A question of Carb location…..

Friends,

We got a letter from builder “PJ” who asked this about carb location:

“All the Fly-Corvair designs have the carb slung under the engine while the evil Rotax has two on top as the Corvair motor had in its automotive configuration. Is there a good argument for leaving the intakes unmodified and having the carbs top-side? How was it done in the early Pietenpol models?”

PJ, I have photos of about 350 Corvair powered aircraft that have been built in the last 53 years. Of these only two or three had  2 carbs mounted on the stock intake flanges. I am going to say that none of these aircraft were even marginally successful.  Two of these aircraft had stock Corvair Rochester 1 barrel carbs and the other had a pair of Bing carbs.

To cover part of your question, Bernard Pietenpol always used carbs below the engine. In my workshop, carefully protected, is a Ford tractor carb. I treasure this because it was actually BHP’s own carb from an early Corvair conversion. (The carb was a gift from the Mensink brothers.) This carb was mounted on a manifold just like ours, but bolted up to the stock intake flanges on the heads. If you look at the very last page of your conversion manual, it has a picture of BHP standing next to the very first Corvair powered plane, a J-3 airframe. It has this same type of set up.

Why is the carb below? For one overwhelming reason: Because the plane can use gravity feed as a fuel system. Virtually every single classic light aircraft was set up this way. It is r-e-l-i-a-b-l-e. Compare gravity feed vs pumps that would be required by carb on the top: Carbs on the top are 2 times the carbs, you need a regular fuel pup, and of course a back up. then you need a fuel pressure gauge to tell you how the pumps are. you need a pump switch, and each pump needs it own breaker or fuse, and this all needs to be connected by wire, and you need to give some thought to better lines and AN connections because it all going to be under pressure. Now, does that sound simpler than having one carb under the engine? BTW, I have dyno tested the same engine with stock carbs, back to back vs a Stromberg from a 65 hp Continental, and below 3,600 rpm they had the same power output.

Issue#2 is aerodynamics. The stock carbs sit up 6.5″ above the intake log. The GM designed minimum height air cleaner used in vans and wagons adds a full 2″ to this height. A cowl that these carbs fit in would be big enough to house the 505 cid OX-5 V-8 in the previous story. I have seen picture of two Piets with stock carbs set up this way, and I am basically going to say that the people who pursued this needed to have a “mechanical intervention” where their friends showed up and all at once said to them “we love you, please just stop, we will find you help.”

The only person that actually tried to fly two bing carbs on the top of a Corvair was a builder of a “Lite Star” A design that looks like a kitfox from the very respected Canadian designer Morgan Williams. I know Morgan, and he was not fond of this guy, “Pavel” a recient immigrant to Canada from the Czech Republic. As predicted, the plane, which could have used gravity feed, instead a very complex set up and a cowling that looked like a shipping crate. It was a very poor performer. Last I heard from Pavel, (2007) he was in Vancouver and trying to start a business building Corvairs. I reminded him that his signature on the product rights agreement said he wasn’t going to do this, but his attitude was that his word was meaningless, and I couldn’t do anything if he stayed in Canada. My condolences to my friends in the frozen north who are hosting this guy. I really doubt my Great Grand parents had the same attitudes towards their new home land when the came through Castle Garden immigration station in the 1870s.

I particularly don’t like Bing carbs. People generally understand that Rotax as a company doesn’t place much emphasis on mechanical longevity, low parts count, simplicity nor field maintainability. Now, if you are going to look at using a carb off another engine, why choose the one that comes from a company that has values that are the polar opposite of things we are working for in the Corvair movement? There are vastly better motorcycle carbs than a Bing. Rotax just uses them because Rotaxes are from Austria and so are Bings. A few months ago I wrote a story about a guy who insisted on using a Bing on a brand new 3,000 cc engine. It leaned out and wasted the engine on flight#1. At the end of the photos I include a 1997 story about the joy of flying Bing carbs. It should change any ones mind, with the exception of a guy in Vancouver.

Above, I stand with Chris Heintz in the Zenith booth, sun n fun 2004. Our 601XL in the background. Look at how close the intake tube that is visible comes to the cowl. It is only 2″ above the log. You can’t put a Bing carb on an engine and put a cowl on it that is vaguely aerodynamic. They fit on the top of Rotax 912s because the Gear box makes the thrust line much higher than the crank on a 912. No one ever accused the typical 912 of having a really slick cowling.

For all the relentless talk of “PSRUs” (gearboxes and belt drives) I endured in the 1990s, few people mentioned that many PSRU engines had cowlings that looked like bath tubs. If you move the thrust line down on a plane to clear the carbs, your making something ugly with poor prop clearance, and poor motor mount geometry, not to mention your messing with the aerodynamics of the plane, without testing. All this, just to have two of the worlds poorest motor cycle carbs. Don’t even get me started about the fact that Bings are under pressure but don’t have threaded fittings on the fuel lines……

Above, Louis Kantors 601XL engine installation, built in my hangar in 2009. This is another view of how close the intake pipes are to the smooth cowling lines on a Zenith. We use the same intake on all Corvair powered planes with the exception of the Cleanex and the Panther (Dan sells those, they look nearly identical to ours but are different on the bottom to fit those airframes.) Note that this aircraft has a 45 amp tea cup ND alternator on it. I built a number of these as a test, they work, but there is no call for them. Notice that it displaces the oil cooler and makes the plumbing more complex. Today we are looking at direct drive rear alternators, a more promising idea that leaves the oil cooler in the standard location.

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.

Above is Randy Bush’s 400+ hour Pietenpol at Brodhead.  Note the intake pipes. It should be obvious that this plane would have a very blocky cowl with carbs on top. Note that this aircraft has a stock thrust line, about 3″ below the top longeron. There is even less space for carbs on top when we make the high thrust line mounts. Thats ok because the high thrust line gives more room under the engine for the carb, where it should be.

Above, the last original with a stock thrust line. Note the tiny bulges in the cowl to clear the intake tubes on the manifold that connect the carb under the engine to the stock flanges on the heads. Again, no space on this installation for carbs on top, and no reason to have that kind of complexity on a plane that can have simple gravity feed.

