Corvair Thermal Image Testing

Builders

Here is a quick look at a tool that Corvair/Panther builder Paul Salter, Dan Weseman and myself employ to collect data. It is a HD thermal imaging video camera which Paul has linked to store the images and video for analysis. The tests shown below on Paul’s  3,000 cc Panther engine were just to calibrate the equipment and evaluate using the scissors lift as a stable platform for an overhead view of the running engine. This is just a quick look to demonstrate another tool we use here. The long term plan is to integrate the camera into my run stand, so we can look at sustained high power runs, and Paul as a cable set up he can feed through his oil door in the cowl to connect the 1″ camera to a tablet in his cockpit.

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Above, when you want something stable that will not blow around, the scissors lift in Paul’s hangar does the trick, it has racks of batteries in the bottom and weighs thousands of pounds. Paul is using a ratchet strap to secure the tripod.

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Above, this is what the arrangement looked like from the lift. We had just finished a short run, and the video camera was still looking at the engine. KEEP IN MIND: this isn’t a new engine, it has 200 hours on it. A new engine should never be run without a cowl or airbox even for 1 minute. I tried to upload a 1 minute film to demonstrate how fast the engine, even a broken in one, heats up without a cowl, but the data file is excessively large. Take my word for it, without a cowl, the temp comes up much faster than you would think, and the thermal camera confirmed that without a cowl top or airbox, very little air flows through the engine. In the image it is very easy to see how cool the welded on intake pipes stay on the heads (because they have cool air and evaporating gas flowing through them) The camera can pick up temp differences down to 1 degree.

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Above, we live and work in the total aviation immersion environment. I looked up for a moment to shoot our neighbors Piper taking off. Paul’s hangar is at mid-field, Mine is 600′ south, and Dan and Rachel’s place is another 1,200′ south on the overrun. Our little grass airstrip has about 50 hangars and 100 aircraft. All the work on the airstrip, from mowing the grass, fixing the tractor, keeping the irrigation and drainage up, filing the paperwork, maintaining the lights, etc,  is  100% done by neighborhood volunteers. We all contribute $25 a month to the airport fund, and believe it or not, we run a large budget surplus in a typical year. As you can tell by the tractors and trucks in yards, and the stories of shooting .50BMG rifles, it is not your typical rule burdened airport. Dirt bikes are more common than golf carts here. For a look at the flying environment here, get a look at this story: 5 years ago today.

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Above, a slightly closer look at the camera. The image is a lot better than this photo captures. We were later blowing it up to look at individual cylinder fins. Even in this picture you can see the cooler plug wires and the bolt heads on the top cover. Notice the dip stick can be seen as a cool spot. The scale on the color range is on the bottom of the screen.

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You can look at Paul’s plane at this link: Paul’s Panther. He is an aerospace engineer for the US Navy, a 15 year specialist on the EA-6B program. Paul’s education is a Masters degree from Americas oldest aviation university, Parks. If you would like some insight into Dan Weseman’s background look at this: Panther Roll out. Mesh those two with my grease monkey story: Who is William Wynne? and you get an overview of how we stay ahead of technical topics here. One of our strengths is that we like to argue. We don’t think the same, and none of our approaches nor backgrounds overlap a lot. This is a big asset, even if it doesn’t always sound that way to spectators. The one thing we have in common is a trust of testing over discussion, and a respect for letting the facts have the last word.  I have long found that “guru’s” who work alone, never have their pet theories challenged, but it took me 20 years of working in aviation to fully understand that many of these same people specifically chose to work alone, because they don’t like listening to others, nor even conceding that others may be right.

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Conversely,  since day one, I have lived by the motto “I reserve the right to get smarter”, and this is done by listening to others and getting past the idea that you have all the right answers. Next time you are reading a website, look for the part where they guy tells you what he learned from others. I’m not speaking of a guy citing sources from ‘experts’ to prove how right he was all along, I am speaking about actual mechanical humility. It isn’t common enough,  If it is missing, you have an important insight into the person’s handicap: They have a learning disability, specifically  the inability to learn from others. -ww.

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Thought for the Day: The Face of Courage.

Builders:

It is first light now, a chilly morning here in Florida, but I have been awake for several hours reading about the mercury astronauts. They were great Americans, and we still generate that kind of person here, and you as a person who has chosen to build and fly your own aircraft are among the breed. The element that has changed in 50 years is the setting, the national understanding of what is worthy of or collective admiration. To illustrate this, read the paragraph below from a 1959 Life magazine introducing the Mercury Seven. The last sentence speaks of why we found these men and their decision to be worthy of our national respect:

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“Some fine early morning before another summer has come, one man chosen from the calmly intent seven . . . will embark on the greatest adventure man has ever dared to take. Dressed in an all-covering suit to protect him from explosive changes in pressure, strapped into a form-fitting couch to cushion him against the crushing forces of acceleration, surrounded in his tiny chamber by all manner of instruments designed to bring him safely home, he will catapult upward at the head of a rocket for more than 100 miles and then plunge down into the Atlantic Ocean. If he survives, he will be come the heroic symbol of a historic triumph; he will be the first American, perhaps the first man, to be rocketed into the dark stillness of space. If he does not survive, one of his six remaining comrades will go next.”

