Mail Sack, 5/30/13, Cowls, Balsa Planes , Stick and Rudder


Here is a sample of the mail:


On the story about Cooling with J-3 style cowls. (Pietenpols, Cubs, Biplanes, etc)

Jeff Moores Corvair/Merlin builder/flyer from Newfoundland writes:

“Hi William, While flying over The Avalon Wilderness Reserve this evening and listening to the strong steady  beat of my Corvair I realized that I will soon have a year of flying with my engine. In spite of our poor weather most of the time and my full time job, I have almost 100 hours on it now. I have flown it in every month since last June. I’d like to make the point here for any current or would be builder that since the initial timing setup with a timing light and idle mixture adjustment of the Stromberg, I HAVE NOT HAD TO CHANGE OR ADJUST ANYTHING !!!! My engine is built exactly to the instructions and procedures in the manual. I’m using a Dan 5th bearing that was extremly easy to install with excellent instructions. (thank you Dan for designing and selling this.)

Aircraft carburetor, 100LL fuel, 5th bearing, manual and parts from the Corvair Authority, Williams’ help and advice, you can’t go wrong!! Jeff Moores Corvair/Merlin”

Piet builder Harlod Bickford writes:

“Hello William, The attached cooling article re: Garidner’s engine left me with two conclusions.for the side by side Piet our project has developed into. Namely use a cowl along the lines of the Wagabond and Zenith or the cooling fan as used on the stock Corvair, albeit about 25 lbs heavier. With one less thing to break and less weight the pressure cowl makes more sense. With a firewall height at about 30″ high and 38″ width there is lots of room to work with. Harold”

Pietenpol builder Mark Chouinard writes:

“William: The write up on Gardiner Mason’s engine issues was very informative.  I have printed it, as I have with many other writings in order to keep it in my “Corvair” binder for review at a later time.  That part that discusses detonation, the spring effect of the head studs and the type of damage this causes to the heads went a long way in describing the damage that I found when disassembling my core.  Once my heads were off, I found a quarter sized hole in the top of the #2 piston.  It was not completely punched out, but a hole none the less that was probably 3/4 punched.  Later in the conversion process, Joe at Moldex informed me that my crank had a crack at the #2 journal… what a bummer, but I’m sure glad they found it!  I had a local shop perform a magnaflux inspection on my crank just to see if it was worth sending to Moldex… they said it looked good.  Never again will I trust  the locals for anything other than degreasing dirty crap… they just don’t understand or don’t have the skills or don’t care or are dishonest or all of the above.  Not sure which and don’t care.  Once I found another crank I sent it directly to Joe… no need for any further waste of time.  Finally, when I received my heads back from Mark at Falcon, he had stamped one with “use .042” and the other with “use .052”… my assumption would be that he had to remove more material from one of the heads in order to resurface the gasket seats properly… likely the one that experienced detonation.  He did explain to me that the different thicknesses would balance the compression ratio between the cylinder banks.  This stuff is so much fun.  Like Gardiner, I am not a real motor head, but with all the lessons that have been learned by others I feel confident that I can do this properly and safely.  Thanks for your continuing support and education… looking forward to Austin in 2014!- Mark Chouinard Owasso, Oklahoma “

Pietenpol pilot and 601 Builder Oscar Zuniga writes:

“Yes, I read the 16-page writeup on PietVair engine cooling and it was worth every moment it took to read it.  There is no need to wait for next month’s “Hints for Homebuilders”, there are a month’s worth of them in this article.  Some are subtle, but most are as plain as a “remove before flight” streamer is on a preflight inspection.  There is no need to wait for next month’s “I Learned From That”… it’s here.  “Tech Tips”?  It’s here.  “From The Cockpit”?  Yes.  “Parting Shot”?  Got it.  Color photos?  Illustrations?  Yes.  So this article is a full aviation magazine in one spot ;o)  All for the price of a full year’s subscription… same price as what I’ve paid William for every bit of advice, information, counsel, opinion, conversation, and honesty since I registered the Corvair conversion manual that I bought from Joa Harrison about twenty years ago.  Zero.  I think I’ll renew my subscription to”

601XL Builder/flyer Andy Eliott (Phd aero engineer) Writes:

“OK, I read the article on Gardiner Mason’s Piet problems.  You will have to agree I know the theoretical part of aero.  Multiple times in the article, you state that mass flow rates scale with the square of the airspeed.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  If you look at a stream tube you can see (even from dimensional analysis) that m_dot units are mass/time.  rho is mass/length3.  A is length2. V is length/time. Surface cooling rates are a different story, but effectively are a nonlinear function of m_dot and delta_T, the time in which the air is in contact with the surface.  With equivalently good inlet, plenum and exit designs, two planes would comparatively cool simply as a function on m_dot.A small editing pass might be in order. -Andy”

Andy, you are the only guy to write in about this, and of course you are correct, mass flow is only doubled, it is dynamic pressure that is squared. I saw that when I put the story together, but couldn’t correct is as the original story is from our old website which is written in a computer language that only Grace and two guys a DARPA understand. The point I wanted everyone to take away was that small changes in forward airspeed make a big difference in cooling. Everyone who has flown enough with good CHT’s knows the effect of lowering the nose, picking up 10 mph and increasing the cooling at the same power setting. -ww  (Andy’s letter has an equation with it that may not show up on your computer.)


On the story about Fixing America is going to cost each of us $1.69

builder Doug Wright sends:

“William, This is one of the funniest things I have read in a while:

I told them that there were many reasons to use planes, but the best one of them all is just to have fun. When one of the kids asked if this was OK, I told him it was not just ok, I did it for a job. There was a lightbulb that went off in his mind, this was the first time he had heard you could evade becoming a grown up.

Just thought you might like to know it was appreciated.-Doug”

Doug, the story was popular, it had 1,000 page reads in the first 24 hours. Part of this was several people putting a link to it on face book. The tracking on our site also showed that It was picked up as far away as “GTT”, a web discussion group for people who appreciate and restore small tractors. I am glad it appealed to a wide variety of people.-ww

Dragonfly builder Guy Bowen writes:

“Fixing America is going to cost $1.69 is dead on. I was a huge fan of the Guillows products that were, at the time of my childhood, available at the local 7-eleven. Now a trip to the Hobby Lobby, Micheals, or the local RC shop is necessary to find these gems. I would add to that list my personal favorite: Model Rockets (although they were relatively more expensive). I preferred them over plastic models because they were dynamic…they did things that you could show your friends. I never realized that I was learning anything playing with these things until I ran into the kid down the block who was just amazed at the fact something that I built not only flew but I could explain how it worked! My youth was filled with kites, chemistry sets, telescopes, microscopes, electronic sets, rockets, planes, bikes and lawnmower engines. There is an unnamed layer that exists between the youth of today from the mechanisms that we use and it is growing more obfuscated as we become a more consumer-centric society. Black box engineering has become a more prevalent tool in production since processes and products have become more complex. Black box consumerism on the other hand, promotes apathy and laziness of the underlying nature of things so much to the point of disconnection. Just as I did not realize I was learning playing with balsa wood gliders and rockets…the inverse is true: consumers experience a loss of physical connection or fascination with the machines inner workings. The “wow” factor becomes focused on what machines do…not how they accomplish it. My 3 yr. old loves to work on machines with his old man while my 12 yr. stepson keeps his face buried in a video game and is more worried about fashion brand names that some girls his age…sad really, I wish I had more of his childhood back to show him the fascination of machines instead.”

Builder “Jacksno” writes:

” Your most fun post yet re Cub Scouts and Guillow planes.  Here you were preaching to the choir:  I was 19 in 1962, had been making model planes for 11 years.  First one I made was from 1 x 6′s in the garage.  Wanted to make a swept wing rocket/jet thingy.  No tools.  No dad.  But I had passion.  And a hammer.  And glue. I would not be refused:  I  beat on the boards full chat until I had an assortment of aerodynamic looking pieces.  glued that all up and painted it silver.  Put a stout cord on it and whirled it around my head like crazy.  Cord broke when the craft reached escape velocity – it did not land anywhere in our yard!  I had no idea there was an EAA, but I was on it in miniature from then on.  Oh, I did hack something together earlier out of balsa pieces with scimitar wings.  Talked my mother and grandmother into sending it to President Truman so he could kick some commie butt.  They did it and I got a nice letter from somebody up there, official white house stationery. No, I don’t know where it is.  Not my longhorn bull embossed ‘pearl’ handled colt .45s in matching holsters, either.  A little later I developed a modicum of craftsmanship and built hand launch gliders of solid balsa that would eventually get an stc for jetex 50s.  Fun days. Built every Monogram kit, some 2 or 3 times, had awesome Jim Walker folding wing rubber launched gliders, and the ‘P80′ type that cost .10 – all well modified and over powered.  Lookin’ to have some more (still flying gas and electric models) real time full size action before it’s all over! {;^) OK, OK, I know…I will calm down, be safe, build carefully and reliably under the expert and qualified eye of you and other real aviators, never ‘have’ to get there, never run scud…and I’ve read S & R often and will continue to.”

Kr2 builder/flyer Steve Makish writes:

“Hi William, read your post on balsa planes etc. Great stuff. My go cart when I  was a kid had a 2 hp Briggs and Stratton from my grandmothers washing machine,  yes it was a gas powered washing machine (outdoors of course) It actually had a  kick start ratchet device and was at about a 45% angle. It was the first motor I  ever souped up. took the head off and made a head gasket out of newspaper to  raise the compression (wow) I thought it doubled the hp because it ran so great. Regards Your friend Steve”


On the story about Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?)

Pietenpol builder/flyer Kevin Purtee writes:

“You just can’t beat Rod Machado…”

Builders: One of the things I ‘like’ about Kevin is that you can never tell when he is kidding. He is a tough guy so you never really want to offend him on the chance he isn’t kidding. He also wrote me to say that he is a Celine Dion fan…..-ww.

Parting Shot, on the topic of   Built by William Wynne? Built according to The Manual?  from 601XLB builder/flyer Dr. Gary Ray,

“An advantage of the Corvair Engine that builders don’t easily have with any other engine is the ease, short turn around time, and low expense to do a complete disassembly and rebuild.  For this reason, it would make sense that all purchased engines (not directly built by the end-user) be taken down for inspection and rebuilt before flight.  This is the only way to know if any variation exists with accepted practices stated in your manual.  The new owners knowledge is now at the hands-on level of understanding.  This is a small price to pay for safer operation and it deals with a major portion of any future liability issue.  If I ever sell my aircraft, this will be part of the contract.”

Cooling with J-3 style cowls. (Pietenpols, Cubs, Biplanes, etc)


Several people have been discussing these types of cowls for their Corvair powered planes. Clearly they work on 65 hp Cubs, why not on a Corvair powered Piet? Well, they can and do, but there are subtile points to the design of these things that are just as critical as enclosed cowls. I am quite sure that Piper learned these by trial and error before standardizing the “J-3 Eyebrows” that people tend to use on 65 hp Continentals. As we go over this, keep in mind that when Piper went to 90 Hp engines in Cubs after the war, they switched to regular pressure cowls. Every Super Cub has one of these, and there is little argument against the proof  that they work better, even on slow planes. However, if your heart is set on a J-3 style cowl, please read the following notes to avoid harming your engine.

Above, Frank Metcalfe’s plane at sun n fun. This installation works. Look at how large the eyebrows are in relation to other examples. If a 65 hp Piet and a 100 hp Piet are both climbing at 55 mph (They will have a very different rate of climb) it makes sense that the 100 hp plane will need more cooling air. Yet, I see too many Corvair powered planes with eyebrows that are smaller than the ones on a J-3. Think that over.

Above, our Pietenpol in 1999. This system worked great, but the two versions I made before it didn’t. TLAR (that looks about right) does not apply here, evaluation and testing does. In a phone call today, a Piet builder told me that a set of Corvair eyebrow scoop drawings are circulation on the net. What is the first question to ask? Have they ever flown and been proven on high hp Corvairs in hot weather? He was not so sure. If you want advice on down parkas, I am not your guy. If you need advice on cooling systems that work in hot weather, ask the guy in Florida.

