Holiday Hours, shop dates, Family notes.


The last two weeks of December are traditionally slow in the Corvair movement with builders being focused on their families. We are no different, in a few hours I am driving North to NJ, as our family is gathering there in the 16th for my father’s 87th birthday. I will be out of the shop and away from the phone until after Christmas. I will be able to answer e-mail intermittently, and a have a few web updates planned. Grace will be here to fill a few last-minute orders before taking a break to be with her parents. We will be back in limited operation the week after Christmas and in full swing just after the first of the year. If you send us an email, please include your phone number and a good time to call, I can answer many of these questions from the road by phone. 

The Holidays are a time to be thankful for the things we have received in life, and above all else, I am thankful for having my parents. What ever good qualities I may have, they are directly attributable to my parents, and the faults I have are the places where I have failed to be the type of person my parents deserved in all of their children. Below are a few notes on my father’s life and things he has done in 87 years on the planet and 63 years of marriage with my Mother. I hope that each of you take time to consider what we each have been blessed with and have a chance to share this with family and friends.

From The Family Photo Album, A Salute To the real William Wynne, my father. The photo above was taken by the U.S. Navy in early 1968. In my 5-year-old hand, I hold the Bronze Star awarded to my father during his 1967 tour in Vietnam. My father enlisted in the Navy during World War II, graduated from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1949, served in both Korea and Vietnam, and in the final total, spent 33 years on active duty. Between 1976 and 2001 he worked for the worlds largest engineering firm EBASCO, which later became Ratheon engineers and Constructors. He was the Manager of Advanced technology. For 24 years his office was a corner window on the 89th floor of World Trade Center tower two.  On 9/11 he took a very rare day off. Below this are a few paragraphs of that story. In his life my father has had a number of close calls including being in Hong Kong for the opening phase of the “Cultural Revolution” in 1966 were the communist Chinese attacked the city before going on to kill millions of their own people. In each case my father has always said that the focus should be on those that were lost, and it is an egocentric and myopic view to think of these events personally. This philosophy started early, as 29 of my father’s high school friends who enlisted in the Navy were killed in a single day, November 13th 1942.

Family Notes from the 10th anniversary of 9/11

I took the photo above on 9/12/01. The letter is taped to Washington Rock, a 500′ ridge a few miles from my parents’ house in N.J. It has a direct view of lower Manhattan from 10 miles. Hundreds of people stood in silence there and watched the smoke pour out of the city. The letter was a note to a dead friend promising to take care of his children and to raise them as he would have. Below it is my Father’s business card. Note the address of World Trade Center #2. My father capped his 33 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy with 24 more years working on projects like the fusion reactor at Princeton and directing the construction of more secure U.S. embassies after Tehran. I often remind people that I am not a licensed engineer, but I do know exactly what one looks like.

This week it is well worth taking time to remember what happened 10 years ago. People who have known me for a long time know that my father worked on the 89th floor of World Trade Center Tower Number Two for more than 20 years. On 9/11/01 I was recovering from an accident at my parents’ house in New Jersey. My father took the day off from work after the eye doctor called to let us know they had time for me due to a cancellation. This turned out to be a fortunate twist of fate. My father’s original plan was that he and I would go to his office for a few hours and head uptown at noon to see some of his friends at the monthly Naval Academy alumni meeting. Although I could just barely hobble around, my father thought it would be good for me to get out of the hospital mode and say hello to his colleagues and friends.

We were in the doctor’s office about 15 miles away when news that a plane had struck Tower One came. It was a crystal clear blue day outside, which removed the possibility of a mistake, and when the news came a few minutes later that it had been an airliner, it was the first moment when we understood that something very ominous had happened.

About 250 people worked on my father’s floor. Many of them, like my father, had been trapped in the smoke-filled building for hours during the 1993 bombing. These people followed the evacuation order that came minutes after the first plane. The elevators were shut off and they began to walk down. A number of people, despite being able to see the other burning Tower 200 feet away, did not leave. None of them survived. The people who left later reported that they had walked down to the 44th floor when the building was rocked very hard. It was the second plane hitting 500 feet above them. They continued down and were able to walk 5 to 10 blocks away before it fell. Listening to the stories of my father’s coworkers, it was very hard to see how I would have hobbled down the stairs in my condition, and I know that my father would not have left me, even if I begged him to. Getting one call from the optometrist had given us a future.

At sundown we sat in the kitchen, as did people all over America. The telephone rang many times, people asking if Dad was O.K. I answered a long series of these quick calls which were punctuated by a number of people asking if my father had seen theirs leaving the building that day. I could offer them nothing but hope. They were searching for a shadow of doubt that they would not find. I gently hung up the phone each time and felt a palpable mixture of luck and guilt that I would keep my father and they would probably never see theirs again. Their voices contained a desperation that stays with you even 10 years later.

My opinion of things done in American foreign policy in the past ten years is no more valid nor enlightened than any one else’s. I am in the 97% of my countrymen that have never set foot in the places we have sent people. If you are in the other 3%, please know that you have the profound respect of both Grace and myself. My Father is a WWII, Korea and Vietnam veteran. By observation and understanding, all of the members of my family came to know that warriors have never set America’s foreign policy, they just paid for it. If you are reading this from a deployed position somewhere in the world, it is our most profound wish that you and the members of your unit safely return. I say this with the understanding that my life would have added up to very little had my father not returned from Vietnam in 1967. Both Grace and I wish you many rewarding years ahead.

World’s Strongest 3,000cc Corvair, built by Greg Crouchley

If the pictures are small, press F5 at the top of your keyboard.


Below is the story of Greg Crouchley. He is a Waiex builder from Rhode Island. Many people in the movement have met Greg at the past few Colleges or at Brodhead or Oshkosh. He is a very friendly and outgoing guy. At first glance you might not see the inner motorhead. Greg’s normal stomping ground is in international manufacturing, and I have never seen him without a collared shirt on, even when he was building his engine at Corvair College #24.  But this is camouflage for a guy who has a long background of getting his hands dirty. Spend a few hours with him and listen between the lines, and you will understand that the things he is most proud of accomplishing were all things he did with his own hands. The Corvair is a natural match for anyone who understands this. Below is a link to a video of Greg’s engine running a few nights ago. While you watch this, understand that Greg is a man who has worked for and earned his share of success in life, but building and running your own engine is still a triumphant moment:

Greg’s engine is a 3,000 cc powerplant that features one of Dan Weseman’s new Billet Crankshafts. This is the second one to run after the Panther prototype engine. For this reason Dan and I invited Greg to bring the engine down to Florida for a supervised test run. Greg did 80% of the assembly at CC#24, went home for the rest of the assembly, and drove back to Florida for the test run (he is a serious road warrior). Dan pointed out that the engine has new forged billet rods in it which are slightly stronger than the original GM forged rods, so to be technically correct, Greg’s engine can now be said to be the world’s strongest Corvair flight engine. The engine features all of our Gold components, our High Volume Oil Pump, Falcon heads, our Powdercoated Valve Covers and an E/P Distributor.

One of the things I find interesting is Greg’s arrival in the Corvair movement. He has been flying light aircraft for about a decade. Almost all of it was done in LSA aircraft with many different types of engines. Greg actually built and owns a Jabaru 3300 powered Lightning that he likes and flys a lot, but for this round he was searching for access to a very different experience, an angle only covered by the Corvair. His Jabaru may say something about what he can afford to buy, but his Corvair says a lot more about who he is. If a homebuilder is just looking for an engine that will run and operate, than a Rotax or a Jabaru will do just fine. However, if he is looking for something he can understand, build and master, then the Corvair is the only game in town. How many people have you heard say, “We built our last home.” Now think about how few of them actually meant they drove the nails and wired the light switches. When Greg speaks about building his first house, he is speaking of driving the nails. People speaking of houses at cocktail parties don’t know the difference, but carpenters and framers can tell the difference at 100′, and collared shirt or not, you get the impression that Greg would rather find himself on a job site with carpenters than at a cocktail party with posers. Even if you don’t have a mechanical past to identify with, understand that the most important single element of my building philosophy is that I run the Corvair movement and all of our Colleges as a Pump, not a Filter.  We are working to support builders who are seeking to develop or improve their personal mechanical capabilities and experience. It is about developing any standard that you set for yourself. I am not here to run a program for people who have some mechanical background, but are too lazy or closed-minded to learn today. A filter is about calling some people ineligible, and to my way of thinking, that is B.S. I am here to assist anyone interested in personal progress. I don’t care what your starting point is. I have vastly more respect of an absolute beginner who has never changed the oil in a car but wants to learn than I have for a “know it all” guy who is reluctant to learn anything from me because his ego wont allow it. 


