Corvair College #28, San Marcos, Texas

Builders,

Here is a review in photos of Corvair college #28 in Texas, with local Hosts Kevin Purtee and Shelley Tumino. The pictures are mostly people, because a lot of the focus of colleges are people. As you look, picture yourself, among new friends, making progress, learning. We are a few weeks away from College #29. Don’t miss the sign up, College #30 is six long months after #29. Don’t give up most of another flying season to delay. Success in aviation comes from having a plan, the support of a small group of experienced builders, and learning. You can find all three at a College.

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Byron Engle, old school EAA builder, working on a 2700 for his Turner t-40. He has been in the EAA since the 1960’s. Byron was also at CC#22 in Texas 2 years ago.

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Kevin wears the “Hat of Power” while builders gets started on core engines.

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Team work of new friends took cores apart very rapidly.

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A mentor in the making: Award winning Corvair Pietenpol builder pilot Hans Vandervoort, speaking with father / son Kelly and Joseph Jameson, who have a Piet in process. Dad is very clear that his 16-year-old son is heading up the project, he is just supporting it. Joseph has a set of skills and maturity that are truly uncommon in teenagers. Engine is a 2,700 Roy bearing power plant.

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Demonstrating an upgrade to exhaust valve rotators on Ken Bickers Piet engine. Ken has been working on his plane for 19 years but is closing in on finishing. Persistence pays, Kevin Purtee worked on his Piet for 16 years before it flew.

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Hands on practical demonstrations, done on builders engines, are what colleges are all about. In orange is Tim Hansen, who as a college student to a Greyhound bus 27 hours each way to Corvair College#9. Today he is a pilot and building a first class Corvair for his project. Success in airplanes is made out of determination to win, not money.

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1/2 of “Team Stinemetze,” brothers Tom and Karl, with an engine destined for their Pietenpol.

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Core from a manual trans mission Corvair. Pose with attitude comes from builder satisfaction at knowing Corvairs and Colleges are a good choice.

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Piet Builders Dean and Robynn Trzynka, working on their core. They drove 20 hours from Wisconsin to get to the college. They now have several personal friends in the Piet and Corvair community. This is how you build a group of supporting friends for your project.

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CC#28 is ScoobE’s latest college.  His first was CC#16 in SC. In between he missed only #18 and #20.  He wanted to go so bad that he sat in the Suburban by himself for many hours before our departure from Florida. Show him a suitcase, and he is headed for the truck.

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Mark from Falcon shipped in heads direct for Gary Bassham’s 3,000 cc Zenith engine. They came in this box. “Ice station Zebra” is how Mark answers the phone in his shop in winter. It is a metal building in Fitchburg Wisconsin. I called Mark last month and found out there was a 85 degree temperature differential between our shop in FL and his.

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Introduction speech on Friday. Our drive to Texas was slow going, taking 28 hours on the road with breaks. We arrived a little tired, but enthusiasm kicks in right away and we worked until 11pm on Friday. Saturday was the big productive day running from 8am until 11 pm. Sunday started with 75 degree sunny weather, which deteriorated to 50mph winds, torrential rain, and then snow by noon. Puddles in the parking lot turned to ice. People from outside Texas got very concerned, Texans just slowed down long enough to put on sweatshirts. I spent the morning trying to work through a bad migraine that was harsh enough to have me intermittently out of action. My sincere  thanks to the builders who recognized this and kicked into high gear support mode to assist Grace in getting things done.

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Left, Hans Vandervort, middle Kevin Purtee and myself, all three Corvair /Piet guys with a total of about 1,000 hours on the combination between our planes. Photo was Friday afternoon. Although we have worked with him for many years, this was the first time Grace and I had a chance to meet Hans, a native of The Netherlands (Holland), in person. He has been flying his Piet a number of years, and is now building a Bearhawk.

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Zenith 601XL-TD Builder Andy Elliott flew in from Mesa AZ in his 3,000 cc Corvair powered bird. It has about 600 hours on it. The trip was about 750 miles. Read his story at this link: Zenith 601XL-3100cc Dr. Andy Elliott. Engine is now a 3,000 with a Dan Bearing.

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John Franklin brought his Corvair powered Grega GN-1 to the college on a trailer for inspection and test run. The engine ran at CC#22. Stainless exhaust is one of our U-2 systems. Read the engine story at this link: Franklin Engine Runs at CC ##22 KGTU Spring Break 2012

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Zenith 650 builder Larry Magruder and I putting a dent in the coffee pot. Larry’s engine ran at CC#25, but he brought it to #28 so I could install exhaust valve rotators. We did this with air pressure in the cylinder, so the heads did not have to come off. Neat trick with basic tools. Read about Larry’s engine running at: Corvair College #25, In Photos.

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Saturday’s group photo, 55 Builders were on hand. The was the first college for 70% of the builders.

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We got the Pietenpol builders to pose as a sub group. The Chouinards are Tallest and shortest builders in the photo. Nice to have two marred couples and two father/son teams in the picture.

