Ken Pavlou, Zenith 601XL / Corvair, 620 hours.

Builders,

Ken Pavlou called to check in, and mentioned his 601XL now has 620 hours on it.  While that isn’t much for an airliner, in a homebuilt aircraft that can be an extraordinary amount of adventures and great memories. If a homebuilt design isn’t fun and rewarding to fly, they never accumulate much time. 600+ hours tells the story of a good flying combination with a lot of utility.

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Ken based in Connecticut,  and has flown his Zenith to Oshkosh several times, as well as our Barnwell SC Corvair Colleges.Ken is a skilled pilot, and knows and trusts his machine. He has flown directly over JFK at night, and made fairly long trips over water. This level of trust isn’t blind faith, it is based on understanding, building and maintaining both ether airframe and engine.

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IMG_8756Ken holds The Cherry Grove Trophy, 2014 at CC#31 Barnwell. His aircraft is named “The Blue Speedo.”  The humorous origin of the name is best left unprinted and only related verbally between adults with Ken’s sense of humor.

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For a much better look at the man behind the machine, take a few minutes to read this story: Ken “Adonis” Pavlou advises aviators: “Life is short, Live Large”

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Ken’s plane started out with a 100hp  2700cc Corvair and a Warp Drive carbon prop, which is our ‘standard’ Corvair displacement and prop for a Zenith installation. After flying 500 hours, he chose to upgrade to one of the SPA, made in the USA billet cranks, increasing the displacement to 3.3 Liters. This brings the power to more than 120 horses.  He has also upgraded to a Sensenich carbon prop, which uses the increased power efficiently.

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The plane has flown at 138mph with a high pitch setting, but Ken likes a slightly flatter pitch which yields a 128mph top, but will deliver 1,500 fpm ROC at 75mph with the aircraft flying at 1320 pounds.

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.Everyone who has spent an hour in Ken’s company understands he is very gifted intellectually and has accomplished many things since arriving in America as a young boy.  Ken’s career would have allowed him to buy any aircraft engine on the market, but after consideration, he selected the Corvair. It met his personal goal of learning all he could about the engine he would fly behind. Today, Ken is quick to point out the Corvair community are the kind of people he was looking for, traditionalist builders in experimental aviation. It provided a lot of motivation while building, is a venue to share what he learned when out flying, both elements were important to Ken. His flying and contributions to Corvair Colleges have made him one of the best known builders in our community.

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14 Years of Corvair Powered Zeniths.

Builders,

In 28 years of working with Corvairs, I can tell you what the best decision I made was: Oshkosh 2003, deciding to buy our own Zenith 601XL kit.  This choice not only gave us a great plane, but started a very rewarding relationship with the Heintz family and over the long run brought us several hundred builders, who’s success brought the Corvair to national recognition.

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Today, more than 150 Zeniths have flown on Corvair power, including the HD, HDS, and XL 601s, 701s, 650s , 750 STOLs and 750 Cruiser. Nothing good or lasting in aviation happens quick or easy. Being able to type the sentence above took 14 years of continuous support for our builders, including the 6 free Corvair Colleges we had at Zenith facilities and countless free house calls to builders shops. Today, the Corvair remains an ever popular option for Zenith builders. It isn’t for everyone, but for builders looking to find out how much they can learn, not how little, we have a long proven installation of a simple and rugged American made engine.

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Above, Our 601XL with our shop crew in the winter of 2004, in Edgewater Florida. This was the first Corvair powered Zenith. Our plane was the first tail wheel XL model, and it was the first 601 with dual sticks.  L-R, Steve Upson, Dave Vargesko, Gus Warren, Kevin Fahy, Whobiscat, Grace and myself.  N-1777W was displayed in the Zenith booth at both Sun n Fun and Oshkosh, and took more than 125 Zenith builders on their first flight in type.

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I have often pointed out that builders may want to read about “new and exciting” but they are much better served by “Old and Proven”, delivered by people who meet this standard:  What defines ‘reputable’ in our industry?

