New Year’s Eve noise making at our airport

Builders,

90% of the day our little rural airport is virtually silent, you can sit on the front porch with a book and a coffee, and hear someone six houses away close their front door. But we also have periods where the noise of creativity and freedom are fully celebrated, and New Years eve is always a day filled with sound and celebration.

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The day started early with Vern flying his little plane featured in the previous story. He had not had it out in a long time, and vowed both that he wouldn’t fly it again with its old fiberglass tank, and that he would fly it by the end of the year. He made good on both by getting airborne with the new aluminum tank on the last day of the year. Shortly there after, neighbors came by to use my range, and the volume of sound increased. Later tonight, there will be a traditional bonfire on the south over run, with potent fireworks from Alabama, and a light show provided by tossing Corvair magnesium cooling fans in the bonfire.

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When I was in High School in NJ, the state saying was “If it is fun it requires a permit, if it is real fun. it is illegal”. Florida is not without faults, but saying the state  motto of “Hey, hold my beer” is basically the only legal requirement before having fun.

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Above Marlin lever in .45-70, AR-15 in 5.56. Hard to believe the designs of these to machines are 130 and 59 years old respectively.

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Above, Mint Ruger Blackhawk in .44 Special and a J frame sized Taurus in .22WMR. Blackhawk was both pleasant to shoot and surprisingly easy to shoot accurately.

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Hoping all our builders have a fun new years eve. There are so many good things to do in the coming year, I gently remind everyone to be or find a designated driver tonight, or better yet, hang out with friends in your own neighborhood. We will have more news on 2017 events early next week.

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-ww.

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Critical Understanding #7, The Most Qualified Pilot, ALONE.

Builders;

Four years ago, I was invited to a small, private, industry think tank at Oshkosh. Most home builders would know the names of 20 out of the 25 people in the room for the four hour meeting. The topic was the FAA proposal that might allow the owner of a new homebuilt to fly along with the test pilot on the first flights of his plane. 22 of the 25 people in the room thought this was a bad idea. Jeremy Monnett and myself went further to characterize the proposal as “F#@king retarded”

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One of the three people for it, was the guy who founded the most successful kit plane company in history. He gave a 30 minute lecture that boiled down to these points: Builders are going to do it anyway; It is a pride thing, the guy wants to tell all his friends he was in on the first flight; and a second guy in the plane could ‘help’ the pilot. I have a lot of respect for what the speaker accomplished in his career, but I cut that respect in half in that 30 minutes. In my book, the system need never condone anything just because people would do it, anyone who factors in pride on anything to do with something as serious as test flights is an idiot, and there is no single engine sport aircraft that requires a crew of two, and if it did, they would have to be both well versed in professional training called CRM (Cockpit Resource Management).

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You think 22-3, this would never pass, but guess what, influence counts for more than votes, so today, it is now possible to apply to the FAA to have two people in your plane for the first flight. I have great respect for the FAA, but this decision is the worst one they have made in my 28 years in homebuilding. Before anyone writes in to tell me that “If it wasn’t safe, the FAA wouldn’t allow it” stop, and answer me this: The FAA allows airlines to serve alcohol to people sitting in the exit rows of airliners, so please tell me how they are “Always about safety”.

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It is perfectly OK and right to have pride in the plane you created, but when it comes to operation, and particularly the test flying, put all that emotional stuff away, it is time for cold, ego free thinking and logic. The golden rule of this is the most qualified person available flies the test hours, ALONE.

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The most qualified pilot available should be the only person in the plane for the first 40 hours of phase one testing. There is no Corvair powered plane that needs a second crewman, and phase one is about testing the aircraft, not flight training nor familiarization.

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From my 2009 flight ops manual:

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NEVER fly a plane you have not been checked out in, even if this means going to the other side of the country and paying for lessons. (expensive, but cheaper than crashing) If you want to get checked out for less, have someone fly off the 40 hours on your plane, and then have a CFI check you out in your own plane. If the plane is a single seater, ask the DESIGNER what is an equivalent 2 seat plane.

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NEVER have two people in the plane, even if the FAA approves it

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If no one will fly your airplane when it is done, ask yourself if this is a reflection of your work or attitude toward safety. If you have a good perspective, and a well built plane that has a good engine/airframe combination, there will be skilled people willing to fly it.

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This is nothing new. My 2009 flight ops manual clearly states this, and I preached it long before I wrote the manual. Dan Weseman has a slight modification on there where he states “If you wish to do your own test flights, them get the training to become fully qualified to do so” Both he and I are absolutely in lock step that there should NEVER be two people in a Corvair powered plane for any of the phase one flight testing. If anyone chooses to do this, even if the FAA grants them special permission to do so, it makes no difference, In my perspective, 2 people in a plane for any minute of a flight test is a GROSS PILOT ERROR, and is not a logically defensible position. People can disagree with that, but they own the consequences for the results, not me, and if any official from the FAA or NTSB or a lawyer taking a deposition asks me, I am going to tell the truth, that it was a stupid thing I warned people not to do.

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Above, Paul’s 3,000cc Corvair, cowling open for a pre flight inspection. The engine has required absolutely zero adjustments in it’s first hours of flying, which included several full sets of aerobatic maneuvers. Top cowl is held on by 1/4 turn Camlocs, it comes off in less than 60 seconds. Notice how traditional baffling allows complete visual inspection of the engine. Carefully inspecting the complete engine after every test flight is what people who want to die of old age, at home, in bed do.  Others are fee to look through the oil fill door and call it good. Take your pick.