Above, Dan Weseman, myself and Greg stand behind the running engine just outside the hangar door. We gave the engine a 40 minute test run, which it did flawlessly. The engine started after 2 seconds of cranking and ran beautifully without the slightest adjustment.


Above, Greg gives thumbs up, and is wound up, just like his engine. Do you think he would feel this way if this were the first run of a buy-it-in-a-box engine with a sticker on it that said “no user serviceable parts inside”? Key point: If someone gives this kind of reaction to an “appliance,” they have a shallow understanding of the words challenge and achievement. This type of reaction is only called for when a man builds a real machine, understands it, and is there to see this achievement confirmed on the first run.


Above, the following morning, Greg and I took the engine off my run stand and put it in the car for his long drive north to R.I. Greg is installing the engine in a Waiex airframe (the V-tailed version of the Sonex), thus the engine has a Reverse Gold Oil Filter Housing. We developed these many years ago to allow the Gold Oil System to clear the fuel filler neck on the Sonex based airframes. The Reverse units also fit a number of other very tight fit applications, but 90% of the Gold Filter Housings we sell are the Standard ones. Every other part on Greg’s installation is common to all of the other Corvair engine installations we teach people to build.

Eight years ago, the very first person to fly a Corvair in a Sonex performed a number of rough modifications to the Corvair to get the engine to use the VW mount and cowl. This included bolting the engine mounts to the top cover and sawing off the intake logs and replacing them with a weak O-ring connection. The plane flew, but it wasn’t a configuration that builders wanted to emulate. Dan Weseman’s approach was very different: For his Sonex airframe he built a new mount and cowl, and used the Corvair just as we built them for other installations. At the time there was an Internet debate about which was the correct approach. The only people who didn’t see the logic of Dan’s method were people who had never built a plane before, people with opinion but no experience.

The simplest way to understand this is looking at Lycoming powered homebuilts. Anyone who said they were going to put an O-320 Lycoming on their plane, but were going to make crudely bolted on adaptors so it could be put on a Continental mount and they were going to put a saws-all on the intake system to get it in a Continental cowl would be regarded as mentally troubled and in need of an intervention. It would be regarded as some type of hoax or comments from a fringe personality. Only in the realm of Internet discussion groups for conversion engines would such actions be heralded as “innovative.”  You want to know why auto engine conversions have a bad name on the surface in some homebuilding circles? It because some auto engine fans, people without experience, would applaud and praise an approach to engine installation that Lycoming fans to a man would all regard as incredibly poor. As long as people without experience praise poor ideas in conversion engines, auto engines will have public detractors. I don’t like it when these people don’t discriminate between the work we do and the misguided efforts of zealots and cheapskates, but this is the origin of many homebuilder’s aversion to conversion engines.

In complete contrast to the poor approach, Dan Weseman has had a tremendous amount of success with his Corvair installation components for Sonex airframes precisely because he was willing to make the two airframe parts that would allow him to use everything we had already proven to work for the Corvair. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it was a big source of Internet debate years ago. Today Dan has about a dozen “Cleanexes” flying, two have nearly 500 hours on them. On the other side of the coin, none of the fans of radical modification to the engine to get out of buying a mount or cowl ever built anything. They didn’t know it at the time, but their philosophy that espoused being cheap as a cardinal rule doomed them to toil without success and then watch from the sidelines as others with a real approach succeeded. Let’s hope they got a lot of satisfaction out of  calling me a “censorship bully” on the Internet for only promoting a path that I knew would succeed. Successful people are willing to learn from others and build on what has been shown to work. The biggest point here is that Dan Weseman has certainly proven himself to be a first order innovator in the Corvair  movement, but eight years ago, people who had built nothing criticized his approach of building on what we had already proven as non-innovative. Far from gone, the same critics are still on their discussion groups today, making comments that will prove just as inaccurate with the passing of time. If you want to win at homebuilding you have to ignore these people and listen to qualified advice from people who have made successful aircraft installations. 


A detail of Greg’s Electronic/Points Distributor. I am now sending out these distributors with an optional three pin Weatherpack connector. These are the automotive industry standard connector for modern cars. It is easy to disconnect, but has a positive locking feature. We also send with it the matching connector for the airframe’s wiring harness, pre-wired with 6′ of aircraft wire. This system allows the distributor to be removed or replaced without going after any wiring connections other than the plug. You don’t even need to take the cap off the distributor to remove the points wire. These connections are vastly superior to spade terminals or standard crimps, especially in the engine compartment. They are totally waterproof. During Greg’s engine run it was raining lightly and the engine was soaked by the prop blast, but it did not have the slightest ignition tick. I am going to make this connector also available to any builder who sends in a distributor for inspection or brings an earlier E/P distributor to a College. The connector’s quality is centered on its waterproof nature, but also the specific nature of the wire crimp on the pins inside. The crimping tool that does this costs $145, making this upgrade outside the normal builder’s tool set, but something we are glad to do. We will update our products catalog shortly to include information on Weatherpack connection options for flight Distributors.-ww

Ammeters Pro and Con, & Flying like there is no tomorrow.


I got a very well thought out letter our friend Dave Aldrich in favor of Ammeters. In a previous post, I had said I did not like them in aircraft. Dave writes in to give another perspective. He explains his case well. I want builders to learn and make an educated choice. Dave’s position is educational, even if you don’t go with an ammeter, you will better understand what it is supposed to do if you read his letter.

I have two main objections to ammeters: They often bring fat, high current lines into the cockpit, in close proximity to things like header tanks. In most installations I have seen, these are not protected circuits. The Wagabond had ammeter in the panel, and it had 4′ of #10 wire running to it and back to the bus. This was hot and unprotected any time the master was on. By deleting this, every wire now in the cabin is 16 gauge or smaller and they are all covered by fuses. Second, most ammeters hardly ever show more than one needle width deflection in full operation. I don’t think that it is very likely to catch a pilots eye if the system is discharging slightly. A tiny low voltage light will do a better job of this.

The most important point in this article is one that both Dave and I agree on, and I cover it in the comments below Dave’s letter.

“Hi William, I’m going to suggest that you rethink your position on ammeters. A correctly installed and properly interpreted ammeter will provide as much useful information as a voltmeter. To disparage them with an offhand remark is unwarranted and unjustified.

There are basically two things that any electrical monitoring system (voltmeter or ammeter) must detect. The really important one is alternator failure, and the other is abnormal loads caused by equipment malfunction. Let’s look at the options. Ammeters that read alternator output (like my Piper Cherokee) provide positive indications of alternator failure and of unusual loads. If the current reads zero, the alternator is inop. If the current reads abnormally high, then it’s time to see what’s causing the extra load before the smoke leaks out of the wiring.

The ammeter in the battery line also provides a quantitative idea of current use once things are started and stable. Negative reading (current going from battery to loads) – bad. Large positive reading also not good. Small positive — eat your sandwich. It can also be useful in load control during an alternator out/battery only flight. The only down side to ammeters in general goes back to 2 words in the first paragraph — “correctly installed”. The addition of an ammeter shunt and the simple wiring associated with it is not without potential for stupidity but it’s a lot less risky than many of the other things people strap onto the fuselage.

