Who is responsible for the parts we use?


I received the following letter in the comments on my short article: 1960, A great year of American manufacturing.  I have met the writer Mike McKosky, and he is obviously concerned about the issue he brings up in the letter, so I thought I would directly address his thoughts here rather than in the comments section of the Colt story:


Mike’s Letter:

Interesting article.
With regards to stuff being made in America, in years gone by, and not wanting to buy anything Chinese or generally Asian:

I recently bought a set of crankshaft main bearings from Clark’s. I did try to buy Clevite main bearings, was able to buy only the Clevite rod bearings . The main bearings are made for, not by, Clark’s.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to find Clevite main bearings, was not successful. Did ask around as to what was available, and in particular what Corvair mechanics were using, and asking who the manufacturer was.
When I asked the person at Clark’s sales, she had no idea where the bearing were made, and did not seem too interested in finding out for me.
The only outfit that was able/willing to tell me were the Clark’s main bearings were manufactured was California Corvair, the individual (forgot his name) was very quick to tell me, even after I told him that I was just gathering information, not buying. It was as I suspected, made in Taiwan.

I have no problem generally with Taiwanese manufactured products, mostly based on gut-feelings. I have no technical or rational basis for that, just based on impressions. The Taiwanese are, according to my simple research, very well educated, highly technical, and probably very dependable.
But, I don’t really know.

I did order, and received, the set of Clark’s bearings ($93.50 not counting shipping).
The outside packaging, a box, has one statement on the end tab with the info:
Engineered & manufactured Exclusively for Clark’s Corvair Parts
Genuine (what looks like a stylized symbol) GN Parts D0516

Elsewhere on the outside box it states:
Premium Bearings
Original Parts
Quality Products
Engineered and Manufactured
by Original Equipment

It also says, as a stylized symbol:
Quality Assured Firm

And also:
QS-9000 Certified and Approved

On the internal package the bearings are stamped with technical data, with the stylized symbol GN.

From Wikipedia, “QS-9000 is a quality system standard that focuses on helping automotive suppliers ensure that they are meeting/exceeding automotive customer requirements”.
I have yet to read in detail, but thus far I don’t think it is an ISO standard.

So, who manufactured the part?
Where was it actually manufactured? (had it been outsourced to an outfit in mainland China?)
What is the technical relationship to the original GMC bearing for the Corvair engine?
What documentation does anyone in the Flycorvair/Sports Perfomance Aviation complex have to trace the manufacture and testing of the bearings with regards to wear, materials, life-span, and whatever else would be relevant to main bearings that are used on car/aviation engines?

Dan claims that he has used the bearings, and has flown aircraft for a long time that used these bearings and finds that these Clark’s bearings hold up okay. Although I am very much inclined to trust Dan, the comment from one of Reagan’s speech writers always occur to me in this kind of situation “trust, but verify”.

So, how does one verify that these bearings will serve the application properly?
What is your commitment to the use of these bearings?
Do you have documentation that shows source, quality control, country of origin and manufacturer in Taiwan?

I am motivated to know these things for a few reasons, amongst which are:
1. After a few years of arguing that Asian products, especially Chinese, are to be avoided, are we now to accept such products?
2. Is there now an acceptance of Asian-made tools, like torque wrenches?
3. Is there a process used by William Wynne and associates to verify such products?
4. At the core of a Corvair engine, the whole thing rests on the main bearings. This seems to be the foundation of a reliable engine, failure of main bearings means the failure of the whole engine, and possibly failure of the airframe, and maybe the failure of the pilot and co-pilot or passenger, and maybe failure of the lives of the people that the failed system descends upon.

Well, okay, maybe the foregoing is overly dramatic, but it does serve to convey my concerns. In the short term I am concerned about the possible loss of between $8000 (present parts cost) and $12000 (final costs?).

Any useful, insightful, comments?




My Response:


My words about the bearings are exactly the same as Dan’s. We have put them in engines, studied their installation, and found them to work satisfactory for us. You are correct that Clark’s as a matter of policy, does not reveal the sources of parts. It is a reasonable assumption they are imported. You have done homework, asked questions, and found what we know, which is they work.

Answering your four questions backwards:

#4- I know of no failures of these bearings. I think your claim “they are the foundation” implies they are the highest stressed part, which they are not.

#3- I do not ‘verify’ any part, other than to use them as we describe, and report the results. I am not in the certification business, nor do I offer warrantees or guarantees, expressed nor implied, on other peoples products.

#2- No. If you called and asked if you should put your engine together with a Chinese made torque wrench, I have the same evaluation process on the bearings, which is I have seen people try it, and the wrenches are not accurate, so they don’t work as I intend. Have you seen anywhere in my comments that I now suggest using Chinese tools? Perhaps you jumped to a large conclusion?

#1-I don’t know where the bearings are made. I do avoid imported parts when any good domestic option is available.

Your letter carries an implication that it is my personal responsibility to insure the quality of every nut and bolt I mention using in any of my writing. THIS IS NOT MY RESPONSIBLITY. THE CHOICE TO FOLLOW MY EXPERIENCE IS YOURS. YOU ARE 100% IN CHARGE OF BUILDING YOUR PLANE. I have never implied that I have the power or ability to ‘verify’ or materially evaluate every part any builder will use. Thus your engine is 100% your responsibility.

