Below is a table listing the most common parts we offer. They are easier to see at a glance in this format compared to studying our catalog in depth. In part two of this series, I will give several typical examples based on popular airframes.
Note: The first two digits of the part numbers are the group number in which the full description of the part can be found. ie, Hybrid studs, 2502 are in The Hub Group (2500).
At the very bottom are numbered notes that address the right hand column.
Part descriptionPart Number Pricing Notes
Hybrid Studs 2502 $79
Safety Shaft 2503 $79
Short Gold Hub 2501(B) $579 (1)
Front Starter kit 2400 $566 (2)
Ft Alter. Brackets 2901 $99
Gold Oil Filter housing 2601(S) $239 (3)
Gold Sandwich 2802 $169 (4)
Hi-volume Oil case 2000HV $289 (5)
Billet Oil Pan 2201(B) $289 (6)
Deep oil pick up kit 2202(A) $59
E/P Distributor 3301E/P $349 (7)
Valve Covers 1900PC $149 (8)
Pushrod tubes 1602PC $60 (9)
Piston, Rod, Cyl. Kits
2,850 cc Kit 2850CC $1,800 (10)
3,000 cc kit 3000CC $2,200 (11)
(1) This is the hub used with a 5th bearing. 2501(A) is for no 5th bearing
(2) Front starter kit includes the 2401 starter, the 2402 brackets, the 2403 tail bracket, 2405 top cover, 2406 gasket and the 2407 hardware. We are glad to sell it as a kit or by the part, the kit is slightly less expensive.
(9) These are stock GM steel tubes that have been cleaned and powder coated white.
(10) This kit has Remanufactured rods with ARP bolts, Forged dual fuel pistons and new Clark’s full fin cylinders. A look at the parts can be seen here: Complete Engines for Sale
(11) This kit has Remanufactured rods with ARP bolts, Forged dual fuel pistons and new Custom machined, full fin cylinders. Price includes machine work to case and heads. A look at the parts can be seen here: Complete Engines for Sale
Following EAA magazine coverage of the thacher CX-5 prototype flying, two people wrote me today asking about the possibility of powering one with a Corvair. It is a understandable sentiment. Mr. Thacher is universally regarded as a fine gentleman, and his CX-4 single seater is a very popular design. Many people were waiting to see how the two seat -5 would turn out, and some of these people are also Corvair fans. This said, I would like to take a minute to explain why being fans of both doesn’t mean they would make a good marriage.
Above, Mr. Thacher and his new design, the CX-5. I have met him in person a number of times, and I will attest that he is a very knowledgeable but modest guy, and 100% airplane builder. Several years ago Grace and I heard that he was working on a two seater, and supplied him with a complete set of information on the Corvair. Although I thought there was small chance he would design around the Corvair, we provided them as a small gesture to simply say that we liked his work in experimental aviation.
The CX-4 and CX-5 are both designed around large VW engines. By all accounts, they fly very well, and their efficient airframes do as well on these engines as any other similar design developed for the VW. This said, I am going to say that it would probably take a lot of work, and would compromise the designer’s intent, to put a Corvair on a CX-5.
There is a lot to installing an engine besides weight and balance. There are mounting and structural issues, fuel supply and a host of small details. Even a very skilled builder is challenged by being the first guy to put a Corvair in the place of say, an O-200. But going the other way from VW to Corvair is far harder, if you are the first guy doing it.
There are four airframes that were originally intended for VW power that work very well with Corvairs they are; ….(you can click on the color link to read about one of each of them.)
Notably, each of these planes is a side by side configuration. There are a number of complex factors that go into this, and they vary with each of the designs. On the other side of the coin, there have also been a number of tandem seat planes that were originally intended to VW power that later flew on a Corvair, that didn’t work out nearly as well. The first one that comes to mind is the Sonerai II. At least four of these flew on a Corvair, but they were a poor match. I have not seen the CX-5 in person, but I suspect that it isn’t a good candidate for a Corvair, simply from a design perspective.
The second part of the equation is the builder perspective. People find it hard enough to get planes done without adding a very challenging engine installation, one that the designer may object to. Considering these factors, it is my best advice to people who really like the CX-5 to plan on following the designers advice and put a large VW on it.