Voltmeters also provide the necessary information on alternator health but there can be some ambiguities. If there’s an unusual load, the first sign will be either smoke or the alternator C/B popping. If the voltmeter reads 13.9 — above basic battery but below normal regulated voltage, what’s wrong? Is the alternator starting to die or is the battery dying? This is the time when the Piper type ammeter will tell the tale. The +/- ammeter and voltmeter will not. I do grant that in most of these situations, landing is THE prudent option and any of the system monitoring devices will lead you down that path if you’re paying attention. The single real advantage I see with voltmeters is simplicity of installation. Two wires that have lots of places to be attached can’t be beat.

One useful data point provided by McDonnell-Douglas. The DC-9/MD-80 has a rotary switch that monitors a bunch of functions in the DC electrical system. Would you like to guess what the normal in-flight position of the switch is? Battery charging amps. Yes, I know it’s not apples to apples but still…Having said all that, I agree with you that if I must have just one electrical system monitoring device, the voltmeter is preferred but ONLY because of it’s simplicity. KISS wins. Respectfully, Dave Aldrich”

Four pilots that personally taught me a lot were four men that spent many years each,  flying like there was no tomorrow. Their names were Nat Mathison, Charlie Traghber, John McGrath and David Cummock. They all flew for the same outfit, and that organization actually incentivized and rewarded pilots for flying like it was their last day on Earth. Respectively, they flew B-36 Peacemaker, B-47 Stratojet, B-52 Stratofortress and the B-58 Hustler. Their outfit was the Strategic Air Command.

Each of these men personally told me that they fully understood that their only task was to get their nuclear weapons to the target. They were not there to preserve their aircraft; it was expendable, if damaged, they were continuing to the target, they would not abort nor divert. Their lives were of no consideration; if it slightly increased the odds of getting to the target, but doomed the crew, so be it. The first three said that they only given vague and unrealistic post-strike flight plans, like flying to Turkey or Iran. They all said that they would choose to expend the fuel to increase their final attack speed and forfeit the possibility of escape.

McGrath was my aerodynamics professor. He once explained a B-52 wing 15 second MITO (minimum interval take off) pointing out that an aircraft that weighed 490,000 pounds that lost two of eight engines would not fly, but the crew was trained to run off the end of the runway at full remaining power without any attempt to brake, a certain death that would give the aircraft behind you the best chance of clearing your vertical fin and going on to their target. A young student in the front row of the class said with disbelief “No one would do that.” Livid at what he perceived to be a grievous insult and a complete slur against SAC, McGrath put his shaking face right up to the kid’s and said “Every Airman in my wing would have done it.” Charlie Trauber explained that their families lived on the SAC base, a certian Russian ICBM target. For these crews planning a one way strike was easy; they would have nothing to live for.

Had these men been ordered past their Fail-Safe points, there literally would have been no tomorrow. Their flying had a purpose, their proficiency and commitment was a deterrent to war. Yet I have met many people who also fly as if there is no tomorrow, but their flying is different in two ways; they fly light aircraft and their flying has no purpose.

In Daves discussion he states “I do grant that in most of these situations, landing is THE prudent option and any of the system monitoring devices will lead you down that path if you’re paying attention.” This is a vital lesson in flying that many people miss. If you are flying a plane and all the systems are not working, the only intelligent choice is to land the aircraft at the nearest airport and solve the problem on the ground. This may sound like common sense, but foolish pilots often will fly on with some partially working system. This is called “Get-there-itus”, and it kills a lot of people each year.

In terms of instrumentation, I frequently read builders justifying certain types of instrumentation or controls to allow them to fly on with some systems not working. We use a DPDT switch to control the fuel pumps and ignitions on Zenith 601/650s. Yet some people will wire their plane with 4 SPST or 2 DPST switches. They are doing this so they can fly on the Electronic ignition and the back up fuel pump if the primary pump is out. (normally the DPDT gives only the choice of Electronic ignition and pump A or points and pump B. It is a vastly safer system from a human factors position.) Let me come out and say that anyone who knowing flies with something like one fuel pump or one ignition inoperative is making a very stupid judgement error, and yet people do this because “I just had to get home.”  They are flying like SAC: as if getting to the target was the only goal, and the plane and crew are expendable.

When builders talk about instrumentation, some times they will reveal that they want enough instrumentation to give some indication of exact nature of the problem, not just that they have some type of issue. I will flatly say that diagnosing problems is done on the ground, after landing at the nearest airport. It isn’t something done aloft, and under no circumstances should any type of partial failure, or failure of back up system justify continued flight. In the world of Corvairs I know a pilot who flew home 150 miles on one ignition, after he got home found that he had pinched one wire under the cap. His rationale? Had to be at work in the AM. We had another pilot break a crank in a 4 bearing engine with a long prop extension. He was right over a grass strip. Yet he tried to fly 14 miles to the next airport because they would have rental cars. He made it 11 of 14 miles, totaled the aircraft. We had a second owner fly a plane he had just bought at full power into darkness because he got a late start on the flight home, but “just had to get there.” I have more examples, but you get the point. People who fly like there will be no tomorrow long enough eventually prove themselves right.

It is hard for me to convey to new people how serious I am about this topic. If you are new, and any one you meet, especially if the person is your instructor, ever brags about fly a certified aircraft on one mag, changes the days flight plan because they are running late, or loweres their standards about weather because they want to sleep at home rather than in a motel, stear clear of this person. I am polite to people who have told me of things like intentionally flying on one mag, but I would never get in a plane with a person who had previously done this. Neither should you. Lowering your standards to those of other people is a slippery slope, it leads only down, and if you do it long enough, one day, without knowing it, you will be flying with no tomorrow.-ww


Cowling Inlet Area, marketing, accident stats, Darwin where are you?


I wanted to mention this earlier, but about a week ago I was Down at Arnold Holmes’ hangar at Leesburg FL doing some background work for Corvair College #25 in April 2013.  (sounds like a long time from now but it’s about 120 days.) Arnold has a very impressive aircraft maintenance business named AV-MECH, specializing in twin-engine aircraft. He also one of the very few shops in the country that does heavy structural repairs on Certified composite aircraft. In his shop he had a Columbia (Cessna)350.

This aircraft traces its origin back to the Lancair ES. Lancair formed Columbia to have a certified division, brought in a lot of European money, the money came with an investor stipulated test pilot, who crashes it, project slows down, good people leave, things stagger on, Cessna feels that they need to compete with Cirrus on composite planes, they buy the design, come up with a very clever outsourcing plan to have the airframes built in Mexico, aircraft get an AD because the wing skin and spar delaminate, whole project comes to a grinding halt, Cessna website deletes all references to the design. They fire their CEO, same guy becomes head of EAA. Works like magic.

Didn’t read this story in your membership magazine? Cessna is a big company with money. Remember when they brought 172’s back in the late 1990s and it turned out they were planning on selling them for $200,000 and every working class guy in aviation said they were on drugs because you can’t sell a 172 for the price of a 4 bedroom house. I said it too, and guess what, I was wrong. In a decade of production Cessna sold almost 9,000, yes nine thousand, planes to people who don’t think a quarter of a million bucks is expensive for a recreational vehicle. With sales like that, you can buy a lot of things like gigantic booths at airshows, lots of full-page adds, and evidently a lot of editorial position in publications. I bring this up so that traditional homebuilders have a better picture of the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and have some understanding of how much influence these people have over the things we read, the content of our airshows, and the direction of our membership organization. Think about it.

Lancair Columbia 350 N6510Y

OK, back to subject #1, cowl inlet area. About 175 350s have been built over the years. They are FAR-23 Certified aircraft, which means that they have enough wing area and lift to stall at 61 knots or less at gross weight, in this case 3,400 pounds. What this means is the aircraft has a climb speed of less than 100 mph. This isn’t a stol aircraft, but it isn’t climbing at 160 kts like a Lancair IV. The plane does not have cowl flaps. The engine is a 310 HP, 550 cubic inch 6 cylinder Contintential. Guess what? The cowl inlet is a shade under 5.50″ in diameter. In recent posts I have pointed out that I suggest 4.75 to 4.875″ for aircraft that climb at the 601/650 speed, and 5.00″ for the Zenith 750.