Above, several details, some visible, some not. Notice that the scoops extend downward. They capture air that would run under the front cylinders at high angle of attack and ruin cooling. Notice the rounded nose bowl and spinner. If you want to have a flat plate as big as an end table, you will need to have much larger scoops to make up for this. Note also that the alternator is in the back. If you have a front one, it will work, but again the scoop must be bigger. (Dan Weseman has just finished testing his rear alternator, and it is the only one I endorse) The most critical part of this whole equation can not be seen: under the cowl there is a 3.5″ diameter hose connecting the two sides together. Without this, you are hurting the engine. You have a choice: connect the two sides, or use scoops 50% bigger. If you copy the size here, and then use a very blunt cowl and no transfer hose, than you are not doing anything positive for yourself, my reputation as an engine instructor, or the Corvair movement.

OK, now we get to the big quiz: Would you rather spend an hour reading something that requires a little thinking, or would you rather fry the heads on your engine, spend $1,000 or so, and loose half a seasons flying doing a rebuild? Right now you are thinking that 100% of the builders thinking of J-3 cowls are going to choose the first option, but you are not right……

This link :

goes straight to a 16 page story ( it has pictures, it is only about 5,000 words) about how I had to rebuild Gardiner Mason’s engine several years ago after he used TLAR to design a very blunt cowl. I like Gardiner, so he just bought the parts, I did the work, then wrote the story. KNOW THIS: I am not ever going to assist anyone for free to rebuild another engine that cooked it because: “I saw that story but I didn’t have time to read it because 1) It was sooo long 2) The big game was on 3) I didn’t think it applied to me because my plane is gray not red.” All future rebuilds will be done at the shop labor rate that Lockwood Aviation charges (the US importer of Rotax engines) Just read the story, learn something, save yourself a $1,000 in damage and preserve a little of my sanity. Please.

Above is Gardiner’s plane, the focus of the 16 page story. It does not look like it has a J-3 cowling, but it functions like one. This is a blunt cowl. This means you need bigger scoops. It isn’t hard to put some effort into making the front end smaller. It doesn’t just help cooling, the plane will be faster and look better. On a Pietenpol, a plane with a bad cowl and poor windshields actually has less elevator and rudder feel.  If the entire fuselage is bathed in a foot thick boundary layer of very turbulent air, you can feel this when it gets back to the tail.

 So, you were planning on reading the 16 page story after watching Dancing with the Stars and the Celine Dion concert? Keep in mind that this website has story tracking on it, and I will tell if 600 people read this but only 150 click on the link to the Gardiner story. Lucky for all the Celine Dion fans it doesn’t keep track of who didn’t read what. Just how many people didn’t. Don’t worry, I will still be able to tell who read it by reading the Pietenpol archives and seeing who writes in asking what to do after their engine severely overheats…….

Below is a sample from the 16 page story:

” Here is the major cooling issue of a propeller-driven aircraft that many builders don’t understand. When the plane is climbing at a 10 degree angle of attack, the blade roots near the cooling inlets have a 20 degree difference in their angle of attack between the effective angle of the ascending and the descending blades. They pump very different amounts of cooling air into each side of the engine. This is not theory, it is fact. Get into a light plane, fly to a safe altitude, slow it down to its best angle of climb speed and set it to full power. Notice how much rudder you have to put in to hold the aircraft heading. You may have been told that this was some swirling slipstream or “P” factor. Discard those ideas. A strand of yarn behind an engine on a test stand will show you the air even at zero airspeed doesn’t corkscrew much, and “P” factor does not apply to aircraft in steady flight like a continuous climb on one heading. What is going on is far more simple; the ascending and descending blades are making very different amounts of thrust. You feel it in the rudder pedals, the engine feels it in differential cooling.”

Above, the Pietenpol of Kurt Shipman. This plane won the Bronze Lindbergh trophy at Oshkosh. Before anyone starts saying how nice work Kurt does, keep in mind that there were 24,500 other planes at Oshkosh that year, and the judges were able to find four others that they thought were ‘better’ than Kurt’s. So he beat out 24,495 other planes…..that still isn’t first place. Nice try Kurt, maybe you can do better on your second home built.

Seriously, I flew in this plane and it is phenomenally well done. Look at the cowl. This is a typical pressure cowl. This is built off the nose bowl mold that Piet builder/flyer Shad Bell made. Rounded edges and reduced area like this make a huge difference. If you don’t have a committed feeling about cowling design, I highly encourage you to look at this set up. It works very well, and has a front alternator. Either system you choose, use all the available data that has been flight proven in hot weather, do a good job, and don’t alter the details without good reason.-ww

Fixing America is going to cost each of us $1.69

My Fellow Americans:

We have all been subjected to a zillion partisan stories over what is wrong with our country. I am here to tell you the truth: Yes America has issues, but I know what the cure is, and it is going to cost every American $1.69, and the sooner we face this and get on with it, the better off we will be.

My epiphany came this afternoon.  Greg, our local Post Office desk officer, had given me the assignment to be the guest speaker at Cub Scout Pack 422, of which he is the scout master. I didn’t dare refuse; Greg has 19 years in at the Post Office and previously was in the 82nd Airborne Division. He seems pretty laid back, but if you combine the mottos of his two services you come up with something like “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night prevents death from above.” Besides, I thought it would be fun, and I knew that the centerpiece of the presentation would have to be that all-American youth classic, the Guillow’s Balsa plane.


Above, my personal Guillow’s Skystreak, with some fresh damage from enthusiastic Cub Scouts of Pack 422. Retiring this baby is going to set me back a hefty $2.99, but no one ever said educating youth was going to be cheap.


Here is where I found out two disturbing things at once: They don’t sell Balsa planes in normal stores any more, and I am so old that people who have 10-year-old kids of their own have never heard of the toys of my youth.

I went from store to store in our town asking for them in a mad search to find little planes before I faced the wrath of Greg at 7 p.m. for disappointing his Scouts. I went to Fred’s, Walgreens, Ace Hardware, CVS, the convenience store run by the Cambodian family, Wal-Mart, Target, the Dollar General, the Dollar Tree, and the Dollar Mart. Not one single plane was to be found.

Midway through the trip I realized that people were being really polite to me, because that is a safe strategy when you are asked an odd question by a mentally ill person who is on some quest for an imaginary object. Not only didn’t they have them, only two people I encountered had ever heard of one. Just the old African American man who manages the Dollar Tree and the Cambodian grandmother knew what I was babbling about. To everyone else, I looked just like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life when he goes around his home town and not a single person understands what he is talking about. I had found myself in a kind of Potterville, a horrible place where no kid had ever played with a Balsa plane.

Good news was that I found a fleet of styrofoam gliders at target. Compared to Balsa, foam planes are priced for sale to the Pentagon. I thought about the expenditure for a nanosecond, but whipped out the credit card after I had an image of a flight I take in the future where things look very bad, and I whisper “Dear God, I need some assistance now…” and a loud clear voice says “HELP YOU? A JACKASS WHO DIDN’T BUY PLANES FOR CUB SCOUTS? ARE YOU WEARING NOMEX TODAY JACKASS?”

The presentation went well, everyone had a good time, and I taught them all the basics: Wrights invented it, Lindbergh used it, Armstrong goes to the moon, time for you to do your part. Only one kid thought the Wrights were from Europe. They all liked the fact that Buzz Lightyear was named after Buzz Aldrin. Not a single one of them had flown in an airplane before, including an airliner. I told them that there were many reasons to use planes, but the best one of them all is just to have fun. When one of the kids asked if this was OK, I told him it was not just ok, I did it for a job. There was a lightbulb that went off in his mind, this was the first time he had heard you could evade becoming a grown up.

OK, I am just going to say that it is time we put the train back on the track, and I know exactly where it went off. It is time to buy Guillow’s planes, not just for kids, but for ourselves, to get back to where things were right. I could have a tirade pointing out that the checkout counters of every single one of these stores had candy bars that cost more than a basic Balsa plane. I could point out that Wal-Mart’s special was a game called “Angry Birds Death Star” and it was for kids 8 and up, same age as the Cub Scouts. In the next aisle kids no older than 12 were pointing to video games they played regularly, all with the sick designation “first person shooter.” We all know it is time to get away from poisons like that. Defending people who develop and market that stuff by saying people buy it is the same as defending the people who run meth labs because that product sells also. Let us all take a step back to something good and pure, little Balsa planes. You can study the factory’s offerings at: . They have been around since 1926, and you will never find a kit plane that can be built faster. I am going to order a crate and trade them to kids for the junk food they are eating.

Phase Two of this crusade is to bring back the flathead, horizontal shaft lawnmower engine. In my view, all normal childhoods have three vital elements: The little Balsa plane, the tree house, and the go-cart with the horizontal shaft lawnmower engine. If you understand the importance of the movie October Sky, you will probably agree that this country churned out legions of top-notch engineers who were all pre-schooled in flight, structures and mechanics by the above vital trio of experiences.


Above, two of our personal collection of Flatheads. On the left is a 2hp Briggs and Stratton with an ultra-rare wind up starter. This belonged to Grace’s Grandfather. It is early 1960s vintage. The color is original. On the right is a 1.5hp iron block, rope start, Clinton. This is probably 1950s vintage. It belonged to our neighbor. Please take a moment to read a story about him by clicking on this link:  Dick Phillips – Bravo Zulu

Never look down on these engines. Briggs and Stratton perfected the Nicasil all-aluminum cylinder and produced tens of millions of them before Porsche ever dreamed of making one that worked. The 5hp Briggs is one of the most mass-produced internal combustion engines ever. Look up the term “Blockzilla” on their site for the last word in mower engines.

From the Clinton engine historical website : “After its arrival in Iowa in 1950 Clinton Engines was producing 2000 to 3000 high quality gasoline engines per day using so-called untrained farm labor. ˜Untrained” proved inaccurate. The employees of the plant came mainly from the farms and small towns of the area where tinkering and fixing things with nothing was a way of life. These resourceful people quickly rammed the company to world leader, eclipsing Briggs & Stratton. More than 18 million engines were produced by the company and more than $550,000,000 pumped through the East Central Iowa economy and the economies of outlying areas in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois.” These were the jobs America threw away in search for the cheapest labor on ther planet, to replace the best labor.


Flatheads are the greatest mechanical self-instruction tools of all time. If you didn’t have one in your childhood, you have my condolences. These engines are great because a 10-year-old can take the head off with a 1/2″ wrench and all the parts stay in place. He can then turn it and see the sequence of operation in a 4-stroke engine. He can then put the head back on, no torque wrench nor pattern, and it will run again. There is nothing in the world of electronics that will ever be like that. Before anyone scoffs at this, keep in mind that I have taught hundreds of people how to build engines, and I will tell you that the people with the balsa plane/tree house/flathead childhoods have an advantage in aircraft building that is very hard to overstate.

Although I have had some good times in California, lived there and love many things about the place, here is something that the people there have to answer for: Flatheads are being phased out of production because they are actually illegal to sell in California for emissions reasons. Yes, I said that correctly, illegal. This happened at the same time that California decided that it was a good idea that anyone with an ailment from low self-esteem to a hangnail should have a prescription for smoking pot. Beyond the point about smoky emissions that are not good for you, I hold that if you take away all the mechanical toys of youth and leave only the video games, you will automatically have a generation that thinks sitting around the house and getting stoned is not only normal, it is therapeutic.

If you read all of the things I write about detesting the layers of electronics that people apply to homebuilts (often while having substandard mechanical builds) and wonder where it comes from it is because I was born in 1962, and I am on the fault line between the Stand by Me childhoods and video game kids. Over time, I have always moved back to the simplicity of the pure mechanical world. To me, video games are nothing more than junk food for your mind. I remember when they thought it was just going to harm kids; today when I see someone obviously compulsively looking at their smart phone they are just as likely to be a baby boomer. Addiction in any form, at any age, isn’t attractive. It isn’t about being in control of your life either, which is my main focus in building and flying. -ww

Jim Waters 601XL-B project, “In The Arena,” Memorial Day 2013.


