Corvair College #30 Good Times

Builders,

 Below are several photos of Corvair College#30 at the Zenith factory. We selected them because they offer a glimpse of what makes being a Corvair builder a different path. If you have not been to a College, look at them and read the captions, and picture yourself at the same setting.

In my first 10 years in homebuilding I learned a lot and accomplished much, but always felt an ‘outsider’ to the ever more consumer/conspicuous consumption era that was covered in magazines in the 1990s. I longingly looked at 1960s Sport Aviation and felt that I had missed the boat on the golden ago of homebuilding, where creativity, camaraderie  and craftsmanship were far more important than the thickness of a man’s wallet. I had a personal ‘moment of awareness’ that I had personally participated in degrading homebuilding in 1999. If you have 15 minutes to read something revealing, read this link: 2,500 words about levels of aircraft finsh……

Slowly I came to understand several truths: Magazine content and proportional coverage have little to do with what grass roots builders are focused on; There were many other builders interested in traditional homebuilding values such as learning and craftsmanship; and there were a number of builders who wanted to be part of a group that espoused, fun, skills and positive attitudes, but found this lacking at their local EAA chapter and the fly in events they attended. All of these factors steered us toward the cure, Corvair Colleges. College are focused on engines, but they are really about people. At these events, much is learned and progress is made, but it is all done in a setting of fellowship. There isn’t just ‘one kind of person who fits in. The Colleges are for anyone drawn top the original EAA motto of “Learn, Build and fly.” Corvairs are not for everyone, but they are an excellent match for people looking for more than the minimum experience in aviation.

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Above, my favorite photo and story from #30. On the right, Dick Navratil. These two guys worked on Dick’s engine and had a great time together. I have known Dick for 10 years (He has built 7 or 8 Pietenpols) and just assumed that the fun they were having was because they must have known each other since high school…..It took until the end of the second day for me to learn that before the first day of the college, they had never met each other. This is the kind of friendship and fun that naturally happens when two builders have the same values in a fun productive setting. The friendship these two guys struck up makes me feel the Colleges are worth all the effort put in.

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Required Gratuitous dog photo: Grace felt Scoob E was very excited about spending his puppyhood birthday in Mexico MO. again this year. A long time ago, Grace decided that she never wanted him to get older, so he is perpetually said to be “two years old.” (Funny, but no one ever questions this.)  Someone pointed out to Grace that 2 would make him 14 in dog years, so she now decided that he will now be turning 1 month old every September. If only someone had decided that I had to be 24 years old my whole life, I’d feel better right now.

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Packed in the trailer, ready for anytime we cross paths with Pietenpol builder Kevin Purtee, is the sock monkey “Hat of Power.”  Kevin, a 25 year attack Helicopter pilot, wears it with a ‘Hello Kitty’ tee shirt to demonstrate that he is a total bad-ass no mater how he is clothed. Above, fellow Piet builder, 6’5″ Mark Chouinard donned the hat right after his engine ran to test the hat’s ‘magic.’ Although Mark is a tough guy (his Facebook page has testimonials from numerous friends about his outstanding skills with belt-fed weapons in the Army), the Hat of power didn’t have the same effect on him as it does with Kevin. Mark remained his friendly self. With Kevin, it is like meeting captain ‘Quint’ from the film Jaws.

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At Colleges, a modest fee covers all the food and drinks for the entire event. at #30, we had a excellent local family cater the event. Having everyone share meals together is a big part of getting to know fellow builders. It is also much better use of time than having every one leave for food several times a day. People who stopped by often asked “Can a new builder really assemble and run an engine in 3 days?” The answer is Yes, as long as the days are 15 hours long and the time is used wisely. Having the meals brought in is a big help with this.

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Above, Jerry Parker of Texas. Jerry has a long list of achievements in aviation that are the result of hard sustained work and enthusiasm. I largely suspect that he could buy any engine on the market for his plane. Yet Jerry chooses to work with the Corvair, because the Corvair movement best fits his own person sense of Homebuilding. This is for everyone to evaluate for themselves, but it is worth considering the very high percentage of ‘old school’ EAA builders of great experience we have working with Corvairs. These people have seen a lot of facets of aviation, but find a unique setting with Corvair building.

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Left, Mark Petinunias of Falcon cylinder head fame, (aka”Petz” because most people aren’t good with Lithuanian pronunciations) has something funny to say. He has a wicked sense of humor for a guy who grew up on a farm in rural Wisconsin.  He is an A&P who has worked his entire life in the mechanical world, but you can still see vestiges of his agrarian childhood, like his ability to compare caloric value of living things, both animal and vegetable, as if we might be plunged into a Donner Party situation at any time. He is part of a dwindling number of Americans who understand that food does not originate in supermarkets.

Standing behind me is Roy from Roy’s Garage. Both Mark and Roy were very helpful technical assistants at the college.

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Above, Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith Aircraft speaks with Mike McGowan. Sebastien stopped by several times to check in with builders. It speaks volumes about his families’ long standing commitment to all homebuilding that he goes out of his way to welcome all builders to the College at Mexico MO, not just Zenith builders. While other aircraft presidents might be talked into this, with Sebastien there was never any consideration that it would be any other way. That is a perspective which is not common enough in the commercial side of our industry.

Mike is a 1960s graduate of America’s oldest licensed aviation university, Parks. (They hold the coveted FAA air certificate #1) He has extensive knowledge of piston engine airliner operation and practical aeronautical engineering. He always as an interesting take on any aviation subject, most often formed from direct personal experience.

