When Sun-n-Fun was Really Fun.

Builders,

Sun N Fun is the second largest airshow in the country, and it has been around for decades. It is held every spring in Lakeland Florida. Today it has been transformed into a Walt Disney style family spectator event, but long ago, it was the bastion of experimental aviation, and a ritualistic gathering of original ultralight characters.

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Unlike today, where in the name of “make it nice, inoffensive and character free” airshows are promoted with images of yuppie families driving imported minivans to squeaky clean (and dull) events, There was a time where some events were actually fun for real people in aviation. The WW standard for “Fun” is a simple question: Would Pappy Boyington think this was entertaining? 

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I attended every single Sun-n-fun from 1989-2015, I stayed all week at most of them. There was a golden period, now gone for a decade, never to return, where the Ultralight people easily would have met Pappy Boyington’s nocturnal approval. While there was an official Ultralight party every year, the whole week was a series of great evenings with the characters who made up the vibrant world of Ultralights.

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Above, witness a historical aviation artifact of the first order, A one Gallon container for “Muzzle Loader” , a volatile moonshine made by the legendary Chuck Slusarczyk ( who is in the EAA hall of Fame)  The jug  is carefully preserved in my hangar, awaiting the day when the horrible trend trying to make everything ‘nice’ is reversed, and this jug can take its rightful place in the EAA museum.

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Muzzle Loader was so potent it would take the bottom out of a white styrofoam cup in 5 seconds, yet it was willingly consumed by hundreds of revelers at the Ultralight parties in the 1990s. Chucks rock band, complete with background singers in choir robes, would hammer out classic covers like “Sweet Home Alabama”  and originals like the “Zooming'” song.  Most people know I very rarely drink anything at airshows. People guess at the reason, buy its this simple: nothing today could hold a candle to an evening lead by Chuck Slusarczyk, so there really isn’t much point in trying.

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Above, screwed to my hangar wall, an official sign for one of the later parties. At the early ones the beer was free, provided by a local distributor. Lakeland is in Polk county, a particularly hard core blue collar, place that breeds a very strong party mentality. The Ultralight party was known for attracting dozens of Polk county’s most fun women, many of whom would be there as groupies year after year.

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Muzzle Loader is good for you, just read the label.  One year I coined the phrase “Muzzle Loader – Liquid Dignity Remover by Slusarczyk” and Gus Warren printed very popular shirts which bore this motto.

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Yes, some things need a warning label.

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Different Years came in different flavors: this was a 2001 jug, that year Chuck made 17 gallons of “Black Bury Falver” , which was patterned after a family 1927 recipe.

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Above, My Pietenpol at the last hours of Sun n Fun 1996. From L to R, Gus Warren, Steve Upson and a much younger version of me. The smiles are strained, we had spent the previous night at the Ultralight party. The Photo was taken by EAA’s Mary Jones, who had the great fortune of being close friends with many of the original 1980s Ultralight people. I consider myself fortunate to have had fun with them in the 1990s, today, this type of fun is just a memory from a different era. 

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Wewjr.

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Corvair Oil Analysis

Builders,

One of the smartest things you can do with your Corvair engine is run a continuing oil analysis program on it, this is a very valuable tool for monitoring your engines health, and we as Corvair people have a ‘secret weapon’ in oil analysis, and it is called Larry Nelson.

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Larry has a flying Corvair powered Zenith 601, and he has been around Corvairs and Corvair Colleges for a long time. He knows oil testing very well, and he works at the Yuma Proving Grounds. No, he isn’t an “internet expert” on this, he is an actual expert.

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Larry’s business can be found at  LNClabs.com , or you can call him direct at 928 304 9848.  Each sample costs a mere 15 bucks. You are paying for the test in advance by purchasing the sample cup and coupon, which you mail in when you test, and Larry emails you the results, or you can call and speak with him about it. I keep about 10 kits handy here for our various Corvairs at the airport, but buying 4 at a crack makes sense for most people. Keep in mind, it’s main benefit is trend monitoring, it isn’t nearly as valuable as a one shot deal.

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Larry suggests every 50 hour oil change, or at least ever 6 months, and points out that there is logic to spot testing  before a long cross country. The fact that Larry is a Corvair builder and pilot, and flying Corvairs are his focus, gives him a very good comparative data base. I send him samples from standard engines we build and use here, so we have a pretty good evaluation for “normal” which you can’t match by looking at tiny flakes in your oil filer element.

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Here is the hardest part of oil analysis for most people to understand: Reading Larrys site, and planning on doing this ‘one day’ offers the exact same level engine data and understanding as doing nothing at all. Yes, hard to believe, but this is true, to actually get any benefit from this tool, oil samples must be sent in! Once a builder gets this critical element of the program, it can start to work for him. When you speak with people, many people are familiar with the concept, but too few follow through with action.