What if you are a committed Corvair guy, but you are looking for a two seat tandem metal kit plane? Then there is something on the distant horizon that you may wish to keep an eye on. It is called a Cougar.
By now, almost everyone has heard of Dan Weseman’s design, the “Panther.” It is a single seater with a 3000 cc Corvair in the prototype. Things are going very smoothly with the introduction of the Panther: it is actually on the cover of both Kitplanes and The Experimenter this month. The same way the CX-4 lead to the -5, Dan is going to follow the Panther with the Cougar, a two seat plane in the same design family.
The Panther was designed 100% on CAD, so the drawings and CNC manufacture were integrated from the start. This also allows Dan to easily make the drawings below. The planes have many design points in common such as the fuselage cross section and the tail cone assembly, but they do have different wing cords and other detail so that each design can be optimal.
The LSA version of the Cougar is slated to use engines from 100-130 HP. Dan tells me that a 3000 cc Corvair will be an option on the Cougar. People who have seen the expansion of Dan’s capability have no doubt that the plane will follow the Panther.
For anyone who likes Mr. Thacher’s CX-5, my best advice is to stick with the intended VW power plant. For anyone who likes Corvairs, but is looking for an appropriate airframe in the same category, follow along on Dan and Rachel’s website and watch the development.
Below is the story on our standard and optional ignition systems. The E/P stands for “Electronic /Points” , as it utilizes both. The E/P-X model is internally identical, it just has a few external features to make a slightly nicer installation. We have been producing E/P distributors since 2006. In our numbering system Group 3300 is the engine ignition group. the specific part numbers are 3310 E/P and 3301 E/P-X.
Above is a photo on an E/P-X distributor. The features that make it an -X model are the Weatherpack quick disconnect plug system, the studs holding the cap on (instead of screws) and the fiberglass jacket on the wires. Other than these items, both E/P models are identical.
We looked for a long time before finding the Crane module that is the heart of the E/P ignition. There are many electronic ignitions on the market, but for flight use they have two critical Achilles’s heels: They use many amps of power and they do not work at reduced voltage. The made in the USA crane unit has neither of these issues.
There’s a lot of great automotive electronic systems that work fantastically as long as there’s more than 11.5 volts available and a steady flow of 10 amps to power it. In the world of flying, where you could have an alternator or voltage regulator failure, and be reduced to the amount of electrical power stored in your battery, these electronic systems are not acceptable. Electronic ignitions with computers on other alternative engines have demonstrated as little as 20 minutes flight time after a charging system failure. Many alternative engines that are converted modern car engines have this defect. Most of the people who fly them have never run them at cruise power with the charging system disconnected to know just how short their window is.
A Corvair engine running one of my ignition systems will run for hours on the battery that started it. The points system will work all the way down to the 9 volt range. My Electronic/Points system utilizing the Crane module is a very low power consumer and additionally has the unheard of quality of producing stable sparks well below 9 volts. No other electronic ignition that we tested demonstrated this. The power wire to the crane unit is a tiny 22 gauge wire. When testing distributors on the machine you can run the Crane unit for an hour and it is still cool to the touch.
In the above photo, an E/P ignition running on our machine. This uses the same coils and systems as our Dual Points Distributor with the exception of eliminating the condenser on the electronic ignition’s coil. The photo is from 2006. We have since produced more than 200 E/P units and retrofitted more than 100 D/P distributors with E/P plates.
Success can sometimes come from pioneering work, but it always comes from emulating what has proven to work. Virtually every flying Corvair powered airplane built in the past 15 years has one of my ignitions on it. No aircraft has ever had any type of a forced or precautionary landing made on our ignition system. It works. Period. The only issue builders have has are reversing the red and yellow wires while installing it (this instantly burns out the Crane unit at a cost of $75; bad, but not like burning out a $1,600 Rotax 912 ignition) and we have had 3 people pinch a wire carelessly putting a distributor cap back on. This said, no one has had one of these units fail while flying, and they have been airborne for thousands of hours.
