Thoughts on gas tanks and a point.

Builders,

One of the most enduringly popular stories I have written is this one from 2012: Steel tube fuselages, “Safe” planes and 250mph accidents. The surface subject is a discussion of fuselage materials, but the bigger point behind it is getting builders to think about developing their own personal risk management assessments.

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Another one, focused more on todays topic was this one from 2016: Dated Sources of Information: Example – Fiberglass fuel tanks. Again, it has a deeper point, that what is popularly deemed “acceptable risk” changes over time, and todays builders should not blindly accept yesterday’s standards, particularly because some critical elements of building environment have changed.

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Today’s story is a bit more specific look at some example gas tanks, but it also has a bigger point drawn from it.

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Would you fly in a plane which had a plastic fuel tank in the fuselage with walls just the thickness of a spark plug gap? How about if that plane had no firewall between the motor and the gas tank? What if it had open vents also? What if I also told you these vents would pour gas on the engine if the plane was put on its back? Think I’m making this combination up? Guess again, this is the actual fuel tank from a Kolb mark III pusher aircraft, and it sat right behind the occupants, directly below the engine. This particular one was signed off by an FAA inspector, and flown for early 20 years. The fact it never burned the plane down is one of those things that leads me to repeat my personal mantra; “god has a sense of humor which I am yet to understand.”

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OK, some plastic tanks are very good. In the center of the picture above is the plastic tank from my 15′ Boston Whaler. It is indestructible. It was made by Jazz, a fuel cell manufacturer, and it came from Summit Racing. It was less than $200. In the field of experimental aircraft, the best known tank of this style is the custom made one that goes in a Sonex aircraft. These are excellent, and they have nothing to do with the glorified milk jug from the Kolb.

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On the other end of the picture, is the milk jugs replacement, an aluminum gas tank folded up, which I’m TiG welding up for my friend Alex to put back in the Kolb. There are two of them in the plane, they will be slightly over 5 gallons each. I am making them in such a way where they can be heavily distorted in an accident without bursting a seam. This is done with several subtle details, like having generous radiuses, having no butt welds, and having the ends be inserts with outward facing flanges. Of course the vents will be properly located, the plane will now actually have a sump to drain the tanks and check for water on pre-flights. Alex is a good guy. Friends with TiG welders don’t let other friends fly with milk jugs for fuel tanks.

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The Bigger Point: Every year, many people quit their project, because they hit a serious stumbling block they don’t like on the design. In about 90% of the cases, particularly with first time builders, they have picked the wrong system or detail to get bent out of shape about. They just need to talk to some other experienced builders and learn why a particular part is done the way it is. However, there are cases of things which builders may have a legitimate discomfort with. In that case, instead of fretting over it for months and letting it sap motivation, the solution is to enlist some help from AVIATION PEOPLE, NOT “RACE CAR” PEOPLE, and come up with a good workable solution, like I did with the tanks above, and get on with making it, and get back to finishing the plane. Don’t be one of the countless builders who allow a small issue to sap their motivation, let their project languish, and eventually never come back to it. Point: if you have an issue, go to the experienced builders with your specific plane, and only if you need to, align the detail design to better suit your own acceptable risk management standards.

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A Blast Cabinet and a point

Builders;

Below is a ‘new to me’ very large blast cabinet I picked up a month ago. It was sitting, unused for many years, in another hangar on our airport. It came from a friend, a thank you for sharing the fundamentals of personal defense with his daughter, for whom he had purchased a S&W Airweight.  A shop tool someone had paid $3k for in the 1970s or 80s, swapped for a rewarding afternoon at my backyard range, showing a petite woman in her 50’s how the word ‘No’ is a command, not a pleading request, when you have the right tool in your hand.

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Above, the cabinet and the separator are products of Zero Mfg. Once the finest brand of abrasive blasting, great products made in Missouri, today a relic, a victim of a very clever bankruptcy engineered by bean counters who thought nothing of the manufacturing jobs they threw away.  It is 40″ x 36″ x 30″, the whole front opens, the round discs are counterweights on the door.

