Here is a ten year old story from our main website. The reason why I bring it up is more than just nostalgia: The concept of driving to see builders, and stopping every night to meet between 5 and 20 builders in small groups, is a very good one. While it isn’t the same experience as attending a College, we can cover a lot of detailed information in the hours between dinner and midnight, (These were the best hours to use on weekdays for guys who were working).
I am specifically thinking about bringing this type of tour to California early in 2016. We have held five Corvair Colleges in the state, but it is so large that it is hard to effectively cover the area. If we hold it in Northern California, we loose builders from Arizona, if we do it in the south, it has the same issue with builders from the North.
My Idea of the best way to cover the state is this: Hold two “Open house days” on successive Saturdays. One in Chino, the following one in Cloverdale. These would not be Colleges, but we would have all day events where pilots could fly in, we can study running engines, and do the things best done in daylight. On the days in between, I would travel in between, stopping every night to meet small groups of builders just as we did on the 2005 tour. We do this in the hangar or workshop of builders, just like the pictures you see below.
In an industry were less than 20% of kit builders finish their plane, here is something to consider as a gauge of our long term support: Every 601 builder who’s hangar was a stop on the tour, all five of them, finished and flew their planes. If you look at the photos, there are about 20 other people who attended who finished their aircraft also. We are still supporting a number of builders in the photos who are still working on their projects.
This is only half the story: if you look at the aircraft companies from 2005, the majority of them are out of business, stranding their customers with no support. We are still here in year 26, because we stuck to a very old idea: The EAA core is made of people who want to Learn, Build and Fly.
Corvair Night School 2005
and Midwest Engine Delivery Service From February 10 to 23, 2005, Gus, Grace and I are making a multi-stop, whirlwind tour of the Midwest. The purpose of this trip is to deliver a number of engines which we completed for builders in the past month, and use the opportunity to meet with small groups of builders for a few hours at each of these locations. While we’ve had eight full blown Corvair Colleges to date, (we have had 24 more since) we’ll be referring to the current events as Night Schools.
Night Schools will be timed so that working builders will have a chance to leave work and drive to the Night School location. This will give us an in person chance to discuss installation questions, rebuilding practices, and of course, inspect builders’ cores and progress. Although cargo space is limited, we will be bringing a number of expensive-to-ship items like Nosebowls and Motor Mounts. We’ll have the computer and cell phone with us to stay in touch with our other builders during the trip. Although the other half of the hangar gang will remain in Florida to continue our in depth preparations for Sun ‘N Fun and keep up with the regular production of parts, they’ll be concentrating on work, so we request that builders planning on a hangar visit come on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday after we return from the trip.
Grace will update our Web site from the road so everyone will be able to read Open E-mail and watch the progress of the Night Schools. Check back at this Web page for possible additions to the Corvair Night School schedule.
This trip is further evidence of our commitment to directly help Corvair engine builders. We have to be the only aircraft engine shop in the World that has a policy of making free house calls. If anyone ever asks you why you chose a Corvair, you can add “because William and his crew make housecalls” to your long list of reasons.
After this tour, our next event will be a weeklong stay at Sun ‘N Fun, Lakeland, Fla., in April. We have no immediate plans for another College before June, so I’d encourage anyone in the area of our travels to take advantage of this opportunity for personal, one-on-one exchange of information. Keeping your building momentum up is the best way to get the most out of 2005, your year in aviation.
6-9 p.m. Saturday, February 12: Alliance, Ohio
Above is Steve Mineart’s 601 engine running on the dynamometer outside our hangar early Thursday, Feb. 10. Kevin, and myself put the final touches on the prep work on the trip. Gus, Grace and I departed three hours after this photo was taken. Although it’s winter, we’re having a very busy season in the shop. The Night School Tour is an important element of our builder support program. We want to keep people continuously informed and enthused. The Night School provides priceless in person contact toward these goals. To keep up with our existing customer orders and serve their needs, half the Hangar Gang stayed at the shop to work while we’re on tour. The whole crew put in 10 days of 16 hour days to prepare. If you are one of our regular customers whom we will not be seeing on the tour, let us thank you in advance for your patience on your orders. It should certainly come with the understanding that in time, we intend to visit most of our builders in the field. And those who have shown the patience and understanding for the type of organization we run will be rewarded with the in person service and commitment we offer.
