Something Very Positive – from Brian Dempsey


Amid the little internet drama of the last week, a plain brown cardboard box arrives in the afternoon mail. It looked like it could contain typical core parts, but the name on small return address label caught my eye, It was from Brian Dempsey.


There have been many good people in the history of homebuilding, and I suspect that most people today might not recognize one of the aviators who was at the very cutting edge of Formula V air racing in the 1970s and 1980s. Formula V was the purest of homebuilt creativity in a reasonably affordable format. Men like Steve Wittman and John Monnett thought this was the best place to experience a resurgence of the golden age of air racing (1929-39) Formula V was hyper competitive, and produced useful sport plane designs like the Sonerai and the V-Witt. Brian Dempsey was in the thick of this, best known for his plane “Miss Annapolis” Eventually, Brian became the Formula V national champion several years.


Inside the box was a collection of vintage copies of the classic book “Stick and Rudder.” They came with a short note explaining that Brian wanted to provide them to a promising person at each of Corvair Colleges from here forward. He liked the educational nature of the colleges and the promotion of traditional homebuilding skills and perspectives.  The modest nature of the note and Brian’s reserved style suggest he would like the contribution to be received without fanfare, but I do believe that it should have public acknowledgement among Corvair builders, and it should have it’s place with the notable contributions builders of generous spirit have made.


Brian had actually came to a Barnwell Corvair College several years ago, and had signed up to return to #34 this last November. When he didn’t make it I just thought something came up, and only much later did we learn that he was in a serious car accident just as he was leaving for the College. Both Grace and I are looking forward to eventually having him at another College.


This needs to be understood: Brian is acknowledged as a serious perfectionist master homebuilder. He knows a lot about aerodynamics and efficiency, He is an outstanding pilot, with skills good enough to compete in national air racing against Steve Wittman…and beat him. Other than a few things I might show him about Corvairs, he has nothing to learn from me on any topic in homebuilding or flying. We can have fun hanging out at a College, but I am sure it isn’t on the same experience plateau as racing against Wittman.  Yet the man with these skills, experiences and capabilities, who has attended just a single Corvair College, is drawn to enrich the future Corvair College experience for homebuilders he will likely never meet.   I write a lot about the spirit of traditional homebuilding, but I can’t think of a better example of it than a man who worked hard for his day “In the Arena“, doing something positive to give other people the same shot.




Perhaps the only three things guaranteed by modern life are Death, Taxes, and Internet drama. If I was told I had to choose two, my question would be “What is the rate and will it be an honorable death?”  The personality stuff and the ‘demands for apologies’ will never go away, but you can choose instead to stay focused on spending your hours in much better service to your own goals and dreams. Brian Dempsey’s achievements are a great testimony to the possibilities open to any builder willing to invest in himself, and spend his hours in the company of aviators who approached aviation as something of a brotherhood and not another consumer experience.




The best book on flying ever written. Read the story here: Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?)




About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

One Response to Something Very Positive – from Brian Dempsey

  1. Ray Klein says:

    This refreshes my faith in the human condition. My copy of Stick and Rudder is 1972 and says 125’000 copies in print and was handed down to me. I refer to it often and will hand it down yet again.

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