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Over many years at the airport, this cabinet had several owners, but none of them found it to work very well, and it eventually fell into disuse. This made little sense to me, as this was an industrial tool, it should have worked better. All the hoses and wiring were rotted from sitting, and I carefully replaced all of it. When going through the air lines to the foot pedal, I found the culprit. Some time, many years ago, someone had put an adaptor fitting in the air line with a restrictive internal diameter, about 1/8″. I replaced all the air lines with 1/2″, and made sure the smallest restriction in the line was 3/8″.  The nozzle in the BNP gun is 3/16″, the smallest orifice, as it should be. Set up this way the cabinet is now doing an incredible rate of work. Its performance was a tiny fraction of this for decades, all due to a single fitting that’s carelessly installed by someone now long gone.

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The aviation Point:

Over the years, I have seen a dozen Corvairs where the owner was plagued by some issue, poor performance, overheating, rough running. Most of these people went to the internet to ask for feedback, and were provided with an endless array of highly improbable reasons, and equally arcane ‘solutions’. Just like the restrictive fitting in the air line, the answer was always simple; just ask what is different from other installations that are nearly identical, but have long proven to work, there lies the answer. It is almost always something ‘custom’ the builder included, often at the suggestion of a local expert or a mystery person on the net.  When I show this to people, something as simple as never having opened the nose bowl inlets on their plane, they express some disbelief, later a little thanks, but I’m yet to see one go back on the internet and tell everyone the solution was something simple, and just making it as I suggested in the first place.

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3.0L Corvair for Zenith 601XLB, Steve Mason.

Builders,

Two weeks ago,  Steve Mason made a family trip down to Florida from upstate NY. He brought his Corvair down, so we could run it on my test stand. Its a few casual hours of prep and inspection it was ready to break in. I turned over twice in a second or two, lit right off, and ran flawlessly.

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Above, Steve give his best “Captain Morgan” pose, something of a social requirement on public Corvair test runs. This picture was taken right in front of my house, looking north up the runway.

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Above is a 14 second engine run Video. Just a little look at a 30 minute test run.  In the first 1/2 hour the primary thing we are after is breaking in the cam correctly. This is done by having ZDDP added to the oil (this comes with my cam kits) and running the motor at 1,800-2,000 rpm.

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Above, a bit classier picture of Steve. He built the engine from an SPA “engine in a box” kit.  These kits come with every single piece needed to build and run a Corvair flight engine, including every engine part from my catalog of Corvair parts, plus all the appropriate ones from the SPA Corvair catalog. If you would like more info on price and availability on EIB Corvair kits, call SPA at 904-626-7777.

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William.

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PS: I have builders at my house, but only by prior arrangement. Once every few months someone tries to stop by uninvited. I take a dim view of this, just the way you would if anyone invited themselves over to you residence. I live in a private residential airpark, and the neighbors are pretty cool about me having guests over and running engines for extended periods, but the are not too keen on uninvited people driving through the airpark in circles looking for my house. I have people over for one on one training, to fabricate special parts or for test runs, but these are all done by prior arrangement, and they are regular work, so they do have labor charges. Anyone inclined to stop by and talk airplanes should just come and find me after hours at Oshkosh.  Thanks in advance for being understanding.

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Very effective small parts cleaner

Builders;

Here is a piece of shop equipment that isn’t very expensive, but I have used for more than 15 years as very useful tool. You may not have one, or even an air compressor, but if your friend does, you can purchase some materials and get the same results.

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The basic set up is a pneumatic paint shaker, for one gallon cans, just like the one local paint stores use.  You can buy new, empty one gallon cans, put steel parts like rocker arms, guide plates and various bits of hardware in the can, add ceramic media and a quart of simple green, and shake it for 20 minutes. It does a great job of both cleaning and polishing.  You open the can and pluck the parts out with a magnet, wash them off with water, and they are ready for inspection. The best part is you can drink coffee and watch the shaker, and still feel like you are getting work done.

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This close up shows “Triangular ceramic finishing media”  You can get 5 pounds from the worlds greatest shop catalog,  McMasterCarr.com. It’s part number 4918A181, and it only costs $20. Theoretically you can wear it out, but the media pictured is actually 19 years old, so its not really a consumable item.

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Above, a regular pneumatic paint shaker. They don’t consume much air, you can run one off a fairly small compressor. This arrangement does a very good job on small parts, and leaves them with a much better finish than other methods. If you don’t have one, just clean the stuff up by hand, but if you have a buddy with a shaker, its a pretty useful arrangement.