Here above are the four engines loaded in the back of the rental Expedition. They belong to Steve Mineart (601), Dr. Ray (601), R. David Stephens (Pietenpol), and Cleone Markwell (601).
The first stop on the trip was Washington, D.C. The officer in the center of the photo above is my brother-in-law John Nerges. He is head of the nurses in the intensive care ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. On this day, Feb. 11, John was being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Although he is Airborne and Air Assault qualified, and has been deployed with both the 82nd and 101st Divisions, the focal point of John’s career is the care for severely wounded soldiers. The above photo was taken in the Eisenhower Suite at Walter Reed, where the ceremony was held. My sister Alison, herself a critical care nurse, left, and my father, a career naval officer, right, pinned on John’s insignia. It was a very moving ceremony where John’s promotion was read by a recovering, severely wounded Army helicopter pilot. The pilot’s mother was on hand to thank John and his staff personally for saving her daughter’s life. With characteristic humility, John said the credit was entirely for his staff. It was a most memorable day in my family’s history in many years. John had said that his only regret was that his own father, a veteran of World War II fighting in Burma, did not live to share the day with him. Our entire family is very proud of John.
After the promotion celebration, Gus, Grace and I got in the truck and drove through the night to arrive at the workshop of Pat and David Stephens in Belpre, Ohio. They are a very experienced aviation couple who have owned numerous airplanes and just completed the restoration of a Tri-Pacer. They’re well into their current project, a Corvair powered Pietenpol. In order to have a good shot at finishing and flying the airplane this summer, the Stephens, after a visit to our hangar, opted to buy a completed and test run engine from us. It happened to be The Last Engine We Built In 2004. This trip gave us an opportunity to deliver the engine and inspect their project in person. Above, Gus and I have just unloaded the Stephens’ engine into their workshop.
Above, David and Pat discuss airframe and installation issues with me. Having owned and flown our Corvair powered Pietenpol for several years allowed us to share firsthand knowledge directly with the Stephens. A one-hour discussion like this is worth a thousand Internet opinions from people with no direct experience. On our side of the coin, direct in person feedback from builders has always improved our understanding of builders’ capabilities and needs. I credit this as one of the two or three most important business principles that have allowed us to prosper in the past 10 years of Corvair engine work. Companies that never listen to their builders exist today only as a memory.
That same evening, we drove several hundred miles north to Alliance, Ohio, home of EAA Chapter 82 and the scene of Corvair College #7. Despite being a very cold night, there were about 15 builders on hand, some who had driven several hours to be there. Following introductions, I gave a brief technical overview, captured in the photo above. We then dove right into inspecting engines and answering technical questions. Our host, Corvair/Pietenpol builder Kip Gardner, and airport owner Forrest Barber went out of their way to provide a clubhouse full of refreshments.
Two builders brought complete core engines, cleaned for detailed inspection. This gave everyone an excellent opportunity to learn detailed techniques and ask questions in the small group setting, as seen above. I was impressed by the thoughtful questions and level of background work that these builders had put in. Although we were only scheduled till 9 p.m., we stayed past 11 p.m. because the mood was good and the exchange was very productive. When any builder shows the initiative to get in the car and drive at times hours to participate in an event like this, every member of my crew responds directly to this level of effort. While we meet literally thousands of potential builders every year, the ones who have made the choice to build and are willing to put forth the effort, like those who attended this Night School and previous Colleges or called to ask us questions while they’re building, merit any extra attention that my crew can afford.
After the Night School, we drove on to our friend Ed Fisher’s house to spend the night. Sunday, we had a chance to spend a few hours with Ed at his hangar at the Braceville, Ohio, airport. In the above photo, Gus and I stand with Ed, center, in front of a 1930 Fleet. Ed is a very famous light airplane designer with two Oshkosh Grand Champions to his credit. His hangar is a very creative place with 8 or 9 projects in progress. Of special interest to Corvair engine builders are Ed’s Zippy 2 and Sport Fleet projects, both two-seat aircraft designs he’s working on specifically for Corvair power. Ed’s 20+ years as a designer has led to more than a dozen different designs, some of which, like the Skylite, have been built in very large numbers. Ed’s 2004 Grand Champion biplane, the Zipster, has brought his name back to the forefront of homebuilt design. 2005 will be a very productive year for Ed.
