Mail Sack – Effective Risk Management


Here are a couple of letters we received on the subject of risk management:


Builder David Mehaffey wrote:

“Never thought I would see the truth in print. as one who is looking back , 80 and counting, the truth has usually been the first casualty at the airport. Hope to see more articles. God watches out for fools, he made a lot of them. I can testify to that. Take care.”


KR builder Donald January shared:

“William. I’ve always liked the saying ‘We do it right because we do it twice’. This shows me that at least the person found a mistake the first time and repaired it. Up here in the Dakotas you see a lot of scabbed together homebuilts and a lot of fools think the whole state is one huge runway. I’ve seen 150 Cessnas blasting down a gravel road for flight. I remember loading my father’s plane with chemical and having a farmer nearly walk into a turning prop. So we learned to ask the farmer to wait in his truck and the pilot will come to him for the daily spray area. You keep up the good work and hope to see you one day. Donald”


Zenith 750 Builder Dan Glaze wrote:

“Keep writing William, if your insight saves one life it will all be worth it. The following is the NTSB report from last August from my home FBO. This guy refused instruction just a week prior to killing himself, thank God nobody on the ground got hurt, Dan-o.”

NTSB Identification: CEN11FA597
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, August 25, 2011 in Heath, OH
Aircraft: Nichols Lancair 235, registration: N777BN
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. Excerpt Follows……”The experimental amateur-built airplane had accumulated 1,131 hours since being issued an airworthiness certificate on August 10, 1990. The pilot reportedly had not flown the airplane since he purchased it from the original builder on September 14, 2010. He had reportedly expressed concerns with the airplane’s ground-handling characteristics, and in the weeks preceding the accident, was seen performing several high-speed ground tests.”

Mail Sack – Core Engine Worth


Here are some updated replies on the value of cores…….


Builder Matt Lockwood wrote:                                                           Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 2:51 pm

“I would agree with the comment that these engines are widely available. My story: About 6 years ago, I paid about $100 each for two engines, but during disassembly, I found some issues with each. I then purchased another core for $75. Same thing, some problems with the case. My latest was a core I purchased for $20. Its perfect. The engines are out there. Use craigslist, and look to your local Corvair club-Matt”


Buttercup Builder Daniel Kelly, headed to Corvair College #22 writes:                          Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 6:34 am

Phoenix area;     (2 Cores for sale)


  Builder Al Kruckeberg writes:                                                                                     Submitted on 2012/02/22 at 1:29 pm

I have had a love of Corvairs for years, infact my first car was a Corvair. My son has knows this and has been pointing out different aircraft that are Corvair powered. My response was “where are you going to find a Corvair engine to use”. This past weekend my son came home from college and brought a stack of Kit Planes magazines. I was pleasently surprised to see an article on Corvair conversions by William Wynne, and another article on a vw powered homebuilt called the Thatchercx4. This looked like a match made in heaven to me. I retired from airline flying and general aviation as a whole; inspite of holding an A&P license, twelve type ratings, and one major homebuilt project (a Questair Venture). To get to the point, I checked Craigs List for Corvairs and found several, but prices for junk cars were sky high. Out of curiosity I posted an ad under “auto parts” looking for a Corvair engine. In less than 18 hours I had my first response for a guy that had three engines in the car, and one that had been removed. He wanted $250 for a 140hp engine with the transaxle. Last night I got a call from another person offering to give me two engines if I would get them out of his way. The spark has been lit, maybe I will fly again. “Al”


Builder Brian Manlove, headed to Corvair College #22 writes:                                             Submitted on 2012/02/22 at 2:45 am

“Core #1, Craigslist in Pennsylvania, 3 years ago, $150. It cost me more than that to have it shipped back to TX. The seller sent me photos of engine in the car, and pictures of the crankcase and head numbers, which were good. The engine was as advertised, turned over easily with a socket wrench with the plugs removed. Core #2, 3 weeks ago, again Craigslist but this time the seller was only 60 miles from my house. The seller had just pulled the engine out of a modified VW dune buggy. He wanted $200 for the engine, transaxle, and a adapter plate. The dune buggy had bottomed out on some rocks and bent 2 pushrods on one side. It had all of the oil in it. I pulled the top cover off and the crank & connecting rods all were intact and oily. The numbers were right. He sold it to me for $150 without the transaxle. When I got it home, I removed the bent pushrods and plugs and it turned over with a socket wrench just fine. On this one, the heads had already been de-flashed by someone in the past… Hopefully, it will at least furnish backups for heads & crankshaft if it turns out I need them. There are also several complete running Corvairs for sale for >= $4000 on Craigslist here, so I’d pay $4K and drive it home before I’d spend $1200 on the junk H2OLess has advertised – I looked at his eBay site and they’re not even “assembled” – Just cases with studs. I think eBay has become a trap for Corvair “flight engines” and ridiculous prices – Brian “


Builder and international man of aviation, Tom  Graziano writes:                                               Submitted on 2012/02/22 at 12:45 am


You’re spot on with your core value assessment. I’ve bought several over the years from the local junk yards, all for less than $100 each. Lots of junk yards still have Corvairs & Corvair engines. As you stated, Craigslist is a good bet for a core engine too. – Tom” 


Zenith 750 builder and vetran of 4 colleges, Dan Glaze writes:                              Submitted on 2012/02/21 at 10:18 pm

“William, I found my core through a local CORSA club, 120.00 bucks, and very neat person that had 5 restored vairs that looked showroom new, Dan-o”


Builder Sonny Webster wrote in the letter below after reading the story on the value of cores. It is yet another reminder that Corvair engines may not be on the shelf at Wal-Mart, but they are a lot easier to find than most people first guess. I will be glad to update this story today with any other letters builders would like to write in on how they found their cores and what they paid.-ww


“One day while talking to my cousin up in the Amarillo/Lubbock area about my CH650 build I mentioned that I was looking for a Corvair motor for a conversion project. He said that he knew of a complete Corvair 500 that had been sitting out by his neighbor’s barn for as long as he had lived there, which was several years. He stopped by one day and left a note asking if they would like to sell it and the neighbor responded that for $200 my cousin could take the whole care off their hands! He thinks it is a 1968 model that was running when it was parked there. I’ve yet to get the block code to verify which motor it has but this just proves your point that there are engines out there. If you can’t find them on Craig’s List or other on-line sources you may very well find one by simply asking around. – Sonny.”

What is a core engine worth?


This question just came up because a guy thinking about building an aircraft engine asked it after seeing several listed on Ebay, one for over $1200. I went and looked because I thought he might have slipped a decimal place.  He didn’t. One guy in South Carolina is selling several Corvair engines, listed as aircraft engine cores for very, very high prices. I don’t know the seller, because in the wonderful world of Ebay he is identified only by the email address “H20less”.

It is a free world, and people are allowed to try to sell anything they want, for what ever price they think they can get. I am not angry at the guy for trying, and neither should ‘H20less” be angry at me for telling builders that they are not worth anywhere near what he is asking. At least when I express this opinion, you get to know who is saying it.