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The “other”Builders, representing Dragonflys, KRs , Neuports, Turner, Little wing Gyro and more. Corvair works on many airframes. Yes, you can be in two sub photos, if you have both a Piet and a KR project.

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The Zenith Builder sub group. About an equal split between 601/650 builders and 750 builders. Many of these guys are planning on attending CC#30, which will be held in September in Mexico MO, at the Zenith factory, just before their open house.

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Kevin and Shelley arranged to have generous amounts of  hot chow available for builders at most time during the long days. Builders, took breaks and gathered in small groups to fuel up and compare notes. The only “formal” dinner was Saturday night. Friday we all ate the College traditional pizza dinner. Having the food on hand is a key element of productivity, that no one need to leave the hangar, even in a very long day.

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Andy Elliott took a number of builders for their first flight in a Corvair powered plane, as weather permitted. This is fun, but it is also valid training. Understanding what a properly running engine sounds and feels like in the cockpit is important. Years ago I had a builder who had never seen another Corvair turn a prop call me before his first flight and say “My engines running good, It is almost as smooth as my C-150’s O-200.” I told him to stop immediately. Another inspection revealed he had reversed two plug wires. Anyone who has seen a correctly set Corvair run understands the engine is far smoother than any four-cylinder Continental.

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Gary Bassham leads a team of builders that includes his brother, assembling his 3,000 cc engine. It is destined for his Zenith 601XL.

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Kevin had pre-constructed several dozen 2′ x 4′ work tables. It proved to be very efficient, each engine having its own table. In a pre-college message Kevin called the 2″x4″ tables which lead to some jokes about the 18″ tall Stonehenge in the spoof film Spinal Tap.

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Byron Engle has the moment of victory on installing his Gen #1 Dan bearing, where his total run out was down to .0004″.

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Above, I check the timing marks on Gary Bassham’s 3,000 equipped with a Gen #2 Dan bearing.

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Piet builder Ken Bickers cam in from Colorado with his 2700 cc Roy bearing engine. We popped the heads back off to install rotators and change the sub standard exhaust valves that were installed by a local machine shop. It was a quick lesson to everyone present that it is never worth putting off things your motor will benefit from. The entire job took a few hours of casual work. Ken’s airframe is done and painted.

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Zenith 650 builder Larry Magruder changing to rotators on his exhaust valves. This was done with the heads on the engine. Larrys heads were done a number of years ago. Today all heads done by Falcon have rotators installed.

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Builders enjoy smiles and stories on Saturday. Tee shirts are a good indication of the weather we enjoyed other than Sunday afternoon.

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I stand on a stool to assist Piet builder Mark Chouinard to install his balancer. This was the in-person training to go with the written story: Balancer Installation. The engine is a 2,700 Roy bearing power plant, with Falcon heads.

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Zenith 650 builder Brian Manlove works on his 2700 cc Roy bearing engine while Kevin Purtee watches. By the end of the event, Brian had the engine completely assembled.

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Grace and Old friend/KR expert/Mr. NVaero.com Steve Glover. He is kind of a prankster; Two weeks before the college I walked into my shop with a neighbor, and caught the end of a phone message where an ominous voice repeated “You can expect trouble in Texas.” My neighbor was worried until I explained that this was just my friend Steve saying he was planning on attending the College. Steve’s sense of humor and definition of entertainment was developed during long service in the Marines.

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Many builders talk about all the things they get out of Colleges, but lets reverse this for a minute. The above photo is a snapshot of what Grace and I get from colleges: a level of friendship and mutual respect we have with our builders. I have been working in experimental aviation a long time, I know many other people who also do, and I will flat-out tell you that other businessmen do not enjoy the friendship of builders at the same level. Being constantly exposed to builders, not at airshows but in the workshop setting, gives us a priceless reality check on the success of our program in the way that mere sales figures never could. I can say that we really understand builders in a way that most other aviation business never will. The Colleges have refined our work in so many ways it is hard to consider what out efforts would look like in their absence.

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Thanks again to Kevin and Shelley for hosting their second college. They are truly the kind of people I hoped to meet and have as friend when I was daydreaming in 1989. Only a handful of the things I expected when I started working on Corvairs have come to pass, but I always envisioned the work being done in the company of great people like Kevin and Shelley, and in the final measure, if I could have only have one element of my vision come true, I would pick that one.-ww

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Robert Hedrix, Aviator, Nha Trang, 1975

Builders,

Below is one of the most famous photos from the Vietnam war, taken in 1975. This week, almost 39 years later, it is being widely circulated on the internet in a collection of “20 iconic photos.” The fact it is being circulated with a complete bullshit caption on the internet comes as little surprise to me. What does bother me is having people I know in aviation send this as a forward, lending credibility to the completely fabricated story that this is an “American Agent in a Helicopter in Saigon” If someone sent this to you, they don’t know aircraft, history, pilots, nor how to research anything.

Above is the image, published in 1975. The man was not identified until 10 years later. I remember reading the interview with him in 1985. I have reprinted it below. It took me ten minutes of looking on the internet to find it.

