Henry Kissinger defends his new Heavy Metal album

Newsflash:

Former National Security Advisor to President Nixon came out with a strong defense of his new Heavy Metal album Rage with the Machine.”  The album’s lack-luster sales have been attributed to the fact Kissinger knows nothing about music and has never played guitar before walking into the studio. Still, fans of the genre are expressing great disappointment, saying they had expected much more from the 90 year old on his debut recording.

Henry Kissinger Shankbone Metropolitan Opera 2009.jpg

Kissinger in the studio: He laid blame for the weak sales with the producer Kayne West, saying that West failed to appreciate Kissinger’s artistic message, especially on the tracks I did know Dick and Dinner with Mao , which Kissinger upheld as “Free-form masterpieces, yet to be appreciated.”

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Ok, I made up that story to illustrate a point. Nearly everyone understands that expecting Henry Kissinger to make a good Heavy Metal album, something you might put on the shelf next to Sabbath, Zeppelin and Metalica, is a total joke, and no reasonable person could expect great music from a 90 year old guy who worked for the State Department.

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Then please tell me why people express shock and disappointment when they find out that their favorite Musician / Actor / Celebrity doesn’t have a brilliant position on Geo-Politics? I have no answer for this. Several times month people send me forwards from the internet pointing out that some celebrity holds some political or social position that most people associate with Genghis Kahn or a kindergartener.

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Many of the senders have had their sensitivities offended, finding out that a favorite artist is some type of imbecile. Not me. I start off with the premise that I can appreciate their art, but they are just as likely to be stupid as anyone else.

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I like optimistic people, but if you are one of the people who were disappointed Justin Biber turned out to be a moron, they let me suggest a little less optimism may be in order. If you are one of the people still surprised that Barbara Streisand falls short of the Teddy Roosevelt honor roll of self actualization,  I want to say it’s OK to stop hoping.  I like some Mel Gibson movies, but I go to the theater knowing he is an alcoholic and a bigot, just like other everyday alcoholics and a bigots I have had to deal with in the rest of my life.

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I don’t expect these people to be any more enlightened than anyone else. In most cases their lives are little more than a revenue stream for a media company and a bunch of “assistants” and “life coaches.” They don’t even get the benefit of the reality checks that you and I enjoy from our neighbors when they respond to our opinions with “What the hell are you talking about?” When I feel generous, I just feel sorry for them.

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Being wealthy isn’t a guarantee of happiness, and in many ways it seems an impediment to theirs. The people who are famous young are rarely educated, nor have time to read, and when they travel it is with an entourage rather than a humble guest. They are surrounded by people telling them they are gifted and brilliant. For these reasons, they are perhaps even less likely to have anything enlightening to say.

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Most people shouldn’t feel smug about dumb things celebrities say on politics and world affairs. Many people have put little effort into being informed or open minded themselves. I was recently treated to a 20 minute diatribe of how segregationist Governor George Wallace was “A typical Republican,” the speaker, who had given that symposium many times before, was unaware Wallace was a life-long Democrat. This goes on from all camps. Few people praising the US constitution can even tell you how many articles it has; perhaps half of Republicans cannot identify Lincoln as their parties first President; Few Democrats understand FDR sent US Citizens to internment camps; It’s endless. Even though we are in the “information age, ” it seems to have little bearing on how informed people are. For every person who read 15 books last year, there seem to be 50 who spent 500 hours watching the brand of TV news that challenged their opinions and biases the least. Put a camera and microphone in front of these people and they might sound just as foolish as typical celebrities.

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A large part of what I love about aviation is how the solutions are unique, but the physical laws they work within are defined; there are absolute measurements and known and provable ways of achieving results. Planes don’t look alike, but they work for the same reasons. Physics isn’t written in any language, and it isn’t subject to corruption nor lobbying. Two people who both love planes, from different countries without a common language can both love the same plane, and it will fly equally well in either man’s country, regardless of political or social factors. I actually like the fact the stakes are high here, I am not afraid because the rules of flight are not arbitrary.

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This said, I have trouble with people want to apply the same thinking, the need for absolutes, tests and universal laws,  to humans, not just machines. When it comes to human freedom, faith and life, I don’t think there is one ‘right way’ or ‘best result.’ I place no value on getting people to think alike on human issues. The only persons who’s mind I want to open is my own, and I have long since found that reading books is far more productive on this than arguing with people or listening to celebrities. While I may know a bit more US and social history than average, my conclusions are no more valid than anyone else’s. The only person’s life I feel entitled to run is my own.

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This website has nearly 500 stories on it, and our traditional site has 2000-2011 documented on a weekly basis. You could look through every page of it and not find a single word on how I vote, what faith I am, or any comment on a social issue. Not one paragraph on it. Yet many people write to say how moving some of the topics have been. Notice in 15 years of writing, I have never run out of topics that bring aviators in homebuilding together. This is proof enough that we have far more that unites us than divides us. This is the basic reason why the only had and fast rule we have at Corvair Colleges is: No talk of politics nor Religion.

Corvair powered 601XL, 2006 photo

Builders,

I was on the Zenith aircraft site the other day looking through their extensive photo archives for a picture of a particular plane. I looked at the photo below for several seconds before realizing that it was me, acting as line boy for Gus Warren on the test flight of Rick Lindstrom’s 601XL outside our Edgewater Florida hangar. It was the fall of 2006.

