Zenith 601XL, ‘home’ after 13 years.

Builders,

Phil Maxson, flew down to my house in Florida today. Although I have seen his plane at a number of Colleges, airshows and visiting him in NJ, it has been 13 years since his plane was down at my place.

.

In 2004 our Zenith 601XL was the first Corvair powered one to fly. It was a pretty big hit, but the second one wasn’t completed until 2006, when Phil finished his in my hangar. Since then more than 150 Corvair powered Zeniths have followed, each special, but you have a certain attachment for the “First Customer built” version of anything you are offering to homebuilders.

.

The plane is a part of a story of service to builders and being here for the long run. Get a look at this story: 14 Years of Corvair Powered Zeniths. , and What defines ‘reputable’ in our industry?, for a better look at how long I have been at this.

.

.

Tail of Phil’s 601XL in my front yard today.

.

.

His very simple instrument panel with $120 ADSB

.

.

Phil and Gus Warren in the Zenith Aircraft booth at Sun n Fun 2006.

.

.

Above, Phil Maxson at Corvair College #24 in Barnwell SC.

.

.

Parked in my front yard today.

.

Want to know what the real reward of building Corvairs for 30 years is? Its having a friend like Phil fly down to your front yard, and wait impatiently for me to finish typing this sentence so we can head out to Ronnies, our local bar and grill for dinner.

.

ww.

.

Zilke Corvair/Zenith 750, a father and son plane.

Builders,

Below are a few quick pictures of Ron Zilke’s 3.0L Corvair powered Zenith 750 STOL, now flying in TN. Ron and his son worked side by side thought the project, and it is now a proud moment for both of them.

.

.

Above, Father and son with their plane.  Nearly everyone who buys a kit tells themselves that they will keep an ambitious schedule up and finish in short order. Reality is a little different. There is a lot to learn and do on even the most complete kits, and the reward of finishing a plane most frequently belongs to the builders who enjoy the learning and the creative process, and let the schedule develop as it does.

.

The other key element of getting a plane finished and flying is choosing to work with companies who will still be around to support you. Zenith aircraft has been in Mexico MO for 25 years, but they have been in North America for 45 years, all under the ownership and data to day operation of the same family.  While this year marks my 15th year of putting Corvairs on Zenith’s , it is also my 30th year of putting Corvairs on experimental aircraft.  No matter what any new product claims, if the company isn’t going to last, they will shortly offer no support at all to the people who spent money on their products.

.

The Zilke’s took 5 years to build and fly their plane. Consider this: About 1/2 the engine companies which displayed at Oshkosh 2014, the same year the Zilke’s bought their kit, are bankrupt and gone. Had they selected one of those companies, they would have had a much more difficult time finishing, if it were possible at all. Building airplanes is challenging enough without that kind of drama. Choose who you work with carefully.

.

IMG_9019

.

Above, an image of long term support:  We elected to hold Corvair College #34 in 2015 at the Zenith Factory. If you look closely, the man building his own engine in the red tee shirt at the right is Ron, his son is in blue. If it takes 2, 5, or 15 years for you to finish your plane, I will still be here to support you.

.

To see more pictures from the College look here: Photos from Corvair College #34 at Zenith A/C.

.

.

Above, a good side view of the completed and flying plane.  Many great adventures lie ahead for this father son team.

.

ww.

.

Easter, an aviator on short final.

Builders,

I took the picture below two days ago. The man pictured with me is Chuck Nelson, the person who taught Grace and myself how to fly. Way back then we were small potatoes, and couldn’t afford to insure the mint L-2 he instructed us in, far less monetarily compensate him for the things he taught us. Chuck didn’t care, he was a hard core old school instructor, and if you were there to learn, he was there to teach, and everything else was secondary.

.

Over time, was our stock in aviation grew a bit, we never lost sight of Chuck’s initial generosity. For any success I have had in aviation, I can instantly name the person who played a quiet role in facilitating it. If we are speaking of flying, my debt is to Chuck. I have said before that people who do not attempt to repay such acts are worthless. This is one of the few things in life I see no gray area on, nor do I think anyone should get a ribbon for abiding by it, it should be so commonplace that it isn’t worth mentioning.  Perhaps every aviator reading this has their own Chuck, I have just been fortunate that I have had a chance to express my gratitude to him, many people wait to long.

.

.

I have many better pictures of the two of us, but I share this one because it captures his smile, even when his flight is almost over.  Chuck is 85, and his doctor gave him some hard news last week. He is a classic tough guy, he thanked the doctor and headed home.  As a teenage infantryman in Korea, he got a first hand look at human mortality, and 68 years later, no discernible sentimentality has crept in.

.

Any man with a life of challenge and adventure behind him, if he is being honest, will have plenty of things to regret. Chuck certainly has his own share, and they are private, and not the subject here.  The focal point here is a lesson that is far more easier to appreciate and integrate into your remaining days.

.

Chuck has more than 10,000 hours of pure stick and rudder flying in his logs, and as we sat and spoke of his life, he was very clear that he didn’t regret any hour he had ever spent aloft, nor the years of work he put into earning the title ‘aviator’.  He has had many passions and accomplishments in his life, but only flying has no reservation attached to it. Think about that when you are choosing how to spend the hours of your day.

.