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While I was looking I came across a site where retired journalists claimed this was a C-47 they personally saw. Really? Does that look like a tail dragger being loaded? I also read several people who claimed it was the head of World Airways, Ed Dailey, who they claimed to know personally (it isn’t Dailey). There were also several claims it was a Bell UH1, in spite of the fact no Huey has a door like that. All of these claims are outright lies, perpetuated this week by a new generation of people allegedly ‘informed’ by the internet. I have little expectation that most people think critically, but I would like to think that aviators do. Maybe not this week.

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Below is the exact same moment photographed from a different angle. It took me 60 seconds to find this image, although I have never seen it before, and I am pretty sure it was never published in conjunction with the one above. All that was required to find it was to search “DC-6 Vietnam Nha Trang images” on Google. Maybe I should have been a research journalist….oh wait, that wouldn’t have worked, I’m too concerned about what the truth is to earn a living like that.

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Does this look like a DC-3 or a Huey to anyone? A big part of what I am moved by in aviation is history. In 1985 I was 22 years old, yet I only needed to read this story once to remember it, because the man in the photo is part of the pantheon of humans who have done something extraordinary in aviation.

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I don’t give a damn for the crap in Flying magazine , the National Business aviation show, nor any to the turboprops advertised in our home building magazine, because those planes and the people who use them have nothing to contribute to the human endeavor of flight They are transportation and toys for the wealthy, people who would only have you at their country club as a servant, yet for some reason we tolerate having them at our homebuilding convention, Oshkosh. There are countless people who wander through or play in aviation with zero respect for the history of human courage in flight. It is their loss, and they have shallow perspectives to go with their shallow lives.

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If you are reading this, and you are producing a plane with your own hands, then you are in the arena of flight. You will know it’s great challenges and rewards. You will struggle to make it right, to learn, to keep going when most others quit; You will feel fear, and overcome it before your first take off. The hours you spend aloft in your own creation will mark special days in your life long remembered when most are forgotten. Homebuilt planes can be very modest, but they are direct access to the human endeavor of flight, and through it you can understand some kinship with a man who’s “crowded hour” in the arena of flight came in April of 1975.

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Obituary of Robert Hedrix; pilot linked to last days of Vietnam War

By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times  |  November 9, 2006

LOS ANGELES — One of the most arresting images from  the last days of the Vietnam  War shows an unruly crowd rushing the door of a plane in Nha Trang, a rural seaside city north of Saigon. The  focal point of the photograph is a balding, middle-aged American who is  landing a jab to the head of a Vietnamese man desperate to board. The American is all grim determination; his jaw is clenched as he lunges  right, extending his arm like a ramrod in the face of the intruder.  Resolute in the crush of bodies, he is a bulwark in the bedlam of a  turbulent era’s violent finale. The caption accompanying the   United Press International photo identified him only as an American  official, but he was actually a charter pilot hired by the US State  Department to relocate Americans from the countryside to Saigon. In 1985, after People magazine ran the photo with a story about the 10th  anniversary of Saigon’s fall, some of his war-era buddies identified  him: He was Robert D. Hedrix, a North Dakota native and veteran of World War II and Korea who spent most of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s in and  around Southeast Asia as a pilot for the Air Force, the CIA, and various commercial outfits. “He was a real warrior. He felt it was his  calling to fight on behalf of America,” his son-in-law, Phil Hernandez,  said  last week. Mr. Hedrix, who returned to the United States in  1977 and flew planes for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest  Service, died of a heart attack last month at 81, according to his  family. He had been dead for a few days when his landlord found his body Oct. 25 in his Lafayette, Colo., home. Mr. Hedrix rarely talked  about his Vietnam experiences, even though the photograph in which he  played a starring role was widely reprinted over the years. It was taken on April 1, 1975, when South Vietnam’s capitulation was only a  matter of time. The North Vietnamese army was sweeping south to Saigon,  and Nha Trang was among the cities falling. Mr. Hedrix had been  hired to transport Americans, but if room allowed he also evacuated  Vietnamese  people  — the sick, the elderly, and children. In Nha Trang that day, one mother handed him her twins, only a few weeks old, and  begged him to take them. “The sacrifice was heartbreaking,” he told  People magazine in 1985. With defeat imminent, soldiers were  deserting the South Vietnamese army in droves, disguising themselves in  civilian clothes and joining the panicked exodus. Mr. Hedrix was alert  to their presence. Referring to the famous photograph, he told People:  “I’m pretty sure the guy I’m throwing off is a deserter because I could  see a pistol stuffed under his belt.” Mr. Hedrix’s plane, a DC-6,  took off amid gunfire with 264 passengers, almost 150  more than the  official capacity. He would log more than 100 flights that month before  he left Vietnam for good on April 30, the day Saigon collapsed. Years later, he told an interviewer that the photograph brought one word to his mind: security. “These people didn’t have it; people walking down the streets of America do,” he said. As for the man he slugged outside that plane, he said: “I feel sorry for those guys now.” Mr. Hedrix was buried Friday at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in  Minneapolis. He  leaves a daughter, Mary Hernandez; two sons, Mike and  John; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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Text of People magazine article in 1985:

“Robert D. Hedrix, now in his 60s, was working as a charter pilot based in Singapore when South Vietnam’s defeat became imminent in the spring of 1975. Hired by the State Department to transport Americans from the countryside into Saigon, he logged more than 100 flights in the month before the final collapse. “I was there for the money,” Hedrix says. “But I also had a commitment to help the Vietnamese people and our guys fighting there.” During a hectic mission in Nha Trang in early April, he was photographed sorting out a volatile mob (above, left) and socking a South Vietnamese Army deserter (right) who tried to force his way onto the pilot’s overcrowded DC-6. PEOPLE ran the first photo five weeks ago as part of our Vietnam “Where Are They Now?” series, and several of Hedrix’s war-era friends telephoned to identify him.

