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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