The “Outlaw” Kitfox/Corvair project

Builders,

If you have ever thought of putting a Corvair on a Kitfox, here is a story to follow. Below are some pictures of a Corvair being sized up for a Tri-gear Kitfox model seven. We took these at Corvair College #30 two weeks ago.

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The game plan here is to make a set of installation parts for Kitfox models 5 through 7. (They are the same ahead of the firewall.) It needs a unique motor mount, it looks like it will work with our standard #3601-S intake, our #3901C stainless exhaust and we are going to base the cowling on one of our #4102 Nose Bowls.

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A Corvair builder in Texas already flew a 2,700cc Corvair on a Model 5, but it was a non-standard, hand built installation that did not have an aircraft carb. It worked, but not nearly up to the potential of the combination. I have another Texas builder, John Pitkin who is getting closer, but there are also one-off elements of his installation, and he is not in a hurry to get done. This time we have an eager builder who already has a completely standard 3,000cc Corvair done and test run at Corvair College #29. He brought the fuselage to CC#30 so I could get all the data I need to make the mount in Florida. This feels like the right plan coming together to see the plane done perhaps as soon as Oshkosh 2015.

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Now we get to the “outlaw” part of this. I have long talked to John McBean, the owner of Kitfox about doing this. Some aircraft company owners like the Monnetts have politely asked that we don’t overtly promote Corvairs on their designs, and I respect that (The have now reversed their position on this) , others Like Sebastien Heintz said “Buy a kit and have at it.” McBean has been a third path, where he has expressed a desire to make some of the parts and have say over details. I wrote about different company perspectives in this story:  Selecting an engine for your experimental aircraft , but Mcbean’s approach doesn’t sound promising to me, mostly because he has never seen a running Corvair and glossed over how unique the exhaust systems are and that they use bed mounts.

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At sun n Fun this year, we reached something of an impasse when he told me that he really wanted every Corvair installation to use one of his Lycoming cowls, a design 7″ too wide for a Corvair, simply because he wanted “his design” to have a “Certain Look.” At that point I decided that he is a good guy, but we have different views on things like who gets to choose how a plane looks (I say the builder does). The best solution is to develop the installation without any input from the Kitfox people. It is my personal belief that if a person buys a plane, it is their personal property, and they have the right to do with it what they want. Doing the firewall forward without the approval or input of the airframe kit maker is what I call an “Outlaw” installation. If you would like a look at how our nose bowls looks on different planes look at this link: Catching Up On Nosebowls ( p/n #4102 ) and at this one: STOL and utility planes for Corvair power.

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If the factory says people shouldn’t use a Corvair on a model they sell, let them make a convincing technical argument why. If it is right, builders will not use Corvairs. Simply telling people to obey works with most people, but a large chunk of traditional homebuilders only follow good reasoning, not commands. Saying “I want your plane to have a certain look” isn’t a technical argument, it is an opinion about another man’s property. Saying “I make money if you buy a Rotax 912, so it is the right engine for your plane” is not a technical argument, it is just an opinion about how you should spend the money in your bank account. It works with some people, just not many of the ones I know and spend time with. When I want Corvair builder to do things like use forged pistons, I make a technical argument why they are needed and make sense. It is a different approach that requires treating builders as intelligent adults.

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Many people are first concerned with what everyone else is doing before making a decision. They believe that finding out what most people are doing is the answer to doing it the ‘right’ way. Actually it is, if you are best described as an ‘average’ or ‘typical’ person. If there was one right way to build a plane, and it was based on what the ‘average’ person was doing, we would all be forced to read Mac McClellan’s editorials, then drive our imported mini van to the barber to get a John Edwards haircut while we read Flying magazine and the Sporties catalog. Then to the airport to use our swipe card at the chain link fence, go out to our Rotax 912 powered tri-geared plane with a glass cockpit, call ATC for permission to fly to the ‘practice area’, spend .8 hours there practicing something from a Rod Marchado video tape while never looking out the windows, Get permission to return to the airport, fly a pattern big enough for a 747-400 (because you were told to) land, put the plane away, and drive home wondering why some people talk about flying as ‘freedom’.

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Conversely, it isn’t my goal in life to be like anyone else. My goal is to follow my own path, as determined by myself, using my rational brain that I was provided with, guided by things that I care about. In 51 years on this planet, I have only been brought closer to that path by people who loved me, and a salesman telling me I have to buy a Rotax 912 is not in the group of people who love me, and for the most part, neither are the people who tell you what you have to do without offering a rational argument. They are just trying to have you obey to make something work better for them, like guy in a tower trying to have you fly a 3 mile final. Traditional homebuilding is the exercise of becoming educated so you can use your rational mind to make choices that are right for you. I am not sorry is that is inconvenient for people who would prefer is everyone was ‘average’. If you have never read it, make a point this week to drive to your local library and spend the one hour it takes to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and understand it is an allegory about how the ‘flock’ attempts to peck any individual to death for not conforming and serving the ‘average’ need, but some individuals were not born to blindly serve the flock od society. Bach wrote it 40 years ago, but it is more important today than it was then.