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2018 will arrive shortly, with another full year of opportunity to advance your plans and dreams in experimental aviation. All achievements start with imagining the future you want to have, and then making a solid plan to get there. For several hundred builders, we have been the guide on their personal path to success. All it takes is the decision that you will make 2018 your year.

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Wewjr

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Vance Lucas, Zenith 750/Corvair, nearing 100 hours.

Builders:

 Vance Lucas, from western Canada, sent a note that his 750, which first flew in April, in now approaching 100 hours.  His 3,000cc Corvair powered Zenith 750 was a start to finish 36 month build, including Vance building his own engine at our Corvair colleges. Hats off to Vance, for a job very well done. His personal reward is amplified by being the master of his power plant, not simply it’s owner. He invested the extra measure of his own effort to achieve this. Corvairs are not for everyone, but if your individual path is driven to find out how much you can learn, not how little, you will find the engine and our program to offer a depth of understanding for those unwilling to settle for less.

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Above, Vance and his 3,000 cc / 120 HP engine during the perfect break in run. I took this Photo in Portland Oregon last year. If you are not a Corvair builder and wonder at times why we have a very strong following, this is an easy example to follow: I drove out from Florida with a trailer of tools and the test stand to cover colleges all over the west. (read: Back in Florida after 7,380 miles on tour.) The trip included a 1,000 mile extension to cover just 3 Zenith builders in Portland who were ready for a test run. Total Price I charged these builders for travel work and test run? Zero dollars. The great majority of companies in experimental aviation measure ‘success’ solely based on how much money they make. Since 1989, I have measured success by what builders have learned, and how they use this to safely operate their aircraft 

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 Vance drove down from Canada to Portland for his test run. He is a first class guy and good company. He also attended the Corvair College #30 we held at the Zenith factory in Mexico MO. For a look at the Portland story, read: A tale of three Zenith builders.

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Above, a picture Vance sent after his first flight. It is a sharp looking plane that runs and flies very well, but the real story is the man standing in front of it, and how much he learned about his power plant in the process of building his aircraft.

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The fact most people who complete an experimental aircraft have hardly any understanding of how the engine on their plane works is a reality, but not my issue to contest. My work is just focused on providing an excellent opportunity for the small segment of traditional homebuilders who are not satisfied to just ‘own’ an engine, they want to understand and be the master of the power plant they fly behind.  If this sounds like who you have always been, then perhaps Corvairs are your power plant.

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“On behalf of a grateful nation”

Friends,

Pictured below is my father’s place of rest in Arlington National Cemetery. My mother found it very fitting he is between a Navy Corpsman and a Marine Gunnery Sargent. When he joined the Navy on July 3rd 1943 as a 17 year old enlisted man, he had no ambitions of being an officer, he just wanted to serve. Yesterday would have been his 92nd birthday.

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One morning last month, at 5am, my brother and his wife quietly left their home several states away and drove to Arlington, for the simple act of placing the wreath above on my fathers grave in person. They drove home the same day. My fathers life inspired such acts. He would have told my brother not to do this, but dad had decades before shown the same reverence for his own parents. 

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I try very hard to focus on the better parts of our nation, but there are times where it is difficult to ignore the diseases and afflictions our society willingly succumbs to; The shameless worship of greed and wealth; Narcissism, once a mental illness, now often mistaken for self-confidence; The belief that all abuses of power can be apologized for if one just can find a ‘therapist’ or clergy to vouch for a fake contrition; The list seems endless and at times seems to bury all the national virtues we once agreed were sacred.

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However, there is a place were the ideals of this nation, not its day to day dysfunctions, are still sacred, fidelity and courage the only currency of value.  This place is Arlington. It is a place in our country were we have not lost our way, where our better angels are still alive and well. It is reserved for Americans who chose to give their youth, and in many cases the balance of everything they might have done with their lives, to a cause greater than themselves. When the hour of their lives closed, a solemn uniformed serviceman knelt in front of a widow, or a mother, or the casket, and presented a carefully folded flag of our nation with the same statement: “On behalf of a grateful nation”. 