We had a visit from well-known and liked Corvair builder Jim Waters. He is from Pennsylvania, but he drove down to Florida with a trailer to pick up a nearly done 601XL-B that he found for sale on Jim has a Fisher Horizon project in his shop, but he has been reading about the adventures of 601/Corvair pilots like Lynn Dingfelder, Ron Lendon and Phil Maxson, and he decided to change gears a bit and put his complete, test run 2700/Weseman bearing engine on the more versatile 601 airframe. When this one came up for sale, he saw his chance, made the move and got his own aviation adventure into high gear.


Above: Jim, his girlfriend Suzi-Q, Grace and Scoob E do the “looking skyward” pose in our back yard. The airframe is a Zenith quick build kit, with a panel in it, instrumented by the original owner for a Corvair. Jim and Suzi spent the night at our place and picked up most of the parts to install Jim’s Corvair on the front of this plane, including a powdercoated motor mount. This plane could easily be flyable by the end of the summer with just part-time work. Getting an aircraft this complete does not present any 51% rule issues. As long as 51% of the work in the plane was done by non-paid builders, it does not matter how many of them worked on it. A plane can have 11 different owners who each do 5% of it, and it will not have any issue qualifying as a homebuilt. Note that Jim has a copy of Stick and Rudder in his hand. It is a good luck present from Grace and I at the beginning of his new adventure.

In looking at our Web site, I was reminded how many Colleges and airshows Jim has made it to, and how he has always been a positive force of fun at each of these. I found photos of him at CC #9, #14, #16, #17, #20 and Oshkosh. He completed his engine at #14, and test ran it with a 5th bearing at #16. At the other events he just came to help out and enjoy the company.

At these events Jim saw the increasing amount of guys who were finishing 601s and flying them back to the Colleges, guys who had completed engines at Colleges right beside Jim. At some point he decided that time was getting past him a little too quickly, and it was time to switch gears and get in on the group of people who are out crisscrossing the country in Zenith 601s and 650s. I am not sure how long ago he started thinking about it, but from making up his mind to having his new plane sitting on the trailer at our place was about 21 days. He decided that he was not going to let another season get by without  a serious change in strategy to make progress happen faster.

Although Jim has picked up this airframe largely done, it is only 25% of his “project.” As we sat around our dining room table, we spoke of how his project is four parts: Building the engine, building the airframe, putting the two together and getting them operational, and in Jim’s case, learning how to fly.

Although he has wanted to build and fly for a long time, he had other responsibilities. He is a man of action, ridden motorcycles all over the country, and experienced a lot of things. Building and flying is a just new chapter in his book. As I reminded Jim last night, learning to fly a plane with a good instructor is not a difficult task; people do it every day. Continuing to improve and hone your flight skills is what sets good pilots apart, not the initial license. I like the fact that he dove into The Arena, built the engine and got the plane, all with the confidence that he would later learn any skill he needed, including flying. There is a good lesson here for people just getting started.

By my measure, picking up the airframe saved him 25% on his four-part task. Smart move in my book because the goal is to build and fly. If a purist builds every single part, he may have satisfaction, but if his goal was to fly it and the depth of detail vs. available time equation means it never gets done, then that builder didn’t get his goal. Conversely, I think Jim has a plan of action, and the accomplishment of his four-part plan is now on the horizon and getting closer. There will always be purists who claim (often from the safety of an Internet connection and a mystery email name) that it isn’t really homebuilding unless it is plans built and you grew the trees for the spar yourself or smelted the aluminum. I don’t think like that.

To my perspective, “homebuilding” isn’t a competition over building aircraft, and I don’t think it is really about planes at all. I think that the real project is how the accomplishment changes the builder. How much more he knows, how much more he can make, and how he sees himself on the other end of this major challenge. The only person you’re competing with is the lesser side of your personality that would settle for you doing less with your life. That is the real enemy that you are confronting, and that is who you will defeat when you reach your goals. I look forward to hearing of Jim reaching each of his new milestones as he met the ones he has achieved already. Of the thousands of builders we have met in the past 20 years, Jim is one of the really special ones, and on the future day that I hear he has flown his plane, I will take an hour out to just simply be glad for him.


From the archives: Jim’s engine running on our stand at Corvair College #16:.“Above, Jim Waters in front and Mike Quinn take Jim’s engine for a test flight. Want to know what riding a motorcycle at 130mph is like? Try your engine on the Dyno at 3,300 rpm. These two characters had not met before the College, but formed a quick bond as people who see a lot of potential fun in any moment. Jim’s engine ran like a banshee.”

Mail Sack, 5-26-13, “Stick and Rudder,” Starting Procedures


Here is a sample of the mail:

On the story of Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?)

Zenith builder Larry Magruder writes:

“William: I agree about Stick and Rudder. When I learned to fly in the ’80s my instructor suggested some video tapes and a text that he said would teach me about flying legally. He suggested Stick and Rudder which he said would teach me to fly safely. I pulled it out just before Corvair College #25 and reread it just for the fun of it. Twenty-five years later I find my original flight instructor is still right.-Larry”

Pietenpol builder Harold Bickford writes:

Stick and Rudder was one book I bought when working on a private certificate in ’76. Reading it was a tremendous counter to conventional wisdom and hangar tales. It is not a hard book to read though some folks might find themselves thinking about flying in new ways, such as airplanes do two maneuvers – climb and turn. Langewiesche had a great way of simplifying then building on that base. $16 is a most excellent purchase though I recall paying less.-Harold”

Merlin on floats builder/flyer Jeff Moores of Newfoundland writes:

“Hi William, My copy of Stick and Rudder was given to me over 30 years ago when I first started flying by a pilot/friend who is now 78 years old and still flying his C172 on floats. He is definitely old school having flown skis and floats since the ’70s in our challenging environment. My copy is the nineteenth printing copyright 1944. I have read and reread it many times over the years.-Jeff”

Cleanex builder/flyer Dale Williams writes:

“Hi William, Back in the day when I taught ultralight flying as an AFI, I encouraged my students to read this book. I’ve read it several times and still refer to it often. Langewiesche had my attention from the very beginning by first making the point that the art of flight is understanding how to fly a wing. His insistence that all of our instincts of what we believe we should do to achieve a certain result is wrong and ultimately gets people hurt or killed is absolutely correct. How anyone with a true love of flight can find fault with the valuable teaching in Stick & Rudder is beyond me, yet it doesn’t surprise me much. I’m reminded of the man who looked at my plain Jane panel and asked me, “What do you use for obstacle and terrain avoidance?’ I replied, ‘I look out the windshield!’ Crazy but true …There is a huge difference between aviators and airplane drivers … Thanks for another great perspective.”

750 builder Dan Glaze writes:

“William, my book is on the way, Amazon books $7.75 , $3.00 shipping, the site has 75 at this price, Dan-o”

Builder Bruce Culver writes:

“This is a great book William, and I just ordered a second copy to go with my ‘new’ second copy of Fate is the Hunter by Ernie Gann. I stored a lot of my old aviation books many years ago, and will dig them out when I copy Schliemann at Troy and excavate the storage unit this summer. I have been buying new copies of the old classics in case the years in the heat and cold have not been kind to the originals. The opinions expressed by your paraphrased group show that they have little or no interest in aviation, but instead will do Point A to Point B, perhaps never looking out the window to see the true wonders waiting for them to notice. How sad. … Your Web site has revealed to me another gift for which I thank you. I am going to go through all your postings and copy out all the information on the proper way to build and outfit an engine installation and airplane (mechanical/electrical/controls etc.), and I am going to make up a notebook with all the pages printed out as a supplemental shop manual to show me what a good safe installation looks like. I have all of Tony Bingelis’s books, but I find that sometimes photos show details better than sketches. These are really valuable to me.”

601XL-2850cc Builder/flyer Ron Lendon writes:

“I bought that book when I was a student pilot and it made my landings better.  He has a very good way of explaining things.  I loaned this book to a friend who claims he doesn’t have it, so I bought another copy and read it again, it is on my bookshelf and is not available for loan.”

Sarah Wallhauser Matthews writes:

“Just an FYI, my Dad wrote a book about flying – Pioneers of Flight – published by Hammond in Maplewood, N.J. (Henry T. Wallhauser) – have a great Memorial Day weekend WW!!  ;-)

Builders: I have known Sarah since I was 13 or 14 years old. We grew up in the same town in N.J. At the time I did not know her Father’s aviation background. I went on last night and bought a mint condition copy of her Dad’s book to add to our library.-ww.

On the story of  Built by William Wynne? Built according to The Manual?

New builder Dustin L. writes:

“Hi William, I just ordered your Conversion Manual.  I’ll be starting a CH750 STOL in the next year and will be looking hard at the Corvair for the powerplant.  Being 28 years old, I’m hoping to build several airplanes eventually and many of the planes I’m interested in could be Corvair powered, so you’ll likely be hearing from and seeing me in the future. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading your .net site/blogs.  I have to say I really appreciate your ‘attitude’ about your work.  In your last post about the 3 engines that were supposedly built to your plans/built by you, you mentioned you’re a jackass.  I just have to say, with what you do and the consequences of failure, if you aren’t a jackass occasionally you aren’t doing your work justice, you aren’t doing the Experimental Aviation community any good, and you aren’t doing me any good.  So – I look forward to working with a jackass like you in the future.  Should be fun.-Dustin L., Oconowomoc, Wisc.”

Builder Randy Curtis writes:

“Hello folks.  I’m new here as far as comments go.  I’ve met WW a couple of times at Sun & Fun and bought a few parts from him as I’m starting a project. The comment I have is that the precautions that William is promoting should be common to any attempt to enter  aviation. We live in a fast paced community, meaning our society. More often than not we don’t take the proper time to prepare to do many of the activities that we dream about. … That’s ok for the most part, but when it comes to aviation it’s not as forgiving as the others, therefore it makes a lot more sense to take the needed time to get things in the order that theater need to be in. Unfortunately, I can tell a couple of stories of fatalities because people weren’t doing as they had been taught or were just too busy to take care of the critical things. … It changes life for all of us and leaves a few feeling responsible for things that they had no control over.  When it comes to Corvairs, William has done a fantastic job on researching and getting the information out there on what works best. … I’ve had the opportunity to buy a Corvair motor, but without documentation from the builder it’s not worth any more than a core engine. … so it was turned down. I’ve also had the opportunity to fly a certified plane that hadn’t been flown for several years but was annualed by a heavy equipment mechanic who had a very good friend who was an AI  mechanic that lived several states away and would sign off the annual based on the equipment mechanics report … not a good situation in my view. … I was offered the chance to fly this plane and refused. … Yeah it would have been a cheap way to fly, but ????????And the equipment mechanic/owner was a bit offended. I felt it was too risky and would have been poor judgement on my part. … I tell these two stories because these things happen in both in experimental aviation and certified aviation. … I’ve said my peace and hope that all enjoy their projects, whether it be craftsmanship of flight…..Randy”

650 Builder Becky Shipman writes:

“Hi William, This gets me a little riled, it is maybe the biggest threat to the reputation of the WW Corvair. I particularly don’t like the cast pistons from China hidden inside a ‘WW’ Corvair. Maybe you should have a logo that can be stamped onto the case? Or an official WW Corvair sticker? Or if a builder needs to sell their engine, should he/she notify you? Probably not a huge problem yet, but I imagine that several Corvairs will outlive their builders. You could put the logo on your polo shirts for the booth. Of course, knowing how you feel about polo shirts, maybe greasy coveralls? -Becky”

Becky, the best thing to do about the situation is talk plainly about it, and remind builders that “buyer beware” applies here. Not all project engines are bad, but far too many of them are, or they want today’s price for an engine that was built to 2003 standards. The main objective is to get everyone to the point where they prefer their own workmanship to that of any other builder. If I ever have a clothing line, it will be black t-shirts that come already scented of 10w-40, and Carhart jeans that are already stained and come as cut-offs. The line will be exclusively marketed at Salvation Army outlets. -ww

601XL builder/flyer Patrick Hoyt writes:

“William – Your high standards are contagious.-Partick Hoyt, N63PZ”

On the story of Starting procedures on Corvairs, 2,000 words of experience.

