“Your number is up” – Rodgers,’93

Builders,

Twenty four years ago, I was at a small Florida outdoor art exhibit in Daytona. I came across this painting, and was really arrested by it, in a way that other modern paintings had not matched. The original was about 3 x 5 feet. The artist was friendly, and the asking price was $3,500. If I had the money, or could have borrowed it, I would have bought it. The 8×10″picture below has hung in my shop ever since. There is something captivating about it which has never faded.

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Above, The painting. The watch shows 5 minutes to midnight, the sand is running out of the fist; Bettie Page is eternally youthful and the ticket says “Your number is up”. Most people find it disturbingly morbid, but I don’t.

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Ever since I was in my mid twenties, the first thought I have upon waking is a variation on this: “How did I let yesterday get away? “  Hardly any day can be passed without me asking why I didn’t get something more out of it? This is asking why I didn’t create, or read more, travel further, pick a further goal or refuse to have the same conversation again. Plenty of people are workaholics, toiling because they are afraid to stop and find out how little is there; that isn’t me, I spend a great deal of any day living in the moment, I can enjoy any hour without obsessing about other places, but when the day comes to a close, it was hardly ever enough of the important moments. The painting above expresses one of the most pervasive feelings of my life.

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To many airplane builders, I am a guy who is willing to share some skills they would like to learn, and that is great, it is the foundation of a very good working relationship. If none of the comments I make in the philosophy section grab them, that is perfectly fine, I trust they are not offended.  For the smaller group for whom some of the stuff resonates with, good, I hope it puts a few more moments of meaning in a day that will invariably escape both of us.

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-ww.

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‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’ And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone. What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

-From the story: Sterling Hayden – Philosophy

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Evolution of a Pietenpol pt. 2

Builders,

A few more old pictures, a 2nd part to this story: Evolution of a Pietenpol

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Above, Working on the plane in the original Edgewater hangar. The original blowerfan Corvair with 140 heads has been replaced by my ‘modern’ conversion. If you look at the black prop hub, it has drive lugs in it, it was hub #1. It was made for me by a good friend, Judith Saber. It is the exact same hub that is on the top of this trophy: The Cherry Grove Trophy, 2014. The tapered white items on the right are Lancair IVP wing spars. This was the hangar were I sold my soul to professional aircraft building: 2,500 words about levels of aircraft finish……

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Above, a later picture with new gear, another mount, fresh finish work and metal, the front seat lowered 4″, hydraulic drum brakes,  and the center section off to be converted to a 17 gallon wet wing. Fuselage on it’s nose was an Aeronca Chief I had.

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Above, after a move 15 miles back to the Spruce Creek Fly-in. Notice I am back in a T-hangar, this is after the end of Lancair building I speak about in the finishing story link above. Engine is still a front starter. The only time I had a rear starter was 24 months of 1999-2001, every other bit of my work with Corvairs has been front starters. It was all about being willing to test and evaluate anything, and being willing to go back if the results suggested that was the right path.

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Above, rear starter has arrived, and this mount is actually different than the one pictured above. Rear starter necessitates oil filter moving to the firewall and lots of lines. The real issue is the firewall end of the crank is ill suited to transmitting the cranking power, and particular poorly set for  a starter kick-back. This was the only rear starter installation I did, and I didn’t sell parts for it. It flew a couple of hundred hours, making trips as far west as Kansas and north to Oshkosh. PS, don’t run engines without cooling systems, like I am doing here. This is also a good view of the 6×6 Cleveland hydraulic drum brakes off a Tri-pacer. They are very aerodynamically clean compared to discs.

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If you would like a prime example of the limitations of my ability to encourage people to build better planes, look at the shiny aluminum hard lines coming off the molded fuel rail on the underside of the tank. In my crash on 7/14/01, nearly everything in the plane was broken, but the wet center section didn’t rupture, the aluminum lines coming off that rail failed when the small diagonal cabanes folded. I have written very plainly about this:  Pietenpol Fuel lines and Cabanes, about how I remain ‘morally thankful’ that it was myself who was lit on fire by this building error I made, and not anyone else who flew in the plane. Yet here is a reality check: 15 years of speaking about this later, I still see new pietenpols being built all the time with hard lines connecting the wing tanks to the fuselage and weak diagonal cabanes.

