Mail Sack, 1/21/13, Getting started and various topics.


Here is a sample of from the mail:

A letter From Jeff Moores, Merlin/Corvair builder and flyer from Newfoundland Canada. Jeffs story of building and flying is in this link:

“Hi William, I flew my Corvair/Merlin today from our frozen pond on Full lotus floats. Everything worked perfectly. The temperature here today was -10C so I preheated the engine for an hour with the heat gun and scat tubing setup. It started immediately as usual. Taxi on the snow was easy as there is lots of power available only needed about 1200 RPM to get it moving. The takeoff run was only about half the run required on water. From the pond to the hangar is uphill, but I was easily able to taxi right up to the door!!! I’m so pleased! -Jeff “

On the topic of the “Getting Started” series, Pietenpol builder/flyer Gary Boothe writes:

“I love this stuff! Even though I have one plane and engine under my belt (engine was closed up 8 years ago!), this is a great review as I prepare for #2. I now have 3 cores, all able to make use of one of the options…Gary”

 (The story of Garys plane is here: New Pietenpol, Gary Boothe, Cool, Calif.)

On the topic of the “Getting Started” series, Builder Robert Sceppa writes:

“I have just had my crank reground, safety shaft made and its in the shop for nitriding, ala Pramod. The front gear was removed before it is nitrided. Its an 8409 crank and I suppose I have to have that gear put back on, but its no problem I have some one that can do it.”

Robert, sounds like you are working on an ‘Allan Able’ format engine. It is good to have resources and skills available at that level-ww

On the topic of the “Getting Started” series, 750 builder and CC#24 grad Charlie Redditt writes:

“I love the numbering system, and since you obviously don’t have enough to do ;-) I might suggest an accompanying list of specialized tools (like the gear puller you mention above) that go along with each group. I’m sure that such would be mentioned in any instructions or videos for each group, but a tool list is really useful for tyros like myself.”

On the topic of the “Getting Started” series, Builder Dan Branstrom writes:

“This is an obscure point, but I think I remember asking about the original GM nitrided cranks, because a bunch of original Corvair engine parts still in the cosmoline were sold from the cache of a former mechanic in San Diego, and I met someone who had scored one at a Chapter 1 open house. As I remember your comment at the time was that the ion nitriding used today was superior to the nitriding used by GM when they manufactured them. Of course, since it’s a new crank, and a 5th bearing would be added, I imagine that the difference in nitriding wouldn’t make any difference.-Dan”

Dan either of the two processes, done correctly, work well in our application. Cranks from GM, Moldex, and Weseman’s 8409 process are Gas nitrided. Cranks that are from Nitron and Wesemans new cranks are Ion nitrided.  Nitriding by either method involves keeping the crank at very elevated temperatures for many hours. After this process, the cranks need to be checked for straightness. A good number of them will require the work of a skilled crank shop with either a brass drift or a press. After either  of these operations, that spot needs to be rechecked with a magnaflux test. Moldex does this when processing cranks. Dan’s 8409 process has an additional step: the cranks are all stress relieved for many hours in an oven before any work is done to them. When they are later gas nitrided, they never warp nor require straightening. The process is a little more expensive because of the two heat treatment cycles. Where many people speak of nitriding ‘warping’ cranks, in reality the heat of it is just stress relieving them. If this is done first in a separate operation, the nitriding, by either method, has no detrimental effect on straightness.-ww

Building a Metal Experimental, the Panther building bolg.


If you are new to experimental aircraft building, it is often hard to visualize the exact techniques that are used to build airframes in the major groups, Steel tube, wood, composite and sheet metal. Companies spend a lot of time showing you how cool their planes are, but until you buy the kit, you don’t see a lot about construction. Wood is an easier visualization for most people, and Steel tube aircraft are often seen and photographed before they are covered. Sheet metal aircraft are a bit more of a mystery to new builders because it is much harder to look at the finished airframe and visualize how it went together in detail without first seeing detailed information, particularly in photos. If you are interested in learning more about how sheet metal aircraft are built, particularly how things like wet wings and control systems are done, I highly suggest following Dan’s Panther Building Blog listed below:

Rachel updates it every few days as the aircraft progresses, and there is a lot of good understanding to be had by following it. Dan is working late into the night every day on the plane and it is at the stage of construction were many components are coming together in their final configuration, a good place for new builders to look, read and understand.-ww

Above, Dan stands beside the Panther prototype at Sun n fun 2012, With 601 builder/flyer Greg Jannaokos. Although the plane Has a steel tube fuselage in the cockpit area that protects the pilot and ties together all the major loads in the plane like the landing gear, motor mount and wing spars, the airframe is otherwise all aluminum construction. Dan’s plan is to teach builders the construction techniques and have them make the sheet metal components from plans or kits, and then have them tie all of the sub components together on the steel tube section that he will supply fully welded and powder coated. Dan’s design is named for the Florida Panther, a rare and beautiful wild cat, a relative of the cougar/mountain lion/puma family.