Cleanex builder/flyer Dale Williams writes:

“William, A personal thanks for the information on Corvair starting procedures. As you know, my Cleanex has the MA3SPA carb. I had been shutting it down with the mixture. Well the past few days I have been using the procedures you had given and that Dan had shared with Mr. Woolley. To say it made all the difference in the world is an understatement.

I did a bit of airport hopping today and most starts seemed to be within a 1/2 blade or so. Seriously, that 3.0 Corvair was impressing anyone who witnessed it on start-up and I was quite pleased to see it ignite so effortlessly. On a side note, I agree with all I’ve heard about the smoothness of these engines. I only have about 24 hours on mine but it has been quite impressive both in smoothness but also power and performance. It cools very well and has been virtually trouble-free. This is the engine my airframe needed! Best to you, Dale Williams N319WF @ 6J2 Myunn  – ‘Daughter of Cleanex’ 120 HP – 3.0 Corvair Tail Wheel – Center Stick 23:47 hours – Phase One Status – Flying”

Piet builder Dave Aldrich writes:

“Your description of starting issues with Lycoming engines is, at least in my experience, only partially correct.  The O-320 in my Cherokee is almost impossible to overprime. The primer line runs to two cylinders, leaving two unprimed, and allows the fuel to drain down the intake runners. None goes directly into the cylinders. The impulse coupling on the left magneto produces adequate spark to get things running nicely. Hot starts are a no drama event. Push the button, engines starts. Where your description IS correct is in the IO series. Restarting a hot IO-360 in a Mooney can be a frustrating experience. Starting with the fuel in full lean and the throttle wide open and then juggling levers when it finally starts to run is a certified (or is it certificated) PITA.

I also agree with another poster that shutting down the engine with the mixture control does minimize residual fuel in the cylinders, lessening the chance of the engine starting if the prop moves and the mag switch is defective. For that reason, I do a ‘dead mag’ check just prior to each shutdown. It has also been hypothesized by Continental experts that using the mag switch to shut down the Stromberg carbureted A and C series engines leaves residual fuel in the cylinders that wets the plugs and makes them hard to start when warm. These experts recommend using a fuel shutoff valve in the primary line to stop the engine and eliminate the problem, especially if there isn’t an impulse coupling on one of the mags. I realize this is a major digression from the subject of Corvairs and almost certainly adds nothing to that body of knowledge, but does try to paint a more complete picture of these issues.

On a different subject, there is no regulatory restriction on the use of a Corvair engine in the RV-12 as long as it’s registered EAB versus E-LSA.  Van’s site even says that you can, AT YOUR OWN RISK, do whatever you want to it. I suspect that there are packaging and weight issues but wonder if it isn’t a practical idea nonetheless. If you can put a Corvair into a KR and a Sonex, neither of which were designed with the Corvair in mind, then the RV-12 should be possible. Enough drivel. Time to go work on the Pietenpol.”

Dave, I have an O-320 Lycoming cylinder right in front of me, and the injector port and the primer port are about an inch apart, and they are both aimed at the intake valve. If the intake on that cylinder is off its seat, using the primer is going to put fuel in that cylinder. You are correct, the carb models don’t flood as easy, but they can. Most carbed Lycomings have 3 or 4 primers in the intake ports, 3 if the plane has an MAP gauge, varies by installation. As you said, we are focused on Corvairs, so it is academic. I have shut Grace’s C-85 off with the mag switch for 12 years, and never had a starting issue. Again, there are many variations on certified engines, we just need to share Corvair perspective.

The RV-12 was not designed to take many engines, the Corvair or an O-200 would definitely put it out of the CG range, where the Zenith can take engines up to an O-235. If you wanted to try it, even “at your own risk,” I am sure they would have Doug Reeves, their all-powerful list moderator, delete any reference to your project. I have been present at a number of closed-door industry meetings where Mr. Van Grunsven was the chief speaker. Trust me, he doesn’t want anyone putting any alternative engine in “his” aircraft. For a guy who started out his whole business by building a modification on another mans design (the RV-1 is a Stits Playboy with metal wings), he has long forgotten that some people build experimentals because they can be tailored to individual missions. –  ww


Parting Shot, from KR-2 Corvair Builder/flyer (for 13 years) Steve Makish:

“William, you mentioned Steve Jones in your post. I knew Steve briefly and met him at Sun and Fun some years ago. He was flying his trigear KR with my old type4 engine and wanted to see my Corvair installation. He said he was going to Corvair  power when he got home from the fly in. That night at the KR dinner, he was talking about his Corvair engine and was going to run very high compression with turbocharging. We all looked at him and questioned his statement and he got very indignant and said ‘I really know what I am doing.’ I guess we all get opinionated at times but as you get older, the been there, done that, didn’t work seems to be the guiding factor. -Steve”

Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?)


Here is another opinion from me, man of a thousand opinions: Stick and Rudder is the greatest book ever written on how to fly planes, period. Unlike some of my other opinions, I am not alone in this one. While most people with a pilots license in their pocket have never heard of this book, virtually every single veteran aviator noted for his skill and experience holds the same opinion of this book.  My 25 years of building planes and modest amount of hours doesn’t make me one of those “Old School” pilots, but I am smart enough to hold the same text sacred as they do.

To assist in the discussion of this book, I will use paraphrased comments that people have made to me over the years at Sun n Fun and Oshkosh when I bring up the point that the book only costs $16, and maybe half of the fatal accidents each year could be avoided if the deceased pilots had owned, read, and understood the contents of this 69-year-old book. The paraphrased peanut gallery comments are in blue italics.

“They must have written something better since. I think Rod Machado’s books are better because they are funny and entertaining.” 

OK, let me start by saying I have nothing against Machado, but he isn’t in the same category. We are speaking on educational classics here, not comedy/entertainment/flying lite.

“But that Machado is such a character! He is so daring and out of the box! He is really bold.”

Now let’s just hold on a minute: One of my pet peeves is how Flying magazine and some elements in marketing the EAA have tried to make aviation less offensive, more family entertainment. They want every person pictured to be drawn from the pages of the J. Crew clothing catalog, clothed in khaki slacks and getting into their Cirrus or 912 powered S-LSA. Compared to those contrived marketing images, Machado is Keith Richards, but judged against real aviation characters, he is just another guy in Levis Dockers with a John Edwards haircut.


And now, a brief break from our sponsor, Real Aviation Character. Take this quiz: See how many of the 8 aviators of character below that you recognize. …

What an actual Character looks like #1.

Character #2.

Character #3.

Character #4.

Character #5.

Character #6.

Character #7.

Character #8.
1) Pappy Boyington, Flying Tiger, USMC, CMH. Quote: “Show me a hero and I’ll show you a bum.” Lived life with the throttle firewalled. Drank, fought, smoked and flew on high blower, all the time.
2) Poncho Barnes, respected as a serious competitor in 1930s air racing, when it had a 30% fatality rate. Owner, “Happy Bottom Riding Club.” Legendary for never taking crap from anyone. Ever.
3) Bernard Pietenpol, patron saint of homebuilding, champion of flight for the common man. If you work for a living, and you are building a plane, you owe this man the acknowledgement that he was the pathfinder for every builder with persistence to take their place … In the Arena.
4) Col. John Boyd, supreme fighter pilot, father of ACM, inventor of Energy-maneuverability, inventor of the OODA loop, greatest thinker on conflict since Clausewitz. Rejected all attempts to be bought off. Philosophy: “You can be somebody (Play a role, fill a slot, hold a position) or you can do something.”
5) Charles Nungesser, French national hero and ace in WWI. Sets the 100% standard for the “triple crown” of fighter pilots in the 20th century (flying, drinking, romancing women), and his countrymen loved him for it. Spent all night in the clubs of Paris, flew against the Hun at dawn. The embodiment of the term Swagger. Dies attempting to fly the Atlantic with Coli 2 weeks before Lindbergh.
6) Hank Wharton, legendary arms sumggler, used a Lockheed Constellation on repeated missions to fly food to starving Biafrans through Nigerian jet air defenses. ‘Humanitarian’ with solid brass balls.
7) Jack Knight, airmail pilot, flew 800 miles, Wyoming to Chicago, in an open cockpit plane, at night, in a blizzard, Feb. 22, 1921, to save the fate of  U.S. airmail. Later VP of United Airlines, before such jobs became  positions held by accountants and lobbyists. Would not “fit in” at airline work today.
8) Valentina Tereshkova, awarded title Hero of the Soviet Union, first woman in space. On her 70th birthday she told Russian president Vladimir Putin that she was personally willing to go to Mars, now, even if it was a one way “suicide” mission. Not your average grandmother.
It is very likely that every single one of these aviators (with the exception of Nungesser) read Stick and Rudder.

Scoring: If you have heard of Machado but knew six or more of the Aviators of Character, you are in good shape, proceed as you are. –  If you have read Machado’s books, but only identified 3 or 4 of the pictures, take warning: Do not read Flying,  try to fly a Comanche 400 or radial powered plane soon. Throw away your Sporty’s catalog. Watch The Great Waldo Pepper or Thirty Seconds over Tokyo this week. –  If you own Machado’s books but knew none of the images, you need serious help. You have been made a victim of the consumerism people who have told you that flying is about spending money, not learning, challenges, and personal achievements. Leave tonight for Cherry Grove, Minn., Pietenpol’s home town, and make it your aviation pilgrimage. Never speak to anyone with a Rotax 912 ever again. Fly in a biplane to Kitty Hawk, and look into the glass case at the little square of Wright Flyer fabric, carried to the surface of the moon and back by Neil Armstrong. Develop a plan on how your actions in aviation will show gratitude to those who came before you and gave you the possibilities you have. Do this today.


Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. …


“I read some of the book, and it isn’t all nice. Langewiesche says things I find scary and threatening like  ‘Most pilots would rather die than think.’ I just want to go back to reading how I can use my Ipad to listen to Celine Dion and Barry Manilow while ATC tells me which pattern to fly the designated ‘practice area’ in our controlled airspace.”

The goal of real aviation books is not to tell you some answer, but to get you to think. The resistance to really thinking is the actual roadblock to learning and being able to use new understanding. Langewiesche knew that people are so set in their ways that they are hardly even moved by the seriousness of the consequences. Thomas Edison’s favorite quote was “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the true labor of thinking.” Set yourself apart, buy the book and read it. Recognize that the part of your brain that resists this is what Langewiesche and Edison were speaking of.

“If this book is so important, why isn’t anyone talking about it? Why are magazines all filled with avionics reviews and new imported $159,000 S-LSA aircraft, and not talking about this book? If it were important, magazine editors would have told me about it.”

Wrong. Nearly the entire system of general aviation as it exists is about one single thing: Money. This book costs $16, no one is making big bucks off it, Langewiesche has been deceased more than a decade, and getting you to buy it doesn’t line anyone’s pockets, so it doesn’t get any attention. Contrast this with some new $2,000 glass cockpit: The factory makes 400% mark up on the hardware, this pays  100 “dealers” who each make a 15% cut off each sale; it also pays for full-page ads in magazines; it covers free units traded to influential journalists and prominent builders to write glowing endorsements. It covers dinners, evenings at strip clubs, airline tickets and many other “perks” for people who offer “independent” reviews. Every sale has a large chunk of the money going to grease the palms of a whole chain of people, all unbeknownst to the purchaser, who thought the echo of glowing endorsements was driven by the quality of the product. This system works on every major part. If you buy a kit, and the sales staff works pretty hard to steer you from a Corvair to a Rotax 912, it is because the dealership has already registered your name with the U.S. Rotax importer, and they will quietly get a check for $2,000 of your money right after you buy the 912, even if it is a long time later. Most engine companies do this (we do not).

There are many great things in aviation, like Stick and Rudder and steam gauge instrumentation, that will get damn near zero discussion, simply because no one gets paid if you use them. Learn this: The system isn’t going to spend the time discussing what you need to know, nor what might be economical or useful for your plane. It is only going to spend time discussing things that make insiders in the system money.

