Corvair College #22 KGTU Texas Spring Break 2012

About two thirds of the attendees of Corvair College #22 March 9-11, 2012, gather in front of  host Kevin Purtee’s Pietenpol. Kneeling in the front row is Gary Boothe of California who was attending his fifth Corvair College.  Gary’s Piet is almost done and his engine ran at Corvair College 18, yet he comes back for more because the spirit and the camaraderie of the events are contagious in a modern era of aviation where a real spirit of community is often difficult to find.

Our illustrious host Kevin Purtee, above. Kevin lives two lives in aviation: His day job is piloting an Apache helicopter and his passion is his Pietenpol and his part in that community. Symbolic of his wearing two hats in aviation is the fact he’s wearing a sock monkey knit hat while making a serious point on his introduction speech.

The weather for the first two days of the event was cold and rainy, but this just kept people inside where work continued unabated. Other than being on the chilly side in the hangar, the setting of the event was outstanding. Above, Kevin has taken the cowling off his Pietenpol and gives fellow builders a tour of his engine compartment. His engine is a 2700 cc Corvair with a Weseman bearing fed by a Stromberg carburetor. It has one of our front electric starters and a gold oil system. Kevin is one of the people who gets everything out of aviation by immersing himself in it: He pointed out that he plans built his airframe, built his engine himself, and has flown it to Oshkosh twice. Hosting a Corvair College is an additional facet of an aviator who works to put back as much as he’s gotten out of flying. In the gray coat in front of the prop is Kevin’s wife Shelley Tumino; she is a very effective organizer putting most of the behind-the-scenes work into the College. They have been married only two years. Their family photo album includes lots of pictures of Shelley covering the Pietenpol’s wings. Shelley is an illustrious self-described “East Texas Girl” and is also in the U.S. Armed Forces.

A major part of what Shelley accomplished was keeping everyone fed and on scene during the entire event. A lot of detail work went into making sure that builders could remain focused while not starving to death. Above, Shelley with a big smile in front of some of the catered food that was continuously on hand for the event. 100% of the fees that we charge during registration go directly to the host to allow them to apply it to expenses directly related to the College. All the work at the College is done by volunteers, and none of them make money off an event. People outside the Corvair community are often surprised at this and somewhat incredulous. I have good reason to boast that the Corvair movement and the people involved are very special amongst modern-day aviation.

Kevin and Shelley keep a busy schedule. For example, the week before the College they were having dinner at the White House. Above, they sit in front of a portrait of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the Vermeil Room. The event was to honor Iraq war veterans. Kevin was chosen to represent the State of Texas at the dinner. While his accomplishments in experimental aviation are a standout, it means a lot more when you consider that he spent most of the past eight years deployed.

Above is our foldout display table that we use at airshows and Colleges. People attending their first College often ask if we will be bringing parts for sale. The answer is that I am always bringing parts for sale wherever I am going to whatever extent the method of travel allows. At airshows and Colleges east of the Rockies, this means parts by the truck and trailer load. In years past, we were frequently backordered on a number of items, but this has long since changed and we literally brought more than 1,500 pounds of engine and installation components for sale. The Colleges are focused on learning and camaraderie, but it is important to have readily available hardware for builders.

Grace and Scoob E decided that they had so much fun at Corvair College #21 that they were definitely going to CC #22. Colleges are a lot of work and to stay in shape they have both taken up bicycling. Here on a chilly evening in Florida, the two of them log a few laps around our airpark.


When you only weigh 9 pounds, you don’t have a lot of spare insulation. When it got good and chilly, Scoob E enjoyed a pile of blankets on his chair at the College. The windy bicycle training at home had toughened him up.

This one photo gives a good idea of the size of the hangar that Shelley secured for the event. This photo was taken just after the corporate jet was rolled outside into the rain to make way for something really important in aviation. The hangar was clean and well lit and roughly 100’x100’ in size.

Above, Kevin and I talk policy by the tail of his Pietenpol, while Greg Crouchley from Rhode Island eyeballs an engine on the test stand in the background. To keep it out of the rain but demonstrate it, Kevin ran his Pietenpol in the hangar after carefully tying down the tail to a truck and chocking the wheels securely. A handful of builders present had never seen a running Corvair before and were duly impressed with the smoothness and the ease that it started with on a 45° day.

Kevin briefs other builders on his installation. His aircraft has several hundred hours on it now. Start to finish the plane took 17 years to complete. My Golden Rule of Experimental Aviation is “Persistence Pays.”

Many of the photos used in these updates were provided by Pietenpol builder Mark Chouinard of Oklahoma, at left above, to whom we extend our grateful appreciation. Standing next to him is Robert Caldwell, who ran his engine on his birthday at Corvair College 21. He is also a Pietenpol builder. It may be a little hard to scale from the photo, but Kevin’s Pietenpol sits up higher than almost any other one I have seen. Mark is a friendly and gentlemanly giant, about 6 foot five.

The award for the cleanest case at the College goes to Vic Delgado, in the center above  with Grace and I. Vic is building a 3 Liter Corvair with a Weseman bearing. Grace is wearing vintage College jewelry, a necklace I made up of Corvair rod nuts strung on safety wire.