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You can buy a cheap shaker from Harbor Freight, but it is provided by the same people who brought you Tiananmen Square. You can look for a US made one, or grant yourself a pass on this part, it isn’t a torque wrench.  Even I am a sell out, as I used an iPhone to take this picture, and I’m sure the phone was made by near slave labor in a police state, just so all the staff at headquarters in Cupertino California can make high incomes and bow at the statue of Steve Jobs, the worst parent in history. ( look up the story, he shouldn’t be anyone’s hero.)

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Wewjr

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New stories in process.

Builders:

We are less than a week from the Deland FL Sport Aviation Expo, and less than two weeks from Corvair College #43 in Barnwell SC, last event of the 2018 season. (Sign up closed last Monday, it was open since June 3rd) Although the public events are winding down, there are still 77 days left in 2018, and there is plenty of building still to accomplish.

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I spend some time out in my hangar or shop nearly every day. Like everyone else, I have productive days and some not so much. I have days of long productive runs of traditional parts, and other days were I spend the hours working on some R&D, running a builders engine, or just repairing tools, cleaning and organizing. If you are a new builder, and have periods where you have to seek motivation, don’t take it as a sign you weren’t meant for homebuilding.  Just like anyone else, experienced or not, we all need someone to recharge our batteries. Shop stories of building provide this for me, and over the next 77 days I’m going to shoot to put out an average of a short story a day on this, just to keep everyone productive through the end of the year.

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I have a lot of material to publish here. I have a lot of stuff still from Oshkosh 2018, and there will be plenty of stories from CC #43. In with these are regular updates that come in from builders, shop notes, tech stories, and an occasional ‘thought for the day’.  I encourage builders to use the comment section for thoughts and questions. Keep in mind that the Comments section on the “Corvair College” Facebook page (its open to the public, you don’t have to have a FB account to read it.) has a lot more activity on it than the blog does. The Corvair College FB page carries all of these stories, but it also has occasional input from other builders or the Moderator Shelley Tumino. Check it out if you like.

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Most popular story of 2018, The JAG-2 now flying. ( The name is an abbreviation of “Jim and Ginger” ) When the plane took its first flight in October, the story generated nearly 5,000 reads in 48 hours. This blog has a dozen stories about the project and the Corvair engines. The total reads on these stories just in 2018 is over 20K. We already have plans to have the plane, in my 2019 booth at Oshkosh. For an in depth look at the origins of the design and Jim and Ginger’s work at Corvair Colleges, follow this link: JAG-2 Corvair Twin, running on film

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Corvair College #43 Sign up closes Monday October 22, 9pm EST.

Builders,

If you are planning on attending CC #43 in Barnwell SC, this is last call.  We have slots left, but they may go before Monday. Either way, the cut off is Monday night at 9pm.

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The General info page: 

Info page, Corvair College #43, Barnwell SC.

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The sign up page:

https://eventregistration2017.wufoo.com/forms/cc43/

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Above, Photo from Corvair College #31 at Barnwell. Rob and Melissa Lutz getting started on their 3000 cc engine for their Zenith 750. Today this engine powers their completed aircraft. 

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 Above, Jim and Ginger with the engines they built and ran at Barnwell Corvair College #31. Today, these engines are flying on their twin. Read the engine story here:12 Cylinders / 6.0L of Corvair Power for JAG-2 run at CC#31 and read about the plane here: JAG-2 Corvair powered twin; Now Airborne..

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How do dreams come true? What is the common thread? You go to a positive setting run by good people willing to teach you what you need to know.  This is what Corvair College is all about. Over the years, more than 1,500 people have attended one of my Colleges.  I figure about 50,000 people almost signed up for one. Guess which group was more likely to finish and fly their airplane. Your time, your life, your choice.

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William

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Corvair College #43, One Month Away.

Builders,

We are now one month away from Corvair College #43, November 9-11 in South Carolina, The link below includes all the background information, and the sign up link, and a historic look at the achievements of previous Colleges. There are still 18 of 90 spots available, the sign up will close shortly.

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Info page, Corvair College #43, Barnwell SC.

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The Golden Rule: ” In a demanding environment, the most reliable machine will be the simplest one, at the hands of the best trained operator.” – ww.

