Thought for the Day: “Comrades among the Creative”

Builders,

When I was driving to Corvair College #34 last September, I briefly met the woman below in a north Georgia gas station.  She has a sprit and a story worth sharing…….

.

 .

At a glance, she was petite, in her 60’s and touring alone.  Most people in the station took notice of her, but she didn’t welcome the looks, gave nothing back.  Their cars, dress and facial expressions betrayed them was suburbanites with judgments, people who’s instinctive reaction to seeing anyone or anything different is to state how they wouldn’t do that or look like that.  This is the part of society that Richard Bach was satirizing in Jonathan Livingston Seagull as the flock of birds trying to peck the different individual to death.

.

I was filling Paul Salter’s F-250 with diesel on the opposite pump. I waited a moment and looked around the pump and said “Nice Shovel.”  There was a moment of recognition, and a big smile came across her face.  I am no expert on Harley’s, but I knew enough to recognize her bike as a late sixties or early seventies “Shovelhead.” This small bit of recognition broke the ice, and we had a really memorable 20 minutes.

.

She has owned the bike for 36 years. Toured all over, liked visiting friends, preferred to travel alone. Knew the machine inside and out, did all her own work. Her home was in the Florida panhandle, but she liked riding in mountains also. Her every motion said she was confident and comfortable in her own skin. Everything she said had charm or a bit of wit. Her nature was alert, and a comment about knowing how to take care of herself suggested she was equipped to do so. I am a married man and this woman is half a generation older, but her presence and manner was undeniably attractive. You could go stand in any shopping mall in America for a month, and you wouldn’t see a single person half as interesting as this woman. In a world where most people are homogenized to the point of being difficult to distinguish acquaintances, this woman didn’t remind me of anyone else, she stood out as an individual.

.

………………………………………………………….

.

What made this conversation possible when the other people in the station barely made eye contact with her? Something I call “Camaraderie among the Creative”.  Consider this:

.

Homebuilder brings his airplane to Oshkosh, parks it in with the Homebuilts, and unfolds his lawn chair behind the wing in a position that clearly identifies him as the guy who brought it. The canopy has stickers from the last 16 Oshkoshes, the prop card says what the plane is, his name, where he is from, what powers it, and in big letters says “This Plane Has Flown 2,000 Hours.”

.

A stream of people walk past. Even without saying anything, many of them express a judgment with body language or gesture.  Many others stand there, as if the builder was invisible, and loudly express opinions about the choice of designs, the powerplant, the color, etc. A third group comes by and says “Your first trip to Oshkosh?” or “They say these planes glide like bricks when they are loaded”. The fourth, and possibly worst group, are the people who ask questions you would chastise an eight year old for asking: “How much did this cost?” , “Where can I buy one of these?”  “Does it come in any good looking colors?”   Our Homebuilder puts on his strained smile,  and says little to these people. Although they may be EAA members, or pilots, they are not homebuilders. They are just another form of mindless consumers, and engaging them would be just as pointless as our woman with the motorcycle above trying to converse with the couple staring at her through their Prius window.

.

Now picture yourself walking up to the same homebuilder: Because you have already had a parade of neighbors and co-workers make stupid comments about the plane you are creating in your shop, you already know what not to say to a person who created any hand made work of art.  Because you are actually building a plane, not just walking up and down the rows at Oshkosh pontificating about things, you are skilled at things like reading plans and observing things, so you take the time to read the prop card and note the 16 Oshkosh stickers. Because you have already had two dozen ‘experts’ walk into your shop and tell you about how Ferdinand Porsche built the Corvair (even though he died in 1951) you know that no one ever learned anything by repeating any story that starts with the phrase “They Say…” So you know to say something simple like “Nice Shovel”,  and let the creator of the project share with you what they have learned first hand. You know all of these things because you are a homebuilder, and as such, speak an universal language known only by creative people. And I believe that this is one of the greatest benefits of being an actual homebuilder; it is your passport to a different world that that co-exists with the consumer world, but shares almost nothing in common with it.  Having escaped the monotonous repressive conformity of consumer-ville, you will be free to lead a interesting and productive individual life and communicate with your comrades in creativity.

.

-ww.

……………………

“Strained Smile”:

 

Parts production improvements – E/P-X distributors.

Builders,

Here is a quick story to explain a dramatic improvement in 2016 parts production.

.
 .

Above, is a picture of 50 stainless steel points plates. These are the core element of all the Corvair ignitions systems I have made since 1998. There have been several evolutions, but the current layout has been unchanged for eight years. This plate is inside every E/P and E/P-X distributor we make See: http://shop.flycorvair.com/product/3301-epx-distributor/

.

Over the years we have had these plates made by machining, hydro cutting, and laser cutting. The last of these is the best option for production. For many years these were produced for us by a very large Defense/Aerospace contractor called Shapes Group Ltd. They are located near the Cape Canaveral complex. They normally don’t make parts like points plates, but Grace is very close friends with the former owner, and he made our stuff between things like C-5B titanium flap tracks and ballistic submarine hatches. Needless to say, the quality was good.

.

After the ownership changed, service was polite, but not easy nor quick. This is understandable with a company that which  does 100 million dollars of machine work in a good year.  Since then we have had another CNC shop make them for us, and again the quality was good, but it was not easy to get quick service nor fine tune detail changes. The E/P distributors I have made are in more than 90% of the flying Corvair powered planes in the world. They are popular parts, and for this reason, and the supply difficulty, it was traditionally a part builders had to wait for.

.

Enter Dan Weseman: Because Rachel and Dan have hundreds of parts made and sourced for their Panther kits, they have developed excellent suppliers for their own parts, and they do quantity business with them. When I mentioned the points plate to Dan, he said he would run it past his laser cutter. Dan is a highly skilled CNC draftsman, and it took only a moment to finely alter a hole size and email the drawing to the Laser cutter. In a week we had the first pile of plates, they were perfect, and also affordable. In the last 90 days we cut the back orders on E/P distributors to nearly zero, and we will shortly have plenty in stock.

.

When I decided last week that I would fly back to Florida to spend a week in the shop making parts before CC#37, I called Dan and asked him to get another run of plates made. Five days later, when I returned from California, a box containing the 50 plates above was waiting on the bench in my shop.

.

We are applying this type of effort to the items in my catalog which have been traditionally in short supply. Improving the supply of subcomponents and having Dan and Rachel take care of the distribution of our parts has made a dramatic difference in the availability of our stuff, and we are just getting started.  We had a brief meeting yesterday and reviewed output, sales and deliveries in the last 90 days, and came to the conclusion that it is a very reasonable goal to have every single catalog item in stock, in quantity before departing for Oshkosh.  This also puts us in the position of being able to make available items that have that have been on the back burner like Kitfox 5-6-7 series Corvair mounts and on the shelf 3,000 cc Corvair closed cases built around Gen II 5th bearings.

.

A box with 50 stainless steel plates doesn’t look like a big deal until you consider it as a small part of a big improvement in manufacturing operations. 2016  is evolving as a year of serious improvements in the accessibility of Corvairs for builders who choose to get more out of homebuilding.

.

-ww.