Here is a single location page that has a great number of links to information specific to the Zenith 750 / William Wynne-Corvair Combination. It is a particularly good match, we have a number of different ways to approach it that serve the needs of many different builders, and it is a success story that builds on our 10 year history of working with Zenith builders, starting with our own personal 601XL in 2003. Since then we have assisted more than 80 builders to complete and fly their Corvair powered Zeniths. In the coming years these will be accompanied by an ever increasing number of 750’s.
If you already are working on your Corvair, this page will have information you have seen already on our websites, but I have included it so that this page can function as a ‘stand alone’ guide for 750 builders who have just heard about our work with the Corvair. Our approach to serving builders is different than typical businesses geared only to sell things to consumers. Our goal is to assist you on your path to becoming a more skilled aviator. The products we sell support this, but simply getting you to buy things is not what I am in aviation to accomplish. If you would like to start with a simple three page spec sheet on the engine, read this link first: Basic Corvair information
This page is broken into the following sections:
2) Engine and build options
3) installation components
4) Support for builders
5) Flying 750’s
6) Builders in process
7) 750 flight data and safety notes
8) who is WW?
9) Comments on dangerous trash.
At the end of each section there are links to supporting stories that have expanded information on concepts discussed in the section. Take your time and study it carefully.
I will be glad to answer further questions just email WilliamTCA@aol.com or call 904-529-0006. You can also check our two websites, http://flycorvair.net/ , http://flycorvair.com/ . The first is our ‘newspaper’ the second is our ‘library’ and ‘store.’ The links below are stories that already appear on these two sites, they are just arranged here to support this introduction to Corvair power for 750 builders.
Above, the flying 2850cc Zenith 750 built by Gary Burdett of Illinois. It has our full complement of Zenith installation components and one of our production engines.
The Corvair has been flying since 1960, and I have been working with them as flight engines since 1989. It is a story of careful development and testing, a slow evolution to the engines we have today. It is ‘old and proven’ rather than ‘new and exciting.’ If that approach appeals to you, read on. There is a lot of material here, and it isn’t something you are going to absorb in one quick scan. Frankly, your engine selection deserves careful consideration, and it isn’t the kind of decision you should make based on a 4 page sales brochure.
Corvairs have proven themselves to serve a very broad variety of builders. Many alternative engine options for the Zenith are offered only as a “buy it in a box” import, more of an appliance than a machine, with little or no consideration of the builders, skills goals, needs, budget or time line. The Corvair has options to address these valid considerations, because your power plant should conform to you, not the other way around.
This said, Corvairs are not for everyone. In the 25 years I have been in the EAA and working with builders, the Corvair has always been very popular with ‘traditional homebuilders’, the people who have come to experimental aviation to discover how much they can learn, understand and master. The expansion of the EAA has brought more of these builders, but it has also brought a great number of people incapable of distinguishing between mastery of an aircraft or an engine and just merely being its buyer and owner. People who’s consumer mentality and short attention spans are better suited to toy ownership than mastery of skills and tools in aviation. Corvairs, and perhaps experimental aviation, are a poor match for such people. Many salesmen in our field will gladly sell anything to anyone with green money. I am an aviator, not a salesman, and the gravity of the subject requires more frank discussion and ethics than many salesmen bring to the table.
If you came to experimental aviation to find out how much you can master, not how little, then you are among the aviators who follow Lindbergh’s timeless 1927 quote: “Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved.” Even if you are brand new to aviation, I am glad to work with you. I have a long history of working with builders of all skill levels. We have a number of successful builders out flying their Zeniths who are the masters of both their airframes and engines, who had never changed the oil in a car before building their plane. If you got into experimental aviation just to buy stuff, then any salesman will do just fine for you. If you got into experimental aviation to learn, develop your own skills and craftsmanship and make things with your own hands, then who you work with really matters. You can’t become and old school homebuilder / motor head by buying things from salesmen. They have nothing to teach you. What you will do in experimental aviation is not limited by what you already know. It is only limited by what you are willing to learn, and selecting experienced people to learn from. If you are here to learn, I am here to teach. It is that simple.
