Numbering System update…….Real Goals in Aviation.


Below is a sample of the 1100 group of the new numbering system. We saw this earlier, in the ‘Getting Started in 2013’ series I wrote last month. I am going to slightly change the system of numbering to make engine building easier to organize. It is a subtile change, but an important one. I pick this simple group to show the before and after, and to explain why. Very shortly I am going to come back with the final revised numbering system, and print it all out here.  We are going to change our own parts numbering system on our catalog page on our main website to match the new system, and we will have a vastly better organized system for builders to work with that will provide a very orderly path to a running engine.

Below is the original numbering system from last month. Note how the group is 1100 and also the camshaft itself is part number 1100.


Cam group (1100)

1100- Cam

1101- Thrust washer

1102- Key

1103- Cam gear

1104- Hydraulic lifter set -12 total-

1105- Cam lubricant

1106- ZDDP oil additive


Ok, here is the change: Notice the group stays the same, 1100, but everything moves down one number. below this I will explain the why of it.



Cam group (1100)

1101- Cam

1102- Thrust washer

1103- Key

1104- Cam gear

1105- Hydraulic lifter set -12 total-

1106- Cam lubricant

1107- ZDDP oil additive


Now, picture yourself building an engine with the new numbering system. As I will show everyone shortly, there are 40 different groups, each with their sub component numbers. We are going to have a checklist for builders with the 40 groups on it, so a guy heading to a college to close his case will know that he needs to have all the sub components so he can ‘check off’ groups 1000, 1100 and 1200 from his list.

The new change eliminates confusion between a builders speaking of ‘having part 1100’ which was just the cam, and ‘having group 1100’ which are all the items listed above. The simple number change above fixes this.

Second, we are moving toward a system where we will be able to offer an entire group in one box, instead of just some parts of the group. for example, Lets look at the Oil Pan Group (2200).


Oil Pan Group (2200)

2201- Oil pan

2202- Oil pickup

2203- 1/4″-20 hardware -19-

2204- Drainplug

2205- Oil pan gasket

2206- Dipstick

2207- Dipstick bracket


Traditionally, a builder bought a pan and an install kit from us, and ended up with all the things listed except for 2205, 2206, 2207. respectively, his gasket was from a gasket set like the clarks 120ww set, but we are moving toward getting builders to look at the gasket as a part of the group, because big sets often have things like front seals that 5th bearing builders don’t use. In this case I want builders to just have a clarks c-199 gasket. We have long told builders to get the Ford 302 dipstick and cut it down. This hasnt been a problem, but I could just get a giant stack of them and cut them all down to the correct length in 30 minutes. The tab is a small bracket the stabilize the top of the dipstick to one of the 5/16″ top cover bolts. Easily hand-made if the builder wishes, but I want to have laser cut ones available because they are cheap enough and I want builders to focus on the big things, not a detail like fabricating this small part, especially at settings like Colleges.

Thus, we are shortly going to revise our catalog page to have something called a “Complete 2200 group”, which will have all of the parts of this group in one box. We will have clearly explained letter code suffixes, so a builder can directly order a 2200B, which will be the whole group with a Gold Billet pan, and we will also have a 2200W, which is the whole group with one of our welded pans. Of course, we will still have the Gold Billet pan by itself, and it will have part number 2201B.

You don’t have to memorize any of this, we will spell it all out in detail, but I just wanted to give builders a look ahead and a specific sample so that we can understand the system and where we are headed with it.  I personally think that it will make a big difference on the accessibility of engine building.

Now, follow this next part closely, because it is the whole reason why I have spent a year developing this new system. I want more builders to get more focused on developing their fundamental understanding of the Corvair engine, and become much better operators and mechanics on them. Right now, we are doing good, the average Corvair builder is a Motorhead/genius when his engine is done, if we compare him to the average guy that just bought a buy-it-in-a-box imported engine. But I am setting my educational standards higher than that. I want every guy to get the most out of building his engine in terms of a learning opportunity.