Above is a wiring diagram that shows the basic layout of my ignition system. This page is taken from our 601 Installation Manual, so it includes some of the wiring associated with fuel pumps. This drawing shows the D/P wiring, but the E/P only has two minor differences. The key elements of the design are redundancy, low power consumption and low voltage tolerance.
With our system, notice that you can fail one of the coils or one set of points and still have 100% power available through the backup system. Once every few months, a builder will propose a system that has three pickups and a wasted spark system using three coils and two plug leads from each coil. I know these systems well, and they’re not safe to use in Corvair engines because with three coils and three pickups, you’re statistically more likely to have a failure and when you do, you’ll be immediately down to 66% power. However, the dyno shows that dragging two dead cylinders means you’re really down to 50% power and most Corvair powered airplanes will not climb on half power.
Our EFI page contains a photo of Mark at Falcon’s EFI engine. Note that it actually has six LS1 coils which have built in modules. This is acceptable because a single coil failure will bring you down to 83% theoretical power; about 75% power on the dyno dragging one dead cylinder. This illustrates the point of why it’s acceptable to have single plug ignition on a six cylinder engine. The performance loss of one cylinder on a six is not catastrophic like losing one cylinder on a four cylinder engine. Corvair powered airplanes have taken off and flown on five cylinders on three occasions that I know of without incident. This was due to a missing plug, blown head gasket and missing rocker stud, respectively. You would not get away with this on a four cylinder engine.
The shot of the workbench above shows 85 Distributor bodies neatly stacked. Over the years, I’ve reworked hundreds of Distributors. I’ve had the opportunity to examine many of them after they’ve put in years of flight service. We’ve continuously had running Corvair vehicles to test all types of ignitions in the ground environment. Many of the theories I was taught and believed 25 years ago proved inaccurate or inapplicable to our situation. All that counts in the aircraft arena is what you have proven. Theory is fine for ground debate, but people going flying need proven systems.
Over the years, we’ve built more than 100 high quality production engines for builders who opted to buy the finished product from us. As a policy, every one of these engines are test run and broken in on our run stand. A review of our FlyCorvair.com and FlyCorvair.net Web sites will show photos of dozens of engines we’ve built that are now flying. Our great experience with Corvairs, our use of only the highest quality parts and the test runs have given us a spotless track record with production engines. This record makes it easy to stand behind engines we’ve built. These engines are fully remanufactured, and converted for aircraft duty. People who have selected our engines, installed them on their aircraft and operated them as we recommend have had to do no work other than regular oil changes and spark plug replacement at 200 hour intervals. The TBO on the engines is 1,500 hrs.
Many people who have selected a production engine still opt to attend the Colleges to get to know the inside of their Corvair engine. I encourage this because education has always been our primary work, and an educated Corvair pilot will be a better owner and operator.
All of the engines we build are completely overhauled and modified with state of the art components made in the USA. Our engines are built on the readily available Weseman 5th bearing. There are other options like a Weseman billet crank, which adds about $1,500 to the cost of an engine. We are glad to include any proven option on your engine.
The engines can be used on airframes as different as a KR-2S to a Zenith 750, so the carb must be a good match for the airframe. For example, aircraft with low wings and fuel pumps require MA-3 or Ellison carbs, while gravity feed airframes can use a wide array of carbs, including the affordable Stromberg. The Corvair has flown on more than 15 different carbs, and we will be glad to assist you in choosing the correct one for your airframe.
Above, an engine we assembled for a builder. The engine is on our run stand outside our hangar. Every engine we assemble is test run and broken in on our run stand. The engine’s performance is carefully evaluated against dozens of others we have built. This test run allows even fine details such as the hot idle regulated oil pressure to be preset before the engine is delivered.
Above, a picture of a 3,000 cc dished “Dual Fuel” forged piston. These are made in the USA to our exact specification. These pistons are the heart of Corvair engines. They allow these engines to run equally well on 100LL or high grade automotive fuel. The design maintains a very tight quench area to the head while keeping a moderate static compression ratio. Many alternative engines have electronic elements and valve designs that are not compatible with the high levels of lead in aircraft fuel. Others have excessive compression ratios that make operation on fuel below 100 octane a serious detonation risk. No such issues exist with our Corvair conversions. When Corvairs were built, all automotive fuel was leaded; in the past 30 years they have proven to operate on unleaded fuel. Corvair engines are not bothered by ethanol in fuel. The head in the picture was remanufactured by Mark at Falcon Machine.