Above, the 3,000 cc Corvair, configured for a Zenith 750. An inherently simple engine, It’s opposed six configuration makes it the smoothest of available power plants. It has outstanding cooling because GM put a tremendous amount of cooling fins on it and gave it a factory CHT redline of 575F. All of our engine parts are made in the United States.
2) Engine and build options:
If you are new to Corvairs, lets quickly cover some ground: General Motors made 1.8 million Corvairs. brand new parts, including billet cranks, forged pistons, valves bearings, virtually every single part inside is currently made and readily available, and will remain so. Rebuildable Corvair engines are plentiful, and much easier to find that Lycomings or Continentals. We have been working with Corvairs for 25 years, and there is no shortage of core engines or parts. If you doubt this for a second, Google “Corvair engine parts.”
The Corvair makes an outstanding aircraft engine because it is a simple, compact, direct drive, horizontally opposed six cylinder, air cooled engine. It is robust, and ‘flat rated ‘ from it’s automotive output. The engine runs equally well on automotive fuel and 100LL, and it does not care about ethanol. In its 53 year flight history, more than 500 experimental aircraft have flown on Corvair power.
The engine can be built in three dispacements with three respective power outputs. They are 2,700cc / 100HP, 2,850cc / 110HP and 3,000cc / 120HP. The two smaller displacements weigh 230 pounds, the larger actually weighs 8 pounds less because it uses lighter cylinders. All engines are completely rebuilt from very high quality parts before flight. They are not just removed from cars. The parts we use are specifically selected to convert the engine for the rigors of flight use. Forged pistons, Inconel valves, chrome rings, ARP rod bolts and many other components are upgraded in the rebuild.
To absorb the propeller and flight loads a “5th bearing” is added. It is a billet housing with a very large bearing from a V-8, bolted on the end of the case.The ignition is redundant and utilizes two 40,000 volt systems, one driven by digital electronics the size of a match book, the other by a traditional set of points. The engine is direct drive, it has no complex reduction unit. It makes good thrust because it has more than twice the cubic inches of a Rotax 912. All of the systems on the engine are intentionally patterned after those on Lycomings and Continentals, because they are the model of success in proven aircraft power plants. People who do not acknowledge certified engines as excellent models of success are often just zealots. To succeed in experimental aviation you need dispassionate information not emotional opinion.
One of the unique features of the Corvair is that it can be built at home, from our information and parts and a locally acquired rebuildable engine, or it can be purchased from us, test run with logs. 90% of current builders are building their own engine at home. Only 10% of the builders opt to have us build their engine. We have happy to serve both builders. In either case, Corvairs are the best match for builders who want to understand and be the master of their engine.
Because of the plans built vs production engine nature of the Corvair, there are large variations in how much builders budgets run. Below is a quick look at the differences. Keep in mind, these budgets are for first class, completely overhauled, zero timed engines with 5th bearings, starting, ignition and charging systems. We have clever builders who have built and flown engines for less than $3,000, but this not representative of main line builders. The numbers below are much better for Zenith builders to budget on.
2,700cc / 100HP typical homebuilders budget: $6,500- Same engine assembled and run from us $9,750
2,850cc / 110HP typical homebuilders budget: $7,500- Same engine assembled and run from us $10,750
3,000cc / 120HP typical homebuilders budget: $8,500- Same engine assembled and run from us $11,750
If you are attracted to the concept of building your own engine, but have not built motors before, Good. About half of our builders have never built any kind of an engine before. Our main work is teaching people what we know and providing the parts to work with. Our system does not require anyone to be a machinist nor to have previous engine experience.
The procedure of building an engine in your shop follows this format:
1) Get a conversion manual and DVD’s from us, use them to find a rebuild able core engine locally. Disassemble this engine following the steps in the DVD.
2) Send the crank and heads to our approved facilities for rebuilding and modification. They come back ready to ‘bolt on.’ Other parts of the engine are cleaned and inspected. The parts to convert the engine are ordered from us, many of the standard rebuild parts like lifters and gaskets are available from local auto parts stores. We do not ‘middle man’ anything you can directly buy.
3) Assemble these parts according to the manual and DVDs. There is no machine work required, only basic tools are needed, and a few specialty tools like a torque wrench. Many builders attend our free Corvair Colleges and directly learn hands on skills. You can even bring your parts and assemble them under our supervision, and test run your engine on our equipment. College attendance is a plus, but not required. Our methods work without direct training; a good number of engines are built and flown each year by builders who have never met me in person.
