Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #1, Intro.

Builders,

Here is a slightly different series, with the goal of giving builders a foundation of facts, which are the basis of all the information I provide.  We present a lot of details, and a fair amount of ‘big picture’ stuff, and philosophy, but I have noticed in conversation with builders at airshows and colleges, they are often missing many fundamental ‘truths’ that my testing has long conclusively proven.

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Here I present a series of perhaps 20 short pieces, Each providing a block for a solid foundation of understanding.  The things I say here are not up for debate. If anyone reading these says “I don’t think so’, they  will do well to consider that no one has been doing this longer, tested more ideas, and seen more Corvair powered planes, and studied the results, both good and bad than I have.

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If someone is betting that I am wrong, understand that their wager is pretty steep: They are betting years of their time, cubic yards of money, their life, and that of their passenger. Plenty of people have been convinced I don’t know what I am speaking of, and lost this bet. In most cases they lost lots of building time, and a fair amount of capital. It often was the undoing of their building momentum and the end of their project, and an exit to homebuilding. In a handful of cases, it cost a lot more. I sincerely suggest evaluating the need, at times emotional, to believe I am wrong on this topic, and then placing one’s  bet accordingly.

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Some people who thought I was wrong:

“If only someone had told him……”

Risk Management, Judgement Error, money in the wrong place.

Cloudn’t have happened to a nicer guy……

How I became a genius in 6 minutes

“Local Expert” convinces builder to use cast pistons

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I have plenty of these stories. A number of them involve the aircraft being destroyed on the first flight.  Dragonfly, Quickie, Zenith, KR you name it, I have a story of a guy who was going to show me how wrong I was, and ended up with a broken plane in a field. Lots of them are just about people spending 8 or 10 years of their life in the shop, much of it building an engine installation I know will not work well.

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I had a guy call me yesterday and tell me he is going to design a gear box for the Corvair, put it on a turbo engine with 140HP heads, set it up for 200HP, and put it on a Zenith 701. He was serious.  Funny, we had a guy come to Corvair College #18 with basically the same engine (not running) to make the point that I wasn’t “the only guy who knew Corvairs”  He envisioned a business building these. A few months ago it was on barnstormers, never flown, asking $7,500, worth perhaps scrap metal value.

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Read the stories, follow the logic, adopt it into your perspective and understanding, plan your progress accordingly. The other option is to stick with an understanding based on an incorrect assumption long ago adopted, even if no evidence supports it. Take your pick, have it any way you like. -ww.

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“If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it–the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.”

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William Clifford, The Ethics of Belief – 1877.

 

How I became a genius in 6 minutes

Builders:

About 6 months ago, a builder finished a Corvair powered 601XL and got ready to take it on it’s first flight. It should have been a low stress event, because we have almost 100 Corvair powered Zeniths that have flown, and we have proved time and time again that if you build the installation exactly how we suggest, the laws of reality insure that the plane has to work with the exact same reliability that numerous well known 601/Corvair pilots like Woody Harris, Phil Maxson and Ken Pavlou have had in their planes. No one need be a pioneer nor a test pilot, they only need to make sure the plane is in the proven configuration, and then get a test program just like the one outlined in our Flight Ops Manual.

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Ah that little phrase “exactly how we suggest”.  Four words, 18 letters. Can’t really make that much difference can it? The builder in question had taken about 10 years to finish the plane.  He was well aware of how we install a Corvair in the 601 airframe. He was a member of the Corvaircraft on line discussion group for years. Before I was banned for life from it, I spent a lot of time there writing stories trying to explain details of what we had learned by meticulous testing and evaluation.

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For the most part, my contribution to the discussion was not well received. I was often criticized as a damper on ‘creativity.’ In this setting, armchair experts, most of whom had never seen a Corvair fly, far less built one, applauded any effort that was not ‘conformist’ to my suggestions. I made countless posts against people who offered recommendations based on zero personal experience.  It mostly fell on deaf ears.

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The 601 builder in question put many ‘non-conformist’ ideas into his plane. The primary one that sticks out is the selection of carb: he chose to use one of the two carbs off a 60hp 1958 British MGA.  While this strikes me as a legitimate suicide attempt, his selection essentially met with cheers and applause because it went against my suggestion of using an aircraft carb.

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I honestly think that in a normal setting, where experience and facts are valued, the builder would not have followed through with the carb. But on Corvaircraft, there were many, many vocal supporters of crazy ideas. Their advocacy put them in no danger, they were safely at home behind a keyboard, using ‘screen names’ and making recommendations to people they would never meet. All this lead to the 601 builders arriving at two conclusions: his ideas were well thought out, and second, that guy William Wynne was probably some kind of authoritarian dim wit.

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As the builder began his take off roll and all seemed to be going well, my status in his mind must have sunk to a new low…every one of my warnings not to do things now seemed like the babbling of a foolish control freak. He must have thought “I mean, really, what kind of an ego does that guy have to call himself the authority? things are going great!….”

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Once he past 400 feet the engine went into heavy detonation, and by 240 seconds into the flight it was largely destroyed. The last two minutes were limping back to the runway. Ten years of work for 360 seconds in the air. I contacted him after the event, and we had a pretty civil exchange of thoughts.  Although he didn’t say it directly, the general conversation indicated that he was amazed at how I had gone from being an authoritative dim wit to being a mechanical-philosophical genius in 6 minutes. -ww.

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cc30mexico14fiveplanes

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Above, The five Corvair powered Zeniths that flew into Corvair College #30, all parked for a photo in front of the Mexico terminal. These builders decided that the surest path to their own personal goals in building and flying was to utilize the information we provide.  Although I get along with all of them, their choice to use the information was based on it’s credible and proven value, not our personalities.

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There are also plenty of other people who, for a myriad of reasons, chose not to use the information. The great majority of those planes were never finished, and a number of the ones completed were destroyed in “accidents” .  I put quote marks on that word because it may have seemed like an accident to bystanders, but I make the case that if the known expert on an installation publicly says it will not work, and the builder chooses to try it anyway, it is a misnomer to call that event an accident, as it is better described as an “inevitable.” -ww.