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Above, Paul Salter’s 3,000 cc Panther taxing out for it’s 8th test flight. This is the 10th flying Panther. At the controls is Bob Wooley, who built the second flying Panther. Bob has flown 5 of the 10 flying Panthers, has about 150 hours in the type, and has several thousand hours in high performance home builts, and had a long career in the USAF flying F-101s and F-4s. Dan Weseman did the first flights on Paul’s plane, and Bob is picking up the next rounds. Dan and Bob are the best qualified pilots for the flight tests to evaluate the plane.

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Paul is a good pilot, with several hundred hours time, much of it with outstanding instructors. A lot of his time is in Beech T-34s, a complex aircraft. But he hasn’t flown during the time he was building, nor does he yet have a tailwheel sign off. The panther is a very easy tailwheel to fly, but that isn’t a viable reason to ignore the common sense requirement to have the rating and the refresher training before flying it.

Paul is an aviation professional, an aerospace engineer working for the US Navy. He does this for a living, and the US Government, department of the Navy. He has worked his way to GS-12 rating, paying about $80K/year, because the US Navy agrees that he exercises good judgement.

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When some idiot at your EAA chapter meeting says any variation onWell that guy owns it so he should test fly it no matter what, it’s a pride thing” look at him and understand no professional aviation organization would pay that guy $10 for his opinion because he is an idiot. Contrast how Paul’s decision to have the tests done by the most qualified pilots available reflects the fact that his opinion on aviation matters is worth $100K a year. It is a free world, and anyone can follow either example, but 28 years in homebuilding has conclusively shown me that listening to $10 idiots is a short cut to the cemetery.

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Note Book Section:

Make line 7.1 in your Hand Book a entry that reads the full name and address of the person who will do the test flight on the plane. This needs to include their total hours, and time in type, their last medical, their most recent flight, and the N-Number of the plane they did type training in, and the dates of this training.  

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Make line 7.2 in your Hand Book an entry of that pilots signature, and a statement that they have read and comprehended every word in you POH for the plane, all of these articles, and the flight ops manual, and the airframe POH provided by the airframe manufacturer, and the flight wil;l be done in accordance with these limitations.

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-ww.

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Vern’s 5/8 scale L-4.

Builders,

Most Corvair builders know that Vern Stevenson is our neighbor and friend here at our little airport. He he is a life long welder, and has worked with me on Corvair stuff for many years. He also has done a lot with Dan and Rachel Weseman at SPA/Panther, and at our airport, he is known as a gregarious and hard working guy.

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If you are a regular reader, then you saw this about Vern and snakes, and his vehicle which is half Geo metro and half Lancair 320: Fun with Agkistrodon Piscivorus and Vern’s Aero-Trike.

Or you can see pictures of his 100 mpg light trike project at the bottom of this: Weekend work, December 2015.

Or read about Vern’s 49 year old welder in constant use: American made tools, built to last.

Or read bout his years welding on US Navy aircraft: Shop Notes, 10/26/14

Or just look at a Corvair Sand Dragster he built in the 1980s: Corvair Performance from 1980-2016.

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But below are pictures of one of Vern’s half dozen light planes. It is a 5/8 scale L-4 grasshopper. He built it about 10 years ago. It is made out if a lot of parts and materials dug out of the Sun n Fun Fly-mart, when that event was aimed at homebuilders rather than airshow spectators. He had about 6 months of part time work and $3,000, most of which was the used Global two cylinder engine. The plane is a tribute to scrounging and very skilled budget building. Not mainstream, but very ” Old School.”

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Above, the plane sitting in my front yard. The wheels are very light ATV aluminum, and the tires were knobbies before Vern shaved them with a hand held electric planer. Tundra tires for $20 for the pair, wheels included.

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Above, the fuselage is steel tubing, mostly 1/2″-.035 and 3/8″-.035.Instrumentation is as simple as it gets, behind the panel is a very complex 5 gallon hand crafted 6061-T-O tank. The aluminum in it cost $25, but the skill to make it took perhaps a decade of welding professionally to develop.

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Above, 16 seconds of the Global running on my ramp. It is about, 1,000 cc. It was a purpose built aircraft motor that used many VW parts, but it has a unique cast case, not a cut down one. It is ‘about’ 35 hp. The prop is a 54 x 28, statics about 2950 or so.  The plane has tiny die springs in the gear.
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Above, the L-4 style skylight. Note all the little aerodynamic points like streamlined struts and fairings including the strakes behind the trailing edges. The plane has split flaps. 1-26 hanging from the rafters in my hangar.

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Above, a photo with of the plane in front of Vern’s hangar before tundra tires. My suburban gives some sense of how small the plane is. The top of the wing is below the shoulder of a 6′ person.

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If you are fresh to home building, make this your ‘take away’: If you stay at homebuilding, you can learn all of the skills Vern has over time. You can create anything you want and are willing to work for. Anything you build with your hands will be more rewarding to you as a human being than any plane that anyone buys. The Wright Brothers built the 1903 flyer, and it flew a couple of minutes, but it did more for their lives than anyone who bought a Gulfstream Jet in the last year. Exercising creativity makes people happier than acquiring things.

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-ww.
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Family Christmas Ornament #1

Friends:

In our family home, the tree has many ornaments, but none treasured more than a tiny little sock from 1952.

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If you look at the little sock, you can see a small question mark stitched to it.