I don’t care how much people sell other things on Ebay for, it isn’t my concern. The reason why this is an issue is two-fold, first I treat people building Corvair flight engines as if they are friends of mine. We run a business, but it isn’t aimed at seeing how much money we can take from people at an auction, it is just aimed at teaching people how to build engines and selling them the parts to do this at a good value. Every single person with a running Corvair aircraft engine would tell anyone about to pay $1200 for a core, or $450 for that matter, that they are about to spend way too much money. The second issue I have is that a guy like this has a vested interest in justifying his price by creating the impression that these engines are hard to find, which they are not. As evidence that they are still easy to find, reading the ad closely, it states that he just bought all of these engines and is reselling them. That tells you they can be found, and I am sure he paid a lot closer to the realistic core value of $150-$250. We still have lots of builders who buy their core for $100.

The place where most builders find their core today is Craigslist. If you don’t know how this works, google search the term and look at the city near you and search the word Corvair. Craigslist is a giant on-line service that works just like the classified ads in newspapers. It is localized, because you don’t really need to know that a guy in Auckland NZ is selling something that a guy 30 miles away is also selling. It isn’t a game like auction of hidden prices like Ebay either.It is just ads for people selling things. The best part is that you can run an ad stating what you are looking for, people in your area will read it and contact you. This second method is how 50% of the builders who got started last year picked up their core. I polled them at Oshkosh last year, and the average price they paid was less than $100. For all we know, they guy selling the stuff on Ebay used Craigslist to buy it. Ask any of your friends if they have bought things on Craigslist and you may be suprised who much stuff is sold there. I bought our trailer, my motorcycle and many Corvair engines off Craigslist. The cost of each of these was far below the loest price I had ever seen any of them sell for on Ebay.  One more thing, Craigslist is free. If you’re looking at a core, a conversion manual and a disassembly DVD from us are good tools. Even if your yet to get these, you can still write me and ask about a core you are looking at. I will gladly answer, because I don’t want to have any builder, a person who I regard as a friend, get started off on the wrong foot by paying way to much for a core engine. – William

Glider flying – a funny story


My buddy Chris is working on a glider rating down in Pierson, Fla. The place is a little grass strip in central Florida known for a fair amount of glider activity. There are two clubs and about 15 gliders based there. On the weekends, it’s a busy place with the Pawnee tow plane working all day.

About a month ago Chris was down at Pierson in the middle of the week. He was surprised to find a group of very bright high school students mixed in with the regulars. After asking around, it turned out that the students were from a number of different Florida high schools, and they were getting exposed to all different aspects of the aerospace world to encourage them to seek out degrees in aerospace engineering. Chris said they were very bright and easy to be around, obviously outstanding kids. It is the kind of program that anyone who loves aviation likes to see, but we might not be the first in line if they asked for volunteers to devote a lot of time to it.

Chris struck up a conversation with one of the adults in the party, a nondescript guy wearing a polo shirt with a name tag that just said “Rich”. The guy said he really liked doing something positive if he could, and the thought of coming out to fly in the old Schweitzer 2-33 seemed like a lot of fun.

 A 2-33 is the Cessna 172 of gliders. It has absolutely no bad habits, and it is the ubiquitous trainer that almost everyone starts in. Like a 172, the plane doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Advanced glider pilots can be terrible elitist snobs about the machines they operate, and many of these guys will try to tell you how cool their European glass sailplanes are by contrasting them with rugged old 2-33s with their metal wings. All types of flying have a minority element that practices this sort of bull, and you have to learn to ignore it when you run into it.  For the most part, the people who practice it are pretty harmless, but as a Schweitzer owner, I will attest that some of the most vociferous elements of the glass glider people are refered to as “the wine and cheese crowd.”

While Chris and this guy Rich are talking and waiting for another round with the 2-33, a well-meaning and extroverted member of the glass glider people came over to welcome them to Pierson. The guy wasted little time in getting to the real public service section of his monologue, that flying any metal glider was hardly worth the tow plane’s gas, and perhaps it was a big mistake to expose the kids to the 2-33 because it was going to turn them off to sailplanes. Chris said the guy went on for a while with this angle.

At some point, this guy Rich  said that he thought that metal gliders were just fine. He had flown one from the 1980s, and it worked for him. Chris said this really set the glass guy off, and Mr. Glass said a couple of things like “When you know more about flying, you will realize….” and gave a long-winded explanation of the L/D ratio. In the middle of this, Chris leaned over and asked Rich quietly what make the glider he had flown was. Rich, who was smiling and nodding like he was listening to Mr. Glass, quietly answered Chris with one word, “Rockwell.” Evidently the glass guy never heard this and kept right on going.

When Chris got home he looked at the computer to confirm what he suspected. Turns our that Rich’s last name is Searfoss and he has some very interesting glider experience working for NASA.

File:Richard Searfoss2.jpg

Above, Astronaut Richard Searfoss, veteran of three space flights, one as shuttle pilot, one as mission commander.


Above: Chris Welsh and I in my workshop in 2008. In Chris’ hand is a photo, reproduced below. I’ve known Chris since 1990. We were roommates at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He is an expert in heavy aircraft. His  job is  working as a structures guy for Grumman on  E-2Ds and F-5s.  Since graduating from Riddle with an A&P license and management degree in 1994, Chris has worked a number of interesting jobs as varied as DC-10 cargo conversions and instructing at Colorado Aero-Tech.

  • Blast From The Past circa Winter 1993: Look closely at the photo: It’s Chris with much longer hair. At the time, his daily driver was a ’67 Beetle. He’s holding its hood ornament in this photo. In the foreground, a corrosion damaged Corvair case roasts in a roaring fire. I shot this photo in the backyard of 1235 International Speedway Blvd., a 1907 two-story coquina stone house that a number of us rented during our five years at Embry Riddle. It was the end of a semester, and we were blowing off steam with a backyard party highlighted by a bonfire fueled by Corvair magnesium blower fans. The case and a pile of heads ended up as a little puddle by daylight. You can’t judge what people will do in aviation by the length of their hair when they are 20.


Effective Risk Management – 2,903 words


I wrote this about a year ago. It was an explanation of how I came to the point of being vocally intolerant of foolish people in aviation, and an explanation to a new pilot of how anyone can recognize and avoid fools. I wrote it in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep after too much coffee. We live in a very rural area, and it’s dead silent in the middle of the night. It’s conducive to thinking about the things that you put out of your mind in the busy daylight hours. If you’re in a hurry, this will seem long. Leave it until you have more time, you will be closer to the mindset I was in when I wrote it.