Look at the HP/inches of inlet area of the 601/650, even with a 120 HP Corvair vs the Cessna’s 310 HP numbers: The Corvair is 3.38 HP cooled by each square inch of inlet, vs the Cessna which is 6.52 HP cooled by each square inch of inlet area.  Consider this another piece of evidence that the Corvair nose bowl we make and sell actually has plenty of inlet area for the work we are asking it to do.

If you would like to read a little more about this aircraft, which had homebuilt origins, here is a link

We have all heard the saying “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” I don’t know when this started, but it implies that wealthy people have some extra special allotment of brains. Follow through with me on the next few paragraphs and I think that we can put an end to any claim that people with money enough to buy really expensive aircraft have some better level of intelligence or judgement. At the end, I want to share a very important observation on a particular type of pilot, an observation you need to understand to manage your own person risk.

Before we get started, let me say I have a pretty good background in accident investigation from Embry-Riddle. Lots of people read or hear stories about accidents and think they received some insight. You have to be selective on your data, and only look at valid final probable cause statements. To illustrate this point, below is a non-official 350 accident report of a double fatality accident:

“The Cessna Columbia 350 took off from the Davidson County airport about 1:15 p.m. Friday, heading for Florida, and was only in the air briefly before crashing. Reports said the plane’s landing gear was still down.”

I am not surprised that the gear was still down in the aircraft, considering it has fixed gear. Now, to support my point that being able to buy a $350,000 plane is no indication of intelligence, read the final official report on a 350 accident where the plane lost a door in flight:

“The left main entry door departed the airplane when the pilot opened the door during flight. The pilot reported that after departure he noticed a carpet strap was hanging out of the left door and flapping against the airplane. He turned on the autopilot and decided to open the door in order to pull the strap inside. He reported he was unable to hang on to the door and it departed the airplane. The pilot reported he needed stitches because the door was ripped from his hand. The pilot contacted the departure airport stating he was returning to land, but then decided to continue the flight to an airport which was approximately 60 statute miles away where there was a certified Columbia service center. The airplane was landed without incident. Examination of the airplane revealed the door contacted and punctured the right wing. It then contacted and punctured the right horizontal stabilizer. The emergency procedures section in the pilot operating handbook (POH) contains a warning which states, “Do not open the cabin doors in flight. The air loads placed on the doors in flight will damage them and can cause separation from the airplane. A damaged or separated door will alter the flight characteristics of the airplane and possibly damage other control surfaces.” The POH also states the following warning in the Doors section of the Description of the Airplane and Systems section: “If the red “Door Open” annunciator light is on or the aural warning is playing, then one or more doors are not properly secured, and the airplane is unsafe to fly.”

OK, is any one else tired of hearing other pilots say that Experimental aircraft and their builders are less safe than people in factory built planes? The Guy actually opened the door, when the POH explicitly said to never do this in flight. Then, he chooses to fly the plane 60 miles to a service center instead of landing it. I have three questions: 1) did the FAA violate him for not taking the first airport available? If not, they are not serious about anything. 2) who was his insurance company, did they pay out, and how much did this raise the rates of every other 350 operator who actually reads the POH? 3) Does the owner of this plane think that the people who build homebuilts are “unsafe and have poor judgement.”?

In a story a few days ago I told the story of the Cirrus marketing guy from the China home office making the claim that his companies aircraft were exceptionally safe, and how he was laughed at. If you would like to read a very well written article that points out that Cirrus actually has a terrible safety record, look at the link below.

OK, so you’re not in the market to buy a Cirrus because you object to the litany of moral crimes committed by their ownership, the red Chinese government. The article still has a very important point in it for the rest of us. If you read the man’s whole article, he states that there is nothing wrong with the design, but he feels the evidence clearly shows that these aircraft are marketed to unqualified pilots, and the need to improve their skills is down played/swept under the rug by the Cirrus marketing team. They push the parachute in the aircraft as an ‘out’ for pilots who exercised poor judgement. He gives examples of how Cirrus marketing attempts to only address a favorable spin on the data, intentionally steering potential customers from correctly understanding the risk involved.

As a traditional homebuilder you need to understand that homebuilts need to improve their accident rates, but they are nowhere near as bad as some people make them out to be. Most of the accidents in homebuilts are caused by second owners who bought their planes and didn’t bother to learn anything about them. In this way, they are acting like the people Cirrus found easy to market to. Being wealthy doesn’t make you a bad person, but everyone understands that many of these people have the “I paid for it, I’m going to fly it” mentality, a certain hubris that working class Joes have at a vastly lower rate. This is nothing new. Vee tailed Bonanzas were called “Doctor-Lawyer killers” for a reason. Just like the Cirrus, it isn’t the plane, it is the people flying it, and the common thread is that marketing people found successful people with money and they downplayed the risks and required skills, because that would just hurt sales. As a homebuilder you need to know that there are the same type of salesmen working the kit market also, and our current journalists are not very likely to call anyone out. You have to open your eyes and make good decisions for yourself.

If you read my work regularly, you have heard my perspective that marketing people and salesmen have commercialized everything about homebuilding, and because of this they control information and how it is presented. Hopefully after reading the notes above I wont seem so crazy. I don’t really focus on people wealthy enough to buy planes like that. I work with people who want to learn, and a guy who doesn’t read the POH for his aircraft about not opening the door in flight isn’t really into learning anything.-ww

Mail Sack, various topics, 12 /5/12.


Below is a lot of mail on many different subjects. It is a mixture of technical notes and social stuff. Both are welcome. A number of people write in each week to say that a balanced mixture makes the best reading. I encourage anyone to write in with news of their project or any type of comment about their perspective on building and flying. When you do, include a note about what your building or thinking about getting started on. If you include your geographic location we can often connect you with another builder in your area.-ww

On the topic of machines vs appliances, builder Brandon Gerard writes:

“Not only do posts like these make me want to get out in the garage and work on my core, but they also make me want to sell my Camry and go hunt down another old-n-busted pickup truck to drive like I used to.”

Builder Patrick writes:

“This is a great statement ..”

On the topic of inexpensive panels, 601XL builder Becky Shipman writes:

“William, Thank you for publishing this info – though I found bits and pieces of a lot of it in the manuals and on the site. I have pretty much the same philosophy – I fly to look out the window, not look at a panel, and fly by looking out the window, not at the panel. The one concession to modernity (and my computer savvy son) is to put in a small Dynon D-6 EFIS in place of the turn and bank indicator. It’s light, and I get the turn and bank plus attitude capability without needing vacuum or heavy gyros. I’ve already got the SW tach and the autometer fuel gauge. Looking at Wentworth – local parts recycler – for the gauges. I’m under the Minneapolis Mode C veil, so I need a transponder, and it’s busy enough at my home base that I want a radio, too. I have a hand-held GPS I can use. Oh, and I have decided that welding is definitely not a Troglodyte level skill. I’ve been working on making a simple work stand out of angle and tubular aluminum, and it is definitely a challenge for me. I think after I finish the plane I’ll set myself up in a shop, put in enough power for the Lincoln Precision 225 Tig, and put in some serious practice time. Some of my welds look nice, some not so nice. I have new found appreciation for some of the pretty welds on my Zenith fuel tanks, and on my Corvair intake and exhaust manifolds. Take care, Becky”

Builder Harrold Bickford writes:

“William, I like the instrument panel article approach; simple, economical, reliable and readable. The analog gauges convey needed information at a glance while allowing a continual scan of the flight area. It fits the Pietenpol utility very well. Drawing things out on vellum-an evening project perhaps-still works well prior to transferring and cutting. The items we make also seem to bring the best intangible rewards. What could be better? Thanks too for referencing the MP gauge from the P2V. I used to watch them flying in the vicinity of Brunswick, Maine growing up. As a USAF cold warrior from 1967-75 I had the opportunity to serve five of those years in Berlin. Needles to say, a different world. Harold”

Builder Tom Griesemer writes:

“I always look forward to your articles. I’m right with you on mechanical gauges. The last paragraph is well said. I have a similar alarm system that’s probably as loud as yours. My code is (4-0). One less number to remember…”