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Christmas of 1952 was a moment of optimism in our family. My father had just returned from the Korean War, and my mother quietly told her mom that she was pregnant. This child would be the first of a new generation in the family. Since you had to wait to know back then, my grandmother stitched a little question mark on a tiny stocking, an optimistic look forward to her first grandchild. Between my Fathers safe return and a new life coming, it was a good Christmas.

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Shortly after the Holiday, My father was emergency recalled to Korea. The unsettling  circumstances of his departure are in this story: A clarification and a century old story.

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Months later, my brother was born. He came more than a month early. At that moment, my father was near Wolmi-do island with the 1st Marine Division, under communist air attack. My mother had not heard from him in weeks, went to the delivery room knowing only that he was in an area of hard fighting. Ten days later my father’s unit was withdrawn to Japan.

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By chance, a friend said that there had been a message for him. A search of hundreds of notes in the com center revealed one that only said “Lt. j.g. Wynne: Boy. Wife, baby, doing well.” A drive to another base finds a Ham radio operator, then a clear connection to another Ham in California, and a phone link. My mother tells him she has chosen to name the boy Michael. My father is very moved; it is his own father’s name.

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It is several months before he can come back. It was a difficult birth, and my brother is born with terrible colic. My mother is exhausted when he arrives, and collapses in sleep. Here is my father’s home-coming from his first war: He is a new father, rocking his son to sleep in a quiet apartment in California. This tiny boy in his arms is named for his own father, the hero of my father’s world, a man who is fading in a long twilight of his life. On this evening in August of 1953, my father certainly understands how fortunate he is. He is married to a very strong person; he has survived a war that others have not; and he holds his own son in his arms.

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Sixty-four years later, I have the unspeakable good fortune to still have both of my parents. It is Christmas eve, and they are both resting upstairs as I type this in the kitchen. In the morning, my brother, the origin of all the optimism of Christmas ’52, will arrive with his own family. There will be many bright and fun moments tomorrow, but through it all, my thoughts will remain focused on how my family and myself have been the recipients of countless blessings over the decades the little sock first appeared on a tree.

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May all of you enjoy taking time to consider the parents, both here and past, who made our world and our lives possible. -ww.

 

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Critical Understanding #6, The “Two Minute Test”

Builders:

The “Two Minute Test” is a critical, required before test flight procedure. designed to insure your planes engine and systems will run at full power for two minutes at full static RPM and climb out angle. This simulates the time and power it will take your aircraft to reach pattern altitude. If it has an issue with power after that, making a precautionary landing from that point is vastly easier than having an issue at 300′ AGL.

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This test is nothing new, I published detailed notes on it in our Flight Operations Manual eight years ago, and I wrote stories  about it all the way back to 2002. Unfortunately, I believe less than half of builders do it before taking their first flight. I can think of 5 planes off the top of my head that would not have been damaged or wrecked if the builder had just run this test and discovered he had an issue on the ground instead of at 300′.  I am including this in this Critical Understanding series, because I want to increase the percentage of builders who use it, hopefully to 100%.

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With that goal, we will have line entries for the test, in your Hand Book. I will suggest these at the bottom of this article. If everyone does the test, and logs the results in their Hand Book, we can avoid a lot of needless accidents. If a guy doesn’t want to do it, I can’t force him to, but I’ll be blunt with everyone: if a builder doesn’t do the test, I don’t consider his plane to be airworthy for test flying.

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If he has insurance coverage based on claiming his engine is “Built and operated to WW standards”, and he has an accident, his insurance company could try to get out of paying the claim. Many companies pay the claim, and then try to go after everyone who produced a product in the plane, even if the accident was obviously pilot error. If the accident could have been prevented with a two minute test, I will have zero hesitation about pointing that out. BTW, that isn’t a hypothetical situation, insurance companies hire bottom feeder lawyers to harass manufactures on pilot error accidents all the time. The other side of the coin is simple: if you are smart and use the test, it is a tool that will offer you great protection, and if you log book and Hand Book have entries confirming that you performed it, neither the FAA nor your insurance company can give you a hard time about it, and I will consider it my duty to tell everyone that you did your due diligence on risk management.

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A full, detailed explanation of the Two Minute Test can be found in this story : Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #5, Two Minute Test. This is a lengthy article with many good points about testing, I consider it required reading for builders about to start a test program. The Two Minute Test can also be found in our Flight Operations Manual.

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Note Book Section:

Make line 6.1 in your Hand Book a entry that reads the full static RPM. It should also note the prop and pitch, and the atmospheric conditions at the time. It must also include the fuel and the timing settings.  

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Make line 6.2 in your Hand Book an entry under the same conditions as 6.1, but with But it has to note the CHT of the engine at the end of the Two Minute Test.

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TEMP LIMIT NOTES:

Although GM rated the engine at 575F as the CHT redline, under no circumstances should you allow the CHT to Exceed 425F under the spark plugs or 400F on the bottom of the heads. If it does, stop the test. If the engine exceeds the limit in less than 2 minutes, read this: Cylinder Head Temperature measurement and Corvair CHT, letters and notes. There are many links in the stories to further reading on CHT’s in Corvairs. Read them.

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If the Engine starts off with a static RPM of say 2750, but during the test the rpm starts coming down to 2740, 2730, 2720, BEWARE, It is detonating. STOP at once. Critical Understanding #4, ANY loss of RPM is Detonation.

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Anytime you observe an engines’ CHT numbers move up smoothly, but suddenly get hotter at 2 or 3 times the previous rate, THE MOTOR IS DETONATING. Stop the test, solve the issue. The motor need not exceed 400F to have this issue. If the engine starts off warm at 200F and slowly works its way to 300F in the first minute, but suddenly in 15 seconds adds another 100F, it is detonating, stop.