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If the above rule were not true, The Marine Corps could close Parris Island and Camp Pendelton, and let the Milenials working for Google and FaceBook design its small arms.  In all venues that matter, the simplest machines, in the hands of skilled, trained operators, will always prove to be the most reliable tools. This has been true since the Bronze Age, and only a salesman would argue otherwise. If you sign up and attend this Corvair College, you will see our commitment to applying the Golden Rule to homebuilding. Experimental Aviation is a venue that matters, and you should select your path in it, guided by a philosophy of reason, not one of marketing.

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Wewjr

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Postscript thought: The #43 info page link above has been up for more than 110 days.  Going to this blog at anytime and typing “Corvair College” into the search block on the upper right would have directly taken anyone to the #43 info page. I understand that I have a lot of stories on this page, but they are not excessively difficult to find with a modest effort.

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WW- ‘STOL Bowl’; A new nose bowl available this month, Pn. #4201-B

Builders,

Here is a look ahead at a new part which we will have on the shelf by the end of the month, and publicly show at Corvair College #43 in November. It is a modified and refined version of our traditional #4201 nose bowl, it is specifically aimed at High performance Corvairs like the 3.3L engine in STOL aircraft Like the Zenith 750, but it also has logical use on many Corvairs in very hot climates.

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Above, The orange part is the semi-finished plug for the STOL Bowl, which is now at my composite shop, being used to make a brand new set of molds. Professional tooling is expensive, but required for good production parts. These costs are only made back after one and a half or two years of selling finished parts. I’m not focused on profitability here, I want the the best item available to serve the engine. Below it is the nose bowl from my Vagabond, first flown in 2004, modified with the inlet rings in 2013. It is a one piece bowl, I have used them on many of our own planes, but all of our production bowls are 2 piece split designs.  The bottom part is a production #4201 nose bowl. more than 170 of these are on flying planes, we have produced them since 2005. They have served on almost every flying Corvair powered Zenith you have seen. The basic shape and size of all three are identical, the are all derived from the same plug I made a decade and a half ago, only the inlets are different.

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Above: Here is what will be different about the STOL Bowl: The inlets have an interior diameter of 5-3/8″ and built in inlet rings 1-3/8″ deep. In the above photo they are not fully faired in, as the composite shop is doing that before making the tooling, but it gives a good idea of what the production parts will look like. My Wagabond cowl in the background was the focus of this how to story I wrote 5 years ago this month: CHT part #3, Letters, notes, sources and inlets., outlining how to put inlet rings in cowls and suggested diameters. The Wagabond Bowl has 5″ inlets , and anyone could have copied this with some care and effort.

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It has been frustrating to me that the majority of builders paid no attention to my stories of optimizing cooling. At the bottom of this article are links to stories of testing that took me 100’s of hours to accomplish, yet many people never bothered to read them.. They devoted years to building their plane and engine, months to wiring glass panels and painting, but couldn’t put a single afternoon into making the cooling system work. Plenty of them never cut out the inlets much past 3-3/4″ and were mystified why their planes ran hotter than others. Some of these people went on to ask internet discussion groups what the issue was, and were given implausible suggestions about scoop systems, when the answer was simply cutting out the hole in the cowl.

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By making the STOL Bowl inlets larger and building in the rings, I’m not only making a better high output Bowl, but also effectively making sure that new planes have inlet rings from the start. Although we have built many successful STOL installations based on the original cowl in the last 15 years: STOL and utility planes for Corvair power, it will be easier for builders to replicate moving forward.

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Quick Questions and Simple Answers: 

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How soon?

My composite shop is confident that we will have tooling and the first 12 cowls from the tool by the end of October.

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Will all the existing baffling and Cowl sheet metal remain the same?

Yes, these will be 100% compatable with those items, and the STOL Bowl with be directly retrofittable to existing installations

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How much will it cost?

Unknown until the first round is made, but the agreed target between myself and the composite shop is no more than 20% over the current #4201 bowl. Right now I have 6 existing orders for bowls, and those builders will have their wait rewarded, and can have either Bowl they like at the existing price. All orders after 10/4/18 will have to pay the difference for the STOL Bowl.

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What if I have a #4201 already? Is there a break on up grades?