Sprint Builder Joe Goldman writes:

“William, Assuming you have a switch for the CHT, which cylinders do you monitor. What do you look at when you lean. Joe”

Joe, Yes, I have a hole for a DPDT switch under the CHT also. The Corvair has a pad under each head that is where GM took the temp. It is threaded 3/8″-16. Given a choice, I run a 10mm washer type spark plug type senders clamped to the stock pad by a 3/8″ bolt and washer. I want to warn every Corvair builder never to lean a Corvair until it runs rough. When you do this with a 7:1 compression O-200 with 15K volt mags on it, the roughness you feel is harmless lean misfire. The same technique on a 9:1 Corvair with 40K volt coils stands a very good chance of detonating. Don’t risk it to save 1/2 gal./hr. of fuel. Note this: I know of almost no aircraft mechanics who will operate their own engines “Lean of peak egt”, because they understand the potential for expensive damage. Mechanics know gas is the cheapest and easiest thing that you can install in your engine. GAMI and EPI have made a fortune selling things to get pilots to lean out their engines. It’s an easy sell because lots of pilots are cheap, particularly penny wise and pound foolish. If you want to lean a Corvair, creep up on it very slowly, find peak egt, and run 100 degrees rich of it. This is something you do after you know the plane and get all the other issues worked out in the first 40 hours. If anyone wants to talk you into leaning aggressively, you can shorten lecture by just asking them if they are speaking of personal experience in a plane that they personally owned, paid for, and did the maintenance on.-ww

On the topic of “My favorite Tach”, builder Brad Boon writes:

“That’s funny you mention that I just bought that tach last week, along with the magnetic pickup summit part # SWW-82646. I searched for a couple hours for a tach that didn’t not connect to the ignition and finally gave up and just got Stewart Warner. Also funny is that when I got the tach, I looked at it and thought that it looked very familiar. Then I went and looked inside our Ford L8000 grain truck and sure enough it has the exact same tach. I think It has a 3306 caterpillar diesel. Well, I look forward to seeing the new panel on the Wagabond. Brad Boon
Greenwood, WI”,

On the topic of steel tube fuselages, Builder Ron Condon writes:

“Did the Big Piet boys in Atlanta have plans for their steel fuselages?”

Ron, the ‘Big Piet’ fuselages are 28″ wide and very heavy duty. I don’t know if those guys went ahead and made the drawings available. You can contact them through the Carrolton GA EAA chapter, Speak with Barry Davis.-ww

On prop construction, Builder Pete Chmura writes:

“Check out the latest postings on for one builders recent prop construction.”

On Oscar Zuniga’s Guest Perspective, Builder Tom Griesemer writes:

“Like minded people…”

On issues of getting an MGL tach to work with a Corvair, 2,850cc 750 builder Gary Burdett writes:

“After working for a couple days , Matt of MGL finally told me that the RV-3 tachometer will not work with the GT 1 gear tooth sensor on the135 tooth gear on the corvair because when I told him that at 3000 rpm there would be 6750 pulses per second, he said, “Oh, that’s too many pulses”. He then looked up some data on other users and offered that it could be connected to the coil. I told him I knew that but I wanted to use the gear tooth as in the brochure. It would get to 2000 rpm then start reversing 1900, 1800, and so on.
Despite the fact that these devices are sold together at Spruce, they are pulse limited, a fact it would have been good to know 300 dollars ago.”

 500 hour 601XL builder/pilot Andy Elliott writes:

“Ref. connection of the ignition to an MGL EFIS – I have been flying this kind of set-up for more than 500 hours now with no problem. The key thing to note is that the tach channel in the RDAC (remote data acquisition) unit is sufficiently sensitive to run off the *ground* side of the coils, picking up on the small potential ripple each time the coil dumps. So there is, at least as far as I can tell, no danger of the tach faulting the ignition or vice versa. There is only one tach channel on the RDAC, so I put in a simple diode bridge which prevents the RDAC tach channel from being completely grounded to the non-operating ignition ground. Andy Elliott, Z601XLb, 512 hours since Nov. 2008”

Gary and Andy, This is the kind of issue I was speaking of. MGL stuff has been flying with Corvairs for years, but it is the builders who have done the R&D, and the factory doesn’t know anything about it. They are selling $300 tachs and making a pile of money. Sure they answer email quick, but service is about correct answers not quick wrong ones.The people they picked as their reps and dealers were just chosen at random, who ever had a website that they thought could move product. It had nothing to do with who might know something about a particular community of builders or a unique engine like the Corvair. They are computer people from South Africa, I am sure they don’t know what a Corvair is, and they seem to have no understanding of why its a bad idea to directly hook a tach to a distributor ignition. Andy, while your system works, I would like people to understand the one Dan Weseman made for an MGL. It has nothing to do with the ignition.

When Dynon first got started, they had an absolute “No dealers, no discounts” Policy. The owner said to my face “When it works, you don’t have to pay people to by it, pay them to endorse it, or pay them to sell it. We are focused on making a good product.” When it was introduced, builders raved about Dynon stuff. Here is what went wrong: Kit plane companies had no way of making money off Dynon. Once companies like MGL started offering 20% for doing nothing to every kitplane company, Joe Average Builder started hearing great testimonials from people he perceived as independent. Want to see this in action? Go to Oshkosh, walk into most companies booths, and tell them your best friend owns one of their kits, and he is just about ready for a panel, but can’t decide between Dynon and MGL. What you are very likely to hear is a salesman going after his 20%, saying anything to get it. That is not homebuilding, its consumerism. If you liked the EAA of the 1970s more, recognize that letting salesmen take the podium from testers, real journalists, engineers and builders was the single biggest factor in things going off track. Sadly, Dynon was forced to concede that they couldn’t compete without paid people also. Today they have a small number of dealers, so the cycle is complete and salesmanship won over quality. For one more joke, go look at MGLs website, the testimonial picture of Kirby Chambliss shows his cockpit to have traditional gauges in it. Also note that MGL actually sells traditional gauges like airspeeds as “backups.” If their product is alleged to be reliable, how could it be backed up by something as cave man as a mechanical gauge?-ww

On the topic of Bruce Culvers Fokker Project, Builder Dan Branstrom writes:

“In the Continuation War of 1941-45, again fighting against the Soviets, and loosely aligned with the Nazis (more out of a desire to get out of Soviet clutches than any kinship with Nazis), the Finns flew a de-navalized version of the Brewster Buffalo, producing 36 aces. The US Navy considered their version a pig. The Finns did quite well with theirs.”

“I’m Swedish, and while Swedes tell jokes about the Finns, in a milder vein than we have in the past about the Poles, there’s a lot of kinship between them. (The Norwegians and Danes tell Swedish jokes). The Finns are known as TOUGH. There is not a lot of love towards Russia from the Finns or the other members of the Baltic states.-Dan”

Carb applications, choices people make


Yesterday at our airpark, 8 RV’s took off in succession, on 6 second intervals. At most airports this kind of flying is  forbidden/frowned upon/ illegal. At our airpark it is just called going flying. We only have 40 houses here and 64 planes, but we have a lot of activity. The skill level here is very high, 7 out 8 of the RV’s were flown by former USN attack pilots. The 8th plane was flown by a Vietnam vet, USAF F-4 Phantom pilot. Flying an A-4, A-6, A-7 or an F-4 doesn’t automatically qualify you to pilot a light plane.  But it is worth noting that often people who flew in serious settings have a different mental picture of what they want out of planes, how important reliability is, and the value of known proven information.

What does this have to do with Carbs for Corvairs? A lot actually. All 8 of the planes that left are very reliable performers, they have more than 500 hours on them on average, and you could start any one of them and fly it to the other side of the continent without mechanical consideration. Yes, they are all Lycoming powered, but more specifically, Every single one of them has a Marvel Schebler Carb on it.

The MA3-SPA we suggest using on a Corvair is the kid brother to the MA4s and MA4-5s on 320/360 Lycomings. (235/290 Lycomings used MA3s).  At a glance, most people can’t tell the difference between a 3 and a 4. They are of the exact same design, and for that reason, they have the same excellent reliability record.