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-ww.

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A love beyond this life.

Builders:

Four and a half years ago, a Corvair builder named Ed Jeffko got in his Lycoming powered Glasair and took a flight over the Cascade mountains. He never returned. An extensive search and the passage of years have found no trace.

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Ed was a very lucky man. Not for how he was lost, but speaking of the life he had, and specifically the extraordinary woman he shared it with, his wife Claire. When he was missing for 6 months, Claire wrote a very impassioned letter, explaining why she supported her husbands flying, and how it defined the man she loved. The letter is printed below, and it deeply moved nearly everyone who read it. It spoke of a love that was not a selfish desire to posses, but the love that fully supports another’s spirit.

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Last week, Claire wrote the letter directly below, an update four years later, to let everyone know that the love she has for Ed, and the example of how he lived has sustained and nurtured her in the passing years. It is a beautiful letter. Nearly all of us have someone, family or friend, who doesn’t understand our need to build and fly. Someone important in our lives that we have never found the right words to have them understand. Perhaps sharing Claire’s letters with these people will allow them to feel what you could not explain.

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Claire’s  December 2016 letter:

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“Ed and our Glasair were never found. It will be five years come next July that he flew away to be with all the other “birds” that need to fly. Not want, but need to fly. Big difference. I really don’t want to have the plane found, and Ed is not there anymore. But, he is in my heart and I will always say I am married, because I am. No one could take his place. However, I grew strong by little bitty steps and somehow found myself a nice life, laughter, and a treasure trove of friends who shored me up when I could not even walk. Somehow, I knew he would be so pissed if I whined and cried forever about losing him. And, so I did what he always said “he” did…just put one foot in front of the other and keep going forward, and it worked. I learned to run our business without him, I learned how to live with out him. He taught me well. However, I have decided I will find him…when I pass I will be cremated and my ashes flung from an airplane high above the Cascades…He thinks he’s safe ! Ha! At least one molecule will find him! Life is good, and finite. I learned that the hard way. Please always remember that, and be kind and love one another. We are all in the same…well, big ass airplane! –Claire.”

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The original 2012 story:  Ed and Claire Jeffko, a love story.

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Friends, 

I have exchanged a few emails with Claire Jeffko, and I asked her permission to share with you her letters about her husband Ed. I thought they are very moving letters. It made me think about how we all promise to cherish, love and support on our wedding day, but very few of us can say that we have always fulfilled our vows. Here is a letter from a woman who lived up to hers.

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 Last July Ed did not return from a flight in his Glasair over the Cascade mountains. It is very a rugged area, and the accident site has never been found. Many  spouses in the same position would regret their loved one ever flew. Not Claire. Her letter is the finest example of  how real love seeks to support the passions and dreams of a mate:

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“William, Thank you for your kind response.  Ed loved everything about flying and I mean everything.  If he could have been a bird, he would’ve.  He flew with the wind and was the most up to date and careful pilot I
 have ever known.

 When I first met Ed over 33 years ago, he was flying a little Cessna
 150.  Green.  We flew every single day we could, which was often.
 After we got married, we had the 150 for about four more years.  Then
 he traded it for a D-4 Cat to work on our property.  Let me tell you,
 a pilot without a plane is a sorry situation.  I could only handle it
 for a year and then forced the issue to  buy another plane as he was
 driving me crazy!!!  So, we bought a Piper Cherokee which we still
 have.  The Piper turned Ed back into the man I knew and loved.  The
 man had to fly.  When the Glasair kit came out we fell in love with it
 and although it took more years than we wanted to complete the plane
 we finished and had it signed off about two years ago.  When our
 grandkids saw the Glasair they were not happy.  After all, we would
 lug all their bikes, trikes, and assorted stuff over the mountains for 23 years.   But, in the Glasair there were but two seats….Grandma and Grandpa seats. Certainly not grandchild friendly. I helped every inch of the way to build that plane and the N number was my birthday.  Flying the Glasair was as close to heaven as we could get, especially with the clear canopy. We essentially were flying our dream.

 And, so last July as he went to pick up one of our grandsons for the
 summer, Ed and the Glasair 743CA went down in the North Cascades,
 taking so many dreams with it.  However,  Ed was a pilot through and
 through and wherever he is, I know he is flying. – Claire“

Claire also added:

“We may never find him. He and that plane were as one. But, I will search for him the rest of my life.”

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If you go to a zoo and look at a tiger or a bear in a cage, you will often see them repetitively pacing in a trance. You don’t need to be insightful to understand that a wild animal in a cage looses it mind and all the elements of what made it fascinating in nature. All that remains is its body, and only the most ignorant observer thinks they are seeing the actual animal. On the other end, domesticated animals consider their pen home and are happiest with the security it seems to provide. In extreme cases they will return to, and stay in, their pen even when the barn is burning down.

Men with real value to their lives are neither wild animals nor fully domesticated ones. They have a full range of actions. Most men today have the domesticated end down pat. There are a lot of good aspects of this, but alone, it is unbalanced. Powerful forces of our society steer men to and reward them for becoming fully domesticated. There is no such general acceptance for the man who seeks to have his individual adventure, make his own path, reject the fears he was told to internalize.

Many spouses of both genders, meaning well, seek to protect and shield their mate, to prevent the possibility of any harm. Claire’s letter is the rejection of this. She understood that a large and integral part of the man she loved was a free bird. One can try to justify caging a bird by claiming to ‘protect’ him, but we know this only reduces one to being a warden, not a protector. Her letters speak of fulfilling and supporting all aspects of Ed’s life, all of his passions and facets. Her reward was 33 years with a full person, not half of one.