Mike, I trust that through simple observation, you have been able to comprehend that I do not posses the same resources as Pratt-Whitney, and hopefully you understand that it is ludicrous to express the same expectation of me that one might of Pratt-Whitney. They make certified engines, I do not. Pratt-Whitney made about 2 Billion dollars in 2014, the same year I worked about 2,600 hours and made $26,000. Now, just think how stupid your letter sounds to me, implying that I should be using all my excessive wealth to track down and monitor the output of a foreign bearing manufacturer to appease your personal need for some type of guarantee.

Here is what builders are entitled to expect for their fractional contribution to my $10/hr wage: They can expect me to tell the truth about my experience with the parts and systems I discuss. That is it, period. Anyone who really wants to build a Corvair powered plane will find that an outstanding value. People like yourself, looking for a guarantee, should get out of experimental aviation, because your letter shows that you are not willing to take 100% responsibility for your project.

I appreciate beyond words the support and patience of builders and friends during the last two years of my father’s life, when I spent as much time with him as I could. I was putting in one of those $10 hours in the shop when my sister in law called and said come right back to NJ. I bought a direct ticket, but with an hour to go, United canceled the flight. Took 14 more hours to get there, I was the only family member not present when my father passed. This leads to questioning what I have done with my life. For the most part I tell myself this mantra “I have done honest work. I have treated people fairly. I am privileged to know many good people.” Sometimes this works and I am ok, and other times I read some stupid fucking letter like yours with it’s implication that I owe you a guarantee and I have some mislead you, and implying  I am now about to endorse Chinese tools, and I think it was all a giant fucking waste of time.





11 Replies to “Who is responsible for the parts we use?”

  1. I will wondering if you were going to answer this “comment ”
    I guess you needed to take the time to formulate a thorough explanation.
    You succeed.

    My condolences on your family’s loss and that you were late to be there when your father passed.

    1. Roger, I only read email and comments once a day, around 8 pm. On occasion, like preparing for a College, I will miss a day, as was the case here. I am pretty tolerant of people, I really don’t care what they look like, how they vote, or how wealthy they are or all the other things that people manufacture judgements from, I only ask that people try to be reasonable, that’s it. Thank you for your thoughts on family

  2. William, I enjoy your brutally honest writing! 🙂 It is refreshing to see real life stories and replies in print in a day and age where most of what is published is fake or bought and paid for. Sometimes I may agree or not, but that is irrelevant. The main thing is we know exactly where you stand without question.
    Thanks for the reason to smile.

  3. As the world tries to become idiot proof, they build a “better” idiot. William, thanks for the honesty and willingness to share ALL of your insights, aviation related and non! Keep it up. Lastly, condolences on the passing of your father…

  4. I think we get much more than we pay for from you William, id bet Lycoming and Continental would never be as forthcoming as you are about their products. And I agree with you that if someone is so worried about a corvair engine they should buy a lycoming or continental.

  5. William,
    I am so sorry for your Fathers passing. You shared your love of your father and his worth with the group. Most of us feel your pain. I do not know why life fucks you up sometimes. Maybe a smooth life when you finally pass seems to have only a beginning and an end. Like a pin ball going straight down to between the flippers. Keep em coming Your moral compass is needed in these very strange times.
    Your friend, One day I will finish my build.
    Joe Goldman

  6. I remember your dad at a few of the colleges and he obviously was very proud and honored to be there with you. I’m also sure that even though you missed being there at the time of his death, you were with him in his memories. Be glad for what was; not sad for what you missed.

  7. William, I relate to every word you said. I have unwillingly been dragged down the path a couple of times. I do not associate with any people that refuse to take 100% responsibility for their own life and choices. This includes anybody that expects me to do more for them than they are willing to do for themselves. When I hear somebody say any version of “I can’t” , “You should have”, or expect some form of guarantee, I am out of there. These phrases tell me enough to know what happens next, should it hit the fan. And, conversely, I never expect others to take responsibility for myself. I had clients ask for a guarantee,(“Will he be OK?”) I have told them that my crystal ball is ‘out for service’. The best I have is prediction based on previous cases. The only things I expect from people and myself is honesty, and that we try to do our best. As a human, we are off the hook if we meet these two criteria, even when it does not turn out favorably. It is irrational to expect to win all of the time.

  8. William,

    All of us who have bought parts from you have signed an agreement. It is up to the builder to ensure that these parts and components are installed and used correctly. I fully understand how you become peeved if certain people think otherwise.

    As a successful builder and flyer using your components and procedures I just wanted you to know I think your efforts are worth much more than $10.00/hr !!!

    Thank you for continuing to support us builders and flyers of this fine engine.


  9. are you sure that letter is demanding a guarantee not simply asking for why you make an exception for that part he seems to be taking responsibility more than most to look into its quality but can find nothing save your recommendation which contradicts your standing policy

    no one sane and intelligent questions your selfless and brilliant contribution but the world is full of crazy stupid people if people are afraid to ask you questions it will hurt your life’s work. that’s not to say defending your work when need be is not appropriate. I have no problem with your eviscerating the actual crazies and stupids but i do think sometimes you are a little quick to assume where someones problem arises

    1. Colleen, your point is well taken. As a ale question, I would be out of line responding that way. However, there is previous history of acerbic comments, and the tone expectation is exactly the same thing as the Vans lawsuit where the whole claim was Vans planes were a Loophole in certification, and not to the same standard. This man’s expectation was I would approach parts like I was certifying them. Claiming that I should have overseen something is teeing up for the next ass to have a lawsuit. That isn’t paranoia, that is how it is done.

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