I spoke with my friend Jeff Lange on the phone the other day. Jeff is a well-known VW pilot and an air racer. He is a mechanically clever guy, positive, friendly and out going. He is working to improve a friends KR/Corvair engine installation. The plane has flown about 100 hours on an Aerocarb, the very simple, red, floatless carb sold by the Sonex people. The KR builder did a great job on the airframe, but the engine install had some weak points. The fuel flow was restricted by having 9 (nine) 90 degree 5/16″ brass elbows in it. Additionally, the intake manifold that he fabricated had several vacuum leaks in it. Jeff was in the process of correcting these things.

The biggest thing that Jeff was having an issue with was getting the carb to be jetted correctly. Fuel flow at different throttle positions on an Aerocarb is determined by the taper of a 2″ long needle. Going all the way back to Posa carbs, VW guys in search of a really insepensive carb have often tried to make these carbs flow correctly by grinding a custom taper in the needle. This is not easy, and Jeff was now working on his fourth needle trying to get this to work. Let me first say that the Monnetts get these carbs to work on VW’s first by making the slide parallel to the crankshaft. For some reason, people who put them on Corvairs tend to miss this, which gives the engine poor left/right fuel distribution. Jeff is a skilled guy, and he certainly made the engine run better, but how good compared to an MA3? At the end of the conversation Jeff mentioned that he was looking into a carb from a jet ski as an inexpensive option. He may very well have something that could work eventually. But I have to ask myself if Jeff’s entry point into aviation had been seated in a F-4 headed to attack the Paul Doumer bridge instead of messing with VW powered planes would he have the same point of view? Probably not. These polar entry points are extremes. which end of the spectrum you gravitate toward says a lot about what you want out of your homebuilt.

The RV guys just want something proven that works. This is because they understood the value of reliability in machines that fly. In all their time, I can’t think of any kind of carb issue that any one of them has had, none of them has even taken their MA4 apart once, far less ground down any internal part to make it run. They fly very strong aerobatics every week, they fly to the mountains of Montana and Idaho every summer, and the fly without any internal adjustment to their carb even if it is 20F or 100F outside. Builders who have selected MA3’s for their Corvairs have had pretty much the same experience.

Is using a certified carb the only answer? No. People are free to do what they want, its their plane, their time, their goals. The only point that is very true, and is a hard and fast rule that I, in 25 years of being around experimental aircraft, I have never seen broken; You will not get the reliably of a proven certified aircraft component from something that is extremely low-cost and adapted to flight, especially if it is modified with a file and sand paper. You can’t have it both ways. Plenty of people have heard me say this before. Some people have an instant cop-out sarcastic emotional reaction; “I guess that means that we all have to fly certified Lycomings.” I don’t say it for that reaction. People who are really interested in learning don’t have emotional reactions to challenging thoughts. We are speaking of risk management of a finite budget, finite amount of time, and a skill set that improves, but isn’t going to make a guy into a fluid dynamics engineer in time to build a carb and go flying.

For each person there is a path and a reasonable answer, and I try to share my perspective and experience so that builders can make more educated choices for themselves. I want them to understand that there is marketing pressure to buy an EFIS, but an MA3, Stromberg or an Ellison will serve you better.  GPS is nice, but get a 5th bearing first. Rubber hoses, plastic barbed fittings and hose clamps are a great deal compared to AN fittings and braided lines, that is until you factor in the cost of skin graphs at $6,000 per square inch. (there is a bulk discount on them when you get 3 square feet, price drops to much more reasonable $1,500/square in.)

If every single homebuilt that was started got finished, They all had perfect reliability no matter what they had for carbs or other components, and if no one ever got hurt in planes, there would be absolutely no point to writing anything here. Home building isn’t a tee-ball game without score keeping. 80% of planes don’t get finished, it makes a big difference on what your installation is, and this isn’t a ‘sport’ like bowling, people can, and do get hurt here. Your personal politics may be against the death penalty, but understand that Physics and Chemistry are the two unswayable referees in the game of flight, and they both are known to bench players without consideration for good intentions or nice guys.

Here is the good news: success, reliabilty and risk are not random here. They are completely controlled by you and the decisions you make. It’s actually one of the things I like best about flying. No legislature is going to change the laws of physics. Play by the rules, and physics and chemistry become the most reliable allies anyone ever had. If your new to home building, your only task is to dispense with the consumer/marketing infomercial trash that fills most of our industry magazines and airshows, and get down to learning the real rules of the game, the ones that never change. It all begins with deciding who you’re going to learn from. Over time you will come to know that any system or product that promises an end-run on the unchanging rules is likely made of Unicorn dung, and that the very definition of reliability is a system that respects physics and chemistry and has harnessed them as allies.-ww

To show that my positions on these issues has never changed, I share a 2005 excerpt form our website below. If you thought my previous post about companies that promote plastic barbed fittings for fuel systems was unfair, get a look at the photo below. Don’t think about it being on me, or even what it would feel like on you. Take a minute to think about how you would feel about a child who was your passenger getting this kind of lifetime souvenir, and the free nightmares that go with it. Thats why it is completely ok to criticize the ownership of any company that promotes, sells, and profits from plastic fuel fittings in the cockpit.

2005-Maybe you just read all the above details and said “Those hose ends are too expensive, and my hardware store doesn’t have Adel clamps.” And then thought, “I’ll just use automotive fuel line, hose clamps and barbed fittings.” Let me show you the real reason why all the above details are worth incorporating in your plane. This photo is what my left leg looks like above the knee. This is a four-year-old skin graph. It actually looks fantastic compared to how it appeared the first year. Of course, my right leg, my right arm from wrist to shoulder, and right ankle match this photo. Besides this, another third of me got it also, but there weren’t enough grafts to put everywhere. Although my accident had nothing to do with the mechanical setup of the plane, you want to avoid at all costs putting yourself in a position where a rubber fuel line in an engine compartment provides you or your passengers with an opportunity to have bodily ornamentation like I do. Flying is a lot of fun. Creating airplanes is one of the great joys of my life. It will always involve some risk, but it need not involve stupid risks and poor craftsmanship. Everyone reading this can afford to do this stuff the right way and make quality parts that will serve you well. That’s what it’s all about.

“William, you ignorant troglodyte”…….(instrument options)


If you are old enough, you can remember when the last 5 minutes of the show 60 Minutes was given to Shana Alexander and Jack Kilpatrick for “Point counter point.” I thought of this when I read the first word in Andy Elliott’s letter. Andy and I are friends, and at the very core of this is our mutual need to get the other guy to concede an intellectual point, even just once. (don’t hold your breath for this, we are both stubborn and opinionated enough to qualify for honorary Irish citizenship.) Andy and I arrived in home building from polar opposite starts, so any discussion between us will cover a lot of perspective. In the end, each builder must decide what is right for his needs. Andy and I are just here to shed a little light…and get the other to see the error of his ways. For a little humor, the link below is Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin spoofing point counter point:!watch/2306 Dan Aykroyd always started his part by saying “Jane, You ignorant slut.” Thus the title of this story.

On the serious side, at the end of the letter I write a bit so builders can see something of the consumer/marketing forces they face in our industry. It’s the kind of writing that has not made me friends with ‘the system.’ Once upon a time I wrote almost 50 articles that were published by the EAA, I was on their masthead, I wrote for many other aviation magazines and was welcome on industry discussion groups. Over time people in our industry found out that I have never been a “go along to get along” type. If the industry has a dirty little secret to keep from builders, I am the wrong guy to tell. If there is an angle/system/ way-its-done that keeps things from builders, it is now understood that I’m not going to keep quiet about it. For this reason, I have a lot less ‘friends’ in industry than I once did. You write stuff like “Ponies vs Unicorns” and point out the new head of the EAA has a fake engineering degree, they don’t invite you to the cocktail parties anymore. Thats ok, I got into homebuilding to learn, build and fly, not be part of a marketing industry.