What makes aviators different? some one from outside of aviation would read Claire’s words as some type of accident story. People inside of aviation, people still committed to having full lives including adventure, read her words as a very moving love story. People outside of flying would only focus on Ed’s accident, and think of his ‘bad luck.’ Aviators, Ed included, would see just the reverse, that Ed was one lucky guy, because he obviously found the right person to share his life with.

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-ww

Zenith 750, 2850cc Corvair, Roger Grable

Builders

Below is a picture of Roger Grable’s Zenith CH-750 stol, flying since 2015. I have a number of stories of flying builders to catch up on, particularly Zenith builders, look for these stories over the next few weeks.

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Above, Roger and his lovely wife pose with their Zenith 750, powered by a 2,850cc Corvair engine. The date on the photo is 12/22/16.

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The Grables came to Corvair College #22 in Texas, and they liked what they saw. After thinking it over, Roger decided to have us build his engine while he concentrated on the airframe. Roger and his grandson came to the next college, learned a lot of operational procedures, and test ran his engine: Corvair College #23 – 2850cc Engine, Roger Grable, CH-750 Builder .

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Life kept Roger busy, and delayed him getting his plane finished until 2015. He wisely selected an experienced Zenith pilot to cover the first tests. All went very smooth and he was very happy with progress. About the 7th test hour, Roger started the plane to taxi it across the ramp, and it ran rough, accompanied by a knocking sound. A moment later it went back to normal operation, but it was a question that remained in Roger’s mind. We spoke about it. I told him, no questions asked, drive it right over to the near by Corvair College #34 in Mexico MO, at the Zenith factory, I built it, I would get to the bottom of it, period.

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Roger brought the engine over the last afternoon of the College, and we formed a plan for me to take it back to Florida. Roger said he and his wife were planning a trip to my state, and would like to pick it up asap. In the back of his mind was a question about the crank, if it might have been the source of the noise. I told him we would find out.

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Two weeks later, Roger and his wife came to my shop, to pick up the motor. I had taken it down to every last nut and bolt and found nothing. I had the crank inspected by two different shops in Jacksonville, and no flaws were found. After listening to a very detailed account of Rogers story, I became convinced that the original Falcon heads on the motor had momentarily stuck an exhaust valve, something that had happened on another set of heads from 2012. However, I understood that the Grables confidence in their new plane was on the line, they had been good customers, and there was a simple way to make sure they returned to the feeling they had for the first hours of operation.

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I went down to the SPA/Panther hangar, and bought a completely new 8409 crankshaft from the Weseman’s inventory for $1,500. This was used to reassemble the Grable’s engine. The whole job, teardown, reassembly and test run took a day and a half of labor. They were very gracious, and confidence restored, they headed for home. Their total bill from me was exactly $0.00, nothing.

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There are just two kinds of companies in our industry, those that treat people fairly, and those that don’t. I like to say the former outnumber latter, but they don’t. The only thing I can say is that the ones that treat people fairly last. The only engine company that has been continuously active in the experimental market, under the same ownership, longer than me is Lycoming. Would you like to know why? Just ask the Grables.

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-ww.

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Critical Understanding #5, Knowing “+ROC/5” Rate of Climb on Five cylinders

Builders:

While some builders have taken proper steps to document both their expected and actual performance numbers for Take off roll and for Rate of climb in normal operations, the really critical number to understand about your own plane is the “+ROC/5”, the Rate of Climb on Five cylinders.

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This is critically important, because you should NEVER operate your Corvair powered plane under a set of circumstances where it wouldn’t have a positive rate of climb on five cylinders. Dan Weseman and I have done elaborate and accurate dyno, ground and flight testing to confirm the Corvairs we promote make 78% of their rated power after one cylinder becomes inoperative. This includes the RPM loss of losing the cylinder. This is achieved because the Corvair has an incredibly flat power band, and few other aircraft with six cylinders could match this, and none with four cylinders could without magic.

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78% output  will produce a positive rate of climb at standard conditions, at gross weight on the applications we promote, but it requires the PIC (pilot in command) to have accounted for other factors such as propeller selection. Additionally he must account for the local atmospheric conditions. It needs to be specifically known for the individual aircraft. To get in a plane and fly it, particularly with a trusting passenger, without knowing if the plane could still climb after fowling a plug , is not acting in a responsible manner required by the title PIC.

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How you test this: You note the static rpm of the motor (Critical Understanding #2, Absolute Minimum Static RPM.) Open the cowl, remove one plug wire and conduct the same test. Note the exact difference, which will be about 200 rpm. Later with the plug lead replaced, go flying on 6 cylinders over your airport. Reduce the power to the simulate the rpm loss of one cylinder, and then conduct rate of climb evaluations. Developing a number of data points for different weather conditions will provide a picture of the factors. If you are using a ground adjustable prop, try one degree less pitch in the blades, on a Corvair it can easily drive up the gross weight of “+ROC/5” by 200 pounds.

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Keep in mind that these tests need to be done at Vx and Vy speeds. Pilots who inexplicably always climb planes well above their Vx speed will find in the sudden loss of a cylinder that their plane will not climb at their artificially high chosen climb speed. A Zenith 601XL has a Vx speed near 60 mph. the rate of climb in the plane will be half as much above 90mph and may not be positive on 5 cylinders at that speed. Pilots that don’t ever fly their plane at the right airspeeds, and may never have written them down in the logs at the end of phase one, are a danger to themselves and their passengers.   This is the kind of thing I am speaking of in the general decay of flying standards in the country. Such people are not being weeded out in an era of very lax biennial flight reviews. You can’t fix that, just be determined to be better than that yourself.