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Above, our mystery man builder, known by alias “318 Detroit” with his identity protected at CC#30. (Isn’t this what outlaws do?) Get a look at how much bigger the fuselage on this model 7 is in relation to the engine than in the bottom picture of a model 4 with a Corvair.

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A very interesting side angle: Before the McBeans owned kitfox, the company built a large number of model 5 kits. If anyone is looking for a very inexpensive STOL plane option, you can run an ad on Barnstormers.com saying “Looking for unfinished model 5 kit.” We have ad 3 people do this, and on average they paid $9,000 for a complete kit that originally sold for more than $22,000. Technically these are not ‘factory supported’ in the same way as people who buy kits direct from the McBean’s, but they do have excellent manuals and they is a lot of on line know how from people who built them successfully.

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The “outlaw” kit above is a second hand buy from Barnstormers. It’s original buyer bought nearly every option available, paying $30,000. He took it home but did virtually no work to it. (I have pointed out many times that our consumer culture indoctrinated people to be good at buying things, but poor at working on them.) Our mystery builder paid only $12,000, because it is a supply and demand issue, and deals like this will always be available as long as homebuilt completion rates are low. At CC#30 I sat down with Mr. “318 Detroit” and he showed me on paper that he is going to have a first class model 7, with a complete high end 3,000cc/12oHP Corvair, all of the items ahead of the firewall like the cowl and prop, and a basic instrument panel and a flight line radio for less money than the original owner paid for the kit.

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This option is not for everyone, and I know from 25 years of working with experimental builders that there are many times more people who will drive to Oshkosh in a $500,000 Prevost motorhome, buy a brand new kit from the McBean’s, order a $40,000 fuel injected Rotax 912 engine and installation kit, and have someone build them a glass cockpit. If they get it done, they will have more than $100K in the plane. Are they taking the right path? Yes, for them. For a more traditional homebuilding oriented person with different goals, like our “outlaw” builder, the option is open to have a very similar performing plane, but a very different experience in homebuilding, for roughly 30% of the cost. Each of these two paths are the right one for the respective builders, and figuring that out for yourself is what making a good personal choice in homebuilding is all about.  Before too long another builder will come along, buy a model 5 kit off barnstormers for $7,500, buy some parts from us, put together a 2,700cc / 100HP engine with a Stromberg carb and a Weseman 5th  bearing, add some steam gauges and a hand held radio and have $16,000 in the plane, and he will probably wonder why our mystery builder chose to budget so much money.

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Above, a group photo, the freshly run 3,000 cc Corvair engine destined for the “outlaw” Kitfox is on the test stand as a centerpiece. This photo is from Corvair College #29. Can you guess which one of the 31 people in the photo is our mystery builder? Let me make it a little easier; From the left, it isn’t Grace nor ScoobE, The Son and Father Jameson team have their own 2700 Pietenpol engine, Vern works on our team, Bob Lester in the brown hat has a flying 2700 Pietenpol,…..

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At left with me above is Kitfox CEO and owner John McBean. He stopped by the booth at Oshkosh 2013. He is a good guy, and I am not building an “Outlaw” installation to antagonize him, I just choose the term to differentiate the result from the possible co-operative effort we had previously spoken of. He has owned Kitfox for about 10 years, and put a lot of work into restoring the companies reputation, his family is known for very good customer service. I have done more than 50 different motor mount designs for Corvair installations, and more than a dozen very detailed firewall forward designs for Corvair powered planes. I will capitalize on this when working on the design of the model 5-7 installation this winter.

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Above, A kitfox model four in my shop getting a motor mount. The earlier owners of Kitfox made more than 1,000 model 4’s. They are smaller and lighter than a 5 through 7 models, really too light for a Corvair, but the owner of this plane is a friend who weighs about 160 pounds, so it still has a high useful load. We used a #2601R reverse Gold oil filter housing to get the engine right up to the firewall for the weight and balance to be right. the model 5 through & will have the harmonic balancer about 10″ from the firewall. The relationship between the model 4 and the 5-7 is very much like the difference between a Zenith 701 and a 750. they look alike, but the later planes are substantially bigger. This model 4 has it’s own 3,000cc Corvair, already built and run at a College. When completed, this large engine/small plane/light pilot combination will be a short field rocket. Read the whole story at this link: Kitfox Model IV with Corvair mount. -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.

One Response to The “Outlaw” Kitfox/Corvair project

  1. Jeff Moores says:

    More Corvairs on different airframes= more exposure = more people realizing how great these engines are!!!

    Jeff

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