“How can this book be of any value to my flying? It doesn’t tell me how my GPS works, it doesn’t talk about airspace letter codes, and it doesn’t say anything about how to get the magnetic swipe card to open the 8′ chain link fence at my airport. I hear that none of the information in it is on the private pilot test, and if I only need a 70 to pass that, why should I waste $16 on another book filled with words?”

GPS, radios, arbitrary boundaries and written tests have nothing to do with flying. Don’t worry about the test from the FAA: be much more concerned about the one run by Physics, Chemistry and Gravity when you leave the ground as there are much greater consequences to failing theirs. Langewiesche is going to teach you to pass this far less forgiving exam. Flying is about controlling your aircraft, knowing weather and knowing yourself. These are his subjects. They have not, and will not ever change.

Here is my perspective: Aviation costs money. About the least expensive plane I can picture has an all up cost of $10,000. Let’s say that you take 8 years to build it, that’s $1,250/year or $3 and 42 cents a day. If you smoke or drink coffee, you spend a lot more than this. Don’t like to hear about 8 years? Want to change that? Here is the easy way: Do nothing this year, and next year it will be nine years. $20 a day for 3 years is $21,900. For that kind of money you can have many airplanes, including a Panther with engine. Being wealthy isn’t the key, getting started is.

Take this thought with you: You can’t really change the cost of planes by more than 25% or 35% even by extreme scrounging and plans building. There is no way to drop the cost by 75%, stuff justs costs money at some point. Here is what you do control: What you get out of building and flying. Picture two guys, both spend 4 years, and 2,000 hours building a plane, and 50 hours aloft and 200 studying to get a LSA rating. It’s five years into it. If guy “A” was a super scrounger, bought a used kit and spent only $20K vs guy “B” who spent $34K for the same plane by purchasing a kit and getting all his parts from Aircraft Spruce instead of the flymart, Which builder got the better value? Who won?

The correct answer: The guy who actually mastered each skill, learned the why’s of every step, didn’t just do every task to minimums, but aimed to master it. The guy who sought to know every piece and part of his plane and its correct care, feeding and operation. He aimed higher, did more. He has been changed by the experience, the guy who just did the minimums only accomplished the task, but it wasn’t transformative. Real value isn’t based just on what it cost, it is far more affected by the other side of the equation…what did you get out of it? On this point, the majority of builders cheat themselves. Reading Stick and Rudder is all about aiming to get the best value out of the hours of your life you invest in homebuilding and flying. The book is for aviators who will master light plane flight, not just be adequate at it.

Years ago I was a contributor to the “Corvaircraft” Internet discussion group. If you read the archives, I left 400 stories there, before I was banned for life (due to poor etiquette and intolerance of foolish people). In retrospect, most of my time there was wasted. In 10 years, the site produced only a handful of flyers, most of whom were already regular builders of ours. The great majority of the several hundred readers there were just doing one thing: Waiting.

What for you ask? Something better than what I was showing them could be done. I was basically showing how a very good engine that weighed 225 pounds, cost $5,000, burned 5 gallons an hour, and lasted 1,000 hours could be built, if you were willing to learn a little and get your hands dirty, and think some. Yet the vast majority of readers thought that was not good enough. Every time some troll/daydreamer/psycho surfaced and said “I know how to save 35 pounds!” they waited to see how he would do it. When people said “I know how to have an EFI system for $200,” they waited to see how it worked. When people said “We can use shareware and develop this as a Net group,” people waited. Every new thing discussed, virtually all of which turned out to be pure unicorns, was cause for these men to wait.

Many of the ones who were there 10 years ago are still there waiting, certain that this week, someone will show up and tell them how to build a 170 pound Corvair that has EFI, is reliable, burns 2.5 gallons per hour, makes 130 hp, assembles itself, lasts 2,500 hours for an investment of $1,500, no check that, $995. They will be waiting there in another 10 years because that bus isn’t ever going to come. The rainbow bus line from unicornville doesn’t have a stop on reality street, it only is headed to cyberville, and there is no airport in cyberville.

Their waiting is partially driven by the “consumer electronics experience.” To these people, their cell phones were vastly better and far cheaper than the ones they had 10 years before, why shouldn’t they expect the same from Corvairs? Because it is the mechanical world, not electronics, and it doesn’t work that way in metal, and things that you can fly. Popular Mechanics has been telling readers for 60 years that personal helicopters are 2 years away, and rip off artists like “Cartercopter” stole millions of dollars from NASA (yes, stolen from the taxpayers) for alleged R&D on this, but it doesn’t exist. You can’t fly it, but the people who wait eat this stuff up as the sand runs out of their personal hour-glass.

Do something this weekend to change your life: Buy a copy of Stick and Rudder this weekend, and get started reading it. Here is my special offer: The book is free to Corvair builders. Here is how: Buy a copy, read it and bring it to Oshkosh and show me, and I will take $16 off the price of anything you buy from us. How does this work for me? It is your instant identification to me that you are a serious builder, committed to your personal advancement. You are not waiting for an imaginary bus from Unicornville. Besides, the information in it could save your life.


Postscript: I am sure that many people think that my paraphrased comments are not portraits of real attitudes. Let me offer this proof: Below is a review of the book that is actually posted on The D-bag that wrote it isn’t an aviator, even if he holds a pilots licence. His attitude is exactly what Edison and Langewiesche were talking about, the type of person A.E. Houseman referred to as “Chaps whom it hurts to think.” If your goal is to learn, welcome to aviation, we need you. Your place will never be with this kind of person:

“While I understand why pilots and other aviation enthusiasts highly recommend this book because of its thorough explanation of nearly every aspect of flying, I had trouble reading it. I could never get into the book. Perhaps because I began reading this book shortly after finishing a book I thoroughly enjoyed (Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight) Mr. Langewiesche’s book never lived up to my expectations.”

Mail Sack, 5/19/13, Various topics.


Here is a large sample of the mail. You can click on the topic headings to review the original story the letter is referring to…….

On  MA3-spa carb pictures, Wagabond notes.

601XL builder/flyer Ron Lendon writes:

“WW, you must have written this for me.  Monday I will contact Russ and have him build one for me.  The oneoff the 65hp continental should remain there.  Maybe it it can be a core, but it’s coming off my engine and getting replaced by a D & G.”

Ron, I am glad to see you moving to the same carb that others find to be very successful. I feel that the smallish carb that you engine had contributed to lean/hot operation. Smart move.-ww

International Builder Howard Horner writes:

“Ahhhh. Nitrous! I had a conversation with Dan at Sun n Fun about Nitro vs Turbo or supercharger for short boosts of power on a CH 750 float plane. He thought you might like the idea… maybe he was right!”


On the story Built by William Wynne? Built according to The Manual?

601XL Builder/flyer Charles Leonard writes:




Charles, I was not clear enough in my comments, and I have gone back to amend the story to fix that. What I didn’t want people to buy were unknown second-hand, project engines. An engine like the one in your aircraft is fully proven and conforms to the best ways we have of doing things. No problem there.-ww

Aviation professional Jon Ross Writes:

“William: I know how you feel… I was asked to assist in licensing a Fairchild that had been damaged in a ground loop accident. The airplane was in the experimental category (not amateur built of course) and the owner wanted to put it back in the standard category. There had been an engine change to another model of the Ranger engine. The TCDS supported the change to the more powerful Ranger, so that was not a problem. But in the accident the propeller had been splintered down to about 3 feet in diameter. The aircraft owner (a physicist of all things) was surrounded by friends and “Experts” that stated all that was needed was a runout check on the crank. I wanted the engine torn down and inspected but with Ranger so long out of business I could not supply any data supporting the need for a teardown after a prop strike. If it had been a Lycoming or Continental this would have been no problem. I refused (politely) to assist. The aircraft owner heard what he wanted to hear from his friends and so they repaired the airplane and hung a new prop on the existing engine. I reminded the owner that he was not exempt from the laws of physics and that this was simply not safe.

I am now the bad guy, and I no longer feel welcome on that side of the airport. After witnessing two crashes of pilots from the same group of guys as a result of taking off downwind I am really on the outs with these folks. All because I did not tell them what they wanted to hear.

I tell you this because you are not alone. Your situation is worse because you have much more latitude in the experimental world, which makes many builders hide behind the Experimental label… It is all very dangerous.

People like you describe will continue to do as they do, and guys like us will continue to counsel them. When it’s all over perhaps we will have made a difference. You would make a very good DAR William, I encourage you to apply for designation as such. You do look better with shorter hair, but that is just an opinion and I suppose Grace has some preference here:) Best, Jon Ross A&P IA AB DAR”

Pietenpol builder Terry Hand writes:

“William, If I buy a Corvair engine that I did not build, then I do not know for sure what I am flying behind. I might as well buy an O-200 (with a similar unknown provenance) at the Flymart. But I want to build my Corvair so I KNOW what is on my airplane. There are no shortcuts to that feeling of accomplishment.”

Noted Corvair enthusiast Bob Helt writes:

“William, You certainly don’t need my feedback, but I feel it necessary to compliment you on your knowledge, explanations, and concerns. Thank You. This is a very impressive educational lesson.
Regards, Bob Helt”

Cleanex Builder and CC#22 grad Vic Delgado writes:

“William, I am one of those people that is stubborn in my ideas once I have done my research and made up my mind. I actually had chosen another option which I thought would be simpler, less expensive, and dependable. Once I had the opportunity to speak with you at CC23 about my choice, and you explained the different options available, and why you thought the MA3 was a good choice, I was reluctant to change, at that moment. But the explanation you gave made so much sense, and your experience counted for a lot as well, that I knew I was looking for an MA3 carb for my engine before the weekend was over.   I really appreciate the way you explain things, and even more that you don’t sugar coat the truth, bad or good. I respect that presentation because it is honest, and straight forward, which it the way I like to deliver as well.  I am still looking for a good MA3, if you have any good leads where I should be looking for a fair price, please let me know. I too am building for myself and my family to fly behind, and there is no “Bargain” that will make me skimp on my safety and peace of mind. My goal is to try to have my engine completed by end of 2013 if possible. I am really looking forward to it! I will be getting in touch with you regarding my engine block and work.
thanks, Vic”

Builder “Jacksno” writes:

“…stone reliability…”  If I had an aircraft parts company, it’d be Stone Reliable Aircraft Parts.  Also, really like your priorities, especially concerning ‘glass/’instruments’ a distant priority from that of a reliable carb.  I try to stay positive, but have to admit I was sorely disappointed with the choices made by the EAA staff (latest mag) and their CH 750 build- I love the concept, the airframe choice, am willing to accept the use of the on hand historic Continental power plant, (although, of course, would rather see a 5th bearing Corvair), but reached for the puke bag when I got to the sell out (my opinion) on the Dynon.  Not saying anything at all against Dynon, just that a) having them do the panel is completely out of line with homebuilding and may violate the 51%/majority build rule, (which may not apply to the organization as it would to an individual), and b)  as an example of entry-level home building for entry-level pilots ostensibly planning to fly for the pure joy of it, (just like crows do as opposed to mission oriented raptors), ‘steam’ gauges seem far more appropriate. They are free to do as they please, just didn’t like it and using this opportunity to vent.  Thanks.”

Jacksno: Everyone knows I like stupidly simple stuff in aircraft, so let me take the counterpoint on this and give a little of the opposing perspective: Of all of the Glass cockpit stuff, I like Dynon the best, it is well proven, and if someone likes that stuff, it is a good value. Part of the mission of the plane is to fly all of the EAA air academy students that go there during the summer. Most of these kids are far more familiar with that type of display that steam gauges. The thing I like best about their choices are that the plane, the engine, and the instrumentation are all US made products. You know what aircraft they were using at the Air-acedemy? A Chinese built Skycatcher. I will accept nearly anything over that. I want every kid who goes there to understand that Americans wrote a large part of the history of flight, and we still have a fantastic engineering education system here, and that they should take their place as the next generational link in the chain of achievement by becoming as educated as possible and then using that knowledge to create more manufacturing here. The plane, as they are building it, supports this. Flying in a Skycatcher built by repressed labor in a communist country sends the message that we once went to the moon, but today the best you can hope for is a ride in a cheap toy built for maximum corporate profit by using the lowest wage workers they could find on the planet.

