It has been 18 days since we returned from Brodhead/Oshkosh/visiting family, and it is 18 days until we leave for Corvair College #26. I have laid off writing in the last few weeks to get a number of things done like returning calls, prepping for CC#26 and getting ordered parts out. Over the next 18 days I am going to return to updating this site every day. I have notes and photos on 16 stories, and we have a new item called “Deal of the Day.” Keep checking in, there is a lot in the pipeline.
We came back to 600 emails (1/3 real, 2/3rds trash) and 87 messages on the answering machine. I have worked my way through most of them, and we will have gotten back to everyone by Sunday. Normally this goes faster after Oshkosh, but Grace also took time to see family after our return. If you had a question in to us, and we didn’t get back to you by this weekend, please resend it, preferably with a subject line containing the word ‘Corvair’.
Several of the people I called back politely asked why I didn’t pick up the phone when they called the first time. In spite of our website and the message on the machine, several people were unaware that we were at Oshkosh. Others found it very odd that I am one of the few Americans who doesn’t carry a cell phone. Even if I did, these people didn’t understand that at Oshkosh you get up at 5:30am and literally speak to people until 11 at night, for eight days straight. There just isn’t 20 minutes anywhere in the day to call anyone back. I am also one of the few people who do not speak on phones while driving. I will also confess that while I am visiting my 87-year-old father, I focus all of my attention on being there with Dad. Unless it involves a safety of flight issue, It can wait a few days until I get back to Florida.
During a typical day in the shop, the phone will ring a bunch of times. If I am engaged in a task like welding, in the middle of an engine assembly stage, or working on a plane, I will generally stay focused on the task and let the machine get it. A guy asked why I didn’t just have the sales department answer the phone. I politely pointed out that we are a small mom and pop business, and if I was going to hire another person, they would make parts, not answer the phone. Keep in mind that I also have to go to our 4 machine shops during business hours, and also make the 4pm mail run to the post office. During the day, 1/3 of the people hang up without leaving a message. I have had the same guy call 20 times in a week, and never leave a message. When I reverse dialed his number, I got the voice mail system where he works. If you don’t leave a message, I can’t call you back.
When leaving a message, please leave me a number that I can call you on in the evening, and how late I can return your call. I can cover a lot of calls in the evening. I often spend several hours between 7 and 12 pm answering questions in great detail. You are always welcome to call 904 -529-0006 as late as you like. It only rings in the hangar, and it will not disturb us if you call late. About 1/2 the nights of the week I am in the hangar until midnight. If you ever ring the phone and it tells you the mail box is full, it is an electronic fluke caused by me not having call waiting, but also having some type of phone company complementary voice mail that I don’t want. This message just means I am on the line with a builder already.
The absolute best way of contacting us: Send me a short email that looks like this:
“Subject: Corvair engines, question from Bob Smith
Bob smith here: Please give me a call back on my house line 608-123-3456 or cell, 608-234-5467 any time up to 8pm CST. I have a number of questions about a Zenith 750. Thanks.”
If the message involves sending you anything, please send your shipping address in the email. I you send me a note that says you need 3 pushrod tubes that are not dented, I can put them right in the mail, even if your note arrives at 3:30pm. If I have to search email and read a lot of cryptic email to understand that Flyboy26@gmail is Mike Brown, and then I have to figure out which of the 5 builders we have named Mike Brown has that email, and then go to the cabinet to find his five year old registration page with his old address, then decipher where he moved to, chances are I missed the post office closing at 4:30. (BTW, that was an actual example) All avoided with some simple steps. Anyone willing to make some small adjustments in their communications will find out that I have a long track record of detailed service to builders. Look at all the photos of flying planes on our website. Obviously these builders received parts, information and support from us. What is the difference between their experience and some guy on the net who claims to have called me 100 times without answer? Often something very simple, such as the people who went on to finish planes left a message on the machine or sent email that had a real name and a phone number in it. Small adjustment, large result.
Above, Grace took this photo while we were driving on the 3,400 mile trip. Mechanical simplicity for self reliance and quest for simplifying my life, living without distractions and seeking peace are constant themes in my life. This truck left the GM assembly line in Flint Michigan 27 years ago. It is one of the last vehicles GM ever made that has no computer in it. The only instrumentation is mechanical oil pressure, mechanical water temp, a fuel gauge and a tach. It has no speedometer, the blue tape on the dash is an RPM to MPH conversion in 5th gear. There is no radio, I like to spend the driving hours thinking. I have not spoken on a cell phone while driving a vehicle in many, many years. Most people are nowhere near as good as they think at ‘multi-tasking’. I strive for just the opposite; I like being focused on the moment at hand, be it reading a book, having a conversation, flying a plane, learning something, making a part or driving a vehicle.
