The Limiting Agent: Motivated Builders.

If anyone reading this is offended, bear in mind I just write these things to keep from being invited to weddings and to keep my Christmas card list short. – love, ww.

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Builders;

Every year at Oshkosh, the most common question asked is “What if you run out of Corvair engines to rebuild? I get this same question 25-50 times a day, all week, and I have been politely answering it all week for 25 years.  “We will never run out of Corvairs, they made nearly 2 million, even if 2% are left, it dwarfs the amount of serious homebuilders.”

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Almost invariably, the person asking this is an EAA member, loves homebuilts, is certain he is going to build one someday, but if quizzed, he hasn’t made up his mind, they all look good but he is waiting to see how a new and exciting kit he read about in a press release is doing (as an industry insider, I already know in most cases they have already filed for bankruptcy) I will often see the same person, year after year. If you listen close, he always tells you some story of how he didn’t build X or Y because when he looked into it, he found the flaw

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The “Someday” homebuilder thinks he has discovered an issue with the Corvair, because they were built long ago, there must be almost none left. Doesn’t matter that I can rationally demonstrate that 90% of a 3.3L or a 3.0L EIB engine is all new parts, and the other 10% could be made if needed, but it will never be needed because there are 100,000 left, about 5 for every real builder in the EAA, It doesn’t matter rebuildable cores are so cheap I give one away at Oshkosh every year.

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None of my reasons matter because “Mr. Someday” isn’t asking for planning purposes or even to understand availability; what he is looking for is a plausible reason he can  yet again,  tell everyone in his EAA chapter the ‘flaw’ or the ‘issue’ he ‘discovered’ that he can tell his friends about, which he will offer as the reason he didn’t get started building anything again this year. Such a person isn’t likely to even buy a finished homebuilt, as he doesn’t really love homebuilding, certainly not enough to sacrifice nor work for it…..what he really loves is the idea of being perceived as a homebuilder. 

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Above, a milk crate of Corvair forged connecting rods in my shop. This is 7 rows deep, 14 rods in each row. If these were O-200 rods, the crate would be worth more than $5,000, because they are scarce. Because they are Corvair rods, and GM made 12 million Corvair rods, the crate is worth about $12, the going value of 94 pounds of high grade scrap steel. 5 years ago the crate was worth about $500, but today no one buys Corvair used rods because new billet ones are available for less money that it would cost to rebuild these. There is no ‘availability’ issue with Corvairs, there never has been, and there never will be.

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The real ‘shortage’ is actual motivated homebuilders. The EAA has plenty of ‘Mr. Someday”s, the ranks have become swolen with spectators and posers in search of another excuse for not getting in the arena, but the actual number of real traditional builders is much smaller than you think. Someone is going to point out the number of RV aircraft at Oshkosh, but follow this microcosm: we have 10 RV’s at our little airport, exactly ONE of the ten is being flown by the guy who bought the kit and built it. All the rest are second owners, and many of their planes are the work of serial RV builders who have churned out many planes for profit. The percentage will vary at your airport, but understand that 10 RV aircraft doesn’t indicate the presence of 10  traditional builders. At my airport it means 1 builder, 1 finisher, and 8 retired airline pilots with money to spend, but unwilling to build.  I don’t think of that last group as homebuilders. To paraphrase Jeff Cooper, Owning a homebuilt built by someone else doesn’t make anyone a homebuilder any more than owning a guitar makes someone a musician. 

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Here is the Good News:  If you are a real homebuilder, and to me, you don’t need a plane to be one, you just need to be motivated and willing to learn and build, and have a plan in your mind that you are advancing on, then understand I am here to serve you, and their are far less people competing for my time than you are imagining. Want to learn? Want to build? Good, because I am here to share what I have learned with people who will use that knowledge.

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When I go to Oshkosh, I am looking to find just 50 new serious builders each year. Thats it.  I have several hundred active builders, but I try to add 50-70 new, motivated builders per year. This is a lot harder to find than rebuildable Corvair engines. Builders are the limiting agent, not just with Corvairs, but with the EAA in general. If this wasn’t true, the EAA would not have added the other divisions like aerobatics or warbirds, and hire writers who are aiming their output at spectators not builders.  If you are reading this and you have a dream of really learning and building, then you are not only a rarer breed than you think, you also happen to be the type of person the EAA was founded on, real homebuilders.  The shortage isn’t metal parts, its actual motivated builders. If you mistakenly think that my commentary here just applies to Corvairs, walk over to the Zenith booth at Oshkosh and ask them if their factories potential kit output is the limiting factor or if the number of people unwilling to settle for spectator status is the real limiting factor. It isn’t metal, it’s people. 

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Would you like to make this year actually count for you? Decide right now that you will invest $750 in yourself this year. For this money, you can buy a conversion manual of mine and DVD’s, buy a good Core motor in your area, and even later in the year attend one of my smaller group colleges and learn all about your engine. You will be choosing the path of traditional homebuilding, you will be identifying yourself as one of the 50, one of this year’s serious builders.  If you stop coming up with all the reasons why you shouldn’t get started, I will gladly, in one day, show you all the reasons why you will wish you started years ago. 

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Wewjr.

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