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Corvair-powered Zodiac XL

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Evidently I didn’t have gray hair when I was 43.  Seems strange to me that I didn’t recognize how I looked then, but I remember exactly the hour the photo was taken, and what we were doing. That part is timeless.

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Building airplanes has many long hours of work, but it also provides you with hours that don’t fade. Eight years ago is a long time, and just like everyone else, I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. But, I can recall, with good detail, including how I felt, all the first flights I have been present for.  A Neuro-scientist would probably have a long explanation for the biochemistry of this, but for me the explanation is a lot simpler: I love planes.

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If you are working away in your shop tonight, and it’s still bitter cold where you are, take heart. In your future lies a day that you will never forget. Truth be told, you will also come to remember fondly the hours in the shop also. You will look at each part of the plane, built with your own hands, and be able to recall the hours you worked on them. I have been doing this for 25 years, and that part of it never gets old.

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Below, from our main website FlyCorvair.com on the Corvair College #10 coverage, the photo and the caption were from later the same day:

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“Friday was check in day at the College. A lot of builders showed up and the mood was upbeat as friendships and acquaintances from the  year before were renewed. Most of the visitors drifted away by 10 p.m. to get some rest before the long Saturday. The weather  Saturday was forecast to be clear and flat calm at sunrise. Gus, Rick and I planned the first flight of his plane for 7 a.m., before  anyone arrived. Prep work for the College kept me working at the hangar till 3:30 a.m. Gus and Rick returned in the morning, and  after one more careful inspection, and an idle adjustment on the carb, Gus took the plane up for a very smooth first flight. In the  photo above, Rick proudly moves the newest Corvair powered airplane in the fleet.”

Engineering, History and your project

Builders,

While I often talk about nuts and bolts of aircraft building, it is important that builders also have a ‘bigger picture’ to utilize the detail information within. Here is a look at why understanding the history of aviation directly benefits the homebuilding community.

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“General, Jack Ripper here….WW’s mind has gone soft; he writing complementary stories about the Ruskies, the French and the Brits…..”

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(Above, actor Sterling Hayden – Philosophy portraying the mad ‘Jack Ripper’ in the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.)

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OK, what the heck do my last three stories: 10 elements of UK Aviation to admire , French Aviation to be admired. and Russian Aviation to Admire. have to do with Homebuilding? A lot actually. If homebuilding has one Achilles heel, it is that many of the designers have little understanding of, and no respect for, the fantastic engineering that has gone into all the other branches of aviation in the last 111 years. I love homebuilts, but many people who work in our industry and provide products, are willfully ignorant of history and standards of other branches of flight.

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Conversely, I have spent virtually my whole life, dating back to age 10 or so, studying everything thing I could about the history of flight. For the last 25 years it has been my profession, and the pace of my study has only accelerated.  I bring this to my everyday work with the Corvair.

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Want some examples?  Mick Mannock’s story from 1918 instructs that fantastic skill will not save poor decision making, and emotionally stressed people make bad decisions like clockwork; Michel Detroyat in 1936 demonstrates that just when you think you are pretty smart, know there is someone who can humble you with what they can teach; Yuri Gagarin reminds that it isn’t the highest risk act that gets you, it is the typical one you do with your guard down that does it.

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Those are simple examples. There are complex details of engineering to be appreciated also, But the largest single factor is knowing that as great as homebuilding is, its value lies in the fact you are doing it, in the arena, not reading about it. I hear arguments made all the time about how homebuilding is ‘cutting edge.’ I disagree, and have a lot of physical examples to prove it. But the real danger in claiming cutting edge status is adopting the mindset that you don’t have anything to learn from the rest of aviation.

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Most of us have heard the foolish statement made by some alternative engine people calling Continental and Lycoming engines “Lyco-saurs”, implying they are antiquated. Almost everyone I have heard utter this phrase has no appreciation for why Certified engines dominate the market place. I know they do because they work, and I am smart enough to copy or adapt every bit of their proven approach into Corvairs that I can. I have no emotional investment in proving I am smarter than Lycoming, nor do I blindly worship at the temple of high tech. My only yardstick is “Did it work?”

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Conversely, I have watched a number of people selling alternative engines who claimed their “race car” backgrounds were more important than Lycoming’s track record, fail miserably, and I mean fail in the broadest sense, including getting killed. The emotional need to prove something is best left outside the airport fence; Physics, Chemistry and Gravity don’t care about such things and they don’t grant dispensations for the passionate. They only care what follows their rules. If it follows the rules, it will work. Wanting the rules to be different is a subject you can take up with God; break the rules and Physics, Chemistry and Gravity will provide you with the opportunity to have the conversation.

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I do not consider myself an aviation historian. It takes a lot more effort than I have put in to make that claim. However, I have no problem saying that in the last 25 years the only guy I have met in the profession of “aviation journalism” who had a far broader knowledge base than me was Bob Whitter. Putting Bob on a different level, I am comfortable saying that I know far more about the history of aircraft than any “aviation journalist” I have met. These people know how to produce magazines, but they often don’t know the background and history of subjects they are covering.

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Why this matters: Because countless times I have watched a new product introduced to journalists as ‘revolutionary,’ and the person writing the story bought it hook line and sinker because they didn’t know enough basic aviation history to know the concept in front of them either wasn’t new, or would never work. Many intriguing stories about ‘great’ products have been written this way. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the subjects disappeared, often with other peoples money.