A native of North Dakota, Hedrix joined the Navy during World War II and later saw action in Korea. Working variously for the Air Force, the CIA—which he will not discuss—and as a charter pilot, he spent most of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s in and about Southeast Asia. He now lives near Denver and flies for the U.S. Forest Service. He douses fires from the air, and also checks for acid-rain damage as well as occasionally scouting for marijuana crops. Hedrix talked about his Vietnam experience with correspondent Mary Chandler.

It was the first week of April and we were up north around Nha Trang boarding passengers for the customer [the State Department]. We were there to pick up the Americans, mostly journalists—we called Americans “round-eyes”—as well as some of the Vietnamese sick, children and old people. Our State Department was very generous about space available. I made four or five flights to Saigon daily. During the evacuation we had to be very careful because some of the people getting on board were Vietnamese military guys who had dressed up in sports clothes and were deserting. In the second picture, I’m pretty sure the guy I’m throwing off is a deserter because I could see a pistol stuffed under his belt. I feel sorry for those guys now.

I was asking for children at the door. The bare-bottomed child in the first picture made it aboard. Later a mother handed up her twins, maybe 3 weeks old. These people wanted to get their children out and hoped to catch up with them later. The sacrifice was heartbreaking. Someone told me later that we took off with 264 souls, which could be a record for a DC-6. Normally it was set up for about 118 adults.

Just before we taxied I heard a gunshot, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. I was told later that a Vietnamese airport guard had shot a guy who tried to open the door after we had shut it. I understand the guy died.

My first association with Vietnam was in 1955, and I left there April 30, 1975.1 was flying over the China Sea in the late ’50s when I heard John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State, talking about the demilitarized zone. I had a tear in one eye and laughter in the other because it was nonsensical. He was talking about how, if the North Vietnamese crossed the DMZ, we would retaliate. And they were already across! It was public knowledge throughout Southeast Asia that they’d infiltrated, that they had an active insurrection going in South Vietnam. And yet our Secretary of State was talking to the American public about how great we were doing down there.

To start with, I was against our involvement. Every one who knew the area—the French, early American advisers—warned us to stay out. But once we pledged our aid, I wholeheartedly supported our effort. I still think it was a terrible mistake to get involved without the full intent of winning.

We didn’t lose the war over there militarily; we lost it politically. There were so many over there doing difficult, even valiant work, and there were a few people over here just destroying it. The stateside protesters were ill-informed. I was involved in events over there that I could barely recognize when I read about them in U.S. newspapers. I’ve become very jaundiced about how news is reported.

Once we became involved I felt we had as much moral right to be in Asia as we had to be in Europe in World War II. These people are entitled to as much liberty and pursuit of happiness as the Europeans.

As a civilian pilot, I flew a lot of supply-type missions for the Air Force and Army. We went over there for pay. But while we were there, we did things you can’t pay for—rescuing wounded, coming under fire. I was shot down over Laos. If someone said I was a hero, I’d have to say I was a low-grade hero. There are lots of guys with marks on their bodies to prove they’re heroes. But I was fortunate. All the mercenaries over there: They came for money, but they worked for valor. Oh, we had a lot of excitement. Sometimes, say during mortar attacks, your tongue would stick in your mouth, your mouth would hang open. There was nothing to do but wait till the shells went by because you didn’t know if the plane was going to get hit. Sometimes it was so close that you kind of looked around to see if you were hit.

The one word I’d use to sum up the photos taken at Nha Trang is “security.” These people didn’t have it; people walking down the streets of America do. That’s why we need a strong defense. The chaos in this picture could happen in the United States. The only thing that stands between us and the confusion and the lawlessness and the murder in that picture is the Defense Department. Whether it’s managed right or wrong, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying what the difference is.”

Corvair College #29, Three weeks out.

Builders;

We are closing in on last call for CC#29 in Leesburg Florida, Hosted by our friend Arnold Holmes, the weekend before sun n fun. Please understand, registration is required this year. Last year we had an open event as an introduction top the new date and venue. This year we are working the College just like any other, with required registration in advance. Do not miss a chance to sign up for this event.

