YOU MUST SET THE TIMING ON YOUR ENGINE

Builders,

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This is not a story about people making mistakes, because everyone does that when they are learning, This is a story about people reading the correct way to do things, and then thinking it over, and deciding not to, because they have some rationalization like ” I think someone did that for me” or “I’m busy, I will look at that later” or “I read that once, I suspect that mine is wrong, but there is too much information on ww’s site, it can’t all be important.” I wrote this last night after working 18 hours in the shop. It has a lot of spelling errors, and we have just 24 hours before the college. I was going to take 10 minutes to correct the spelling, but thought about the guy who will later say “I didn’t set the timing because I decided the advice wasn’t any good because I am a grammar and spelling Nazi and I can’t get past that, even to learn how to save my life.” Have a nice day.

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Above is Gardiner Mason’s Pietenpol. The plane was nearly destroyed in the sun n fun tornado, but he rebuilt it. It flew for years and had a condition inspection every year. It was wrecked in a hard landing that tore a wheel off, it had a number of forced landings. During the years that Gardiner flew the plane, he adamantly refused to ever set the timing with a light, he never did it. He no longer flies a Corvair, and I am glad about that. Let some other engine be blamed for his death. BTW, Gardiner flew for both the military and Delta, and has 30,000 hours, and I honestly have to say he never learned anything from me, in spite of many attempts on my part: http://www.flycorvair.com/pietengineissue.html today his engine runs perfectly in the hands of someone willing to use a timing light: Terry Hand’s 2700 cc Pietenpol engine – w/Weseman 5th bearing

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I have said in countless places that every one must check the timing on their engine with a timing light before flying it. I have even said that I suspect more that 1/5 of the people who fly Corvairs never do this. Perhaps you have read this and thought I was bull shitting people….Well understand this, and read it clearly, Today, I had two people with flying planes tell me in a single day that they never checked the timing on their engines. Yes, two in one day.

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Guy “A” wrote with a picture that showed a broken piston ring, and asked what caused this? When asked, he stated that he had never checked the timing, because he had bought the engine from us years ago, and just assumed that it was OK to fly it without ever checking the timing.

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Guy “B” wrote to say that his plane has one flight on it that went OK. When asked, he stated that the Cowl inlets were only 3.6″, He had no EGT information, one CHT, and he never set the timing on the engine. Again he bout the engine years ago, and some how assumed that it would be fine.

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Here is what is wrong with that mentality: I have said in countless places, that being an aviator is about leaving nothing to chance that you can easily check yourself. Since you have to own a timing light, and you have to check the timing at least every annual, why wouldn’t you check it before flying. “Because I thought someone did this for me” is not an acceptable answer in aviation if you are planning on living long.   If I sold you a gun several years ago, and then you left it in your barn for several years, would you pick it up and handle it without checking to see if it was loaded? Only if you were a fool. Likewise, during an engine installation, there are many ways with lifting the engine, installing baffling, wiring the ignition, that the timing could be altered. It takes only ten minutes to check……but still, people who took 5 years to build a plane, evidently don’t have that 10 minutes. I wouldn’t install a Lycoming engine in a plane and not check the mag timing. Why is this OK to do with a Corvair?

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I have to ask myself why I bother to write detailed stories and organize the in this format: Engine Operations reference page if people are not going to read them. In a previous photo Guy “B” sent me a picture of his engine running on his plane, with no cowling or airbox. I have said countless times that this is totally unacceptable, the same as running a water cooled car without a radiator or coolant. Yet there was some need to do this on a brand new engine. If there was ever a time in the life of an engine not to do this, it is when it is brand new. Between this, the undersized inlets, no timing set, and no egt information, how much damage do you think was done to the engine? If the engine fails in a few hours like Guy “A”‘s engine did, please tell me if you thing that all the guys in their EAA chaperts are going to say “I can’t believe he didn’t bother to take 10 minutes to set the timing” or do you think they will say “Stupid Corvairs, what a rip off that long haired jack ass in Florida is.”

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How many people are going to try this? I don’t know, but here is a story about a guy refused to buy a timing light and check the timing on his Corvair, because I had build the engine 10 years earlier, and it had been sold twice since then, moved all around the country, and put on two different planes, but he was still sure that the timing must be set correctly, because I built it a decade before. Guess what happened? He crashed the plane on the first flight, with a passenger. Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #6, 98% DNA not enough.