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The easiest example I can think of is the “Carter Copter.” I personally watched many journalists taken in by Mr. Carters ‘revolutionary’ claims. When introduced nearly 20 years ago he said it would do 400 mph at 40,000′ and fly coast to coast, non stop. This was all published by Journalists who didn’t understand much about rotary winged aircraft to know they were listening to a story about Unicorns.

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When the did bring it to Oshkosh, it came with much fanfare, even from the EAA which saw it as an attraction. It flew into the pattern and flew for a few minutes. The announcer, reading from Carters press release, said that it had just “Flown in from Texas!” In reality, it had been trucked in to Fond du lac, 15 miles south, and had flown in from there, trimming the trip distance by 98%. Carter spring boarded from this to getting a $1 million dollar grant from NASA, which had 5 goals, only one of which was ever met. Even their own website points out it crashed 7 times in testing. That isn’t exactly cruising to California,

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Last time I saw Carter was 4 years ago, he was at the EAA chapter #1 open house in Riverside CA. He was the after dinner speaker, and he was trying hard to sell investment positions for his ‘New’ copter, which he said would shortly fly from Dallas to Paris France non-stop. Even at that time, there were journalists who still thought he was telling the truth.

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Had a single one of these journalists ever heard of a compound helicopter from 1967, the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne, they would know that the concept of a rotary wing plane that unloaded the lift to stub wings was nothing new. At Riverside many were impressed that Carter was said to have flown 172mph once. I was not, for 35 years earlier, the AH-56 had done 244 mph, while carrying many tons of weapons and ordnance. It held the speed record for rotary wing flight for almost 40 years. Today Mr. Carter has just landed another $2 million of taxpayers money. Lets hope he sends a thank you note to all the journalists who assisted him. Maybe this time he will reach more than 20% of the goals.

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Above, a machine that worked, the AH-56. If you would like to spend 9 minutes of your life seeing what real engineering looks like, check out this you tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csGWV541yjw

Russian Aviation to Admire.

Builders,

Russia produced an incredible array of hardware and personalities in 20th century aviation. Here is a quick look at 10 pieces of the Russian pantheon, including two titans of flight, one a household name, the other not. As the saying goes, ‘with the cold war settled, we can admire the other team without having our loyalty questioned.’

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My closest friend from Embry-Riddle got a degree in Physics and went on to a Masters in planetary science from the UA Fairbanks, where she picked up Russian Language as a side project. When she ended up with NASA in Houston, an opportunity opened up at Star City in Russia, working on the International Space station. Knowing the language sealed the assignment as a mission controller.  She eventually spent years there, and brought back a great respect for the people, pointing out they were far more patriotic than 95% of Americans. There was a story of a withered an poor old man in the market, and how strangers bought food and slipped it in his basket when was not watching. On his lapel, a small ribbon marked an act long since faded in time, but not forgotten; it identified him as a “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

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Every country is entitled to be proud of it’s veterans who contributed to ending WWII, but they should restrain their pride in the presence of Russians. They lost more lives in ‘the Great Patriotic War” than all other nations, (allied and axis) combined. For every American that died in WWII, fifty-nine Russians did. Statistics hardly reveal the horror, but this one always arrests me: 80% of the Russian males born in 1923 did not survive WWII.

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There is a foolish myth that says Russian hardware is crude, believed by a lot of people who should know better. Many years ago I worked for a German propeller company, which licensed production of their design to Sukhoi. A customer brought in a Russian made prop for overhaul, the first one seen by the German staff. They were dismissive, with terms like “Potato Farmers.” I inspected it personally, and the tolerances on the machine work were far better than the German version. The Germans were stunned, I was not. I pointed out that the Russians had perfected titanium hulled atomic subs, space stations , Hydrogen weapons with MIRV’s and Mach 3.2 fighters; a three bladed prop was probably within their capabilities. Being diplomatic and needing my job, I chose not to remind them who won WWII.

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1) Alexander P. de Seversky was a Russian born renaissance man of flight. A powerful balance of ideals and action.  He flew for the Tsar in WWI, lost a leg on his first combat mission. Came back to be an ace. Emigrated to the US in 1919, and became aide-de-camp to Gen. Billy Mitchell; Patented air to air refueling; Developed the gyro bomb sight while at Sperry; In 1938 predicted role of the ‘fighter bomber’ was more important than interceptor.  Outlined the P-47 Thunderbolt, and stated all US fighters should have 2,000HP and eight .50 Cal. guns. He went to Europe in the opening phase of WWII to observe first hand. The Board of Seversky Aircraft, the company he started, fired him. They renamed it ‘Republic.’  Seversky wrote the NYT #1 best seller (1942)”Victory through Airpower“, an indictment of the US aviation program, fearlessly pointing out errors such as the former VP of GM, now in charge of aviation war production, specified only Allison engines for fighters (Allison was owned by GM). He pointed out that elements at Ford were more concerned with post war market position than interests of quick victory. A man who could not be intimidated. Seversky is one of the few men who challenge Doolittle for the title ‘Greatest Aviator of all time’.

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2) The Antonov An-2 is a large STOL cargo biplane in production for more than 50 years. Grace and I have some flight time in one. Powered by a 1,000HP radial, carries several tons, lands noticeably slower than a Cub. Wing span is 60′, it has a full span LE slat on upper wing. More than 18,000 were built. On our first flight, I was stunned that it could do more than 120mph on only 60% power…..until I realized that this was still 600 applied HP.

