John Moyle, noted aviation enthusiast, passes -1/16/13


Today brought the sad news that John Moyle, an aviator known to many people in the Corvair movement, passed from this world yesterday. He was a relentlessly positive person in a world were that is an ever more scarce quality. He was a devoted family man and the best of friends to many people who knew him. His attitude on any potential challenge was “Why not?” The world is full of people who are quick to think of all the reasons why something won’t work, can’t or shouldn’t be done.  John had enough positive energy to counter legions of such people and the charm to make many of them crack a smile at the same time.

Oshkosh homebuilders dinner 2003, a great night. Clockwise from left in foreground, John Moyle, Pat Panzera, and George Willenbrock, on the right, aircraft designer Ed Fisher and myself.

In a few short paragraphs it would be very hard to describe the positive work of John Moyle in aviation. He was a tremendous volunteer for any task, large or small. Need help setting up Corvair College#5? Just ask. Got a plane in Europe that needs to be in California? He was on it. Pat Panzera always credited John as being Contact! magazine supporter #1. Many experimental aviators met John at airshows because he frequently staffed the Contact! booth. His overwhelming positive energy and super gregarious nature made him a complete natural in the position. John attended a number of Corvair Colleges, many west cost builders meeting him at #5 and #13. He wrote a great number of magazine articles and contributed a lot to unseen tasks like editing. He still found the time to own a lot of different experimental aircraft and do a fair bit of flying.

You didn’t have to spend very long in his company to see that he only wanted to do things that were fun, but directly benefited others. He was just the opposite of people who always ask “what’s in it for me?”. If John was doing something, you could be sure it had a strong element of some greater good. If I am painting a picture of some very large version of Gandhi, let me correct this by saying that John was also a lot of fun and had a wicked sense of humor.

John knew many of the best parts of aviation, the moments he made by working to put himself where the fun was, where things were going on, where people were doing things. He also knew the somber side of flying as well. His brother was killed in a Glasair III crash approaching Oshkosh 2001. Other than marking the first anniversary of the accident, John didn’t speak much of it, but it was certainly an emotional burden that he quietly carried. I suspect that it stole a lot of the personal joy from flying for him, but if it did, he never said so. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t let his personal loss dampen the positive day of others.

Most people find it hard to be positive, even when things are going well for them. John Moyle was positive at all times, good and bad. He was the genuine article, the real thing, a person who understood what Roosevelt was saying when he spoke of “A man who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause..”, and his life was far richer for embracing this creed. He was one of a kind, and we won’t have someone quite like him again.

Blue skies and Tailwinds John, thanks for everything, you left aviation a better, richer, friendlier place than you found it.-ww

New Pietenpol, 2700 Corvair, Don Harper SC


About a month ago word got out that Don Harper’s Piet was ready to fly. The first flight of some aircraft are anticipated by fans of a design because the particular rendition is of great interest. Other first flights are looked forward to because the creator is a salt of the earth, well liked guy. In Don’s case, both are true, and when the plane did its first test hops, word went out in Pietenpol circles that Don was now “in the club.”

I spoke with both Don and PF today, and heard the good news that the plane is now fully operational. The pictures below were taken at Corvair College #24, where Don and friends all pitched in with our local host PF Beck to run an outstanding event. Even from a distance, the plane shows a lot of craftsmanship and attention to detail. There are numerous small details that are very clever, the kind of stuff you would never see looking at 200 RV’s at Oshkosh. As neat as these are, the most talked about detail on Dons plane is that it utilizes a Ribblet airfoil in place of the original Pietenpol section. although they plan to release comprehensive data from testing later, neither PF or Don are leaking any preliminary data. For right now they are focused on running a low risk flight test program at Barnwell, their home airport.

Above, Pietenpols of Don Harper (near) and PF Beck (far). They are sister ships in almost every way, with two exceptions: Don’s is a long fuselage and it had a Ribblett airfoil instead of a traditional Pietenpol airfoil. Shortly, PF will be able to offer factual comparative data on the flight performance of each of the airfoils. On the internet, armchair aerodynamictists have pontificated about this from imaginary data for years. Thanks to PF and Don, we will have information worth reading.