7-9:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14: West Bloomfield, Michigan
In Love With Corvairs;
Bring Your Wife to Something Special
When we visit Michigan, we always stay with Gus’ family, who live in the Pontiac area. To understand why Gus’ skills as a pilot are invaluable to us, take a look at the family portrait above. Gus’ father, the legendary Clare Warren, soloed in 1932, got his pilot’s license in 1936, became an instructor in 1940, logged more than 20,000 hours of instruction, and flew most of the models of light aircraft ever produced in the U.S. Gus’ mother, Joy Warren, soloed and got her pilot’s license in 1967 in the same Cessna 140 she still flys today. Gus took his first flight in the 140 at two weeks of age. Of course, his father was his instructor. As a member of a family with 120+ years of flight experience in light aircraft, Gus brings an expertise to our flight program that few individuals can match.
Our next stop on the Night School Tour was Dr. Gary Ray’s house. He graciousl offered to invite area builders to come check out his project during an evening Night School at his home. Above is the group photo we snapped. From left in front: Stephen Gores, 601XL, Michigan; Greg Harris, 601XL, MI; Chris Hines, MI; Vincent Donaghey, Davis DA-2, Canada; Mike Scovel, Varieze, MI; Bill Pinkenburg, Varieze, MI; Dino Bortolin, 601XL, Canada; and Dan Ernst, helicopter pilot, MI. From left in second row: Rob Schaum, 601 XL, MI; Dick Wood, Avro Arrow replica, Canada; Andy Bondy, Kolb Mark III, Canada; Grace Ellen and William Wynne, 601XL, Florida; Bob Mendelson, MI; Roy Szarafinksi, Zenith 701, MI; and Andy Cross, 601XL, Ohio. In the very back, up top, is our host Dr. Ray, building the very nice Corvair powered 601XL pictured above.
Although the stop was planned for 7 to 9:30 p.m., we actually spoke with builders from 6:30 to midnight. It was a very productive discussion that covered all aspects of the installation. We spoke about individual issues on installations in tractor and pusher aircraft, propeller selection and theory, and details on rebuilding and operation.
Dr. Ray had previously purchased a 66″ Warp Drive two-blade propeller from us. We had arrived a few hours before the builders and installed Dr. Ray’s engine. His engine was rebuilt at our shop, and test run on our dynamometer less than a week earlier. Having the engine on the mount gave us an excellent visual aid in discussing things like propeller installation, above. For curious 601 builders, the ground clearance on the prop is 9.5″.
The photo above shows Dr. Ray’s panel. He’ll be using a glass cockpit display for flight instruments, but the traditional engine gauges are the ones we fly in our own airplane and recommended in a past issue of The Corvair Flyer. Dr. Ray has had his kit for less than a year. In spite of owning a very busy veterinary hospital, he is a steady and efficient builder, and his plane is in the homestretch. Not shown in the photos are the wings and canopy, which are completed. We hope to see this airplane at Oshkosh this year.
At left above, 601XL builder Rob Schaum brought his core engine in for inspection. It was an RD engine and turned out to be in excellent shape. We inspected his studs, and gave him a battle plan for working on the case. We took his crankshaft and heads with us to give them the full treatment in Florida. He was very excited to be getting a running start on his engine conversion.
In the photo above, our host, Dr. Ray, left, admires his Corvair engine with Grace Ellen and I. We consider this Night School very successful on several fronts. It drew a lot of builders we hadn’t met in person before, it gave us a chance to share a lot of technical knowledge with active builders, and of course, the delivery of Dr. Ray’s engine was an especially satisfying factor. At midnight, we got in the truck and drove back to the Warren home. The following morning we left to drive several hundred miles to Illinois for some prep work.