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Notice how the ‘expert’ who says “that plane climbs like a dog”  Never says, ” last week I conducted a test at 1300 pounds and a density altitude of 6,300′ and found the ROC at the Vx to be..” This is how you identify bullshit artists. While it isn’t legal for you to harm them, for some reason it is OK for them to spread disinformation that hurts other people. Steer clear of such people, you can’t learn anything from them.

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Factors that affect “+ROC/5”:

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The gross weight of the plane:

The PIC must know the max gross weight at which his plane will still achieve “+ROC/5”. Surprisingly to many builders, this number will be far above the gross weight of the plane, even on a 100F day. We tested this many times on our Zenith 601XL, and the number was near 1500 pounds at 100F. Do not take that as a guarantee, the PIC must develop his own chart for the specific plane and conditions he will be flying in.

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The atmospheric conditions:

The PIC must know the effect of the local Density Altitude on his plane. People often ask about performance in mountainous areas, and make comments like “Sure corvairs work in Florida, but what about Denver?”  Go here: http://wahiduddin.net/calc/calc_da.htm  and run some numbers. We live on a 2,500′ airport, surrounded by 60′ trees, where the surface in the summer is 6″ of lush grass. Even though the field elevation is 75′ we frequently are operating with a density altitude of more than 4,000′ in the summer. Being near sea level doesn’t allow getting lax about DA awareness. Higher field elevations almost always have much longer runways without obstructions.

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The propeller selection and adjustment:

This is part of the reason why I am a stickler for having a prop that turns enough static rpm: (Critical Understanding #2, Absolute Minimum Static RPM.)

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First, a comparative example: I have seen a great number of people fly a passenger in a Pietenpol powered by a 65hp Continental on a hot day. I doubt many of these pilots have tested it their plane would climb if one magneto failed at that point. I have serious doubts that any of these planes would climb with a stuck valve on one cylinder, a serious possibility on an A-65. (Read note “A” below) It isn’t my mission to police such pilots who’s responsibility for passengers is reduced to wishful thinking. My mission is to make our own builders, people who have willfully chosen a more considered path, better educated.

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Comparatively, a Corvair powered Pietenpol has great reserves of power, and has the potential to easily have a positive climb rate on 5 cylinders, even on a 100 degree day at a gross weight of 1320 pounds. My own Pietenpol could do this. It is a significant safety advantage.

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No offense to any builder who wants to make his own Piet prop, but you have to look at what you are getting over a Warp Drive prop besides looks. At Corvair College #39 it is my plan to carefully document Weight/ROC/Weather data on Bob Lester’s 2,700 cc Warp drive 66″ two blade Pietenpol. I want to use this as a base line and look at his “+ROC/5”, which I believe will be a lot higher than any wood propped Corvair/Piet.  Kevin Purtee had both a wood prop and a WD, and used the WD when he knew that he would be climbing with passengers. The point is to make sure that pilots, particularly those with passengers, are not flying with a negative “+ROC/5” value because of an underperforming prop. The day to find this out is during solo flight testing, not when you fowl a plug over unfriendly ground with a passenger aboard.

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Note “A” ; There will be Continental fans who come back and claim that the planes will easily fly on one mag, but they are referring to Cub’s and T-Crafts with 36′ wingspans and substantially more wing area. They will make the same claim on stuck valves, but I have hundreds of hours in a C-85 hp T-craft, which includes sticking a valve twice, and I have serious doubts that 20 less horse power and seven less feet of wingspan would climb. I have a 71 x 38 B-90 metal prop on it now, which statics near 2,400 rpm. This is dramatically more potent than any A-65, and I believe it would take such an installation to have a positive rate of climb on 3 cylinders. If anyone in your EAA chapter wants to debate this, note that they will not offer to weigh the plane and conduct the test in front of you, it will all be conducted with “I had a buddy who had one once and it…” for evidence.

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Note Book Section:

Make line 5.1 in your Hand Book a entry that reads the full static RPM. It should also note the prop and pitch, and the atmospheric conditions at the time. It must also include the fuel and the timing settings.  

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Make line 5.2 in your Hand Book an entry under the same conditions as 5.1, but with one plug wire removed.  Through subtraction note the rpm loss and write this down.

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Imbed in your mind that any time the plane loses this amount of rpm, it has lost a cylinder. I have had second owners of planes that turned 2700 static, later in the flight day think nothing of doing a take off and flying to a new airport with a static of 2500. This was justified by a 5,000 hr pilot as attributable to the OAT being 25F higher. Don’t be that kind of an idiot, and don’t trust people just because they have a lot more flight hours than you. Read. think, understand and be in charge of your own life.

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When your plane is still in phase one testing, pick a typical solo flying weight, and climb your plane to 2,000 AGL. Set the plane up in a Vx climb and time it from 2500 AGL to 3500 AGL with a stopwatch. Back on the ground, making note of the DA,  Make line 5.3 in your Hand Book this value. Repeat the test with 100 pounds more fuel in the plane, and make a similar note. Work  your way to gross weight and graph the results in your Hand Book. If you will fly at higher DA’s Perform these evaluations at those altitudes. Don’t be the kind of dolt that flies around for 40 hours in phase one boring holes in the sky. Learn something.

