Performance evaluation proposal

Builders:

Here is a proposal for a comparative performance evaluation.  While it could be done for many types of aircraft, I’m primarily picturing this event taking place at the Zenith Aircraft factory’s annual Homecoming in September.  It is focused on highlighting the aircraft created by builders, and gathering data from them to assist current and future builders in making choices which tailor their projects to better suit their particular needs.

.

In recent years, STOL contests have become very popular, and Zenith has run them at the Homecoming as far back as eight years ago. In national and international STOL contests, regular Zenith STOL planes have consistently demonstrated their performance and value, even against purpose built, trailered in, aircraft costing many times more.  This is good, but STOL contests only provide one facet of a planes performance, and most pilots don’t fly that way on a typical day. This performance evaluation is aimed at gathering comparative data over a much broader flight envelope, one that represents more typical use of the designs.

.

Although I am an engine guru, I have grown weary of nearly every opportunity for builders to learn, being distorted into a marketing opportunity for somebody. I have spoken at many Zenith gatherings in the last 15 years, and other than the engine panel discussions, I make a point of not using the word “Corvair”,  when doing so. Marketing has a place, but it should never be allowed to displace builder camaraderie or learning.  While the very nature of the evaluation will provide accurate, useful data for comparing power plants, my goal is to provide a much broader overview of the performance potential of the designs, their utility and to specifically highlight the achievement of individual builders and encourage those currently building.

.

Above, Phil Maxson’s 601XL over the Florida coast at Ponce Inlet, 2006.

.

Here are the steps a builder takes , participating in the evaluation: 

.

A ) After being warmed up, the plane’s fuel tanks are topped off to the bottom of the filler necks, a level that can be visually replicated at the completion of the flight.

.

B ) The plane is placed on electronic scales and weighed in, without the pilot.

.

C ) Plane heads to the designated runway and takes off.  At he 800′ mark there is a very light tape spaning the runway, 6′ off the ground. Any Zenith model will clear this without difficulty, even with full tanks, but we have it to preclude anyone using a very high prop pitch setting which would skew the cross country speed evaluation.

.

D ) Plane proceeds to fly a designated 3 leg course, approximately 100 miles.  Two very visible land marks are used as pylon turn points. The flight is done at a set altitude, perhaps 2,500′. There are observers at the turns, pilots make a radio call when approaching. The visual is just a back up, the data can be collected for any aircraft with a GPS with a system like this: https://www.cloudahoy.com.

.

E ) The three legs are flown, the last one over flying the point of origin at 2,000′. The time to fly the course is halted there. Plane comes back to land and proceeds immediately to the fuel pumps.

.

F ) The plane is re-weighed for fuel burn.  The plane is topped off, refilled to the exact same location on the filler necks, and re-weighed to confirm the fuel consumption.

.

G ) Plane goes back out. It must use the exact same configuration as the cross country course, particularly the prop pitch setting.  Pilot climbs to 2,000′ and flies at a stable, level speed of 75mph for one minute. From there, he climbs at any airspeed he chooses, directly to 4,000′.  He calls on the radio, but again the performance is measured electronically.

.

H ) Builders can fly the cross country portion at any pace they like, but they are encouraged to demonstrate flat out performance. I  would also like at least some of the planes to do a second run at the course completing A – F again, but at a typical cruise power setting for comparative purposes. This could be run at a single model appropriate speed, such as running the 601/650’s at 115 mph, as it would give a comparison of fuel burn rates at casual cruise setting.

.

…………..

.

What do we get from this? Real data. If you have been in the EAA for 30 years, you can remember the CAFE foundation’s performance evaluations, published for many aircraft, in long articles in Sport Aviation. This was information I treasured. The EAA was pressured by some kit manufactures to not publish information that contradicted their marketing departments. That was a transition point of the organization being asked to serve the manufacturer and not the member. In the internet age, things have deteriorated, and quality information is even harder to find, and the hidden compensated relationships between the ‘evaluator’ and the product being harder, not easier to see. We can lament a bygone time, or we can take actions to provide our own real data. These projects have lasting value. Ask any Pietenpol builder, the W&B work done a decade ago by Ryan Meuller and myself has improved a generation of Piet’s by by giving their builders real data to plan their builds and making the operation of the design safer. It is hard to overstate the lasting effect of real, accurate information.