I received some private e-mails in the past couple days. Two of these stuck out as perhaps worthy of slightly broader discussion. The first e-mail could be boiled down to the question ‘when did you become such an opinionated bastard?’ The second e-mail came from a guy who is new to experimental aviation, and had only made enough flights in general aviation aircraft to understand that he really liked it. His main point was that there was no real guidance for green guys on exactly what to do at the airport. He felt the standards for what is safe and what is not, and what might be interpreted as foolish by experienced aviators, were not spelled out nor defined. He was not so much concerned with how he looked, but whether something he might be doing unknowingly could be unsafe to himself or others. These two different letters can actually be addressed under a common theme.  I’ll address the subject of each letter separately, and work to tie together a little bit at the end.  I would like people to consider it, but in the long run use it as a starting point for developing or evolving your own values on the topic.

For a long time I have said the bitterest lesson I  have ever learned in aviation was a fairly simple one. Fools are dangerous. From the very beginning of my time at Embry Riddle this was drilled into our heads by serious men. This was not ivory tower textbook theory. It wasn’t trade magazine statistics. It was our Department Chair telling you something important he knew from more than 100 A-4 missions in Vietnam. It was our regulations instructor talking about the guy in front of him walking into a propeller of an E-2C.  It was our aerodynamics instructor explaining the right seat view from a B-52 when you’re about to have a midair collision with a tanker. It was the hydraulics instructor who was missing a finger, explaining about a guy mindlessly moving a lever in the cockpit without thinking about who was working in the nacelle.

The last story hinted at something ironic I was only later to fully understand.  Yes, idiots are dangerous, but in aviation for very odd reasons that can defy logic and are hard to explain, the fools often do their damage but walk away comparatively unscathed. None of our instructors fully explained this last part for students. To amend things that they taught me, things I would like to share with you, I would like to spell this point out. Way back then, I was not a bastard. I had a live and let live attitude. I figured I didn’t have enough experience to speak up when others were doing idiotic things. Peer pressure, and the observation that idiots who broke the rules on a weekly basis were still alive after a few decades, conspired to erode the hardest edges of my standards. These factors worked their magic to keep my mouth shut, to go along with the gang a little bit, and even do a little flying with people I shouldn’t have.  A number of events changed this.

In the early 1990s I was working at my friend Jim’s hangar at Spruce Creek. A guy from our EAA Chapter who had not flown his experimental in many years was out by the runway running it up. A part of this guy wanted to be young again, airborne, flying. The other part told him that the door had closed and the sun had set on that part of his days. A group of guys stood around him and goaded him into taking off. Jim had not been part of this but he was standing off to the side. Jim was a known aviator there and a physically big person. There were actions he could have taken.  He later told me that he wanted to step forward, tell all the spectators to shut up, and tell the pilot to go back to his hangar. He wanted to do this, but he did not.

The man took off and was never fully in control of the plane. He flew around the pattern a couple of times, did a few approaches that were agonizing to watch, and then crash landed. He lived, but he hit his face on the panel, and bled terribly. I sat with Jim in his hangar that afternoon. He was distraught over his failure to act. I got a real good look at the price of peer pressure. Jim’s own brother had been killed in a plane crash. You didn’t need to be a genius to understand that Jim had asked himself a million times what he could’ve done or said that would’ve affected his brother’s fate 25 years before.  On that day irony served him another chance, and he had not taken it. It was a hard thing to watch, perhaps uglier than the day’s accident. This was the first time I can clearly say I understood the cost of keeping your mouth shut. This was the first step to me becoming the kind of “Bastard” who publicly points out people doing dangerous things.

If you really want to understand the depth of my hatred for stupid people around airplanes you can go to YouTube and search the words “Titusville plane crash kills two” and you can join 359,970 other people, mostly ghouls, who have seen the remnants of our friends Phil Schact and Bill Hess burning to death.

I could write a lot of stories, but none of them would come very close to explaining much about what made Phil or Bill great guys. Here’s a small try: Phil was a career pilot, and airline man, an aerobatics instructor and a regional aerobatic champion. He is a relentlessly positive guy.  He was selling an antique aircraft for $25,000. He had a serious offer $24,000.  Phil hears that there’s a young woman at the airport who’s been taught to fly by old school pilots. She is thinking about buying a plane, looking at some spam cans.  Phil goes over, meets her, takes her flying and explains that she should really go after a different type of plane. He conveys to her that she has great promise as a pilot, and should keep working at it. Phil finds out that her total savings is $19,871.  In an act of kindness that was characteristic of how he lived his life, Phil forgoes the higher offer and sells the airplane to the young woman for the balance in her savings account. It is an act that changes the trajectory of her life. The aircraft is 1946 Taylorcraft. The woman he sold the airplane to was named Grace. Today, I am married to her.

On the last morning of their lives, Bill and Phil got in Bill’s RV-8 and flew 40 miles down to Titusville for a fly-in breakfast. They were consummate pilots, maybe 40,000 hours between the two of them. They landed and taxied well clear of the runway. They were sitting about 150 feet off the center line on a taxiway on the far end of the runway. Enter the idiot, flying a Velocity with an older gentleman who built it. It is later told in some detail, that this younger pilot is a first-class fool. He is from Europe, has come to the United States because flying here is cheap. He has no respect for the rules, he always flys straight in approaches. No one can understand him on the radio, and he does not listen to others, nor does he look for traffic. When spoken to about this, he is smug and does not care.  On this particular day, his straight in approach cuts off several aircraft in the pattern.

He lands the Velocity hard enough to break off the nose gear and  it sheds part of the winglet. At this point he’s over 2,000 feet from hitting the RV-8. All he has to do is pull the power off and slide to a halt.  Instead he decides he’s going to try to fly away.  This does not work, his plane crashes, slides off the runway and collides with the RV-8. I was not there that day. But I have spoken to an acquaintance who watched Bill and Phil die from 100 feet away.  After a few days in the hospital, the passenger in the Velocity died also. Upon his release from the hospital the pilot flees the country. After the accident, a number of people said that they had wished they had called the FAA on the pilot for his earlier transgressions. We are not talking about simple mistakes, we’re talking about a complete disrespect for procedures and other people’s safety that paved a highway to this accident. But most people don’t want to be called a bastard, so no one did. I can’t be mad at them for it, they were only giving in to the same peer pressure that I used to.

I have never turned anybody into the FAA, and I don’t view it is my job to do so. In aviation, my little neighborhood is Corvair engine building. I’m not concerned with the overall issues in aviation concerning the actions of fools. All I am concerned with is fools who wish to take up residence in our neighborhood. I am an individualist by nature. I think people should be allowed to do pretty much anything they want. Most people tend to add the phrase here “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” Often what they mean is “as long as I don’t find it offensive.” I don’t care if people are offensive, it isn’t a crime in my book. However, if you advocate things that I know from experience stand a good chance of harming somebody else,  I’m going to talk about it, even if this leads to some people thinking of me as a bastard.  I am not really smart, nor am I particularly self-aware, but I have absolutely learned in life that I am far better off having people dislike me for my tone or my approach than I am hating myself for something I should have done or said.