4) The test run serves several purposes. We teach people to build one of three specific models, and we teach them to use specific parts. Not only are these proven, but it also allows me to verify from a remote location that the engine was assembled correctly. A builder can report his static rpm, CHT, oil temp during the test run with his Warp Drive prop at the specified setting, and I can confirm the output and assembly of the engine without seeing it personally.
I have broken down building a Corvair and installing it on your airframe into 42 “groups”. The previous link is about ‘Group 1000’ the crankshaft. If you would like to look at every part that goes into a Corvair, along with the conversion parts we sell, look at Groups 1000 -3300 at this link to our catalog: http://www.flycorvair.com/products.html
All builders get started with a conversion manual. The first part of the above link is about manuals and DVD’s. The direct link to the manual is: http://www.flycorvair.com/manual.html. almost all builders looking for a rebuild able engine also order the Disassembly DVD, which covers core engine selection visually. The direct link to it is: http://www.flycorvair.com/videov.html We encourage everyone to get started with information, even if you are pretty sure you would like to purchase a production engine from us. If you eventually buy an engine from us, we directly reduce the price to rebate all the money you spent on manuals and DVD’s.
Headed to the 2012 Zenith open house, six of our powder coated 750 mounts. All of our mounts are welded in house, all of our parts are made in the United States.
3) Installation Components for the 750:
We provide every single part it takes to install a Corvair in your 750. You can buy them one at a time, or all at once. Ninety percent of these parts are common to our Zenith 601/650 installation, which has been successfully flying for a decade. Only the mount, the diameter of the prop, and the size of the air inlets is different. Our Zenith installation manual detail how and why each of the installation components are installed on your airframe.
The installation does not require any modification to the airframe fuel system like most EFI engines do. Being air cooled and carbureted, it is one of the easiest engines to install. Many companies that are good at selling things are poor at teaching things, like how to install their products. Teaching is the very cornerstone of my work, I am a skilled writer, we run Corvair Colleges, and we have a simple engine. All this adds up to a comparitively easy engine to install. There is no need to rush it, but I can do it working in one long day.
Installation part numbers are Groups 3400 through 4300 in the second half of our numbering system. Get a look at this link: http://www.flycorvair.com/products.html From that list, you can see that the major installation parts for a 750 are: #3601(S) intake manifold, #3901(A) Stainless exhaust, #4002 spinner bulkhead, #4003 Warp Drive prop, #4101 baffle kit, #4102 nose bowl, #4103 cowl kit and a #4201(B) mount. The other smaller items listed are detail in our Zenith installation manual. All of the above parts have links to stories through the products page, but just for an overview of a single part, look at this link: Zenith 750/Cruiser Mounts. P/N 4201(B)
Many people new to building initially think that very economical engines like the Corvair must also be inexpensine to install. In reality, the cost of items like motor mounts and cowls are not affected by the cost of the engine they mount and house. A mount for a $30K UL-350 and a $7K Corvair have about the same amount to tubing and welding time in them, and thus cost about the same. Most engines for Zeniths have installation kits that run from $4,000 to $6,000. The Corvair is near the bottom of this range, but the savings of using the Corvair is in the engine, not the cost of installing it. Builders can save a significant amount of money by fabricating many of the parts like #4103, but most people are near the finish line at that point and opt to buy it and save the time. Exact cost on the installation parts varies a bit, I will be glad to review it with builders after they study the installation manual.
An overhead photo of a CH-750 installation we did in 2009.
Above, 2004 at Oshkosh: Next to our personal Zenith N-1777W, I explain our dual ignition arrangement two executives from Falcon insurance, The EAA’s provider. To offer real support, an alternative engine provider must be an effective advocate for his builders on many fronts, including meeting the requirements of underwriters. Just being an engine guru is not nearly enough. Corvair engines that follow our design, including to ones assembled by builders, are fully insurable at the lowest rates, right from the first flight, because they have an outstanding safety record. Having good effective hands on support is a critical element in this outstanding record.