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No part of my fathers story should ever be seen as a tragedy. He accomplished nearly everything he wished to do in life, including pass at home in the presence of my mother and family.  His 33 years in uniform were something he regarded as a privilege, his chance to demonstrate his complete fidelity to the ideals of our nation.

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Throughout his life, my father wanted to draw attention to the service of others who lost their lives at a young age. He had many stories of men he knew personally who sacrificed everything they might have done in this life, demonstrating their fidelity to the ideals of our country.  My father would want you to understand that my 90 year old mother accepting the flag was a simple honor, and the word tragedy should carefully be reserved for a 20 year old spouse or a 40 year old mother receiving the same flag. He would quietly point out that no matter with was wrong with our country, there would always be people willing to die for it, and that alone should motivate any citizen to conduct their life with thankfulness and simple decency.

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Bruce Brown, Film documentarian , 1937-2017

Builders:

Below is a 1960s picture of Bruce Brown.  He was the directory of many films, all documentaries. His two best known works The Endless Summer (1966)  and On Any Sunday (1971), changed our national culture with respect to Surfing and Motorcycling. Although these films were produced on tiny budgets, their impact is difficult to overstate.   Half a century later, they remain the quintessential film in each of these endeavors. They are first order examples of one individual, with something important to share, making a lasting difference in countless lives.

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If you have never seen either of these films, you should make a point of reserving the time to really study them. They are unusual documentaries, they have a light hearted narrative, and they capture what drove the people involved to follow their passions. The films are credited with explosive national growth of their respective sports.

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It is worth noting, Hollywoods machine had already worked the same topics in large budget commercial films which did nothing positive for surfing nor motorcycling, because they were pure exploitive trash. Conversely, the lasting appeal of Browns films defied their tiny budgets simply because they had a quality that Hollywood knew nothing about; Browns films were authentic , pure depictions of Americans at play and in competition.

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12 years ago, I put together a dissertation on how Experimental Aviation really needed an Authentic documentary, exactly like Browns films, to attract new people of high motivation and ideals to our branch of aviation. I made this presentation with some passion to a number of people in influential and leadership positions. Having grown up in Hawaii in the mid 1970s and been a rabid motorcyclist from the late 1970s on, I well understood the power of Browns films to present worthy endeavor which young people would work very hard to find their way into. I’m not speaking of having a hobby or a pastime, in my teenage years, motorcycling was my personal salvation, and be assured, I’m choosing that word intentionally.

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My appeals fell on deaf ears. Most of the people I spoke to had seen neither of the films, and were really just looking for more people like the models on the cover of a Sporties pilot catalog. When I spoke of the power of the films, they inevitably brought up Top Gun with Tom Cruise, and said “We have already had that film made”

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These people, our branch’s alleged leadership, was the problem. They couldn’t see that Top Gun was only entertainment, and it had no authenticity. It didn’t have anything to do with experimental aviation, (but then again these people really didn’t either) I really doubt any teenager watched it and then decided that he was going to build his own aircraft. The people I spoke with didn’t get they were arguing that because Hollywood made Gidget and Frankie Avalon beach movies that there was no reason why The Endless Summer need ever be made. These were the same people who though the LSA world was really going to take off because a $149,000 Rotax powered euro-trash LSA was “Affordable” compared to a new Mooney. They understood nothing but maintaining their own positions.

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Bruce Brown made On Any Sunday by getting Steve McQueen to fund it. If you want a good example of the word authentic, perhaps McQueen’s life will do; Besides being an actor, he was a Marine, a race car driver, a pilot, firearms expert, and one of the world greatest motorcyclists.

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If you need to understand what a phony is, go back and watch the scene in Top Gun where Tom Cruise is ‘riding’ the motorcycle next to the runway when the F-14 takes off. Look closely and notice the tie downs holding the Kawasaki’s handlebars down to the trailer it is being towed on. Evidently mr Scientology didn’t even know how to ride a motorcycle. I couldn’t explain this difference to people a dozen years ago, and in retrospect it now seems like a foolish errand.