From Andy Elliott:

Counterpoint:  – Some of us *do* have flying missions that take us far from home, over nearly unpopulated mountains and deserts, day and night and in the clouds, and therefore require more than a minimalist VFR panel. I wouldn’t disagree that many people install way more avionics than they will ever need or use. (I saw a Grumman Tiger once with a 530/430 combination, a two-axis autopilot and a 496 on the canopy bow, where the pilot was not and had no plans to become instrument rated!) But that doesn’t mean that modern computerized avionics are “bad”. It just means that some people are not thinking clearly about the mission vs. value proposition.
I don’t know why you’re on the warpath against MGL. IMHO, they offer a wide variety of useful instruments, RF and EFIS/EMS products that are highly customizable, are specifically designed for experimenters and amateur-built aircraft, and have a pretty good price vs. performance ratio. They are built by a small private company where the president and CEO does most of the engineering and testing, that supports its users, and that has real pilot/engineers providing excellent customer service out of an office in Torrance, CA. They’re not a Garmin by any means.
I am not a fan of Apple, but I do carry a $200 Google Nexus 7 (Android) tablet in the plane. It’s built by Asus in Taiwan, an erstwhile long-term ally of the US, not the People’s Republic. My $100 annual subscription to AnywhereMap on the tablet means I never have an outdated chart, never am missing the approach chart for somewhere I end up after diverting, and always know the TFRs, at least as they were when I took off.
The Nexus 7 has a much better built-in GPS than the iPad (and better than the Avmap in the plane!) and also has excellent 3-axis accelerometers and gyros that work as well as my MGL EFIS. For $5 (Yup, five!) I found an app called “Flight Instruments” that serves as a backup EFIS, equivalent to the $1400 unit that Dynon is foisting on the community. I think this is a major flight safety improvement.
So I think the key point is that the builder should *think* about putting in a panel that is *appropriate* to the plane and adequate for the mission being flown. One size does not fit all.
Andy Elliott
515 hrs since Nov 2008

Andy, To start with, I have to object to your use of the acronym IMHO, as anyone who has met you will testify you have opinions, but not humble ones. In all seriousness, I think your letter does a good job of illuminating some well researched options on the other end of the instrument options. We are certainly in agreement that no instrument of any kind is a substitute for pilot skill. From an engine builders perspective, I think that anyone flying over unforgiving areas first and foremost needs to have a first class engine and airframe. I have seen a number of planes that have $5,000 in the panel but don’t have a 5th bearing or a decent set of heads. I am all for what ever people want in front of them after they have addressed reliability ahead of the firewall. I am also going to point out that it is human nature to gravitate toward things that operate on skills one already has. I am not speaking of my love of mechanical things: My point is that many people spend hours learning to program their GPS, because working with computers is a skill they already have. I meet many of these people a year who have not devoted 10 minutes to learning how to use a timing light or a differential compression tester. Anyone who bought an EFIS before owning both of the other tools needs to re-think wether or not they are interested in learning about an engine, or are they just viewing their Corvair as something cheap to pull the panel through the sky.

On the subject of MGL, here is my issues: A) For a long time the promoted a plastic barbed fuel flow unit as airworthy and suitable for installation in your cockpit. People covered in skin grafts are allowed to call this amoral. B) In the last 12 months they sent an email to a 601 builder telling him to directly wire his tach to the ignition, which made it fail (on the ground.)  C) I have had several of their sending units fail., and D, the big one) They have a marketing strategy that makes every tom, dick and harry a dealer. Here is why: They offer virtually anyone with a .com website a dealership. You don’t have to stock anything. If a person clicks on the link on your site, the order actually goes directly through MGL, and drop ships from them, and they instantly pay you off with 20% of price. How this works for MGL is that they have people everywhere who simply appear to be a friendly voice offering testimonials about their products. These people write for every magazine, are on every large email list, and work at nearly every experimental aviation company. To a builder that is yet to understand how many pockets are getting lined, MGL appears to have incredible grass-roots appeal. Take away the money, and most of the testimonials dry up. As long as the money is there, builders will get an endless stream of stories selling them on the idea that this stuff is a “must have.” The strategy works, because there are many Corvair powered planes with MGL avionics but no 5th bearing. I have had a number of builders say “I like MGL because when I email them they send an email back in minutes!” If the email they sent back told you to hook your ignition directly to the tach signal, they are just a marketing tool, not an asset to home builders.

The only positive note I have on MGL/Corvair stuff is that MGL recently made Dan Weseman a dealer. He didn’t even ask about it, they just sought him out because of the Panther project. MGL has made several other people ‘the corvair dealer’ before, but has never contacted me on this. I don’t take this personally, I don’t think they know anything about corvairs or who has developed them. If they think that Dan is going to blindly sell stuff to people, they are mistaken. 5 years ago he developed a tach sensor for an MGL that works off the flywheel. It has hundreds of flight hours on the “Son of Cleanex.” This is the system that Dan would like to steer MGL users to. I have no doubt that Dan would advise any builder that an EFIS of any brand, is something you consider buying for your corvair powered plane after is has a 5th bearing and a real carb.-ww

Heavy Duty Gold Oil Systems, new cooler model.

Note: If the picture is small, try hitting F5 on the top of your keyboard


For the last 6 years we have been offering Gold oil systems. The basic element of the system is the Filter housing, which comes in forward and reverse models. There are a number of posts on these parts here on this site, and also on  our main page,

Some aircraft, particularly larger, slower climbing ones, benefit from having larger than stock oil coolers. The Gold oil system is a ‘modular’ system that accommodates this. The additional parts in a HD oil system are the Sandwich, a block off plate, two oil lines, and the HD cooler. These parts cost a builder about $500 to up grade to the HD system. The HD system has roughly 2 to 2.5 times the oil cooling capacity of the stock system.

The HD system has been long proven on many large slow climbing planes. Our work with it actually predates The Gold oil filter housing. On the ‘black’ HD oil systems we mounted the oil filter and sandwich on the firewall, in a configuration knows as a ‘four hose’ set up. We flew these in 2004 on our own 601XL, and later installed them on a number of larger, slow climbing planes. The Gold oil system was an improvement aimed at having all the same functions, but keeping the components all mounted on the engine, and utilizing a much more compact and simplified arrangement. It also ended up costing builders slightly less than all the elements of the previous ‘Black’ system.

One of the hallmarks of the system is that it is designed to directly work with all the other systems we promote. Adding an HD system doesn’t start over from scratch with a builder: the Sandwich goes between the Filter housing and the filter; the larger cooler fits directly in the baffling kits; the arrangement fits inside all the cowlings we sell; The system fits with all of our motor mounts and intakes. It even clears the new rear alternator arrangement.

This particular story is about a new cooler we are working with. The two photos below are a little fuzzy, evidently I didn’t have enough coffee when I was holding the camera, however they have enough information to give the general arrangement. The installation pictured is our Zenith 750 fire wall forward display, with a mock-up engine on it. In addition to displays at airshows, I use the unit to test fit lots of small detail items on installations. Some people like to look at drawings or CAD files, but nothing is as good as having the assembly in real life in front of you. Now that Americans spend half their waking hours staring at a screen of one sort or another, Reality is going to have to stage a big marketing campaign to win back people’s attention. Maybe reality needs a catchy slogan like “We have always been 3D! or “Available in high definition every where.” I appreciate that builders can get info here, but unless the time ratio of shop to screen is about 10-1, your plane isn’t going to progress quickly. Read the information, understand it, and then go to your shop and put it to good use.


Above, the new cooler in the baffling. The Cooler is an Aero-Classic 9 row cooler. It is the same size as a Niagara 20003. It is a fully certified, FAA-PMA part. It is available from Aircraft Spruce as part number 08-00641. It sells for $248. I still like the Niagara’s, but they have gotten astronomically pricey. This one is about $140 less. This cooler is bigger than the 20002 that we recommended for installations like 601’s. The 20003 we recommended for aircraft like the 750. In Niagara’s system, there is a large price increase between the 20002 and the 20003. In Aero-Classics, the 7 and 9 plate coolers are only $4 different. The weight difference is minimal, and I would recommend that everyone interested in a HD oil system just opt for the 9 plate model. If it is too cool in the winter on your 601, you can always partially block it off with a tiny piece of sheet metal.