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3) The Polikarpov Po-2 is one of the worlds most mass produced aircraft. It is about the size of a Stearman. The Russians used it in many roles, including as a night raider in combat. The particular example below is flyable and in Florida at ‘Fantasy of Flight’. More than 30,000 were built. Examining one closely shows it to be a work of simplicity compared to a Stearman or a Tiger Moth. Brings to mind the Russian saying “Quantity, has a quality all it’s own.”

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4) The Tu-95 ‘Bear’ Bomber is a cold war masterpiece. It remains after 50 years, the worlds fastest propeller driven aircraft, period. Production planes were clocked at 595mph, 140mph faster than a P-51. It is a huge plane, grossing over 400,000 pounds. It’s turboprops generate 44,000 HP, yet is has a 9,400 mile range, unrefueled. Each engine powers a pair of contra rotating 20 foot props that run at the speed of sound. Half a century of evidence proving slow tip speeds on props have nothing to do with efficiency.

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5) Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. grew up as a peasant under Nazi occupation, made his way to the tip of the spear of the space age.  Outgoing and friendly, He set himself apart from hard-liners with this post-flight statement: “Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!” Awarded the title “Hero of the Soviet Union.” He was killed flying a regular training mission in a two seat MiG-15 in 1968.

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6) The Ilyushin Il-2, probably the most produced aircraft in history, 36,000 built in only 4 years. An armor plated attack aircraft that was ideal for ground support on the Eastern Front. Capable of absorbing great damage, the plane carried all types of ordinance, including bombs, rockets and early cluster bombs. Did vast damage to German armor and vehicles with 37mm cannon. The design and tactics were a completely clean sheet of paper approach to ground attack aircraft. It’s production and deployment in a country ravaged by war is a story to match any other in manufacturing.

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7) Lydia Litvyak: First woman fighter pilot; First woman to shoot down a plane; First woman ace; Highest scoring female ace of all time. She flew a Yak-1 almost exclusively, The plane was small and agile, but not exceptional. Never the less, Litvyak downed a number of Bf-109G’s flown by very skilled German pilots, including an 11 kill ace.

After witnessing the death of her squadron commander, she wrote her mother, saying in retrospect, she had been in love with him. He mechanic later testified that from this point forward, all Lydia wanted was more missions.  She died on 1 August 1943, on her 4th sortie of the day. She was 21 years old. In 1990, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev posthumously awarded Litvyak “Hero of the Soviet Union.”

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8) Igor Sikorsky was born in Russia but emigrated to the US after the revolution. In Russia he was a well established designer, but in the US, he made a large and lasting contribution to many fronts in flight. His flying boats and amphibious aircraft are some of the most elegant designs ever, but his work with rotary wing flight made him a legend. In 1931, he filed and eventually received the patent on the standard helicopter.

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 Sikorsky may be the wittiest guy ever to set foot in aviation. His best known quote is “In the beginning, aeronautics was neither an industry nor a science. It was a miracle.” There are hundreds more, but my personal favorite is: “In those early days, the Chief Engineer was almost always the Chief Pilot as well.  This had the automatic result of eliminating poor engineering very early in aviation.”

If you would like to read more, His site: http://www.sikorskyarchives.com/IGOR%20SIKORSKY%20SPEAKS.php

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America was very lucky to be the home of four brilliant men who pioneered and perfected rotary wing flight: Igor Sikorsky, Frank Piasecki, Larry Bell and Charles Kaman. It is hard to overstate how influential and capable these men were. The practical helicopter did not arrive until after WWII. Consider that before the R-5 and the Model 47, the world already had Jet fighters (the Me-262 and Meteor), theater ballistic missiles (the V-2), supersonic planes (X-1) and Atomic weapons (Manhattan project.).

Several years ago at Oshkosh, a naïve guy said to me “I just went to a forum given by a guy from Texas who says he has a practical, affordable and reliable helicopter design. The man is a genius” I politely pointed out that perhaps his “genius” should start with an easier first project, like a jet fighter or an atomic bomb.

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9) Valentina Tereshkova, awarded title Hero of the Soviet Union, first woman in space. On her 70th birthday she told Russian president Vladimir Putin that she was personally willing to go to Mars, now, even if it was a one way “suicide” mission. Not your average grandmother.

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10) Russian aircraft builders and field mechanics.  Many people have heard that B-24s came off the assembly line every 45 minutes in WWII.  Most of the people who say that have never built a good set of shelves, far less a plane. Convesrely, homebuilders understand the challenges of actually building a plane. We know why the 1 every 45 minutes is ‘interesting’ it is astounding.

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In America, we celebrate the idea of ‘Rosie the riveter.’  Americans in defense plants did incredible work to be the “Arsenal of Democracy.” But to be fair, I don’t think the best job at an Il-2 factory was a nice as the worst one at the Consolidated plant in San Diego. The Russian workers produced record numbers of planes while subjected to un imaginable forces. Just the threat of direct conflict, starving or freezing, or even the NKVD deciding to liquidate you.  They worked on because they had family at the front who were being exterminated for lack of more weapons. On average, the Russian workers had less education and technical skills, but the test the met was one of toughness not just technical training. They did an outstanding job and made a large contribution to ending WWII.

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Corvair College #29……..6 weeks out.

Builders:

Below is a photo from CC#17, the first College that Arnold Holmes was the local host of. He went on to host CC#25 and now CC#29, March 28-30 in Leesburg FL. You can read all about it at this link:

Corvair College #29, March 28-30, FL. , sign-up open

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About 65 of the 100+ people who attended the event are pictured in the photo above. You can see the whole story at :http://www.flycorvair.com/cc17.html.