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If you have a flying plane, or an engine you are planning on running this year, make a plan now to have it on oil analysis for this years operations. By choosing this, you are adding a serious professional tool to your operations, and setting yourself apart from the crowd who justify all their inactions with the phrase “it will be alright.”

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Above, oil kits as Larry ships them. The item at the bottom is an optional pump which allows taking a sample through a dip stick tube in the middle of the run. Not required for most analysis programs, I just have one because of our test programs.

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Yes, Larry is the same guy who paid for his corvair parts in ammunition at CC#34. He has personal style which makes average Rotax owners and models for the Sporties polite catalog uncomfortable. The operative question of the day was: Would you like to trade benjamins, plastic or lead?  Above, Larry Nelson’s engine on the bench at Corvair College #34.  Read the story here: Acceptable methods of payment for Corvair parts.

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Its nice to know that you are getting a quality service while supporting a family man who is working to make sure aviation still has character.  Full Disclosure: I make nothing off promoting Larrys efforts, it is just a good idea, but he did promise me that if I get to his neck of the woods we can have an afternoon of full-auto with at the range. In Larry’s part of AZ, this is simply referred to as “Hospitality”.

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Above, a picture of the coupon which comes with every one of Larry’s test kits.

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Wewjr.

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Valentines date with two pairs of .38s

Builders,

We have many more aviation stories in the works, but I thought I would share this timely non flying one with builders. 15 minutes before sunset, my neighbor Ryan called to say he wanted to come over and use my backstop, we decided to make it an all .38 event.

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For all of you better gentlemen who spent a few hours paying your respects to a manufactured holiday, buying flowers and waiting in line for a mediocre dinner in a crowded restaurant, vicariously enjoy a better way to spend the evening on 2/14.

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After the light was gone we headed inside an a number of friends and neighbors stopped by for lasagna and beer, followed by a lot of conversation on building and flying to be done this season.  Notably, this memorable evening started when one person Ryan, decided to do something non-typical and out of the routine. The same impulse that gets many things in aviation going with the start of a new season.

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Above, the four .38s on my back porch, from the top, S&W, Taurus, S&W, and Colt. Contrary to media myth, reliable handguns are not ‘cheap’ none of these except the Colt are collectors items, but the total is still worth $1,800-$2,000.

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OK, so neither of us is Jerry Miculek, but we still have fun. This is 10 yards, mostly rapid fire. The four guns have very different points of aim, and two of them shot very differently with hand loads. The red tape is 2″ wide.

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Lawn chair become the shooting bench, IMHO, the S&W 10 (left) was the best shooter. .38 hand loads only cost 10 cents a round, factory ammo is about 25 cents a shot if you buy in bulk. It is inexpensive compared to most shooting. Revolvers give you all the brass back; autos scatter it in the yard. I have enough brass in my grass that you can hear it when you mow it with the tractor.

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Above, Ryan taking aim with a classic long barreled S&W; looks old, but was made in the 1970s. Shot very nice. Hope everyone reading this had a nice evening, just was we did here. There is human satisfaction to living in a place where responsible adults are trusted to engage in acts ranging from recreational shooting to building their own aircraft.

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-WW.

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Farewell to a Good Man; Robert Caldwell departs.

Builders,

I took the photo below of Robert Caldwell at Corvair College #40 in Texas. It was a beautiful sunny day at Mineola-Wisener airport. Robert brought his magnificent Corvair-Pietenpol out and parked it in a shady spot, and it was quickly surrounded by admiring builders, most of whom had never seen it before, nor met Robert before.  In spite of the obvious quality of the work and the praise and attention it earned, Robert was still pretty quiet about the plane and gave modest answers to builders questions. He was that kind of guy. I had to lean on him a bit to even get him to stand in the picture with his bird. If you never had a chance to meet him, you can still get a good take on how relaxed he was by looking at his pose in the picture.

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What few people present that day knew was Robert had just gotten out of the hospital, where he had gotten a grim cancer diagnosis.  Nothing about his demeanor that day even hinted at this. It was sunny, we were at a great airport, and friendly people were on hand. It said a lot about Robert that he was there to enjoy the day, no matter what news he had received.

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Robert and his wife Barbara came to Corvair College #21 in Barnwell SC, and this is where his Corvair was fired up for the first time. It put a big smile on his face, but it was Barbara who let the cat out of the bag and told everyone it was also Robert’s 70th birthday. There was a big hug in the prop blast that was a very popular picture.