7-9:30 p.m. Thursday, February 17: Oskaloosa, Iowa
On the way to Iowa, we stopped for a day at Cleone Markwell’s in Casey, Illinois. Cleone has a 601HD that he built three years ago and flew with Rotax 912 power. He has removed the 912 in favor of a fresh Corvair installation. Above is the before shot in front of his airframe.
In a few minutes work, Gus and I had installed one of our standard 601 Motor Mounts. All models of the 601 have the same firewall forward package. Thus, the mount proven on our XL bolts right on to an HD.
A little bit later, Cleone’s engine, which we built in our shop and ran on the dyno at Corvair College #8, was installed on his mount. After taking the photo above, we left and drove to Ottumwa, Iowa, arriving late in the night. Ottumwa is home to the Antique Aircraft Association and their incredibly good Airpower Museum. We spent the morning there before heading 30 miles north to Dr. Steve Mineart’s home.
Above is a photo of Dr. Mineart and myself. Steve is a 601XL builder. When he heard about our Night School plans, he called up and placed a quick order for an engine. Three weeks later, here it is, test run and delivered to his home.
Above is the collection of builders who showed up for the Night School in Steve’s garage. The Mineart family hosted the event, and their hospitality was duly appreciated by all in attendance. From left, in front: Roger Koopman, Iowa; Dave Harms, Zenair 601XL, IA; William Wynne and Grace Ellen, ZenVair 601XL, Florida; our gracious host, Dr. Steve Mineart, 601XL; and Dan Wilson, Pietenpol, Minnesota. From left, in back: Norm Muzzy, Pietenpol, IA; Craig and Jean Foster, Merlin GT, IA; Ted Phillips, Pietenpol, IA; Ronald Franck, Spacewalker II or Zenair 601, Illinois; Bryce Kibbel, 601XL, IA; and Curtis Mineart, proud patriarch of the Mineart family, Iowa.
Dr. Steve shows his Dad, Curtis, one of our Nosebowls, above.
Steve’s airframe is 85% done. The finished wings can be seen above in the background hanging from the wall. He has been working on it part time for two years. It was very clean and straight workmanship.
A number of the visiting builders brought engine parts, above, which we inspected closely.
Gus shows Steve our very simple dual electric fuel pump setup for the 601XL, above.
Husband and wife team Craig and Jean Foster of Iowa, who are building a Merlin GT, inspect Steve’s fuselage, above. We’d previously exchanged e-mails with Craig about his engine. He has a previously converted Corvair, which he has decided to update to our current specs for his Merlin. The evening gave us the opportunity to discuss the strategy for the upgrade.
Ted Phillips, Corvair/Pietenpol builder, above, brought a lot of photos of his project. It is about 75% done. The craftsmanship looked very good. We covered a lot on systems and details so that he can finish up the firewall forward on his plane.
A good learning moment, above. One clean core engine can show all builders present how we take care of something, or what level of finish is acceptable. Books and videos are great tools, but the third leg of the triangle is face to face meetings.
7-9 p.m. Friday, February 18: St. Louis, Missouri
The Night School at Steve’s broke up about 11 p.m. Thursday. We got in the truck about midnight and drove 180 miles south to the Zenith Aircraft Factory in Mexico, Missouri. This gave us a chance to spend most of Friday discussing the 2005 airshow season with the Heintz family. Our ZenVair 601 and firewall forward display will be in the Zenith Aircraft display area at Sun ‘N Fun in Lakeland, Fla., in April. The Hangar Gang will be on hand all week there to answer questions. In the above photo, Sebastien Heintz, Grace Ellen and myself are inside the factory with the company 601 behind us. Friday concluded the latest Zenith workshop. Nick told us that seven of the builders had taken home 601 kits with them.
The Zenith factory is a very interesting mixture of craftsmanship, tooling, efficient layout and organization. Above is a very accurate articulated drill press being used to drill precision parts.
Above, Gus and I survey the shop. Of all the people I know personally, Gus knows more about the history of light aircraft manufacturing than anyone. He was very impressed with the Zenith shop.
Another view of the inside of the factory, above. The gentleman in the foreground is one of the workshop participants.
A 601 kit, above, organized to go home with a builder. Looking at it, you wonder how long it will be before you see it sitting on the flight line at Oshkosh.