Above, a look inside an engine during assembly in our hangar. As a direct drive, horizontally opposed, air cooled engine fed with a single carb, the Corvair engine is a model of simplicity and reliability. It has been powering experimental aircraft since 1960, and we have been continuously working with them since 1989. Many people new to homebuilding are taught by magazines to look at things which are “new and exciting.” All of my work has been aimed at testing and developing proven methods and systems that builders can count on. “Old And Flight Proven” is the opposite end of the spectrum. It is my personal philosophy that many more homebuilders have been served by “Old And Proven.” Builders who understand this fundamental truth of aviation naturally gravitate to our work with the Corvair.
Below are three example of assembled engines:
2,700 cc Engine, Weseman 5th bearing, 100hp continuous.
Above, Zenith 650 builder Becky Shipman and myself observe a break in run of her 2,700 cc engine at Corvair College #22 in Texas. This engine was assembled in my hangar before the event. Attending the event gave Becky a good look at what was inside her powerplant, and familiarized her with the operational procedures. We encourage builders purchasing an assembled engine from us to attend our Colleges. Read the whole story on Becky’s engine at this link: Shipman Engine at CC#22
2,850 cc Engine, Weseman 5th bearing, 110hp continuous.
Above, Roger Grable and his grandson Graham stand by their new 2,850 cc engine during its break-in run at Corvair College #23 in Florida. This engine is now flying in their Zenith. I assembled the engine in our hangar before the event. Roger and his wife had attened CC#22 four months earlier, and had elected to have us build an engine for his fast moving project. We have a fairly short lead time on complete engines, and Roger drove to CC#23 and took delivery on the engine. To read the complete story on Roger’s Zenith 750 engine, follow this link: Corvair College #23 – 2850cc Engine, Roger Grable, CH-750 Builder
3,000 cc Engine, Weseman 5th bearing, 120hp continuous.
Above, a 3,000 cc engine we built for the Zenith 750 project of Lary Hatfield and sons. We met Lary at the Zenith open house at the factory, which he followed up by attending Corvair College #21. In person, Lary is an easygoing guy with a laid back approach on the surface. When you learn more about his experience, you understand that he and his sons have worked very hard and had outstanding success in very competitive levels of automotive racing. They are equally accomplished in aviation. They have worked hard enough to afford to put any piston engine they choose on the front of their Zenith, yet they selected a Corvair after careful consideration. I take it as a compliment to our work with the Corvair when men of their mechanical experience carefully evaluate and choose Corvair power. A longer story on their project can be found on http://www.FlyCorvair.net at:
A long time ago, I realized that a builder buying an engine from us was really purchasing more than a powerplant. He is making an investment in our judgement. Builders are looking for a good value in an engine, not the cheapest price. Airplanes are a lot of fun, but airworthiness is serious business. I appreciate this and cut no corners on engines that we build.
The single most important thing a builder can understand about our engine program is very simple, but often overlooked. Completed engines are a small portion of our efforts with the Corvair. Most of our work goes into teaching builders how to build their own engine and supplying the conversion and installation components. Carefully and correctly built engines actually are not a particularly lucrative part of our operation. We build them for several reasons beyond the bottom line: They are excellent demonstrators of the potential of the Corvair as we convert it; They provide a blueprint for builders assembling their own engines; and we often use them as assembly or test run demonstrators at Colleges. To serve the above purposes, they must be carefully built of the finest parts. Moral issues aside, there is absolutely no incentive in any form for me to cut any corner on any engine. A single issue in the field would undo the larger purpose of building the engines in the first place. We have been here for a long time, and every time I turn a wrench in the shop I am aware that I will be doing this in another 20 years also. There is no short cut to long term success.