The last day of the College brought excellent weather and sunny skys. Kevin took advantage of this to give a number of people their first flight in an open cockpit aircraft and/or their first flight in a Corvair powered aircraft. Most of the people on hand were very impressed with the rate of climb available in his aircraft.

When you’re a badass like Kevin, any hat you wear is The Hat of Power.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When the going gets chilly, smart people congregate around the propane heater. Old school EAA builder Byron Engle sits with Grace and Scoob E and enjoys some BTUs. Byron has been in the EAA since 1972 and as an active member has seen all the changes that have happened to the organization. I take it as a great compliment when builders from his era congregate in the Corvair movement. It lets me know that we are seen as one of the faithful who remain focused on the EAA’s original motto of  “Learn, Build and Fly.” Byron brought out his photo albums and shared many photographs of his projects over the years. He has a very impressive Turner T-40 in his hangar.

Norm Beauchamp, the first man ever to fly a Corvair in a Kitfox, takes a moment to goof around with an Intake Manifold. Norm is currently reworking his installation, to refine it and bring it back as a state of the art installation. His airframe is a Kitfox Model V.

At the center of this photo is Craig Anderson who drove down with his wife from South Dakota for the College. Craig is now the proud owner and restorer of the Stits Skycoupe that was our testbed 10 years ago. We’re looking at the installation of the Weseman bearing onto Craig’s case. Craig got a Set of 2850 Pistons and Cylinders from us, and a pair of cylinder heads from Falcon Machine. Along with all of our Gold Installation Parts and the existing installation on the Skycoupe airframe, he is well on his way to having the aircraft back airborne by the end of the summer. I look forward to seeing this piece of history, a part of the Corvair movement, flying around to events and Colleges.

Above, Byron Engle takes apart a core motor. Kevin and Shelley constructed dozens of individual 2′ x 4′  benches for builders to work from. They were extremely sturdy and allowed builders to walk all the way around the engine while it was being constructed. We had previously focused on 4′ x 4′ and 4′ x 8′ benches at the Colleges, but they may have started something new here.

Near the end of Corvair College#22, we took a moment for Kevin, myself, Grace, Scoob E and Shelley to have a portrait with the tail of Kevin’s aircraft. It was a very satisfying event, and well worth the 2200 miles of driving. Before we packed up and headed home, Kevin and Shelley pointed out that he may very likely be deployed next year again, but they wanted to get it on the schedule right now that they are hosting Corvair College in 2014. We are all looking forward to it.

College Tech


Here are some technical notes from the building at CC #22.


Above, Craig Anderson of South Dakota with his Weseman bearing equipped 2,850 cc Corvair in process. Greg’s engine is built around a Moldex nitrided crankshaft and a pair of Falcon heads. The engine will feature all of our Gold Systems. He installed the Weseman bearing at the College.

Old school EAA builder Byron Engle, at left above, and David Cain take apart a core engine on one of the 2′ x  4’ tables. About eight of the builders brought a core motor for disassembly or further inspection.

On the right is Gary Boothe, who was attending his fifth Corvair College. He is a Pietenpol builder from California. At left is Buddy Linder, Pietenpol builder from Texas.

Corvair Colleges are an unprecedented opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with other builders. This type of conversation is not really possible online. There is a whole social side to aviation that can only be served by in person events.

Above is another one of the Corvair cores that showed up being torn down. Although it was completely filled with leaves in the cooling shroud, it turned out to be a pretty good engine internally.

Eric Overton is in the gray sweatshirt. In the photo above we are going over the studs in his case to verify that they’re in good shape. Eric is a highly skilled Ivy League trained electrical engineer who is comfortable developing very high-end electronic systems. At the College he gave a very funny dissertation on America’s addiction to consumer electronics, and his role as a facilitator. He went on to humorously point out that he drives a 1963 Ford and is building a World War I replica aircraft because everyone knows successful pushers do not use their own addictive products, thus he steers clear of technology in his own life.

Above, I speak with Roger Grable, who came to the College with his wife Sarah. They’re building a Zenith 750 and making great progress on the airframe. Roger elected to purchase a complete 2,850cc engine equipped with a Weseman bearing and all the installation components from us. They came to the College to become much more educated about the engine they will be installing and operating on their aircraft. We personally produce about 15 engines in a busy year. Because they are a good value, we have never had any trouble selling every one we can make. This reality, and the fact that pre-built engines are not our primary mission, has allowed me to be selective in who we choose to build for. Believe it or not, I frequently get calls from people who will readily confess to not being interested in learning anything about engines, to the extent of being unwilling to read our Flight Ops Manual. From long experience, I know to politely decline to build engines for such people. Roger represents the polar opposite of this, a builder whose schedule puts a high premium on his time, but yet he is still willing to come to a College and take the time to learn many of the techniques that we have painstakingly developed which allow Corvair pilots to enjoy the engine’s excellent reputation. I am always glad to work with builders who possess Roger’s perspective and values.

