Weekend Double Header, 2nd engine of the year, Rick Koch

If any of the photos are small, try hitting the F5 key at the top of your keyboard.


After Dave left on Saturday night, the test stand was cool for a mere 12 hours before the second engine run of the year. 601XL builder Rick Koch brought his engine over for a run on the stand. It fired right up and ran perfectly smooth. The engine isn’t a new build, just like Dave’s, it’s an upgrade with a generation one Dan bearing. The engine’s arrival on the stand is a bit of a story, but a good one with interesting lessons and a bright future flying in Rick’s 601XL later in 2013.


Above, I congratulate Rick on an instant start-up after his upgrade. The improvements were largely done at Corvair College #24 in Barnwell in November. At the College both Dan and I noted that Rick went out of his way to help other builders, and let others use tools ahead of him. It’s the kind of small gestures that you notice in a busy College, a sign that the builder really understands that the event is about learning and the shared experience, and not some type of “get william to build my engine for free” thing. Noting this, both Dan and I took Rick aside and said that we would be glad to have him down at out place for test run after the college.  It was an acknowledgement of his positive attitude at the college, and Grace and I were glad to have him down for a test run.


Above, Rick monitors the engine. I actually built this engine for another gentleman in upstate New York in 2006. The original owner was a very nice guy who installed the engine on a Zenith 601XL that he built 95% of. Last year, his family contacted he to say that he had passed away, and they were looking for assistance on selling his project. I told them that I was glad to help, under the sole condition that Grace and I were not financially compensated in any way shape or form. The man was our customer, and I told his daughter that for all my faults, I have a good understanding of loyalty, and helping them was something I was going to do for her Father, not for money.

I told them what I thought the value of the project was after reviewing all the records. They sounded a little surprised, they had been told by local airport people, alleged ‘friends’ of her Dads that you “couldn’t get much for an incomplete kit with a car engine.”

Enter, Rick Koch.  I had met Rick before at an aviation party. He has been a commercial instrument pilot for a long time, and he had owned experimental aircraft before. He is a complex, thinking kind of guy; He can be drinking a beer and following the football game and then turn and discuss the last book he read on historical economics. In a world that teaches people to dumb it down if you want to be popular, that’s refreshing. I tell Rick about the plane, and he is real interested. I tell him I will fully support him in coming up to speed on Zeniths and Corvairs, under the sole condition that he respect the man’s family, and not go bargain hunting. Right off, he said he understood that behavior like bargain hunting was within some people’s ‘morality’, but not his.

 Inside a few weeks, the plane was paid for and moved 1,000 miles to Rick’s hangar. The family called to say thanks, they noted that Rick first class and that he had paid the full price without asking for any kind of bargain. This last point surprised them because The price was four times what the ‘local expert’ was offering to pay (‘because he was going to help them out ‘) I mentioned this to Rick, and he simply said that he paid what it was worth, and what others would or would not do, didn’t concern him. He didn’t think he needed to be thanked nor applauded for doing the right thing.

 If there is a single thing I detest in aviation, its people who take advantage of builders families. Rick and I could spend hours arguing over what Herman Melville’s essential message was, but on ethical behavior, he is my kind of guy.


Grace took this photo of the sky above Rick’s running engine. She showed it to me and I said it looked like the Spruce Goose flying at us with a cats face below it. Grace said she thought it was a perfect blue day out, the engine ran great and maybe the Cross in the sky was a beautiful omen for Rick. Soooo…I’m not really the spiritual half of the marriage….

Adding the original retrofit Dan bearing to the engine was an easy and cost-effective improvement that did not require disassembling any of the engine. Because it was on the bench, Rick elected to pull the pan and replace the gasket as a unit, rather than just the front of it under the housing, The engine already had a Gold oil system on it. The only other upgrades Rick went for was a high volume pump, a new style ring gear and exhaust rotators. For a little bit of time and not too much money, ricks engine was upgraded 7 model years worth of improvements. The fact that the engine had been stored for years had no effect, it started right away and ran cleanly. The compression was perfect on the post run check.

He has some work to do on the airframe, but there is a good chance we can see the plane make its first flight in the spring. When you see Rick out on the flight line, be sure to say hello, he is a fellow Corvair guy I am very glad to have aboard.-ww

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