Here is how the new system serves this: right now, too many builders view the engine building task as collecting the parts, assembling them, and getting it done. Thats fine, but I am not after improving builders shopping/scrounging skills, nor am I interested in having builders focus much thought on making a dip stick tube bracket.  I want builders to really know things like how to install and time distributors, how to set valves once, how to use a differential compression tester, how to do a valid 100 hour inspection, when to preheat in cold weather and why. These things are the type of things that really good A&P mechanics all know about the types of engines they master, and there is no reason why any person in homebuilding for the right reason should accept knowing less. Having the parts system better organized and group parts more accessible gets more people away from the parts perspective, and get them to a mindset where they are focused on improving their real skills at being the true master of the engine they fly.

That may not be the goal of 90% of the people wandering around in experimental aviation, but let me tell you this with 25 years of hindsight of doing this stuff every day: The people who get something out of experimental aviation, really know it’s rewards, are the people who came here to learn. To really learn, not just know the answers on the quiz, or to sound smart in hangar BS sessions, but to be able to walk out to their airplane to preflight it and know that they are not taking a random chance, nor hoping some one else knew what they were doing. To walk out to your own plane with confidence because you are the master of it, and you are the only person you will be counting on today, and you are calm because you know that you invested the time and effort to really learn something, and you have made your plane right with this knowledge. That is getting something out of experimental aviation that is worth all the time in your shop, all the money you spent, all the things you sacrificed to do it.

And the other 90%? I hope God looks after them, or at least their families. Sound harsh? Try this: go to your airport today, find the oldest aviator there, a guy so old he flew radials commercially, the guy who is likely to have seen just about everything in flying, and ask him just one thing. Ask him if he ever saw a single person hurt in aviation because they knew too much about the machine they were operating, that their mastery was too high for their own good, that a person with less skills would not have been hurt. I don’t care who you speak to, no one has ever seen this. Today, somewhere in print, some moron will say that buying a new Lycoming or Rotax is the path to safety. What a joke; there have certainly been ignorant users, thinking they could buy their way to ‘safety’, who were shortly thereafter harmed by their allegedly ‘safe’ item. Anyone with a brain and a speck of honesty will tell you that the only path to safety is Understanding, Skill ,Knowledge and the Judgment to apply them. Anyone who says that you can buy some product and not have to be so concerned about U-S-K-J is a dangerous fool.

Ernest Gann may have been aviations greatest writer. In “Fate is The Hunter,” preface states that flying is a kind of war story, where “the designated adversary always remains inhuman, frequently marches in mystery, and rarely takes prisoners.” He wasn’t kidding or stretching the analogy. The book has several pages of abbreviations in small print, which you only understand later are a list of all the people he knew who were killed flying. Gann and his contemporaries where doing far more dangerous flying than we are, but it is fair to say that they were also professionals who were vastly more talented that average pilots today.  I can tell people the risk typical GA pilots face today is a small fraction of what Air Transport pilots faced then. What is your response? 90% of EAA pilots take this to mean that they can get by aspiring to a lot less than those early aviators knew. If you are part of the 10% that understands that your risk will only be far lower than theirs if you work to develop the same Understanding, Skill ,Knowledge those men had, then welcome, I have things I can share with you. You will not need God to look after you, you can do it with the brain you received.

I think Gann’s analogy holds. You are headed to a combat of sorts. My goal is to really teach you how your weapon works. To take it all apart, be able to clean and maintain it, spot trouble before it happens, put it back together, and how to fine tune it and operate it with great skill that only comes with intimate knowledge of a machine.  Even though the task ahead is serious, you will be prepared, and harm will not come to you because you didn’t know your weapon in the conflict. Contrast this with the prevalent mentality of 90% of the people in the EAA.  Just like everyone else, they are headed to a conflict, but they don’t like thinking about it, “it will be all right” is their common motto. They think they can buy a new weapon, and this will make it reliable, even if they don’t know how to clean it, far less understand it. They think high-tech is some sort of magic armor, a replacement for understanding. They are not the master of their arm, they are just the person holding it. Deep inside they know this, and they suppress that thought every time they meet a well prepared master by blurting out “mine is new, I don’t have to know what you do.” Who do you think is more at risk? In the hours before conflict who do you think will be frightened and who will be confident?