If you are new to the world of homebuilding, and maybe even flying, here’s something that you may not suspect: you’re actually in an excellent position to avoid the actions of fools. Compared to the general aviation pilots who are starting their flight lessons down at the local FBO mill, you have many distinct advantages. Down there, you take the first polyester clad flying prodigy they assign you as an instructor.  You’re flying a worn-out airplane, that they can hardly afford to keep going. Their mechanic is paid a wage that precludes him from living in a double wide trailer. The student enters a system that takes no consideration of who he is or what he wants out of flying. Whatever the intention of the FBO owner when starting out, a lot of these operations devolve to a poorly disguised system of draining your bank account into theirs. It’s very important to understand that such settings attract and tolerate idiots. Nobody wants to upset the system. Whatever ambitions they had of higher standards have long ago been worn away.

Homebuilding can be just as bad, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make it any way that you want to. In this case, you’re going to be the aircraft manufacturer, and the engine manufacturer also. You have time to seek out intelligent qualified people for your further learning.  Building an engine can teach you a lot about whose advice you take, and who you don’t listen to.  This phase can be done while you’re still safely on the ground. If you set your standards very high, you will attract other people who take flying seriously.

Aviation works just like life, quality people tend to gravitate towards the same setting, and dirt bags tend to collect where the standards are low enough that they don’t stick out. In homebuilding you control the entire show. After the plane is done, you’re going to be the director of maintenance, the chief of flight operations, scheduling, dispatching, and the chief financial officer.  It’s a beautiful system where you’re entirely in control of things that you normally have to resign to others. To me this is at the heart of what is captivating about homebuilding. The process is an opportunity, but not a guaranteed transformation. If there is a guy in your local EAA Chapter who doesn’t really strike you as the human personification of self-reliance and self-actualization through homebuilding, yet he has completed an airplane, it isn’t the process’ fault. If you are new to homebuilding, do not judge the potential of the experience by looking at people who merely went through the motions, ended up with the plane, learned the minimum amount, etc. The greatest dad ever and a guy who made a deposit at a sperm bank are both technically involved in fatherhood. Only the former understands the rewards of the experience.

I would be doing new guys disservice if I didn’t clearly say that Bill and Phil’s accident was the freak occurrence of an idiot harming somebody who was not in his immediate vicinity. In general it is plenty of protection to not take advice from nor fly with idiots. There are rare occurrences their range is further, but for the most part if you give them up wide berth and don’t listen to them you’ll do okay.

If you have not spent much time in airports, the basic rules are pretty simple: Pay attention to what’s going on; don’t talk on your cell phone or walk around with your head somewhere else; don’t drive your car on the runway, taxiways or parking aprons; don’t smoke around airplanes or in hangars; do not interrupt people who are pre-flighting airplanes or engaged in intensive maintenance. Introduce yourself before you ask a question, and if you do ask, make sure that you listen to the answer. If you’re addicted to looking at your smart phone, leave it in the car. Most older aviators take it as a sign of real disrespect if you glance to your phone the whole time they’re talking to you. Spend twice as much time listening as talking. If someone specifically tells you not to do something, don’t do it. This is all that it takes to blend in at 90% of the airports in America.

There are a couple of obvious character traits in people who I like to steer clear of when it comes to planes.  I only fly with people I know fairly well; I will not get in an airplane that a guy pre-flighted while he was talking on his cell phone. I stay away from people who are in a big rush at the airport. These people often don’t have the time for a preflight, a mag check or taxiing to the downwind and to the runway. I will not speak to a person who knowingly does downwind takeoffs or landings to shorten the distance to his parking spot. I have nothing to do with people who brag about having their annual inspections or biennial flight reviews pencil whipped. I don’t fly with pilots who do things that are forbidden in capital letters in the pilots operating handbook (Example: slipping a 172 with the flaps down).  I’ve never taken a flight lesson of any kind with an instructor who couldn’t tell me what condition achieves the minimum turn radius in any aircraft ( Maneuvering speed, bank angle increased until the plane reaches its positive G limit, full power.) I stay away from pilots who say things like “this plane has a bad glide ratio when it’s heavily loaded” (aircraft of the same glide ratio and gross weight glide as they do lightly loaded) I steer clear of people who offer testimonials on flight characteristics planes they never sat in (“Republic Seabees glide like bricks” ),  avoid people who are poor listeners or openly brag about things that they have gotten away with.

The above paragraph might describe 20% of the people in airports. That’s okay, I don’t need to pal around with everyone.  If you’re new to aviation, spend some time observing people and develop your own set of values. Be discriminating. If you’re new you have no track record, then you’re a thoroughbred as far as anybody’s concerned, and the only way that is changed is if you spend a lot of time with fools and idiots and let them turn you into one. If you believe this is possible, then the corollary is also possible. You can choose to spend your time with skilled, competent, aviators and let their experience and your hard work turn you into one yourself.

 -William Wynne

3,000cc Engine Running


Below is a freshly built 3,000cc Corvair running in front of our hangar. We built it for Zenith CH-750 builder Lary Hatfield. Grace and I met Lary and his sons at the 2011 Zenith Open House in Mexico, Missouri. The Hatfields were taking the Zenith Builders Workshop and picking up their airframe kit. They got a good look at all the engine options for the aircraft, considered carefully and selected the Corvair. Lary acknowledged that each of the engine options for the 750 had some appeal, but our knowledge of the engine, our 23 years in the business, the number of Zeniths flying on the Corvair, and the fundamental simplicity of our approach made the decision for him. 

The economic appeal of the engine that attracts many people was not a factor. Lary speaks with a lot of fatherly pride about his sons’ hard work ethics and their personal successes. Although he never mentioned it, I am guessing that Lary could afford any engine on the market. Lary and his sons have a very strong aviation background. When men of this experience and means study the options closely and select the Corvair, I take it as a compliment to our efforts.  When we first started, the Corvair was seen as a low cost alternative for people economically excluded from hand-me-down certified engines. After two decades of development, testing, flying and teaching, the Corvair has now evolved to a top tier engine, a first choice powerplant.

Above: The engine during its first break in run. We operate it between 1,800 and 2,200 rpm for 30 minutes. The primary purpose is to break in the cam and lifters. We only use Shell Rotella 15W-40 oil for this, and we use an additive called ZDDP. We do the break in with slightly conservative timing, and run the engine on 93 unleaded fuel to avoid having lead deposits in the engine if it is going to be stored for a while before it is flown. In the presence of moisture, the byproducts of combustion from 100LL fuel can be corrosive over time. You can see that the run stand is chained down to an 800 pound concrete block we cast into the lawn next to the ramp. The only thing visible on the block is a 1/2″-20 threaded bolt hole. It is actually the balancer end of a scrap Corvair crank that we cast into the block.  It’s not likely to be uprooted any time soon.