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However, each of us has full control, to bring full authenticity to all of our own personal efforts in experimental aviation. Make time to watch On any Sunday over the holidays, and spend a few hours alone deciding how you will make your hours in aviation in 2018 something that Bruce Brown would have put in one of his films.

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Wewjr

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Yearly Condition Inspection on Corvair Engine

Builders:

Get a look at the logbook entry below; This isn’t a joke, it is for real, it was ‘signed’ by an alleged aircraft mechanic six weeks ago in the Chicago area. It was done as a condition of sale for a Corvair powered aircraft which was sold as “Airworthy” and “Inspected” for a new owner who trusted the seller and his mechanic. It is complete bull shit, this doesnt constitute an airworthiness inspection nor a valid log book entry. This is no small matter, log book entries are subject to federal laws.

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I earned my A&P license at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University a generation ago. Our classes on documentation were taught by Professor Robert Routh, a retired NTSB administrative law judge. I am well versed in valid inspections and their documentation. Many homebuilders mistakenly believe that the FAA is somehow lenient on enforcement with homebuilts. I will grant they can appear arbitrary, but when they get focused on a case, they run it just as if it were an airliner. My FAA office is Orlando, and in our area, such an entry if discovered would be grounds for revocation of the mechanics license. That may not even be possible here, because I suspect the name and number are made up.

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As a homebuilder working on your own plane, you don’t have to be concerned about what the jackasses are doing. You are going to finish your own plane, get the repairman certificate for it, and then you are going to do all your own inspections. You will be independent of what others. The Corvair, sets you apart from other homebuilders, because for 28 years I have been teaching builders how to be skilled builder-operators, not just the person who bought something. Your willingness to learn, and our demonstrated commitment to builder education is the perfect alloy to free you from putting your life in the hands of clowns.

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Condition Inspection

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Yes, this is a real log book. Who cleans a $1.50 spark plug?  Why was the timing not set? Where is the oil change? Where is the test run? This is what you get when an uninformed person wants to make a quick buck and a seller wants to imply something is airworthy. Your life is too important to trust it to such people.

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What is this inspection?

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Experimental aircraft don’t get Annual inspections like Certified planes. Instead they get a Condition inspection, which, if an intelligent person with respect for human life is conducting it, is done to at leastthe same standard as an annual on a certified plane.  If you took a Cessna 150 and the average homebuilt and just kept flying them with no further inspections, the homebuilt would break first. No homebuilt has the production numbers nor the refining of a 150, far less having been certified, built by professionals and maintained by them. For this reason, homebuilts need better and more frequent inspections than certified aircraft, but of course they rarely get them. Set yourself apart from the lazy herd, be determined to never have anything in your plane break that you could have found with an inspection. An issue caught on an inspection is an in flight emergency or a tragic disaster prevented. 

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Who can do this inspection?

This inspection is required by the FAA for the plane to be airworthy.  To do the inspection the person conducting it must have been the builder of recordandhold a repairman certificate for that specific plane.  Alternatively, an A&P mechanic can also conduct the inspection.

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Below, I’m going to list all the steps that I consider a minimum to conduct an effective and valid Condition inspection on a Corvair Engine. These are gathered from my writing. There is nothing new here. As evidence read this:  Critical Understanding #12 – Yearly Condition Inspection 

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Now, two Comments:

A)   No one can conduct an inspection without documented standards they are checking the plane against, period. For example, an A&P can’t verify the timing on a Corvair if he doesn’t know what it is supposed to be. So no one would do that right? Guess again, I have seen more than 200 logbook entries for Condition inspections done by A&P mechanics that make no reference to ever checking the timing. These were all done for second owners of planes, people who bought a Corvair powered plane, and had no idea that the timing was ever to be checked. In the last 15 years, I have never had a single A&P ever call me and ask what he was to check on a Condition inspection on a Corvair. This means that almost all of the inspections were useless exercises that made people feel “Safe” when they were not.

