Planning your build: Call for Heads, Cranks, and Cases.

Builders:

In 10 days I am going to open up the registration and sign up for our November Barnwell South Carolina Corvair College. read: Barnwell Corvair College, 2020, it has a video link about this very special event.

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Although it is a number of months away, It is very important to plan and get started on prep work with Heads, Cranks and Cases, now. These critical items come from the Weseman’s at Sport Performance Aviation, the Panther people. For the sake of efficiency, they are done in batches. In speaking with them last week, we covered getting a large number of builders ready for fall building and the Barnwell College. Looking at the time lines, it is very important that builders who want to make progress or run their engine at Barnwell need to send in the three long lead time items above. This next batch will get into the process pipeline in the next 2-3 weeks. They will be done long before Barnwell, but projecting forward, the next batch will be mid-September, and that round isn’t guaranteed to get all done, and back in builders hands before Barnwell. Thus, it is critical that builders planning on running at Barnwell have their critical components in to SPA very shortly.

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Heads are the longest lead time item, and the sooner your cores get to SPA the better. Occasionally, during the disassembly inspection phase, it turns out the builder needs 1 head or would be better off with nicer cores. We can track these down, it isn’t a big deal, but it is far easier if this is discovered earlier. Even if you are not planning on attending Barnwell, but are serious about advancing your engine sooner, get on the phone and speak with SPA about scheduling.

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There are several options on processed cranks through SPA, but the most popular is using your 8409 GM forged core crank, after complete reprocessing, mated to a Weseman Gen II fifth bearing. Again, this has lead time on it, and it is important to get these in the works. If you are considering a 3.3L engine, they all have Billet cranks, and right now SPA has a limited supply on hand. The Billet crank is optional on other engines, and you can cover the pros and cons of this with them, great motors can be built based on either crank.

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On the subject of Cases, if you are building an engine 3,000cc or more, the cases have to be machined. For this, they need to be sent to SPA. Again, this has a bit of lead time. For engines smaller than 3,000cc, you can just clean up your case at home, and await the return of your crank and heads.

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Planning and action are critical for progress. To get your components into the progress pipeline, call SPA at 904-626-7777, and you can get pricing and core shipping information. The crucial element is that you can’t wait until mid summer to act on this, the train for Barnwell is leaving the station soon, make sure you are on it.

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Above, a close up look at the inside of the top Cover of Paul Salter’s 3.0L This engine originally flew on the the Panther Prototype. The handwriting is mine, this was the fist engine assembled with an SPA billet crank. Over 8 years of very rigorous service, they have a perfect track record. Read the whole story: SPA Billet Corvair Cranks

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Basic Corvair Information

Here as a basic briefing on Corvair flight engines for builders getting a first look at using one.

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Above, A  3,000 cc Corvair flight engine. I built this particular one in 2012 for the SPA Panther aerobatic aircraft prototype.  The Corvair is a popular option on more than 20 different experimental airframes.

The Corvair is a General Motors designed engine, manufactured by Chevrolet.  1.8 million engines were built in the Tonawanda New York engine plant between 1960 and 1969. The Corvair has been flying on experimental aircraft since 1960, and I have been working with them as flight engines since 1989. It is a story of careful development and testing, a slow evolution to the engines we have today. It is ‘old and proven’ rather than ‘new and exciting.’

Configuration:  The engine is a horizontally opposed, air-cooled, six cylinder configuration. We only promote its use as a simple, direct drive power plant. The engine configuration is very similar to Lycomings and Continentals.

Displacement: The engine is effective without a gearbox or belt drive because it has a comparatively large displacement. Between myself and SPA, we have versions that are 2,700, 2,775,  2,850, 3,000 and 3,300 cc. The smallest of these has twice the displacement of a Rotax 912.

Power: Corvairs have several different power ratings. 100, 105, 110, 120 and 125+hp. These correspond to the five displacements listed above. They make their rated power at 3,150 rpm. They have wide power bands, making 75% power at 2,650 rpm. All engines will exceed their rated power at higher rpm, and they can be continuously run at full power at 3,400 rpm without damage.

