“I sure hope his opinion is worth money to someone”

Builders,

John Tower was a four term US Senator from Texas.  Between his service in WWII and being a reservist, he wore the uniform of the US Navy for 46 years. He was on the Senate Armed Services Committee for 20 years; he was on the Joint Committee on Defense Production for 16 years; Although he was a Republican, he lead the ‘Tower Commission’, that investigated and condemned the Reagan administration role in the Iran Contra Affair. After leaving the Senate Tower was the Chief US negotiator of the Strategic Arms talks at a critical time in the Cold War.

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In 1989 President Bush nominated Tower to be US Secretary of Defense. Because he had never been a man of blind party loyalty, Tower was attacked on many fronts in one of the ugliest Senate confirmation hearings in history. At the height of the battle in the Senate, Towers enemies stated he was unqualified to be Secretary of Defense, because after serving in the Senate, Tower had worked for General Dynamics and was paid about $200,000/yr. One of Towers supporters went to the microphone and “We are speaking of making this man United States Secretary of Defense, on these issues,  I sure hope that his opinion is worth money to someone.” 

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With the goal of finding someone who had not been paid for their perspectives, Tower’s nomination was defeated by a coalition of his political rivals and enemies.  Another nominee was found, a relative unknown from a state where he had few detractors. He was easily confirmed, 92-0, and thus began the rise to power of a Wyoming Congressman named Dick Cheney.

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Your Aviation Connection: In budget experimental aviation, there is a small (10%) but internet vocal minority that will constantly spout the myth any person who runs a profitable or successful business will advocate products and procedures, motivated solely by quick profit. In this distorted view, anyone who is ‘successful’ can’t be trusted, and their track record should be ignored in favor of getting advice from people who’s opinions have never been valuable enough for builders to spend money on.

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This is a disease that doesn’t affect mid level builders like RV series builders. A part of the reason why their are 10,000 flying RV aircraft is the message Profitable=Evil doesn’t resonate with them. They want to build a proven aircraft, and they want to fly it. They are not interested in getting sidelined by conspiracy theories on success. To the contrary, the majority of RV builders selected Van’s Aircraft, specifically because it was successful and profitable. To sane people, this is taken as evidence of having a good and proven product.

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When people who are against trusting successful people need medical attention, do they look for people who didn’t make it through med school? Do they look upon every successful professional with suspicion? Do the automatically trust the opinion of every amateur or failure? Your guess is as good as mine, I am an aircraft mechanic, I have little understanding of that kind of psychology.

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On the internet last week, the claim was made I advocate pressure cowls because I make money selling baffle kits.  This is a joke, first because pressure cowls work, evidenced by 98% of RV aircraft and 100% of Cessna 172 and 150’s having them, second, we have more than a hundred of flying Corvair powered planes that use a pressure cowl, but lets not forget the point, I don’t even sell baffle kits. Even if I did, I am well known as a person who can’t be bought: Read this story: Expert Witnesses in civil Aviation trials. and know that I was offered $55,000 for 2 hours of testimony against Cessna, and I told their lawyers to “F–k Off. ”  In 2001, I had several attorneys promise me a million dollar settlement if I would sue the PIC in my accident. I told them to drop dead also.   So perhaps it seems unlikely that I would sell out for the ‘big money’ available from Corvair parts sales.

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The anti-success line sold on internet groups isn’t just aimed at Corvairs; I have seen it used against any VW company that lasted, about half of the aircraft plans sellers, and a great number of people who offered parts for plans built aircraft. The people who sell this idea claim to be defending traditional homebuilding, but what they are really doing making it unattractive for people to make products of basic planes, to take away the opportunity for some builders to choose for themselves products that best serve their individual time vs money equation.  If you are a grass roots homebuilder who wonders why there are “A wealth of products for the wealthy“, but far fewer choices for those on a budget, here is a big part of your answer.

