Corvair College #29, March 28-30, Leesburg FL.

Builders:

Here is the next College after #28 In Texas. We are Holding this the Weekend Before Sun n Fun, The location is about 70 miles north of Sun n Fun, at the same airport that we held #25 last year. I intentionally do this to allow people who go to Sun n Fun to hit the college first, and afterward travel the 90 minutes down to Lakeland for the start of Sun n Fun on Tuesday. This worked very well last year, and we are going to do it again this year.

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Our local Host is Arnold Holmes, and old friend of mine who also hosted CC#17 and CC#25. He is very organized and runs outstanding events. Last year, we waved the sign up fee because we wanted to get a lot of new people to ‘stop in’ for 2 hours and get a first look at Corvairs. Also, we did not provide food as we do at all other Colleges. For this College, #29, we are going back to a normal on-line sign in with a College fee that 100% will go to Arnold to be directly spent on food and logistics of the College. We will have this sign up link shortly, and I will post it here.

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Because we are putting on this event, I will not have a booth at Sun n Fun. I have had one for the last 5 years, but truth be told, they are not a good value for us, and I would much rather put our effort into the College. Booth space at Sun u Fun is actually more expensive than it is at Oshkosh. Think that through; when was the last time anyone ever told you that some aspect of Oshkosh was a bargain? We will still drive down. I have not missed a single Sun n Fun in 25 years, and we have friends to see there. But many companies, like Sonex have not displayed there in years. There are many vendors who did not return over the way the 2011 tornado aftermath was handled. It is a mixed bag of reasons, but in short, if you want to make progress before you sight see, then sign up for CC#29.

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The physical address of the College hangar is 8701 Airport Blvd Suite 103 Leesburg FL 34788. This is the EAA hangar is located on the north side of the ramp and you will have to go through a gate to get there. We will have the gate propped open. If you need to drop off tools, tables, engines etc you can drive right to the hangar door. Once you have dropped your stuff off we will direct you to the parking area. If you are camping you can park inside the fence.

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There is all the aircraft parking you will ever need so if you’re flying in have no worries. We also have all of the camping area you would ever want, so if you want to camp it’s no problem. There are no hook-ups but we do have three showers for everyone to use. You can bring in a large RV or a small pup tent, makes no matter. For people planning on motels who would like to get an advanced look, check out the Best Western Leesburg FL (352-253-2378 ) and the Hamton Inn.

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Arnold’s contact info is below. Give us a few days and we will have the sign up on line, it will have more info that comes with it. If you still have questions to ask after that, give me or Arnold a call.

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(The CTAF is 119.35 but please check all NOTAMS and be prepared.)

(352)-617-2029

Info@Av-Mech.com

www.av-mech.com

Above, Arnold Holmes, (in blue) Host of Corvair College #17 and #25, and now #29 and I enjoy the prop blast of a running Curtiss OX-5 engine.  This engine is Ninety-Five years old.

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Below are many links to last years event. I suggest clicking on them to get a look at what this specific College setting is like. Notice that I put out 6  stories on it last year. That is because it was a first time at the location event and a new time on the calendar. This year there will be a shorted sign up period, and less postings about it. If you want to make this year in aviation more productive, then you have to take different action, and the best way to get started is to sign up for a College.

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I have been a strong promoter of these events, they are outstanding, the people who attend them have a far higher rate of project completion. Those are reasons enough, but I can also add that people who come to colleges have more human resources, supportive building friends and a better outlook . If this appeals, great, sign up, we will see you there. Conversely, if after 15 years of promoting 27 colleges nothing has motivated a guy to attend, then I am guessing a few more stories on my part isn’t going to do it.  I am OK with both groups, builders who come and make progress, and people who don’t. Just make sure you are OK with which one of these groups you are in.

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Corvair College #25, In Photos

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Corvair College #25, message from local host Arnold Holmes.

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Corvair College #25 registration link now open

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Corvair College #25, April 5-7 Leesburg FL, Part 2 of 3 updates.

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Corvair College #25, April 5-7 Leesburg FL, Part 1 of 3 updates.

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Corvair College #25? Leesburg FL, April 5-7, 2013.

Four Men

Builders:

I would like to share stories of four men I met in aviation. One of them is still with us, three are gone now. They did not know each other, but I have spent some time with all of them. I address many people as ‘friend,’ and to any observer I have treated these men as friends. But there is an important distinction at work here: ‘Friends’ is a term implying that both parties are equals. In this case, we are not equals, these men are of a different breed and experience, and humility forbids me from elevating myself to their level. These men are all part of “The Greatest Generation.”