Above is a look inside the 3,000cc Engine. It is a big brother to the 2,850. The centerpiece of both of these engines is a drop forged, CNC machined, made in America, very high quality piston manufactured to our specifications. It has a very specifically designed pocket, and a flat quench area, for use with the 110 and 95 Corvair cylinder heads. The step that the head gasket sits on can be entirely machined out of the head so that the quench height of the engine is solely the head gasket thickness. This could be done before, but would result in an alarmingly high compression ratio. The pocket in the piston takes care of this, keeping the compression ratio reasonable. Other pistons for Corvairs have had little dishes cut in them before. But we had these pistons specifically forged with thick domes to allow the pocket to be machined as deep as it needed to be without compromising the strength of the piston. In operation, this engine has extremely high turbulence and very good atomization of the fuel, yet a static compression ratio that will easily run on 93 octane fuel without retarded timing. These combustion and ignition characteristics have the potential to make this engine more powerful than a 3,100cc Corvair with its required retarded ignition timing. There’s a number of other reasons we selected 3 Liters as our new standard large displacement engine, but the primary goal was to produce an uncompromised large displacement Corvair that will operate in a future where the affordability of 100 low lead may come into question. The 2,850 has the same characteristics, but it is the largest displacement that can be made without machining the case.

Above:The 3,000cc engine makes 120 continuous HP at 3,150 rpm. The engine has no difficulty making this power output and remaining cool while doing it. In this photo, the engine is running on the same MA3-SPA carb that we test all of our engines on. This is the most popular carb for CH-750s. Next, we will test this engine with a Precision mechanical fuel injector. It is expensive, but it is made by the same people who produce injectors for certified aircraft. We run the engines with cast iron manifolds and small mufflers to get it quiet so we can listen to the engine internally during the break in. This engine performed flawlessly. Grace’s  1946 Taylorcraft sits on the lawn behind the engine.

The engine above is built with a Modex-prepped forged and nitrided crankshaft. It has a Weseman 5th bearing, as well as a brand new valve train including the cam drive gears, lifters and pushrods. The forged pistons and cylinders are new and the rods are Clark’s rebuilt with ARP rod bolts. The heads have new seats and guides and stainless valves set with exhaust rotators and new springs. The engine has one of our new high volume oil pumps and a Dale harmonic balancer. It features all of our Gold Oil System parts,including the Billet Pan and Deep Sump Pickup, our Short Gold Hub and Front Starter System, a 20 amp charging system and our redundant Electronic and Point (E/P) Ignition System with spiral wound ignition wires. Because it varies from airframe to airframe, the carburetor is sold separately. We build these engines for $11,500. A dedicated builder working in his shop can build a clone of this engine for $7,500 in parts and about 150 hours of his time. (Smaller displacement engines like the 110hp 2,850cc and the 100 hp 2,700cc can be built on significantly tighter budgets.) We are glad to work with both groups of people. With other engines, the engine is always configured in the way that is easiest for the factory to make, or the most profitable set up. Your Corvair engine can be built in any way that suits your airframe, budget, timeline or personal goals.

Our main focus is, and will always remain, teaching builders how to build their own engines. This is the approach of 95% of the people we are working with. We are the only engine company on the market dedicated to giving people who wish to build it themselves access to a top-level engine.  We build a small number of engines a year. These are done as educational showpieces that effectively demonstrate the potential of the engine. With this purpose, the engines we build are assembled out of the finest materials and parts. I personally assemble each of them, and I take as many hours as needed to do so. Afterward, each of them are given a long break-in run process, and then a final tuning. These engines only serve their purpose if they provide long trouble-free service to their owners, in the process demonstrating to observers how well the Corvair works. Again, 95% of these observers will choose to build their own engine with our parts and assistance.  In plain terms, this means that our motivation when building an engine for a family like the Hatfields is to produce the finest engine, not the most profitable one.

Contrast this with traditional automotive conversion engines.  Those engines were sold as the sole profit-maker by companies whose overriding goal was to make money. Many of these engines were based on things pulled directly from cars, cleaned and declared airworthy. Companies that did rebuild engines were tempted to cut every corner inside, because that’s how they were going to make more money. Most of these companies were LLCs with 3 year life spans. They knew that if they sold 100 engines in the 36 months, 90 of the engines would not be mounted on an airframe.  Their high time customer engine would likely get less than 100 hours. If that guy had issues, they could keep him quiet by sending him an “updated” engine or offering him some money back. By the time the majority of  buyers discover that there are issues, the LLC has folded up the tent, and they don’t have to stand behind anything. This isn’t a bad dream, nor is it far-fetched. When I got started in 1989, there were 40 or 45 nationally known alternative engine companies. Today, just 3 of these remain, and the only other one that still goes to Sun ‘N Fun and Oshkosh is Steve Bennett at Great Plains VWs.  There were 15 companies offering EA-81 Subarus, all gone now. Zoche Diesel never turned out a product. The Cam 100 Honda, and almost all the other Honda people, are gone. A half dozen outfits that offered small turbines and delivered nothing are gone. So are most of the V-6 people, and all the V-8 outfits I can think of except one. These companies were designed and run to make money, not to last. When they disappeared, they took a lot of people’s money and dreams with them.

Corvairs have seen their share of these people. In the past 5 years their have been four LLCs that sprang up to make Corvair parts. All four are bankrupt today. All of them were previously customers of ours. Naming them doesn’t matter as much as understanding that there will certainly be new ones over time.  While I feel some sympathy for people who were taken by these LLCs, it isn’t my obligation to help out the people stuck with orphan products, and this includes not having them at our Colleges. Everyone understands that your local Ford dealership isn’t going to work on a 1986 Yugo. It’s the same thing here.  I include this as a reminder to builders that most of the people who start an aircraft project don’t finish it. Our builder completion rate is about 35% after four years. This is twice the industry average. There are a lot of reasons why the industry is so low. They are incentivized to sell you things, not teach you things. The journalists writing about planes generally haven’t completed a plane, and 95% of them have never gotten their hands dirty on an aircraft engine. There are countless Web sites with disinformation provided by people you will never meet. Reading them allows these people to affect your perspective and reduces the probability of your success. These factors are never going to get better, and in all likelihood are going to get worse. The good news is that you can exercise good decision making skills, pick the right people to listen to and learn from, work with proven companies and navigate your way through. Last year, nearly 1,000 new amateur built aircraft were completed and registered with the FAA. If your personal goal is to learn, build and fly, we will be glad to work with you to get your name on the next list. 