Most of the people who are looking at a carb on top of the engine are driven buy one of two things: they either want to find a ‘cheap’ carb or they don’t think I know what I am talking about when I say having a low carb doesn’t affect power output. I find the concept that a guy who has tested neither assumes that his guess is more valid that my 20 years of testing pretty annoying. On the subject of low-cost, it isn’t a stretch to say that I know more people building a Corvair engine for a  plane than any other person on Earth. While cost may be an initial attraction, the reason why people stick with it is to learn something, be proud of what they  have done, and experience this in the company of other like-minded aviators. In  the last 20 years, these people have largely been the ones who succeeded. I have  good reason to state that the ones looking for something ‘cheap’ were the first  ones to quit. Every unexpected penny eroded their reason for building.  Conversely, those who where here to learn build and share, viewed a lot of the  money they spent as an investment in themselves. If you want to fly cheap, rent  a Cessna 150. If you want to do something rewarding, fly something you built  with your own hands.

Above, a 1 barrel down draft ford carb. If you would like to read more on our testing of this, use the search box at the top of the page to find my story “in search of..the economical carb.” 

When I was little, I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. It hasn’t worked out that way.  Sad but true, the lasting portion of my working life boils down to what I have done with the Corvair. In reality, I am neither overly proud of it nor ashamed of it, just OK with it. This said, none of my work is to show cheap people what they can get  away with. My work is to show people willing to make a serious investment of  themselves (mostly time), that there are great rewards awaiting the individual  who perseveres on his own terms. In 30 years I will likely be dead and  forgotten. Between now and then I plan on spending as much of my time as  possible in the company on people who want to learn build, fly and have a good  time. If I ever seem short with some ideas, it is because my experience allows me to see something that many people miss: This vital finite resource isn’t money, it’s time.

Not in the free time sense, but in the years left sense. If you’re not young, nor a millionaire, then you have to make your shot count, you’re not going to get a do-over on this. Let my experience work to your advantage. Build as simple as a plane as you can, work on it every day you can, and understand that some components on it, like the carb, are going to cost money. There is a combination of simplicity/effort/money that can get a great number of people flying. You can be one of them, and the odds that you will be go up dramatically if you use my experience to avoid every mistake I made and paid for.

A personal example of why I don’t like Bing carbs; Steve Rahm, our neighbor at Spruce Creek, designed and built the ‘Vision’. It had a Stratus EA-81  Subaru with two Bings on it. Since they basically ran full time carb heat,  he wanted to try cool ram air in search of more power. He went as far as testing the set up with a gas leaf blower on the ground. He did this because some people said Bings don’t like ram air. On take off it worked great, until the plane hit 70mph over the trees at Spruce Creek. Then the carbs  shut off all by themselves. Plane slowed to 65, power comes back a little. Very  skilled flight at tree top level is executed. Several minutes of listening to  the rough engine clawing its way around the pattern.

He appears on final gliding  in. Steve was a new dad, and his own father had been killed in a plane when  Steve was a young man. I could not believe that I was about to witness a  horrific repeat of a family tragedy. He barely made it, touching down at 75  mph. People on hand thank God aloud. as the plane rolls out in the three point  attitude, the airspeed drops below 60, engine comes back to full power and tries  to take off on its own. Steve later tells me he almost had a heart attack at that  moment. He switches to a Lycoming with an MA3-SPA. which operates on the stone  age concept of the throttle opening and
closing when the pilot wants. (the throttle on a bing is controlled by a vacuum diaphragm) Steve is a  master skydive instructor with
4,000 jumps, he can keep his cool under pressure.  I figure most other pilots in a plane with a five mile per hour  wide speed envelope and 100′ altitude would have bought the farm. -ww

Mail Sack, Thanksgiving.

Friends,

Here are some letters on various topics. On the subject of Machine vs appliance, USAF (F-4)/ATP, 601XL builder Bob Pustell writes:

“I like your comments about machines verses appliances. I have spent several weeks reinstalling my overhauled 65 year old Franklin engine into my 65 year old Stinson airplane. Both are marvelous machines. Both are good for another 65 years. I could have done the installation more rapidly (or hired someone to do it) but part of the charm is doing the work, making the wire runs look orderly, getting the push-pull cables rigged just so, etc etc. The only down side to this infatuation is that the effort required to keep a two thirds of a century old airplane airworthy cuts deeply into my building time. I am enjoying myself.-Bob “

Zenith 650 Builder and CC#22 grad Brian Manlove writes:

 “William – and even “appliances” are not immune to the habitual machine lover… as can attest the numerous “gone forever” toasters, fans, and other consumer stuff that cannot escape the hand of the person who hates waste. Count me in for April – that will hopefully be my run-time. Thanks.”

Builder Don January writes:

“doing a great job, hope to fly soon corvair is done working on panel”

Builder Tom Griesemer sr. Writes:

“Absolutely!!! I want to be the first to sign up as Leesburg is only 75 miles from my home. I have only just started my engine (which you helped me find) but would like to bring it. I will be there. Thanks William.-Tom G.”

Sprint builder Joe Goldman writes:

Where my Sprint currently lives, Roy Hall , the owner of the place has a good crank and other parts for the OX5. He also has a restored but uncovered fuselage and I think wings for a 1927 travelair 2 seater just sitting there next to me. He also has a lathe that is 110 years old, still used with its AC/ DC electric motor and leather belt drive. It is geared for cutting various threads and my axles were made on it. My Corvair engine comes to Florida in Feb. Anyone wants to drive or fly, (Lantana airport is close) is invited. It is amazing where building a plane and a Corviar engine takes you. PS In 1968 I bought my love a 1953 stude starliner.-Joe”

On the subject of Corvair College #24 reviewed in pictures:

Aircamper builder Jon Coxwell writes:

“William, I want to thank you for all the time you spent with my engine at CC#24. It was such a joy when it finally fired up. I am certain that if I had tried to fire it up on my own that it would have been very frustrating. Now I know it runs and move forward. I hardily recommend to anyone using a Corvair to get to at least one of your colleges. My engine is now back in my shop on the bench.  I read through the 601 installation manual in the motel on the way home. There is certainly a lot of good stuff in there and I found a lot things that indeed will apply to my GN-1 (piet look alike). I anxiously await the manual you are preparing for the Pietenpol. Each College that I have attended, I have learned something new and made some new friends as well. I want to pass on, that my son was impressed with what you are doing and I believe he thoroughly enjoyed himself. I certainly enjoyed having him there. Living 2000 miles apart means we don’t see much of each other. Thanks again for your help and the great experience.-Jon Coxwell-GN-1 Aircamper”

SP-500 builder, Pratt-Whittney aero engineer and Corvair College#23 grad Spenser Gould writes:

“Impressive photos from cc24, looks like a lot of good process was made at the event by the builders, having my engine run on the stand in cc23 was very inspirational. The work from You, Dan & Ed is a big part in keeping the homebuilt movement going in today’s world.-Spencer”

Builder Dave Gingerich writes:

“Mr. Wynne, could you please send me an email address for Dave Aldrich. I would like to get the data for the Sensenich prop shown. I have a computer program that computes the thrust and horsepower for any speed and any rpm. I have data for the C150 prop, but haven’t been able to get any for a typical prop running on a Corvair powered slow airplane.”