Two F9F-2Bs of VF-721 over Korea.

Above, Grumman’s version of a Panther. It also has folding wings, is made out of aluminum and started out life with an engine made by General Motors (Allison J-33) This aircraft was used by some OK pilots like Ted Williams, John Glenn and a guy named Neil Armstrong.

If you have this day off from work, and would like to invest a little time in reading, check out the story behind the making of one of the most moving aviation films:  Although I love Waldo Pepper, Spirit of St Louis, and the Blue Max, I still find The Bridges at Toko-Ri my favorite flight film. Todays consumer driven Hollywood requires that every film have 2 or 3 pointless sequels, sold on 30 second tv spots, the story manipulated to tie it into fast food distribution and theme park rides. Todays aviation films like Pearl Harbor barely escape this formula. fortunately you can go back 60 years to a film like Bridges of Toko-Ri and see a real masterpiece that was very closely based in reality. It is not a kind nor uplifting film. it provides no easy answers nor settled feelings. It has a tremendous amount of flying done in Grumman Panthers, long before some thing  called computer graphics made everything we see today fake.

Part of my connection to the film is that it was my Fathers era of Naval aviation. My Father spent many years in Vietnam and two long tours in Korea.  While these both broke his heart and simultaneously hardened him, he has always said that his years at the Naval Academy after being an enlisted man in WWII are what formed him and prepared him for later trials. On his floor in Bancroft hall, among midshipmen, were three other men the were also being formed, Hudner, Stockdale and Lopez. Even at a very young age, in the company very good men, my Father said that these three stood apart from others. Take a few minutes today to read their stories. The links to Hudner and Lopez are from Wikipedia, read the award citation sections closely, they are moving. The link to Stockdale is a story I wrote last year for the Philosophy section of this blog.-ww,_Jr.

( follow the second link to Thomas_J._Hudner,_Jr.)

James Stockdale – Philosophy

Getting Started in 2013, Part #8, ‘Davie Dog’ Short Block


Builder ‘Davie Dog’ is going to up the ante on Chas. Charlie by going for one of Dan Weseman’s new billet cranks with a Gen 2 bearing hub installed. He is going to choose to have a new gear on his crank. He is going to get a Clarks failsafe gear, installed by Clarks on a new cam, just as Chas. did. Deciding on a new Crank isn’t an impulse buy, so builders should study the information on it closely by reading the page for it on Dan’s site at the link below:

 Although I have the price info here, Dan would like builders choosing a new crank to look at the package he has put together for the cranks. The primary structural strength increase in these cranks comes from having radiuses that are very large by Corvair standards. These radius need the bearings to be inspected for fit and the connecting rods to be clearanced to match. Dan is offering to take care of both of these tasks for builders selecting a new crank for a modest charge. If you look at his webpage there is a package listed at $3,100, but that price includes bearings and connecting rods and labor. To keep with the comparative format we are using here I am going to break down Dan’s price because we want to see the comparison without involving the rods yet. The information here will provide a fairly accurate cost comparison for builders. 

Also to be noted is that the crank price of $2,450 with the new gear on is to allow the crank to be utilized in several different types of engines. In reality, Every Billet crank Dan has done has been delivered with the Gen 2 bearing hub installed. Dan pictures that almost every billet crank he delivers will go to the builder this way. Although the crank could have a Gen 1 bearing put on it, or be put in a car for that matter, I will give the price comparison at the end assuming the builder is going to have Dan install a Gen 2 hub so that it is a more direct comparison to the engine built by ‘Chas. Charlie.’

( CC stands for Clarks Corvair parts, SR stands for Summit Racing, ELS stands for Ebay Larry’s Corvair parts, and ECA stands for Ebay California Corvair parts.)