Conversely, any company that makes its living just on complete engines, especially if it is an LLC, has an enormous incentive to cut corners on every part inside their engines. The only way they make money is by charging more, lowering their cost, or both. In tight economic times, price has a ceiling, so lowering the cost and cutting a few corners is the way to go. They can do the math, and every dollar they will ever make is based solely on this differential. They know that 9 out of 10 engines they sell will not go flying in the next 3 years. Organized as an LLC, they can walk away from the business without any financial obligation to their customers. If you’re new to aviation this may sound far fetched, but it is actually how the majority of alternative engine companies have been started, operated and dissolved in the past 20 years.
Our income is not based on the finite possibilities of the cost versus price equation. Our potential is directly related to the reputation that the Corvair enjoys as an affordable and reliable powerplant. The engines we assemble for builders enhance this reputation by being excellent examples of the conversion. Even the most cynical person who is yet to know my personal morality against poor products in experimental aviation can understand how we are only incentivized to build excellent engines.
If you are a builder interested in discussing an assembled Corvair for your project, let me suggest the following; take the time to read the stories in the links above. Also get a look at our main reference page, FlyCorvair.com. At the bottom of the main page is a search box that allows you to find any subject. The site has well over 1,000 pages of text. You don’t have to read it all (some of it is historical or dated), but you will find an excellent introduction to the engine. Then, write me with any questions you may have. Please include your phone number, and a good time to call you. We keep all the information confidential, but I find the phone a much faster way to cover builders’ questions. Understand that we get many emails every week asking about buying an engine. Some are scams, others are from 15-year-olds, some are from people asking if the engine will power a Lancair IVP, others asking what type of antifreeze goes in the engine. There may be one real builder in the group. In my experience, the real builder appreciates 30 minutes on the phone, and all the others want to have long protracted email exchanges. Set yourself apart, send your phone number.
Here are some notes about our oldest ignition system, the Dual Points distributor. I made the first of these models nearly 20 years ago. We went on to produce several hundred of them. In the last seven years there have been superseded by our E/P and E/P-X distributors, which themselves are evolutions on this basic design.
Dual Points distributors served the Corvair flight community very well. Many thousands of hours have been flown on these ignitions, and there has never been a single forced landing nor accident attributable to the design. (we have had people fail one side because of pinching a wire putting the cap on, but they flew on the other side) The design uses two sets of points from a Corvair mounted 180 degrees apart. either one can run the whole engine smoothly.
We mount the condensers remotely on the coils. When I introduced this, there was a giant debate on the internet claiming the condensers being on the end of 20 inches of wire would case some sort of ‘delay’ in the ignition, even though I pointed out that electrons travel down wires pretty much at the speed of light, and 20 inches vs 186,000 miles per second is a very short interval, the debate lasted years. Meanwhile, many happy people went out and flew countless enjoyable hours without noticing.
In the 1960s, companies like Mallory made dual point distributors for racing Corvairs, but these had three lobes not six, the goal being much shallower ramps on the point cam that would allow 7,500 rpm operation. such a distributor can not provide redundant ignition.
Today, we sell only a handful of D/P distributors a year. They are a special order item, but the remain popular with some very old school builders and some builders Down Under. They work well, but I highly encourage all builders to use E/P series distributors instead, they run smoother and have comparatively little maintenance. (D/P points need cleaning or replacing every now and then, but on the E/P the points are a back up and pass no current normally and may go 1,000 hrs. of operation without adjustment.) All the engines we build and sell are equipped with E/P series ignitions. Read all the articles and decide which system you like, they are all well flight proven.-ww.
In the above 2006 photo, a Dual Points distributor P/N 3301(D/P). The screwdriver points to one of the two 8/32″ screws that hold down the Points Plate. Two things I tell builders relentlessly, but are sometimes not heeded: 1) Never adjust the points to make the gap .019″, the gap on all distributors come from us pre set to a specific dwell, not a gap, and if you let anyone talk you into jamming an old feeler gage in the points, you will upset the pre adjusted timing. I have had 40 or 50 people do this and then rationalize it by saying “the gap looked small.” If people want to do this, I will fix it, but it does tell me who reads directions and who wants to argue rather than learn and understand. 2) Never take the two plate screws loose for a look inside, it will have the same effect as doing #1. Builders can replace points on these in the field, but it is done by matching the existing preset gap on the original points, not by using some book value.