Weight: The engine weighs 225-235 pounds ready to run. This is effectively the same as a Viking 130 and slightly less than a Continental O-200. It’s installed weight is 35 pounds more than a 912 Rotax, 25 pounds more than a Jabaru 3300. The Corvair is 40 pounds lighter than a Lycoming O-235. Larger Corvairs are slightly lighter because they have special cylinders made for them which make these engine lighter.

Reliability: From the factory, the Corvair made up to 180 HP in the car and turned more than 5,500 rpm. The engine is reliable and long-lasting because we are only operating at 60% of these levels. Conversion engines that run at the car’s red line rpm historically have short lives and cooling issues.

Cost: We sell complete engines from $12,750 to $17,750. However, 90% of our builders assemble their own engines working from our Conversion manual, DVDs, parts and support and a rebuildable core engine they pick up locally. Typically, they budget $8,500-10,500 to build a first class, zero timed, engine. Budget motors can be built for as little as $6,500.

Cooling: The Corvair has a factory cylinder head temp limit of 575F. This is the highest limit on any mass-produced air-cooled engine ever built. The engine as also the first mass-produced turbocharged car. GM engineered the motor to have excellent heat tolerance and heat dissipation. In aircraft the engine typically runs at 325 to 350 CHT.

Parts availability: Every wearing part in the engine has continuously been in production for 5 decades. The engine pictured above, only has an original pair of cases, and oil housing and cylinder head castings. All other parts in the engine, including the crankshaft, are brand new. Many of the parts in the engine, like the lifters and valve train, are common to Chevy v-8s. There is no part availability issue.

Ignition: The fleet of flying Corvairs is about 500 aircraft. More than 90% of them have a dual ignition system that I have built. Our system uses two redundant systems, one points based, the other a digital electronic system. The design has two of every part potentially subject to failure, but it utilizes one plug per cylinder. Six cylinder engines can fly on one cold cylinder, most 4 cylinder engines can not. We have dyne proven that a Corvair running on 5 cylinders will still make 78-80% power. Plug fouling is unknown in Corvairs because the ignition system is 40,000 volts and uses a plug gap twice as wide as a magneto system.

Fuel: The Corvair can use either 100LL or automotive fuel. It is not bothered by ethanol in the fuel.When Corvairs were designed, car gas was a lot like 100LL; for the last 35 years every mile driven by Corvair cars was done on unleaded car gas. Many engines like 912s and modern car engines do not have exhaust valves that can withstand the corrosive nature of 100LL. We use stainless and Inconel valves in Corvairs with rotators on the exhausts.

Maintenance: The Covair is low maintenance. The heads never need retorquing. The valves have hydraulic lifters and never need to be reset or adjusted. I dislike the term “maintenance free”, because it implies a “no user serviceable parts inside” disposable appliance mentality, but the Corvair is a solid, robust, machine which holds its adjustments, but our program is aimed at teaching builders to be self-reliant owners.

Goals: If one of your goals is to be the master of your engine and airframe, the Corvair is an excellent choice. There are many engine options for people who just want to buy something. Our efforts are aimed at expanding the personal knowledge and skills of each builder.

Made in the USA: In an era where everything seems imported and companies like Continental have been sold to the Chinese Government, We have kept the “Made in the USA” option for builders who prefer to employ fellow Americans. Virtually every part in the engine, with small exceptions like the distributor cap (made in Mexico), are made by American craftsmen. Because we also sell engines outside the US, we are a Net Exporter, helping correct the trade imbalance.

Corvairs have proven themselves to serve a very broad variety of builders. Many alternative engine options are offered only as a complete import, more of an appliance than a machine, with little or no consideration of the builders, skills goals, needs, budget or time line. The Corvair has options to address these valid considerations, because your power plant should conform to you, not the other way around.

