Mail Sack – Letter of the month – Dick Otto, 601XL Calif.


If you have not met him, let me introduce Dick Otto, your fellow Corvair Builder. Let me tell you some impressive things about Dick; The 601XL that he scratch built over the last five years is really nice. He has diligently put together a first class engine while building the airframe. Although he doesn’t feel great every day, he still gets out to the shop and works through it. Although he doesn’t yet have a licence, he is pretty sure its just another skill he is going to pick up when the time comes. Dick is an easy-going guy, he has been to a number of California Colleges, and everyone who met him liked the guy. Oh yeah, the last detail that puts it in perspective……He was born in 1921.

Below is a letter that dick wrote in a few days ago. The Woody in the story is 601XL builder/flyer Woody Harris, our West Coast man. A lot of the reports I get on Dick’s progress come from Woody’s house calls, where he always is impressed by Dick’s workmanship and his work ethic. Note in the letter he is talking about redoing a panel that isn’t up to his personal standards. The letter gives you some Idea of the fact that Dick is over 90, he still remains the head of his family, never backed off caring for them. Below the letter I included two photos of Dick at previous Corvair Colleges, along with some notes to give you a better idea of who your fellow builder is. Answers to his wiring question is at the very bottom. Hats off to Dick Otto, senior ranking Corvair builder.-ww

PS, if any of you builders would like to drop Dick a note directly, his email address is:

“I read all of your articles in the morning before I go out to the shop to work on my plane. I am still at it and am going to finish it. My engine does not look as good as most of those that you print pictures of. After spending about 8 hours trying to install the Weseman 5th bearing I called Woody with questions. He said he would come out and help me. I picked him up at Bucanan airport in Concord. It was quite a challenge. I think I turned the crank over about 6 or 7 times but we got it. I also installed the high volume oil pump. During the summer I took a break. I bought a used class A motor home that needed a lot of work. My daughter,son-in-law,and me took three trips in it. Still work to do on it but it can wait for now. My grandson passed away in March after battling Systic Fibrosis for 33years. It hit my daughter very hard. One of the reasons I bought the motor home so we could get away. The wiring has been my biggest thorn. Yesterday I decided to start over because I did not like the way it looked. I formed a new panel and am now in the process of laying out the new look. I do have a few questions about the wiring of the distributor. I have the E/P distributor. Your wiring diagram shows two coils but no wire running from coil B. How does the spark get to the E point? I have made the A coil my primary. – Dick”

 From Corvair College #18, 2010. On the right is our oldest builder, Dick Otto, of Concord, Calif., 89 years young. If you have some doubt about what determined people can do in homebuilding, consider that Dick’s airplane and engine are essentially done. It is a built-from-plans Zenith 601 XL. Many people who have seen it will attest to its outstanding craftsmanship. This is Dick’s first aircraft project, and he’s still a student pilot. His progress has not been impeded by people telling him what he should be doing at his age or what makes sense. Good path for builders of all ages.

From Corvair College #11, 2007. “Standing beside me at right above is Dick Otto, Corvair builder from Northern California. Although Dick just got into Corvairs this year, he brought an entire collection of engine parts meticulously prepped. We used his stuff to demonstrate case assembly and installing the piston-rings-cylinder assemblies. Dick was a real trooper, working during the chilly mornings and staying late into the night. He drove about 100 miles to get to the College, and to stay close to the action, he chose to camp out near the airport. As it was Veterans Day, Dick shared with us the experience of crewing a self-propelled 105 mm in a U.S. Division drive into Germany in Spring 1945. Now read this sentence slowly: Dick Otto is 86 years old. He logged time in the mid-1930s, but has not piloted an aircraft since. He has a common story where a youthful love of aviation is interrupted by the responsibilities of a family life. But he’s absolutely serious about returning to aviation after a short 70-year break. If his prep work for the College is any indication, I’d say he’s a strong bet to take to the air again.”

Wiring notes: E/P Distributors have three wires coming out of them One from the points goes to the negative side of the back up coil. The Electronic unit has two fine wires. The one with the yellow trace goes to the negative side of the primary  coil. The one with the red trace goes to the positive side of the primary coil. Don’t mix these up, it will burn out the unit in an instant. The points coil has a condenser on the negative side. The electronic coil does not use a condenser.  Each of the coils is connected on the positive side to the A/B switch. By setting it up this way, selecting the  electronic ignition runs power to the coil, and in turn power flows down the red trace wire to the electronic unit.-ww

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