002- Rear oil seal

2003- 5/16 hold down hardware

2004- 3/8 hold down hardware

2005- Case to block gasket

2006- Harmonic balancer

2007- Balancer bolt and washer


Oil pump and regulator group (2100)

2101- Oil pump assembly

2102- Oil pump gaskets

2103- Oil pressure regulator piston

2104- Oil pressure regulator spring

2105- Oil pressure regulator plug

2106- Plug washer

Oil Pan Group (2200)

2201 (B)-  Gold billet Oil pan

2201 (W) – Fly weight welded Oil pan

2202- Oil pickup

2203- 1/4″-20 hardware -19-

2204- Drainplug

2205- Oil pan gasket

2206- Dipstick

2207- Dipstick bracket


Front cover group (2300)

2301- Front cover

2302- Cover to case gasket

2303- Front oil seal

2304- 3/8″ hardware -9- 

Numbering System update…….Real Goals in Aviation.


Below is a sample of the 1100 group of the new numbering system. We saw this earlier, in the ‘Getting Started in 2013′ series I wrote last month. I am going to slightly change the system of numbering to make engine building easier to organize. It is a subtile change, but an important one. I pick this simple group to show the before and after, and to explain why. Very shortly I am going to come back with the final revised numbering system, and print it all out here.  We are going to change our own parts numbering system on our catalog page on our main website to match the new system, and we will have a vastly better organized system for builders to work with that will provide a very orderly path to a running engine.

Below is the original numbering system from last month. Note how the group is 1100 and also the camshaft itself is part number 1100.


Cam group (1100)

1100- Cam

1101- Thrust washer

1102- Key

1103- Cam gear

1104- Hydraulic lifter set -12 total-

1105- Cam lubricant

1106- ZDDP oil additive


Ok, here is the change: Notice the group stays the same, 1100, but everything moves down one number. below this I will explain the why of it.



Cam group (1100)

1101- Cam

1102- Thrust washer

1103- Key

1104- Cam gear

1105- Hydraulic lifter set -12 total-

1106- Cam lubricant

1107- ZDDP oil additive


Now, picture yourself building an engine with the new numbering system. As I will show everyone shortly, there are 40 different groups, each with their sub component numbers. We are going to have a checklist for builders with the 40 groups on it, so a guy heading to a college to close his case will know that he needs to have all the sub components so he can ‘check off’ groups 1000, 1100 and 1200 from his list.

The new change eliminates confusion between a builders speaking of ‘having part 1100′ which was just the cam, and ‘having group 1100′ which are all the items listed above. The simple number change above fixes this.

Second, we are moving toward a system where we will be able to offer an entire group in one box, instead of just some parts of the group. for example, Lets look at the Oil Pan Group (2200).


Oil Pan Group (2200)

2201- Oil pan

2202- Oil pickup

2203- 1/4″-20 hardware -19-

2204- Drainplug

2205- Oil pan gasket

2206- Dipstick

2207- Dipstick bracket


Traditionally, a builder bought a pan and an install kit from us, and ended up with all the things listed except for 2205, 2206, 2207. respectively, his gasket was from a gasket set like the clarks 120ww set, but we are moving toward getting builders to look at the gasket as a part of the group, because big sets often have things like front seals that 5th bearing builders don’t use. In this case I want builders to just have a clarks c-199 gasket. We have long told builders to get the Ford 302 dipstick and cut it down. This hasnt been a problem, but I could just get a giant stack of them and cut them all down to the correct length in 30 minutes. The tab is a small bracket the stabilize the top of the dipstick to one of the 5/16″ top cover bolts. Easily hand-made if the builder wishes, but I want to have laser cut ones available because they are cheap enough and I want builders to focus on the big things, not a detail like fabricating this small part, especially at settings like Colleges.

Thus, we are shortly going to revise our catalog page to have something called a “Complete 2200 group”, which will have all of the parts of this group in one box. We will have clearly explained letter code suffixes, so a builder can directly order a 2200B, which will be the whole group with a Gold Billet pan, and we will also have a 2200W, which is the whole group with one of our welded pans. Of course, we will still have the Gold Billet pan by itself, and it will have part number 2201B.

You don’t have to memorize any of this, we will spell it all out in detail, but I just wanted to give builders a look ahead and a specific sample so that we can understand the system and where we are headed with it.  I personally think that it will make a big difference on the accessibility of engine building.

Now, follow this next part closely, because it is the whole reason why I have spent a year developing this new system. I want more builders to get more focused on developing their fundamental understanding of the Corvair engine, and become much better operators and mechanics on them. Right now, we are doing good, the average Corvair builder is a Motorhead/genius when his engine is done, if we compare him to the average guy that just bought a buy-it-in-a-box imported engine. But I am setting my educational standards higher than that. I want every guy to get the most out of building his engine in terms of a learning opportunity.