SP-500 – 2,700cc – Spencer Gould


This letter and photos came in from Spencer Gould. Some quick notes on his background are in a letter he wrote in the “Mail Sack – Stromberg” story.  If you have one of our Zenith Install Manuals, his picture is right up front in the introduction as one of my Hangar Gang. In that paragraph I am pointing out that many experimental aviation companies are staffed by polo-shirt-clad salespeople while our crew has always been 100% hard-core aircraft builders. Spencer was my key guy for the CAD work that went into our 5th bearing and many of the Gold System Parts. He is no Troglodyte, he is an intensely driven very smart guy The design you see here was actually flight tested in a 1/4 scale RC model. Spencer flew it with a live video downlink in the plane focused on the left wing, which was tuff tested to look at the airflow pattern over it. Every layup in the plane has a structural calculation associated with it, nothing is eyeballed. The SP-500 is not your average homebuilt.-ww 

(Note: Being a Troglodyte, I am not very good at posting pictures, and if the pictures take a while to load, it’s probably my fault, and I will have to ask Grace to fix it later. My neighbor’s dog Kirby will stare at you intently and appear to follow your every word if you look at him while talking about any subject, even degreeing a cam. Yet it would be unfair of me to be angry at him if I later asked him to degree a cam and he couldn’t.  I ask that anyone temped to write me an e-mail starting with “resizing Gif files into Dfxl files is easy, you just…” not get angry later. It has been my observation that in the spectrum of mechanical people, Tribe Grease Monkey has always been willing to accept that the Tech-Geek tribe was just born different, and leave it at that. However, the Tribe Tech-Geek tends to have the feeling that the Grease Monkeys have just been deprived of the opportunity to become a Tech-Geek, and if they just patiently instructed Grease Monkey and used small words, he would see the light and trade his ball peen hammer collection in for an Iphone. It’s actually motivated by a beautiful view of human nature, that given the opportunity we are rational enough to “better” ourselves. unfortunately, Kirby was born a dog, and I am a born Troglodyte, and no one should be mad at either of us.-ww)


Hello William,

Here are some current photos of the SP-500 project. Since the early ’08 picture the wing primary structure has been completed. The wing is a constant chord NACA 63-618 that features a ring molded nose and tail rib with a very tight profile tolerance. The spar design has been computer optimized and utilizes Graphlight protruded carbon fiber stock for the caps and G-10 for all the point source load reinforcements. All the bonding operations in the wing were achieved with 1/8” cleco’s on a 2” to 4” spacing, alignment and bond constancy went off with out a hitch with no imprinting required. The fuel tanks are integral covering 3 bays (see the grey Jeffco coating below) with 2 suppression bays before the cockpit.

Below: The engine is a fairly Stock 2,700 cc (O-164). It’s all cocooned up in climate control right now, there is some minor work to be done before it can run but I do intend on getting a 5th bearing set up on it before I fly. I’ve learned a ton about engine building between the Colleges and all the help from you and the Hangar Gang. All those years of working on the TSIOF-550J FADEC installation for the PA-46 I think gave me some hints on the gold color scheme.


All the tail feathers, flaps, ailerons and wing tips are hot wired blue foam. The H stab is removable but the V stab is fixed.


 Above, tailwheel assembly.


When I first started out in this project in ’06, I designed a couple machined components for Piper and had seen their CNC equipment in action but it was not until the hands on training you gave me on manual lathes and mills all those years ago at the old Edgewater hangar that the lightbulb really clicked. Since then I have manually machined many complex components on my Smithy for my plane including the tailwheel assembly and main gear/adapters. All this manual machining knowledge has proven to be very valuable on the P&W aircraft gas turbine work I do now.


Above: The seat crush structure and panels are now complete and I’m working on some trial and error work on the instrument panel (cardboard is my friend and makes for some free and easy prototyping). You can also see the wicked internal support system for the landing gear. It’s similar to a Wittman or RV style but its integral to the fuselage rather than the engine mount.

Below: There has been some coverage about my project on the main Web site but I thought an up to date 3 view of the plane would be helpful:

Above: The wing butt rib showing the attach points that go into the spar box. Caps are carbon fiber .


Hope this has been an informative update on the project.

 See you at Sun ‘N Fun 2011. Spencer


Mail Sack – Troglodytes


I typed “Lifestyles of Troglodytes” between 3 and 4 a.m. last night.  Vern and I worked on Zenith Motor Mounts all day. He rode his motorcycle home at sundown to avoid the projected 25F temperature slated for midnight. I worked in the heated shop, putting crank and cam gears on a 2,700cc engine that will be run at Corvair College #22 in three weeks.  At 10 p.m. Alex called and said he was going to have a late cookout. He is the sailer in the “Mail Sack – Sterling Hayden” post. It was a fun night with 10 people there, including a guy from England and one from South Africa. A lot of good conversation fueled by beer and interesting people. As I was planning on flying at dawn (the weather looked like visibility was going to be 100 miles), I was just drinking a small river of coffee.

I walked across the runway back to our place at 2 a.m. To wired to work or sleep, I spent some time looking at airfoils, toying around with shrinking the Tailwind chord from 48″ to 42″, getting the same spar depth in a 15% thick section, ending up with the same area, but several more feet of span and a better aspect ratio.  The evening’s conversations had sparked a lot of thoughts, and I ended up typing the Troglodyte story.  I looked at it for 10 minutes before sending it.  Would builders think it was funny? Offensive? Plain old weird? I sent it after realizing that it is a little late in my life to suddenly get concerned about being thought of as weird or offensive by middle of the road types. I was too tired to fly at dawn, I went to bed instead. I got up when Vern came back at 9:30 a.m. By this afternoon, the counter on the story indicated that 535 different email addresses had been to the story. In came a long stream of letters, many of which required a lot of thought. Evidently it touched a nerve or a funny bone in a lot of people. As a final note, I want everyone to understand that I have many more friends that are Tech-Geeks than Troglodytes, and I meant no offense to people who are smarter than I am. Maybe one of you Tech guys could explain the hierarchy of the tech world, it would be entertaining, but please, use small words for us Troglodytes.


601XL builder and Pilot Andy Elliott, Phd, aerospace engineer from MIT wrote:      


“As a long-time member of the geek tribe, I mention the classic book “Theory of Wing Sections,” Abbot and von Doenhoff, 1948, that is the standard reference for any of the NACA series airfoils. It includes both ordinates and performance data. It is republished by Dover Books in paperback and is available new from Amazon for <$16!
Another good resource it the Univ. of Illinois airfoil data base, which is found at The Clark series are all there in high precision. Note that this database uses the geek-standard approach of providing the airfoil ordinates in the zero-lift orientation. This obfuscates the flat-bottomed nature of the Clark Y. Again, referring to old data to get away from modern misrepresentations, you can find NACA Report 502 online at This report has the Clark Y coordinates in the troglodyte reference frame, that is with the flat bottom flat. There you can easily see that the airfoil is 11.7% thick!   FWIW,   Andy”

Andy, As an owner of a giant collection of aviation literature, I have most of the stuff you reference right on the back porch. believe it or not, the Clark Y is not in Theory of Wing sections. I have the Troglodyte ordinates in the back of a number of old books, but the references you mention are good assets. Thanks-ww


Builder Jerry McFerron wrote:
Hi William, I have written a program that will convert an Excel file containing the airfoil coordinates to an AutoCAD drawing of the airfoil in one second. The program could certainly use some “real world” testing if you are interested. Take care, Jerry.

