3,100cc Corvair in Pegzair

Builders,

Below are some notes on the first Corvair powered Pegzair, a plane that was finished and test flown in 2007 at our old Edgewater hangar. It was owned by Gordon Alexander. A Pegzair is a complex STOL plane, and I would rate it as a very tough build, evidenced by how few of them were completed in the first 15 years of the design. Gordon had never built a plane before and was not yet a pilot, but he is an exceptional person, and likes learning, and I think that was his biggest asset that got the job done.

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All of the info here originally appeared amongst the info in our  monthly news installments on our flycorvair.com site in 2007. I have collected it here so builders interested in STOL planes can review it, and I can give it a place on this link: Planes flying on Corvair Power .

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In the above photo, Gordon Alexander’s 3,100cc Pegzair complete and running has just passed its FAA Airworthiness Inspection. To understand something of Gordon’s sense of humor, its N-number is N129LZ. LZ129 was the Hindenburg.

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Gordon’s airplane was seven years of hard work in the making. In January 2007, Gordon brought the project down on a trailer from Minnesota to the main hangar in Edgewater, where he commenced a savage 14-hours a day for 100 days to finish it. Inspired by his commitment, Gus, Kevin and I each worked to assist him. Gus guided him through covering the fuselage. I built his motor mount, and Kevin did an enormous amount of work ahead of the firewall. But in the end, it was Gordon’s determination that got it done, and the day belonged to him. The Golden Rule of Homebuilding: Persistence Pays.

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Gordon Alexander in our shop at a serious moment. Actually, he spent much more time smiling and laughing. He is first class company with an enormous range of life experience. A former infantry officer, he’s prepared to discuss strategy from the second Peloponnesian War, or sing you his favorite obscure reggae song. The kind of guy who made a long evening in the hangar entertaining and productive.

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Above, Kevin clowns around with Gordon, holding up the newspaper and making a joke about proof of life and kidnapping. Gordon came from Minnesota to escape winter’s wrath, but some of his friends couldn’t understand why he was going for the full immersion experience, working day and night with the hangar gang and sleeping on a cot. Gordon well understood that to get a complex plane done in the shortest time, he had to relocate to where skilled people were. At the time there were several builders working on the Corvair/Pegzair combination, but the other builders spent every day speaking on the Corvaircraft discussion group, talking about what they were going to do. Gordon’s plane was finished in 100 days of work. Seven years later, not a single one of the other builders is finished.

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Above is a photo of Gordon’s Pegzair. The design was introduced in 1995 in Canada. Although it’s often said that it was an offshoot from a 701, we had both of them 10 feet apart in the hangar at the same time;  they might have only been common in concept, as I couldn’t see a single part they shared in common. Gordon had a 3,100 engine ready for it, but we took the top of the engine apart to check it. (3100s had very complex valve geometry, 3,000cc Corvair have a completely normal configuration) The Pegzair is a plans built design, elegant, but perhaps not simple.

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Above is our “Hangar Gang” in 2004 with our 601XL. This is who was working in the Edgewater hangar while Gordon was there. L to R, Grace, myself, Kevin, Whobiscat, Upson Gus and Dave the Bear. We were an ass-kicking team of plane builders, but after hours socializing with us was not for the polite, faint of heart, insecure nor the thin skinned. Gordon was the only person (besides 601XL builder/pilot Lynn Dingfelder), who fit right in. Many people like sausage, far fewer want to see how it is made, and still fewer decide to work in the sausage factory.

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 Gordon covers his fuselage in Stits (polyfiber). The motor mount I designed and built for the plane is visible. I actually built 3 for this plane. #1 needed the thrust line corrected after the windshield proved to ride lower than we thought (we didn’t have drawings of this). #2 was made from about 50% of #1, but it didn’t look like my best work, so I built #3 from scratch and made it perfect. Keep in mind that Gordon was not a paying customer, he traded a few hours of answering phones each day and computer work for the shop space and support.  It was a good bargain going both ways, based on the fact that Gordon is very good company.

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If you look at the aluminum valve cover it has a weld bead on it that says “Gordaki”, which was Gordon’s Hangar Gang nickname. He was the kind of guy who got up off the cot in the morning to find that Kevin and I had adorned his valve covers, but didn’t complain nor grind it off later, he just viewed it as part of being accepted.

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Above, the Pegzair in its last week before inspection. It will finished up at 830 pounds. This is fairly light for a Pegzair. Note this includes a stainless muffler, electric start large tires, leather seats and paint. It is rare that auto engine versions of aircraft are among the lighter examples. The Corvair makes for a fairly light installation because it’s direct drive and air cooled, and we don’t give out misleading statements like “dry weight.” The photo shows how the cowl was made by using one of our fiberglass nose bowls, and sheet metal behind it.

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Above, a stainless Supertrapp muffler on the bottom of the plane. This is very similar to the muffler we had on our Pietenpol. It has a stainless ball joint to allow it to flex. We welded the two stainless exhaust pipes into a smooth flowing Y, and then the ball joint before the muffler. My Piet had the same ball joint and it never cracked anything. What most people miss is that cranking the engine is often the hardest motion on an exhaust. Long arrangements with streamlined mufflers need the joint because of the wagging dog tail motion. The alternative it to mount the muffler laterally inside the cowl, an idea that I dislike because it keeps too much heat under the cowl.

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The Plane had an airbox that functioned just like the ones we have for Zenith’s. This houses the air filter, forms the bottom of the cowl, and controls carb heat and cabin air. 2″ hole is input from carb heat muff.

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Here’s the end where incoming air flows through. A lever arm controls the ram air scoop door, which is sealed with felt. Flight proven on our 601XL this was later adapted to many different installations we did. The original concept was sketched out on a napkin at a burger joint in Edgewater by Hangar Gang member Gus Warren in 2003.

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The plane was completed and flown by several pilots at the old hangar. It worked very well. I flew it and thought it was pretty cool. The major issue was the design had many zealot fans on the internet who made idiotic claims like “It can fly at 15mph”, something no homebuilt STOL plane can do. In reality it could land fairly short, it could do an easy 100mph with the slats retracted, and it had pretty good ergonomics and handling. But there were a number of people at keyboards on the net widening the envelope with every story they embellished. Measured in reality, it is a good solid plane, but a very complex one, not to be undertaken lightly. I am sure the popularity of the Zenith STOL planes lies in the fact you could build several CH-750s in the same time as building one Pegzair. The Pegzair could come close to the minimum speed of a 750, and I am sure it is faster on the top end, but not by nearly enough to justify the extra work.  There still may be a builder who loves the design, but if he is thinking about it, it is my strongest recommendation that he make sure his decision is based on real data, not internet fantasy stories about 15mph stall speeds.

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Eventually Gordon sold the plane to a second owner in the Midwest. Continuing his life of adventure he returned to Florida, bought a 45′ wooden fishing boat and reworked in a marina and departed to the Caribbean. I have not heard from him since, but I suspect he is having a heck of a good time wherever he is today.

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About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

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