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Don’t use live humans for ballast, EVER. People who conduct gross weight vs performance tests by adding live humans to their plane are placing a very low value on peoples lives. three 60 pound bags of play sand cost about $10. I don’t love people, but I operate on the general assumption they are worth more than $10 a piece to someone. If anyone flies any of their test period with a passenger, they are making a serious judgement error, even if the FAA says it’s ok now.  If anyone flies a new high gross weight in a plane using a passenger for ballast, they are making a serious judgement error. If anyone tells you this is wrong, nod politely, but focus on how you would be responsible, not him, in the event of an accident.

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Repeat the tests of 5.3, but when you set up the climb,  do it at a power setting that is at the lower rpm that reflects the measured  differential between 5.1 and 5.2. Make 5.4 in your Hand Book a series of notes on your “+ROC/5” climb rates. Graph it out, and you will be able to predict your service ceiling when +ROC/5 = 100. Make notes on this at different DA’s. Study the trends, they will give a very good idea of when you are operating within the intelligent margin of safety provided by having a positive number for “+ROC/5”.

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If the numbers are  not satisfactory to you, going for a lower prop pitch is the immediate solution. If you have a ground adjustable prop, this takes very little effort, but you should go back and document with a climb test series to have hard numbers for what you gained. 

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Lest anyone tell you that the service celling of a typical Corvair powered plane is low, Consider that on a standard atmospheric day Lynn Dingfelder’s 601XL with an Elison EFS-3A fed 2700cc Corvair and a 66″Warp Drive prop still had 200 foot per minute ROC at 17,000′, while flying at 1150 pounds. Obviously it’s +ROC/5 = 100 is a lot lower, but it isn’t sea level as some people would have you believe. Andy Elliott’s 601XL took off loaded with a DA near 11,000′. The point of this exercise is that you will know exactly what your own plane can and can’t do with a good margin of safety.

-ww.

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Critical Understanding #4, ANY loss of RPM is Detonation.

Builders:

Every Corvair manual I have ever published has contained very stern warnings never to fly any engine that you even suspect might detonate. That is pretty plain, but still a number of builders damage their engine each year by ignoring that warning.

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Here is the golden rule of detonation: Anytime your engine experiences a loss of rpm, even as small as 25 rpm, it is detonating, and you must instantly stop or you will damage and possibly break the engine. There is no tolerance for detonation. Where a modern car might reduce the timing or go into limp mode, a pure aircraft engine only has one system to protect it: You. If you do not act, the engine will break.

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This is particularly true any time the engine is at wide open throttle. If you are on the take off roll, and the engine rpm sags off even 25 rpm, you must have previously committed your mind to ABORT TAKE OFF. If you get to even 100′ or more, and you have the option of landing straight ahead, even on the over run, ABORT THE FLIGHT, land. Detonation does not get better until one of the factors is removed. If you do nothing, even for a few seconds, the engine will be damaged, in another few seconds it will blow a head gasket, and shortly after that it will potentially stop altogether. Yet every year, we have a number of pilots, mostly who never personally set the timing on their engine, sit there like a bump on a log doing nothing while the power of their engine is decreasing from raw detonation. They are hoping it will go away, the mental mindset of a sheep.

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Most common causes of detonation (all preventable)

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(one) Not setting the timing.

A subject I have addressed before:

YOU MUST SET THE TIMING ON YOUR ENGINE

When to check your timing, Lessons learned Pt#2

Ignition Timing on Corvairs

Ignition timing on Corvairs, Part 2

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(two) Not Using the Correct Fuel:

I have always recommended using 100LL through all of the test hours. 93 octane fuel can be used once the rest of the systems are validated. UNDER INDIVIDUAL CONDITIONS, some Corvairs with lower compression, perfect timing at a reduced setting, and proven cooling, can use fuels lower than 93 Octane, but this has no across the board approval, and it never has. In 2014, we had a guy destroy his plane on the first flight because he first refused to set the timing for months, then reluctantly did it incorrectly, and went on to fuel his plane with 91 octane car gas. He was at an airport with 100LL, but instead, perhaps to save a few dollars, he instead used 91 car gas. Mind you this is a 150 hour pilot in his 30’s who clearly didn’t have much respect for anything I have to share.

Read: Food for thought on Fuels.

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(three) Having a Carb that is running too lean:

If an engine has perfectly set timing and 100LL fuel, it can still be made to detonate by just letting it run too lean.  Traditional aircraft fuels had dual octane ratings like 115/145 “Purple Fuel” the 115 is the octane rating of it running on “Auto Lean” setting and 145 is the octane rating when the same radial and fuel are running on the “Auto Rich” setting. All fuels work like this, so you don’t want some monkey playing around in your carb and you don’t want to use some carb like this:How I became a genius in 6 minutes.

Read this story about aircraft carbs to understand that they automatically run richer at wide open throttle. There is a lot of information in the story: Air / Fuel ratios on Corvair carbs.

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(four) Using the wrong spark plugs:

If there is a single issue I will never understand, it is why some builders compulsively must use spark plugs which we don’t recommend. What they gain out of it I don’t understand, but I do know what they stand to lose. Read: A Tale of Two Spark Plugs……

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(five) Having an engine with incorrect or  deficient cooling:

I have had many people tell me “I am using your cooling system” but when I look at it, their cowling has untrimmed inlets, no inlet rings, and no lip on the underside of the cowl. All of these make the engine run very hot, and hot engines detonate. Our cooling systems work very well, but this means the builders has to actually build our system, not something that looks like our system. Read more here Corvair Cooling, something of a human issue…..