4) Support for Builders:
Beyond the basic engine and installation components, we offer many forms of support to Zenith builders:
c) The “Zenvair” group is a separate on-line peer-to-peer discussion group just for Corvair/Zenith flyers to directly and freely share information and data with each other in a civilized productive format. The link is : ‘Zenvair’ Information board formed This is very effectively moderated by Zenith/Corvair builder and flyer Phil Maxson.
d) Woody Harris, subject of this story: Zenith 601XL-2,850cc, Woody Harris Is our west coast representative. Although we have held 5 Corvair Colleges in California, including 2 at Zeniths west coast facility Quality sport planes, we only make one trip to the west per year. Woody covers all the shows and events from Arlington to Copper State when we can’t be there.
e) I am the last guy in aviation who still makes free house calls. Over the years I have made more than 400 in person visits builders projects. I travel extensively, and go out of my way to include builders workshops on these trips. These stops and the colleges allow me to really understand the needs, strengths and dreams of rank and file builders that no one can read in email or at an airshow. for a sample, read this story: Corvair House Call, Range: 335 miles.
f) By my continued advocacy and industry relations, Corvairs have full insurance, at the lowest rates, available from a number of sources. If you would like to find out more Contact Bob Mackey, VP of Falcon insurance, The EAA’s designated provider, seen on the left in the photo above.
g) Over the years, we have built a very tight knit community of like minded builders. If you read this story about fools at our county airport: A visit to the insane asylum, and it sounds like your airport, and if your local EAA chapter is devoid of homebuilders and filled with negative people, you will find the Corvair movement to be a powerful antidote. Many Corvair builders catch several colleges a year, there they find positive, outgoing, energetic builders, effectively making the Colleges their “local EAA chapter” We have worked very hard to attract outstanding people interested in accomplishing their goals. I go out of my way to encourage new builders but I am intolerant of people who are compulsively negative. I am willing to be a cheerleader, but not a therapist.
Doug Stevenson’s 750, powered by a 3,000 cc Corvair engine in California. This was the first Corvair powered 750 to fly.
5) Examples of flying Corvair Powered Zenith 750s:
Above, Coenraad Van Der Merwe at the controls of his 750 during the first run of the 2,700cc Corvair he built for it. In spite of a busy work and personal schedule, he completed the airframe and built his engine in 18 months. Electing to build your own engine need not significantly increase the length of your build. In many cases, the vastly lower cost of this option compared to other engines allows the aircraft to be completed years earlier. Money, not time, is the limiting agent in most aircraft builds.
6) Examples of Builders working on this Combination:
If you would like to read a story about detailed flight data collection on a 2,850cc 750, check out this link: CHT part #5, flight data from Zenith 750 . It is an example of the type of information exchanged on our ‘Zenvair’ group. If you are attracted to a builders group that is made of intelligent thinking people, you will fit right in with Corvair builders.
If you would like a single example to effectively demonstrate that I am an aviator not a salesman, it is the type of data that I discuss with builders. No salesmen will acknowledge accidents nor difficulties that involved their products, even circumstantially.
Conversely, I am here to teach people what they need to know. I have a long history of writing about subjects that salesmen wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. I write about accidents and friends I have lost, honest mistakes people made and things you can learn from them. Just about everything know in aviation cost someone dearly to learn. If you are unwilling to talk about these things in plain language, people are doomed to repeat them.
For an example of plain speaking, I conducted an in person investigation of an accident on Doug Stevenson’s 750. It had an off airport landing on it’s third flight, and was damaged. It was caused by fuel exhaustion. You can read the whole story at this link: http://www.flycorvair.com/stevenson.html . Doug made a simple mistake., but he was man enough to admit it, and he wanted others to learn from it. As the leader of the Corvair movement I long ago set the ethic that we don’t demonize men for honest mistakes, we work with them to investigate and teach others. Doug repaired the airframe and we tore the engine down and internally inspected it. His aircraft is back flying and a proven performer now. As you read the report, keep in mind that I am a graduate of the same Embry Riddle degree program that most NTSB accident investigators. The data I collected, including the video, was taken into the official report.
Above, A photo taken at Sun n Fun 2006. My wife Grace Ellen and myself, in front of the first Corvair powered Zenith, our own N-1777W. The plane was the first XL model with conventional gear. Grace is a skilled pilot in her own right. She has been a pilot longer than I have, holds more advanced ratings and owns two aircraft. As a point of ethics, we do not promote, advocate nor sell things we have not personally flown behind.