Above, A look at Don’s engine compartment with swing out side panel. This plane uses a front starter and a basic 4 bearing set up. Both Don and PF are master old-school scroungers and skilled fabricators. These two aircraft are some of the least expensive examples of the type. When PF’s plane was done about 6 years ago, he told me that he only had $6,800 in the whole plane, including the engine. While most Corvair builders elect to buy a new carb or pay for an overhauled one, Don worked to put his own together out of parts, and spent the time to tune it. He has some small stuff to be corrected on the engine, and Grace and I were glad to help him out with this as a small thank you for all his work at several Colleges. In short order the plane ran great, and PF reports that it is a strong runner. Both planes fly 64 x 34 props that PF made.

 Don Harper, (left) and P.F. Beck at sun n fun 2009. What is the best thing you have in aviation? It might be your plane you created with your own hands, engine included,…or it might be having a life long friend who loves all the same things about flying that you do. Don Harper doesn’t have to choose, he has both. I can make a pretty good case that he is one of the luckier guys in aviation, but I would also gladly say that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.-ww

Mail Sack, 1/16/13, Getting started and various topics…


Here is a sample of the mail:

On ‘Getting Started’, Zenith 750 builder Blaine Schwartz writes:

“William, What a great idea for planning the build and keeping track of progress. I volunteer to create a basic excel spreadsheet that you can make available for those who want it. They can embellish it any way they want, but it would come to them with the basic numbering schema and whatever info you want to get them started. Just let me know if you want me to do this.-Blaine”

On ‘Getting Started’, Zenith 601XL builder and flyer Phil Maxson writes:

“After having created a rather complex spreadsheet for the nuts and bolts needed for the build, I’m pretty familiar with what would be needed to create the full itemized list in a spreadsheet. I would love to create that for you. Would you be willing to let me do that?-Phil”

Blaine and Phil- I appreciate the offer from both of you. Phil has some of this already, so I am going to ask him to work on it a bit and come up for numbers on the five samples in the last instalment. Blaine, I know your really good at this stuff, but I want to stay on your 750 project, we need a few more of these to come on-line in 2013.-ww

On ‘Getting started’ builder Bruce Culver writes:

“You know, William, the thing of it is, the Panther billet crank for the Corvair engine is actually a work of art when you look at it. Just look at the photos – things like this end up in the Museum of Modern Art as examples of the best in industrial design. It is absolutely beautiful, as is the notion that you will never have to wonder about its history or previous use or care…..Bravo! It would almost be a shame to seal that inside a case, but I have no doubt it’s what I’ll be using. I was trained as an artist and wouldn’t buy “ugly”. Jeez, that’s pretty…..”

Bruce, I have picked up and carried around in my hands hundreds of Stock corvair cranks in the last 25 years. They weigh 26 pounds, and they are not hard to grasp with one hand, even if they are oily. I have given Dan a hand with some of his new cranks and carried them with protective oil on them. They are so smooth to the touch as to be noticeably harder to carry one-handed. They not only look good, they actually feel good to the touch. Lexan top cover? Maybe.-ww

On ‘Getting Started’, builder “Jaksno” writes:

“This is an awesome series! You are a lot like a world-class coach. Much appreciated. I’ve seen the information on the main website, of course, the EAA webinar, and more. But this ‘review’ of sequential process with highlighted decision points couched in logical recommendations is gold. Thanks!”

Friend, thanks for the positive energy. when dropping us a line please let us know your name and what you are thinking of building.-ww

On the topic of Corvair College #25 in Leesburg FL,  Builder Jim Nelson Writes:

“So where is the sign-up place. I’d like to visit the College at Leesburg FL. I could not find where to do this—Jim”

Jim, we are going to have more info shortly. I am the guest speaker at the Leesburg EAA chapter, 9am Saturday the 26th if you are in the area. We will college details here after I return from the meeting.-ww

On the topic of Corvair College #26 in California, Builder Ron Applegate writes:

“Hi William, Ron Applegate here. You speak of a CC in Chino…any idea of a date for the College yet? At least two of us here at Rosamond. Thanks…”

Ron, We are looking more at May than any other month. I have a number of factors in the decision, including Weather (we had considered March) and other shows. I have bi-weekly conferences on the phone with the two people who are in on the planning, and we will let you know as fast as we get past a few variables.-ww

On the topic of Corvair College #2X Builder Douglas Cook writes:

“Any plans for another college in the Pittsburgh PA area? I went to #20 in Hillsdale and would like to attend another not too far away.”