This said, Corvairs are not for everyone.  In the 31 years I have been in the EAA and working with builders, the Corvair has always been very popular with ‘traditional homebuilders’, the people who have come to experimental aviation to discover how much they can learn, understand and master.  The expansion of the EAA has brought more of these builders, but it has also brought a great wave of people, incapable of distinguishing between mastery of an aircraft or an engine and just merely being its buyer and owner.  People who’s consumer mentality and short attention spans are better suited to toy ownership than mastery of skills and tools in aviation. Corvairs, and perhaps experimental aviation, are a poor match for such people. Many salesmen in our field will gladly sell anything to anyone with green money. I am an aviator, not a salesman, and the gravity of the subject requires more frank discussion and ethics than many salesmen bring to the table.

If you came to experimental aviation to find out how much you can master, not how little, then you are among the aviators who follow Lindbergh’s timeless 1927 quote: “Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved.”  Even if you are brand new to aviation, I am glad to work with you. I have a long history of working with builders of all skill levels. We have a number of successful builders out flying who are the masters of both their airframes and engines, who had never changed the oil in a car before building their plane.  If you got into experimental aviation just to buy stuff, then any salesman will do just fine for you. If you got into experimental aviation to learn, develop your own skills and craftsmanship and make things with your own hands, then who you work with really matters. You can’t become and old school homebuilder / motor head by buying things from salesmen. They have nothing to teach you. What you will do in experimental aviation is not limited by what you already know. It is only limited by what you are willing to learn, and selecting experienced people to learn from.  If you are here to learn, I am here to teach. It is that simple.

William Wynne

New tech tips videos:

Builders:

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Putting pistons in bores:

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Lifter positions during valve adjustments:

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Thoughts on Character

“The test of character is not ‘hanging in’ when you expect light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know no light is coming”

– James Stockdale, USN,  MOH.

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Stockdale as a POW.  The man endured more than 2,700 consecutive days in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, including protracted torture sessions that broke his legs. He is 42 in the picture.  Most people have a definition of ‘character’ , but perhaps they don’t count the same as Stockdale’s. He thought real character was revealed when a person is doomed, they know it, and yet they still have fidelity to their own ‘Moral Purpose’ , even if no one is there to witness them going down fighting. 

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My Father and Stockdale were at the the U.S. Naval Academy at the same time. Their thinking and values were forged by the same intellectual machinery. Very few men who passed through the gates of Annapolis were tested as Stockdale was, and Dad would have been the first to tell you that certain men are made of harder material, and it did little good to try to comparatively measure them. All that mattered was the private internal question: When your ‘crowded hour’ comes, will your fidelity waiver? 

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America has a weak national memory. It has a good side, we don’t carry on 500 year blood feuds like many parts of the world do, but we also don’t remember what we once had either, times when Character was paramount and celebrity was trivial. The fact that Stockdale was once a national political candidate to be the Vice President of our country, has long faded from awareness, even among people who claim to follow such things. In the seven election cycles since, we have been served an ever lower strata of options, until it came to the point we were asked to choose between a candidate who said the unthinkable, that POW’s like Stockdale were not heroes, and another candidate so corrupt, voting for the first became imaginable.

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My own fidelity is to the ideals of America, not it’s actual execution. As I get older, the gulf between these two gets ever wider. In the land of my Ideals, all people are judged by ‘The Content of their Character”, and the measurement of that, is on a scale that would make sense to Stockdale….or my Father.

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Dad has been gone more than 3 years now.  Most days I’m stoic about it, but late Sunday afternoons, I invariably think, three or four times, “I should call Dad.” Every once in a while, I’ll have a morning like today, where I sit in the office and read passages from books, selections that affirm that we really did revere men of character in this country once, a long time ago.

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I understand, that such times, and my father, are never returning. Yet I will not allow my fidelity to the ideals of America waiver. I still conduct myself in a manner my father would find ethical, even if he will never know it, and almost no one in our nation appears to care of such things……and this, is my own small version of “performance of duty and persistence of example when you know no light is coming”

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After thought:

‘Your Moral Purpose’

 

Investing in American Jobs.