8) Who is William Wynne?
Modern consumer sales logic dictates that that business should ‘de-personalize’ themselves so consumers find nothing objectionable about the provider while they are spending money. That model may work elsewhere, and even have advocates experimental aviation, but I don’t buy it. I contend that Aviation is a different arena, and who you are dealing with, and their ethics, experience and perspective matters.
Building a plane or an engine is a marriage of sorts between the builder and his airframe or engine company. I believe that it is best if everyone goes into it well informed with their eyes wide open. I am always surprised how few people even Google the name of a person they are thinking of working with. You don’t need to see eye to eye with them on every point nor even love them, but the relationship must absolutely have trust and respect operating in both directions. In 25 years I have seen many builders try to justify buying a product from a provider they didn’t really trust. It never works out. It doesn’t matter how good it looks, what it costs or how great it is supposed to work, if it is from a bad guy, it isn’t worth buying.
I could write a quick paragraph about how I am a pilot, a 22 year A&P mechanic, and that I hold both an AS degree in Maintenance and a BS in Professional Aeronautics (accident investigation) From the worlds #1 aeronautical university, Embry-Riddle , but I don’t think that any of that explains my commitment to builders nearly as well as the flying planes of our builders and things we have accomplished. Henry Ford said “A man can not base his reputation on what he says he will do; only what he has done.”
I am plain spoken. to understand why, read the ‘Effective Risk Management’ story below. I have many friends who are experienced aviators who value plain talk. This type of speech also tends to offend people who dabble in aviation and would rather read polite things that align with their pet opinions. I am in aviation to share experience builders need to know, not say things people want to hear. Below are a selection of stories, some humorous, but all with a point, that give people a better understanding of who I am. From there you can decide if you choose to work with me as your engine mentor.
Not all things called a Corvair represent my work or designs. Over the years, our success and willingness to share information has brought out a number of short lived LLC’s that were run by rip off artists, and mentally ill people. Particularly, there have been four businesses that made poor copies of our parts or untested garbage. All of these are bankrupt today. Because they were LLC’s they could take peoples money without any liability to repay it. Today, I have just heard that another is coming back with a new name. The story will never end as long as people don’t do their home work or believe that they are getting a bargain. You can read about one of these companies at this link: Cloudn’t have happened to a nicer guy……
Let me be absolutely clear, that I will be polite to people, but I will not work on, offer advice on, or help with products made by bankrupt people that I considered vermin. If you have one of the engines from these LLC’s you are out of luck. I will not allow you to join our ‘Zenvair’ group nor will I allow you to attend any of the Colleges. This isn’t out of spite, it is to protect these builders lives. They all want to put a band aid on their bad purchase and make it “good enough to fly.” A band aid isn’t going to do it, an amputation is in order. People who blew $12K on Junk don’t want to hear this, they are still looking for a cheap out that doesn’t exist. I will not assist them in the delusion that they have found one.
The Zenith Builders and flyers website has a small number of old posts from people who bought trash like this for their projects. If you look closely, these people offered great testimonials, but later abandoned their builds. On the same sites, I have builders like Larry Winger and Rich Whittington sharing that the same people took their money and delivered trash. Some people still don’t do their home work.
Below is a photo of a heavily damaged Zenith 750 with a Corvair in it. At first glace you might think it was the work of one of our builders, but it is not. The photo was sent to me by the insurance agent who wanted to know who much it would cost to repair. I told him I wouldn’t touch it for any price.
The problem with the plane is that the owner bought from the wrong people, and later wanted a ‘band aid’ fix, and tried to alter his engine to look more like the ones we teach people to build. Looks don’t count, function does. This plane had a rear starter that deleted the harmonic balancer. This required a goofy motor mount to clar the ring gear in the back. After the builder had a number of failures with the original starter, the builder bought another crank from another LLC in Georgia and tried to set up the plane with front starter parts bought second hand. On one of the first flights after the band aid was applied, the entire prop hub assembly and the prop came off the plane in flight and it crashed. The reason for this was probably something as simple as having the wrong flange on the replacement crank. The owner didn’t tell the insurance company that he had applied the band aid, but they found out anyway, and when they did they started talking about voiding the coverage. All of this could have been avoided by doing some homework before the original purchase, or just starting over when he realized his mistake. This is why I don’t help people put band aids on things that need to be amputated.