.

Who does this serve? Builders. I speak to people potential builders who mistakenly think they must have a STOL model to fly off a 2,200′ airstrip; there are also people who float on the choice between a STOL and a Cruiser, have questions about typical builders useful loads vs factory design prototypes. The 100 mile cross countries will provide a very good look at the general potential utility of each design. Comparisons of a sustained 2,000′ climb under known conditions will answer many questions builders have. This type of data will be much more useful than pictures of glass cockpits with a single set of information.  The better data builders have going into the process, the much more likely they are to finish their plane, and they are vastly more likely to be happy with their creation.  The current data available is ok, but a lot of it is really marketing and not an evaluation. This can be corrected in one weekend, and it will have the additional benefit of being a deterrent to future excessive marketing claims.

.

This will be a builder focused event. I don’t want to include data from aircraft that belong to, or were built by engine guys as demonstrators….  Between parts from myself and Dan from SPA, I can assemble a 3,550cc Corvair, and I have nearly 40 years of experience with nitrous oxide installations on all kinds of vehicles. But a $22K Corvair festooned with Fogger nozzles isn’t what I teach builders to assemble nor what we sell. It would be useful if this was a ‘contest’ but it is not, it’s an evaluation.

.

Additionally, the factory planes will be left out also, because, like planes coming out of professional shops, they are not representative of current builders creations. The evaluated planes will be in the stock airframe configuration with only minor mods like fairings.

Additionally, each plane must complete all the steps A-G. If the weight of the plane is a ‘secret’ or a plane with a very high pitched prop and poor climb performance doesn’t want section G recorded, it will not give a complete data set, and that would only serve someones ego or marketing plan, not builders.

.

I value everyone’s constructive input here. Please use the comments section to add any thoughts which might improve this concept, or explain how you would find this data useful.  Thanks in advance.

.

WewJr.

.

 

 

 

 

Tools every builder must have.

Builders;

Below are 4 ‘tools’ that every builder must have and know how to use. If someone does not have them, they can not do an annual condition inspection, or even the initial set up on the motor. 

.

.

OK, a Doctor has a Stethoscope , X-rays, CAT scans and Blood work. the four tools above are their equivalent.  If you went to a doctor and he said he was not going to use any of the above tools, because they cost more money than he liked to spend, you would thank him, and leave, because without them, he is down to leaches and other less pleasant remedies. Likewise, if you are not in possession of the tools above, you are not in a position to keep your engine healthy. 

.

Oil Sample Kit: 

Read: Corvair Oil Analysis

Watch:

 

.

Timing Light:

Innova #5568. Has built in tach, volt meter and digital delay. Look at Summit Racing or Jeg’s. 

Read: YOU MUST SET THE TIMING ON YOUR ENGINE

       and:     “Corvair Fast Burn” Ignition timing settings

Watch: 

.

Volt meter:

They are $10 at the auto parts store. 

.

Differential Compression Tester:

Part # 12-00829 & 12-01283 from aircraft spruce.

Read: Yearly Condition Inspection on Corvair Engine

Watch:

.

wwjr

.

Cooling failure caused by ego

Builders;

.

.

What you are looking at is the bottom of a Corvair/Zenith Cowl. It is upside down, the rounded part is where the nose gear strut exits the cowl.  The right side is the part closest to the firewall where the air exits.  The orange level and square is there to visually show what 45 degrees looks like. To the right of the end of the level is the 2″ exit lip of the bottom of the cowl. This forms a fixed cowl flap, which makes the low pressure zone on the bottom of the cowl.  I have relentlessly specified that this must be at least 2″, and it absolutely must be 45 degrees to the bottom of the cowl.