 Jerry, Thanks for the very kind offer, and I may take you up on it.  Here is the only issue: I am a genuine Troglodyte of the first order, and I hate to say this in public, but I don’t know how to write up a spreadsheet on Excel.  I would need some help from Grace on that one. I think that if I learn to use Excel, then I might be jeopardizing my status, and before you know it, people will start thinking of me as a Neandertal.


Tom Graziano, man of a thousand global aviation adventures, Super DC-3 owner, etc., writes:

“William, You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble by just getting a copy of Harry Riblett’s book GA Airfoils from the EAA. With a Riblett airfoil, you’ll end up with a superior wing. For a Tailwind, look at the GA35A413.5 and GA35A415 airfoils. You can draw out the ordinates & airfoil by hand – I’ve done it for a couple of projects (butcher paper works well) – or use a computer program. I use Compufoil. Works great! Cheers, Tom”

Tom, Great to hear from you.  I have Harry’s book, read it cover to cover many times. The Tailwind has a real funky packaging problem at the butt rib because the root chord is choked down so much, and the area around the rear spar attachment and where the torque tube passes is generally not covered by the footprint of a lot of good airfoils. You can’t use a lot of them because with the correct angle of incidence they would be either too low for the door to open or too high to blend the cabin top and windshield into the wing. I’ll get a look at the two airfoils and see how they lay out.-ww


Harold Bickford, NE, writes:

“Quite a spectrum there William and a very enjoyable read. On the one hand I’m a geek in that I look to the soon to come day when 3D printers allow the fabrication of many parts useful in an airplane and at reasonable cost. Yet the building will still have to occur, however simplified. Still the Pietenpol (Neanderthal Aviation?) has an appeal as an old school, proven idea. The Corvair engine follows suit. Ditto ‘steam gauges.’

“Just like manually plotting an airfoil using accurate information, it is the engagement that makes the experience fun and a learning experience. Whether cutting and milling wood parts to precise sizes (and being willing to try again) or simply researching the engine numbers to determine which engine you really have, the activity becomes a means of involvement that uses all of the senses.

“It is not instant gratification by any means though the process does become continuing gratification as at every step some bit of learning and progress occur and then the stage is set for the next act in what is a real life adventure.”


Joe Goldman, Sprint builder N198JL from Florida writes:

“William, That’s the way my ribblett wing went. Harry Ribblet airfoil GA35U-A315 . Got a long 1/4″ luan plywood, made my center line and went one from the X column, one from the Y, and one from the Z…. Checked it many times. Looks good and allows for a straight up 8.7″ spar. Hope it flies like the original. Joe.”


Terry Hand,  USMC & ATP,   (    Writes:

“William, As a Captain for a major airline and an airline pilot for close to 25 years, I can appreciate your comments on flying and technology. I spent 4 and 1/2 years instructing glass cockpit jumbo jet training, and we worked hard to instill the concept of ‘automation download’. Simply put, automation download means that once the technology gets in the way of flying that keeps you out of risky situations, download to the next level. If necessary, download to the next level, whatever it takes to maintain safe control of the aircraft.

“How about an example? Say you are flying an airplane such as a 767 that has FMS and you set up the FMS to fly the ILS to 27L in ATL. It is in the box, and you are monitoring the systems while actually flying a Visual Approach to 27L. You call the runway in sight, and Tower offers you 27R since it is a quicker turnoff to the terminal. You accept the runway change, but now what? You download the automation, turn off the FMS (because reprogramming it requires a heads down cockpit- not good at 2000 AGL). You kick off the autopilot, and hand fly the aircraft down the PAPI that you see giving you great glide path info. In other words, you fly the airplane, not the technology. That is the trick – teaching pilots when to make that automation download decision, and avoid going heads down, trying to load the ILS 27R approach in the FMS, and ending up flying across the 26L final approach course (look at the ATL airfield diagram – yes that happened many years ago – unbelievable!). Just my thoughts on the subject. Keep up the great writing. You make me think.”


Rob Schaum, Murphy Rebel w/3,000cc Corvair builder writes:

“Yikes….that story is as scary as it is entertaining. You’ve alluded to this before in your writings, but I’m convinced that the greatest challenge any homebuilder faces is knowing which information sources to trust, and which ones to run away from…quickly. This process, for me, takes almost more time than building. It is compounded by the fact that I, like so many of us, am a part-time builder and cannot rely on an Embry-Riddle education – and decades of experience – to immediately identify the flaws in someone’s argument. Nevertheless, the process of screening out the good info from the bad is critical to our being able to one day confidently sit at the controls of our aircraft, lined up for takeoff, and push that throttle forward.”

Rob, Fear not, you can trust the things you read here, and over time you will develop more and more of a sense of good vs. b.s. info. BTW, did you see yourself in the group 2005 photo on the Dr. Ray Post? I’m pretty sure you’re in there.-ww




Lifestyles of Troglodytes


There are two types of people in this world: those who look at technology as the solution and those who think of simplicity as the solution. In the mechanical world, we all know this debate degenerates rapidly to “Tech-Geeks vs. Grease Monkeys.”  What my Tech-Geek friends don’t know is that there is actually a lowerarchy (as opposed to a hierarchy) in the land of Grease Monkeys. There may very well be a system like this in Geekdom, but it’s probably expressed as an equation or as an analogy to electronics, and therefore understanding it is beyond my short monkey attention span. For my friends on the other side, I reveal the descending order of taste and sophistication in simple mechanical solutions:

(1) Old School, (2) Luddite, (3) Knuckle-dragger, (4) Neandertal, and finally, (5)Troglodyte.

Old School isn’t a bad term at all. Many people think of it as a compliment, an indication that the recipient knows how it was done with craftsmanship before people thought of throwing money at problems as an actual strategy. Even Luddite is worn as a badge of honor by some, especially when it is delivered as an intended insult by your opposite number from  the land of Geekdom. The bottom three are the turning point, headed down a slippery slope. Very few people are civil after being called a Knuckle-Dragger, and none are after being called a Neandertal. I wouldn’t be offended if one of my friends with a PhD called me either. This is because it would be an upgrade. Simply put, I am a mechanical Troglodyte.

First a confession: Until recently, I didn’t even know that Troglodyte was a Greek word for caveman. I always thought it was one of the creatures that swam around in the primordial ooze for 60 million years or so, trying to find a purpose in life. I had a perverse pride in being named after something that was around for a long time. Getting demoted from a big chunk of natural history to a footnote in Greek mythology is a tough break. It would probably hurt my self esteem, that is if I had any of it to be hurt…

Above: This is actually a Trilobite.  They have been extinct for half the time there has been life on Earth. For a long time, I thought that this is what a Troglodyte was. Getting this wrong for most of my life might be a good indication that I really am a troglodyte.