Just one thing to look at: The two down tubes in the mount that support the cabin structure. Note that they are actually broken. Look closely and see that they had a direction change and a butt weld right in the middle of the tube to clear the original rear starter set up. That is pure trash put out by people with no education and purchased by people looking for a bargain. I am not here to serve such people. I believe that people have a human right to end their lives, but this doesn’t require me to assist them in doing so.
I wrote the following words on our traditional website in January 2011. I am reprinting them here because I want to have them as a stand alone story that I can link to, and because I think that they are a good piece of ‘plain talk’ and commentary. They cover building and business philosophy, and they are just as true today as they were when I wrote them. People who have not met me should read the 9 points at the end, they will make many things about our approach easier to understand.- ww.
Corvair Outlook 2011
I started typing this update on January 20th. On that date exactly 50 years ago, JFK gave his inauguration speech including the famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” It is a very stirring speech, yet most people have never seen it in its entirety. It is well worth taking the time to watch it on the Internet. A majority of Americans, myself included, were not yet born 50 years ago. However, most of the people in experimental aviation are old enough to remember that day. Today, people are bombarded with messages at a rate that was inconceivable 50 years ago. The predictable effect is that none of it sticks, none of it moves anybody, and a few kernels of wheat are most often buried in a mountain of chaff. If you’re young, it is very difficult to imagine how powerful JFK’s speech was as a motivator to his “New Generation of Americans.”
On January 18th, 2011, Sgt. Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law and the first head of the Peace Corps, passed away at age 95. He spoke countless times about how JFK’s inaugural speech was a summons to action for the Peace Corps volunteers. Opinions differ on the net effect of the 1960s on American culture. But on this day, it is well worth remembering that the era started with great ambition on a very high note. What words on a page could I write that would similarly charge you to take the reigns of your own aviation goals this year? While JFK’s message was a challenge to young Americans to take their place in the world, homebuilding is conversely a challenge to yourself, to essentially take your place as the cognizant commander of your path, an opportunity to measure your own worth and potential where the rewards are very real because the subject is serious, and the tasks are intolerant of lackadaisical attitudes of dilettantes and posers.
There are roughly 335 days left in this year. What you will accomplish in aviation this year is still an open question. Most people who are yet to start a project incorrectly believe that external circumstances dictate the odds of success. Let us squarely address the largest external factor; the vast majority of Americans traditionally involved in homebuilding have earned between $25,000 and $65,000 a year. The educational background and the ambitious nature of these homebuilders have previously insulated them from the ups and downs of the economy. However, our same group, due to loss of manufacturing jobs and outsourcing, has felt the real bite of this recession. A lot of magazines in our industry are afraid to say this, but it is reality. The acknowledgement of it will not deter a real homebuilder. It may alter his plans, change his timelines or readjust his goals, but if it makes a builder quit experimental aviation outright, perhaps homebuilding was not one of their more closely held dreams.
The real factor that counts in homebuilding success is internal, not external. Simply put, do you believe you can? Are you interested in a real challenge or is drifting through acceptable? Once started, will you find the task of creating things with you own hands rewarding enough to keep you going all the way? These are the only things that matter. External factors, no matter how strong they seem, are not the major determinant. The largest single factor is your determination that this will be your year and your will to carry it through. Tacked up on the fridge in our house is the simple phrase “Do not be optimistic nor pessimistic; be determined.” In the Corvair movement, your planning, determination and will put you in the company of some first class characters. You deserve to take your place among them.
Think about this: A guy can be from your hometown, be the same age as you, have the same number of kids, live in the same kind of house, etc., but just because you bought the same kind of car he bought, no matter how unique or sporty, in reality, you have nothing of substance in common with this person, you’re merely two car consumers. You both might be great guys in your own right, but merely owning a product in common, no matter what advertising agencies want you to believe, doesn’t give you a real connection, or any common understanding. Conversely, if you choose to build and work to create something as unique as a homebuilt aircraft, the story is totally different. A person of a different generation living in a different place and perhaps even speaking a different language who also chose to build an aircraft overcame the same self doubts and pessimism of people in his day-to-day life, learned the same skills and met the same challenges, and is certainly a brother of yours. The external differences in your lives of circumstance and place, things that were not your choice, are not what define you. Your desire to build and your determination to see it through speak volumes on your character that situation, circumstance and consumerism will never reveal.