.

Look at the picture and see the builder set it to 20 or 25 degrees at most. The effect? His 601HDS ran hot, he overheated the motor more than once, he publicly complained about the cooling and implied that other builders like Larry Nelson, flying the exact same combination in Yuma AZ was lying about his cooling success. He questioned if any Corvair ran cool, he was willing to search for any excuse, except the obvious one: the part of my advice he was unwilling to follow was the exact cause of his hot motor. This is a Cooling failure caused by ego. 

.

I spoke to this builder many times on the phone and pointed him to cooling articles I had written, and asked him just to copy it exactly instead of questioning every bit of it and treating the information as if it was all a big conspiracy theory to some how keep him from using his plane. In the end, he flew about 100 hours, and then took his plane apart and sold it in pieces. The wounded engine? he sold it to another builder, without clearly saying that he had overheated it badly. 

.

This isn’t a case of a kindly old guy who wasn’t good on the internet and missed a detail and we let him down. No, not that at all. Try this, He was an A&P mechanic in his 30’s who had attended a big Corvair College and seen plenty of working planes. His issue was simply not being willing to listen to my experience when it conflicted with his perception of what should be happening. That is not a failure of engine nor materials, it is a failure caused by ego.

.

The stupid move above was not the only thing he needed to do differently. he tried running his engine on the ground with no cooling ducts for 30 minutes and never thought to shut it off as the rpm decided. That was $3,000 for new heads and pistons. The is the same individual who made his cabin heat muff right up against the bottom of the head impending airflow. He used a blunt spinner, arguing it didn’t effect cooling. He did put 5″ inlet rings in his cowl, and then bitched they didn’t work. Doing this but having no working cowl flap on the exit side is akin to complaining about the radiator in a pickup truck not cooling, and saying you have the grill clear, but neatly failing to mention you have a piece of cardboard between the radiator and the fan. All of these actions were not caused by lack of information, it was simply because he was unwilling to follow information that was readily presented to him. 

.

You don’t know his name, but you have met him many times: He is the guy standing there with his arms tightly folded for 15 minutes as I answer a question he asked, but I’m not saying the words his ego needed to hear to feel vindicated. He is the guy who will not follow advice for a guy with 800 hours of Corvair time without incident, but spends hours studying an old website from someone who quit Corvairs a decade ago, after having a long series of failures. He is the guy who’s ego needs to make his engine ‘different’ or ‘unique’ because the positive comments from internet tolls mean more than successfully flying his plane with a proven system. He is the guy who blames everyone body but himself when he exits Corvairs, and issues a earnest sounding warning to other builders that doom is in the future, because a brilliant guy like him couldn’t succeed, so they have no chance. 

.

I have said countless times, new builders and the eternal ‘I’ll build one day’ people are fascinated with every story of people who claim to have issues, but they will spend next to no time studying the Builders who are out successfully flying the same combination that the guy exiting claims will never work.

.

William.

.

Like to see more on good cooling on the same plane? Check out this video:

 

New Video: 2020 ‘A’ and ‘B’ building plans.

Builders,

Here is a link to our latest release, it addresses making a two phase building plan to keep your homebuilt project on track:

.

.

If you have not yet done so, please take a moment to subscribe to our YouTube Chanel, and turn the notification bell on. We will have many more videos coming.

.

ww.

.

Aviation house calls in a time of ‘Social Distancing’

Builders,

I am well known as Experimental Aviation’s most prolific provider of house calls. In 31 years of business, I have made hundreds of house calls to builders. Today the list got one call longer, as I went to see Tom Kodey and his newly flying 3.3L Corvair powered SPA Panther. 

.

 

 

 

 

.