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They had a number of years of good times with the plane, but in the summer of 2017, Barbara lost her own health battle and passed away.  It was a heavy blow, but one Robert took mostly to himself. When I saw him in Texas, he only spoke of it briefly, and only after no one else was present. He was neither pained nor private about it when he spoke,  he just gave the feeling that some things are better spoken of in smaller settings.

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A few weeks after the College, Robert made the decision that quality of his time was more important than the quantity. One of the things that was important to him was getting a bit more flying in. On his last flight, he asked Kevin Purtee to fly as his wingman in his own Pietenpol.  When speaking of this later, Kevin said of the many things he has done in flight, this was among the most moving.  After they landed, Robert put the plane he made, away for the last time. He was done, he had finished on his own terms.

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After Robert was gone, Kevin and I spoke on the phone, and we kept coming back to the point that he was simply a good man, and its a compliment that was said about Robert without reservation. If you never had a chance to meet him, at least take this away from the mans life: If you play it all the way through on your own terms,  and when its done you are simply spoken of as “A Good Man”, then the days of your life were well spent.

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Blue Skies and Tailwinds Robert and Barbara.

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Wewjr

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SPA Billet Corvair Cranks

Builders,

Our Neighbor Paul Salter has a 3,000cc Corvair Powered Panther. The engine on it is actually the one from Dan Weseman’s Prototype Panther. It has the first SPA-Made in USA Billet crank in it.  Just about the time Paul was finishing his airframe, Dan was getting his 3.3Liter Billet crank stroker engine going.  Because the three of us take risk management seriously, an intelligent plan was formed where the proven engine with several hundred hours on it would move to Pauls new airframe, and the new 3.3 Liter engine would be tested on Dan’s proven airframe. Common sense tells you this is a better plan than New engine/new airframe.  Because we are all friends at the  same airport, moving the motors around was not a big issue.

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In 2012, when Dan was very busy finishing the Panther Prototype, many friends showed up to play any small role that would let Dan focus more energy and hours on his then-new design.  My part was I offered to assemble and test run Dan’s Corvair engine.

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Above, Dan Weseman and I test run his 3,000 cc Panther engine in my front yard in 2012.

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About a month ago, Paul decided to inspect the 3,000cc engine and remove some of the non standard  test items off the engine (like a special oil pan with an inspection window for monitoring cam gears) and to remove some lead build up from the combustion chambers.  The engine had been on his plane about two years, so it has five birthdays. No big deal, it was some gaskets and a weekend of casual work.

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Paul Called me after he got started and asked if I remembered “leaving anything in the engine” when I assembled it in 2012. I said no, but he did get my attention, as I imagined what he might have found. I drove over to his place to see this:

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Above,  Paul is holding the top cover. The lettering was inside the engine since I closed it in 2012. No one else had seen this, and honestly I had forgotten all about it.

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Above, a close up look. The handwriting is mine.

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If you would like to lean more about the SPA billet corvair cranks you can check out their products page or give them a call at 904-626-7777.

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Wewjr.

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Thought for the Day: “Human Courage”

Builders,

In 2008, my father cut this obituary from the New York Times, wrote the two words “Human Courage” on it, and mailed it to me. No further words were required, the photo alone was testimony enough.

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My father measured Americans solely by the content of their character, and Merlin German’s courage moved my father beyond further words. German was burned over 97% of his body.  He died 1,146 days after the IED blast, following a surgery. By all accounts, he never gave up.

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This week, too many people made blanket generalizations about immigrants from poor countries, and suggested they didn’t have anything to give America. Merlin German’s parents were immigrants from the Dominican Republic, the country adjacent to Haiti.  What they give our country?  Their son.

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Merlin German was born in Manhattan, a product of public schools there.  Too many people from the middle of the country, most of whom have never spent a day in New York City, make assumptions about the values, ethics and loyalty of New Yorker’s.  German’s life should offer some correction.

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Wewjr .

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2018 Corvair Events Page

Builders:

put this page in your favorites list, as I will be updating it with links to individual stories on each event over the next two months. When friends ask about colleges in 2018, just send a link to this story.  This will be the one stop reference point to a year which will be full of events for Corvair Builders. Click on any blue link to get to the individual story of an event.

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For further questions, please tap into our extensive information network, this story covers more than a dozen outlets for accurate Corvair information which we work with: Outlook 2016 – The Corvair ‘Information Network’ now in gear..

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Saturday Corvair Club: Here is a link to this new concept; Saturday Corvair Club. In the 12 hours after the story first were up, we hand a half dozen inquires about the availability of cores and possible scheduling. If required, I will open a “B” section to make the experience available to more builders.