We live at an airpark full of incredibly mechanically inclined people. At most airports, there are one or two skilled welders. At our place, there are one or two people who don’t know how to weld. My neighbors made fun of me for months because I stupidly confessed to not knowing how to operate a road grader.  Here, little kids on BMX bikes will ride by and criticize the heat range of your plugs when you’re doing an annual.  In this setting, you might think the Troglodyte would be king, or at least respected. Sadly no. In Grease Monkeyville, the Old School debates with the Luddite the merits of the Duramax Diesel vs. the Powerstroke. They even make room in the conversation for the Knuckle-Dragger with the non-turbo ’80s Cummins 6B. But they all shun the Troglodyte as he looks at the 4-53t Detroit in the old loader and thinks about installing it in his rusty Chevy pickup.

I hold that my Troglodyte status is valuable in aviation, especially today when an ever greater number of people arriving in the ranks of aviation have been conditioned to think that technology is always the answer. You know, the people who think of a glass cockpit as a substitute for looking out the windows in the pattern. People who are slow to understand that having a system that will not break is superior to the most elaborate instrumentation that tells you when a complex system just broke. People who chat on their smart phones while preflighting and forget to untie the tail rope. I am going to teach these people the things my mentors taught me, that the pure joy of flying is found in the simplest of settings, that the more basic things are, the more reliable they are, that there is a real value to knowing how things really work and how to repair them. Yes, I am going to teach this to all the electronically addicted new arrivals from the land of consumerism, that is right after I solve the Riemann hypothesis and fix the Middle East peace crisis.

It’s really ok to be an adherent to any tribe, and I can get along with just about any person who likes planes. It is not a requirement that they spend an hour in the flymart with myself and friends looking at a pile of 145 Warner parts. We are not required to accompany them as they shop for a color coordinated pseudo flame retardant interior. People need only find the place that is right for them, and not worry about what other people are doing. To each his own ooze. Happiness is knowing where you belong, forgetting this is where the trouble starts.

I am kicking around the idea of making a new set of wings for our Tailwind project.  It has an original 1950s set that are as thin as potato chips and have all the area of two medium-size coffee tables.  Fine for Wittman, but the thought of a gross weight take off in summer makes me think about attacking the paper company trees off the end of the runway with a chain saw and blaming it on the very rare Florida beavers. More span and wing area is better than taking up logging. My composite Guru friends Scott Vanderveen and Arnold Holmes offered to help with a sophisticated set of tapered wings with a laminar flow section. At first this was very attractive, but in time I have reverted to my Troglodyte ways and picked the most Troglodyte of wings, a constant chord with a Clark Y airfoil. 

Today was the day I was going to cut the first pattern. I went out to the back porch where all the aviation engineering books from the 1930s are kept, and I was going to look up the ordinates, figure out if I needed to use a 48, 50 or 52″ chord to enclose a Piper spar, and use a calculator to get the points and plot them out with a ruler and bend a capstrip between the points and trace the line. As I was taking out a dusty NACA book,  I realized that I was doing this task like a Troglodyte. My Old School and Luddite friends were sure to catch me and make fun of me. This was going to be worse than the road grader. Dan would stop by and read aloud sections of my Conversion Manual where I wrote about experimental aviation being for people who “Want to learn new things.” My chance had arrived. I would show them. I would go online, find the data, email it to the print shop, and come back with a real CAD drawing. I would be at least upgraded to Neandertal if I did it all by myself. I turned on the computer, searched the Net and came up with 50 hits, led by a very sure set of data provided by a guy named  “Stealth Pilot.”

Stealth Pilot– 27 Mar 2008 14:04 GMT ……the clark Y aerofoil is 17% thick and has it’s ordinates set out from
the bottom surface. the NACA 4417 aerofoil is the clark Y with the ordinates set out from
the chord line. The 4418 (1% thicker) that should be close enough if you compare the 4415. The shape was an educated guess based on a number of previous good aerofoils. justinius clark had a reasonably good eye for these things.        Stealth Pilot

Stealth Pilot sounds good, but of course, just about everything he said was wrong, including the name of the designer. I should have known better than to read about a Troglodyte airfoil from a guy who named himself after a plane that had no airfoil. Moving on I read the next 15 hits… They had huge errors also. Then I saw it… A lot of the post 2009 hits actually referenced Stealth Pilot’s story, as if it was a footnote from Virginus Clark himself. Site after site repeated the data and the 17% thick claim. It was the National Enquirer referencing The Star as their reliable source.

After a few more posts like this, I turned off  the computer and went out to the shop with a copy of the ordinates, an ancient HP-48 calculator and a roll of brown paper. I dug a flexible 1/4″  x  1/4″ capstrip out to connect the dots, and went about making the drawing, happy in my Troglodyte ooze of simplicity.


Mail Sack – Sterling Hayden


It took me a little while to decide how to organize the letters that come in responding to articles.  Our first round of Mail Sack was a grab bag of letters, but after some thought on readability, I like grouping the notes and letters on a topic on a single page which leads to hearing them as voices in a conversation.  I like the idea that this particular conversation extends all the way to Sweden.

Yesterday, I stopped by the hangar of a friend who is beginning to pack up his Catalina 22 for an extended sail to the Bahamas. He wasn’t home, but I hung out for a little bit and looked over his equipment with a twinge of envy for his pending adventure. You can learn a lot about a person’s priorities by checking out the stuff they have prepped before such a trip.  Among the cartons of Marlboro reds and cases of Bud was his dog’s life jacket, a Mosin-Nagant and a copy of Sterling Hayden’s book.


Sten Backhans, 701 builder from Sweden, wrote:       (Submitted on 2012/02/03 at 3:50 pm)

“If it would be appropriate to be personal, here would be a good reason for it. You and this Howard Hill:ish buccaneer do reach down deep with your Call of the Wild. Perhaps one should be sad for those who cannot, or will not allow themselves, to feel it…..Sten”


 Brian Manlove, builder headed to CC#22  writes:               (Submitted on 2012/02/04 at 1:24 am)

William, I just love this stuff… what an atmospheritude you got going there! Today, Sterling Hayden, and all of your other philosophical nuggets… I keep finding more stuff in my Corvair Manual every time I re-read it. It’s as much a philosophical read as it is a “flight engine instruction guide,” and I’d rather be involved with this effort, to build and fly a machine of my own making, powered by something I know every single little detail about, (with help, of course!) than just about anything else. It just amazes me that you are doing what you are doing, that SOMEONE out there is doing it, in this crazy world of screwed-up values and priorities… THANK YOU. Life is good.


Our friend Larry wrote:            (Submitted on 2012/02/05 at 10:11 pm)

“Yeh! on the Hayden piece – He was just one of several in those gentler years who took their wanderlust and dissatisfactions to the serenity of the oceans… Tangvald, Moitessier, Tenia Aebi and more recently Roger Taylor, etc., etc., (and many other wanderers who never wanted their names in print) all were cut from similar cloth to Hayden in varying degrees…”