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I ask myself, “What challenge have I been asked to rise to? ” Nothing significant really. But these men arrived in their teenage years to meet a global crisis. Few words captured their situation better than Winston Churchill’s speech at the darkest moment of WWII, the collapse of France:

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“But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”

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He was speaking for men of the British Empire, but as the war expanded it drew in American youth with the exact same stakes, nothing short of Civilization as people understood it, was on the table, and in that hour, the odds did not look good. Into this storm, four young American men went.  These four survived what 405,399 others did not. They paid a price for it. We can look back 70 years, consider their deeds and the lives they lead since, and honestly conclude that they gave our Country it’s finest hour.

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Steve Megill, was a great guy who came to many of the early Corvair Colleges and was a regular at out Spruce Creek and Edgewater hangars. He built a very nice Pietenpol and put his Corvair on it. He lived in central Florida, but he was a born and bred New Jersey guy in the best sense. He built 8 home builts and owned numerous certified planes. He was not made out of money, he was just a hard worker and an efficient guy.  He was just about deaf, and he couldn’t hear anyone on the phone. He would often call up, just say into the phone “I am looking forward to seeing you guys tomorrow!” even as I tried to in vain to say “IT”S 5 DAYS TO OSHKOSH STEVE”. He would come over anyway, and even if we were super busy, we would gladly have him around anyway.

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Steve liked to come over at 6am, and invariably he would go down to the McDonald’s on US 1, and have a senior coffee and hang out in the front corner table where all the gray haired guys with ball caps that said “WWII” on the front would hold court from 6-9am. They were given space and respect, even by the teenagers. People intrinsically understood that this was a club to themselves, and they would just as soon not make small talk with the rest of the patrons.

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One morning when Steve came over, Gus Warren and I stopped at McDonald’s on the way to the hangar. On the ride in I had just said something to Gus about how I felt I had worked enough years in aviation to be considered ‘important.’  When we walked in, we saw Steve but he did not see us. Because of his deafness, he could not tell that the story he was sharing with the men of his generation could be heard by most of the people in the front of the restaurant.  He was relating that 60 years earlier to the day he was the Coxswain on a Landing Craft that made 3 trips to Omaha beach. It was June 6th. Steve had a very hard time just saying that, even to men who understood.

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Gus and I quietly slipped over to the counter and ordered. While waiting, I made Gus promise me that if I ever called myself ‘important’ again, he would punch my lights out. A year or so later in a quiet hour in the hangar, Steve tried telling me how bad that day was, but he just couldn’t. He said several times “They were just boys” and “It was murder.” He said that leaving those men on the beach was the worst moment of his life, and it never went away.

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On the left, Steve Megill tears down his core engine at Corvair College #3, held at our Spruce Creek hangar in 2002. (photo from Mark Langford.)

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Sam Sayer was a very interesting character. He was an energetic ball of fire, and a good craftsman. He was building a KR-2. He quickly became a regular at our Edgewater hangar. In a few visits, it was apparent that Sam might have been past getting a medical, LSA was not a rule yet, and his KR wasn’t going to fit it. None of this affected the quality of Sam’s work, nor his productivity. He had specific ideas he wanted to built, things that I wouldn’t advise trying, but I didn’t care. He liked coming over, and that was all that counted.

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In WWII, Sam was a B-17 co-pilot  and was shot down on his first mission by an 88mm flak shell that went through the throttle quadrant but failed to detonate. They flew back to France on one engine before bailing out. He evaded capture and returned to England. Give that a little thought, and picture a 20 pound steel shell crashing through a throttle pedestal by your leg, just missing you while still traveling 1,600 feet per second. Sam told the story with a practiced humorous detachment. At other times he would talk about how reluctant people were to make friends outside their crew, it was too hard to get attached and have them not return.

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I have only thrown 4 people out of a Corvair College. The very first one was working at the bench at CC#8 next to Sam. He kept loudly saying that he knew VW’s better than Corvairs, and liked them a lot because “everything made in Germany is great engineering.”  I took the guy aside and privately told him that, Sam might not want to hear that, that it was November 11th, Veterans day, and free speech didn’t apply in my hangar.  The guy reiterated that it was his opinion and he had a right to say it to Sam if he wanted to. Summoning all the restraint and diplomacy I could muster, I told him to “Get the fuck out of my hangar.”

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Below is an excerpt from the story: Built by William Wynne? Built according to The Manual? I am speaking of Sam’s engine, and how I didn’t hold his design to the same standard as younger men. There is a difference between treating everyone fairly and treating everyone the same. In the hangar, we do the former, not the latter.