Above, Tom and I follow national guidelines and stay six feet apart during my 2 hour visit. It was a good time, his aircraft is magnificent. I had not seen Tom since we ran his engine at one of our finishing schools last year. It is a 3.3 Liter (3,300cc) 125+ hp Corvair built from an ‘Engine in a Box’ kit. It took just 2 days to build start to finish.  Tom’s plane has about 2 hours of flight time, and everything is going great. His previous plane was an RV-12 with a Rotax. Tom is a very successful guy and could afford any of the optional engines for his Panther. He selected the Corvair, and a little bit of flying has affirmed his choice. 

.

The centerpiece of Tom’s power plant is the SPA, Billet, made is the USA from a Timken Billet, stroker crank. The strength of these cranks is long proven, they have been doing Aerobatics in Panthers since 2012, without a single flaw failure of any kind. If anyone suggests you can import a comparable crank, be polite, it’s the best way to deal with mental ill people.  Read more here: SPA Billet Corvair Cranks.

.

The Panther has many features, and one of them is being very quick to build. Tom’s plane was in the works a little over a year. It took just 1,200 hours to completely finish, including building the engine. That is not the record, Brent Mayo’s Flying 3,000 cc Panther, was built, including the engine in just 830 hours. It isn’t a competition nor a race, but the success of these two men illustrate both Dan and I have worked very hard to make out products buildable. Keep in mind, these are not ‘just buzz around’ planes, they are very capable aerobatic planes with great utility, and a perfect safety record.

If you are out there practicing social distancing, make sure you are making progress on your project. It is an excellent self investment. 

.

wwjr

 

 

 

‘Fairway to Heaven’, A simple day in Florida

Builders; 

I live on a little grass airstrip in rural Florida. 102 other people also live here, we all contribute to the upkeep and operation of our little home. This year, I’m serving another tour as airport manager. I like the job, it is all done outside in the sunshine. Running our place is a whole community effort, ongoing for decades. If being here didn’t  restore someones optimism about people, not much else would. 

.

On a day were many millions of people in America succumbed to media and corporate pressure to feel fear and react emotionally, I chose to turn all that stuff off and go spend some time outside.  I am deeply bothered that the America of my ideals, the “Home of the Brave”, is not easily seen in our national behavior on this day.  Rather than dwell on something I can not effect, I went outside to do something productive on the runway. 

.

 

.

This turtle, about the size of a tennis ball, was taking a little stroll down the road to my house. There was little danger he would get hurt, often many hours pass between vehicles on my road.  You may have passed a wild turtle today, but were not walking in a peaceful setting, and you didn’t get to see them. There are many rewards and obligations people feel that keep them very busy. I understand this. I personally am not well equipped to digest stress of the daily sort, and if I could, I might never have found the setting I live in. My only point to share is that given the choice, perhaps any shift toward the simpler options in life would serve your sanity as well. My work involves showing people the simplest method to go flying, and how to be the master of this, not merely its owner. Your life, your choice, but for me, simplicity is sanity.

.

 

.

Little guy with a long way to go. Didn’t seem to bother him, it was nice out and as an animal, he has no other option than to live in the moment. I watched him for a while and thought about how I wasted a lot of my life as a self-made exercise in stress and conflict.  Why was it important? I like to know, and then I might have some reason that I spent a lot of my life doing things that brought me little happiness.  I was sent links today, to a heated internet debate about alternative engines. There was a time I would have felt a very strong compulsion to express something there, but I read the comments, and it was very obvious that no one was learning anything or changing their opinions. I watched another engine provider I know personally, get very frustrated explaining a point he was correct on. I watched and couldn’t quite remember why I once would have typed an effectively identical essay to an equally closed minded people. I shut the laptop and went back out to the tractor.

.

 

Barnwell Corvair College, 2020

Builders,

Here is the first announcement of Corvair College #48, at Barnwell this November:

.

.

More information to follow, but start planning now, this is a very special event, our 10th College at barn well, a tribute to the late P. F. Beck, the man who made the previous colleges possible and set the standard on what a grat Corvair College is.

.

ww.

.