Crank group (1000)

1000-  Dan Weseman Billet crank. ( $2,250)

1001- Crank gear (new, $200, installed in crank processing)

1002- Crank gear key (Included in crank prep)

1003- Crank gear gasket (Included in crank prep)

1004- Rear keys -2-(CC-#5858, $1.50, $3)

1005- Fuel pump eccentric (used, from core engine)

1006- Spacer (used, from core engine)

1007- Bronze distributor drive gear (used, from core engine)

1008- Oil slinger (used, from core engine)

1009- Main bearings (ELS-$88)

1010- Connecting rod bearings (ELS-$59)


Cam group (1100)

1100- Cam ( CC, part 8800, $235 )

1101- Thrust washer (new installed by Clarks, $12.60)

1102- Key (CC-#5858, $1.50)

1103- ‘Fail safe’ Cam gear (CC- $94 + $25 assembly)

1104- Hydraulic lifter set -12 total- ( $2.99each, $36)

1105- Cam lubricant (comes with OT-10 cam)

1106- ZDDP oil additive (SR,$16)


Case Group (1200)

1200- Case -2 halves with studs- (used, from core engine)

1201- Main case bolts -8- (used, from core engine)

1202- Pipe plugs for oil galleries -2- (used, from core engine)


The total of  Davie Dogs engine parts above are $3,020.10. For a more effective comparison, look at the price after installing a Gen 2 5th bearing system: $4,270.10. Chas. Charlie’s engine is identical, except that it has a processed GM 8409 crank, and it comes in at $2,770.10.  This the price increase for going with a new billet crank is $1,500.

Is this a lot of money? Well, like most things, it depends on your perspective. Lets say you are going to build an absolutely magnificent Corvair with an overhauled MA-3, etc. and the total looks like $10K spent over 24 months. Deciding that you are going to build the engine around a billet crank instead is only a 15% price increase. For another comparison, my neighbor just had to buy a new crank for his 4 cylinder Lycoming. After careful shopping he found one on sale for $3,990. That’s the crank by itself. At Oshkosh I had a guy tell me that he had gone through an 0-200 bottom end from a 1959 C-150 for his homebuilt. He spent more than $5,000 on it to make it right. He said to me that he liked it more than a ‘car’ engine because he “didn’t want to use old stuff and he wanted an engine with big bearings,” Because I am a jackass at heart, I took the time to explain that his 1959 crank is older than any Corvair crank ever made and the main bearings on an O-200 are smaller in diameter than those in a Corvair. I restrained myself from pointing out that his top end will likely cost another $4K, his mags and carb overhaul another $3K. Maybe I am maturing and gaining a sensitive side….

Again, if any builder would like to have this assembled as a running start, we are glad to pick up the parts at The Weseman’s and take care of it for a modest charge. -ww

Guest Editorial, Greg Crouchley, Waiex/Corvair builder.


About a month ago we had Greg down to finish and test run his 3,000 cc Corvair equipped with a Weseman billet crank. Greg had been at CC#24 and came close to getting his engine running, but took it home and finished it, and later came down for a test run. At the time I wrote the story at the link below about the adventure:

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

I had spent some time with Greg at various airshows and events, but the time we spent in the hangar gave me a chance to hear Greg’s personal path into Experimental Aviation. I though it was particularly interesting, and that builders reading it would have a chance to reflect on their own entry point and perspective. I invited Greg to type it up and share it. In the last year, we have had a number of guest editorials, and these have been well read.  I asked each of the writers to use the space they needed to give their story the depth that would allow other builders to connect with it. Other internet groups talk about ‘saving bandwith’ like electrons were some kind of endangered species. I am interested in people communicating with each other in more than bumper sticker slogans.

Of interest to me is that the data tracking on our site shows that these stories are read many times in the months after they are published. They have lasting appeal and effect. In the last year the #1 story was Kevin Purtee’s guest editorial, which was read by over 5,000 people. I try to publish a mix of technical and motivational stuff, clearly both of it has strong readership. Here is Greg’s story; take the time to enjoy it and consider your own entry point into experimental Aviation.-ww

Above, Greg, Grace and Scoob E at Corvair College #23


Dear William and Grace,

A month or so has passed since my visit and I thought you might be wondering if my experience might have tempered a bit as the distractions of the holidays draw away focus.


If anything, the reverse has happened. My desire to finish the plane and mount the engine for the next set of tests is burning hotter than ever.

It is interesting that the engine, which was the part of the project I knew the LEAST about a year ago is now the part I probably know the MOST about today. After my initial contact with you and then seeking you out several more times at subsequent aviation events, I’m sure that you must have looked at me with a healthy dose of skepticism.

