Zenith 601HD engine; Spencer Rice’s 2,700 Corvair


Among our youngest of builders is Spencer Rice of Portland Oregon. He has been working on a Plans built 601HD Zenith since he was 14. In the same time period, he has become an accomplished private pilot, flown to Oshkosh, and been a lot of help at many Corvair Colleges. His engine is now done, broken in and tested, he has all his installation components from us, and his airframe is about 75% complete. Not a bad set of accomplishments for a teenager, now going to college and holding down a job.



Above, an overhead shot of Spencer’s engine, on my run stand in the SPA/Panther factory yesterday. Spencer originally built the engine in his garage as part of my last west coast stop on my 2016 building tour. ( If you missed it, this was my circumnavigation of the US: Back in Florida after 7,380 miles on tour. ) Because I wanted to give the engine a lengthy break in and do some comparative testing that my short stay in Portland would not allow, I brought the engine back to Florida with me. A few weeks ago Spencer showed me some pictures of how fast his airframe progress was going, and I got my end in gear, finished the tests, and crated the engine today. UPS trucking picked it up this afternoon, and in four days it will be back in Portland. Will we see it at Oshkosh 2017? Smart money is betting on it.



Above, Spencer wrenching on his 2700 cc engine on in his garage in Portland. you can read the story here:  A tale of three Zenith builders. Many stories in magazines of teenagers aviation accomplishments are very thinly veiled publicity pieces, pushed by affluent ‘helicopter parents’ padding their kids silver spoon resume. Spencer and his family are nothing like that. Over the years of working with Spencer, I have gotten to know them, and I have stayed  in their home. Spencer’s parents are honest hard working Americans of the best sort. Their kids, Spencer included, have all be made to work for their accomplishments. They are supportive, but their kids will never be accused of being coddled or spoiled.   For people who like to think those values and perspectives are somehow ‘owned’ by an older generation, factor this in: at age 53, and I am a significantly older than either of Spencer’s parents. I have now traveled in all 50 states, (State #50, North Dakota) and have found our country filled with good people, leading lives based on simple decency toward others….just the kind of story no media outlet makes ratings on.



Above, Spencer’s engine at power on the run stand outside SPA. Since Finishing School #2, Nov. 11-13, Florida., we have had an engine on the stand every other day except thanksgiving and Sundays. With the Colleges, Tours and 2016 Finishing Schools, and regular engine production, I am pretty sure 90 engines have run on my stand this year.


Here is something ironic: Today or tomorrow , someone will write in to an internet discussion group, invariably arguing three points: The things I share about Corvairs don’t work and are dangerous; I am solely driven by money and profits and don’t care about builders, and he is going to ‘expose’ this. You might think being around since 1989 and getting this: EAA Major Achievement Award., would minimize such critics, but I think it actually inflames them, particularly the dozens of positive public comments that accompanied the award. I don’t really understand such people, I usually rack it up to unfortunate childhoods. If you want a glance at what went into building the Corvair movement, look at this: Blast from the past 1993-2003.



Above a ground level view of the engine at power, during the last break in run. This was yesterday, today I crated it for shipment. Before I closed the lid, I gave it one last look. Not to inspect it, just a pause to consider when the next time I see the engine in person will be. Oshkosh? West Coast Air Tour? Hard to guess, but think about this: Spencer will not be my age until 2051. In the next 35 years this engine will take him on countless adventures. No matter what else he does in aviation,  I hope the engine and the things I as able to share with him, serve him long after I’m gone. That isn’t being morbid, it is just expressing my belief  the hours spent on this particular builder and project were very well invested. -ww.


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 www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

One Response to Zenith 601HD engine; Spencer Rice’s 2,700 Corvair

  1. Harold Bickford says:

    Spencer clearly has the right stuff as evidenced from his parents and exemplified by his efforts.
    When he flies his 601/Corvair to Oshkosh and other venues will tell the best kind of story about a young person succeeding.

    Harold and Edi

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