I do not need, nor expect builders to share these same values or priorities. I have a 20+ year track record of working with hundreds of different successful builders as ample evidence that I can adapt the delivery of the information we have learned to fit a very broad variety of builders. I can absolutely state that the builders who got the most out of what we offer with the lowest stress were the ones who were reasonable enough to meet me half way and accept that I do not carry a cell phone on me 24/7 and I still treat email as electronically delivered mail, not an instant message. If I am speaking with you on the phone, welding your mount, testing your ignition, or answering your question in person, the task has my 100% attention. I do not put people on hold, I don’t ‘multi-trash’ when working on aircraft parts, and I don’t have a cell phone to keep glancing at when I am in a conversation. There are many advantages to the way I work and live, and it really only requires a small adjustment in a builders expectation to understand that real service is being focused on delivering the correct part and answer, not the quickest answer.
In the consumer world, ‘the customer is always right.’ The more money he is spending or the more important he feels he is, the more ‘right’ he is. In aviation, Gravity, Physics and Chemistry are always right. No one in the arena of flight, no matter how rich or self-important, has ever proven this trio wrong. Successful builders are the ones who learn how the trio works, and build a plane that harnesses their absolute reliability to work for them. Teaching this is my craft, I am good at it, and I look forward to working with anyone who wants to learn and expand their skills. -ww.
Below is another look at a high quality Corvair. This particular engine is in my shop right now, but is soon headed to its owner. The engine is something of a ‘kit’, and it is a clone of the engine in Dan Weseman’s Panther. After some planning with the owner, we decided that it made the most sense for me to find a core for him in Florida and perform all the modifications to it before sending it. The owner is a skilled mechanic, but opted to have us assemble the case and install the Weseman Billet crank and Gen 2 5th bearing. We are shipping the rest of the parts, the 3,000cc Piston/rod/cylinder kit and a set of Falcon heads, along with the gold components to finish the engine. The total isn’t cheap, but it is a good value. Keep in mind the Builders goal is to have an absolutely first class engine for his Waiex. The Corvair covers many builders needs, this particular engine is a good representation of the upper end of the spectrum of options. Although this engine was planned as a ‘cost is not a consideration’ build, it is worth nothing that the engine is almost entirely made of made in the USA parts, and it still costs only 40 to 60% of an imported engine. Corvairs are not for everyone, but there are good reasons why they make sense to the builders who choose them.
Above, the engine in a case assembly stand on my work bench. If you look closely, the Weseman Billet crank is visible. In our numbering system, this is part 1001(B). This engine has a new OT-10 and a California Corvairs Billet cam gear. The 5th bearing is a Gen 2 Weseman bearing. The tape over the Hybrid studs is part of the vastly simplified installation procedures of the Gen 2 design. This Case has already been bored for the 3,000 cc Cylinders. This engine uses aftermarket rods with floating pins, also sold by the Weseman’s. Although many people think of Corvairs as “rebuilt” or automotive engines, The only parts that came from the car that remain in this particular engine are the case, the bare head castings, the rear oil case casting and some miscellaneous small hardware. Everything else is new, and the great majority of it, like the crank, pistons, cylinders, oil system etc, was all specifically designed for flight engines. I have never shied away from the term “automotive conversion engine” because it is an accurate description of the Corvair. We have converted this engine internally to meet the demands of being an actual aircraft power plant.
Throughout much of the history of experimental aviation there have been advocates of taking a an engine straight out of a wrecked car and putting some external systems on it and running it in a plane. Sounds attractive to people looking for a ‘bargain’, but these engines typically have a very poor track record. Flying in a plane is a demanding and specific task that automotive engines in their pure form are not designed for. You can get away with it when you shoot for 50hp out of 200 cubic inches (model A) or even 75HP out of 164 cid (original Bernard Pietenpol Corvair Conversion). In recent years there have been many people who claimed that you could get 100 or 115hp out of a 110 cid Subaru pulled straight from a car. Today there are car engines aiming for 100hp out of 79 cubic inches. There have never been a shortage of bargain hunters to buy into this ‘free lunch’ mentality. I have long said that I am in aviation to tell builders what they need to know, and this is often very different that what people want to hear. Reasonable people understand that driving up the HP/cubing inch and raising the RPM to 5000 or 6,000 rpm, at the same time as trying to get away with basic car parts inside is not a formula for longevity nor cooling.