Above is the other side view. This shows how well all the different elements fit together. In the Gold oil system, everything is mounted on the engine, and it all moves together. I actually greatly prefer this to firewall mounting oil system parts. Most common question is about oil spilling during changes. Very little does, the filter has an internal check valve that prevents this. In its original application the filter is on top of the car’s engine upside down. The lines are Earl’s AN-6 units with swivel seal ends. In the last few months I have been working with a CNC tubing bender that produces aerospace lines, looking at having robotically bent stainless hard lines made to replace these two hoses. It may be a long term option, but at this point I am staying with good old braided lines. The reservation issue was about preserving the systems ability to fit all airframes. To get the radius on the hard lines we wanted required an investment in tooling or a quantity purchase that would cover well over a years worth of hoses. Before we take either of those options I want to see the final configuration of the Panther’s cooler location, study how it also fits into a high thrust line Pietenpol cowl, and make sure it would leave open the option for an increased capacity rear alternator. All of wich are about good strategic planning on my part, but each builders aircraft is a tactical problem to be dealt with in a proven way today. The cooler and lines in the photo are in a box on the way to a Zenith 750 builder who is planning on flying his plane by the last day of the year.-ww

Inexpensive panel…….part two.

Note: If the picture is small, try hitting F5 on the top of your keyboard


Here is a look at a very simple panel for our Wagabond. A few days ago it was a brown grocery bag of instruments, some old, some new, and a 8.5″ x 37″ sheet of 6061 T-6 .060″ thick.  I am going to stick it in the plane later tonight.  The actual time to do the layout, cut the holes out, paint it and assemble it was about 4 hours.  Truth be told, I spent several times this long thinking about doing it, contemplating having it cnc routed, trying to think of some clever way of doing it. In the end, the correct answer was just getting out the flycutter, the ruler and a fine point sharpie and going to work on it. I did this after Dan pointed out that I always talk about old school craftsmanship, so I might as well exercise some of it. It pays to have friends who call you out from time to time.


Above: I put all the instruments on the pilots side. The plane has dual controls, but I just wanted things organized in front of the pilot. The plane has been flying with stick controls and a center throttle. I am leaving the sticks alone, but moving the throttle to the left hand side. For some reason, I like throttle on the left with sticks and throttle in the right hand with yokes. I can fly either configuration either way, but it feels awkward.

From the left: The button is the starter. I do not like key starter switches, they are prone to bad contacts, and having your key chain hanging from it will lead to bumping the switch off in turbulence at one hundred feet AGL (ask me how I know this.) The button in this position can be hit with the left index finger without the hands moving from the stick or throttle. I wire this to be capable of being cranked only when the master is on. (the master is on a lower subpanel.)

The next column is topped by the volt meter. I do not like nor condone the use of ammeters. In this case, if the volt meter reads 12.8, just the battery is working, anything above this shows that the charging system is on line and ahead of the power demand. In operation this shows 14.5 volts or so.  Below this is the hole for an on-off-on snap action, MS rated switch for the ignition. This does not run through the master. It runs directly from the battery (with a 30 amp fuse 2″ from the battery, protecting the line from burning in a dead short, but never allowing the fuse to blow from running the ignition.) Again no key here, the plane is parked with this switch and the master in the off position. This has the least connections and contacts, and thus is the most reliable way of doing it. (I do have a remote, very loud security warning system for the plane, it has a three digit security code: 3 – 50 – 7.)

Next column, a 12 volt turn coordinator. I only put this in because I had it laying around and it was the easiest way to put a skid slip ball in the plane. I look at the ball more than any other thing in a plane. Dan tells me he never looks at one, and wouldn’t bother to put it in. I really doubt that not having one is the secret to Dan’s airmanship, so I will just keep putting them in my planes. Under it is an altimeter from a 1970s Cessna.

The next row is a used airspeed with a range that is close to the planes envelope. I had removed a 200 mph true airspeed that was in the Wagabond. Under it is the Stewart Warner 82636 Tach. 

The next row is three autometer mechanical gauges. Top is oil pressure, oil temp and EGT. There is a 1/4″ hole below the EGT for a mini DPDT switch so I can have two senders, one in each side of the exhaust.

Next column starts with a suction gauge that is only plugging the hole until I buy a micro radio to put in the hole. Beneath it is a mechanical MAP gauge, and under it is a CHT from a certified plane, probably something WWII vintage. Notice that none of the gauges for the engine have electrical sending units. Yes, there are probes, but these are non powered bi-metal senders, not the kind of senders associated with electrical instruments or glass cockpits.

Williams axioms of instrumentation:

 A) It is only as reliable as the sender; In the last 10 years, every instrument error I have seen on builders projects or worked on, was related to poor electrical senders. It doesn’t matter how great your glass cockpit is if the specified senders suck eggs. I am not suggesting electrical things are bad, but they are not fool-proof.

B)  I would rather have no instrumentation than have ones that occasionally gave false information. Anything that cries wolf often will have you doubt the warning when something really is going wrong. One of the things I hate about automotive O2 sensors running lean/rich gauges is that they read “green” (normal operation) when the sensors fail or lose their ground, which happens a lot. As an absolute design requirement, nothing in real aircraft instrumentation reads OK when it fails.  IFR Flight instruments actually display flags when they fail, it’s that important.

C) It is better to have little information about a reliable part than the reverse. By deleting the TC, EGT and using less expensive gauges I could make an even simpler panel that would cost $275 or so. I am setting the Wagabond up with a $1,000 overhauled MA3-SPA carb. These have excellent mixture distribution, and they don’t ever run lean unless you command them to do so. I don’t need 6 CHTs and 6 EGTs for my engine. I believe that anyone who has a $1,000 6 egt/cht monitor keeping tabs on a $275 motorcycle carb is making a serious judgement error.

D) Mechanical gauges with needles offer unique information. I can watch a mechanical oil pressure gauge and if the needle flickers while going up I can tell the bore of the oil pressure relief isn’t smooth enough. You can see rate of change with a needle. Watch the hand on an altimeter in climb. If it is moving as fast as a second-hand on a clock, the plane is climbing 1,000’/min. human eyes are very good at watching rates of change. If your watching climbing EGT on a needle, as it slows you can guess where its going to peak far better than looking at a number displayed on a screen.

E) Electrical instrumentation lies depending on voltage and grounds. If you have electrical instrumentation, warm up the engine, run it at a steady rpm and note the oil pressure. Then take the charging system off line. You need to be aware that many systems will read different numbers depending on if the system is seeing 12.8 or 14.5 volts. Digital electronic systems run between 0-5 volts, and they are particularly susceptible to poor grounds, mediocre crimps and very slight corrosion on connections, three things that happen is homebuilt aircraft. More than one pilot has been on the edge of a heart attack aloft when watching his oil pressure sink to zero, only to find out later it was just a bad ground on an electrical sender.

F) Mechanical instruments are Bad-Ass. On my workshop shelf I have a manifold pressure gauge that reads to seventy five inches of manifold pressure. (22 pounds of boost) It is from a Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune which had 3,700 hp turbo compound radials. It glows in the dark because the numbers are painted on with radioactive paint. There is a pretty good chance that this gauge flew in the cuban missile crisis or attacked the Ho Chi Minh trail. If it could talk, it would tell you that the cold war wasn’t always cold, and it would remind you to think about the people who fought it, but it can’t say anything. It just sits out there, night after night, its faint green glow quietly remembering thousands of hours aloft, in the company of men, men now mostly gone…. In another 15 years, all of the glass cockpits of today, all the MGL stuff from South Africa, all the I-Pads built by virtual slave labor in China, all the garbage like Blue Mountain and Archangel will all be lining the bottoms of landfills accompanying used diapers and copies of People magazine featuring the Kardashians. 15 years from today, my MAP gauge will still be quietly glowing, trying to remind people that there was a time when being an aviator was about skill, reliability under pressure and courage.-ww