The above photo shows a Dual Point Distributor in the machine. If you look closely at the 11:00 o’clock position you can see the illuminated arrow pointing at the degree wheel. the distributor machine was made in 1950. The items piggybacked on the top row allow the simultaneous operation of the electronic side of the Distributor while superimposing the EI picture on the scope. Every single distributor we ever send out the door is test run in this machine.
When running a Distributor on the machine, I can vary the rpm it’s turning and observe its advance directly. When your Corvair engine is idling, the advance weights in the Distributor are held shut by springs. The advance at this point is referred to as the static timing. I set the Distributors so they have little advance below 900 rpm. As the engine comes off idle, the mechanical advance inside the Distributor’s body makes the spark occur earlier. This is the mechanical advance at work. All the mechanical advance needs to be in by 2,400 rpm or so. This way, you can tie the tail of your airplane down, run it to full power and check what the total advance is at the propeller’s full static rpm. Total advance for engines running on 93 octane fuel should not exceed 30 degrees. For engines on 100 low lead, 32 is the limit. Beyond these numbers, the engine could be aggravated to detonate.
Each of our Distributors is marked on the underside with its mechanical advance and the beginning and ending rpm of its curve. Thus, if you have an engine you’re going to run on 93 octane fuel, and your Distributor says “18-1,000-2,400,” use a timing light to set the static timing to 14 degrees below 1,000 rpm. With the plane tied down, raise the rpm above 2,400 and verify that the total advance does not exceed 30 degrees. A dire warning: Never touch the ignition wires while the plane is running and turning a propeller. There is a remote possibility you’d get a high voltage shock and inadvertently flinch into the propeller. It’s a very remote possibility, but a builder in Australia did it and was lucky to keep his fingers.
For a better understanding of ignition timing please click on this link:
The above photo shows four point cams. Occasionally people ask if they can recurve distributors at home. It would be a very difficult process, and while you might achieve some results, a lot of the fine tuning we do to distributors is very difficult to see. Off the end of the screwdriver is the part of the point cam that the counterweight touches. Notice the four different profiles shown here. There are six different common Corvair profiles. The upper two are ground to match templates we’ve developed to produce ignition curves that suit aircraft use. The upper two point cams appear shinier because they’re nickel plated. We later switched to chromed ones we use now on all models.
Above is a wiring diagram that shows the basic layout of my ignition system. This page is taken from our 601 Installation Manual, so it includes some of the wiring associated with fuel pumps. The key elements of the design are redundancy, low power consumption and low voltage tolerance. It’s also immune to voltage spikes and high temperatures.
With our system, notice that you can fail one of the coils or one set of points and still have 100% power available through the backup system. Once every few months, a builder will propose a system that has three pickups and a wasted spark system using three coils and two plug leads from each coil. I know these systems well, and they’re not safe to use in Corvair engines because with three coils and three pickups, you’re statistically more likely to have a failure and when you do, you’ll be immediately down to 66% power. However, the dyno shows that dragging two dead cylinders means you’re really down to 50% power and some Corvair powered airplanes will not climb on half power.
The above 2001 photo shows the firewall mounted electrical box from our test mule at the time, The Skycoupe. We put this together so all the electrical components and flow cool air over them. The Wagabond has something similar. This function is done on aircraft like Zeniths by having the coils and the MSD 8210 behind the firewall. The only difference in today’s method is the use of Bosch Blue Coils, readily avaiable from Great Plains Aircraft. The Accel coils shown above must have external ballast resistors, which are internal on the Bosch Blue Coils. The top shelf houses the MSD 8210 coil switch. There’s some discussion about the use of the Mallory equivalent of this part. The system will work with either; it does not care. If you look at the wiring diagram above, you and identify most of the parts in the system.
A good memory: Standing with my father at Sun n Fun 2006, in front of a piece of hardware from his era of Naval Aviation, an F8F Bearcat. Although Dad’s hat says CVN-65, he joined the USN in an earlier era, 3 July 1943.