Philosophically, the Corvair is in the same line of thought as the Jabaru 3300 (201cid/120hp/3,300rpm) and the UL-350 (215cid/130HP/3,200rpm). Neither of these two engines is a “Car” engine. they have internal components designed for the stress of flight duty, Just like the Corvair. If you consider the examples of Lycoming and Continental, The Corvair is using the same basic layout and philosophy of the majority of successful engines.
There will always be people who point to rotax 912s and say they are 100hp from 80 cubic inches. I respond by saying that they really are purpose-built engines, and they have a lifespan and a cost per hour that I don’t find to be a good value. Everyone thinks that 912’s are an incredibly prolific engine, but consider that they have made 40,000 of them total in several decades. Continental has made far more O-200s than that, and GM made more than 40,000 Corvairs a month in 1964 alone. Another issue to consider is that I have worked on O-200’s that have been overhauled several times and had more than 6,000 hours on the basic components, parts that were designed to be rebuilt several times (just like a Corvair). I have heard very few stories of people ‘rebuilding’ a 912. It isn’t that kind of engine, it is much more akin to a disposable appliance. This doesn’t bother most people, but it isn’t the kind of engine I want on my plane. Think it over and come up with your own answer that makes sense to you. Its your project, your choice. -ww.
In 24 hours we will be closing the registration for Corvair College #26 in Mexico MO. This event is being held at the Zenith factory just before their open house next month. We are now just 20 days away from the start of the College. Below is an excerpt from our previous story on the College registration. We are looking forward to meeting many friends there, both old and new. Please note that this College is free, but registration is required. Everyone signed up will receive further detail updates as we close in on the event. The registration link is at the bottom of the notes below. We are going to close it at the end of the day on Friday, August 30th.-ww.
Corvair College #26 will be in Mexico MO, at the Zenith factory, September 18-20, Just before September Open House, so that builders can take in both events. We will have several Corvair powered Zeniths on hand. Note that Sebastien welcomes all builders, not just Zenith builders. I have already contacted Mark from Falcon, and he will be on hand, and we will have good number of builders from previous colleges at this event. The 48 hour nature of the event means that it will be fast paced, but this will be a full College with engine tear downs, assembly and test runs. In addition we have a number of Corvair powered planes planning on being on hand. You do not have to own a Corvair engine to attend the event. If you are just seriously thinking about the Corvair, I encourage you to attend and learn more. Colleges are excellent settings to learn more details and evaluate the engine’s advantages for your project.
There is no registration fee for this College. The simple reason for this is because we will have the builders on hand source their own food and beverages. At other Colleges, the fee goes to providing the food and drinks. In Mexico, we have elected to bypass this and focus on the mechanical side of the event. This also allows some flexibility on builders’ arrival times at the event. We are encouraging all the builders at the College to plan on staying for the Zenith open house on Friday and Saturday. I am opening this registration before we head to Oshkosh to give regular readers a chance to sign up early. I am going to cap the total at 60 builders, and I expect this to fill up before the end of Oshkosh. Please note that while there is no fee, registration is required, and I do have to know you are coming in advance. I will be glad to speak with every single person on hand at the open house on Saturday, Technical planning, safety supervision and space limitations require us to have a finite limit on attendance. If you are planning on attending take action today. Here is the link:
The Event also has its own Face Book Page:
Here is the photo report from our 3,400 mile 18-state 21-day road trip that encompassed Brodhead, Oshkosh, and House Calls. As always, there are many photos of people because homebuilt aircraft do not spontaneously generate themselves. They are made of the persistence and craftsmanship of individuals who have chosen their path, not of the least resistance, but of the most challenging and rewarding path.
Brodhead is the annual gathering of Pietenpols in Southern Wisconsin. This year is about the 20th trip we’ve made there.
Randy Bush flew in for the third year in a row in his Piet, above, named Miss Le’Bec (it is a combination of his girls’ names). His aircraft was seven years in the making. The aircraft now has more than 500 hours on it.