They will never feel what you do when they walk out to preflight their plane. You will be confidently checking your workmanship. A preflight to them a some sort of ritualistic pagan dance they were taught the moves of, by an equally ignorant ‘instructor’, a dance that they desperately hope will appease the gods of luck and chance and keep evil at bay by a method that is unknowable. The real gods of flight, Physics, Chemistry and Gravity, look down from above, unmoved by the little dance.  They only respect people who follow their rule book. To Aviators, the book is on the shelf and written in plain language.  Dancers who never took the time to learn to read view bad events that happen to the dancers in their troupe as running afoul of luck and chance, fake gods they themselves made. Each of these events looks very different to any aviator who knows who the real gods of flight are, and understand that these gods are just, but never understanding nor merciful.

Are you a person who spends money and hopes for the best, or are you a person who actually likes knowing that your fate is in your own hands, and no one elses’s?  This answer matters more than any other in your experimental aircraft experience. Any commentary on risk management, be it in print, in person, or broadcast isn’t worth paying any attention to unless the focal point of it is developing the Understanding, Skill ,Knowledge of the Aviator. -ww

Mail sack, 3/13/13 various topics

Builders: Here is a sample of the mail:

On the topic of a Pietenpol notebook builder Dave Aldrich writes:

“If you have the Pietenpol “notebook” ready for Brodhead, please set one aside with my name on it. Thanks.”

Dave, I would very much like to get it done of this years event. I have already collected up a lot of material on all things Piet/Corvair, but I am very interested in hearing from Piet builders on what they would like to have included. I would like the end product to be filled with data, but motivational also. I have stories and profiles on many of the current operators like Randy Bush and Kurt Shipman, because I think the diversity of people reflects the individuality of the planes.-ww

On the topic of reading carefully, builder “Jacksno” Writes:

“Excellent admonition re reading comp re all things aviation. I know you’re dead serious in our behalves (there’s a picture), but, “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, ” was just 2 funny! I’m very tempted to add enough bumpers on my car that I could post it there. Seriously, you are a standard-bearer of great value to all of us. Kudos.”

On the Panther roll out, builder Harold Bickford writes:

“Hi William, I remember JFK giving that speech. It was and is inspiring. Dan did his work just as Orville and Wilbur did theirs with the benefit of a larger knowledge base to work from. It is a matter of what Tom Wolfe called “The Right Stuff”. Why would people not want to continue that? Harold”

On the Panther roll out, Zenith 601 builder Brad Boon writes:

“Outstanding post!”

Builder Albert Wilson writes:

“Hello WW, My name is Albert Wilson and I am very interested in the Corvair engine, have been thinking about building a ch701, then a ch750 and now I’m liking the 650 as I keep hearing the 750 has a very poor glide ratio. I got my A&P several years ago from National Aviation and would like to put my training to use. I have done lots of research over the years and the zenith 650 with a Corvair engine looks like the way to go, see you soon, Albert.”

Albert, welcome aboard. While the 750 does have a short glide ratio, it has other qualities that it excels at. The glide ratio and the flare technique are very good reasons for 750 and 701 builders to get type specific training in these aircraft, Zenith has links to people who offer this. The 601/650 are far more ‘stol’ than most general aviation aircraft. With a little bit of practice, they can get in and out of small spaces, and they enjoy a faster cruise speed on the same power. They are both good choices.-ww

On the topic of Floats on snow, builder Roger Pepin writes:

“It’s great that Jeff was busy building and now flying his plane – not getting into internet discussions and taking “advice” from guys like “I seriously looked at the Corvair engines – but decided that with the wide front end of a Rebel – that the faster turning and therefore smaller diameter prop’ ( which you HAVE to use – in order to let the engine get up IN to it’s power band RPM range ) would be “inefficient” on the nose of such a meaty plane ( big front end ) Follow the people who are flying, learn from their experience, soon you’ll be flying.”

