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.