The paint, interior, engine and panel all are not considered as part of the 51%. Builders are not penalized for purchasing these items nor hiring them out.-ww


On the story of Starting procedures on Corvairs, 2,000 words of experience.

Builder Dan Branstrom writes:

“I always considered that cutting off the mixture would starve the cylinders of fuel that could be fired by magneto ignition if the prop was moved and either there was a broken P-lead or the ignition was not turned off.”

Charles Leonard  601XLB builder/flyer writes:

“If  I start using the ignition switch to kill the engine, may I leave the mixture control in between flights, or what?it sounds like I can just leave the mixture control alone. Charles”


On the story, Machines vs Appliances Part #2

650 builder Becky Shipman writes:

“Great topic, with 1/2 a beer I could go on for hours about this. Mostly I agree w/ a few exceptions. Rotax 912s – you are right for the most part. I do know someone who rebuilt one who was not an A&P but took a Rotax repair class.

Cars – while they are harder to work on, there is one particular area where I love modern cars. They don’t rust! I would still drive my ’76 Nova if it hadn’t rusted out. In 5 years. And because of unibody construction, once the rust gets significant you are done, unless you weld / replace major body portions. My 2004 Ranger, 150,000 miles, not a spec of rust.

Materials – especially rubber and plastics, last much longer. Modern cars rarely leak oil if you don’t abuse them. Door and window seals last forever compared to the ’60s. I like that you can incorporate that into rebuilding old engines w/ improved seals. In the process control world, a computer is much more reliable than a room filled with timers and counters and relays that gets really, really hot. But if something goes wrong, you need a EE degree just to get into the logic and trace the circuits.

My car never knocks or detonates. There’s the darn check engine light – but what that really means is that the computer control system had to go full on or off to try and control the mixture (at least most of the time).  In my opinion, the problem isn’t that the technology is bad in and of itself, it’s that the designers try to make it so you don’t have to know how it works to use it. In the Jenny days, you had to know how the OX-5 worked to be safe flying it. Modern airplanes, you sort of don’t have to know as much, but I believe you are still safer if you do.

The Corvair engine and the way you approach it guides builders into knowing how it works, and that makes us safer. It’s more reliable than an OX-5, even if you know the OX-5 by heart. But with the Rotax, I think there’s overlap – if you don’t know your Corvair the Rotax is probably safer, if you know your Corvair but not your Rotax, the Corvair is safer, if you know them both – maybe a tossup? But no one demands you know your Rotax before you take off, and that in my opinion is the real problem. I would like to hear you try to convince me to own a V8 Vega …….Becky Shipman”

Becky, think of a V-8 Vega as a Nova that weighs 700 pounds less, and has about 50% of the aerodynamic drag. Go to You tube and search “V-8 Vega – Burnout” , there are about 100 great clips in there. My Brother and I had several V-8 Vegas, mostly 1974 GT Wagons and a Panel Express.-ww

My Brother in Law Col. John Nerges shares:

“I am typing this on a Dell computer, a model they probably made 5 million of. This computer could be called a machine, but for all intents and purposes it isn’t. A computer is another thing entirely. It is an appliance. Is there anyone reading this who thinks that there will be a single 95-year-old laptop of this model working in the year 2105?”

Wow, talk about perspective.

Builder “Jacksno” writes:

“It’s hard for me to accept the word as applied today:  technology.  It WAS a beautiful word.  As all words, it’s value and veracity are directly proportional to the integrity of the ‘heart’ that powers the brain, mouth, and lungs to utter it.  You nailed it re ‘consumer-ism’.  Such a poor, poverty spirit business concept.  Somethings, like my product, are in fact consumable.  It’s not a Machine, or even a machine, but a substance.  That’s different than a Machine, which has a very widespread definition for me, something made by a maker called to make things, one who has the greatest admiration and respect for working parts functioning in harmony toward a designed purpose, made to last as long as possible regardless of the potential ‘profit’ of the greed driven concept of ‘engineered obsolescence’.  Thanks for your standard of integrity.”

Builder Charlie  Nowlin Writes:

“Yes, William, I am a 15%-er too!  I immediately understood your first post on this subject. The second? A piece  of  cake! Keep up  the  great work!”


On the Video of Running 2850cc engine.

Corvair/Merlin, builder/flyer Jeff Moores writes:

“Hi William, loved the video; sounds great as all Corvairs do. With the 2850 what is the prop dia. and pitch? What is your WOT rpm? Thanks, Jeff Moores Corvair/Merlin”

Jeff, that is our test prop, it is only 62″ diameter. The peak RPM in the video was a momentary 3,000.-ww.


On the story of The cost of being Charles Lindbergh

Builder Dan Branstrom writes:

“To add to the biography of Lindbergh, it is the theory on the part of Pulitzer Prize winner Scott Berg that the reasons that Roosevelt didn’t want to let him reenlist were twofold: Lindbergh had voiced his opposition to the Army pilots taking over the air mail routes because he said that while the Army pilots were excellent pilots, that flying the air mail was a totally different type of flying.  He was proved right when there were many fatalities.  That ticked off Roosevelt.

The other is that Lindbergh in a dramatic move had resigned his commission to head up the America First movement.  It was understandable that he would have those views because his father had been one of the few Congressmen to vote against going to war in WWI.

Lindbergh had even contemplated moving to Germany, not because of any great love for the country, but because in that totalitarian state, the press left him alone.  If you think that today’s paparazzi are bad, the press of that day was far worse towards Lindbergh.  It is for that reason he had moved his family from the U.S. to England in the years after his son was kidnapped.

The award he was given by the Nazi government was sprung on him, and it was a propaganda ploy on the part of Germany.  The Germans, proud of the Luftwaffe, showed him everything, and he shared this information with U.S. intelligence.

Because Roosevelt didn’t let him rejoin the Army, he quietly became a manufacturer’s rep and troubleshooter in the Pacific.  He had orders cut that let him go anywhere in the Pacific.  He is responsible for teaching fighter pilots how to increase their range by a substantial margin.  As he put it, “It’s in your engine manuals.”

They learned that at low RPMs that they could use power settings that were over-square  to increase their range at low power settings.  They could use settings of very low rpm and high manifold pressure without damaging the engine, yet cruise at much greater efficiency in the trip to and from the site of a battle.  This gave them at least an extra hour of flight time.  Because he was Lindbergh, fighter pilots listened to him.  If he’d been someone else, they might not have.  He also flew fighter sweeps with them and demonstrated that he knew what he was talking about.”


On the story of  The Quote, 1927, C.A.L.

Builder “Jacksno” wrote:

“That’s it.  Period.”


On the story about the New Photos of JAG-2, a Corvair powered twin.

Pietenpol builder Terry Hand Writes:

“William, I am in awe of guys like Jim and Dan Weseman and others. Their skills and their projects make my build project look down right minuscule in comparison, but I proudly stand up with them and say “I am a homebuilder.” And thank you for having a place for us to share the journey with likeminded people. Semper Fi, Terry Hand”


On the two stories about Gary Burdett’s 750, Gary Burdett, 2,850cc Zenith 750, now flying. (engine selection) and Zenith 750 Flying on Corvair Power, Gary Burdett, Illinois

759 builder Blaine Schwartz writes:

“Congrats Gary! The plane looks great!”

650 builder Becky Shipman writes:

“Hello William, I am glad to hear that Gary’s plane is flying.  Another zenith success story. It is interesting that you mention the RV-12 and zodiac 650 since that is exactly the choice I had to make before starting to build my plane.  I went to both the vans factory and the zenith factory before deciding.  The RV-12 looked to be an excellent plane, vans kits have a great reputation and the instructions were excellent.  But there was no flexibility in design options.  The plane was licensed as an ELSA which meant that every option had to appear in a production plane.

I have flown about 200 HRS behind a Rotax 912s.  The engine was fairly reliable but there were a couple of problems I noticed.  While the fuel consumption was low at low altitudes it was unreasonably high at high altitudes.  The cylinder head temperature would occasionally be too high when climbing.  Both of these issues could have been handled in flight with a mixture control, but the Rotax with its Bing carburetors didn’t have one.  The Vans also didn’t allow any options for flight or engine instruments.So I decided to go with the zodiac which allowed me to put off making my decision on instruments and engine until I had checked out more options.  Regards, Becky”

International Builder Howard in Hati writes:

“I chuckled (and cringed) when I read this blog post on a builder forum and it caused me to think about your dedication to educate and empower builders.

Charging Issue: …While taxiing to the active, my battery charge indication shoed low voltage, fluctuating into yellow. On run-up, the bar still showed slightly more than 12 volts. It usually reads 13.2 or so. I went back to tie down, and quit for day. Later, the battery would not turn engine. On charger all night. Does the Jabiru have a voltage regulator that may be bad? If so, where is it, and what does it look like…

Thanks, Haiti Howard.”

Builder Paul Sanders writes:

“Great article. I spent a lot of time comparing the main players in the game and until recently had decided on the Viking, with the Corvair a close second (largely due to the perception that is a lot heavier – a perception that has since been corrected). As I’ve watched the Viking grow it has become obvious that it is not the engine for me for a lot of reasons. Your arguments are good, one needs to look closely at all aspects, not just cost and weight etc. In my case particularly, I know very little about engines, and the system you have designed to support the Corvair conversion is just what I need. I don’t think I can succeed if I buy an engine and am then abandoned. I’m hopefully going to be in touch with you soon to talk about having you build one for my “forthcoming” 750.”


On the story about our dog, Scoob E,

650 Builder Becky Shipman writes:

“Hello William, It’s funny how dogs focus in on sound.  My family had a Collie named Mac.  The dog loved my father and used to run to the door when he pulled up in our 76 Chevrolet nova.  I inherited the nova when I moved away after college.  A couple of years later I drove back to the house to visit my parents and they told me that Mac ran to the door when she heard the car even though dad hadn’t driven it for two years. That nova, with an in-line six and three on the tree was my most reliable car.  I would still be driving it if it hadn’t rusted out. Glad you and Scoob E survived Grace’s absence. Regards, Becky”


On the story about 76 Days until Oshkosh 2013.

Pietenpol builder Ryan writes:

“William, Have you thought about drawing up your redesigned Piet gear? I think I would like to do something similar but not sure where to start. Ryan”

Ryan, I am working on an informal Pietenpol notebook which would have all of the information I have gathered on them, and drawing of this like the gear. I am gathering this along with positive storieds of fun and adventure in Corvair-powered piets. I hope to sweep this together before Brodhead this year.-ww

Builder “Jeffeoso” writes:

“I shall likely see you there. at Oshkosh”

Looking forward to it-ww.

Pietenpol builder John Francis writes:

“William,  I am interested in purchasing a motor mount for a Pietenpol at Brodhead.”

John, Send me a direct Email to, and give me some detail on your fuselage. Be sure to include an evening phone number. I will be glad to get started and bring you one.-ww

Built by William Wynne? Built according to The Manual?


Below are photos of three Corvair engines. All of them were sold to new owners this year. The sellers of these engines said things to get the new owners to pick them up, things that we will just call “Less than honest.” One of the engines was said to have been built by myself; another was said to have been inspected by me, and successfully flown; the other was said to have been built “according to the WW manual.” Let’s look at why these statements are not accurate, and at the end I am going to make some serious suggestions about shopping for second-hand engines or engine projects.


Above, a 2700 engine that was built by a WWII B-17 pilot named Sam Sayer of Florida, who has now passed from this earth. The engine was sold with his plane from his estate, then resold to the new owner. I knew Sam, and he was an outstanding human. He was shot down on his first mission by an 88mm flak shell that went through the throttle quadrant but failed to fully detonate. He evaded capture and returned to England. You can read more about him on this 2006 link to our main Web site, a story about Corvair College #9:

He was a great guy, and I spent a fair chunk of time with him. He was a “regular” at our Edgewater hangar. But this doesn’t mean that the engine he built was airworthy nor worth buying.