Builders

Yesterday I drove 100 miles to an aerospace machine shop I have worked with for 20 years. The picture below are the parts I received, arranged on my living room floor. While the great majority of experimental engines are made of imported parts, and a lot of it from China, The stuff I sell has always been, and will always be, Made in America. 

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Pictured above, 13 #2501-B Short Gold Prop Hubs, 25 #2601-S Standard Gold Oil Filter Housings, and on the right upper side, are 6 #2601-R Housings, the mirror image models we use on Sonex and Waiex airframes. There are 24 High Volume Oil Pump housings, these go into #HV-2000 rear old cases. This is roughly $20,000 in inventory. It is just four of the part numbers in my catalog which has more than 70 items in it. I have the motor mount tubing kits CNC machined in Canada from US tubing, and I have two small subcomponents which are made in Mexico, and I do sell Rotec carbs, which are from Australia. These are small exceptions. 

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Yesterday, when I went through the CNC shop, they were operating at full employment. I stopped to look at one of the machinist’s personal tool boxes. In the top cover was several pictures of him, his wife and three kids. When you buy a part from me, you are directly making sure that guy has a job, and has a stable home for his family. I could have any of the items in my catalog made cheaper in China, and who knows, they might actually work, but I’m not going to find out. If  someone can’t design affordable parts, which are a good value for builders, even when the fair cost of American labor is included, they are lazy, greedy, or both. 

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It’s an election year, and friends and neighbors will prove that the right to fee speech doesn’t require the speaker to have anything intelligent to say.  Perhaps the dumbest things said is commentary on what is wrong with America, coming out of the mouths of people who try to defend their compulsive need to buy imported things. Personally, I think of China as the largest Police State the world has ever seen, without civil nor human rights. I regard anyone who profits from sending them our manufacturing jobs or defends their “culture” in the same light as I would regard anyone who advocated investing in 1937 Germany.  Your life, your money, your ethics. Not important to most people, Very important to some people. 

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The median age of the very poor in Florida may be as low as 12 years old. You can’t wave a magic wand and make that go away, but if you want to attack it, you do something that provides a good job for that kid’s parents, preferably in manufacturing. You don’t need a PhD is sociology to understand that domestic violence and substance abuse go down when employment goes up. People say the family is the fundamental element in the country, and I agree, but a family where people can’t work, take care of themselves and have basic dignity is a disfunctional family, and your fellow countrymen deserve a better shot in life than that.   Employment is a moral issue. There is no discretionary consumer good I need enough for a 12-year-old American to go hungry so I can save a buck on it.” – ww. 2016

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Valve Rotators on Video

Builders:

Here is a short video on Corvair Exhaust Valve rotators:

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Video on three engines

Builders,

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Check this out; it is a close look at external detail on three engines in my hangar this week. Details everyone needs to see.

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The Log book or The Check book?

Builders;

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I spoke with a new home builder on the phone the other night. I listened to him for most of an hour; He told me he had always loved planes, but was just now becoming a student pilot; He had found an inexpensive CFI; Although he is building a plane known to be a fun, 80mph day/VFR plane, This man told me a great length about the “Full IFR” package he had ‘selected’ for his plane, and spoke of how he decided what the ‘best’ auto pilot was.

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He went on this way about paint and interiors. He repeated used words like ‘buy‘ and ‘have’  in the places where homebuilders  use the words ‘make’ or ‘build’. This isn’t a question of saving money, people who use the latter words actually like creating things and learning, they are vastly more successful in home building.

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 When it came to talking about power plants, he had only two questions: “How much does it weigh?’ and “What is the lowest cost for a ‘Firewall forward Package’?” I was polite, but this man expressed no interest in building or learning, the acts which transform an individual into an Aviator. This man was just on a shopping trip, a pure consumer experience, which by deffiniton and design, can not bring the participant lasting satisfaction. 