Yes, it is my intention to offer an exchange program. I’m even willing to develop a reasonable discount for people who have already cut, fit, drilled and worked with their #4201 Bowl. I have a long history of never screwing builders on upgrades to existing systems. There are costs, but I have never treated any upgrade as revenue from hostages. When I know the exact pricing, I will release the upgrade numbers also. As a favor to me, do not call the SPA office and ask about pricing yet. If it isn’t posted here yet, they don’t know it. We don’t want to make unrequired work for them just because I’m giving builders a heads up on a product.

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Above, the perfect example of a builder never cutting out the inlet on a plane. I took this at the 2018 Zenith open house where we were also holding Corvair College #42. The owner flew this plane in, and obviously never paid attention to my stories about about inlets or inlet rings. I was going to mention this to him, but he never spoke to either Dan nor Myself, even though the parked the plane 150′ from our tent and was there several hours, and then flew away. How do I offer assistance to this person? When his plane cools below its potential, everyone at his airport has an opinion, but none of them understand I can do everything to assist people, but some people are not listening. If people think I’m making up stories about this, I have at least a dozen other pictures just like this, of flying planes, some of them belonging to people who have publicly complained on the net about cooling.

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Above is a shot of Rick Lindstrom’s 601XL, outside our hangar in 2007.  I have been writing stories about cooling for a long time, and producing examples that work. Do the inlets on the Bowl above look like the ones on Rick’s plane? They came from the exact same mold, but the builder above put no effort in to addressing the inlets. Rick’s aircraft has flown all over the US. It has been in FL, Southern California and to Washington state. It has been seen by builders at the Sun n Fun, Arlington and Copper State (AZ) airshows. It even won the best engine trophy. A number of pilots have flown it long distances Like Rick, Amy Choi, Woody Harris and Michael Heintz. It flew across the US in the middle of a heat wave that showed outside air temps above 105F at 9,500 feet. The plane was flying at a special gross of 1425 pounds for the flight. It was climbed under these conditions at wide open throttle for over 50 minutes without pause after a number of fuel stops. This climb was flown at airspeeds near 65 mph. Yet it never over heated nor detonated, period. It has the exact same cooling system that we teach builders to install on their Zeniths. Physics doesn’t play favorites. It works here, and if you build a copy of this, it will work on your plane. Let anyone who thinks we don’t know how to cool a Corvair explain the history of this aircraft….they can’t.

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Above is the nosebowl  from our Zenith 601XL. We started flying this in 2004, and it has been pictured in many places on my website.   Do these inlet look like the ones on the builders plane at the top? This part came off the same tool that made the builders Bowl, but I put another 2 hours into cutting the openings and putting in inlet rings. Look at old pictures from Oshkosh 2005. This bowl was on my plane when I was using a very special hot rod 190cid 11:1 compression engine, making about 125hp. We flew it to Oshkosh with the plane loaded with a weeks display, books and camping gear. Every take off was over 1,500 pounds and some of them were above 100F OAT, didn’t overheat at all. This very bowl was used for 600+ hours on Andy Elliot’s 601XL in Arizona, without heat issues. If builders will not cut the inlets and put in rings, the STOL Bowl will do it for them.

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Above, From the 2016 story:Corvair Thermal Image Testing , We had just finished a short run, and the video camera was still looking at the engine. There are always “internet experts” who want to critique my thoughts on cooling, but considering they don’t often use their full names, and have never done a test on a Corvair like the one above, perhaps they can just be written off as people unable to cope with their unfortunate childhood. When I say things, it reflects 5 years at the worlds greatest aviation university, 29 years of Corvair flight engine experience, countless tests like the one above, and the humility to listen to people who know more than I do, and the common sense to ignore those who know next to nothing.

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KEEP IN MIND: Paul’s 3,000cc Corvair isn’t a new engine, it has 240 hours on it. A new engine should never be run without a cowl or airbox even for 1 minute. Take my word for it, without a cowl, the temp comes up much faster than you would think. 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, the same angle, repeated here so it comes up as the lead picture in FB links to this story. I will share more information as I have it. Thanks, William.

