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 Barnstormers.com. 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 amazon.com 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”