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Click on this:

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

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If I was going to be lenient on sign up, CC#28 we just held in Texas changed my mind. We had 55 builders on hand for it who gladly signed up by the deadline. These people understood that planning a College is a lot of work, and builders make this easier by signing up and letting the host plan. At CC #28 Kevin and Shelley bent the rules a bit out of the desire to accommodate 10 builders who assured them they would show up and pay on arrival. They planned the catering around these people. When the event came 9 out of 10 of these people did not show (vs 1 out of 56 for the people registered) Clearly, people who are unwilling to register and not serious about working with the host to get the most out of the event.- (Note, if you are in the group of nine, I highly suggest a heart felt apology to Kevin and Shelley. Kevin is a 25 year Attack Helicopter pilot, but I would still rather have him mad at me than Shelley.)

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Blast from the past, Our old Edgewater hangar in 2006: “Above, Mark from Falcon works on the lathe while Arnold “The Repair” Holmes talks with Piper Aircraft engineer and Corvair  builder Spencer Gould. Corvair builders who’ve been around a long time know that Arnold did a lot of flying  with us in the early years, and today does all of our dynamic propeller and vibration analysis. He’s recently  returned from working on aircraft in the Ecuadorian jungle. Spencer is a comparatively new face whom many of  you will get to know in the coming year. He’s a Riddle graduate and his day job is in structures and  powerplants. In our last update, I mentioned prepping our neighbor Jason Newberg’s Pitts for its debut at  the Reno Air Races. On short notice, Spencer built a wicked set of wingtips for it. The plane, named  The Jamaica Mistaka, was a smash success and won the first place trophy in the Silver Biplane race.  It turned its 72″ metal prop 3,300 rpm near 200 mph. So much for old wives’ tales about mach numbers and  props and efficiency.”

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Please read the links below to find out more about CC#29:

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Corvair College reference page

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Corvair College #29……..6 weeks out.

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

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

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

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Corvair College #25, In Photos

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

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Corvair College #25 registration link now open

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

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

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

Aircraft Wiring 102

Builders,

After todays Aircraft Wiring 101 story, a letter came in from California 750 builder David Josephson. I share it for several reasons;

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First, it is a view of what a builder can do if he wants to look at operating one level above the basic information I was sharing.  In all my conversations with David, what comes through is his unusual balance of technical-practical-detail application along with a very strong scientific understanding of the fundamentals of the question at hand.  When reading his take on a subject, it is a reminder that accessing this balance on any subject is what makes it interesting. While Tefzel and basic quality crimps and tools are what I use on planes, David’s notes are another step toward quality and away from the sub-airworthy.

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Second, The letter is a reminder to people who work outside Aviation or the tech world, that industry specs and standards mean something in our field. Many workplaces and topics have very subjective standards of performance or none at all; note that experts in aviation long ago put out the most detailed standards for things as small at how wire is plated. Working in aviation, I don’t know 2% of these standards, but critically, I know for almost every question, there is a correct tested answer, you just have to look for it.  Understand when a guy says “It will be alright” what his is actually doing is deciding to stop looking for the known way and proven path, and accept the item in question as it is. Conversely, a guy who works in aviation knows that when in doubt, keep looking until you find the proven standard. When you think like that, you have become an aviation professional, even if your paycheck has a different address.

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Third, The strength of the Corvair movement is the quality of the people we bring in as builders. Yes, I know the subject of Corvairs very well, but we have countless other people who know far more about engineering , electronics, flight, you name it. I like it this way, because it puts me in contact with people a lot smarter than me, and this expands my world and learning.  At Oshkosh a number of years ago, I was confronted by a man who leveled what he felt to be a damning charge against me; He wanted to publicly prove that I had changed my position on several technical points over the years. He was perplexed and disappointed by my response, where I told everyone present “Yes, I intentionally surrounded myself with smart people and then had the common sense to listen to them.”

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Oshkosh 2013: East meets West in the tent. Two of the sharpest minds in the Corvair movement belong to Ken Pavlou of Connecticut, at left above, and David Josephson of California on the right. Both are Zenith builders. Ken has been involved in numerous projects in support of the Corvair movement. David is a nationally known expert on acoustics, and is interested in extreme noise reduction in aircraft. Both of these men find the Corvair movement the right focal point for their efforts in aviation.

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"William,

I have a few comments on your article, and a resource to offer. Your
recipe is good, but if people want to drill a little deeper they can
understand a bit more if they want. A well designed simple airplane will
only have a few dollars of wire in it, there is no point in scrimping —
but it may be possible to buy NOS military wire and terminals and get
good quality for less.

1. The softness of the terminal insulation is only part of the picture.
Good crimp terminals are made with nylon insulating sleeves, which is
soft and transparent. More important, there is a bronze sleeve inside
that crimps around the wire insulation under the nylon to actually
provide strain relief. The terminals with vinyl sleeves lack this part
and no strain relief is actually provided, only insulation, because
there is no mechanical connection to the insulation of the wire. Good
crimp terminals are made by Thomas and Betts, AMP and Panduit (although
those companies also make cheap vinyl insulated terminals that have no
strain relief,) and are compliant with the former MS-25036 series, now
SAE AS 25036.

2. The crimp tool must be the one specified by the manufacturer of the
terminal or compliant with the relevant mil spec, such as the AMP tool
in your picture.