B)    I have seen dozens of homebuilders who never followed up their airworthiness inspection with getting a repairman’s certificate for their plane. An inspection done by a builder without this is not valid, and if there is an accident in the plane, don’t expect the insurance company to pay nor the Feds to be nice either. Think this doesn’t happen? Guess again. I have personally looked at the books of a Lycoming powered homebuilt that had 9 consecutive non-valid inspections because the builder didn’t have a repairman’s certificate. But wait, it gets better: Because he was an airline pilot, he deceptively wrote “A+P” after his inspections to look like A&P. When I called him on this he explained that he was just writing the abbreviation for Airline Transport Pilot, ATP, and then he has the real BS line of saying “The ATP is really the superior rating to the A&P”. Before jumping to conclusion that no one ‘normal’ would do this, know that the guy is a retired flag rank officer and he flew more than 50 Young Eagles in a plane with fraudulent documentation.  If anyone thinks they could dance around that detail when you meet the Feds, they are delusional. Have an accident in that plane and the FAA, would charge the pilot with falsifying federal records, his insurance wouldn’t be valid, and he would he personally liable for civil action.  Flying a uninspected plane is something that people try to justify all the time. Just don’t be one of them.

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Below, I’m going to list 11 steps that I consider a minimum to conduct an effective and valid Condition inspection on a Corvair Engine. These are gathered from my writing. There is nothing new here.

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One)Get a copy of FAR-43 and read appendix D, it lists the minimum of items to be done to a power plant on an annual inspection. Your Corvair will need everyone of these done. The logbook entry when complete will specifically state that “This engine has been inspected in accordance with the scope and detail of appendix D”(https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2002-title14-vol1/pdf/CFR-2002-title14-vol1-part43-appD.pdf)

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Two)Conduct an up to date information search to make sure your engine is up to current standards. All valid inspections require the inspector to reference the source of his technical data. If someone wants to claim on their insurance form the have an engine to “WW standards”, they have to reference my most current manual, (2014) and the technical updates I publish like the critical understanding series.  This means that the plane will have Denso Plugs, it will not have Chinese rockers, it will have a 5th bearing, etc. You can’t pass an annual inspection on a Cessna ignoring all the AD’s published in the last 10 years, and no logical person is going to argue that a Corvair engine that reflects none of the advancements we have made in the last decade is really as safe as reasonably possible.  The Log book should specifically state the date of the manual being followed and that all Corvair Service Bulletins have been addressed.

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Three) Run up test. This is done to verify that the engine is running correctly. The full static rpm is to be noted, on each ignition, along with the OAT. The idle setting, and the drop with carb heat applied. The mixture, if equipped is to be tested. All engine instrumentation is to be checked for function. Any deviations from accepted levels or function are to be corrected.  Charge and Load test the battery. replace it if it fails or retire it if it is more than 5 years old. NEVER put a trickle charger on an AGM battery like an Odyssey.

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Four) Open the cowling completely, Perform a full visual inspection for leaks and cracked or broken parts paying particular attention to wiring chafing and any exhaust leaks. Wash the engine and dry it. Re-inspect it clean. This process should take at least one hour without interruption. Inspect the inside of the cap, the rotor and the wires. visible  wear is not acceptable. Oil leaks on the engine are not considered acceptable and are to be corrected as detected Carefully inspect balancer for any type of degradation of the elastomer. None is acceptable.

This is a good time to Check the prop. Re-torque the propeller to manufacturers specs. and enter this number in the logs, along with the next required interval for torque.

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Five) Fluids and filters: The oil and filter must be changed, no matter how recently it was. The old filter must be cut open and inspected, and the element saved for later comparison. Any increase in the amount of metal compared to a previous element is reason for further inspection. Log Book to reflect, brand, type and quantity of oil.  Clean or replace air filter, and note this in logs. Bracket brand air filter elements must be replaced at inspection, no matter how many hours they were used. Replace all fuel filters, drain and clean all sumps, including the carb float bowl.