Above, Norm Beauchamp’s 2,700cc Corvair engine destined for installation on his Kitfox Model V. A close look shows that the engine is equipped with Clark’s full fin heavy duty cylinders. The engine also sports a Weseman bearing. This is one of the Weseman’s earlier cast housings. The current series of production are all billet machined housings. The switch to billet housings has allowed Dan to mass-produce the bearing and have them available and on the shelf.

Sonny Webster of Texas with his core engine ready for disassembly. He is building a Zenith 650.

Ken Schmetter, at left above, watches Becky Shipman’s 2,700 cc engine coming off the stand. Becky’s engine is equipped with one of our Welded Aluminum Pans. Also visible is one of our new high-volume oil pumps. The black rubber hose shown in the view is a bypass for the high-volume oil cooler that is not installed yet. On the test stand I want the oil in the engine to come up to temperature fairly quickly. This is done by keeping the oil cooler outside the cooling baffle, or in the case of heavy duty oil coolers just running a hose as a replacement until after the engine is broken in. Corvair engines take a long time to develop high oil temperature on the test stand with cool air washing over all parts of the engine. During the initial break-in, there are a number of good reasons to have the oil temperature come up quickly.


Above, Brian Manlove, Zenith 650 builder from Texas, gives me a hand warming up connecting rods to be installed on 2,850 cc pistons. The gas we are using is map gas which burns a little bit hotter than propane. Visible on the right is my plastic jawed jig for holding 2850 pistons while the rods are installed. The small upright holds an adjustable stop that keeps the wristpin from traveling too far over during the installation. When the small end of the rod is heated to 400 Fahrenheit, you have about 2 seconds to install the wristpin before it becomes held fast in the connecting rod.

Above, Norm Beauchamp works on his engine with Ken Schmetter. In the photo, Norm is carefully going over the installation of a Clark’s high-volume oil pump. High-volume oil pumps are recommended on all engines that utilize Weseman bearings. The Clark’s pump comes complete with instructions on how to assemble it but it does take some trial and error to get it to set up smoothly.

The above photo is of a Weseman bearing coming out of its packaging. This is one of the new billet housings. Dan and his family have produced approximately 250 bearings, of which the last 50 or so have been billet units. The majority of these bearings are now on completed and running engines and dozens of them are out flying and logging lots of hours. The high time unit has now exceeded 400 hours. The bearing is retrofittable to a completely assembled engine, and it is affordably priced at $1050. The unit is completely compatible with all of our Gold System Parts. Going to a billet housing allowed Dan to shorten the manufacturing process from several facilities to one with a follow-on quality control check. This has gone a long way to allowing Dan to keep these bearings in stock and on the shelf available whenever builders need them.

Above, I carefully go over crankshafts with Jon Sanders. Jon had two different crankshafts on hand, both with new gears. Careful inspection revealed that one of the crankshafts was standard and was factory nitrided. This crankshaft can go directly into an engine after it has been threaded for a Safety Shaft. It does not need to be re-nitrided unless it is ground undersize. Jon’s plan is to build a 2,700 cc engine with a Weseman bearing and install it on his KR-2S.

Here is a movie:

From left above, Kendall Darder ready with a wrist pin, Gary Boothe, Brian Manlove on torch, Craig Anderson of the Documentation Department and myself installing pistons on rods. I did three sets while we were at the College and gave a number of people a firsthand look at the process.

The College is all about builders working together. Above, Jon Sanders lends some exacting assistance to Craig Anderson on the installation of the Weseman bearing on Craig’s 2850. Weseman bearings have a complementary installation kit that is available from Dan’s family. The price of the kit is refunded upon its return to the Wesemans.

Above, the dial indicator shows that the steel crankshaft hub that the Weseman bearing rides on is correctly installed. Barely visible are the three small Allen screws that are centered around the crank nub. By adjusting these screws and the tapered shims underneath them carefully, the steel crank hub can be zeroed to exact alignment with the crankshaft. The engine in the picture is Craig Anderson’s. The camshaft gear is a billet failsafe model from Clark’s.

This core looked absolutely terrible on the outside, but inside was hiding a viable engine. At first glance it does not look ready to actually be considered for rehabilitation into an aircraft powerplant, but first glances can be deceiving. Look closely and see that all the head studs are in excellent condition. Although I’m not a big fan of engines that have had water down in the bores like this one has, my major objection is based on the idea that they are more difficult to take apart than a core that rotates. An engine like this must have the valve seats carefully inspected because engines that had water in the combustion chamber for any length of time may have serious dissimilar metal corrosion between the seats and the aluminum cylinder heads. If you have a cylinder head that has had water in it, I would be very reluctant to utilize it on an airplane unless I sent it to Mark at Falcon and allowed him to completely reconditioned the head. If you’re planning on using the heads from your core motor with just a basic valve job, you need to have excellent condition heads to work with, not ones from a core like this. It seems counterintuitive but the most budget-minded engine build often starts with the most expensive core motor available. Conversely, expensive rebuilds can be done from any core because every single part including the valve seats themselves will be replaced in process.


More Running Engines coming in next posts.