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“Plenty of things are wrong with me; in many ways I am an opinionated jackass and I have made plenty of mistakes in life. But here is something that I do correctly: When a veteran aviator in his 80s shows up at my hangar, doesn’t have a medical, is pretty much aware that he isn’t going flying, and just wants to enjoy himself by exercising some creativity and building something with the hands that still bear the scars of shrapnel from an 88mm shell fired 60 years before, he gets the red carpet treatment.

I am not there to lecture a man my father’s age that he is “Doing it wrong.” It is my task to make that man’s day a little brighter and do anything I can for him: Tools, time, coffee and being a good listener. If a 35-year-old guy came to a College and wanted my help to build and run the above engine and then put it on his plane, the answer is of course ”No,” and I am going to make Mr. 35-year-old do it the right way, because he is going to take it flying, and he didn’t sacrifice his youth in 1944 trying to do something to stop fascism. Most aviation companies wouldn’t let a guy like Sam hang around any longer than it would take to find he didn’t have a lot of money to spend: “That’s just good business.” To hell with them, they may be business people, but in my book they are not aviators and they are piss poor Americans if they judge the value of men like Sam by the thickness of their wallet. This country is filled with people who think that having a yellow ribbon sticker on their car that says “Support the Troops” completely fulfills the obligation.”

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Above, in a photo taken at Corvair College #9. On the left stands Sam Sayer.   He’s wearing a Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame shirt. He was inducted for his career racing hydroplanes

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Dick Phillips joined the US Navy at age 17 at the height of WWII. He was on the USS Bunker Hill when it was hit by two Kamikaze’s minutes apart. It was one of the worst of these attacks, and the ship turned into an inferno that took the lived of 393 of his shipmates. He went on to a long career in the Navy, and was an EAA member for 40 years. I did not meet Dick until he was 80 years old. He lived at the airpark we moved to. Above all else, he thought of himself as an aircraft mechanic, and if you wrenched on planes for a living, you were probably OK in Dick’s book.

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Dick was a tough guy on the outside, but when you got to know him, he would share his real self. He had very mixed feelings about the deaths of his shipmates. He always wanted to get something out of every day. He had lived every day since he was 18 years old with the feeling that he was operating on time borrowed from others. He had a sense of obligation to use it well.

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Below is an excerpt from my story, Dick Phillips – Bravo Zulu. Click on the title to read more about his life and personal philosophy.

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“Dick told me that he was determined to get into WW II. All he wanted to do was attack the Japanese and do as much damage as possible before he was killed. He hoped to live to 18 or until he could see that the tide had changed in the War. After the attack, he said that he still felt that he would not live to 20, and that his goal was simply to “Go Down Fighting.” At the end of the War, he realized that he knew much about death, but little about life. He gave it some thought and decided he would try life, and he would concede to live to 21 and see how things looked, if there really was any reason to live longer than that. He told me that by the time he was 21 he had enough good things happen his in life that he decided that he wanted to live forever. He didn’t make it, but he got a lot closer than his 393 shipmates.”

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“In a way, WW II was a portal that men like Dick and Ernst Gordon stepped through. They were very young one day, and in many ways they were vastly older a short time later. It was a one way portal, there was no going back. Dick was never a young man again. Ernest Gordon could not find his way “home”.

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Phillips pic_1_opt

Above, Dick in the 1960s. He was a tough kid from Brooklyn. He joined the Navy after his 17th birthday, at the height of WW II.

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Dick Otto is the only man here still with us. However, that sentence does not make you understand that Dick isn’t just getting by, he is our SRB, (Senior Ranking Builder). He has finished and run his Corvair, a 2,700 with a Dan bearing, on the front of his 601XL, plans built of course. He works on the project nearly every day. At his age, he doesn’t have time to waste. Spend some time with him and you will come to the conclusion that you probably don’t either.

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I have seen the film “When Trumpets Fade” many times, but what do I know of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest? Nothing really. The film is very disturbing, but would any rational person claim that it could provide any understanding of being there? The battle claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, but the name is little known. But seeing a film doesn’t qualify a claim to understand. Who among us understands that kind of conflict? Dick Otto.

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Many years ago, at Corvair College #11, held on Veteran’s Day, Dick shared the story that he had been part of the US Army drive into Germany in WWII. He said the moved to the front and fought from a Self-propelled 105.  I later related this on our webpage, Dick called me up and wanted to make sure I understood that he was Infantry. Nothing wrong with Armor guys, but he wanted to say that he was Infantry.

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There is a popular misconception that the German army collapsed at the close of WWII, that they were down to old men and boys. It is a myth, the US Army lost more men in the last 150 days of WWII in Europe than it lost in 7 years in Vietnam. I know this as a statistic, Dick Otto knows what that looks like in person.