Dave, Mr. Alderich is still working on the plane for the prop. Other than Corvairs, the only part of Aviation that I have some degree of mastery with is props. I have been a dealer for a number of different brands, tested dozens, collected a lot of data, set up an FAA prop repair station, and was lucky enough to have both Ernest Jones and Vance Jauqua as personal mentors on propulsion. ( this is like being able say your two guitar teachers were Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton) Let me offer this modest observation: All computer programs are based on an algorithm. Even an incredibly complex set of equations is going to be an incredibly simplified model of what is actually taking place. It is likely just OK at predicting behavior of run of the mill props because that is what virtually all the models are based on. Such a program isn’t going to be accurate at all in predicting the behaviour of a smaller diameter/ higher rpm prop like a Corvair. Ernest Jones had a PhD in this subject, and he directly showed me how a very complex 3D computer wind tunnel model of a prop,spinner/cowling/windshield model reviewed on one degree angle of attack increments painted a different picture of the required prop. If you want to learn more about props, read Fred Weick’s 1930 book. If you want a good prop for a plane your building, data from flying pilots is a far better predictor than computer programs.-ww

Zenith 650 builder Brian Manlove writes:

 “I’m really enjoying your posts once again… and sad that I couldn’t go to CC24. I just stopped by Kevin Purtee’s house yesterday and had a great visit. His garage is quite a testimonial to the great people in the Corvair world. It makes me feel really good to know that I am in the company of such folks and walking a proven path… and I’m inching ever closer. I just finished the right wing for my 650, started on the left, the fuselage is right around the corner. I want to finish N129BZ in 2013. Please keep the comments coming… I hope y’all have a great time at the event, and I’m looking forward to getting to another one as soon as I possibly can.-Brian”

Corvair College #25? Leesburg FL, April 5-7, 2013.

Friends,

This last weekend I went down to central Florida to the Leesburg airport open house. Our friend Arnold Holmes, host of the highly successful College #17, is campaigning for #25 to be held at Leesburg on April 5-7, the weekend before Sun n Fun 2013.  That event starts on Tuesday the 9th. Our thinking is that people can get two types of event in the same trip to the Sunshine state. Lakeland is only another 30 miles from Leesburg. Builders can come to the College, get actual progress done on their engine, and then drive down the road and take in a day of the Sun n Fun airshow and perhaps get a look at some non-Corvair stuff.

Arnold is the new president of the local EAA chapter, and he has revitalized and motivated the group. They stand ready to support the college, there is a large hangar there and camping right beside it. The field is tower controlled, but outside the mode C airspace. It has long smooth paved runways. The event sounds good to us, but I am specifically looking for builder feed back from people considering heading to this event. We are still planning on two other colleges in 2013, Chino CA and a return to Barnwell, (and possibly a mid-west event) but I would like to hear from builders about this proposed time and location for #25.

Above, Arnold Holmes, (in blue) Host of Corvair College #17, and I enjoy the prop blast of a running Curtiss OX-5 engine. We had fun running it at the Leesburg Airport open house over the weekend. It great because you can slow it down to 300 rpm and watch the external valve train go through its valve sequence. It belongs to a friend of Arnold’s. This engine is Ninety-Five years old. Why do I love simple machinery? because, of the 12,000 OX-5s made, maybe 100-200 are left, but the still work just as they did nearly a century ago. These engines are great Machines.

I am typing this on a Dell computer, a model they probably made 5 million of. This computer could be called a machine, but for all intents and purposes it isn’t. A computer is another thing entirely. It is an appliance. Is there anyone reading this who thinks that there will be a single 95-year-old laptop of this model working in the year 2105?

To me, the most basic division between a machine and an appliance is that a Machine is understood by a skilled operator and it is made to be maintained and rebuilt. Conversely, an appliance is likely to have a sticker that says “no user serviceable parts inside.” Almost no consideration was given to maintainability. When it stops working, almost all appliances are discarded by the consumers that used them. Note the wording: the owners were “consumers,” and the item was “consumed.” Virtually none of the users of appliances understand how they work, and the people who market them have no interest in informing them.

By my perspective a Corvair engine is truly a Machine, and a Rotax 912 is really just an appliance. Our goal is to have every Corvair operator really know his engine. Contrast this with the fact that almost no 912 owner will ever overhaul his 912. If they break or wear out, the most likely outcome is that another 912 will take its place.

My oldest friend runs one of the largest on-line automotive test drive and review services. He packages the reviews into broadcast quality segments that are picked up by the major news services. Because of the popularity of his product and his location in NYC, he has access to virtually any car made. This can be fun, I was with him last new years eve when he plowed a $175,000 AMG into a huge snow bank and got it stuck overnight. We have been friends since we were 13. We have never thought alike about cars: in high school he had a Datsun 280ZX, I had a V-8 Vega. In the last 35 years we have had endless discussions about cars, and by extension, Machines. The type of vehicles he likes have morphed with every new model year ever closer to being just moving appliances. It’s hard to look at them closely and see any single part that shows evidence that it was touched by a human hand, not a robot. They essentially ceased making vehicles that I would consider owning. But I have no complaint; this has driven me to develop enough craftsmanship to build my own. It has made me a happier person.  

Machines have a very important quality that appliances never have. You can really grow to love a machine, especially if you built it with your own hands, like your Corvair engine. It becomes a physical reflection of what you understand, can make, and know how to operate with precision. It isn’t the metal that you love, it the part of you that went into creating it. real builders, maybe 15% of the people in the EAA today,  reading the above statement understand immediately.  For the other 85%? Well, I guess that’s why they make appliances.-ww

Mail Sack, 11-18-12, Steel tubing, exhausts, advice….

Friends.

On the subject of Steel tubing and risk management;

601XL Builder and Flyer Ron Lendon writes:

“WW, I really enjoyed this article and was in the drag racing game in the 1970′s as a mechanic. Some of those experiences have prepared me to expect the unexpected and like the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”. The learning experiences of building and flying the Corvair powered CH601 have been one of the most enjoyable and exciting endeavors I have undertaken to date. Now that I’m getting older and wiser, I will be paying much more attention to the details of the proven path. Thanks for persisting my friend.”