Plenty of things are wrong with me; in many ways I am an opinionated jackass and I have made plenty of mistakes in life. But here is something that I do correctly: When a veteran aviator in his 80s shows up at my hangar, doesn’t have a medical, is pretty much aware that he isn’t going flying, and just wants to enjoy himself by exercising some creativity and building something with the hands that still bear the scars of shrapnel from an 88mm shell fired 60 years before, he gets the red carpet treatment.

I am not there to lecture a man my father’s age that he is “Doing it wrong.” It is my task to make that man’s day a little brighter and do anything I can for him: Tools, time, coffee and being a good listener. If a 35-year-old guy came to a College and wanted my help to build and run the above engine and then put it on his plane, the answer is of course “No,” and I am going to make Mr. 35-year-old do it the right way, because he is going to take it flying, and he didn’t sacrifice his youth in 1944 trying to do something to stop fascism. Most aviation companies wouldn’t let a guy like Sam hang around any longer than it would take to find he didn’t have a lot of money to spend: “That’s just good business.” To hell with them, they may be business people, but in my book they are not aviators and they are piss poor Americans if they judge the value of men like Sam by the thickness of their wallet. This country is filled with people who think that having a yellow ribbon sticker on their car that says “Support the Troops” completely fulfills the obligation.

Back to the main point: Look at the photo above. It has no 5th bearing and the crank probably isn’t nitrided. Look at the rust on the hardware. Do you think this was stored wrapped up in a really dry place the past 7 years? The guy who sold this to its current owner said that it was “Assembled by WW for Sam Sayer,” and was selling it for many thousands of dollars. I didn’t build this engine, the guy just said that because he is a B.S. artist who wanted to make a buck. Trust me, he isn’t the only guy like that selling something in aviation.


Above, rear view of the engine: I have not put a rear starter on an engine in 14 years. Note there are no rear tins. I have never put a belt driven alternator on that side of the back of an engine; search the name of my friend “John Blackburn” and “V-6 Ford crash” on my Web site to find out why. The valve cover clamps are on backwards, the distributor clamp is the wrong one, none of the accessory brackets are strong enough. I have no idea what is inside this engine, I didn’t build nor assemble it. What I did do with the builder was spend two Veterans Days in a row with Sam in my hangar, treating a great guy with the respect and camaraderie that he deserved.


Round Two: Above is the KR-2 built by David Dergins in Florida circa about 2002. I saw this plane in a housecall, and was very concerned that it would crash on the first flight. Dergins was a very friendly and successful real estate guy, and he had the money to do a good job, he just didn’t have the patience. I told him it needed to be redone. Several months later he brought it to our hangar at Spruce Creek on a trailer to “Show Me” that he had taken my counsel seriously. He had not, and he stated he was going to fly it that week. Kevin, Grace and I had a real dilemma; we had no power to stop him, we were all pretty sure it was going to be an accident, and Dergins had already shown that he wasn’t going to listen to advice. We were looking at a bomb that was going to destroy a lot of the reputation of Corvairs that we had worked to build, we had no way to defuse it, and after it went off, we all knew that few people would understand that we had really tried to defuse it. I had already been in the engine business for 10 years at that point, and I knew the story would be “And Dave, that wonderful craftsman, had it up at WW’s hangar just the week before for his approval.” Dergins took it home in anger, and later said that he did get it off the ground, had problems on rotation, did a very low 180 and said he would never fly it again. He said to me several times that I was wrong, it did “fly.” By a miracle, the bomb was a dud. It was as if he had fashioned a suicide vest made to look something like a clothing line we sell, but at the last moment, it didn’t go off.


Above, Dergin’s engine. Look at the front cover and compare it to Sam Sayer’s. Sam had craftsmanship but little money, Dergins had money but no craftsmanship. To settle the academic debate, I would rather fly Sam’s engine, but in reality, no one should fly either. Just get a look at the intake logs on the head. Yes, this engine will run, but cylinders 5 & 6 will run super rich, 1 & 2 will run very lean, and the head gaskets will blow in a few minutes of climb. The seller of this aircraft represented it as a KR-2 in flyable condition that has a WW inspected engine. Factually true? Yes, if you get into legal debates such as “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” For the rest of us, we can just say that the seller is not an honest man. I have spoken with the new owner, and he is a good guy who fully understands that every single part needs to come out of this and be looked at with a very critical inspection.


Round Three: Above is the inside of a case of an engine that I tore down for the second owner. The guy who built it and sold it stated that it was built according to my manual. I ask all the reasonable builders to show me the part in my manual that tells builders to overspray all the rotating engine parts with orange paint. This was under the bearings, down in the lifter bores, and in the oil galleries. I guess he didn’t want the inside of the aluminum case, bathed in oil, to get all rusty? Looking at the engine, and reflecting on my communication with the orignal builder, I will tell you that this engine wasn’t a budget nor a craftmanship problem, it was an attitude problem. Specifically, the builder didn’t like taking advice from someone whom he perceived as a long-haired, opinionated, know-it-all, punk kid from Florida.

First, I do have long hair, live in Florida, and I am a jackass, but even if you hate me, that doesn’t invalidate my words on engines. Maybe now that I am 50 years old we can put the “He is too young to know a lot about planes” crap to rest. I may not know every single thing about engines, but comparing my understanding of Corvairs with this builder, I am Albert Einstein (and I have the hair style to prove it).


Above, a piston assembly out of the engine. That’s not just a cast piston, that is a Chinese-made cast piston. That symbol, just ahead of the wrist pin, is “Genuine Brand,” a massive, low quality Chinese engine partmaker’s logo. Their Web site says they are ISO-9001 certified, but this is taking the word of people who claim Mao Tse-tung was a great humanitarian, and that everyone in Tibet welcomes the 50 year Chinese military occupation of their country.  When I say that every flight engine needs forged pistons, it goes without saying that you don’t consider using cast ones from a communist police state.

The engine had many such “features” inside. Every single one of them was the result of the original builder saying “This will be alright,” or “This is just as good.” Often the justification for going against the experience I share falls into two categories: The builder doesn’t like me personally, or he is going to “show me” what he knows. Neither of these are good motivation for taking a detour from what we know to work.

Most often, the people who have decided they don’t like me have never met me. Out of 2,000 pages of written information on our Web sites, they have found a few sentences that they deem offensive, or they got set off by the moniker “The Corvair Authority,” or they thought the words “The Corvair movement” sounded like some hippie commune. From that point forward, they decided they were justified to selectively reject information from me that didn’t validate their existing mindset. That’s how you get cast pistons from China in a flight engine. Know this: If I threw away everything I learned about airplanes from people whom I didn’t find charming, I would know about 50% of what I do. Just because you don’t want someone like me for a son-in-law, that doesn’t invalidate what I have to say about Corvairs.

Second, I have encountered many people who were going to “show everyone” something, namely how wrong I am on some topic. This is very poor motivation for anything that is potentially as dangerous as flying. Usually it is just a waste of time and money, like when a quitter named Robert Haynes told everyone on the Net he was going to show everyone the things I say about EFI are wrong. (He never even made the engine run, far less fly.) But it is also a very dangerous motivation, and it played a role in the fatal accident of Steve Jones, a great guy, but a hyper-competitive person who always falsely believed that everyone around him was judging his efforts. I have a handwritten letter from him saying that he was going to have the fastest KR-2 or die trying. His accident was testing CG locations, but I hold that his attitude on “showing everyone” was the underlying cause of it. If you ever detect that you are about to do something in aviation that you normally wouldn’t, but some part of you wants to impress others, just stop. Just stop.

In summary, don’t buy a second-hand engine, no matter what anyone tells you about it. The average asking price of the engines above was more than $5,000. Sound like a bargain? The motivation to get a deal or a running start is not valid. You are not in a contest to see how cheap you can build an engine, and you are not in a race either. Both of those mindsets come from day-to-day life outside of building and flying.

You have to identify thoughts and motivations like that and shelve them when getting down to learning, building and flying. You are here to learn as much as you can, build a first class engine, and operate it with intelligence and good decision-making. We are not here to waste money, but it isn’t going to be “cheap.” It is going to require investment, not primarily of your money, but something more valuable: your best effort. Anyone who can take advice and read can do better work than the engines above. They were not a bargain, even if they were free, because accepting these as a starting point is about looking for something of a deal or a shortcut. If you come across one of these, recognize that the primary problem with them isn’t mechanical. If an advertised engine like the ones above has appeal, it is an indication that you have not yet come to see that you can be a better craftsman than you realize, a craftsman who will not accept the work of others as good enough. Developing that understanding is the real value in building experimental aircraft.  -ww

MA3-spa carb pictures, Wagabond notes.


In the last few days we have featured some stories on Carbs. Today I went to the mail box and picked up a package that happened to be my MA3 carb returning from overhaul.  It was gone about two weeks.


Above is the MA3, freshly overhauled by D&G Suppy in Niles MI, (269)-684-4440. This is the FAA fuel system repair station that is run by Russ Romey. We have been sending builders there for 10 years. He is an excellent source of rebuilt MA3’s and Stromberg NAS-3s.

Several points here; It is hard to see, but the carb is sitting on my receipt from Russ. Although we are friends, note that the overhaul cost me the same price as he charges any other person, $650. Years ago, a handful of people on the web, led by Lon Wall of the Corvair Underground inc, frequently spread the lie that I made money and kick backs off the products I recommend to builders. This was Lon’s explanation why I suggested people shop with Clarks rather than him.

He didn’t understand that he lost the business solely because he wanted to sell builders cast pistons and old rod bolts. His claims went on the net for several years, mostly unchallenged or unmoderated. They sounded good to a handful of people who liked a good conspiracy theory or hated me since I first used the term “The Corvair authority”, (All of them missed that the acronym TCA at the time was a FAA airspace called a Terminal Control Area, and the letters stuck in aviators memories, and “WilliamTCA” my email address, predates our name “FlyCorvair” by several years.) Let the receipt be one more piece of evidence that my endorsements are not for sale.

My allegiance is only to the best interests of builders. In the last 10 years, lets conservatively say 1,000 people have built a complete corvair aircraft engine. On average, between cams, pistons, bearings cylinders, balancers, gaskets etc they spent $1,750 each on parts from a Corvair parts house.  Thats $1,750,000 in shopping. The lion’s share of this went to Clarks. I did not make a single dime off any of this. If Lon or any other parts house wanted a part of it, all they had to do was sell the parts we recommend and not offer advice like using cast pistons in flight engines. Evidently, he couldn’t do this.

Second; An MA3 is a simple carb, I have been an A&P for 22 years, I am qualified to overhaul this myself, but parts are expensive, more than half the price of the complete job. In the end, I am glad to pay Russ a few hundred dollars to make it perfect. I have no problem paying another American aviation professional for his expertise. This is how the infrastructure of aviation as we know it in this country stays in place.

If someone chooses to buy a Rotax with their two German Bing motorcycle carbs, they are only fueling the trade deficit, and doing nothing to support American manufacturing and aircraft maintenance systems. And no, a person who took a 40 hour Rotax ‘mechanics’ class is not a trained aviation professional, they are just an extension of a foreign companies sales staff.  For a reality check, my A&P training at Embry Riddle had the strict FAA requirement of 2,800 classroom hours.

If I had told the maintenance department chairman, Dick Ulm USMC ret. that I was ready to evaluate airworthyness on aircraft at the end of my first 40 hour week in the program, he would have laughed his ass off, and then punched my lights out. If I then complained to the University president, Kenneth Tallman, Maj. Gen. USAF, ret., I am pretty sure it would have had the same result. If anyone asks in 5 years why S-LSA”Light Sport category” failed live up to any of its potential to do positive lasting good for aviation, at least part of the blame will be on the fact the ASTM ‘certification’ standards on these planes are a bad joke, and the maintenance on them is done by woefully underqualified people.