I shouldn’t have wasted the time worrying about it. I asked questions of you that were so basic, so uninformed, so dumb that I can’t help but laugh at them now. More importantly, I’m sure I stumbled into territory that, knowing what I now know, could be considered controversial or even insulting had they been anything but totally innocent. And each time you would listen, pause and consider, and then reply with thoughtful, succinct, and pithy guidance. I was slowly closing in on touching down in the Land Of Corvairs, but was still doing my best to hold her off, and hold her off, and hold her off. Until the day came I couldn’t find a single legitimate reason not to act.

So, at OSH I bought the Manual, as well as the Flight Ops and Zodiac installation  books, late in the afternoon.  I started reading at your booth over in Homebuilts. Since I was tent camping, my plan was to take my loot to my usual 6 pm perch in the grass near the road at the departure end of the ultralight field, watch the UL’s fly, then walk to my tent for some dinner and shut eye. Heading south I made it to the UL barn area, still reading the Manual. I suppose a lot of people had to dodge aside as I walked the road with my eyes down, buried in the book. Rethinking my plan, I turned west, out the gate and even passed my favorite steamed corn-on-the-cob fine dining experience. Didn’t have enough hands to read and eat corn, so this ONE time, I passed on the corn.  

To this day, I recall walking the long fence line west, then south, then west again to my little tent, reading. Suffice it to say, that about covers all I did for the rest of my waking moments of that day. Reading. And thinking.

You were convincing this non-motorhead he could actually do this, AND complete it, AND it I would learn enough to understand and address the associated risks and concerns.

So, where to start? Totally unfamiliar with Corvairs,  I was skeptical of your statement that cores are plentiful and everywhere and to look on Craig’s List. Did it, and a week or two later I found myself in Alexandria, Va under a Monza helping a car enthusiast pull his running motor. He was swapping in a turbo motor he had just picked up. And yes,the numbers from your book all checked out. Amazingly,  for a few weeks after I pulled the ad, I got calls from folks offering their motors. And people I work with who listened to the crazy idea of putting a Corvair motor in my next plane suddenly had uncles, fathers, or friends who had one under a bench in the old barn. Just like you said.

Following the book and video, I took her apart, throwing nothing away, as you advised in the DVD. Despite a ton of WD40 and PB and Mouse Milk, one stud screwed out, two turned. Sure I was FUBAR’D, I was a bit depressed as I packed this now ‘junk’, still filthy, engine into the car for the 10 hour drive to CC#21, my first.

No idea what to expect, except from watching a YouTube or two. I took up residence in the back corner of the last table, since I was not even sure I belonged there. Armed with carb cleaner, rags, brushes, and a few of my ‘made in China’ tools, I proceeded to make a mess, transferring all the grease from my parts to PF Beck’s cardboard, the rags, and every piece of clothing and exposed skin I had. All while thinking the case is history and you would safety wire me to a table in front of the others and flog me with a beam-type torque wrench (at the time I had never even owned one, ever!) saying ‘silly man…Corvair engine conversion is for real men… Begone!’

Maybe part of that was the result of reading some Internet fizzle about you, as well as that blasted case.

When I had it reasonably clean enough, I walked up to you and asked you to take a look at my now-for-certain boat anchor, as well as an odd casting line that looked like a crack to my vastly experienced eye. You calmly looked at the head bolts, the case, the threads on the missing stud, and the bearing seats, and said this case was fine. A most gracious Don and PF took me for some red dye they had in another hanger. We dyed the line and you came back and said it was fine. Immediately, covered in grease, tired and hungry, I was 10′ tall again. And still no flogging.

I started buying your conversion parts. Some at the college, and some I ordered as my understanding and knowledge grew. My living room became a museum as parts were  everywhere as I studied the enclosed directions that came with each part. I remember leaving a voice message and sending a couple of emails with questions. At 9:30 one evening my phone rang and as I looked at it the caller ID said ‘William Wynne’. I was surprised that you would call me over some relatively mundane questions.

That was the day that learned that your statement of support for even first timers was true. I wonder if you even recall that first real conversation. It went on for almost an hour and a half. Topics were wide-ranging, interesting, entertaining, and educational. We found mutual connections and I learned some about you. And I realized that I had just been ‘supported’ in a way that simply doesn’t exist anymore. No time limit, no credit cards, no sales pitch. When we hung up, I realized that not only did you know and cover the topics in my messages, but left me energized with my decision. Later on, I’d come to realize you also answered questions I didn’t know I had yet.