Pietenpol builder, CC#24 grad, ATP/USMC, Terry Hand writes:

“William, You are correct that safety is not a “one trick pony”. Safety is a combination of choices, not just a single choice of steel tube over wood, for example. Safety is also a recognition of the human factor. The pilot who practices his/her emergency procedures, particularly his or her engine failure procedures, knows and flies the glide ratio of the airplane and keeps their skills up is far better, in my eye, than the pilot who kicks the tire, lights the fire, takes off, and then thinks nothing will happen when they fly 10 hours per year. But, as you have said many times, it is not safety. It is risk management.”

DC-3 owner, International aviator of adventure Tom Graziano writes:

“William, Spot on about the crash worthiness of steel tube fuselages. I’ve been around more than a few crashes. Steel tube holds up/protects the best IMHO. One AT802 crash in particular pretty much had only the cockpit remaining intact – the CSAR guys couldn’t believe the pilot survived, let alone got out and staggered down to a river to wait for rescue. (Pilot did sustain a fairly serious concussion from the ordeal.) My latest project is definitely steel tube. There are some good threads about crash worthiness over on http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com

“I will be changing my fuel tanks from a straight aluminum tank to a polypropylene tank inside an aluminum outer tank/box. Adds a little weight, but its a price I’m willing to pay for the extra margin. Self-sealing bladders are probably the best way to go, but their weight, maintenance, life limit, cost, and availability makes them not so feasible to me. I’ve decided to install self-sealing breakaway fittings at the tanks and one or two other key places. I saw a Super Cub crash once where the fuel lines pulled away from the tanks and drenched the occupants with fuel which self-sealing breakaway fittings would definitely have prevented. Fortunately, there was no post crash fire. I believe homebuilders give too little thought or serious consideration to flammability and fire. Toxic fumes from foam, upholstery and other things can kill just as fast as fire….”

Builder Tom Griesemer Sr. Writes:

“The 1960s were — individuals worth admiring.
This paragraph is so true…-Tom G”

Tom, I can think of no better example of the poisonous effects of celebrity culture and how degrading ‘entertainment mentailty’ is than Bruce Jenner. Once a genuine American Champion in the 1970s, today portrayed as a buffoon for the benefit of ratings and consumerism. I know a number of people who work in the national media. The only bias they share is an obsession to find a flaw in any effort, the gap in a personality, the small error in any advancement. This quest to degrade or critique betrays their very ugly view of human nature, a grotesque view that does not acknowledge, and can not permit, the recognition of a Champion or a Hero. They will never focus on how Jenner trained 8 hours a day for 6 years, living near poverty, to defeat the Soviet state trained athletes in the 1976 decathlon. Yet they gleefully show you his fall where he is brought to the pettiness of dealing with a vapid family without a single redeeming quality. They do not believe that an individual, even through intense effort, should be allowed admiration of  society.-ww

Builder, CC#5 grad. and linguist Dan Branstrom writes:

“Both my parents spoke Swedish first. My dad, because he was born in Sweden, and my mom, because she lived in a farming community composed of Swedish Immigrants.For her, it was easy, because her mother had been a school teacher. My dad learned English after he immigrated to the U. S. at 17. He put himself through an academy (high School), two years of college, then seminary, and left for China at 26 and learned to speak Chinese. I asked him what the hardest language for him to learn, and he answered, “English.”

I wrote all that because I understand how difficult it can be, particularly with all the homonyms we have and our hodgepodge of spelling rules we have because our language comes from so many disparate sources William, you do things with a flair, but you flare a tubing or an airplane.Knowing you, you probably flare an airplane with a flair.To get even more ridiculous, a very dramatic person at the scene of an accident would light a flare with a flair. Thanks for the essay on construction modes. The only thing I’d add would be that a good system of restraint is mandatory. At least a 4 point seat belt should be used.-Dan”

I include this note from Dan to show that he functions as my editor when Grace is out-of-town. The corrections often come in stylish sentences like above. Dan lives in CA and has been part of the Corvair movement for a long time and has a very interesting family history.-ww

——————————————————————

On the subject of Zenith Exhausts and Advice, Zenith 750, 3,000 cc Builder and Flyer Doug Stevenson (First person to fly a 750 on Corvair power) writes:

“William, I certainly agree with you….these discussion groups can lead you far astray. Much better to go straight to the “horses mouth.” Regarding this topic, my pipes fit perfectly 1/2″ below my 750 firewall, but I do not have any exhaust gaskets between my exhaust pipes and the pipes coming out of the heads. Should I have used gaskets? My engine seems to run and sound fine without any gaskets, and I cannot detect any signs of leakage. (Doug, I would put gaskets in, it’s a good idea-ww)

On another subject, some time back, I complained to you that my coil splitter was defective and would not allow the engine to run properly. I finally discovered the solution to the problem, but not until spending many hours searching for a solution and having four very experienced mechanics try in vain for several hours to fix the problem. I even sent the new splitter back to the factory for replacement without solving the problem. What was so confusing was that when bypassing the splitter and wiring directly from either coil to the distributor, the engine ran perfectly. I even flew the plane on one coil without the splitter for a short period until I discovered what was wrong. The answer was that the coils were wired with reverse polarity. I had learned many years ago from my hot-rodding days in the 1950′s that it didn’t matter whether the coil was wired from the power source to the + or – side of the coil, the engine ran the same. However, not so with a coil splitter, because the diodes in the splitter won’t allow the current to flow in the opposite direction. I’m bringing this to you now in hopes this information disseminated by you will save some other poor builder the problems I endured. Thanks, Doug Stevenson ps: My engine runs like a dream. I’m really happy with it.”

Doug, Thanks for the note. KR builder/flyer Dan Heath reversed the polarity on his coils before flying last year, and it took a bit of head scratching then also. I have had builders suspect the coil splitter, but I have never seen one fail. You are correct, sharing this type of detail advances the movement. I define success in aircraft building as the comparison between what a guy knows going in and how much he knows when the plane flies. Learning isn’t a common goal in all experimental aviation, but it is in the land of Corvairs.-ww

2,850cc Zenith 750 builder CC#22 grad Blaine Schwartz writes:

“William, I appreciate your comments regarding internet builders. I reread some of these posts and it is very clear the author has never seen the business side of a wrench. People just don’t get it: Carl Sandburg once wrote “experience is the best teacher” and there are no words that are more true that. sometimes the truth just hurts. I would much rather seek out the truth based on proven techniques than risk my life on some phony internet expert. Please keep pursuing the pure unadulterated truth for us who use logic in our aviation decision making.-Blaine”

2,850 cc powered Zenith 750 builder/flyer Jeff Cochran (3rd Corvair powered 750) writes:

“William, Every once in a while the photos do not show up on the post. When I click on the icon, it opens a new window that says I am no longer logged on to AOL, and ask me to log in. Would like to see the exhaust photos because I have the same situation. The pilot side has melted some of the fuse skin. I will use your dowel method to bend it down slightly. Meant to ask you about this, so glad it came up.- Jeff”

Jeff, The issue with some photos is that I have taken them out of emails, Grace has a way of correcting this later, but you have to hit F5 on the computer if I sent it out wrong in the first place, sorry about that, I am a troglodyte. Inspect the skin and make sure it’s only paint damage.-ww

Builder Jackson Ordean writes:

” It is the very ‘attitude’ that you exhibit that some folks apparently don’t like is the main reason I tend to believe every word. Don’t change it. I don’t know what to tell ya’ about these guys ‘A’ and ‘B’, except they’re giving the alphabet a bad name.-unabashed fan and future college attendee.”