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Below is an excerpt from two stories about Dick: DickOtto in California, S.R.B. (Senior Ranking Builder) and :MailSack – Letter of the month – Dick Otto, 601XL Calif. I encourage you to click on the links and read them.

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“If you have not met him, let me introduce Dick Otto, your fellow Corvair Builder. Let me tell you some impressive things about Dick; The 601XL that he scratch built over the last five years is really nice. He has diligently put together a first class engine while building the airframe. Although he doesn’t feel great every day, he still gets out to the shop and works through it. Although he doesn’t yet have a license, he is pretty sure its just another skill he is going to pick up when the time comes. Dick is an easy-going guy, he has been to a number of California Colleges, and everyone who met him liked the
guy. Oh yeah, the last detail that puts it in perspective……He was born in 1921.”

From Corvair College #11, 2007. “Standing beside me at right above is Dick Otto, Corvair builder from Northern California. Although Dick just got into Corvairs this year, he brought an entire collection of engine parts meticulously prepped. We used his stuff to demonstrate case assembly and installing the piston-rings-cylinder assemblies. Dick was a real trooper, working during the chilly mornings and staying late into the night. He drove about 100 miles to get to the College, and to stay close to the action, he chose to camp out near the airport. As it was Veterans Day, Dick shared with us the experience of crewing a self-propelled 105 mm in a U.S. Division drive into Germany in Spring 1945. Now read this sentence slowly: Dick Otto is 86 years old.

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Below is a letter that Dick wrote last week in the comment section. It is mostly about his frustration trying to find a retail outlet that supports US made products and workers. It contains a political comment at the end.  Everyone knows that I don’t let stuff like that float around my website or come up at Colleges. If anyone else sent a letter with that, I would delete the political part. But you know what? I don’t feel morally right editing what Dick would like to say. I didn’t do anything to defend civilization and the right of speech, Dick and the other men on this page did.  I have lived my whole life in a world provided by them. I am not morally or ethically qualified to edit anything that man would like to say.

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Giving one guy a pass on a political comment isn’t treating everyone the same, but, in light of what he has done and I have not, I am going to say it is fair; Steve was the only guy who stopped by our hangar any day and stayed as long as he liked, but I found it fair; Only Sam could build an engine in my hangar I wouldn’t fly without changing, but that’s fair. Again, treating everyone the same really isn’t the same as being fair. I don’t feel like I am the same as any of the men above.

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From Dick: “I do agree with you about products from china. I will relate to two shopping adventures I recently had. My kitchen faucet started leaking so I set out to purchase a new one. I went to my local ACE hardware store. Every faucet they sold was made in China.
This was also true of Home Depot and Lowe’s. The sad truth about this was that these were the products that were once all manufactured in the United States. These companies had all sold out the American workers. Delta, Moen are just 2 of the companies. But all of the brands that were once made in this country are now made in china. The only brand not made in China
was American Standard it was made in India. My Sunbeam electric blanket
that was made in the United States stopped keeping me warm at night. I like to sleep with the windows open and the temperatures in sunny California get down to the mid 30′s. I went to every store that sold electric blankets, Sears, Penny’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy’s you name it all of them sold blankets made in China. It is no wonder that so many people in this country are out of work. I have attended three of your colleges and I know you do not allow politics to be discussed, A darn good rule. Most of the companies that have outsourced the making of these products and others. I am guessing now are owned by Republicans or controlled by Republicans. And of course they do this not to sell a cheaper product to us (they charge us the same price as when it was made in this country) but to satisfy the greedy people that own stocks in there company so they can get a larger return on their investments. I get on the internet every morning to check my credit card balances, my bank accounts and fly corvair. I read all your comments just finished reading about Pete Seegar Thank you for all your work to make the Corvair engine the success that it is. “
dickotto10@gmail.com

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Above is the very first picture of dead Americans the US public saw in WWII. We were already two years into the conflict. This was published only after it was reviewed at the highest levels. The men above joined the war having never seen such images, the war censors restricted them. These men died on Buna beach in the South Pacific. I first saw this photograph almost 40 years ago. I can’t remember what I felt as a kid looking at it.

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Since then I have spent a long time looking at it thinking about how these men were some ones cherished child, someone’s beloved older brother, a person a sweet heart hoped to marry and have children with. Had they lived they could have been your favorite teacher in high School, or your flight instructor. If they lived long enough, they could be the old man down the street that people didn’t speak kindly about. Or they could just have been a great guy you didn’t get to spend enough time with, and gone before you got to say that.-ww

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