After visiting the Zenith factory, we hopped in the truck and drove 120 miles to St. Louis for the Night School that same evening. This was held in Vince and Louis’ hangar. These guys had attended Corvair College #8, where they completed and test ran their 601 engine. In their hangar is their 50% done 601 airframe. Attending the St. Louis Night School, are, from left, above: Kerry Owen, Zenair 601XL, Missouri; Larry Gatewood, 601XL, MO; Kevin Work, 601XL, Tennessee; Grace Ellen and William Wynne, ZenVair 601XL, Florida; Laura Kargacin and Larry Lipe, KR-2, Illinois; Dennis Engelkenjohn, Pietenpol, MO; co-host Louis Kantor, Zenair 601XL, with co-workers Laurie Deneef, Lynn Gebke, Gary Blawn of Florida, and co-host Vince Olson.
As you’re reading this, take special note of Kevin Work, third from left. I predict this builder will accomplish great things in 2005. Why? Because this guy drove 300+ miles each way to spend a few hours in a cold hangar so that we could inspect his case and cover his questions in person. When we meet a builder with determination like this, my experience tells me that he will succeed where others may fail for lack of perseverance. Kevin Work is a standout amongst the high quality builders we’ve met on this tour.
Yes it was chilly, but we spent a good 2 1/2 hours with the builders who drove in. Braving the cold, from left, above: myself, Larry Gatewood, Zenair 601XL, MO; Kevin Work, 601XL, Tennessee; David Munson, 601XL, MO; and Kerry Owen, 601XL, MO. Vince and Louis are eagerly anticipating the return of better weather. They were making fantastic progress on their kit before the weather turned. They utilized the first part of the cold season to finish their engine. If they get back to their previous pace, their airplane could fly by mid-summer, marking a one-year build. Not bad for two first-time builders who fly for the airlines as a day job.
4-6 p.m. Saturday, February 19: Casey, Illinois
Here’s a small but skilled and motivated group of builders. They took the time to come out to visit Cleone Markwell’s hangar at Casey Municipal Airport and see the progress we’re making on the Corvair/601HD installation. Outside, it was freezing rain, but it was fairly warm inside Cleone’s heated hangar. The atmosphere was conducive to the exchange of information and comfortable conversation. From left, above, are: Bob Glidden, KR-2S, Indiana; Eric Pitts, KR-2S, Indiana; myself and Grace Ellen, 601XL, Florida; Mark Sandidge, 601HDS, Kentucky; and Larry Kyle, strongly considering a 601, Indiana. Each of these guys has a farily good background in aviation. It was a good discussion, and the reasonable approach and quality of questions reflected their experience with airplanes. Although most of our customers are just starting to follow their dreams in aviation, it is a good indication of the appeal of the Corvair when you meet several experienced aviators who are planning on Corvair power for their own projects.
The photo above is a good indication of an afternoon well spent. Notice that every person is smiling. We’re examining Mark Sandidge’s heads and crank.
A few minutes worth of close examination, and four more builders know exactly what a good head gasket area looks like. We also took a look at corrosion in the cylinder chamber, and I gave everyone an overview of what is cosmetic and what really matters. Mark took his heads home for more work, and left his crank with us so we could take it back to Florida for the full treatment. The group arrived early and stayed late. After they departed, Gus and I did some more work on Cleone’s plane while Grace updated the Web site. We called it quits for the evening at 11 p.m.
Sunday, February 20: Whiteland, Indiana
The following afternoon, we stopped by the workshop of Larry Hudson, above left. If there’s a single notable characteristic about Larry, it’s his enthusiasm. Of the thousands of builders we’ve dealt with, Larry has to be in the top 10 for most Colleges and airshows attended. He’s always quick to point out all the building projects mades possible by the economical Corvair engine. Larry’s project is a 7/8 scale Fokker D-8. Before the trip, we built a custom motor mount for him. This is the 26th different mount design I’ve done to mate the Corvair to more than two dozen different airframes. Gus painted it purple as a joke.
The photo above shows the riveted aluminum tube structure of Larry’s Fokker. Larry’s engine is completely done and was test run last year at our hangar. The design of the plane is pure and simple, with very few complex systems. We’re looking forward to seeing this fly toward the end of the year.