Above, Gary and Shad Bell’s Pietenpol, flown in from Ohio. This aircraft has made numerous trips to Brodhead. Randy and Shad’s Air Camper joined Tom Brown’s Piet and Bill Knight’s Last Original at Brodhead this year. Some years at Brodhead draw more than 25 Pietenpols. 2013 was a light turnout, but Corvairs powered one-third of the Pietenpols present.
Brodhead is a very peaceful setting, the antithesis of Oshkosh. Grace photographed these two Piets flying in formation At Dusk.
Two other Corvair powered airplanes flew at Brodhead 2013. Pat Hoyt of Minnesota flew in their 601XL while his lovely wife Mary drove their support vehicle. Dan Weseman flew the Panther prototype at Brodhead.
I am on the Saturday Speakers List each year at Brodhead. It is an excellent setting in which to speak plainly about true homebuilding. I cover a broad variety of topics that address motivation and information for grassroots builders. I can share things with the builders at Brodhead because they are nearly 100% traditional builders. Some of the observations and commentary would be misunderstood or misinterpreted by a general aviation audience at Oshkosh.
Above, I receive a Participation Award from emcee P.F. Beck, right. MC P.F. has been the local host at three Corvair Colleges in Barnwell, S.C., and will do the same again for CC #27 in November.
After the Forum, we conducted a Tailgate Tech Seminar. Piet builder Mark Chouinard, extreme right, extreme tall, listens as I answer questions. Mark picked up one of our high thrust line Piet Mounts for his project. Jim Boyer of California picked up another one at Brodhead for his Piet. That rounds out the first 10 of these new generation Mounts. While I have previously made Motor Mounts according to the original drawing, all of our Piet mounts from here forward will be high thrust line models.
Waiex/3,000cc Corvair builder Greg Crouchley, above, demonstrates that you can put a Corvair into a Porsche. He drove out from Rhode Island with one in his front trunk. He is now starting another Corvair engine for his second aircraft project; a Pietenpol Perhaps?
Above, Grace and aviator extraordinaire John Schmidt of Minnesota take Greg’s Porsche out for a spin around Brodhead. Greg was a pretty good sport and merely asked that they try to keep it under 200KM/hour.
It is about a hundred mile drive from Brodhead to Oshkosh. We met up with Brother Roy at Brodhead and rendezvoused with Mark Petniunas from FalconMachine.net on route. Grace took this photo at a fuel stop. Although we work together and coordinate efforts for the benefit of builders, this was the first time the five of us had been in the same place since Oshkosh 2012.
The last section of the drive to Oshkosh is up Wisconsin Route 26, which is also one of the landmark NOTAM approach paths to the airshow. Grace captured Randy Bush’s Miss Le’Bec and two other Piets from Brodhead flying to OSH at 300 AGL.
Here’s a close up of Randy Bush flying lead on the approach into OSH.
AirVenture Oshkosh 2013
I’ve been going to Oshkosh since 1990. I have only missed one year out of the past 18. While many people attend for a day or two, being a commercial presenter requires arriving the day before and staying till the last hour. Combine this with the fact that I worked as a staff writer with EAA Publications for many years and I’m in a good position to comment on how things have changed at OSH in the past few decades.
However, in the following photos we’ll concentrate on the things that do not change year after year. First and foremost will always be spending time with friends, old and new, for one week of the year. These photos and words will give you a glimpse into how we see Oshkosh, a veteran insider’s view rather than a typical Web site’s commercial angle. We hope it broadens your perspective.
After Brodhead, Patrick Hoyt of Minnesota flew his 601 XL up to display it all week at AirVenture. The aircraft looks like a 650 because of the canopy, but it is technically a 601 XL. It was Patrick’s first trip in the aircraft to Oshkosh. At the end of the week, he said the experience of flying in the plane and engine you built yourself was “Unbelievable.”
We arrived to unpack on Sunday, the day before the show. It was Scoob E’s second trip to Oshkosh. He will gladly go anywhere to stay with you.
Setting up takes a few hours. Primary concern is securing against wind damage. Over the years, we have had three tents destroyed by windstorms. Vern, at right above, came up from Florida this year for his first Oshkosh. In the background, one of my favorite aircraft, a Stinson Trimotor.