3. An even more secure approach is to use uninsulated crimp terminals,
soldered if you like, and heat shrink tubing, which if clear can include
a typed label inside. (But! Solder only after there is a secure crimp!)
The crimp tool for uninsulated terminals like the original T&B Sta-Kon
is completely different from that used with insulated terminals.

4. The wire doesn’t have to be Tefzel (crosslinked ETFE), but it does
have to be aircraft wire. There are three criteria: the strands must be
individually plated, not bare copper or batch tinned, the stranding must
be fine enough to provide good flexibility, and the insulation must be
rugged enough not to deform when clamped, rubbed or mildly abraded.
Generally people use Tefzel because it can get hotter and not smoke
versus PVC, but the fumes from burning Tefzel are worse than from
burning PVC. Tefzel wire compliant with MIL-W-22759 is the best
compromise but is expensive. It comes in many colors and is stamped with
the mil spec number and gauge. PVC is okay but it must have a nylon or
fiberglass jacket, typically compliant with MIL-W-5086 or the later
MIL-W-16878. There are also good aircraft wire made to Boeing
specification. Teflon (PTFE) is okay inside equipment, but is softer and
more easily damaged. Teflon also more expensive than Tefzel because it
is usually silver plated — and in many cases the silver plating on
surplus Teflon wire has tarnished so badly you can’t use it.

5. There is a good stock of surplus aircraft wire, $8 a pound for mil
spec vinyl and $15 a pound for fluorocarbon (when in doubt they charge
you the vinyl price,) at Apex Electronics in southern Calif.,
www.apexelectronic.com. Joe has come back from retirement and will
usually find what you want, better if you go there. They also have
multiconductor milspec cable. They have mostly 16 gauge and smaller, I
recently bought spools of 16 and 20 gauge and even at $15 a pound it’s
1/4 the current market price, and you have a chance to get it in colors
if you are lucky. It is worth a visit, it’s one of the remaining
aviation surplus stores on the west coast. Take a flashlight and good
glasses, the lighting inside isn’t so great.

6. The Delphi Weather Pack connectors are great, *if* you buy into the
whole system. The parts are cheap, but you need to have the correct
sealing glands and the correct crimp tool or the reliability of the
system is lost. If you really need to be able to disconnect things
quickly, fine. Frankly I prefer to have fewer connectors and am willing
to spend a little more time unscrewing terminals.

7. NO BARREL SPLICES. You cannot inspect the crimp of a barrel splice,
so you have no way of knowing it’s secure. If you need to splice a wire,
use two knife blade connectors like AMP 32446, in a length of vinyl
tubing tied with nylon twine.- David”

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Aircraft wiring 101

Builders:

I bring this up because it is the most common mistake I see in homebuilding, and oddly enough, it is about the easiest skill to posses, the tools are cheap, and there is no valid reason for doing this wrong……but 75% of the planes I look at have terrible wiring, particularly the terminal crimps.

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Below is a photo that has been on our main page for nine years. It is also in our Zenith installation manual, and I have reprinted it before. Search “wiring crimp” on the main page search block and it pops right up. Think most people read it? The wiring I see suggests otherwise.

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This isn’t an academic nor style point, this is airworthiness 101. Two years ago we had a builder spend several months of very frustrating searching, looking for a defect that made his plane have a bad miss at times. He sent the distributor back to me more than once with the clear implication that it was defective even though it tested fine. Next suspect was the certified yellow tagged carb. All the while, the people at his airport are being treated to a demonstration they perceive as “Auto engines are unreliable” and “Not even the guru knows how to fix it.” When it was all said an done, the 100% culprit was a shitty crimp done by the builder on the 12V line going to the coil. I do not like my designs and work being considered as the prime suspects when the issue is people who are doing wiring at a quality we could expect from a weed smoking high school boy in 1978, trying to install his 8-track player in a ’69 Valiant, so he could listen to his new Ted Nugent Cat Scratch fever tape.

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Your Corvair needs good wiring on the ignition system to run properly. You need to make as few connections as possible, and have a simple design for the critical wiring. Leave out all the junction strips and additional connections. To make the distributor easily removable, consider using the Weatherpack connector we have on EP-X distributors. If you are headed to a college and already have a distributor, bring it, I will upgrade it on the spot.

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Now, as we read this, some dope is going to post a link on a discussion group saying that “Corvairs have critical wiring and that is why I am glad I picked an A-65 Continental with mags.” OK, get this: Hand prop planes with mags have an even more critical connection than a Corvair. The P-lead grounds to the mag have to be done perfectly, because you count on them to protect your life every time you touch the prop.  If one of the P-leads has a shitty crimp, the key can be in the off position and the engine will easily start or kick over with lethal force.  Think I am exaggerating? At the very bottom of this story are a few photos of a great guy Gary Collins, who attended many Corvair Colleges and built a very nice Corvair Powered Carlson Sparrow II. In June of 2013 he was struck by the prop on his Lycoming O-320 powered Tailwind while simply working in his hangar. He died several days later.