Douglas, One of the things we want to do in 2013 is the “Corvair air tour” I mentioned in the last mail sack. If we can get this in gear for the summer, we will certainly pass through your area. Phil Maxson has mentioned wanted to have a Jr. College at his place in NJ. Lots of good ideas, but I have to balance them with regular work and orders.-ww

On the topic of ‘Intakes and internet myths’  Zenith 650/2700 Builder and PhD manufacturing engineer Becky Shipman writes:

“Simple procedure for criticism of earlier engine designs: 1) Understand the goals and motivations of the person who did the design. 2) Assume he knew what he was doing based on available technology at the time. 3) Then look at what has changed between now and then, and then point out why his assumptions are no longer valid. 4) If one assumes everyone who came before them was stupid, one will never learn anything beyond what one can come up with oneself. 5) By and large, I think the people who built airplanes and engines 50-75 years ago were really smart but working off a much smaller technology base, with more limited materials. 6) Their stuff still needed to work, and if it didn’t it was relegated to the scrap heap. “ToolBuilder” clearly is unable to learn from the intelligence of others, and will therefore never be smarter than he is now. 7) A pity he feels the need to demonstrate this on such a regular basis.- Becky”

Getting Started in 2013, Part #4, Case Group (1200)


Here we have a tiny group, the Case. I may later break down the case into smaller more descriptive elements, but for now, it gets the job done. Now, there are a lot of notes that can be applied here, but keep in mind we are just looking at the overview big picture. The one note that I want to point out is that the case has no machine work on a 2700/2850 but the six bores in the case for the cylinders must be machined larger on a 3,000 cc engine. Of course, this is done before it is assembled.

Case Group (1200)

1200- Case -2 halves with studs-

1201- Main case bolts -8-

1202- Pipe plugs for oil galleries -2-


Now, let’s get a look at the four parts so far and think about putting a case together. Using just these numbers as a check list and something of a road map, any builder can put together a plan to assemble their case at Corvair College #25. Actually all the effort to get to that stage goes into the prep work, cleaning and a little shopping. It you lay out all the properly prepared components from groups 1000, 1100 and 1200 in front of me on the bench, and get me an assembly stand and my trusty Snap-on torque wrench “Excalibur“, I can assemble the case in about 45 minutes.

Now I say this in bad conscience because I once took 2 days to do it.  There was a tiny ding in one of the bearing surfaces that was putting a small amount of extra drag on the turning crank and bothering me. I took it apart 6 times to find it and make it right. Keep in mind, it’s not a contest, the winning score is being happy with it, and any amount of time it takes between 45 minutes and 48 hours is fine. BTW, everything we are talking about here is in our engine assembly DVD #1 that covers building up a case.

Going back to the first part of this series we talked about crank selection. Lets look at some samples bringing all of this together and see what large variations of choices are available to builders,

Builder ‘Allan Able’ elects to use a Moldex prepped crank, and put off a 5th bearing for now. Lets say his crank has a reasonably good gear on it that doesn’t need replacement. He is going to use the low expense route laid out in the Camshaft section of Part #4

Builder ‘Bob Baker’ elects to use a Weseman prepped crankshaft with a gen 2 bearing hub installed. He is going to keep his used gear from his crank. He is going to get a Clarks standard cam gear, he is going to put in on a re-ground cam himself.

Builder ‘Chas. Charlie’ elects to use a Weseman prepped crankshaft with a gen 2 bearing hub installed. He is going to elect to have a new gear on his crank. He is going to get a Clarks failsafe gear, installed by clarks on a new cam.

Builder ‘Davie Dog’ elects to use a Weseman New billet crankshaft with a gen 2 bearing hub installed. He is going to elect to have a new gear on his crank. He is going to get a Clarks failsafe gear, installed by clarks on a new cam.

Builder ‘Eddie Easy’ elects to send his case and crank to Roy at Roy’s Roy is going to rework his stock crank, install a Roy bearing and use a failsafe clarks gear on a new cam.

In the next few parts we will take a look at how Allan, Bob, Charles,Davie and Eddie are doing on their projects.-ww.