One of the most frequent questions people have before Oshkosh is if they can buy some part from us while they are there. The answer is, and will always be, yes. We carefully pack thousands of pounds of parts into the enclosed trailer above to bring to the show to sell. (Dog is just sitting in trailer, he doesn’t get packed in there.) This year included delivering two complete engines. A week’s rental of a thousand square feet of grass from the EAA sets you back almost $3,000. That and traveling expenses are a lot of overhead. Fortunately, we do a brisk business with builders who take home FlyCorvair parts large and small.
After several decades of going to Oshkosh, you’re rewarded with having old friends everywhere on site. Above, Grace with longtime EAA Homebuilders Welcome Center Volunteer Paul Hummel.
We shared our booth with Roy Szarafinski of Roy’s Garage and Mark Petniunas of Falcon Machine. Above, Roy next to the stylish hood ornament on his PT Cruiser tow vehicle.
Above is a 2,850 cc/110 hp engine we delivered the first day of the show to Canadian Zenith 750 builder Greg Ross.
Above, Greg and his Dad with their new engine in the back of their truck. They also picked up a set of installation components, including a powdercoated Motor Mount.
When setting up the tent, a lot of things like hanging up display Motor Mounts in the top of the tent went quick with the help of 6’5″ Pietenpol builder Mark Chouinard. I am 6’0″, and after looking at the photo, I am convinced that Mark is being a little modest or he needs a new tape measure.
The weather was unusually and delightfully cool. Above, Scoob E shares a blanket with Randy Bush’s girlfriend Brenda, a big fan of little dogs.
Oshkosh is the place where many of the East and West Coast flyers of Corvair powered airplanes meet each other for the first time. In our booth, on the extreme left, Corvair powered Dragonfly pilot Charlie Johnson and his brother Bob of Utah. On the right side, 500 hour Corvair powered Pietenpol pilot Randy Bush of Tennessee, with Roy to his left.
Even by the end of the first day, a lot of familiar faces show up. I like the fact that our booth is thought of as the central gathering point for fans of Corvair power and traditional homebuilders alike. Many booths are deserted by 1 minute after 5 p.m., the required staffing hours. Most evenings at Oshkosh, our booth hosts an informal gathering of aviators late into the night.
I consider this man, Tim Hanson, above left with me, one of the most impressive aviators I’ve ever met. If you man a commercial display at Oshkosh, at least 100 people a day will tell you that aviation is the most important thing in their life beyond family, and that they are willing to exert great effort to taste its rewards. In reality, many of these people are easily distracted from putting in the real effort that it takes to make your mark in aviation. Enter Tim Hanson. When he was a very young college student, he actually took a Greyhound bus from Ohio to Corvair College #9 in Florida. One or two people present stupidly questioned the potential of a typically broke college student dreaming of becoming an aviator. I understood that the reality was the polar opposite truth: 48 hours of bus travel as a hurdle to attending a Corvair College would screen out 95% of those allegedly devoted to aviation, but not Tim. I knew that it might take time, but there is no substitute for persistence and dedication. Today Tim is a licensed pilot and a homebuilder. Anyone who would not be moved by his story must have long forgotten what it’s like to be young, with the ambition of youth.
During the main hours of the show, the tent is usually filled with people who have come to learn. Our displays include a tremendous amount of factual literature, individual parts and instructional aids.
Above, USMC/ATP/Pietenpol builder Terry Hand reading information on the main display. We have consistently attracted many aviation professionals like Terry to the Corvair movement. They are an important asset in our program, where we aim not just to teach people about engines, but expand everything they know about homebuilding and aviation. Terry recently headed up the effort to support the project of Spencer Rice, 15, of Portland, OR, our youngest Corvair builder.
Above, the man in the middle exemplifies the spirit of the Corvair movement. Mike Quinn of North Carolina is a skilled mechanic. He has attended a number of Corvair Colleges and holds the distinction of being the last man working on the last engine running during the last hour of the College. What makes this truly unique? None of the engines he was wrenching on were his. He came to the Colleges and shared in the creation of other people’s engines, and gave assistance to people new to engine building. You can attend as many other aviation technical seminars as you like, but you will not find an old school homebuilder like Mike Quinn repeatedly attending them for the benefit of others. This is what sets Corvair Colleges apart.
East meets West in the tent. Two of the sharpest minds in the Corvair movement belong to Ken Pavlou of Connecticut, at left above, and David Josephson of California on the right. Both are Zenith builders. Ken has been involved in numerous projects in support of the Corvair movement. David is a nationally known expert on acoustics, and is interested in extreme noise reduction in aircraft. Both of these men find the Corvair movement the right focal point for their efforts in aviation.