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Six)Spark plugs, Denso only. While we used AC-R44F plugs for many years, We switched over to Denso plugs , both regular and iridium. We have several heat ranges we use with different displacements and compression ratios. They are the easiest, quickest, lowest cost way to add a much greater margin of safety against detonation to your engine. There is no reason why, years after we tested these plugs, that builders should not be using them, yet perhaps half the flying planes still have AC or some other brand plug in them. For the people who say “But AC’s worked fine, I’m still going to use them”  consider that before laparoscopic surgery, people s gall bladders were removed with surgery that was close to a midlevel broad sword wound. If you needed the operation, how would you feel if the doctor said “we are going old-school, it works fine.”

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Seven)Compression test: Learn more here: Compression and Detonation Testing, #2 . Perform a DIFFERENTIAL compression test. Note the compressions for each cylinder, and where the leaks are. Instead of 60/80 being minimum, make 68/80 minimum. anything less than 72/80 requires another inspection in 5 hours.

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Eight)Timing set with light on both ignitions Critical Understanding #4, ANY loss of RPM is Detonation.   Set the timing on BOTH, A and B ignitions, at full static rpm. Note the timing and rpm in the logs for each ignition. Make sure the RPM drop on the back up ignition is within limits.

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Nine)Two minute test Critical Understanding #6, The “Two Minute Test”   Write the OAT, DA, CHT, RPM and oil temp and pressure in the logs

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Ten) One person test flight Critical Understanding #7, The Most Qualified Pilot, ALONE.

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Eleven) Log book entry. Date and sign the logs with the final statement “I , xxxx xxxxx swear that I have inspected this engine, entered the data in the logs and declare this engine to be airworthy” put down your repairman’s certificate number or your A&P license number.

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NOTE: If the plane’s insurance specifies the engine is being operated  “In accordance with William Wynne guidelines” as some insurance does, this means the insurance will not be valid if the compression numbers in in the logs say “130 -125-….” indicating an automotive tester was used or if they find the motor to have NGK or Bosh plugs. Your plane, your choice, do as you wish, just answer for yourself what is to be gained by doing it differently, and what the potential cost is.

-ww.

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IT Help!

Builders:

In 2017, I took a break from my normal pace of stories. Part of this was getting to the point where I believed few people were really moved or informed enough by the things I wrote to change their perspective on homebuilding and American manufacturing. Part of the reason for the writing break was taking time to contemplate the passing of my father. These have both settled in a bit, so I tentatively went back to writing. 

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In getting restarted, the largest impediment has been my frustration over technical stuff. When I want to share a tough story about a bitter but important lesson, in the right hour the words can flow out, but I find it infuriating technical BS like updated software will not allow a simple photo to be shared without distortion. Such maddening glitches which delay publishing a story for a hour, provide a window where part of me asks “who really cares anyway?” and I often delete stories I would have published. IT people may find existing software brilliant and intuitive, but I think it is the best example of thousands of unrequested ‘features’ in a product preventing it from being efficiently used for its ostensible mission, a common issue with too many appliances today.

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Into the dilemma, wades my brother in law, John. He has offered, to his eventual great regret, to assist me with the process of getting information out in a much more organized and accessible way. He is going to function as an editor and tech guy for my catalogue of stories. Simultaneously I have offered to teach I’m how to build a Corvair flight motor, this makes a balanced endeavor on paper, but in reality……..

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No matter how lacking John claims his knowledge of engines is, I will have a much easier time fulfilling my side of the bargain, not just because The Corvair designed by Al Kolbe was brilliant and the Mac designed by Steve Jobs would be reason to execute him were he not already dead from bad Karma, but critically, because John wants to be a Motorhead and the only thing in the world I would rather do less than be an IT person is to watch a beauty pageant hosted by Donald Trump which had Hillary Clinton as miss Arkansas.

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When you are done rinsing your mouth out after that last image, please welcome my Brother in law John to the world of building and flying Corvairs.

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Above, John and myself at the circle. Over the years we have had a number of adventures together,  Compared to teaching me computer skills, riding 5,800 miles to pose in front of the sign above was a piece of cake.

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BIL Note: I am slowly learning WordPress and hope to improve WEW’s amazing written word treasure chest. If you find a mistake, or have a suggestion, please email me @ aaajn7511@gmail.com

Cheers,

John (guy of the left)