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More information: This blog has incredibly good tracking on it. It will not tell me exactly who looked at each story, but it does tell me exactly how many people read each story in a given 24 hour period. Typically, about 600 people read the website on an average day, somethimes twice that for a story like the JaG-2 twin. The 600 people read several stories on average, for an average total of 1,500-2,000 stories read per day.  By tomorrow, I will be able to see exactly how many people read each of the links below. It would be nice if people bothered to read and learn from them, but the data will invariably show only 5-10% of the people who look at this story will read even one of the links. Not much I can do about this, the National trend is to scan information, not read it.  Our national attention span has been plummeting since the first issue of USA Today was printed. If you want to improve your person understanding, read.

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Cooling with J-3 style cowls. (Pietenpols, Cubs, Biplanes, etc)

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Corvair Cooling, Three 2007 examples from our hangar.

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Corvair Cooling, something of a human issue…..

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Corvair Cooling

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http://www.flycorvair.com/pietengineissue.html

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Measuring Cylinder Head Temps on Corvairs.

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Corvair CHT, letters and notes.

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CHT part #3, Letters, notes, sources and inlets.

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CHT Part #4 more notes

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CHT part #5, flight data from Zenith 750

 

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Cowling Inlet Area, marketing, accident stats, Darwin where are you?

Ignition timing at Zenith 2018

Builders,

Below is a snap shot of setting the ignition timing on a running 2700 cc Corvair on my run stand at the 2018 Zenith open house.

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Above, the 2700cc Corvair of Mark Miller, getting its timing set with a $50 strobe light at the Zenith open house. Although the procedure is something we demonstrate at every college and I have written about extensively, we still have people who fail to do this.  In the case of Mark’s engine, it took me less than 30 seconds. I showed about 20 people watching how easy this is.  Just as you should never get in a Lycoming or Continental powered plane if the owner didn’t set the magneto timing, you should never fly a Corvair were the timing was not set. No A&P does an inspection on a certified plane without checking the timing. Because the plane is experimental and the engine started life in a car is no reason to cut a corner.

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For the last 29 years, I have made a business of sharing what real builders need to know. I have left the goal of showing what some people get away with to others, not all of whom are still here.

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Wewjr.

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Further reading : YOU MUST SET THE TIMING ON YOUR ENGINE

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2018 Zenith Open House -The long run.

Builders,

The Zenith Aircraft open house marked their 25th year in Mexico MO, but in reality they have been around a lot longer, dating to their origins in Canada in the early 1970s. This year was my 12th consecutive open house, but we bought our 601XL kit there 15 years ago this month, it was an important milestone, but I had already been working with Corvairs 14 years at that point. While the aviation media tends to myopically focus on “new and exciting” Companies who are old and proven have a much better track record of assisting real builders. 

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 Seventeen years ago, I was the guest speaker at a small EAA chapter meeting in Titusville Florida. It stuck out in my mind because the chapter president lead the pledge of allegiance before the meeting. It was a strong reminder of my years in Boy Scouts. I have been the speaker at dozens of EAA chapters around the country in the last 29 years. It is part of my ‘Plant seeds often, perhaps you will have a harvest in the future’ business model. That night I just wanted to meet builders and perhaps sell one manual to pay for the gas on the trip home. I always met the first goal, and got the second one about 50% of the time. It was ok, I wasn’t looking to turn a profit that day. I was in it for the long run.

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Fast forward to 2018, and we get the picture above, It is Mark and Shane Borden, outside the Zenith hangar. Mark was present at the EAA meeting 17 years before.  He flies as an ATP for an airline, but life is just now allowing him to pursue his Corvair powered aircraft building. If your plans are to start building today or in 2035, my track record says I’ll still be here. Ideas, products and companies that don’t last, don’t serve builders, period.

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Wewjr.

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Post script:  A new salesman for an engine company showed up at Zenith, and announced he expected all of us other engine gurus to “treat him as a colleague”. An interesting demand from a guy who:

a) Was representing and engine that has never flown on a Zenith, was made in China, with less than 25 flying examples in the world.

b) The salesman has never owned, flown behind or even seen run, the engine he was trying to sell to Zenith builders.

c) The salesman has no significant aviation experience nor training, yet wanted to be  seen as if he did.

It all would have been a great joke, but there have been a lot of people hurt in aviation by salesmen who just wanted to make money, and had no experience nor wisdom to share, and no ethics about the safety of others.

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