Jackson, Both A&B are good guys in general, but that doesn’t mean that their advice nor judgment are good to follow. Its OK to be a Fan of the corvair and/or the movement, but I like friends not fans. At Oshkosh a guy told me that I come across as a “know it all” in my writing. I said I was some thing of a “know most of it” on Corvairs. I asked he if he would prefer getting his building information from some one who knew less about the engine or was unsure about their data? I also pointed out that I always tell people I am a caveman, a Luddite, and I can’t paint, fly complex aircraft, sing, dance, do differential equations, be civil with annoying people, or (as Dan Branstrom points out) spell. I am still mystified on how this could be read as being a “know it all.”-ww

On  crash worthiness, Sprint builder Joe Goldman writes:

“How about stress skin construction over aluminum .040 2024T3 oval bulkheads. The Sprint is the same size as the zenith 601 planes, 27ft wingspan, 19′ fuselage. and according to the designer uses 18′x4′ less AL sheets, then the HD601. If I am lucky stall at 38mph@1150lb with 9:1 glide. Off course I have to finish it to prove it.-Joe”

Joe, Sounds like a Sprint should fly a lot like a Zenith 601/650, which I think has a very good combination of factors. The 601s glide ratio was probably higher than 9:1 and is had a low min. sink rate. The Zenith 601/650 are a fairly good STOL planes, even if they are not perceived as such. Woody Harris just told be about landing his at a 1,400′ strip is a very remote part of CA and using less than 1/2 the runway.-ww 

Steel tube fuselages, “Safe” planes and 250mph accidents

Friends,

I recently saw parts of a discussion of the merits of different types of fuselage construction from a crash worthiness stand point. These discussions go on in homebuilt circles endlessly, and they are mostly harmless banter. People tend to have seen the results of a single accident, or have some type of favorite construction that they would like to promote as ‘crash worthy,’ mostly to reassure themselves that they have made a good choice.

In professional circles, there is little question that steel tube structures are the most crash worthy of the readily available methods of construction for light aircraft. People are entitled to disagree with this, but they would have a hard time statistically supporting their position. My degree from Embry-Riddle is in Professional Aeronautics, which was the accreditation term that covers the discipline of accident investigation. Even back then my focus was on light aircraft and we have 5 feet of shelf space on the sun porch devoted to books on the subject. If your thinking about a basic book on the subject, start with Thurston’s “Design for Safety.” All of the material and data on the porch supports the use of steel tubing.

One of the best ways to look at an issue is study an extreme example, like Ag planes. Almost every successful Ag plane design has a steel tube structure. These aircraft have a very high survival rate in accidents for a lot of reasons like the pilots being very skilled and the fact they almost all wear helmets, but the basic structure of the planes has a lot to do with it. The actual example I use below is just a little outside aviation, but it does a very good job of illustrating the protective nature of steel tubing in accidents.

There are a lot of other factors that go into aircraft safety. Some are often covered, others that are very important get little consideration. Example: Many people, especially people just learning how to fly, are fixated on STOL aircraft because they believe the quoted low stall speeds make a plane easier to fly and thus ‘safer.’ These same people never think about something I would gladly trade low stall speed for: Glide Ratio. Power off, many popular STOL planes have glide ratios of 4:1. The may have stall speeds of 30 mph power on, but they can not flair to land without power from such a speed. Arrive at the ground power off at this speed, pull the stick back and the plane will fly right into the ground. They commonly need to use 65 or 70 mph as a power off glide to have enough energy to flair and check the rate of decent. timing on this maneuver requires some skill, real training and a fair amount of practice. These planes do not “fly like a Cub.”

 If the engine stops in a STOL plane at 1,000′ AGL, you are going to be on the ground in 60 seconds or less, and you are barely going to get a 1/2 mile of ground distance covered in this glide. When you get to the ground you will round out at speed substantially higher than a Cub flairs at, and you will need to time the flair carefully because the energy will bleed off very quickly when you begin the flair. With practice, the actual ground roll can be very short.  A STOL airplane pilot who always flies power on approaches is probably not going to be able to self teach the above technique in a 60 second window the first time he has a power loss. To benefit from the airplanes capability, this must be practiced.

Contrast this with the 56-year-old 1-26 glider in our front yard. With no power or lift and 1,000′ AGL, it will have more than 9 minutes before it gets to the ground. It’s ground track will be more than 4 1/2 miles long. It has a 24:1 glide ratio clean, and 3:1 with the spoilers open and in a slip. the flair is the definition of forgiving. Our glider has 6,000 landings on it, it has never had the luxury of a single go around, and it has never had a single dent put in it in a landing. That’s 6,000 consecutive forced landings with a great outcome every time.  Yet listening to internet chatter about characteristics of ‘safe’ planes, glide ratio rarely comes up.

Food for thought: Here are some of the risk characteristics I think of in light planes, followed by the ratings from most desirable to least (None of this touches on the single most important factor, a skilled alert pilot.)

FUSELAGE CONSTRUCTION:

Steel tube–Composite—-sheet metal—-wood.

FUEL TANK MATERIAL:

rotationally molded—-bladder—-aluminum—-fiberglass

FUEL TANK LOCATION:

none (glider)—-tips—-wings—-leading edges——cockpit

STALL SPEED:

Low—— medium—-High

POWER OFF GLIDE RATIO:

24:1————-10:1—————4:1

TURN OVER STRUCTURE, ABILITY TO ESCAPE INVERTED AIRCRAFT: High—-low.