If the economics of the past two years gave you pause, made you stop and look at the choices we all make in life and truly examine the alleged rewards of typical consumer goods vs. real challenges and adventures in life like homebuilding, then some good came of it. Anyone reading this can decide today that this will be their year in aviation, the year that was the turning point, from which they made real and steady progress. Likewise, everyone reading this is fully capable of spending the next decade in front of a TV or computer screen, entertaining themselves. I don’t judge people by their choice. I have more friends in the latter category than the former. My sole point is that I know for myself, happiness lies in the hours spent in the shop, not in the living room. I am here to work with anyone who feels the same way.
I don’t like to dwell on it, but I’m middle aged now (much, much, much older than Grace), and I’ve lived long enough to look back with some perspective on choices I’ve made. Buying something has never made me happy like creating things does. Nothing I started that had a certain positive outcome felt rewarding when I got to the end. Only challenges ambitious enough to contain the possibility of failing resulted in feelings of victory and accomplishment at their successful conclusion. This isn’t particularly insightful; we all know this at some fundamental level. Reading this drags the thought out front and center. Will you define your challenge and make your plan tonight, or will you have another year drift by?
This month brings the Superbowl. I was born in Pittsburgh, and have been a fan back to the Mean Joe Green era. I am sure Grace and I will watch the game somewhere in the company of both aviation and non-aviation friends. After the game is over, I may not watch another game for a year or two. This doesn’t make me a better person than my friends who will spend countless hours on the couch holding a remote. It just makes me different. At the end of each day, I would just prefer to be one day closer to flying something I built with my own hands. There is nothing wrong with spending your hours in either method. The only tragedy would be knowing that you are a builder, but you didn’t take your shot, for reasons that will seem small and petty when the possibility is finally gone.
Our Work In Print: The Hat Trick – BPAN, Sport Aviation, Kitplanes
2011 started off right with three major publications running very favorable articles about our work with Corvairs or our expertise with aircraft systems. Tim Kern, the most engine savvy writer in the EAA’a stable, wrote a very nice piece about us for Sport Aviation. Rick Lindstrom, who has written for Kitplanes for more than 20 years, wrote a piece focused on our collaboration with the other members of the “Corvair Consortium:” Mark Petz, Brother Roy, and Dan Weseman. The Brodhead Pietenpol News enjoys one of the largest circulations of the Type Club newsletters. It is produced by Doc and Dee Mosher and is available by visiting their http://www.Pietenpols.org Web site. If you want a look at his picture, it accompanies the Introduction Doc wrote for our Conversion Manual. Ryan Mueller and I teamed up for a very lengthy article on weight and balance calculations for BPAN. These publications vette their sources on long articles carefully. It is an achievement to be in any of them. Three in a month is unheard of. Many alternative engines and their promoters go 5 or 6 years without this kind of exposure. We got it not because I am brilliant nor charming. We got it because I worked very hard at becoming educated in aviation, I have been doing this for 22 straight years, and I have always been willing to enlist the support and acknowledge the input of other qualified people of good character. I mention it here so builders understand that I’m glad to give credit where it is due.
As you might suspect, all of the above added to the usual post-holiday return to building, and temporarily swamped our email and telephones. We were getting more than 50 emails and 50 calls a day. This stuff always arrives in a wave that leaves a new high water mark, but subsides to a normal tide shortly. If you are one of the many people who sent us a message, be assured that we are working our way through all of them.
To complete the picture, I also have to mention that such popular commentary in print always brings out the negative lurkers on the Internet. For reasons that are most probably related to emotional injuries suffered in unfortunate childhoods, there are a handful of people who cannot tolerate the successes of others, no matter how well earned the praise might be. One of my least favorite things these people do is type posts to Internet groups telling people that we are “Probably out of business” when anyone remarks that I can be difficult to reach on the phone.