Since then, we’ve done it again. Another hour long conversation one day when I happened to call just to leave a message. And several face-to-face chats at Colleges and Sun-n-Fun and Oshkosh.

I guess the best way to say it is that they way in which you have read me and decided the best way to support me was spot-on.

It is important to pause here and add that the friendliness and care that Grace has shown to me is an equally vital component of what I’m calling support. She is a perfect compliment to you, and I’m certain there is no one more appropriately named.

Over the year, the opportunity to consider Dan’s new crankshaft arose. I came to you to discuss it, and explain that my interest was ONLY motivated by a desire to contribute and participate in your work in some small way. One of the strongest elements in my plunge into the world of Corvair conversion is knowing that you test fly every part you sell. First. And fly with Grace behind them too. A man who clearly states that we worship at the altar of Continental and Lyc for their brilliant engineering of durability and reliability into their parts, stresses that studying failure modes in equipment and pilot is the core of risk management, builds and offers parts to help REDUCE potential for error in installation and in use, is the kind of man I want to learn something from.

The parts are all not only excellent quality, but they fit as advertised. Very important to my non-machinist hands. I have had so many ‘aftermarket’ parts not even close to fitting my truck when they arrived. Like they were eyeballed or something, but certainly when the purveyor was called, suddenly I was the enemy. With your parts, all I had to do was follow your clear and simple directions. And never was I held up because an ordered WW part wasn’t in my hands. Did they all come together? No. Did I buy some in person at the Colleges or Shows? Yes. Did Grace always seem to know what I was still owed? Absolutely.

I’ve read that some people had experiences they didn’t expect. Mostly waiting periods for a part or two of the myriad you sell. Did I have to wait a bit for a part or two you offered to work by your own hand? Sure. Did I ever have to stop building because I was waiting for you? Never. Instead, I had a decidedly different experience. One of your most expensive parts set I had in my living room when I attended a College. You walked over to me out of the blue, asked if you remembered correctly had that part back home and I said yes. You handed me the entire new set and said to send the other set back whenever I got the chance. Several times you told me you were woking on an idea or a part and after you tested it, I might prefer it to one I currently had. And you’d say to drop you a note to remind you. Don’t recall reading these types of stories on the internet.

The Colleges are very important to my education. Hands on. The time you asked everyone to put hands on a rocker and set it or no dinner just so we’d all know the feel of doing it right. Or how to install a pin in a piston properly since the stock ones do not float. Watching you remove a snapped head bolt without wrecking the threads in the case. Or seating a harmonic balancer correctly. On and on. For a guy like me, understanding how to made a stand for the case to install crank and cam wasn’t trivial. Or building a table to bolt the engine on her nose to work on it like a certificated repair shop. I could go on an on. Not to mention all the friends I made like PF and Don, Mike and Michelle, Kevin and Shelley, and of course the inimitable Dan and Rachel. There were a lot of laughs, and loads of skill and knowledge free for the taking. All at a cost less than I would have spent if I simply went out and bought my lunches and dinners at McDonalds.

Because of a simple honest mistake, I  wasn’t quite able finish my engine and run it at CC24, despite all of the personal attention that you and Dan showered on me. To be invited to your airport to test run it was the ultimate and the final act of support.

I’ve heard and read some stories about you. Some suggest all you are about is selling parts. Or you are too opinionated and not open to ideas. Or you are volatile. All I can say is that I watched you deal with one person at one College in a patient and thoughtful manner out of a concern for his safety and well being. He was not grasping nor accepting your correct position. If it were me instead of you, I’m certain my final response would be retold for years in Land of Corvair stories about me that would make Tim Geithner blush. Just pushing parts? I have them all, and I still can’t believe for that very modest sum that I have been able to complete and run my engine, and enjoyed such support along the way. I’m pretty sure there is no cheaper College education in the USA. And none better. 

My answer to all this is to simply say that if I read it correctly, 50% of the people in the Garden of Eden mislead the other 50% and ruined a good thing. If the Garden of Eden wasn’t good enough for half the population, and could convince the other half of the same, the fact that only a very small percentage of people in the Land of Corvairs are unhappy or know better, you are way ahead.

I hope my story might help someone of little engine experience who is wondering if they can rely on your pledge of support and supply of top quality parts to explore this fascinating and substantive slice of aviation. The video of me when mine ran is proof positive there are rewards like ones’ first solo awaiting, thanks to you and Grace, and your FlyCorvair business.

Looking forward to the next Corvair College,