Guest Editorial, Greg Crouchley, Waiex/Corvair builder.

Builders,

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.

No.

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,

Greg

About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

One Response to Guest Editorial, Greg Crouchley, Waiex/Corvair builder.

  1. Jeff says:

    Hi Greg,

    I would like to leave a short note to mention that I have had almost an identical experience as you have had with the Corvair experience. I haven’t been to a Corvair College (yet) but enjoyed the extended phone and email conversations with William as well as talking with him and wonderful Grace at Oshkosh. It may sound silly but I always have a feeling that I’ve made the right decision afterwards. I am not a newbie to neither aviation nor engines but I have been impressed from the very beginning with William’s operation.

    Jeff Moores
    Corvair/Merlin

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