I think of the factors as a matrix. Consider the 1-26: It has a steel tube fuselage, no fuel tank, a low stall speed, a great glide ratio, and a steel tube roll over structure and the ability to discard the canopy in seconds by pulling two pins on the inside. Experience says this aircraft is pretty low risk in a forced landing. Conversely, you wouldn’t choose to be in a wood plane with a fiberglass fuel tank in the cockpit, a high landing speed a 5:1 glide ratio and no turn over structure. Chances are your airplane is in between these extremes, but you still have choices. I like the wing tanks instead of header tanks in Zenith HD and HDS models. If a plane had a fuselage tank, I would make it from aluminum rather than fiberglass. It a plane as an optional long wing, choose that. There are combinations I like and those I don’t. Example: I don’t mind flying planes with fuselage tanks, as long as the plane has a steel tube fuselage and the tank is not fiberglass. There are vetos, like no planes that are wood fuselages and pushers, no planes with stall speed much over 65 mph. There are particular designs I would fly, some I wouldn’t fly if you were willing to pay me a cubic foot of $20 bills, and some I wouldn’t fly with a pistol at my head. These are my opinions, the point is to develop your own.

A single factor isn’t king: Two Pietenpols, one steel tube the other wood, which is ‘safer?’ If the wood one has no header tank, strong cabanes and is in CG, I would fly it before I would fly a steel tube plane with a fiberglass header tank, dinky cabanes and an aft CG.

Dan Weseman has a personal rule I find interesting. He will not fly a plane that can not out climb it’s glide slope. If he takes off and climbs out at full rate, he has to know that the plane can turn around and glide back to the airport. For a plane that climbs at 60 mph and has a 10:1 glide ratio, it needs to climb at better than 528 fpm. Ultralights make the grade even though the have poor glide ratios because their rate and angle are both very good.

Keep factor #1 in mind: Who is flying? I would rather land a fast wooden plane at night with a zip lock bag of 100LL in my lap, a lit Cuban cigar in my teeth and my feet chained to the rudder pedals than take a trip around the pattern on a sunny day in a Stearman with some of the pilots I have met. I am serious. Avoid these people like your life depends on it, because it does. Make it your goal in aviation not to be one of these pilots.

Back to looking at a single factor, the steel tube fuselage.  Here is the best example of their strength: Top fuel dragsters. Their frames are steel tube structures, made very much in the same way as aircraft fuselages. A fuel rail weighs about 2,000 pounds. take everything off but the steel tube chassis, and it weighs about 400 pounds. The tubing is bigger than light planes, but most planes don’t go 325 miles per hour and none have 7,000 hp. Below is a link to a phenomenon of the 1980s called a “Blowover” I was present at the 1986 summer nationals at Englishtown and saw the very first one from the 800′ mark on Garlits’s side. It was stunning in person. He flew by backwards going 225 mph.  Watch the video to know that Garlits is the greatest show man on earth because he drove back down the track to the middle of the grand stands, got out on his own, stood up and took a bow. 75,000 fans went wild, we had just seen the greatest moment ever in Drag racing, the purest of American motor sports.

The link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0KmGfBCJtQ

(Above) The 1990 photo of Don Prudhomme’s wreckage in Montreal. It is outside the rail, and went over backwards at 250 mph. The lightly built front end is gone, but the drivers section is intact. This was one of two wrecks like this for him in one season. He was protected enough to not only live, but come back a week later and compete.
.

 There is no wood structure that could be built as a chassis for a fuel rail that would protect a driver in a blow over. Steel tubing works. Notice the drivers get right out of the dragsters even after the most violent of blow overs. Prudhome, Hill and Collins were all doing more than 250 mph. When you watch the details, notice that dragsters don’t have diagonals in the frames. They do this to be flexible in ways that are not desirable in fuselages. People often talk about energy absorbing structures, but they must deform without exposing the occupants. Steel tubing passes this test. Wood often does not.

 Don’t know much about drag racing? Your missing the drama of dueling and the sound of pure thermo-mechanical violence. Ask any person who has felt (it goes way beyond hearing) the launch of two 7,000 hp dragsters and they will tell you nothing compares with it.  If you are a Corvair builder who thinks our favorite engine sounds sweet, you will love it. If a person likes the sound of a Rotax 912, I am sorry, they can’t be helped.

 The two photos below tell an interesting tale. All of the dragsters in the blow overs are rear engine models. These came into being in the 1970s. If you think that the blow overs required people of a particular courage to keep racing, you are correct. But if you asked any of them, they would all gladly testify that the required courage was less than what it took to drive Front engined fuel rails, arguably the most demanding and dangerous motor vehicle.

 These emerged in the 1960s. Advances in engines made thousands of hp available before chassis design caught up, and when safety was drivers in open-faced helmets, sitting on the ring and pinion, with the clutch between their legs, and a raging blown Chrysler in front of their face. These were very special humans with the courage to do this.

The 1960s were a period of time when we generated a number of people willing to take risks to achieve something. To me, Don Garlits and Neil Armstrong had more in common than most people noticed. Advanced education gave Armstrong a different path than a young man from Ocala FL in the 1940s could hope for, but in their own arenas, their personal courage and their willingness to engage calculated risk made them legends. Today our society is obsessed with celebrity culture, people famous for going to rehab, actors with little talent, talk show people with nothing to say, and all day to say it. It is a distorted reality, and I choose to ignore it and focus on a time when we thought more clearly and knew what made individuals worth admiring.

Aviation, particularly Experimental Aviation is one of the very few pure arenas left where you as an individual can personally challenge yourself and develop your skills and hone your craft. Even in experimental aviation, ever more people are looking for a short cut where they don’t have to learn, where they can get done instead of mastering the task. People who think that way have been poisoned by consumer-celebrity society, and their path doesn’t go far. I have been in aviation for a quarter of powered flight and half the history of experimental aviation, and I will absolutely state that the people who get the rewards of learning, building and flying are only the people who are willing to devote themselves to mastering each of these steps. If you are building your own engine to master it, if you are willing to really understand flight, they you will have your place among people of real values and courage.

 Above, Don Garlits in a front engine blown fuel rail at the moment of the drive line detonating under 2,500 hp. He has just lost most of his right foot. It would be easy to understand if he never got back in a dragster again, but Don Garlits was the kind of American that we respected because quitting wasn’t part of his DNA. He came back from this and competed for 20 more seasons. This event is 16 years before the first blow over. I choose to spend as much of my life in Aviation as possible, because aviation still respects commitment, persistence and courage.