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In the photo above are Steve Simms, Alan Yur, Dan Heath, Jim and Rhonda Weseman, Ron Lendon, Bob Lester, and Jeff Cochran.  What do all of these people have in common? They were builders the moment the photo was taken, but today, they all have a flying Corvair powered plane.

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Also in the pictures are Corvair Pilots Mark Langford, Chris Smith, Brandon Tucker, Dan Weseman, Rick Lindstrom, Phil Maxson, Gary Coppen and David Vargesko and Steve Makish, who has successfully completed and flown their own Corvair powered planes before #17.

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The photos show many other builders like Gerry Scampoli, who ran their engine at CC#17, who are very close to flying today. With them are builders like Cliff Rose, Ray Fuenzalita, Pete Klapp and Dan Glaze who ran their engines at following colleges, and also have their planes at the ‘light at the end to the tunnel’ phase today. There are guys in the photos like Jim Waters and Larry Hudson who’s engines had already run before CC#17, but they came to the event to help out and have a good time. Today both of their planes are 95% done. There are several people in the pictures like Bill Zorc who will bring their engine to CC#29 for a test run.

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People who have never met me occasionally form the opinion that I admire myself. Ask anyone who is close friends with me, and they will tell you I spend the quiet hours contemplating how I could have done everything better, even when things are going well. I am rarely satisfied and never dissuaded from this perspective by praise. But there are times, where I can look back at a body of work with Corvair builders, like College #17, and be, well, pleased with it.

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When I look at all the names and faces and think about the learning and progress that has happened, that we were here to support in the long run, I will allow myself to be pleased with it now. Objectively, it is a very strong record of success in an industry that has far less than 20% of the people in it reach the finish line.

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Percentages are for groups to be analyzed, but to the individual who wanted to Learn, Build and Fly, success is all or nothing; it wasn’t 20%, it was he got there or he didn’t, 100% or 0% . I don’t look at our work as profit or loss, numbers sold or even percentage who complete the process. When I an speaking with a builder, my focus isn’t on the group, it is on “How can this guy get all the way through a finished plane?” Each builder is different, has different assets and challenges, resources and resiliency. If there is a single factor that gets many people to personal success, it is signing up for a College. It is the common element in a very broad range of diverse success stories. -ww.

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Above, From CC#23, Ray Fuenzalita at CC#23 holds the sign of the three rules of Colleges. My talented and beautiful wife Grace painted the sign above. We have few rules at the Colleges, but we always abide by them. We lay off the top two subjects of conversation (as they rarely bring people together) and the third is that we teach builders to avoid products from totalitarian police states noted for poor quality.

French Aviation to be admired.

Builders:

Consider this: The British have fought several wars against us, killed tens of thousands of Americans, burned the white house to the ground, sided with the South in the Civil war, and arguably knew about Japan’s war decision a week early and didn’t say anything. Conversely, the French have never attacked us, The were  the first Country to recognize America as a new nation, they gave us the Statue of Liberty and they treat our war dead with great care.  Truthfully, we wouldn’t have even won the Revolution without the French military officers showing us how. Yet today, many Americans perceive the British as better friends. All I can say is the British have much better PR firms.

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Americans have been told to stereotype the French as a cross between Jean Paul Sartre and a Parisian waiter. This makes as much sense as upholding Michael Jackson as the typical American. The pantheon of great Frenchmen is broad, running from Jacques Cousteau to real writer-philosophers Like Albert Camus, who incidentally, was glad to tell anyone Sartre was a pinko-weenie. ( In French: Rose-saucisses)

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Seriously, My grandfather fought in the trenches of WWI with the 78th Division in France. For the remainder of his life, he upheld that without question, the French infantryman was bravest man on the battlefield. He had many stories of entire French units advancing without hesitation into a hail of lead and shell fire. They lost nearly 2 million men in that war. Their Army had a 55% casualty rate, (about eight times higher than the US in WWII) My great aunt was a WWI war bride, lived to 1986, and brought French culture to our childhoods. Growing up in Thailand, we neighbored what was once ‘French Indo China.’ My 7th grade French teacher was in the Underground when she was 16, her sister was caught and killed by the Gestapo. I read enough French to work my way through books and understand slow conversation. If you are an American who doesn’t understand French courage, you are a victim of spoon fed media hype.

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The French also have a very rich aviation history, Below are just a few personal examples that I have always been fond of.

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1) Caudron c.460 Michel Detroyat brought one of the three 460’s built to our 1936 national air races and promptly cleaned house on every American contender. It was an early wake up call that our aviation industry was well behind Europe’s as the storm clouds of WWII were already gathering. Many American engineers took this lesson to heart and used the time to prepare.

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2)  Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse, France, 1933. I think the plane is a Latécoère 28. He flew airmail, and was one of the greatest aviation writers of all time. The little Prince is his master work. It is alleged that Anne Morrow Lindbergh was in love with him. He flew unarmed recon missions over France in WWII in F-5s (P-38).  He was granted permission to fly 5 more, but extended this to 9, and on 31 July 1944 he never returned. He was 44 years old. His watery grave not found for 59 years.

