Corvair powered Flybaby, Goode and Brantley, Georgia
Here is a look at a Classic Homebuilt powered by a Corvair. It has been flying for about two years. Although a lot of people have spoken about the combination for a long time, this might just be the very first one that has ever flown.
At sun n Fun this year, Glen Goode came through the booth and share these first two photos. We complemented him on the obvious craftsmanship and the persistence to see the job through. It is always a good hour when you spend it with a builder who is sharing his path to success.
Donald Brantly, the other half of the team, can be seen in the photos below. These two have something else to be proud of: Very few teams of builders work out. What starts with great promise, hardly ever works out that way. The completion rate for teams is certainly below that for individual builders. With these guys, I suspect that their strength as a team lies in their differences as individuals. They are quite different from each other, and they brought different skills to the project. If you are considering a team build, honest evaluation and sober thought are in order, as it rarely ends in success as it has for these men.
Above, the Flybaby in Ground run. The design is a 1962 effort from Peter Bowers, and it was once built in great numbers in the EAA. Original specified power plant was a 65hp Continental. Construction is of wood.
Above, Glen on the left, Donald on the right, with the finished plane. A very smart looking job.
Below is a story in blue from December 2005 at our old Edgewater hangar. The story is taken directly from our main webpage flycorvair.com. Here is a good indication of our long term support for builders. We got their engine straightened out and running eight years ago, but it took six more years of on and off work for the guys to see the project through. That’s OK, we are here for the long run.
As I look at the photos, the first thing I notice is how I look a lot younger then. More important, it was the first visit to our hangar by Woody Harris, who has not only evolved to be our “Man on the West Coast,” but also the closest of friends. The story contains some timeless stumbling blocks like ‘local experts’, but it also has good milestones like hearing your engine fire up for the first time. That moment, and the others that follow, first flight, 40 hours, and first trip to a College all belong to builders who are in it for the duration, who will get beyond the stumbling blocks.
We have a guy who drives a beat up F-150 in our town. I see his truck once a month or so, and the sticker on the tailgate always catches my eye. It says “A champion finds a way, a looser finds an excuse.” Homebuilding is a long journey of learning and effort with 1,000 excuses to quit. Some builders have a turn of events or responsibility that sidelines them, but many just are not up to the challenge, or didn’t have the resilient disposition that is common to the successful. These people who quit will often find an excuse and others to blame. They will often have a chorus of support and understanding, as there are more people who quit than finish. But there are builders who pass through all the same tests, challenges and frustrations, but they do not give in. Ask any one of these people if it was worth it, and every single one of them, Glenn and Donald included, will simply say “Yes.” -ww.
If you’ve ever dreamed of building a Bowers Flybaby, take special notice of these two builders. On the left is Donald Brantley, and at right is Glen Goode. They hail from Vidalia, Ga. In my estimation, they will very likely be the first people to fly the Corvair/Flybaby combination. The Flybaby is an all wood, plans built, single seat, low wing homebuilt. It is one of the all time greatest homebuilt designs. It is a natural for the Corvair. Ron Wanttaja runs an excellent Web page on the Flybaby at http://www.bowersflybaby.com/. Donald and Glen are jointly working on the last stages of their Flybaby. With a running engine and an airframe needing only cover, it should fly in early Spring. They brought down a fully jigged motor mount built from one of our Trays. I finish welded the mount for them, and kept the jigging dimensions so we can build them for others in the future. The finished mount weighed about 5 pounds and had exceptionally strong geometry. The Flybaby is the 27th different motor mount design I’ve built for the Corvair.
They brought down their engine for final assembly and test run. Glen had been at CC#9. He had observed in detail, and both men returned for the final work. It was not without problems. But concentrate on the success; the Golden Rule: Persistance Pays. These guys dug in for three days of work at the hangar, and came away with a perfect running engine and renewed enthusiasm.
In this photo, at right is Woody Harris. Woody is a Northern California 601 builder. He was in Orlando for the Performance Racing Industry show. He owns MSI Motorsports in Vacaville. He has a tremendous background in the motorsports industry which would be hard to summarize in a few sentences. After Glen and Donald’s engine was done, Grace and I were Woody’s guests at the show. This show had 3,900 booths of pure high end technology under a square mile of roof. We personally met with engineers from ARP, MSD, Mahle and many other companies whose products we use in Corvair conversions. Being able to speak with these people at an industry-only show was priceless. In return, we gave Woody our humble thanks and Gus took him up for an hour in the 601. All this, and he was good company for a few days too.
Above is a sample of the problems in the initial Flybaby engine build. I looked inside the engine and discovered that it had weak, early model rods. Longstroke engines all originally came with heavy duty rods. In the Conversion Manual, I warn people never to use early rods. The root of all the problems in this engine was a local machining “expert.” This person supplied the Flybaby guys with a “special set of rods,” and charged them hundreds of dollars to prep them. I wrote the numbers on the rods, and you can see in the photo that they are not balanced, despite the fact that the guys were charged for this. Additionally, look closely at the piston. Notice that it has drill holes in the wristpin boss, and very crucially, on the underside of the dome. This was allegedly done to balance the pistons. I weigh every set of pistons we put into an engine, and the forged pistons are so accurately made that I’ve not seen a one gram difference in any set we’ve put in an engine this year. Drilling holes at random critically structurally weakens pistons. Never drill a hole in a piston crown. Weight is removed from pistons with a mill, not a drill. If your local machinist tries to talk you into work like this, treat him as if he’s trying to kill you because that’s what he’s doing. Just take the pistons out of the box and use them as they are.
Glen and Donald kept their positive attitude throughout, and were rewarded with an excellent running engine. I’ve said it many times, but the only two places from which to get connecting rods are Jeff Ballard at SC Performance ( now out of biz. -ww) and Clark’s Corvairs. Jeff’s rods can be considered the gold standard. Available at slightly less cost are Clark’s Part No. C9203WW. Both have ARP rod bolts, are shotpeened and fully rebuilt. Jeff’s rods feature 12-point nuts and polished beams. Both of these outfits work with batches of hundreds of rods. Producing matched sets from a large collection requires very little work to balance them perfectly. Any local machine shop working with one set of rods is forced to remove a lot of material from five of the rods to make them match the lightest one. In many cases, this will lead to seriously weakened rods. Save yourself a lot of trouble and go to Jeff or Clark’s.
The milestone that all builders work toward: The engine comes to life. Although it was late, we ran the engine on the Dyno for an hour. It started off with a little bit of valve train noise, but in 10 minutes the noise was gone. By the end of the run, the engine sounded positively sweet. The guys left the following morning full of renewed enthusiasm for their project. For our part, I’d like to say they were excellent guests who went out of their way to fit in during a regular working week in the shop. They worked hard in the shop and they treated us to lunch and dinner every day they were here.
The obligatory Whobiscat photo. I took this photo through a taillight hole in one of Kevin’s Corvair project cars. The ever curious cat was sitting inside the engine compartment on the battery tray