‘Zenvair’ information board, part #2


We received a number of positive comments about the new information board for Zenith/Corvair builders. Notably, one of these was from Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith. People who have been involved in homebuilding for a long time all understand that reliable and specific information and guidelines, developed directly from testing and field data are the foundation of real risk management in operations.

One of the things that a number of builders missed in the story is the very specific qualification for an invitation to join the group. Only people who have a completed Corvair powered Zenith, and Zenith builders who have a Running Corvair engine are qualified. We received a number of requests from builders that met these specific qualifications, but we also had a number from builders who either didn’t read the original story closely, or wanted some type of exception to be made for them. I would like to politely point out that we have a number of good reasons for the qualifications, and we are going to stick with them.

For the people who didn’t read the story closely, let me say that I write this stuff very carefully, and many of the things I write contain critical technical information on procedures. If you don’t have the time to read things, or your just glancing at it on a smart phone while driving, consider changing the way you approach information gathering on aviation subjects. I will read the newspaper when I am half asleep, but then it comes to reading things from aviation, AD’s instructions, POH’s, FAR’s NOTAMs, etc, it’s all brain cells on deck, no distractions, and taking notes if necessary. In day-to-day life there is no penalty for poor reading comprehension. In aviation, 90% reading comprehension is still a failing score. It is two different worlds, and you have to discipline yourself to treat them differently.  Less than 100% reading comprehension has some expensive consequences here. If you missed the part on qualifications, think of it as something of a very valuable wake up call.

For people who asked for an exception, please understand that we are not making any. First, when I asked the original Flyers to join, I said that the board I was asking them to join would only have people on it that met these qualifications. To make an exception is to unilaterally change my agreement with the people who have already joined and shared a lot of their operational data. A number of these people have never written into any other internet discussion group precisely because they didn’t want to have ‘John Q. Cyberspace’ and every other guy with a keyboard telling them they were ‘doing it wrong.’ They agreed to share their information with people who are very likely to use it, and have worked enough to appreciate the accomplishment of a builder with a flying plane.  I have many faults as a person, but one thing I don’t do is unilaterally decide to change agreements with people.

Second, this is a ‘board’ in the same sense that the NTSB is a board, meaning that it is a specific group of qualified individuals that are tasked with collecting data on a specific subject.  When the NTSB looks into something, they gather data, analyze it, and then put out a finding.  Aviators understand and trust the process, and understand why they don’t have every person with a pilot’s licence invited to comment during the process.  Likewise, having builders with just a rudder kit and a Corvair core engine in the group would not serve the mission. As well-meaning and interested as these people are, they don’t have their own data to contribute, and they don’t need the operations data before they have a running engine. If you want to be part of the group, chart a plan on how to finish your engine in the next few months. I will be glad to add you to the group. When your work pays off and you are in, you will be glad to be operating in a unit that will never have a guy chime in and say “I am going to put an ignition from a go-cart and a Hartzel constant speed prop on my 601XL so it will do 200 mph in cruise at flight level 25, that is just as soon as I pull my first rivet and get a student pilot certificate.” Your work on your own real engine will set you apart from such people.

If you are a builder of another airframe for your Corvair engine, there are other paths we are working on. Pietenpols are our #2 most popular installation. because of the highly individual nature of each Piet, and the fact that the Piet community already has a fairly good on-line communication network, my goal this year for Piet/Corvair builders is to compile a ‘notebook’ of all the data that we have on the building and operation of the combination, including weight and Ballance data, mount information, cowling designs, prop info, etc. We have most of this already, it just needs editing. The raw material we have looks like it will distill to a 200-250 page notebook.  Getting this together is my main writing goal for the period between Sun n Fun and Brodhead this year.

There is a good number of Corvair powered KR’s, but there is not a call for a board like we now have for Zeniths.  First, they are already served by the KR net and other sites. Second, KR’s are unique among Corvair powered planes that less than 50% of the flying ones utilize what we call a pure “ww Conversion.” Almost all of the flying KR’s have some piece on them which we made, an ignition, a mount, an exhaust or a hub, and I like to think that these builders all benefited from things that we worked on, but there are very few KR’s that have a complete engine installation that looks like the ones we teach people to build.

The only prominent examples of our style of engines and installations on KR’s are Dan Heath’s and Steve Makish’s.  Most of the others still have rear starters, do not have Gold Oil systems.  The goal of our Zenith board is to develop and log a lot of standardized data for follow on builders to use. The individual nature of the majority of KR installations doesn’t easily fit the same goal, and I am not in a position to test nor comment on systems we don’t work with nor sell. KR guys are pretty technical savvy and already share a lot of info, and there isn’t a big contribution that I can make to that particular combination on the information front. I am glad to sell the parts that those builders are willing to use, but an information board for them would not be productive. 

The modern KR/Corvair era started when we went to the 1999 KR gathering, and a lot of productive interest began at that point. We did not start our work with Zeniths until almost 5 years later. There are actually more KR builders in the EAA than Zenith builders. Yet in spite of a 5 year jump-start, we have six times as many Corvair powered Zeniths in the fleet than Corvair powered KR’s. To my perspective this is  mostly due to the fact that almost every KR guy wants to build a ‘unique’ installation. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t get nearly as many planes done as builder selecting a more proven path. People may argue that there are other factors at play on the completion rate, but look at the fact we have had about 30 Pietenpols completed in recent years, and Piet builders have a lot of things in common with KR builders (plans built, orphan design, same time to build, same average budget, individualized planes) but ahead of the firewall, almost all Piet builders have engines that are closely following our guide lines.

For builders of other designs, keep in mind that I am still your primary resource when it comes to putting your Corvair on your plane. We can answer most any question you have, and I am glad to do so. I am obviously going to continue to print a lot of information right here, and there are many other ways we share info with builders, like airshows and Colleges.  In most parts of the country, the flying season is just beginning. All it take to make this year productive, fun and rewarding is your own personal decision, right now, that this is your year, and you will make it count. Decide this right now, and you will find me glad to play any supporting role.-ww

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