Engine build mistakes: people who don’t like help.


I was cleaning up the shop today and came across an junk orange oil cooler. It reminded me of a few photos of an engine that came through the shop a while back.


The engine’s second owner brought it by to see if I could ‘update’ it. He had bought it from the original builder, along with a Flybaby airframe. The original builder was an older gentleman who had bought a hub from us many years earlier. Although he had a manual from us, when the original builder found out that the guy who wrote the manual had long hair and didn’t project the right appearance, he decided that he had nothing to learn from my work.


He went on and finished the engine but never ran it. He explained to the second owner that it was a perfect overhaul, ready to be flown. I took the whole engine apart, it was essentially junk and bad ideas.


Disliking my appearance is not a valid reason to discard what I know about Corvairs. The Pilot in Command of a plane has an ethical obligation to his passengers to utilize all available information, not just the stuff from ‘pleasant’ sources. If the ghost of Chairman Mao knew something that would measurably reduce risk to a passenger in my plane, I would not hesitate to use it. Being too proud to accept help is not an asset in the Arena of flight.






Above: Note the valve cover clamps are on upside down; the heads are from a 140, with the second flange welded shut, but the stock seats in the heads ready to fall out. No washers under the head nuts, no lube on the threads. Heads torqued over 35 pounds. The cylinders were standard with a thick ridge. Cast Pistons were in the bores.



Above, pushrods painted orange not white. Spray paint down in the lifter bores and all inside the case. Note the cut out in the stock oil pan for mounting. This is a leak. Bernard Pietenpol made something that looked like this, but his plans showed a reinforcement welded back in place. No safety on oil pan bolts.



Above: Never paint an oil cooler, it prevents it from cooling the oil. There is no sheet metal baffle behind the cylinders. Heat from the head will directly radiate on the cooler, baking it.



Above, a record: four different plugs in the same motor. Note “Jack and the Beanstalk” dipstick tube.

7 Replies to “Engine build mistakes: people who don’t like help.”

  1. Sam Clemens: “…Jim said bees wouldn’t sting idiots, but I didn’t believe that, because I had tried them lots of times myself, and they wouldn’t sting me…”

  2. As you have said in the past, many of the fools in aviation don’t kill themselves; they kill other people. Case in point – that engine very likely would have failed prematurely, maybe even on the first flight. Of course the fool who messed up the build would have said, “Car engines are no good.” It’s enough to make you drink strong coffee and stay up all night writing philosophy…..:-)

  3. Well I’m guessing the long haired guy that didn’t project the right appearance didn’t put the information in the manual about how to put on the valve cover clamps either. LOL!

    I did note in my earlier manual that is says to paint the pushrod tubes white … so either this talented mechanic had a different manual, didn’t read it, or is just an idiot trying to pass himself off as an aircraft engine builder. I suspect the latter.

    “Seems common sense ain’t so common anymore!” (and you can quote me on that).

    As Bruce noted, this engine would have cause another crash that injured or killed some one (again it wouldn’t have been the idiot that said it was an airworthy engine) and a lot of people would have found it as a reason to trash the Corvair conversion.

    BTW Bruce … I like it when William drinks a river of coffee, stays up way too late, and writes philosophy!

  4. Albert Einstein had long hair and did not exactly present the correct appearance but he is considered one of our greatest minds and he had a lot to teach to anyone who listened. Just shows that intelligence is indicated by understanding that it is not what is on the out side that counts but the mind that lies within. At least you are in good company William.

    As for buying such a project second hand, my fother always said that when you buy a used car you are buting someone elses problems (why would they be selling otherwise ?).

  5. this may seem like a crazy question but is there something wrong with painting the pushrods tubes with high temp providing you tape off everything

    1. Dewayne, the issue was the man painted them a color other than white. White does a better job reflecting the heat from the exhaust stacks. Nothing wrong with careful painting, as long as it is ceramic white high heat paint. -ww.

      1. so pretty any other color other than white will reduce the ability of the tubes to dissipate heat. are there any other components where painting will be a bad idea. thanks

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