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. Above Dick Navratil works on his engine while conversing with ‘old school’ EAA builder and pilot Bob Heiser from Texas, who is building a Zenith 750 Cruiser. Bob and his wife Carol have had a lifetime of adventures in light planes, but they are working to add a new chapter to their story. I take it as a great compliment that our work appeals to aviators like Bob and Carol.

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Above, Pietenpol builder Edi Bickford demonstrates that just like the rest of life, in aviation women are far more likely to actually read the directions before getting started.

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Grace pointed out that she too gave thanks before every wonderful meal The Steinmans and their crew served. I pointed out that Larry is praying that his engine will fire up and run well.  It worked, evidently the divine hand favors the builder who reads directions and does good work. Larry is building a 601XL back in Texas. He showed up early for the College and was great help to Grace and I with prep work.

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Above, about 560 hp worth of Corvair engines on one table. Most other engines are only available from the importer in one configuration. There are three different displacement engine in the photo, two different 5th bearing styles, two different head configurations, Several compression ratios, One engine that came from our workshop complete, one built with assistance and another that started as a short block. It is a large number of options that allow each engine to custom match the builders needs, skills, time and budget.

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The Chow line formed 3 times a day. There is a real ‘motorhead’ quality to dining among engine assemblies. Many people wish to be perceived as knowing something about engines. Corvair college is about actually learning and knowing these things, not to impress others, but to satisfy yourself that you are the master of the power plant and not the servant of the importers service department.

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Above, Dick Johnson and Mark Petz stand beside Dick’s 3,000cc Corvair destined for his Zenith 650. Sharp eyes will note that this engine is equipped with our new #2401L ultra light weight starter, coming in 3 pounds lighter than our traditional system.

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Mary and Pat Hoyt sent in this photo of their flight to the College from Minnesota in their Zenith 601XLB. They are first class people, and very well known and admired in the Corvair world. Their plane is not cosmetically perfect, nor is Pat going to challenge Bob Hoover for greatest stick and rudder man of all time. I think the root of the Hoyt’s popularity is attributable to their very friendly nature combined with the fact that he is an outstanding role model for most Corvair Builders, very effectively demonstration how to get the most out of one’s efforts in experimental aviation. Besides this, our dog, an impeccable judge of character, loves the Hoyts.

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Above the Bowen brothers of Idaho are all smiles after the test run of their 3,000cc Corvair, destined for their Dragonfly.

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The Hoyt’s 601 on the ramp. note how many people are attracted to the plane to get a good look and ask some questions.

Pat and Mary brought the plane to Oshkosh 2013 where they met a friend of ours from our home airport in Florida, Ron Thomas. Ron is an absolute salt of the earth guy, a Cajun who has earned a life long living as a rock drummer. Ron owns an Ercoupe and is a pilot, but has limited knowledge of homebuilt designs. He was on his first trip to Oshkosh, and above all else, he came away sure that Pat and Mary were the nicest people at the show.

A year later, Ron returned to Oshkosh and on his way in, saw a film crew standing in front of a polished low wing plane with a yellow nose, which he mistook as the Hoyts 601.  Excited at the possibility of seeing them again, Ron blurted out to the film crew “Where are Pat and Mary? and “Dude, these Corvair 601’s rock!” The camera crew was annoyed with him, and they guy they were interviewing got mad and walked off. Ron came by our booth and said he didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, but didn’t see why everyone was so upset…… I walked over to look at the plane and it was a Van’s RV-12 with a Rotax….I then quietly walked Ron down to the Van’s aircraft booth and pointed to a specific guy and asked Ron if it was the angry guy. Ron said it was and asked me why I thought the guy was so crabby. I said “For starters, his name is Richard VanGrunsven, and ……”

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Above, Lynn Dingfelder’s 2700cc 601XL. It has been flying for a number of years, and it has made a number of appearances at Colleges, the Zenith open house, Sun n Fun and other airshows. It is a great feeling to bring your creation, something that few people understood far less supported through the construction, to a location where kindred spirits applaud your efforts and want top shake your hand.-ww.

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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.

6 Responses to Corvair College #30 Good Times

  1. Bob Helt says:

    William,
    Please oh please plan and schedule a CC out West. Say, Calif, Nevada or Arizona. And soon

    Regards,
    Bob Helt.

  2. What Bob said….for sure and for certain!

  3. Patrick Hoyt says:

    Not cosmetically perfect, eh? That’s what we call a “90/90 finish” – it looks good from 90 feet away, when it flies by at 90 mph… 🙂

    Seriously, Mary & I had a wonderful time at CC30. Seeing old friends and meeting interesting people is a great part of aviation.

    One thing that I’ll always remember was seeing guys firing up their engines for the first time. That’s a huge milestone for a builder, especially if he’s never built an engine before. I know what that feels like, and to witness other guys having that moment is something very special to see.

    Pat Hoyt
    N63PZ

  4. mandack2014 says:

    I really wanted to go to CC30 and see the Zenith factory and meet the staff, and the other Zenith/Corvair builders. I was planning all year on this event but we had a major milestone at work that prevented me from going. I will be going to CC31 again this year; I hope to complete my 2850 at the place I started it last year and get a ride from PF as well! Can’t wait to see you, Grace and Scoob E again. Until then, be safe and health to you and your family and friends.

  5. Kevin Purtee says:

    CPT Quint from Jaws? You hurt me. I’m the sweetest person you know.

    • “Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so never more shall we see you again”

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