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Here is irony: One of the things I do with the modest profits from our 27 year business is put them back into events that serve grass roots builders like our free Corvair Colleges: Corvair College History….in photos. and use the time to write about our R&D and testing projects: Testing and Data Collection reference page. Yet, a number of people who claim I am solely motivated by profit, have actually attended a Corvair College, and certainly almost all people who make the claim have learned something from my websites. These are the some of the people I was writing about in this story:The Hypocrisy of Homebuilders.

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Every builder will choose his own path. Some will follow the proven path because their goal is success, and they interpret success as the sign of good product or service. I am glad to assist these builders, no matter how big or small their budget is.  Others, will choose to condemn any successful company, for reasons that are important to them, but in doing so will greatly diminish their personal odds of building and flying a reliable plane, all as the years drift by and their time runs out. Pick your own personal path carefully, most people don’t get two chances at this.

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Above John Tower in the 1960’s. If you can see past the political necessity of his vote against the Civil rights act to gain office, the man had a long run where he put his loyalty with his conscience instead of either party. It wasn’t a long term strategy for gaining the favor or protection of his party. He was killed at age 65 in the crash of an Embraer twin turboprop, a scheduled airline flight. The accident was traced to the failure of a Hamilton Standard propeller. A later, nearly identical fatal accident caused a major safety probe that laid responsibility on Hamilton Standard’s overhaul practices.

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-ww.

 

 

 

 

 

Blast from the past 1993-2003

Builders,

I came across an old box of photos from a long time ago. Below is a little sample. Many of the stirred long forgotten memories. Over the years there have literally thousands of builders we have worked with, and I am pretty sure I have actually touched more than 1,000 Corvair engines destined for planes, met their builders, worked with them. I have run 400 or so engines on our test stand. Sounds like a lot, but the work dates back all the way to 1989.

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The most common ‘complaint’ about Corvairs from people, who have frequently never met me, is that I must have some giant ego. I am not sure how these people missed the fact I am a self described Grease monkey-troglodyte.  My success with Corvairs isn’t because I am so smart, it is actually because I have always been just dumb enough not to know when to quit. The progress was made, not by brilliant insight, but more often by exhausting the permutations of what wouldn’t work, and being very observant of all of the information available, not just the small fraction that served a pet theory.  Ironically, many of the  these critics are the same who need to believe that in their first Corvair engine they have discovered something that eluded detection by myself and all the builders that came with us. That is arguably the very egomania they desperately need to ‘expose’ in others.

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Enjoy a look into the long past, to see some of the milestones of 27 years of work. I have outlasted nearly all of the alternative engine companies of the last decades. There are a number of skilled, experienced builders, but few who have been continuously at it without break, attending airshows in person from coast to coast. It isn’t a contest, but it is a fair reminder that I am still here and I have left a long trail of compulsive critics in the rear view mirror.

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Above, Grace takes apart a core engine at Corvair College #3 at Spruce Creek Florida, 2002.  With her is Gus Warren and Mark Christmann.

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Above, two eras of Corvair advocates: Left is Bud Rinker, right is a young version of me at Sun n Fun 1995.  Bud developed his ‘Rinker Gearbox’ in the late 1960’s. It worked, but he never personally flew it. His two practical articles with data in 1970 issues of Sport Aviation was actually a great contribution, and provided turbo data we later built on. Bud perished in a car accident about 10 years ago.

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Above, before there was gray hair: Pat Panzera and myself looking at the first Dragonfly / Corvair engine mount I built, 1999 or 2000 at the tandem wing fly in in Kansas.

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Above, Myself and Virl Deal at Brodhead 2000. Virl logged 1,100 hours on his Corvair powered Pietenpol over a 15 year period. The button I am wearing says “This ain’t Oshkosh” a then popular Brodhead motto. I am wearing my father’s hat.