Here is how the new system serves this: right now, too many builders view the engine building task as collecting the parts, assembling them, and getting it done. Thats fine, but I am not after improving builders shopping/scrounging skills, nor am I interested in having builders focus much thought on making a dip stick tube bracket.  I want builders to really know things like how to install and time distributors, how to set valves once, how to use a differential compression tester, how to do a valid 100 hour inspection, when to preheat in cold weather and why. These things are the type of things that really good A&P mechanics all know about the types of engines they master, and there is no reason why any person in homebuilding for the right reason should accept knowing less. Having the parts system better organized and group parts more accessible gets more people away from the parts perspective, and get them to a mindset where they are focused on improving their real skills at being the true master of the engine they fly.

That may not be the goal of 90% of the people wandering around in experimental aviation, but let me tell you this with 25 years of hindsight of doing this stuff every day: The people who get something out of experimental aviation, really know it’s rewards, are the people who came here to learn. To really learn, not just know the answers on the quiz, or to sound smart in hangar BS sessions, but to be able to walk out to their airplane to preflight it and know that they are not taking a random chance, nor hoping some one else knew what they were doing. To walk out to your own plane with confidence because you are the master of it, and you are the only person you will be counting on today, and you are calm because you know that you invested the time and effort to really learn something, and you have made your plane right with this knowledge. That is getting something out of experimental aviation that is worth all the time in your shop, all the money you spent, all the things you sacrificed to do it.

And the other 90%? I hope God looks after them, or at least their families. Sound harsh? Try this: go to your airport today, find the oldest aviator there, a guy so old he flew radials commercially, the guy who is likely to have seen just about everything in flying, and ask him just one thing. Ask him if he ever saw a single person hurt in aviation because they knew too much about the machine they were operating, that their mastery was too high for their own good, that a person with less skills would not have been hurt. I don’t care who you speak to, no one has ever seen this. Today, somewhere in print, some moron will say that buying a new Lycoming or Rotax is the path to safety. What a joke; there have certainly been ignorant users, thinking they could buy their way to ‘safety’, who were shortly thereafter harmed by their allegedly ‘safe’ item. Anyone with a brain and a speck of honesty will tell you that the only path to safety is Understanding, Skill ,Knowledge and the Judgment to apply them. Anyone who says that you can buy some product and not have to be so concerned about U-S-K-J is a dangerous fool.

Ernest Gann may have been aviations greatest writer. In “Fate is The Hunter,” preface states that flying is a kind of war story, where “the designated adversary always remains inhuman, frequently marches in mystery, and rarely takes prisoners.” He wasn’t kidding or stretching the analogy. The book has several pages of abbreviations in small print, which you only understand later are a list of all the people he knew who were killed flying. Gann and his contemporaries where doing far more dangerous flying than we are, but it is fair to say that they were also professionals who were vastly more talented that average pilots today.  I can tell people the risk typical GA pilots face today is a small fraction of what Air Transport pilots faced then. What is your response? 90% of EAA pilots take this to mean that they can get by aspiring to a lot less than those early aviators knew. If you are part of the 10% that understands that your risk will only be far lower than theirs if you work to develop the same Understanding, Skill ,Knowledge those men had, then welcome, I have things I can share with you. You will not need God to look after you, you can do it with the brain you received.

I think Gann’s analogy holds. You are headed to a combat of sorts. My goal is to really teach you how your weapon works. To take it all apart, be able to clean and maintain it, spot trouble before it happens, put it back together, and how to fine tune it and operate it with great skill that only comes with intimate knowledge of a machine.  Even though the task ahead is serious, you will be prepared, and harm will not come to you because you didn’t know your weapon in the conflict. Contrast this with the prevalent mentality of 90% of the people in the EAA.  Just like everyone else, they are headed to a conflict, but they don’t like thinking about it, “it will be all right” is their common motto. They think they can buy a new weapon, and this will make it reliable, even if they don’t know how to clean it, far less understand it. They think high-tech is some sort of magic armor, a replacement for understanding. They are not the master of their arm, they are just the person holding it. Deep inside they know this, and they suppress that thought every time they meet a well prepared master by blurting out “mine is new, I don’t have to know what you do.” Who do you think is more at risk? In the hours before conflict who do you think will be frightened and who will be confident?

They will never feel what you do when they walk out to preflight their plane. You will be confidently checking your workmanship. A preflight to them a some sort of ritualistic pagan dance they were taught the moves of, by an equally ignorant ‘instructor’, a dance that they desperately hope will appease the gods of luck and chance and keep evil at bay by a method that is unknowable. The real gods of flight, Physics, Chemistry and Gravity, look down from above, unmoved by the little dance.  They only respect people who follow their rule book. To Aviators, the book is on the shelf and written in plain language.  Dancers who never took the time to learn to read view bad events that happen to the dancers in their troupe as running afoul of luck and chance, fake gods they themselves made. Each of these events looks very different to any aviator who knows who the real gods of flight are, and understand that these gods are just, but never understanding nor merciful.

Are you a person who spends money and hopes for the best, or are you a person who actually likes knowing that your fate is in your own hands, and no one elses’s?  This answer matters more than any other in your experimental aircraft experience. Any commentary on risk management, be it in print, in person, or broadcast isn’t worth paying any attention to unless the focal point of it is developing the Understanding, Skill ,Knowledge of the Aviator. -ww


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