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In 24 hours we are leaving for Corvair College Number Thirty-Five. Is anyone learning anything, or am I just assisting in a free assembly service? This website has 740 stories on it, including many specifically on the need to set the timing on every Corvair. Is anyone reading stories like Ignition Timing on Corvairs or When to check your timing, Lessons learned Pt#2 which contains the sentence : 1) The timing needed to have been set on installation and checked at least at each annual. Please show me where it says “unless you think someone set it for you years earlier”

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Every week brings this kind of news. Last week I spoke with a guy who has been flying his plane for four years…..and he has never done a compression test. Try this, call your FSDO, tell them you don’t believe in compression tests at annual condition inspections and see how fast they revoke your repairman’s certificate your plane. Better yet, tell ask your insurance agent if your coverage is still valid if you only do part of a yearly inspection. Freedom to build homebuilts doesn’t mean that one is free from following standard procedures of aviation.

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The thing that gets me the most is the guys who are the beneficiaries of some great research and writing I have done, but willingly choose not to use the information, because they don’t have the time to correct some stuff, but evidently they have plenty of time to rebuild their plane. .Example: Plane flying to Oshkosh, with the landing gear 9″ too far back. I inspected the plane in California, told them the plane had poor CG and incorrect gear location. Neither corrected. On the way to Oshkosh, the engine is running poorly, (problem later traced to certified carb) but they flew past several optional airports to get to the one where the support van was…and promptly put the plane on it’s back…and said nothing when internet people blamed the accident on the Corvair engine of course. Plane flying again now, but with Chinese rockers…..

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Plane under construction for 20 years, finished the engine at a Corvair College. Made a custom and unique cowl, but never felt the need for a CHT to see if it worked, operating at 7,000′ DA, leaning the carb, but of course no EGT, inspite of the fact I have said in countless places a Corvair leaned to rough running is detonating. Main gear installed 7″ too far aft, in spite of my reports on CG….First flight last 20 seconds to loss of power.. with gear too far aft plane ends up on it’s back….It is publicly blamed on my ignition buy builders “Expert”…plane is flipped over, and proves to run perfectly on points, pilot quiets admits he never flipped the switch to the back up…Later testing shows that distributor runs perfectly on BOTH ignitions, the problem was caused by the experts wiring.

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Want to know how many Corvairs have been wrecked by running out of gas? Read this: Comments on aircraft accidents, everyone on the net thought that the accident that sparked the debate was caused by the Corvair…Maybe, just maybe I already knew that the pilot was a danger….He had damaged his $35 cam gear by not reading the installation instructions, so he didn’t replace it, he chucked it in a lathe and turned the aluminum gear down to save the money….and later tried flying his plane with only 5 plugs screwed into it.

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Think that was the only time a pilot flew on five cylinders? Guess again, We had a pilot who did his first several flights, but missed that he never connected the 6th plug wire….He was also doing the flights with no working charging system. Same guy later flies his plane a 601, with 4″ of lateral slop in the stick from completely slacked aileron cables. Why? because he “just had to get to his destination.”.

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How about flying to Oshkosh, having 80 hours on the plane, and never having changed to berak in oil? How about the same thing with 65 hours? How often do you think those builders inspected under the cowl? What did they learn?

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I could keep typing these stories for hours.  Right now, there is someone working on making my list of stupid stories one longer…Just make sure it isn’t you.

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Phil Bolger, An influential and open mind

Builders,

When I am asked who was the largest single influence on my work with Corvairs, the answer invariably surprises, because Philip C. Bolger was not an aviator, he was one of the worlds most prolific boat designers.

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He was an iconoclast, a man of very strong personal philosophy, a first rate historian, and a very entertaining writer.  He designed more than 600 boats, several hundred of these were specifically designed for amateur plans construction. Had his talent been directly applied to homebuilt aircraft, the EAA might be far larger than it is now.  It would certainly have more options than we have today.

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Bolger’s thinking and method of design was unlike anyone else: when designing a boat, he often wrote a short story, something he called a ‘use scenario’, and this wasn’t a mission statement of facts, it was a dramatic piece, focused on the mindset, expectations, adventures and experiences of the people in the event. Only then, did he go back and design a boat that would fit into his story.

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This is the exact opposite of a plane designer like Rutan, who so loved canards, that he designed every plane as a canard, and suggested them no matter how poorly they served applications like STOL planes.  Conversely, Bolger had no loyalty to any layout, he was so well versed in all types of design, the best boat emerged, not just an ill fitting permutation of a single layout.

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I built an number of Bolger Designs over the years, including a 29′ “Tennessee”  The man detested speaking on the phone, but he was a prolific corresponder, and he would return lengthily handwritten answer letters to any well thought out question. His answers would include references to everything fro Thor Heyerdahl to Voltaire.  Over the years I read every book he wrote, many, many times over., and built up a little stack of letters from him. Boats were his life, but he loved planes also, I once noticed that he had donated a lot of rare photos to the EAA museum.  He was not a zealot, his life was broad.