Monday, February 21:
Atlanta, Georgia, Area
After the visit at Larry’s, we drove late into the night and made it to Murfreesboro, Tenn. We got a late start and ran right into some really horrendous weather on the highway. It took an extra few hours to make our way down to the Atlanta area. Our first stop was to see the six Big Piet builders in Carrolton. These guys are getting to be better known in homebuilding circles because they are group building six identical Corvair powered Pietenpols with steel tube fuselages. Although it had to be a brief visit, it was an impressive one. Over the years, I’ve seen many, many Pietenpol projects, which have demonstrated the complete range from fantastic craftsmanship to the design’s tolerance of sloppy building. Out of the 80 or so Pietenpols I’ve seen in person, here is some of the nicest craftsmanship I’ve seen. Although they’ve modified the design slightly, the changes are subtle and the details are all exceptionally good. The world of Pietenpol builders will have a bright day when these airplanes are rolled out for the first time. In the photo above are Big Piet builders Frank Metcalfe, Tom Howard and Mike Annas, in front, with helper Jay Morrow in back, and myself and Gus at right.
Here’s a view inside the Big Piet factory. On the table are wings undergoing final assembly. The airframes are about 80% complete. In the foreground is one of the engines. These guys came down to our hangar, and we assembled one engine all the way through while they took notes and asked a lot of good questions. They returned home and later built the rest of their engines. They spared no expense in the building of these engines, and yet they have less money in them than you would in a Continental core engine. Their engines will provide years of trouble free service to match their high quality airframes.
Our next stop was to visit the Lawrenceville Airport on the diagonally opposite side of Atlanta. I’d heard stories about legendary Atlanta traffic, but since I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles, I never gave it much thought. To be on the safe side, we allowed 1.5 hours to drive across town. I asked Mike Annas about it, and he simply said, “You’re not going to make it, it’ll take two hours.” He was wrong. It took 2.5 hours. The storm we’d seen earlier in the day caught up with us and grew to include hail and pelting rain. We called ahead to warn our host, Greg Jannakos, that we’d be running late. He had a warm reception waiting of about a dozen builders from his EAA Chapter 690 and beyond. After apologizing for being late, we got started on a two hour question and answer session. In the foreground of the photo above is Greg’s completed Zenith 601HDS wing. The Night School was held in the EAA Chapter 690 hangar, a very nice facility.
Greg’s airplane, sitting out on the ramp, above. Greg ran his engine at Corvair College #8. His airplane is plans built, and exceptionally nice. The plane has one of our Nosebowls installed on it, and looked very sharp, even without paint. The plane is very close to flying. Greg dropped us an e-mail after the event, telling us the plane weighed 677 pounds fully assembled, but without a battery. If the paint is applied sparingly, and the battery small, this plane will finish up below 700 pounds. An impressive accomplishment that speaks highly of Greg’s clean and simple building style.
The following day, we made it back to the hangar by dinner time. When I arrived, I found out that in addition to regular work, the rest of the Hangar Gang had assisted visiting builder Paul Chandler in the assembly and test run of his Zenith 601HDS engine. The engine had a few spots that needed some special attention, and Kevin had burned the midnight oil to ensure Paul went home with a running engine. I stayed up late with Kevin going over some details on the last night Paul was in town. Shown in the photo above, Paul stopped by the following morning and we ran his engine. He was very thankful, and commented that with a test run engine and a virtually complete airframe, he’s looking at finishing and flying the plane this season.
Overall, I declare the trip a big success. The number and quality of builders we met along the way, and their appreciation for the personal contact made it all worthwhile. The fact that at our hangar thousands of miles away a builder was still getting personal service from our crew shows the extent we’re willing to go to in order to promote the motto, “Learn, build and fly.” The last act that officially closed the trip was driving across town to Budget to return the Excursion. The manager did a doubletake when he saw that we’d driven 4,620 miles. He smiled when he finally understood why I asked him three times if there were any milage charges before we rented it. It was a long trip, but certainly one we’ll remember, and I trust builders also will remember, for a long time.
Thank you. William