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Above, a small sample of timeless Aviation information from my home. The Copy of Flying for 1937carries an inscription to my 11 year old Father, from Frank Walsh, VP of Chance-Vought. Walsh was my Grandfather’s closest friend, they had fought side by side in the trenches in 1918. 

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Looking for a starting point from which I could turn his attention to the learning part of home building, I asked the man if he had always loved aviation, and was now a student pilot, what aviation books he had read? I asked him about a dozen classics I consider important. None of the titles even registered with him. He offered that he had learned a lot from reading about avionics websites and some discussion groups. He said he know “Who made the best stuff and who the good people are”.  I pointed out that I had been in aviation for more than 30 years, and my evaluations of products and people sounded less judgmental than his, and I figured I was better informed than him. His only reply was something about  him being good at “Evaluating anything”. The certainty that he said this with was a bit disturbing. 

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Not once in the hour did the man mention any book he wished to read; nor any tool he would like to master, and building skill he would like to posses, any aviator he looked forward to meeting, any instruction he wished to receive beyond the lowest cost minimum; he never mentioned anything he looked forward to building. When he kept speaking of IFR ‘glass’ cockpits, I asked he had ever heard that the #1 killer in aviation perennially was “Continued VFR flight into IMC conditions”.  He had not heard of this.

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It’s hard to exactly say where hubris like this comes from, but it isn’t rare anymore in world taken over by consumerism. When these ‘values’ are applied to aviation, the consumer mentality person is actually accepting an enormous risk, without even being aware of it.  The marketing forces effect everyone to some extent, and everyone in aviation should have self awareness of how it might color your own decisions or attitudes.

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When the EAA began, all attention was focused on learning and creating, skill building and sharing experience. Now the pendulum has swung all the way to the far side, and consumerism has taken over, and most journalism, discussion and displays are directly focused on selling things. Armies of salesmen both seen and secretly compensated people producing discussions and ‘evaluations’, are now pervasive. The man I was speaking with felt he was on the right track in home building, because his communications with others validated his focus on buying things. He just didn’t see that many of the ‘influential’ builders he was speaking with were actually compensated salesmen. Conversely, No one is promoting and selling learning, it has no dealer network, you have to understand for yourself its value. 

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If you are new to experimental aviation, let me make the very strong suggestion that you consciously invest your time, money and attention on things that are based on learning things, rather than owning things. I refer to this as “Log Book” items.  This is deciding you will read a classic aviation book once every 3 months, making the time for this by cutting back on websites that sell stuff and discussion groups.  This is deciding, that after being inactive for years, you will work with an instructor to be come current.  This is hiring a CFI to put you under the hood for an hour, so you can tell if you actually like IFR flying and are up for the challenge. This is getting a tailwheel rating. This is buying a set of plans you have wanted for a long time, and picking one part on them and making it this month, without  worrying about how long it will take to build the whole plane. This is taking a demo flight in a plane that you have spent a lot of time thinking of building. This is buying a tool that you have always wanted to be skilled with, and inventing a project to use it on, just for the personal satisfaction of having physical evidence that you have skills today, which you only daydreamed of yesterday.  

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As you select something from the paragraph above, realize that there is no external validation coming from the discussion groups people or the FB pages. The validation that you get will have two unique characteristics: It will be internal, and it will be real. You will be selecting skills and experiences that can not be lost nor taken away, they will be with you for good, unlike most of the consumer products marketed in aviation, which will have short lives in the sunshine and then spend a 1,000 years at the bottom of a landfill, alongside used diapers and copies of People magazine with pictures of the Kardashians on the cover.  It’s your time in Aviation, select wisely. 

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“At any real level, flying is not a sport, a hobby, a pastime nor entertainment. It is An Endeavor, worthy of every hour of your life you invest; Those who dabble in it find only high cost, poor reward and serious risk. They are approaching it as consumers. Conversely, for those who devote their best efforts and their serious commitment, the rewards are without compare.”  -ww-2006

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