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Above, something different, flying an hour of jet aerobatics in Heintz Peier’s L-39 Albatross. 1993.  My work has crossed my path with that of many interesting characters. Heintz was from Switzerland, but lived at Spruce Creek.  My years at Embry-Riddle and this kind of exposure gave me a lot ‘bigger picture’ than most alternative engine guys. Many people like to talk about “pulling G’s” but most light planes have a lot of drag for their energy. Conversely, the L-39 can sustain 5 g’s for 20 seconds without bleeding off all the energy. It was the limit of what I could take at age 30.

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Above, myself and the illustrious Terry Bailey of alto mud creek GA, 1999. Terry was a character from the world of tandem wing planes. The tail of my Pietenpol expresses thanks to people who believed in what I was doing. Bob Bean was the finest person I ever met in aviation, you can see his picture here: Risk Management reference page, he and his wife Sara perished in a weather related Glass air accident in 2006.

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Above, Jake Jaks and myself, at the conclusion of Corvair College #1, in May of 2000.  Jake went on to fly this engine in his Pober Jr Ace. In 2009 he flew it to Sun n Fun and was greeted by the designer and founder of the EAA. Read the story here: http://www.flycorvair.com/snf2009.html .

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Above, At Paul Poberezney’s SAA fly in at Frasca Field IL, 2003.  I am in the green jacket with muttonchops. Grace was the first guest speaker at the fly in that year. In the black jacket is Tom Brown, who’s 1,600 hours in his Pietenpol makes him the worlds highest time Corvair pilot. In the blue jacket is Bill Knight who owns B.H. Pietenpol’s “Last Original”, Bernard’s last plane which lives and flies out of Brodhead. We are standing in from of Bill’s Waco F-2 replica, which was hand built by Tom.

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Above, In my shop with WWII veteran and builder of 8 experimental aircraft, the late Steve Magill of Florida. The engine seen here later flew on Steve’s Pietenpol.  Take a few minutes to read Steve’s story here: Four Men.  Steve was a Landing Craft Coxswain on D-Day. He wanted me to know me how bad that day was, but he just couldn’t put it in words. He said several times “They were just boys” and “It was murder.” He said that leaving those men on the beach was the worst moment of his life, and it never went away.

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Grace and I never charged Steve a dime for all the assistance putting his engine together and running it. Most good businessmen wouldn’t ‘waste time’ on a guy with a thin wallet like Steve. That is their loss, they can live in a shallow world worshiping dollars if they choose. For myself, the hours we shared with builders, particularly the ones of Steve’s generation, were their own reward.  This is a concept that the compulsively critical fail to understand.  We have now held 38 Corvair Colleges, and we have never charged anyone for all the things we offered to share at the events. It wasn’t charity, it was an expression of gratitude for men like this:  ERAU – models of integrity #2,   who took the time to freely share with me knowledge they had learned, some of it at a very steep price.  We all live in worlds of our own making, and looking back on the photos gives some satisfaction that I chose to put something positive back in Experimental Aviation, it is small thanks for all that it has brought to my life.

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-ww.

Grace on father’s day

Builders:

My father in law Bob is a life long sportsman, something of an expert of salmon fishing, but well rounded on all points of field craft. The fact his only child is a daughter didn’t deter him one bit from sharing his love of the outdoors.

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Above, a photo from our back yard in 2006. Grace and her father getting in a little informal skeet practice Grace has an unusual stance, but her father coached her to outstanding skills. The 12 gauge is a Winchester model 1912, an heirloom in their family

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From the story Grace’s Dad and Ted Williams:

“My Father in law is from an era of American men that chose the outdoors as their ‘Arena’, just as TR did. These men put many years of patient study and intense awareness into perfecting their field craft. This focus and pursuit has direct parallels to the mastery of being a ‘stick and rudder pilot.’ They both take considerable investment, not of money, but of the willpower to focus on the moment at hand without distraction, to study to subtitle differences between acceptable and better.”

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-ww.