If you review our Corvair College #14 notes you will see a new builder just getting started named Louis Leung. Above, he is exiting his Corvair powered 601 XL at Oshkosh. Besides a demanding career and a full family life, he built his first airplane and engine in 48 months. This is a triumph of learning just when many people elsewhere try to find out how little they can learn rather than how much.
Not everything discussed in the booth focuses on Corvairs. Corvair powered Dragonfly pilot Charlie Johnson of Utah holds up a photograph of himself in the pilot seat of a 70-year-old aircraft, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress that Charlie got to fly for 30 minutes.
The row of Corvair powered airplanes right behind our tent attracted a lot of attention and was very useful in explaining installations. If you have ever wondered how widespread the Corvair movement is, two of the gentlemen pictured above have running Corvair engines on their planes back at home in Australia.
Two American aviators with international backgrounds meet again in the Corvair powered parking row. Pramod Kotwal, at left above, was our local host for Corvair College #14 in Lowell, Mass., where Louis Leung, right, got his start. Pramod’s family is from India, and Louis’ family is from Hong Kong. Today they both call New England home, and both flew in to Oshkosh.
On Wednesday night, we jointly sponsored a Corvair cookout with Dan and Rachel Weseman. Although there was a ferocious afternoon windstorm, it was calm and peaceful the last hours of daylight and we had a great time with 70 people, most of whom stayed through the night air show.
One of the unusual experiences of Oshkosh is running into people from your local airports. On the left, Florida pilot Buzz Glade brought two USAF aviators to the Corvair cookout. It was the first time these men got a good look at grassroots homebuilding and they were impressed, which is no mean feat when you consider that these guys fly F-22 Raptors as a day job.
If you would like another example of the diversity of the people in the Corvair movement, we present the centerpiece of the night air shows, the Shockwave, a 300 mph, full size semi-truck powered by a jet engine. Les Shockley, its creator, is a homebuilder. His engine of choice? The Corvair. We’ve had him for a visit at our place and enjoyed an afternoon of exchanging ideas. Les is an old school drag racer from the Don Garlits’ era, when racers built and drove their own cars, something virtually unknown in motor sports today.
Above is a typical view of our booth in action.
At left with me above is Kitfox CEO and owner John McBean. He stopped by the booth so we could discuss plans for future factory supported Corvair options. We have known him for a number of years and he is a long-term planner. The Corvair has flown on the Kitfox and is a good engine choice for Models V and up. We are both eagerly anticipating the arrival of John Pitkin’s Corvair powered Kitfox 7. We’ll keep you posted on developments.
In the world of airframe manufacturers, the Heintz family, developers of the Zenith line of aircraft kits, have been our biggest supporters. Over the past 10 years we have done numerous joint presentations. The payoff is there are now more than 80 Corvair powered Zeniths flying. Above at left, Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith Aircraft, with Scoob E and I in our booth. We are holding Corvair College #26 at the Zenith Factory in Mexico, Mo., Sept. 18-20. Click on this CC #26 link to find out more.
Thursday night is the traditional Zenith Builders Dinner which draws several hundred people. I was the kickoff guest speaker. The focal point of my message was all the good times we have had with builders and the Heintz family in the 10 years since we flew the first Corvair on our own 601 XL.
On the left above is one of the most respected men in the EAA, Bob Barrows, designer of the Bearhawk series of aircraft. Bob holds the distinction of flying an experimental aircraft into every single Oshkosh, all 44 of them. This year he flew in his new Bearhawk LSA design. Under development for several years, this is a very impressive plane. The prototype is powered by a specially built Continental engineered by Bob. In experimental LSA aviation, typically new designs are introduced with the Rotax 912 engine. This predictable move is driven by the fact that Rotax will make any new airframe designer an OEM deal and pay them a substantial kickback, thousands of dollars, for every engine sold to their builders. This makes designers money, but does nothing to support affordable aviation. Bob is the antithesis of such greed-driven mentality. He is only interested in engines that reflect his allegiance to simplicity and practical values. So far this has meant Lycomings and Continentals on his designs. At Oshkosh, we made plans to jointly work on a Corvair powered installation kit for his builders. In conversation, it was revealed that Bob and I have one other thing in common: Neither one of us has ever flown in a Rotax 912 powered airplane. They just don’t represent anything that a traditional homebuilder would find to be a reasonable value. Bob invited Grace, center, to check out the new Bearhawk LSA but she declined because once you go Bearhawk, it’s hard to go back.