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If you went to a high school today, what percentage of students could be made to understand the phrase “A dedication to duty that meant more than life itself”.  Can you think of any person, celebrity, politician, sports figure, that is on the national awareness, that would meet such a measure of character? In 2016, I saw a lot of people with hats and bumper stickers that said “Make America Great Again”. Because I believe it is bigotry to think you know everything about an individual because you perceive him to be in a group that fits some label, I don’t assume I know that persons vision of the slogan. Nobody asked, but my personal image of making America great again would start with returning to our national admiration and attention being focused on Americans who are worthy of it.

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Even if this does not come to pass, I still can hold these values in my own life, and choose to spend my hours in the company of those who do. It was been one of the great rewards of my working life, that aviators, and particularly homebuilders, understand and respect the values of courage and dedication, at a rate many times higher than the general public. People who build and fly their own plane, and who are truly the master of it, not merely it’s owner, are living examples of the values that defined the better part of this country 50 years ago. -ww. 

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“If we die we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Gus Grissom.

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From my story, 30 years since the loss of the Challenger:

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I have very strong objections to our National air and Space Museum being called the “Udvar-Hazy Center”. Steven Udvar-Hazy’s only contribution to aviation is manipulating the leasing of commercial aircraft to make himself a billionaire. His $66 million contribution to the museum sounds big until you realize that it was only 1.5% of his estimated net worth.

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No National landmark in this country should be named for people who donated money.  It is as demeaning as naming the Lincoln Memorial the ‘Walmart memorial’. It is un-American to measure the value of a man by the thickness of his wallet. It is for precisely this reason that Americans triumphed in flight. Our system recognized and advanced the best, brightest and courageous. It placed no value on class, connection or wealth.

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If the Air and Space museum is to be named for the highest bidder, I can think of 100 names off the top of my head like, Sijan, Grissom, Loring, Scobee, Luke, Husband….American Aviators who gave 100% of everything they had or would ever have for this country, paying a price that makes any financial contribution meaningless.

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Why Bother? (2011)

I stood in my front yard two days ago to watch the last Launch of the Space Shuttle. It was very moving to think about the 30 years of the program, years that have spanned my adult life. “Land of the free and home of the brave” are the end of our National Anthem, but who personifies this? For my choice, I think of Astronauts. I have friends who work in the space program, and they all acknowledge that despite the risks, there is no shortage of very qualified people to go.  I can remember the exact spot where I was in Florida the day The Challenger was lost. I have been to their monument on the hillside above the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.  Before their flight, they were briefed that their odds of perishing were between 1/300 and 1/20. They went anyway, not because they were gamblers, but because they know that some things were worth doing even if they brought a very high risk of death. From the Challenger monument, it is a short walk to JFK’s grave. In 1962 he answered the question of “Why bother?” on the subject of Space flight:

“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

When JFK said these words, he only had about 400 days left to live. Almost all of the people reading this have far more time left here. Question is, what will you do with it? Will you succumb to a “Why Bother?” mentality that seeks out false paths because they appear to require less learning and thinking? If the goal of a seafaring captain was to preserve the ship, he would never leave port. If someone’s goal is to save money and learn as little as possible, I humbly suggest that experimental aviation will prove to be a very frustrating and potentially very dangerous path. If “Why Bother” is such a person’s personal credo, they are never going to get any of the rewards while simultaneously taking astounding unnecessary risks. “Why bother” is much better matched to watching TV than building and flying planes.

I am 48 now, and I am past the halfway point. The exact length of the trip and the destination are unknown, but the road of memories behind get inexorably longer. Is it time to slow down, and ask “Why Bother?” Of course not. Anyone reading this has been lucky enough to be born one of the .1% of the people on this planet who has any hope of building something with their own hands and flying it, a dream so bold that it was beyond the reach of any person who every lived on this planet a mere 110 years ago. I am smarter than I was last year; I have learned more, I have honed my skills in the workshop and in the air. Aviation offers a near limitless arena in which to expand your life, to willfully choose the difficult and rewarding over the easy and complacent. This increase of capability and control that is the reward for honest striving and effort is the only substitute I have found for the nostalgia for a fading youth. I will never run a 5:30 mile again, never do 50 consecutive chin ups again, nor a number of other physical milestones from age 24. But I am a much better craftsman, pilot and person than I was then. Experimental aviation is the setting where I will find out how much I can study, understand and master in my life, not how little. For anyone else who feels the same way, I look forward to reading anything you have to say, seeing anything you have built, and being there when you arrive in your plane to a welcome of people who understand what is worth aggressively pursuing in life.  -ww.

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