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3) French Paratroopers: Seen below, Col. Pierre Langlais in command of both the (1 BEP) (Foreign Parachute Battalion)  and the (8 BPC) (Parachute Assault Battalion) in the savage fight for Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  It takes a special kind of nerve and confidence to execute a plan of intentionally building a base 220 miles behind your enemies lines and then provoking a battle where you are outnumbered 5 to 1. They lost, but it wasn’t from lack of courage. (I suggest French writer Bernard Fall’s books on Vietnam, Street Without Joy and Hell in a very small place. He was the bravest correspondent who ever lived, killed in Vietnam in 1967.)

Gen Pierre Charles Albert Marie Langlais

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4) Charles Nungesser, French National hero and ace in WWI. Sets the 100% standard for the “triple crown” of fighter pilots in the 20th century (flying, drinking, romancing women), and his countrymen loved him for it. Spent all night in the clubs of Paris, flew against the Hun at dawn. The embodiment of the term Swagger. Dies attempting to fly the Atlantic with Coli 2 weeks before Lindbergh.

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5) Chris Heintz: A man who’s life work has had a direct effect on many of the people reading this. I selected the picture of him at the chalk board because to me, he is foremost a teacher. No other experimental aircraft designer has put in this kind of effort to educate builders.

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6) Louis Bleroit. First man to fly the English Channel. Foresaw a day when virtually all aircraft would be monoplanes. Before WWI, nearly half the flyable planes in the world were his proven model XI. 900 were built in 5 years.

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Louis Bleriot.jpg

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7) Adolphe Pégoud: He was only the second man to ever fly a loop, he was the first to parachute from a plane.  He taught many people from all over Europe to fly. When WWI started, he quickly became the first Ace the world had ever known. It didn’t last long; he was shot down and killed on 31 July 1915. He was just 26. The German pilot who killed him had been one of Pégoud’s students before the war.

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Adolphe Pégoud.jpg

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8) Henri Mignet and the Flying Flea; He had fantastic ideas about just how simple planes could be. His thinking was not impeded by previous existing designs. He wanted flight accessible for every man. The early models had an unseen aerodynamic flaw that developed when people used much larger engines. This was later corrected, but the damage was done, and his public reputation never recovered. 80 years later, people still repeat the original story, in spite of several hundred fleas being reliably flown since.

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9) Latécoère 631, Was a transatlantic flying boat. In the 1930’s the French produced a number of very elegant flying boats, some of which were far prettier to my eye than a Boeing 314 China Clipper. The 631 was not considered a successful design, only a handful were made,  but it still captures my imagination to think that there was a very brief period in flight when airline flight started as a nautical adventure in a plane with great style. Airliners in my lifetime all look like metal mailing tubes to me.

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Latecoere 631 Lionel de Marmier

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10) Dassault Mirage. Everyone tends to think of their own countries aircraft as having some type of monopoly on good ideas and performance. I was like this also, I grew up around airbases in Thailand, and it was easy to think of an F-4 with two angry J-79s as the meanest plane in the sky. Only much later did I learn that an F-8, unappealing in my youth, was a much better fighter.

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The Mirage was another awakening to international designs. The IIIc model was the first operational Mach 2 airplane in Europe, and was the first in a very long line of Mirage models. They were very successful exports for the French, and they went on to fight in a number of conflicts. Few Americans know that it was France, not America, that provided the arms to insure the continued existence of Israel from 1947-67. The Mirage was a mainstay in the Israeli air force for decades.

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10 elements of UK Aviation to admire

Builders,

Lest anyone think I do not admire the rich aviation heritage of the UK, I present 10 favorite elements of it that I have long respected.

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1) Mick Mannock: WWI ace of incredible skill. Saw there was no chivalry in war when others still clung to it and romanticized death. Fought on in spite of terrible psychological wounds. Famous quote when others were ‘honoring’ Richthofen’s memory: “I hope the bloody bastard burnt the whole way down.” Died in Combat 26 July 1918, age 31. Six days earlier he had said to a friend “There won’t be any ‘after the war’ for me.” His remains were never recovered.

EdwardMannock2.jpg

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2) Nevil Shute Norway: Aero engineer, pilot, writer. His book Sliderule is one of top 10 aviation books I have ever read. Very intelligent commentary on how being in a group does not absolve responsibility of the individual. Wrote On the beach, a chilling look at nuclear holocaust. He emigrated to Australia after WWII and most of his books subtly touched on themes ahead of their time such as racism and prejudice. His book A Town Like Alice, is an example.

Neville Shute AWW 1949.jpg

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3) TE Lawrence: Better know as “Lawrence of Arabia”, Hailed as a hero in WWI, fell from public grace for championing Arab independence. Suffered the remainder of his life from events in conflict. Spend many years after the war quietly in the RAF under a false name as a Pilot and then as a mechanic, the only peace he knew in his life. Killed riding his motorcycle in 1935, age 46. He had crashed to avoid hitting 2 children on bicycles.

Te lawrence.jpg

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4) Fairey Swordfish crews: It takes very special courage to attack a WWII ship in daylight, especially when the ship’s speed can potentially limit the rate of closure to 80 knots. These aviators put the crippling hit into the Bismarck. British still flew these planes in combat in 1945.

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5) Cecil Lewis’s first hand account of his life as a WWI RFC pilot. Best book on WWI I have ever read. Learned about it from Doc Mosher.

