Back from the road, notes on Communications

Builders

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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

3,000cc/Billet Crank Shortblock, Destination: Waiex

Builders,

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.

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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.

Last 24 hours to register for CC#26

Builders

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.

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 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:

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CC26 – https://corvaircollege.wufoo.com/forms/corvair-college-26-registration/

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The Event also has its own Face Book Page:

https://www.facebook.com/CorvairCollege26