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In 2009 he walked out into his yard and killed himself with a .45 automatic. Both his father and grandfather has succumbed to horrible deaths from Alzheimer’s. Phil was 83, and had undeniable symptoms. It was the last act of a man who defined himself as his ability to think clearly. The last letter I got from him was written shortly before the end. It contains no trace of the decay he dreaded.

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-ww.

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Phil Bolger

Phil Bolger in 1949

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The best book Phil Bolger ever wrote was 1994’s “Boats With an Open Mind.” It doesn’t matter if you are thinking about designing boats, planes, houses or cars, the book is a priceless examination of how personal values are woven into the best designs at the DNA level. Warning, after you read this you will no longer be able to tolerate mass produced consumer items aimed at appeasing idiots with short attention spans. Be prepared to look at everything you use, from vehicles to furniture to art, in a different light.  Among designers of the last 50 years, he is the ultimate advocate of simplicity. The common connection is that sailing small boats at sea is unforgiving, just like flying.

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You can read Bolger’s New York Times Obituary here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/01/us/01bolger.html?_r=0

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For builders who are wondering, yes I write many of these stories months or years earlier, and often publish them when some event makes the subject relevant. This is  true of biographies of people I found particularly important in my life.  Today we are working to prep for CC #35 in four days, and I brought this story, and the one on Bernard Fall out of incubation to provide food for thought while we are working long hours in the shop.

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A Real Journalist, Bernard Fall

Builders:

From my previous story, CNN and Wolf Blitzer: “Flammable Helium” , people might assume that I have no respect for journalists. This isn’t actually so, I have great respect for the craft, I just can’t stand entertainment celebrities pretending to be journalists.

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I have few redeeming features, but one is that I am particularly well read on 20th century conflicts and political movements. Before I was in aviation, I earned a degree in Political Science from St. Leo University. Most people hardly pick up a book as an adult, but I am a prolific reader.

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Much of what is known about 20th century history is due to the work of real journalists like Upton Sinclair, H.L Mencken, Edward Murrow (see: Thanksgiving) Eddie Adams, Robert Capa and Dickey Chapelle. But if I had to pick one journalist that captured my respect, it is Bernard Fall.

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 Fall with Americans In Vietnam.

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Fall was considered to be an expert on French indo China, and he devoted much of his life to accurately reporting and writing books about both the French and US experiences there, in hopes of avoiding the catastrophe that came anyway.

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For contrast, consider todays best known “Foreign Correspondent”  Andersen Cooper.  He is the son of uber-wealthy heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. He was a child and youth model, and attended the most elitist schools in New York, grew up surrounded by wealth and celebrity. On the other hand, Fall was from Austria, but his family fled  to France to evade fascism. After the Fall of France, his father joined the resistance, was captured, and tortured to death by the Gestapo. His mother was sent to Auschwitz, where she was one of the 1.1 million murdered. Bernard evaded capture, and began fighting with the resistance. At age 16 Cooper is partying a exclusive clubs in Manhattan; at 16 Fall is in combat against Nazis and executing collaborators. The former is the training of a celebrity, the latter is that of a combat journalist.

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Fall emigrated to the US and became a well known author and college professor. He spent many years in South East Asia, and was an acknowledged expert in the cultures. He had personally interviewed Ho Chi Minh.  To the great cost of our country, the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations chose to ignore Fall’s warnings. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover painted Fall as a French spy, and they believed him without any evidence.

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Fall continued anyway, covering the war from the front lines. On February 21st 1967, while operating with Marines, he stepped on a land mine and was killed. He was a husband, father of three, and his life ended at age 40.

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You can see an old film of his widow reading the letter he wrote addressed “send only on case of my death” at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpNE4p8nmnQ

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Fall’s two best known works are “Hell in a Very Small Place” and “Street Without Joy.”  Andersen Cooper’s best known work is co-hosting the broadcast of New Years eve with comic Kathy Griffin. In all fairness, Cooper is a much better celebrity than Fall was.

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In the story: Thought for The Day – Have we squandered the great gift? I pointed out that celebrated American writers Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam were both tricked by a North Vietnamese spy posing as a journalist. When you read their work, you get the impression most of it was filed from a hotel bar, not the front lines. They were easy to fool because unlike Fall, they were never soldiers, nor did they speak the language. It is worth noting that Robert Capa, Dicky Chapelle and Bernard Fall were all killed by land mines, a fate that Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam  were in little danger of in Saigon bars, and something that seems very unlikely to befall Andersen Cooper  on New years eve in Times Square.

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-ww.

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