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6) Fairey Battle Crews: the Battle was an obsolete design on the eve of WWII. There are many squadron histories written about the men who flew these planes on low-level attack missions into France, the low countries and in support of the Dunkirk evacuation. Squadrons pressed into desperate service lost 60% of their aircrews in single missions. Yet the survivors had the courage to go again and again in support of besieged ground troops, until they were gone. Their will to fight did not waver, even in the face of near certain death.

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7) Napier Nomad Post war 12 cylinder two-stroke diesel, perhaps the most fuel-efficient aero engine of all time. (BSFC .32 at power.) 3,500HP provided by 89 psi boost on 2,500cid. Engine has an axial-flow turbine engine below it providing turbo compounding and enormous boost.

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8) Battle of Britain crews: “Photo: The average age of an RAF pilot in 1940 was 20. The strain they were under is clearly written on the face of Squadron Leader B J E ‘Sandy’ Lane (centre), pictured here aged 23. He was killed in combat 2 years later”

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Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

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9) and 10) Sydney Camm and Tom Sopwith in 1953, the year both were knighted. These men covered aeronautical engineering excellence in Britain for 50 years.

Your Local Guardian: Sydney Camm and Tom Sopwith in 1953, the year both were knighted

Help Needed, Wikipedia error on Pietenpols

News note: I wrote the story below after midnight last night. I woke up to find this note in the comment section:

“Fixed it. If there is anything else you want to edit or you are not happy with the pictures let me know! First time I have ever edited wikipedia, it makes perfect sense why you didn’t understand it. I barely did! -Spencer “

It is from Spenser Rice, building from plans, a Corvair powered 601HD. He is our “JRB” (junior ranking builder). When I read the things he writes, look at his work and speak with him on the phone, it is very hard to remember that he is 15 years old. He is articulate and thoughtful as any 25 year old I know.  He lives in OR, but was recently visiting family in FL. We had a chance to spend the afternoon in my shop, the first time I have met him in person. Communications with him before gave me high expectations…..and in person he confirms them. When others say to me “This country doesn’t make the same kind of young men it used to” I might concede the point on average, but Spenser is no average young man. I am pretty sure he would compare very favorably with the young men from any time period in this country. -ww.

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Builders:

I was looking for a story detail on Pietenpols and, came across something that needs to be corrected. I read Wikipedia stories all the time, particularly biographies, and they are usually fairly good because they have a user edited content system that can be used to ‘shape things up.’  This needs to be applied to both the biography of B.H.Pietenpol and to the page on Aircampers. I am too much of a troglodyte around computers to figure out how to do this, so I am sending out a broad appeal for help on this. You don’t have to be a Piet guy, if your building a Corvair, this guy is your man also, and beyond that, if you are a working class homebuilder, this man should be your hero. If are yet to read why that is true, take 5 minutes of your day to read this:

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B.H. Pietenpol, Patron Saint of Homebuilding

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THE MAN HIMSELF: The plane he is leaning on is at Pioneer airport at Oshkosh today, in his original hangar, moved from Cherry Grove, MN.

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OK, get a look at this link and tell me what is wrong:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pietenpol_Air_Camper

That’s right, this plane below is not a Pietenpol:

“Pietenpol Air Camper”

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It is a Grega GN-1. Now first and foremost, I want to say that I have absolutely zero problems with guys who have GN1’s, I don’t care if we call them all Aircampers, I think it is dumb to devide the community of builders over the differences between the designs. This said, I don’t want the Wikipedia page on Bernard’s Plane to incorrectly identify this as a “Pietenpol.”  The GN-1 has its own page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grega_Aircamper. And John Grega should have one also.

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Also, they stuck this picture in, which I think is from the same GN-1 as a Pietenpol Aircamper instrument panel:

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“Instrument panel of a Pietenpol Air Camper”

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OK, besides the fact that it isn’t a Pietenpol, and it has more instruments in it than Lindbergh needed to fly the Atlantic, look close, It isn’t even a wood fuselage, it is steel tube. I am not sure what engine the owner has in it that has a 2100 rpm redline, but the basic idea here is all wrong just on the principle that this picture does not represent Bernard’s like long absolute allegiance to simplicity. This needs to be corrected.

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Second, I am going to get a little picky on BHP’s Wikipedia biography;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Pietenpol

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OK, get a look at the plane pictured below. Obviously it is in England. If you are in the UK and reading this, or are even one of the people who put this picture up, I am going to sound like an “ungrateful crass colonial” here. But that plane isn’t really a Pietenpol either.

Pietenpol.air.camper.g-ecvb.arp.jpg

“Pietenpol Air Camper”

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It is not legal to build an actual Pietenpol in the UK. If you wanted to build an exact replica of the plane that BHP is leaning on in the photo, you would not be allowed to fly it in the UK because  it has a Corvair on it and UK planes have different structure.  You have to build one of the modified designs that is approved by the UK government recognized entity LAA, and Francis Donaldson. Since a pure Plans built Pietenpol is not allowed there, I would rather have an actual US model representing the design of BHP. If the page was about LAA approved planes, great, but theoretically it is about BHP and his designs.

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Furthermore, Bernard was an American citizen. He was not a British subject. If I was writing a story about Tiger Moths, Spitfires, Hurricanes, or even a Nipsy Tipper, I would not choose one with an N-number to represent the design. It does not inform the reader of the origin or the perspectives of the designer. Either “the last original” or N-7533u would be much better, or any of the other planes that were built by his hands.

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To the person who corrects this, or leads the effort, I will buy a 3 year subscription to the Pietenpol Newsletter, I will buy you dinner when ever we cross paths, and I will hail you as a good guy in homebuilding.