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Your Corvair, if built and installed correctly, need never detonate, not even once. It is a machine, and it will work correctly if set correctly. It doesn’t have a mind of it’s own, it will never turn on you nor will it decide to harm you. There are plenty of builders who have flown hundreds of hours over many years, who have never experienced it once. Conversely, we have had a person, who I directly warned in writing, proceed to destroy his plane on the very first flight, and put himself as well as his illegal passenger in the hospital. Either outcome success or failure, can be replicated, it is completely up to the builder to decide which he will have.

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Note Book Section:

Make line 4.1 in your Hand book a hand written entry, to seal in your mind that you recognize that any loss of RPM is Detonation, and it is never acceptable.

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Make line 4.2 in your Hand book a notation that you have set the timing on the “A” side of the ignition with a timing light, at full static rpm and it is 30 degrees total. (28 degrees for 93 auto fuel)  Note the actual RPM also.

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Make line 4.3 in your Hand book a notation that you have set the timing on the “B” side of the ignition with a timing light, at full static rpm and it is 30 degrees total. (28 degrees for 93 auto fuel)  Note the actual RPM also.

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Make line 4.4 in your Hand Book a notation that the first 40 hours will be flown on 100LL fuel.  As the hours are flown, amend the entry with the actual measured fuel burn on an average hour of flight, the minimum hour and the maximum in an hour.

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If you choose to use 93 fuel after 40 hours, make line 4.5 in your Hand Book a note stating the timing was reduced to 28 degrees.  Note the new full static rpm. Enter a new test period of 5 hours of solo flight to evaluate the compatibility.  Amend the entry with the actual measured fuel burn on an average hour of flight, the minimum hour and the maximum in an hour.

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Make  line 4.6 in your Hand Book read that the only acceptable spark plugs are AC-R44F, or Denso IWF16-5359, IWF20-5359, or IWF22-5359. No other plugs are considered airworthy.

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Make  line 4.7 in your Hand Book read the EGT of the engine after running for 30 seconds at full static RPM.  While running, pull the mixture out slowly, and the RPM MUST RISE, and the EGT MUST DROP. Note the numbers in the Hand Book.

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Make  line 4.8 in your Hand Book a note of measuring the diameter of inlets, noting minimum as 4.75″, and that they have been equipped with inlet rings. After completing the “Two Minute Test”, note the Static RPM and the CHT in this entry also.

 

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-ww.

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Critical Understanding #3, Rate of Climb, the critical prop evaluation.

Builders:

Go to your EAA meeting, and listen to the first question asked when a guy mentions putting a new prop on his plane: 95% of the time, the first question will be the nearly pointless: “How fast does it go?”

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I say ‘nearly pointless’ because that would be the important question to ask if the plane was a Reno Unlimited racer. Notice that almost no one asks “What is the rate of climb?” which is the critical question to ask.

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Think back on your last 100 flights in a light plane; perhaps we are speaking of 75-150 hours aloft. That is 4,500 to 9,000 minutes of flying.  Realistically, answer this question: How many of those minutes did you spend flying at the absolute top speed of the plane? Now stop and consider that on every single one of those 100 flights, each and every take off and climb out was performed at the maximum rate of climb.

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Thus, the critical understanding of props should be absolutely focused on Rate of Climb. There are other factors, but truth be told, there is surprising little difference between good designs on the factors of speed, smoothness and efficiency. However, there is far greater differences in take off and climb on different prop designs and pitches.  There are very good reasons to focus on differences in climb, and bias your selection for the prop that delivers the highest rate of climb. When I make a prop recommendation, it is focused on having a very good climb rate. If you gave me a choice between a 5% top speed increase or a 10% rate of climb increase, I pick the latter, and would certainly do so if the plane was open cockpit or STOL.

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There will always be someone who claims to want a ‘cruise prop’ because he likes the idea of speed. Consider this: most pilots who choose one of these props select one that will not reach red line rpm in level flight, thus limiting their top speed. If they picked one with lower pitch, the plane would actually speed up, and incidentally it would also have a better climb rate.

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The next time you are looking at a set of logs for an experimental aircraft with more than 40 hours on it, look to see if the builder filled in the FAA required Vx and Vy ( speeds for max rate and max angle of climb) in the logs which is required for the plane to be done with phase one flight testing.  I look at logs of planes all the time, and roughly 50% of the logs don’t have this filled in. If we asked that builder to tell me what these speeds were for his plane, do you think he would be able to give us a specific set of values? If the same guy was on a very short strip do you think that he would fly the correct speed to not hit a 50′ tree at the end of the runway? This lack of taking Vx and Vy seriously goes along with most people focusing on speed rather than climb.

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Combine a guy with too low a static RPM ( Critical Understanding #2, Absolute Minimum Static RPM. ) and a guy who doesn’t know the Vy for his plane, and you have the makings of an accident. This isn’t speculative fearmongering,  just that accident happened in a Corvair powered plane in 2015. I would name the person, and point out his previous accidents in the same plane, but read this Comments on aircraft accidents and understand that I am not always at liberty to say such details, but I want people to understand that when I say certain mistake combinations will not end well, I am speaking about history, not theory. -ww.

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Make the book or comparative ROC  for your plane/engine/prop line 3.1 in your Hand book

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Make the calculated ROC  for your plane/engine/prop for typical conditions at your test airport  line 3.2 in your Hand book

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Make the measured ROC  for your plane/engine/prop  line 3.3 in your Hand book

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