Your fellow Corvair builder, Myron Pickard, above left, (with Archie Frangoudis at Corvair College #14). Myron is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame, and one of the owners of the New England Dragway. Myron was a nationally known competitor running front engine top fuel rails with blown Chryslers. Running 6.6’s at over 200 mph with a 2,500 hp Hemi sitting right in your lap is not for the timid. This era predated national sponsorships, and Myron, like most of his competitors, wrenched on the car and drove it. Today he’s working toward a more subtle experience, flying behind a Corvair.-ww

Stainless Zenith exhaust notes, poor Internet advice.

 

(If you are having trouble seeing the pictures in this article, it is because I am a computer troglodyte. I will have the Brains and Looks of the outfit correct this shortly, check back in the afternoon and hit F5 or Refresh. -ww)

Friends,

Our friend and 601 builder Russell Johnson sent the following photos of a fit issue with a stainless Zenith exhaust we made in our jigs for him.  The issue he was having was that when bolted up, the pipe touched the base of the firewall. He was asking for advice on this. I covered the simple 5 minute solution for him in a private e-mail the same morning he sent the note.  Russell also asked the same question on an Internet discussion group for Corvairs which I can read, but I am banned from posting on. (I lack civility at times.) The response he got is posted below the pictures, and it is a fair warning not to listen to some advice you get on the Internet, even when it come from seemingly credible sources. I have no issue with Russell, I am just highlighting the point that customer service issues on parts we sell are always better answered by us directly than by looking for a quick answer on the Web. Discussion groups serve a purpose, but answering installation questions on products we sell isn’t one of them, especially if I am barred from responding on that group. If you’re new to homebuilding let this serve to open your eyes to the limitations of quick answers from strangers.


 

Above, a photo of our stainless Zenith exhaust fitted to Russell’s 601.  First let me point out that we have made nearly 250 of these exhaust sets in the 9 years we have been putting Corvairs on Zeniths. You can see on our FlyCorvair.com Web pages the yellow 60-pound jig they are made in, and see that the CNC bent pipes are absolutely unchanged since 2005. Additionally the blue Zenith motor mount jig we have that makes mounts from CNC pre-cut tubing sets has also been in place, unchanged for nearly 300 mounts. We have more than 60 Zenith 601s flying with mounts and exhausts that came from these tools and work together. The logical question is what is different about Russell’s aircraft that it has an issue?

Several small things that the person who responded on the Internet blew right past. First, we didn’t build Russell’s engine mount. It is a very good job, but it is his craftsmanship. Second, he is using the gold washers under the red mount bushings. We generally do not use these; we put the red bushings directly on the mount. Beyond these points there are other factors that come into play. The Zenith firewall is set in the plane at 13 degrees leaned back. It takes a very small variation in the installation to affect the fit of the exhaust because of the length of the pipes. There are also variables on how the mounts are torqued up. There are also variables in the fit and thickness of the exhaust gaskets and the condition of the pipes coming out of the heads. But either way, there is a very simple solution to resolve any of these variables.

 

Above, a close up of the fit at the head. The pipe isn’t square because the other end is touching the bottom of the firewall and preventing it from laying flat. This view also shows the bottom gold washer we do not use. The graphite exhaust gaskets are Clark’s part number C-479C. There is some variation in them, and if you have a thin one near the firewall, it will make the exhaust pipe close to the bottom of the aircraft. Additionally, these gaskets seat on the flange welded onto the pipe extending from the head. Many heads have this flange corroded or bent, allowing the exhaust pipe to be displaced. If you have one of these in your heads, it needs to be replaced. We have also seen a front stack that was not seated in the head make the exhaust too close to the firewall. Issues with the stacks are easily seen by observant builders, as when they are correct, they are all in a line and the same height. Remember that you cannot change a stack with the head bolted on the engine, because the pipe will not pass the upper head stud to come out. Heads that went to Falcon have already had these things checked out.

Above, sharp eyes will notice that the engine here is just in the mock-up stage, it does not have lower cylinder baffles nor any pushrod tubes. For the sake of fitting the exhaust, I am assuming that Russell bolted the heads down firmly. The mount bolt appears to be torqued down the correct amount, where the top red bushing is the same size as the top gold washer. Many of the points I bring up here make a small difference, but two of them can add up to thinking that the system is wrong. In Russell’s case, I think that the largest variable is the fact that we did not make the mount, but either way, it is easily resolved.

The correct clearance from the bottom of the fuselage is only 1/2.” This may sound tiny, but the Corvair does not move much in flight. The most the engine moves is actually when the starter is cranked on the ground. If it doesn’t touch while cranking, it will not touch in flight. Why so close? The pipe is 1.5″ in diameter and it is going through a small cooling slot. If it hung down 2″ it would not only have more drag, it would also be touching the cowl. The smooth running Corvair does not need the same pipe clearance that is required on a 200hp angle valve 360 Lycoming. If the installed pipes don’t clear, the simple solution is to bolt them up tight to the head, insert a 1-3/8″ wooden clothes hanger dowel from Home Depot six inches in the end, and gently bend the pipe to the required shape. Wont that crack it? Absolutely not. Get a look at the pipe: it starts out life as a straight piece of tubing 20 feet long. It isn’t heated when it is formed, it is bent cold. It is a particular heat-treat of 304 stainless specifically designed to bend at room temp and never crack. This isn’t just some stainless I picked out at a muffler shop. These are formed by the same company, of the same alloy and on the same machines that make every Power Flow exhaust. I have gently bent 10 or 12 of the pipes we have installed on aircraft. Many of these have been flying hundreds of hours without issue. This is the proven and simple way to have the exhaust fit your aircraft exactly without having to make the cowls with a big giant hole to account for all possible variables.

On the Internet advice issue: Below is a response written by a guy on the Web to Russell’s question. Notably, the guy did get an exhaust and a mount from us six years ago. He put it on his aircraft. Is he in a good position to offer fabrication advice? Not really, his career was in architecture, and most importantly, his plane was wrecked on one of the first flights it made. His test pilot made an error, but when you read the reply below, maybe you can get the picture that this man’s decision-making also played a factor in the accident. His choice of welders and test pilots as local “experts” isn’t good.

The Internet solution:

“I had the exact same problem.  I had a stainless steel fabricator friend of mine try to bend it without success.  He finally cut the pipe and mig welded it back to an acceptable configuration.  I think the cut was at the last bend.  It was a real geometric puzzle, but we made it work.”