Click on any color link below to read the story:
Grace and I have been collecting stories and grouping them together on the “reference pages.” We are doing this to have the stories that were written individually now grouped together by subject. The location of these reference pages is right on the front of the main page of our traditional website : http://flycorvair.com/
If you have not looked at in in a while, about 70% of the subject entries have had their content changed in the last 30 days. Almost all of the headings on the main page are now reference pages. For example, both the Engine Operations reference page and Corvair College reference page that we just put up here yesterday, will also be conveniently accessible on the main page of our other site.
I would like to draw attention to the Risk Management reference page, I wrote it a week ago, but last night I took some time to update it with some short biographies and pictures of friends. While you are there notice that last nights story Concerned about your potential? was specifically written as an introduction to the risk management page and it has already been installed there.
This last point shows that I can update the reference pages easily, the way I put the story DonPietenpol Passes, 1/8/14 into our existing Corvair – Pietenpol Reference page. I am going to keep updating rhe new stories into the reference pages like this to keep them up to date. Our traditional site will be a lot less dated this way.
A very important act that our friends can do for us is to post the appropriate link on discussion groups when the topic comes up. If you belong to any of the airframe discussion groups, you are aware of how often a new guy will ask a legitimate question on where to get started or ask for more reading on his choice of airframe. I ask that friends post a short direct link to the appropriate reference page. Mind you, the discussion does not have to be focused on Corvairs. There are many stories and useful information for Pietenpol builders using various engines on our page, and last week about 60 of the page reads on the risk management page came from a like that a friend shared on a forum devoted to gyroplanes.
Besides the fact that I think there are direct safety benefits to builders reading the comments, I think it does demonstrate to other members of the experimental aircraft building world that the Corvair movement is made up of traditional home builders who are thinking people. There are benefits to the efforts of all Corvair builders being better appreciated. It attracts a better cross section of builders for next year, and it also tends to discourage the imbeciles who worship stupidity from spending time in our camp, doing some damage and departing. If I gently roll up the welcome mat on the latter group by mocking people who trust ‘luck’ over preparation, and using two syllable words, all of our lives will be a little more sane in the next years to come. -ww
Here is something I would like to specifically address to builders new in flying, people without a license, ones who have not soloed, or may not even have more than an hour or two flying around in light aircraft.
What I want to directly say to these people is simple: It does not take any special talent, ability or IQ to safely fly a light aircraft, and do it well enough to enjoy yourself. Flying is enough of a challenge to require you to apply yourself, but it is certainly not reserved for ‘special’ people.
I am a safe pilot, and I know my limits and operate inside them, but I can easily and vividly remember when I didn’t know how to fly at all. Because many of my Fathers friends were military pilots that I was impressed with, I started off with the childhood perspective that all pilots were supermen. I never stopped to consider that it might take less skill and courage to be a good stick and rudder pilot than it took to attack the Thanh Hóa Bridge. Even though I knew better, some small element of self doubt lingered in the back of my brain well into my adult years.
I know how I got started thinking that way, but the things that reinforced it later were subtle; Think of how few times in your life a pilot has come up to you and said something like; “I am no where near as skilled as you are thinking” or “Airplanes have stability, and they do a lot of the flying by themselves.” Pilots just don’t share that stuff with new comers, but it is true. It takes a lot of precision practice to be a really good aerobatic pilot or to be a really good instrument pilot. But, these are skills you can focus on much later, or never at all. I possess neither skill, yet I do have the skill set to be a very competent day-VFR pilot.
I can’t dance, I probably have a two digit IQ, I have 20/30 vision and I am not particularly physically agile. If I was a new pilot going to the front in WWI, I would be in trouble, but none of those extremes matter in regular recreation flying. The only four things that any person needs here are simple: 1) You need to be willing to learn, 2)You need to have good instruction, 3)You need to be alert and focused around planes, and after you are started, 4) You need to stay away from people who missed any of 1) through 3). That is all that is required to be a good pilot and have one of the most enriching experiences of being alive, all at very low risk.