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If you think you can communicate to people, it is a humbling experience to find out that even when you share what just one a day in the burn ward is like, that the two bandage changes will produce vast greater pain than you have ever felt, and bring the toughest of people to a nervous breakdown,  most people are still going to build a ‘chittty chitty bang-bang’ style plane with copper lines because they think it looks cooler than braided steel ones.

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A friend who is close to the fatal Jenny accident of Ron Alexander, a great guy, said it will come out that it was survivable, but for broken hard fuel lines. He predicted that this will finally get more people to listen to my point about fuel lines. I told him my honest opinion that it will have little or no effect at all. I have come to the conclusion that the majority of people in experimental aviation have a greater attachment to paint jobs, things that look ‘cool’, following popular people, and saving pennies than they do their own safety or that of their passengers.

 

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Above, the business end. Two blade 66″ Warp Drive, best all around prop for a 2700 Corvair, even on a slow plane. Notice the short Nose bowl, is rounded, not flat. It was a 3″ thick piece of blue foam, glued on a 1/8″ sheet of plywood, screwed to the table and shaped in 5 minutes with a hand held bet sander. Glassed over in an hour and done. The spinner was 11″ in diameter. Being aluminum, it cracked, a lot.

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 People who have never tested a shorter prop will always repeat the myth that ’72” props are the minimum for efficiency’ This is complete bull shit. Fact: Maximum legal diameter for a Cessna 150 prop on an O-200 is 69.5″ That plane is not know as a great climber. If there was an extra 200′ per minute, or even 100′ per minute available by going to a 72″ prop, don’t you think that Cessna would have jumped at the chance to improve the performance of 10,000 150’s?  Larger props only make sense on engines like A-65’s which have weak metallurgy and low 2,375 rpm red lines, and engines that have much higher HP than typical light planes.

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Above, Loading passengers at Brodhead 2000. Francis Sanders, who was the organizer that year, said that he wanted every engine shut off while people were getting in our out of planes. A very good rule, but particularly so in a Pietenpol, which is not only harder to get in the front seat, but also commonly has a throttle there. In 2000, about 15 Piets were at Brodhead, and about 10 of us gave rides. It was very easy for us to give the most because we were the only electric start plane doing so, and restarting the engine after loading was a button push away. The last ride of that day is told in this story: Ralph Carlson and Conversion Manual #1.

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11,300′ in a Corvair, 1992

Builders,

Old photo, circa summer of 1992. This was on an8,000 mile circumnavigation of the US in my 1967 Corvair Monza. It had a 110 HP engine and a 4 speed. The photo was taken at Monarch Pass in Colorado, 11,312′ above sea level.

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Above, where East meets West, the continental divide.  When looking for another good flight motor core in 1991, I came across the car for sale in Daytona Beach. It was for sale buy the family of the original owner.

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The owner had been a Delta Airlines mechanic, but no one in his family was interested in ‘his old car.’ His son, who was into modified Japanese cars, had no interest in it, and offered it to me, two flats, a cracked windshield and not running, for $650. I changed the tires, and had it running in an hour. It only had 49K miles on it. I changed the o-rings and valve cover gaskets and it ceased to leak oil. I drove it as my sole car for 6 years. The only times it stopped running was a bad mechanical pump in Yosemite Valley ( fixed on the spot) and the previously mentioned failure of the 26 year old blower bearing.

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In 2003, the case was used as the original 2,775 cc engine in our Zenith 601XL. (2,775 cc Pistons are here.)  12 years later I used the same case to build this engine: 3,000cc Corvair (lower compression) engine, which is in my Wagabond today.

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-ww.

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