1,500 mile Corvair College flight in a 601XL


Below is a story with great photos written by Ken Pavlou, of flying a Corvair/601XL from Connecticut to Barnwell SC and back last week. For people who question the capability of light sport qualified home built aircraft, especially ones with converted auto engines, it will be an eye opener. Get a good look at the photos Ken took while directly overflying JFK airport at 5,500′ at night, it is a nice view of lower Manhattan:




In recent weeks, I have written here about several Corvair powered Zeniths that were needlessly damaged or destroyed on their first flight in the stories: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #6, 98% DNA not enough. and How I became a genius in 6 minutes. Reading Ken’s story above, I want everyone to understand what a Corvair powered Zenith is really capable of, and that the people who damaged or destroyed their planes were not victims of ‘bad luck’ nor their selection of engine to work with. They were victims of two things that are 100% avoidable, even to brand new pilots: The willful decision not to follow what has been demonstrated to work and the failure to exercise good judgment and operate the plane by proven methods.


Ken Pavlou has no special advantage over the people who made decisions that lead to their failures. He is critical care nurse, not a mechanic, and he does not come from a flying family. In a story that should stir the heart of any American, Ken’s family emigrated from Greece when he was 8 in 1975. They didn’t speak the language and were arriving as a modern form of indentured workers. The fact that the same shy child is today a husband, father, outstanding healthcare professional, a tireless contributor to all he is a part of, and now flying the plane and engine he built, speaks volumes about the opportunity for real effort and hard work to be rewarded in this country.


Flying over New York City at night is not part of my personal goals in Corvair Powered aviation, but I want everyone to know that the machinery as we teach people to build and use it, is capable, and there is no reason to build nor operate it to a lower standard, even if you choose to operate in far less demanding settings. If you are new to home building and flying, know this: who you follow and spend time with matters. In my work and at the Colleges I highlight the work, perspective and success of builders like Ken rather than the fringe element toiling on ideas with little chance of working. Take your pick, follow either path, but know in advance that they do not lead to the same destination.





Above, Ken with his plane on the flight line at Oshkosh 2014.  The machine is impressive, the man, much more so. Ken is the kind of friend I always wanted to have in my life, but very rarely found. I cannot be unique in this, I am sure that most of Ken’s friends have spent some time considering that he is a better friend than most of us deserve. Ken’s standards of friendship challenge you to live up to your side of the bargain. -ww.

2 Replies to “1,500 mile Corvair College flight in a 601XL”

  1. Ken offered me a flight in his 601 at Barnwell; of course I went! Looking at the build quality of the aircraft, the obvious engine performance of the Corvair and his skill in handling the aircraft and airspace speaks volumes of how following the proven paths work.


  2. Thanks for the link William. Anyone who has met Ken knows almost immediately that they have met someone special. His spirit and heart are several sizes bigger than normal and he gives freely of himself to those around him. He is truly a good man who lives life to the fullest and his enthusiasm is infectious.

    On Saturday after lunch I was working on part of my build and having a lot of trouble. I won’t say what I was working on lest someone who is not yet familiar with the process read this and make the incorrect determination that there is something wrong with the part or its design… there was something wrong and it was with me, the installer. Like Ken, I don’t require a lot of sleep but I do need slightly more than he does. I hadn’t gotten it and I was getting increasingly frustrated.

    At one point Ken, who had been giving rides to newbies and future Corvair builders alike, saw me struggling and came over. He quickly realized I was on the verge of a frustration induced meltdown. He spoke quietly to me and talked me down and helped me finish what I was working on. Several others had tried to help prior to Ken’s intervention but it was his steady tone and encouragement that got me over the hurdle. This done, I ended up working until 2:00 AM Sunday morning, getting my pistons, rods and cylinders installed. I would never have gotten to that point without his kind words and assistance. Besides, who else would go to bed, get three hours sleep and be up drinking coffee with me?!

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