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I want to clearly state that I am in no way implying that Gary’s plane had anything wrong with the wiring or he that was an unsafe guy.  He was an outstanding human being, and I include his accident here because I want to make builders understand that accidents involving props are not a myth, and they do happen. (Gary did not build nor wire the plane that killed him) By putting a person’s name on one I want people to think about this as possible. I have seen a number of homebuilts with poor wiring and magneto ignition. You can assume the builder also did poor work on making the P-leads. Moving such a plane by touching the prop, or rotating the prop to prime it is the absolute equivalent of pointing a loaded gun with a known defect in the safety at your head.  All planes have critical points where the wiring quality must be 100%. Anyone who implies it is OK to have “It will be alright” level of quality on the P-leads of planes with mags is a dangerous fool.

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Go on any internet forum on homebuilding you like and bring up the topic of wiring. You will get hours of reading and opinion on electrical theory, written by people who think they have something to teach Nikola Tesla. It is all a giant waste without simple crimping tools and skills, but the armchair electrical engineers never bring that up. Good homebuilding is about mastery of basic skills like crimping. It is that simple.

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Here are the basic elements of good wiring for experimental airplanes. Tefzel clad wiring is available from all the  aircraft supply houses. This jacketing is many times tougher than typical insulation, especially at elevated temperatures.  Real aircraft grade terminals have soft insulation, which does not crack when it’s crimped. The crimpers in the photo  above are available from mcmaster.com. They’re just under $50, and worth every penny. There are many good books on  aircraft wiring, and some discussion groups about it. Unfortunately, most Internet discussions devolve into giant debates about  massive redundancy, counter EMF, diodes and bridges, and how the letter i represents the square root of -1, which can  be used to describe the behavior of alternating current. Perhaps you, like me, get sleepy reading this stuff and wonder  what it has to do with your airplane. Answer is: not much. But do not wholesale cash in all of aircraft wiring. The  basic materials and tools are important to incorporate into your own project. Don’t let the complex discussions  completely turn you off.

Above are things that should not be in your aircraft workshop. Typical automotive store wiring has very soft, poor  insulation. The crimpers do a terrible job, and the terminals have hard insulation that cracks when crimped, and is  then prone to falling off. Wiring like this is one of the first things that catches my eye when inspecting a project or  scanning a photo. Your DAR, when inspecting the airplane, will notice this also. Many DARs I know are very reluctant  to sign off airplanes with this type of wire. Five minutes of exposure to the right stuff and you’d never consider  using the wrong stuff again.

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The following excerpt is form a story I wrote called Spark Plug Issue resolved….. you can click on the title to read the whole story after reading and thinking about the words below. It is fine to have dreams and complex interests in aviation, but you must also strive to cover the fundamentals. like being able to do a 100% airworthy crimp. Being able to fly a jet is an admirable skill that takes real effort to learn, but in successful homebuilding the basic stick and rudder guy who spent 30 minutes learning how to do good crimps is going to have a lot more success than a 10,000 hour jet pilot

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“In an average year, I will get 200 emails asking about things like constant speed props and elaborate injection systems. If you read all of them, it is easy to tell that 95% of these come from people with little experience. If I lined up these 95% and asked them to install a distributor and time it, or to explain to me how you could tell if the engine was on the top of the exhaust stroke of compression by looking at the motion of the rockers,(both things we teach at Colleges,) I am sure these people would be at a loss. Is there anything wrong with their dreaming of injected constant speed planes? Of course not…if the extent of what they came to aviation to do is dream about things. Conversely, if actually achieving things is the goal, dreaming can not take the place of a rock solid foundation of the basics.

None of us were born knowing this stuff. I am glad to teach it to anyone who wishes to learn instead of day dreaming. I can make a very good argument that the builder who creates and masters the operation of a basic aircraft, is a lot safer, and will experience far greater rewards that any builder operating a plane he really doesn’t understand, or is sketchy on the details of a complex aircraft’s function. The guy with the most basic plane has won the game. The guy who consigns himself to daydreaming has not lost the game…..he wasn’t ever playing.  Once the basics are mastered, then moving forward can be done with the understanding that you are not posing or posturing as your own mechanic, you actually have earned the confidence in yourself, the real reward for knowing the subject. -ww

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I took the comments below from Gary Collins’s Facebook page. They were written by his son in law as Gary lay dying in the hospital. Learn from this tragedy. Gary was a life long aviator with a very safety minded attitude. I worked with him at many Colleges, and I would never have suspectled he would have this type of accident. Learn to treat props with the same care you handle firearms.

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 “I will miss you Gary.  You have always been very generous with me and Jennifer and the girls.  I enjoyed the time we spent together.  I pray that you can still hear the words of love that your family and friends give as they visit you in the hospital.  I pray that you have no pain or discomfort in your last days.  And I pray that you find peace with the Lord so we can see each other again someday in heaven.  God bless you.”

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Pietenpol Weight and Balance article source

Builders,

I spoke with Doc Mosher last week. As all of you Piet and Grega builders know, Doc and his wife Dee Just finished a six year run at producing the Brodhead Pietenpol Newsletter. It was an outstanding effort that brought back the whole community spirit around Pietenpol building and flying.