Here is a test: Your best friend comes up to you and says you need anger management training. If your first reaction is to tell him to shut his pie hole and mind his own business, he is probably correct. Several years ago, in the interest of becoming a better person, I attended an anger management series hosted by an acclaimed master, nationally noted for his highly successful work, particularly with veterans. The man had the demeanor of the Dali Lama, the heart rate of an Olympic marathoner, and the stoicism of a Greek philosopher. While he stared out the window, he asked me to cite something that really ticked me off, and I mentioned people making mindless negative comments on the Internet. A smile crept over his face and he casually said, “I hate those F___ heads also.”
Above, Mark Langford’s plane on our front lawn on a chilly morning. I took this photo from our front porch. Our hangar is on the right side of the photo. Behind Mark’s plane is a drainage ditch. This is the edge of our airport’s 150′ wide, 2,800′ long grass runway. When I tell people that we live on a runway, I don’t mean it metaphorically. We have lived here the past 5 years. The house is a modest size and the 2,400 square foot hangar is an older metal building, but I did work past midnight six days a week for 15 years to get to this point. It was a long odyssey with a lot of high points and a few low ones. After 22 years of daily work in this field, it initially ticks me off when a person who has never met me questions my commitment to experimental aviation. In the end, I just feel sorry for such a person because they don’t understand having a calling in their life that they devote themselves to without reservation.
While it is never going to stop people from typing messages about being out of business, let me review a few things for people who have not yet met us: There are a lot of good reasons why I am not ever going out of business.
1) I have been doing this for 22 years, and we are well known and respected in industry circles.
2) We don’t have any business loans nor any partners or creditors. We are not looking for, nor would we accept, any investors. We have all the money we need.
3) We operate a thrifty and simple life. I can, have, and continue to be easily capable of running the Corvair movement while deficit spending for months, and even years at a time. I have very specific non-monetary goals in experimental aviation, such as having 500 builders who have each flown more than 250 hours. I have been and remain willing to expend our resources to achieve these goals.
4) I have never been sued, named in a suit, or seriously threatened. I have been the most vocal advocate of making people aware of the risks involved in experimental aviation. This insulates us from frivolous or harassing action. Additionally, we enjoy the support of a number of highly accomplished corporate lawyers in our family, starting with my older sister. From childhood, my siblings and I were trained to be mutually supporting without reservation. This now extends to our spouses. My sister is glad to defend us for nothing.
5) I have first class heath and disability insurance. I have just had an extensive screening and have been found to be in outstanding health. I have never smoked and I gave up drinking years ago. My father is 85 and going strong. I am 48 and have every reason to believe I will live as long.
6) Although I am a pilot and an avid motorcyclist, I am well trained, experienced, and well beyond the point of taking stupid or unnecessary risks in life. When it comes to things that have killed countless pilots – showing off, get-there-itis, and peer pressure – I am immune.
7) I have known my wife since 1991, we have been together since 1999, and married since 2005. She loves me despite my faults. My work will never be interrupted by divorce.
8) I am not self destructive; I don’t gamble at all, take drugs or medications of any kind. I never ride without a helmet, and usually fly in a fire suit. I do not argue with drunk rednecks, wrestle alligators, spray imron paint, or mock 300 pound bikers who can’t kickstart their shovelheads. At 48, I can no longer die young nor leave a good looking corpse. I am now resolved to live a long time.
9) While my work is not all fun, it is very rewarding. In 2000, I was lured into a certified aviation day job by a paycheck that was six times more than what Corvair work was generating. In a few months I returned to full-time Corvair work, because my need to do something important and creative was greater than my desire for comfort and consumer goods. We have made countless friends from a collection of the finest people you could hope to meet. When I was younger, I would have been depressed to think that my life’s work would largely fall into one area. Today, I actually consider it something of a privilege that through persistent hard work and the support of family and friends, I can actually focus my efforts on a single front and see how far I can advance the experience of building and flying.
These are the nine factors that tell everyone in the Corvair movement that I am in it for the long haul. Anyone who suggests otherwise has an axe to grind or should read the paragraphs above a few times. If you are on an Internet list and anyone suggests that the fact I don’t answer email the day it arrives means I am no longer in business, please cut and paste the above paragraph to your group. -ww
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