Making its Oshkosh debut as a proven aircraft, the SPA Panther, above. The fact that the Wesemans purposefully selected the Corvair as the best engine with which to introduce their design opened a lot of people’s eyes about the wide ranging capability of the Corvair. Look for an extraordinary amount of press coverage on this aircraft in the coming months.
Something every commercial vendor knows: The last day of any weeklong airshow will be very slow and referred to those left at the show as Vendor Bonding Day, when you go and visit all your friends who have aviation businesses. The above photo is our empty booth on Sunday morning.
Late Sunday brings visits from a variety of friends. On the left is the Zenith dealer for South Africa, Philip. In the middle is Robert Helms, president of UL Power Engines, and at right is Mark Petniunas of Falcon Machine. Here is something few homebuilders are aware of: Most alternative engine providers who’ve been at it for five or more years are actually reasonably good friends with each other. While we all highlight why we find the engine we promote to be a great option, none of the successful alternative engine providers is a zealot who thinks 100% of builders need his product. That type of thinking is for zealots who don’t see that builders are all diverse individuals with unique goals. Zealots often make a big splash, and fool a number of magazine people, but rarely stay around to serve builders for the long term. I always find it funny when Internet drama club people try to paint different engine people as serious adversaries, when we are far more likely to be goofing around with them after hours at Oshkosh.
Above, four old friends, people who have done great work in supporting homebuilders. From the left, journalist Cory Emberson, Kitplanes senior writer and 601/Corvair builder Rick Lindstrom, Grace and the EAA’s hardest working man, Charlie Becker. I took this photo as we were packing up.
Above, Mark and I packing late Sunday afternoon. Many business people try to pack up early on the last day, eager to leave. I am just the opposite. I don’t enjoy myself when I am in a rush, and I try to avoid people who try to make every hour and task in life akin to some type of countdown in a “reality” TV show. Many of the best hours I have had at shows were on the last day in a relaxed mood. Driven direct, it is 1,350 miles home. Not much is to be gained by rushing to leave two hours earlier. Much better to savor a few hours with friends at the end of another year and roll out smoothly a little later.
I detest people who are litter bugs, and I work to leave every place at least as good as I found it. It is a general theme that goes with filling up the tank in borrowed vehicles, and offering to do the dishes when people have you over for dinner. At airshows, most people are pretty good about cleaning up. When tossing out our trash in the big dumpster, I came across evidence of something few people clearly understand. Under the beer bottle is several hundred, super expensive, 10 page Rotax 912 brochures. We have a lot of stuff printed, and I am in a good position to say that they would cost $2 – $3 each, even in massive quantity. Why does a Rotax 912 cost more than $20,000? Do you think the money is going to engineering or marketing? The dumpster holds your answer. A giant chunk of the cost goes to a flood of marketing. Before the show, Rotax provides stacks of high quality brochures to every airframe dealer, and sets them all up to make a $2,000+ kickback on each sale. At the end of the show the dealers often just dump the excess brochures, knowing that the high price of the engines and their payoff system will provide plenty more at the next show. I use the terms kickback and payoff intentionally. If a buyer is dealing with a knowledgeable salesman and understands that the man is compensated, that is correctly called a commission. When the man’s payment is held secret from the buyer, and he provides little or no product support, that is a kickback.
Getting ready to go, Mark, Grace, Scoob E, myself and Roy stand in front of Mark’s 1963 Corvair van, The Groovy Cruiser. Notice how empty the main field is just 3 hours after the show. After Oshkosh a few years ago, Mark and I took The Groovy Cruiser on a long odyssey to Cherry Grove, Bernard Pietenpol’s home town in Minnesota.
The van looks very rough at first glance. Mark has owned it for almost 20 years, and he is conducting a long term experiment on maintenance, namely, can you drive a 50-year-old vehicle 10,000 miles a year while only giving it 5 hours a year in total maintenance with a budget of $200? Answer: You can if you are skilled and the vehicle in question is a Corvair. The test does not allow time or money for appearance. Yet, it is a rolling work of very detailed art. Notice the flag, NASA and EAA stickers, and the Tiki masks.