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Doc is not a guy to blow his own horn, but I have known him for long enough that he will forgive me if I do it for him. We all understand that newsletters are often covered by the guy in the club who has free time, is good with word processing, and let me put this politely, doesn’t have the strongest of flying nor building backgrounds. It often produces a newsletter with good graphics, but very weak technical and editorial content. Although well intentioned, many editors don’t have a lot of broad based flight experience.

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I hold that the last 6 years of the BPN is the ‘gold standard’ of the history of the publication, and newsletters in general, because Doc is the antithesis of the typical newsletter writer.  Lets start here: He has the ultimately rare distinction of holding both of the FAA’s highest awards, The Master Pilot rating and the Charles Taylor Award.  Get this: just to apply for these, you have to be an active, accident free pilot for 50 years, and for the Taylor award you have to be a working A&P for 50 years. (I just figured out that I can’t even get my application in until 2041!) Doc is a very modest guy and I knew him for several years before I discovered he had the Charles Taylor award. He used to politely listen to me, letting me believe I had something to teach him about engines.

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I used to think that you could measure writers and editors by their written content. Doc taught me by example that you also have to consider what the really good choose not to include. This judgment only comes with a depth of knowledge of the subject and a insightful understanding of people and their actions. If you have been around Pietenpols for 5 years this might not grab you, but if you have been around a long time, Doc’s judgment and choices are easily appreciated.

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I have been fortunate to know people with encyclopedic knowledge of the history of aviation, but when you listen to Doc speak of  Dee Howard, Ed Swearingen and Schweizer brothers, he isn’t speaking of historical figures, he is speaking of friends. His first hand experience through some of the most interesting periods in flight is captivating. He is a very keen observer of the human condition. His stories are always seen through the eyes of humanist who sought out the good in people, forgiving their frailties if they were real characters.

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Conversational topics with Doc are unpredictable; he might comment on being James Brown’s corporate pilot, having Thelonious Monk as a neighbor or Hunter S. Thompson as a regular in the bar Doc owned. Or he is just as likely to spend the evening speaking about a plane that is the creation of a builder he just met today. Memories are cared for but not worshipped, what can be done next always a better topic that what has passed.

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In a previous story: Pietenpol Weight and Balance project I covered a description of doing the 5 part series on Weight and Balance on Ford, Continental and Corvair powered Pietenpols.  It was a project I had thought about doing for a long time,  but I would like to be publicly clear that it is my immense respect of Doc and the quality of the newsletter that he and Dee were producing that motivated me to do the work and make a lasting contribution that might measure up to his standards. Few builders know it, but Doc has painstakingly collected and carefully authenticated an incredible collection of original plans data on Pietenpols. It is called “the Packet” and it fills a 2.5″ thick 3 ring binder.  I wanted to produce something that might add a few pages to this historical record.

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Doc did not amass this information to occupy a dusty shelf in the EAA’s reference library. He put it together to be a useful tool to today’s builder; to make the next generation of Pietenpols  a little better than the last. To make the specific Weight and Balance data articles accessible to builders, Doc has offered them in a single package to builders. If you would like a set, stick a $5 in an envelope and mail it to Doc’s address below. If you wish to make it a little easier, send $12 and perhaps he can send it to you in a flat rate priority mail envelope.

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While your at it, you can include a thank you note to Doc and Dee for their years of work on the newsletter. They don’t need the praise, but you will feel better about yourself knowing you expressed gratitude for being the beneficiary of an excellent newsletter.

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Doc and Dee Mosher

1071 Meadow Lane

Neenah, WI 54956-3936

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Blast from the past, summer of 2000: Doc (in the beard) and I in my hangar at spruce Creek for Corvair college #1.

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To read a little more about Doc’s background in aviation, get a look at this story Ed Leinweber wrote about Doc last year:

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http://www.midwestflyer.com/?p=6720

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New stories this weekend.

Builders,

We are back from our great College in Texas, but we are now only 22 days from our College in Florida. To cover all the events and topics on the table, we are working to have 6-8 new stories this weekend on this website.

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I am sending out this advanced notice because builders who check in only once or twice a week occasionally miss the first story or two when we publish a chain of them in quick succession. With CC#29 just around the corner, it is important that builders catch a quick read on all of the topics we cover, and not get inadvertently excluded for an event.

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While we were in Texas our phone machine filled up as it does from time to time. Our phone/internet line was put back in order by ATT today at noon for the first time in 36 hours. We have a little catching up to do on communications, but know the answering machine is now clear and the line is re-established with an all-new router system. The Coffee pot is full and we have several stories pre-written for publication. This promises to be a very good weekend for communication of ideas, stories and enthusiasm.

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The story topics include:

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Corvair College #28 coverage including photos.

Corvair College #29 sign up in progress and prep work.

More notes on Corvair weight and balance

Updates on wiring your project.

Update on 601 builder Spenser Rice, (JRB)

Notes on engines for sale on the internet.

Oil line options for builders.

Engine displays at Sun n Fun.

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Stay tuned, it will have a better effect on your flying season than watching television.-ww.