Two More Flying Planes: Merlin and VP-2


Two weeks ago, we received notes on the same day from two different builders saying that their aircraft had flown on Corvair power. When we were getting started 20 years ago, getting two more planes airborne in a summer was getting something done. Today, after a lot of hard work, two in a day is a real achievement. This is progress, especially when you consider that both of these builders did a lot more than take an engine out of a box and bolt it on. Each of them built their own engine, and in the process learned a lot more than anyone just buying an engine could. The additional challenge that both of these builders faced was not only the unique installations required by their airframe choices, but also the fact that neither of these builders are located in the United States.

Above, Darren Barnfield’s VP-2 on its first flight, in Australia. It is powered by a 2700cc Corvair that uses many of our conversion components. The second aircraft is Jeff Moore’s Merlin on floats in Newfoundland, Canada. Jeff’s is the first Merlin to fly on Corvair power.

After thinking about it, I looked on the Web to find an air miles calculator and figured out that these two builders are 11,350 miles apart. Yes, they truly are on opposite sides of the globe. Over the past 10 years, a handful of Corvairs have flown Down Under, and over the years, about 25 have flown in Canada. But the timely first flights of these planes gave me pause to think about how far the Corvair movement has come.

Jeff’s aircraft previously flew with a Rotax, but he has opted to repower his plane with a Corvair that he built with our conversion parts, His engine is a 2,700 cc 100 hp engine with all of our Gold Systems and a Weseman bearing. Jeff built his own mount utilizing one of our pre-welded trays. The Exhaust seen in the video is one of our Universal #2 Systems. You can get a look at Jeff’s aircraft running in this YouTube video:

Both of these builders wrote to say thanks for our support of their craftsmanship. Jeff wrote the quick note:

“Hi William and Grace, I test flew my Merlin yesterday. So far so good !! It came off the water very well and flies excellently. I’ll have some pics and video later on. Thanks very much for your help and advice. -Jeff”

Darren, who goes by the handle “Daz”, wrote the following:

“Subject: Aussie Corvair. G’day William and Grace,

Well the most amazing thing happened. My Corvair powered VP-2 has flown.  We checked out the aircraft and did a few good runs. On the 3rd test the VP-2 just levitated off the ground and flew off into the distance. I haven’t had the chance to pull the cowls off since the first flight so will go down this week-end.

I had shut the engine down after the first flight and it fired straight back up afterward. Now the real fun starts. I just wanted to thank you William, as none of this would have been possible without you. You have been a fantastic reference and you’re an amazing person to look up to. Thanks for all your help and assistance over the past 12 years.  I will be in contact with further questions and pics so you’re not of the
hook yet. Thanks again mate. You’re a star. Sincere regards, Darren Barnfield, Corvair powered VP-2 (Now flight tested)”

If you’re reading this at home and harboring some doubt about whether or not you’re going to be a successful builder, consider the following:

Chances are, you are a lot closer to us than either one of these guys, and you will have much easier access to cores, parts and Colleges.  These two flying planes are good examples that we keep Corvairs accessible to everyone. If you live in the U.S., I can make a good case that any Corvair part is easier to buy than one for an O-200. (As an exercise, type “pistons for sale Corvair” vs. “pistons for sale O-200” into Google.)

Second, we are here for the long run. Darren’s adventure spanned more than a decade, several times the lifespan of most alternative engine companies, but just half of our time in the game. We will be here to help you, not just today, but for good.  

Third, no matter what your airframe choice, we are the best asset you have in Corvair powered flight. We have directly supported well over 90% of the Corvair powered planes finished in the modern era. Even engines not thought of as our standard conversions almost always utilize our ignition and oil systems. This is why every flying pilot has something good to say about us. The flip side is that the Internet has a number of people who continuously crop up to say that they are going to do something new and revolutionary with Corvairs, far from the things we teach people in our Manuals and DVDs or at the Colleges. The common thread between those Internet people is that they have no flight experience with the things they propose. No serious builder is served by a poor idea proposed by a here today, gone tomorrow Internet personality. Homebuilding is a difficult enough challenge without help from such people. If you want to succeed like Darren and Jeff, the pattern is proven: Let us assist you with information, training, parts and components, and take advantage of all that we have learned and are more than willing to share.

If you lived 1,000 years and everyone who started a homebuilt eventually flew it, it would still be a waste of time to get advice from people without a successful track record of working with Corvair flight engines.  Unless you’re immortal, it is dangerous to try to fly unqualified advice. Truth is that we are here and capable of flying for a limited time and homebuilt completion rates are way below 20%.

Crucial to understand: The successful builders are NOT chosen at random by fate from the pool of starters. The successful builders set themselves apart from the others with good decision-making. First and foremost in these decisions was choosing whose advice they would take, and whose they would ignore.

Everyone understands that if you wanted to climb to the top of Everest, you would hire a Sherpa, and the first question you would ask at his interview would be, “Have you been to the summit of Everest?” If his answer was “No, but all mountains are the same,” only a fool would hire him. Yet countless builders over the years have essentially accepted such an answer when asking for aircraft building advice. The connection between mountaineering and homebuilding is that they are both very expensive, they both have low success rates, and they both have a terrible set of penalties for taking unqualified advice.

I cannot sing nor dance, I will never graduate from charm school, and I have no valid advice on fashion or flower arranging. I cannot solve the Middle East peace crisis, I do not know the solution to the Riemann hypothesis, and I do not understand why some people drive Volvos. But, I do know Corvair flight engines. No one has guided more builders to successful flying. If your goal is to get to the top of this mountain, I am here to be your sherpa.

Today can be the day you decide that you will accept the homebuilding challenge. You will be willfully acknowledging that we don’t live forever, but you are not going to waste any more of your allotment on TV or the Net.  It would be great if each of us had a lifelong friend who cared enough to stop by, shut off our computer and throw our TV away, and drag us out to our garage and say, “Life has started, you missed the starting gun, get going now like you intend to win. Clean up the shop, buy a set of plans and get started. If you don’t start, you can’t win. You deserve this. Building things is how an individual combats a system designed to steal your pride, If you get started, real builders will rally to your side when they see your determination. Get Going.”

Few of us have such a friend. If you’re waiting for him to show up, chances are you are going to stay on the couch. The only solution is that you have to be your own best friend here, and make this happen for yourself.  Decide now. -ww


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