On th topic of CC#25, Piet Builder Dave Aldrich writes:

“45 years ago, a good friend maintained that the thing wrong with the US could be traced back to 3 things: white bread, French’s mustard, and American process cheese. His point was that mediocrity should not be a standard. Sort of ties in with your vanilla ice cream, polo shirts, and Dockers reference though I do take partial exception to your vanilla ice cream and Dockers remarks. Good vanilla, while hard to find, does stand on its own as worthy. I have several pairs of Dockers in my closet, all bought at thrift stores for $6 or less, and they work just fine too, grease, paint, and holes notwithstanding. Not one polo shirt on my side of the closet. Can’t say the same about my wife’s.”

Dave, never take comments I make about the social side of things too seriously. I personally love vanilla ice cream. I was just trying to point out that everyone is welcome at the colleges, and we have far more diversity than you see in the pages of flying magazine.-ww

On the “no politics at colleges rule” Zenith 750 builder Charlie Redditt  Jokingly writes:

“what about the positive benefits of discussing politics?

1) Provides vigorous cardiovascular exercise.
2) Provides motivation to finish work quickly (so you can get the next word in).
3) Provides relief from work stress (impossible deadlines, flaky hardware, and other factors outside one’s control don’t bother one quite so much after a good political row).
4) Epithets are an excellent way to gain the immediate attention of a colleague.
5) Provides a wider perspective and helps people let bygones be bygones (i.e. your associates are still upset with you, but not so much about the equipment you damaged or bogus advice you gave them).
6) Relieves tedium and provides entertainment for those around you.
7) Provides a deeper understanding of personalities, and allows you to justify your dislike of others for reasons beyond manner of dress or grooming habits, and vice-versa.
8) A carefully crafted remark can be used to a) heighten everyone’s awareness while simultaneously b) stopping all useful work in the vicinity in such a manner that no one notices that you’re just looking for an excuse to slack off.
9) Enhances self-esteem by allowing people a chance to feel smug about themselves regardless of their level of competence.

10) Others might actually have passionate feelings regarding your person. Maybe not positive feelings, but at least they will remember your name.”

Charlie, Have fun now and get it all out of your system before CC#25, because we don’t even make fun of people who are talking about politics at the college. We keep the whole thing off-limits for everyone’s good-ww


On the topic of local ‘experts’, Pietenpol builder Earl Brown writes:

“I have one of those “self styled Corvair experts” in my EAA chapter
When mentioning that I was putting a corvair on my Pietenpol I was told that it was That he made a living working on corvairs and that they were terrible for airplanes, cranks weren’t strong enough and he wouldn’t recommend doing that. I just told him he was welcome to his opinion and walked away wondering if there are really enough corvairs driving around my area to make a living working on them.” 

Earl, evidently there are enough ‘experts’ on Corvairs that every EAA chapter in america apparently has one. Take heart, I actually have a guy in my EAA chapter who always tries to tell me about Corvairs like I have never seen one before. He knows what I do for a living, but he can’t stop himself. Last month he gave ne a 4 minute monologue on how the Corvair was designed by Ferdinand Porsche. You are right to just walk away, S.E. Hinton wrote “Even the most primitive societies have an innate respect for the insane”.-ww

West Coast builder Doug Eaton writes:

I sent you a letter about a month ago regarding the cost and parts necessary to assemble a corvair flight engine. Since then, I have noticed that you indicated that you are working on a platform of part numbers and engine profiles to help the builder better prepare for the rebuild of a corvair flight engine. I purchased your manual and learned quite a bit. I am having difficulty locating a late-model corvair engine. I have contacted over a dozen salvage yards in Northern California specializing in older model cars. The typical response to my inquiry is “hell no” we don’t have any corvair engines! William, since you have been at this so long and even though you live on the opposite coast line, I was hoping you or one of your confederates may have a lead for me regarding a reliable source for the engine somewhere in this neck fo the woods.  Doug Eaton Redding CA”

Alright all you nothern CA guys, one of you drop Doug an email at: And give him a good source near Redding Doug, keep in mind that running an ad on Craigslist is the most productive way to find an engine, this is how 50% of the people got an engine last year.-ww