Really? Does this sound easier that a wooden dowel and a few minutes? Let’s take it step by step: I can bend these pipes with 20 to 30 pounds of pressure on the dowel. Next, only an idiot would MIG weld a 304 exhaust. 304 is only welded with high-end TIG welders after we back purge the whole pipe with argon. We post flow all the welds for 30 seconds and pay a lot of attention to weld sequence and heat build up. Next, mig welds are brittle, the last thing you want in an exhaust. We have carefully studied the Zenith systems over hundreds of hours, and I came to the conclusion that they were better off without any clamps or supports on them. They are a specific length and stiffness that they will not resonate, nor crack, but they do flex a tiny bit just where this guy and his buddy put a brittle MIG butt weld that isn’t purged, so the inside of the pipe is certainly charred. If the pipe broke at that spot in flight in a Zenith, you would have a very good chance of having a fire. If you don’t fly sitting on a parachute, think that one over. We specifically have these tubes bent in one piece so that there is no chance of that type of failure. Here is a guy telling other people to do something very dangerous. … and totally unnecessary.

Hey William, why are you such a jerk about a small detail like this? What happened to live and let live? Can’t we all be friends? Airplane building isn’t tee-ball or junior soccer. Score is kept here by two very impartial referees, Physics and Chemistry, and when one of these guys decides to eject you from the game, you’re likely to get benched for eternity.

Yeah? So what. I’m not going to follow that guy’s advice when I build my Zenith so why make a big deal out of it? What is the cost to me if the guy gives bad advice if I don’t listen? Go back and read my story I wrote 2 months ago called “If only someone had told him.” It was about Guy A’s Zenith getting destroyed by Guy B when Guy A decided against my advice to play flight instructor. Ready for this? The person offering exhaust advice here is “Guy B” from that story. His own Zenith was totaled by an “Expert,” but “Guy B” had it insured and got a big pay off. On round two he was at the controls when Guy A’s 601 was also destroyed. Three more and Guy B is going to be an Ace. How does this affect you? Planning on buying insurance? Would you like to know how much the rates go up when 2 aircraft in a small pool are destroyed?

I have almost 10 years of work in the Corvair/Zenith combination. We did it the right way, and bought a new kit for ourselves from the factory, worked with them, not against them, did all the testing, developed the parts, wrote an Installation Manual, assisted many people, traveled far and wide and made countless house calls that no one ever was asked to pay a dime for. We have stood behind everything we have done, and never considered using an LLC as a legal loophole to run out on builders. In this endeavor we have been assisted by many Zenith builders who made the process easier and offered encouragement when the light at the end of the tunnel was far away. Does this entitle me to some special award or praise? No, it was just a challenge that I willingly took on, and if some Zenith builders choose it, that is compliment enough. However, what I do not deserve, and our builders don’t deserve, is dangerous advice from Internet experts.-ww

 
 
 
 

Mick Myal, aviation writer and editor, passes.

Friends,

Word came from Contact! magazine editor Pat Panzera, that Mick Myal, the founder of the publication, noted experimental aviator writer and editor, has passed away. Mick was known to thousands of traditional homebuilders from attending countless airshows, the books he published and the magazine articles he wrote, the but he will always be best remembered for founding Contact! magazine in 1990 and editing its first 70 issues.

Above, Mick in the yellow shirt captured in a humorous photo greeting the president of EAA Chapter #1,000 in 1998.  This is how I think of Mick, out in the sun, meeting people, a smile and a camera. Of all the people I have met in aviation journalism, Mick was one of the very few to be respected by all kinds of builders. His work to document good ideas and the craftsmanship of individuals is timeless. People will be using the information in his publications 25 years from today.

When I was first getting started Mick and his wife Sue went out of their way to make sure we had an impartial venue in which to be heard. He arranged the engine forums at Sun n Fun for many years, and always included us in the roster, even when we were very small potatoes. They also published the first good story on our work and had our engines on display in their booth at airshows. I need to say that this wasn’t special treatment, 20 other small aviation companies could offer a carbon copy of this thanks to Mick. He liked, documented and offered a forum to all kinds of people in the world of experimental aircraft. He had planes and engines that he was personally fond of, but he covered anything that builders were interested in.

If you have gotten into building in the last ten years, it is very hard to appreciate how powerful aviation magazine editors were before the rise of the internet. Most of them assumed that their personal view of what was “good” should be the only thing to make it into the limited space. In the 1990s the then editor of kitplanes didn’t like anything low tech or simple. Even when we flew Corvair powered planes to airshows he refused to photograph them, and instead covered many engines that arrived on trucks as long as they had water pumps, a “PSRU” and EFI. Other editors would not cover a story unless they were essentially bribed with motels, rental cars and in some cases plane tickets. This was an unpleasant reality of our industry.

In complete contrast, Mick Myal impartially covered every story that made sense, he never let his personal preferences filter what got to readers. He pioneered having incredibly detailed user reports, loaded with real performance numbers. He broke the rules by telling people what planes actually cost to build. He had no advertising in his publications, and he was beholden only to subscribers. He was immune to flattery. He never spoke about his personal experience when there was a chance to listen to some one elses. In his later years, Pat often escorted Mick to airshows. When ever Mick stopped by a forum I was giving, I took the time to introduce him as “The most respected journalist in experimental aviation.” The ensuing applause may have made him a little uncomfortable, but I said it anyway, just because it was true.

While Contact! always covered airframe developments also, it is largely thought of as an engine publication. When Mick got started, the hand full of books and stories promoting auto engine were completely useless, and frequently dangerous bull shit. I spell that out in full so that people today understand that the ‘standard’ of the time was that it was OK to write stories that said auto engines that had never flown weighed less and were more reliable than certified ones. The people who made money promoting this never flew the stuff, but readers who thought they did often spent years building things that would never work or work just long enough to kill them. Before the internet, one man, Mick Myal, made a mission out of educating builders about the good, bad and ugly of experimental aviation. If you missed that era, I am here to tell you that those of us that lived and worked our way through it have very special reason to hold the memory of Mick in high regard. If you have a Corvair engine on your plane or in your shop, know that this man played a positive role in making that possible, in an era when it was really needed.

Mick was always sharply dressed and professional. To meet him, you might think he had a big machine, 40 or 50,000 subscribers. In reality is was a small fraction of this, but Mick was always after quality, not quantity. He probably never saw much of a financial return for his years of publishing, but you would do much better in measuring his wealth by the number and quality of his friends. At airshows in the 1990s that were becoming ever more consumer-spectator showcases, Mick’s Contact! magazine booth was always an oasis for technical people. It attracted a cast of real thinking characters like Vance Jauqua and Steve Parkman, at any given moment spilling over with builders all discussing things they tried and making sketches on paper and looking at each others photos. In the middle of it all, Mick would stand there with a slight smile on his face, undoubtedly pleased with what he had accomplished.

Blue skies and tailwinds to you Mick, thanks for many good things.-ww