Above, My friend Gus Warren shot this photo at his home airport in Michigan yesterday. It is a twin engine Beechcraft with the nose gear collapsed and perhaps $50K in damage. No one was hurt. A non-soloed pilot with some self doubt might look at this from afar and have an inner voice that says “That guy had a multi engine rating, probably was IFR rated and maybe had been flying for years, and he still has an accident…planes are dangerous and if that guy had trouble I must be at very high risk.” I understand that, I used to think that way.
Here is reality: Gus got out his camera because when the plane was on final he could see that the pilot had left the gasoline powered tow tug attached to the nose gear of the plane before he took off. Yes, you read that correctly, this person taxied all the way to the runway, did his run up, and took off, never noticing that he had a, large, 80 pound object still clamped on to the nose gear of his plane. Would you bet that this guy pre-flighted the plane while talking on a cell phone? If we asked his neighbors at the airport, would they tell you he was always in a rush? My point is things like above do not happen out of the blue nor by random chance. They happen when people get stupidly complacent and bring bad habits like having the attention span on a gnat to the airport.
These are entirely avoidable, and if you are concerned about your own security and potential, I say Good, this means that you are alert and thinking. If you focus on the four factors above, you will do fine. There is no photo like the one above in your future.
I share a number of tragic stories under the topic of “Risk Management.” What makes them tragedies is they were preventable. I want people to learn from them, not be scared off from flying. In reality, if you are new and worried a bit, this is good. The people I am concerned about is any knew guy who isn’t concerned. It is far easier to teach you, the alert student, what you need to know, than it is to raise some sense of awareness in the complacent or distracted.
The stories I share reflect that I have lost a number of friends and acquaintances in planes. I have been in Aviation for 25 years, I do it for a living, and I travel and communicate a lot. I have met many people in flight. Do not be put off because I speak of people I knew. I also know legions of pilots who have a fantastic time flying at very low risk. Many of the people in my stories did also, but on their day in question, they chose to do something that they knew was probably not smart. I want to share that with you so you always listen to the voice inside that says “This is dumb,” especially when others around you are saying “Come on, it will be alright.”
Read the stories and learn. If you have questions, write me an email, or come see me at an airshow and we will have a cup of coffee and talk. Above all, know that it is good to be concerned, and that you have plenty of months to learn the things you need to know from good people, pilots with life-long habits of good risk management. You are not in a race, do not feel hurried in your learning. There is a lot to know, but you are going to take it one bite at a time, with a good instructor who will not advance you until you master the step. When you master enough basics, he will solo you. It is a building process, you don’t need to know everything at once. If you operate inside the envelope of skills you have and exercise awareness and some judgment, you are at low risk. You will expand your personal envelope over time, but you will do this with good instruction, not by taking risks or being pressured by others to fly outside your skills.
There are a lifetime of adventures out there waiting for you. Do not discount your potential. If you have little experience, good, you are a clean slate and a thoroughbred. Just stick to the four principles and keep learning from others examples, both good and bad. -ww
Here are links to a great number of stories on operations. Many companies have no such data on their website. Their goal may be just to simply sell engines, and that is easiest if the potential buyer is never brought into a mechanical discussion. On the other hand, we have data because we are in the business of teaching builders to be the master of their engine, and this involves some reading.
If your goals are those of the traditional home builder, to learn, build and fly, to be the master of your plane not just the guy that owns it, then read on. All of the stories below are written by myself, and reflect my 25 years of working with Corvairs. Contrast this experience with the fact that more than 50% of the engine sales people at Oshkosh have never put a wrench on the inside of an engine, not even the one they are selling.
In the 100-120HP range, just 3 engines have a 50+ year track record of flying: Lycoming O-235, Continental O-200 and the Corvair. I have worked with the Corvair since 1989, and slowly evolved it to the engine we have today. Along the way, we learned a lot, both about the engine and the needs of builders. The stories below are a reflection of this knowledge that we stand ready to share with any builder who has set his goal on learning and mastery.
Above, a winter 2005 photo of our 601XL, N-1777W with hangar cat “Whobiscat” warming herself on the Cowl. We have been working with Corvairs a long time. Gus Warren in the cockpit at the end of a long day of flying.