Additionally, understand this: While Chucks logs include lots of time in HU-16’s , Beech 18’s T-6’s , P-51s, B-25 and -26 time, and a wide array of heavy radial stuff, he would gladly tell you his three favorite planes ever are SGS 1-26, L-2, and a Pitts S2A. Note they are worth $10, $25 and $50K respectively.  These plane, or a homebuilt of the same value can provide adventure and challenge that an aviator of Chuck’s experience and caliber found richly rewarding.

.

Perhaps today is the day you should redouble your own personal efforts to experience more out of aviation, as a full on participant, not a mere spectator. Maybe today is a good day to shed all the things Sterling Hayden called ‘the cancerous discipline of security’, where men refused to take control of their own ship of life and allowed an endless series of consumer distractions to steal the days of life from their grasp.

.

Make this decision today, because each of us will have his own ‘short final’ one day, and you deserve to have the same smile as Chuck does above. To have it, you must have done something worthwhile to reflect on. Your life, your choice, make it today, or it will certainly slip away. 

.

ww.

.

 

The Sheradin Special, a Corvair Powered parasol.

Builders,

Below is a look at the “Sheradin Special” a Parasol being built by Dan and Tracy Sheradin. While the plane is inspired by the Pietenpol, it shares very few part in common. Dan has taken the time to design and build a unique plane to suit his taste. He has two years of part time work into the plane. They are visiting my place in Florida, and we took the photos below in front of my hangar yesterday.

.

.

Above, a rear quarter look at the fuselage. While it may look very much like this plane: Steel tube Pietenpol fuselage with landing gear and 12 x 4.8″ tires., Terry Hand’s Pietenpol, in person the fuselages are different. Dan’s is a foot longer, and has  a lot more room in the cockpit.  The gear and tires on both planes are similar, but Dan’s has disc brakes and Terry’s has drums.

.

.

Above, a frontal look at the plane. Dan made the gear following this story I wrote: New die spring landing gear on a Pietenpol, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.. The carb shown is a Stromberg we tested two months ago: Stromberg Shootout, Pt #2.

 .

.

Above, the plane has a generous passenger door. The pilot is about 4″ further back than a long fuselage Piet.  Dan was able to build with confidence because using this information: Pietenpol CG and gear welding, he could calculate the location of the wing, gear , motor mount and seating and have the CG turn out correctly, rather than  just guessing.

.

We didn’t have the wing present, but it uses a Riblett 13.5% airfoil and aluminum spars. The plane has very little wood in it.

.

.

The tail spring is a stainless rod and an ACS swiveling unit. This adds significantly to good ground handing by extending the wheelbase, getting the tailwheel horn geometry in correct orientation with the rudder horn, and having quality operation. You can admire thrifty Piet guys who are rebuilding shopping cart wheels for tailwheels, but you would really prefer the operation of a normal tailwheel.

.

.

Ahead of the firewall, Dan’s installation is identical to our Pietenpol parts. The mount is on of our off the shelf units. His engine is a 2,700 with all our gold parts which ran at Corvair College #39 at Barnwell SC. Dan and Tracy attended four of the Corvair Colleges there.  For a look at some of the parts common to Corvair/Piets, look here: Pietenpol Products, Motor mounts, Gear and Instalation Components.

.

.

Above, the tailwheel from a different angle. It is mounted in an .058 x 1.0″  tube. Many Piet builders switching from the plans tailwheel to a more traditional leaf spring or a rod type forget that the fuselage needs a reinforcement to the front of the spring, because it will be in tension when the spring is deflecting. On Dan’s plane this task is being accomplished by the two small 1/2″ tubes. For a look at a lot more Pietenpol and Parasol information look here: Corvair – Pietenpol Reference page

.

.

Above, a nice overall view of the fuselage. The plane is tall, the center of the prop hub is 63″ off the ground. It will be a very impressive plane on the flight line.

.

Hats off to Dan and Tracy Sheradin, to very fine people, traditional homebuilders, people we are very glad to have in the world of Corvairs.

.

ww.

.

Jim Waters; Why did it have to be Snakes?

Builders;

If you were fortunate enough to attend some of the early Corvair Colleges between #6 and #20, there is a good chance you met the Corvair/601XL builder pictured with me,  Jim Waters, a very illustrious character from Philadelphia. 

.

.

An unexpected, but very welcome visitor.  I had not seen Jim in 5 or 6 years. If the name rings a bell, he is easily remembered as a wiry guy with a gravely voice and a relentlessly positive attitude. He rode his Harley to most of the early Colleges he attended. He is recently retired, and is forming a plan to do a lot more flying and seeing friends, particularly those he met in the Corvair world. The picture above is in front of my hangar with its newly installed door beam.

.

Jim is a very mechanical guy, First thing in the morning was a trip to our local greasy spoon diner, and second Jim was up on a ladder putting the hanging door tracks back up on my hangar. The outer one glides like it is on magnetic levitation, but the inner one seems to have an inexplicable jam. Not hard and mechanical, actually kind of spongy and draggy. We kneel down to study the ground tracks as the likely source of trouble…….

.

….right over your heads slithers out 3′ snake from the door tracks, the same tracks we were just on ladders installing.  It is mad, but mortally wounded, a victim of it’s poor choice of hiding spots and my pulling on the door.  This is a near identical  repeat of an event from my childhood in Thailand, which have me nightmares for months. The first thing I thought of was the line Indiana Jones asked; “Why did it have to be snakes?

.

Hope to see many of you later this week at sun n fun.  I’m not planning on bringing any snakes, but I seem to be having some difficulty keeping them out of my day.

.

WW

.