Third; This carb is going on our own Wagabond, the plane that my wife will also fly, and we will bring the dog. The day it flies it will not have a radio, a transponder, a GPS, a Glass anything, an interior or a fancy paint job. Those things don’t make planes fly. It will however have this carb and it will have a 5th bearing, and a very well-built engine. Aviation is about good decision-making, and placing any of the first items ahead of the latter ones is an example of poor decision-making, and no one can offer a rational argument otherwise. Looks and tech toys come after airworthness items. If you have budget left over, add those things if you wish, but only after it is mechanically as good as you can make it.


It is a free world, and  you can use any carb you like on your Corvair.  Physics, Chemistry and Gravity also think it is a free world, and they fully support your right to make a poor choice, even one that will harm you if it doesn’t work within their system of laws.  If you wanted to run a German motorcycle carb, don’t be mad at me if it doesn’t work. I didn’t make up the laws of the physical world. I am just the messenger here to remind people that Physics, Chemistry and Gravity are great allies if you play by their rules. They are also absolutely remorseless in dealing with people who feel like the rules don’t apply to them. Be advised, if they find you guilty, the penalty phase of the system moves much faster than our criminal courts, and does not have an appeals system.

It is no secret that I like aircraft carbs. Look at the photo above, the lettering cast into the body says “Marvel Schebler Aircraft”, the logo in the middle is a propeller. This was not designed for use on motorcycles. Look at the silver throttle arm. I could literally hang the entire weight if the engine off this arm. It is not fragile. In contrast the throttle cable on a Bing carb is a tiny bicycle cable, the exact same kind that you see on cheap bmx bikes at Wal-mart. A long time ago I flew ultralights with set ups like that, and justified it by the low landing speeds. Today, I am older and somewhat smarter, and I would not fly in any plane that used a bicycle cable as a primary engine control, especially not one where the carb is going to close if the cable breaks. If the cable falls off an aircraft carb, suction alone will generally make them run at full power.

In mechanical situations, I am a traditionalist. If we are going deer hunting, no one can argue that my choice to bring a .30-06 will not work. If we were going to sea in a storm, no one could argue that my choice of going in a USCG 44′ motor lifeboat would not work. If we needed a light truck engine, no one could argue that my choice of a 350 v-8 would not work. If the goal is to put a carb on a Corvair flight engine, no one can argue that my choice to use a MA3-spa will not work. They might say it was expensive, (valid, but not in the big picture) hard to find (not valid, just call Russ) or less efficient that EFI (not valid, see my testing), but no one can even begin to say that this carb is not reliable. It works and does this task with stone reliability, end of story.


Above, this side of the carb shows the accelerator pump, and the bronze mixture control arm. the orange plug it covering the threaded fuel inlet port which an AN fitting goes in. Just to beat a dead horse, let me point out that Bing carbs on Rotaxes just have barbed slip on fittings for rubber hose and hose clamps for fuel inlets.

The intake in the background is for our Wagabond. It is stainless, just like our others, but I elected to have it powder coated. It has a longer, one of a kind up pipe between the carb flange and the main pipe, on production manifolds this is about 1/2 that length. The small tube was for a primer line when the plane  was equipped with a Stromberg carb. Going to an MA3, I have deleted the primer system. I will just have to find a plug to fill the hole….or maybe just screw a NOS nitrous fogger nozzle into it….-ww.

Starting procedures on Corvairs, 2,000 words of experience.


I recently had some conversations with out neighbor Bob Woolley. He is building a Panther, and he is the second pilot who is working with Dan to fly the test program on the Panther prototype. You can read this link about Bob on the Panther website:

Bob is the F-4 Phantom pilot in this story I wrote last year about Marvel Shebler (MA) Carbs:

Carb applications, choices people make

Above, three aircraft with carbs below the engine parked in our front yard. L to R, Louis’s 601XL – MA3-spa, Grace’s Taylorcraft – Stromberg, and Dan Weseman’s Cleanex-MA3-spa. The 601/650 is one of the few Corvair powered airframes that uses fuel pumps, almost all others are gravity feed. You might not guess this at first glance, but the Cleanex has no fuel pumps, it is only gravity feed, but it worked great, even during aerobatics. Do not accept complexity without good reason. The 601/650 have the fuel in the wings, which is a good trade-off for complexity. High wing planes can also have the fuel in the wings, but they don’t need pumps.

Bob is a outstanding pilot with a lot of experience both in building and flying, his professional approach rooted in his years in the USAF. Although his homebuilt experience runs from Pitts Specials to Glassair IIIs, almost all of the time is behind Lycomings. The panther was the first Corvair powered aircraft that he flew, and I wanted to catch his first impressions the same day he flew it. Came down to three points: It was the smoothest engine he could remember, It had more power than he expected, and it started easily.

Anyone who has been to a college and seen a Corvair that has never run before fire right up after 3 or 4 seconds of cranking will attest to Bob’s last point. When I put up the video of the test run on the 2,850 a few days ago, I intentionally showed how well the engine will repeatedly hot start. Between videos like this, colleges and flying planes, there are countless examples of how well the engine starts.

A second thing that came out of the conversations with Bob was that part of his Lycoming experience was different from Corvair procedure. With Lycomings, the major concern in starting operation is not flooding the engine, because if you do, it can be very hard to restart. For this reason, Lycoming pilots shut their engines off by pulling the mixture to idle cut off and starving the engine for fuel. When starting, they are very cautious not to get too much fuel in the engine by priming. The biggest factor on why Lycomings flood is their magneto ignition producing a low voltage, low energy spark, a plug gap of only .016″ and fairly low compression. If you get too much fuel in a Lycoming cylinder, the ignition can’t burn it off the plugs, and the lower compression will not vaporize the fuel just from the heat of compressing the air in the cylinder. It is a big issue, and if you are at an airport and you hear someone grinding away on a Lycoming starter, they probably flooded the engine.

The Corvair is a contrast to this. The 40,000 volt high energy ignition and .035″ plug gap is comparatively immune to flooding. The ignitions that we build have enough energy to fire plugs that are dripping with fuel, and when they do start, they will generally burn the carbon off the electrodes. The Corvair’s compression being one point higher doesn’t sound like much, but it gets it over the threshold of vaporizing fuel. If a corvair is cranked, it will vaporize excessive fuel and blow it out the exhaust, where a Lycoming will often leave wet drops of fuel in the cylinder even when it is cranked repeatedly.

When a piston comes to top dead center on the power stroke the air and fuel in the cylinder gets instantaneously hot. This is called adiabatic heating. The higher the compression, the hotter it gets. Our thermodynamics teachers loved pure textbook examples, where there was no heat transfer to the container, but those scenarios only exist in textbook land and unicorn world. Professors actually love things like “Carnot cycle engines”  which we paid money to learn was perfect, albeit with the small flaw of just being theoretical and not possible to build. Thermo is the only branch of science that devotes time to studying and being fascinated with perpetual motion machines. Ah, but I digress…….

Above, an overhaulled NAS-3 that went on the Pietenpol of Dave Minsink. Read the story at: Stromberg Carbs

What you can take away from this is if you ever have a hard time cranking a Corvair, it is far more likely to be under primed than flooded. Dan provided Bob with a detailed procedure checklist to adapt his Lycoming experience to Corvairs. This included stopping the engine with the ignition switch rather than the mixture, priming the engine with the MA3’s accelerator pump one second before cranking, and starting the engine with the throttle cracked open slightly opposed to on the idle stop.

With these differences, the Corvair will start instantaneously. These procedures apply to MA3-SPA planes, but a variation on them also works well for Corvairs with other carbs. Our test stand has an old MA3-SPA on it, and it has done the first run on more than 150 engines. It has no primer, other than the accelerator pump in the carb, but I can generally get a brand new Corvair to fire off in 3 seconds at a College. Builders at these events in cold weather have seen me use the accelerator pump with as many a four shots before starting. This will make fuel drip out of the corers of the airbox. This leads people to think of the engine as potentially ‘flooded’, but in reality, excess fuel in the airbox doesn’t mean it got to the cylinder head.

With a warm engine or in warm weather, as seen in the video, the engine will start without any priming at all, unless the last operator shut it down by pulling the mixture. Again, other carbs will have slightly different procedures on a Corvair, but the concepts are the same, and I can think of many flying examples of Corvair powered planes for all of the popular carb choices that are capable of starting instantly. There is no reason to accept less than this on your own aircraft.

An entirely separate issue is engines that don’t crank well. Over the years I have had a handful of builders report to me that their Corvair powered plane had difficulty starting. One of the common things that these people said was that it could start easier on the points side of the ignition than it can on the electronic. More than one builder went to putting a very small second battery just to power the ignition during cranking or as some sort of back up. The fact this ‘worked’ seemed to validate their conclusion. In reality something else was likely at work. Read on;

First, let me say that several hundred running Corvairs use our E/P ignition. It completely dominates the flying Corvair community. Aircraft as diverse as Mark Langfords KR2S and Bernard Pietenpol’s “Last Original” have used our system. It is on the vast majority of all the Corvair powered planes you have ever heard of or seen pictures of flying. It works period. One of the things that any operator can tell you is that going from E to P, the ignition is on the other side instantly. Going from P to E, there is an audible delay of perhaps 1/4 of a second. Most people would not notice it without the comparison. From this, people with a starting issue often conclude that the two different sides should have different starting behavior. If they are just looking at one plane, this looks like reality. However, I have seen countless planes start easily on the Electronic side. Since we know that the modules, coils, and effectively the engines on these planes are the same, why are some people having an ‘issue’?

The most common answer is not the ignition, but the cranking end of the equation. Several things I have seen on planes have caused enough voltage drop on particular planes that the Electronic side had difficulty getting the voltage to start instantly.

Before we get to specifics, a quick test: If a plane is hard to start on the electronic side, hook a second, fully charged, 12 volt battery just to the E-coil with little jumper wires. If this ‘cures’ the problem, you almost certainly have one of the following going on:

-Low Main battery, or a dead cell in it.

-Missing or barely connected ground wire or strap causing high resistance and a system voltage drop.

-Starter shimmed too tight and binding, causing excessive current draw/voltage drop.

-undersized or poorly connected positive power cables.

-a separate ‘starter solenoid’ on the firewall (your starter has one, and if you put a second in, a-la the aeroconnection work book, you will cause yourself issues.)

radically advanced timing, incorrectly set.

Putting a second battery in is not the ideal way to correct the problem, the right way to do it is to fix the direct issue that is making the hard starting plane different from the others that function correctly.

The battery on the test stand is just a cheap one I borrowed from a garden tractor 9 years ago. It has less than 40% of the cranking power of a Oddessy 680. Yet it will go for a College and many months without being charged, happily starting Corvairs instantly. If an engine does this on my stand for its first fire up at a College, but is a hard starter when later installed in a plane, chances are, it has something to do with the airframe installation.

You might scoff at this, but last year, Dan and I had a series of phone calls with a Corvair pilot, a second owner who didn’t build his plane,  who was having an ‘issue’ with a ‘bad’ starter. Dan specifically told him to get a set of jumper cables, and jump the starter off a car directly as a test. Pilot claimed to have done this, but didn’t actually try it. Instead he replaced the battery; borrowed a car and drove 100 miles and paid a guy to rebuild the starter in spite of the fact the rebuilder said there was nothing wrong with it; called me and asked if we could send him an entirely new starter: went on the internet and asked local experts for help; nothing worked. The issue? Of course his ground wire to the engine had fallen off. If he had followed the test of the jumpers, he could have saved several frustrating days and about $1,000. Experimental aviation is a very expensive hobby if you have trouble with following good advice.

Here are things that are not likely to be an issue:

-“stuck weights” in the distributor. I have had people claim this as a possibility on a hard start, but I can show anyone that the starter we use on the Corvair can crank the engine with 30 degrees of static advance.

-a variation in parts i.e. “My Crane E unit must have a different character than all the others” Mass produced electronic devices are not like this. There is far more variation in the quality of ground straps and battery connections made by homebuilders.

If any builder experiences anything other than quick starting, I encourage them to write me or call. There is no reason to tolerate sub-standard operation, and there is really no reason to follow sub-standard advice. ww.