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While it may seem like I am being trivial on this, there is a point. Presentation of aircraft, especially in museums and venues perceived to be educational, matter. I have very strong objections to our National air and Space Museum being called the “Udvar-Hazy Center”. Steven Udvar-Hazy’s only contribution to aviation is manipulating the leasing of commercial aircraft to make himself a billionaire. His $66 million contribution to the museum sounds big until you realize that it was only 1.5% of his estimated net worth.

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No National landmark in this country should be named for people who donated money.  It is as demeaning as naming the Lincoln Memorial the ‘Walmart memorial’. It is un-American to measure the value of a man by the thickness of his wallet. It is for precisely this reason that Americans triumphed in flight. Our system recognized and advanced the best, brightest and courageous. It placed no value on class, connection or wealth.

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If the Air and Space museum is to be named for the highest bidder, I can think of 100 names off the top of my head like, Sijan, Grissom, Loring, Scobee, Luke, Husband….American Aviators who gave 100% of everything they had or would ever have for this country, paying a price that makes any financial contribution meaningless.

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“If we die we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Gus Grissom.

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“They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind’s final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived.”

-statement left on the remains of Launch Pad 34.

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Francis Richard Dick Scobee Gravesite

Dick Scobee’s head stone at Arlington.

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Charles Joseph Loring, Jr

Charles Loring’s grave in his home town of Portland OR.

 Lance Sijan’s grave. For further reading: A Father’s Day Story – Lance Sijan

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Corvair College #29, March 28-30, FL. , sign-up open

Builders:

Ken Pavlou just e-mailed me the link below, the sign up for Corvair College #29, it is now live and on line, builders may sign up at any time. I suggest making a plan right away, because we are only effectively seven weeks away. Time to make a plan now.

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Click on this:

https://corvaircollege.wufoo.com/forms/corvair-college-29-registration/

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The College is free, but the sign up has a $79 per person fee, 100% of which goes to our local host Arnold Holmes, who will be providing the facility, food and drinks. For much more information, please click on this story:

CorvairCollege #29, March 28-30, Leesburg FL.

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If you have not been to a College before and would like to tap into the mother load of all the information on everything to do with colleges, please click on this link:

Corvair College reference page

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A GREAT MOMENT FROM CC#17: Steve Sims of the Florida Panhandle assumes the famed “Superman Position.”  This is where you lie prone on the bed rail of the pickup truck the run stand is bolted to, and “Fly” behind your Corvair engine running for the first time. CC#17 was the first College Arnold Holmes hosted. He runs great events. Steve’s plane, a 601HDS, is now flying with this engine he built. I am planning on having him fly it back to CC#29, but I insist that he do it from inside the cockpit. We have fun at Colleges, but there is also a lot of serious learning and progress. Don’t miss it.

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Photo taken January 25th in our backyard in Florida: The illustrious Ken Pavlou is on the left, Grace in the middle and Peter Shean.  Ken and Peter are both 601XL builders with 95% complete airframes and first class 2700cc Corvairs for them. Ken runs all the on-line registration for all the Colleges out of his home in CT.

Corvair/Sonex for sale, on Barnstormers, (warning)

Builders,

I received two emails asking about the plane pictured below. It is for sale on Barnstormers.com. Part of the add says “William Wynne engine”. This is not entirely accurate, but I don’t think it was done with ill intent. The plane is simply being sold by a friend of the builder who passed from this earth, and he is just offering a general description.

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A more accurate description would be to say that it has a “William Wynne style conversion.” I did not build the engine, nor did we see it run at a college, but it was made with our parts, and it does have a Dan bearing on it. I am pretty sure Dan supplied many of the installation components. Note that the pictures are of two nearly identical yellow airframes. One with a VW the other a Corvair. The picture above is the VW one, the Corvair looks just like it but has a spinner. For a complete overview of the Corvair/Sonex combination, please click on this link:

Corvair Power for Panther and Sonex reference page

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The plane is located in Eastern Georgia. The builder was a very experienced homebuilder, but I have never seen this plane in person. If someone wanted to look into buying this plane, I would highly suggest calling Dan Weseman for more input. On the surface, it seems like a very good beining point, that might need a through going over and a new cowl from Dan.  If is a much better starting point than any of the Corvair/Sonexes that have rear starters and mounts that were not made by Dan.

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While the plane above seems well worth looking at, I would like to warn potential Corvair people to Avoid something else I saw on Barnstormers:

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SONEX CORVAIR MOTOR MOUNT • $850 • AVAILABLE FOR SALE Engine Mount to install Corvair engine to Sonex airframes.   TD version – black  with hardware  • Contact- AZALEA AVIATION LLC, Owner – located Valdosta, GA USA • Telephone: 229-834-899 . 220-242-306 . • Posted February 6, 2014

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Above is the latest incarnation of the now Bankrupt “Aeromax LLC” and just like last time, this is again run by Bill Clapp. I highly suggest that no one buy anything from him. I left a long post about him on the Zenith Matronics site, there are also many other ones on  Mark Langford’s CorvairCraft list, and the factory Zenith list. You can contact many People such as Pat Panzera from Contact! magazine or Rick Lindstrom from kitplanes to get their input. Make up your own mind, but there will invariably be people who get taken by this, just the way that Aeromax took people in 2009-before going bankrupt in 2011. Don’t be one of them.