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Finishing Schools #3 and #4 in Florida: If you have not learned about the finishing schools we have held at the SPA factory, get a look at this story:  Corvair Finishing School #1, Video report. These are primarily aimed at “Engine in a Box” builders, but we have also finished and run a number of well-prepped traditional builds at these events. We have no hard dates at this point, but these events can be rapidly planned and scheduled because they don’t involve us traveling nor the infrastructure of a typical college. If you are interested in EIB engine kits or getting into the next finishing school, call SPA and speak with Rachel 904 626 7777. If you would like to see a sample success story read this: Waiex engine, 3,000 cc / 120HP Corvair of Gordon Turner. 

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Corvair Engine building isn’t just for boys. Above, at CC#37, the very petite Kiku Williams hard at work on her 2,700 cc Corvair. Most of our stands and fixtures work for people between 5’6″ and 6’6″. No problem, Kiku just pulled up a step ladder and went to work assembling the bottom end in  her hello kitty shirt. “Motorhead” is a title earned on what you have learned and built, it isn’t an appearance nor image.

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Would you like to trade benjamins, plastic or lead?  Above, Larry Nelson’s engine on the bench at Corvair College #34.  Read the story here: Acceptable methods of payment for Corvair parts.

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Corvair College 42 the “Southwest College” Right now we are targeting May for an event. We are looking at two different venues, Yuma AZ vs Chino CA.  The first is Larry Nelson’s place, the second is Steve Glovers, where we had CC#37.  There are pros and cons to each, and I’m looking for builder input for the next 45 days as we decide. Both Larry and Steve are excellent marksmen and avid shooters, and it occurred to me that we should just have the two of them meet at a target range half way between Yuma and Chino, and settle the venue question in a manner that I would find fair and interesting, with the side benefit of horrifying the politically correct Rotax 912 crowd. We will keep you posted on how this develops.

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Above, Randy Bush of TN stands beside his 3,000cc Cleanex at Oshkosh 2017. It was parked in the Corvair power row directly behind my booth in the North Aircraft display area.

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Corvairs at Oshkosh 2018, Every year for the last decade, my booth at Oshkosh has been #616 in the north aircraft display area, right across from Zenith. 2018 will be at the same spot (You rent them a year in advance). We always have a row of parking for Corvair powered planes right behind the tent. Our place and the SPA/Panther booth right next door are an Oasis of traditional homebuilding camaraderie and a gathering point for builders both during the show and after hours. We will also be holding a drawing for a core engine just like last year; Oshkosh 2017 core engine winner.

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Above, A 2014 picture of the five Corvair powered Zeniths that flew into Corvair College #30, all parked for a photo in front of the Zenith Factory. We have had 15 years of cooperative and productive relations with Zenith, all for the benefit of builders.

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Corvair College 43 The Zenith ‘Invitational” college.  This event will be held in September in Mexico MO, during the 26th annual Zenith open house. We have previously held 4 colleges at Zenith.  Here is what is different: Everyone is welcome to observe, but due to space limitations, the actual wrenching on engines will be limited to 16 builders who will want to ‘approve’ long before the event. We are selecting the builders based on the degree of prep work they are willing to do and the fact we want each engine to be a good example of how we build them and how they run. If you think you would like to be one of the 16, Contact us at SPA so we can talk about it 904 626 7777. More info on this college as it develops.

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Texas Fly-in: Shelley and Kevin, who have hosted 5 Texas Colleges, are getting a break this year from the great logistical volunteer effort they put into all of their Colleges.  In recent years we have tried to alternate years holding a College in TX and  at the Zenith Factory. They are 600 miles apart, but either location serves all regional builders.  In place of a TX College, we are looking at having a Corvair Fly in at their location in Tyler Texas in September. More news as this develops.

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Corvair College 44, Barnwell for the tenth event there. Barnwell is our flagship College, always held in Barnwell SC on Nov. 11th weekend, which this year will be the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. This will be a large, Full service College with space for 90 builders. We will open the registration up very early this year to allow builders to make a long range plan for progress.

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House Calls: As always I will be making free house calls throughout the year. I have always done this, and it is how I built such a strong following of loyal builders. Most other engine companies never visit builders shops, and no one can hold a candle to my track record on this. Get a look at a few past visits:

House Call Bearhawk LSA; range: 6,250 miles.

Housecall: 3,000 cc Corvair on Waiex

Corvair House Call, Range: 335 miles.

House Call on Pat Green’s 1,000 Hour Pietenpol

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Read the stories above, and make plans today. As I write this, the year is almost 1/20 gone. It you want to make it count for you, you must have a plan to get the most out of 2018 and not let it drift past. Be determined, take action.

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WEWjr

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