Zenith 601HD engine; Spencer Rice’s 2,700 Corvair

Builders,

Among our youngest of builders is Spencer Rice of Portland Oregon. He has been working on a Plans built 601HD Zenith since he was 14. In the same time period, he has become an accomplished private pilot, flown to Oshkosh, and been a lot of help at many Corvair Colleges. His engine is now done, broken in and tested, he has all his installation components from us, and his airframe is about 75% complete. Not a bad set of accomplishments for a teenager, now going to college and holding down a job.

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Above, an overhead shot of Spencer’s engine, on my run stand in the SPA/Panther factory yesterday. Spencer originally built the engine in his garage as part of my last west coast stop on my 2016 building tour. ( If you missed it, this was my circumnavigation of the US: Back in Florida after 7,380 miles on tour. ) Because I wanted to give the engine a lengthy break in and do some comparative testing that my short stay in Portland would not allow, I brought the engine back to Florida with me. A few weeks ago Spencer showed me some pictures of how fast his airframe progress was going, and I got my end in gear, finished the tests, and crated the engine today. UPS trucking picked it up this afternoon, and in four days it will be back in Portland. Will we see it at Oshkosh 2017? Smart money is betting on it.

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Above, Spencer wrenching on his 2700 cc engine on in his garage in Portland. you can read the story here:  A tale of three Zenith builders. Many stories in magazines of teenagers aviation accomplishments are very thinly veiled publicity pieces, pushed by affluent ‘helicopter parents’ padding their kids silver spoon resume. Spencer and his family are nothing like that. Over the years of working with Spencer, I have gotten to know them, and I have stayed  in their home. Spencer’s parents are honest hard working Americans of the best sort. Their kids, Spencer included, have all be made to work for their accomplishments. They are supportive, but their kids will never be accused of being coddled or spoiled.   For people who like to think those values and perspectives are somehow ‘owned’ by an older generation, factor this in: at age 53, and I am a significantly older than either of Spencer’s parents. I have now traveled in all 50 states, (State #50, North Dakota) and have found our country filled with good people, leading lives based on simple decency toward others….just the kind of story no media outlet makes ratings on.

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Above, Spencer’s engine at power on the run stand outside SPA. Since Finishing School #2, Nov. 11-13, Florida., we have had an engine on the stand every other day except thanksgiving and Sundays. With the Colleges, Tours and 2016 Finishing Schools, and regular engine production, I am pretty sure 90 engines have run on my stand this year.

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Here is something ironic: Today or tomorrow , someone will write in to an internet discussion group, invariably arguing three points: The things I share about Corvairs don’t work and are dangerous; I am solely driven by money and profits and don’t care about builders, and he is going to ‘expose’ this. You might think being around since 1989 and getting this: EAA Major Achievement Award., would minimize such critics, but I think it actually inflames them, particularly the dozens of positive public comments that accompanied the award. I don’t really understand such people, I usually rack it up to unfortunate childhoods. If you want a glance at what went into building the Corvair movement, look at this: Blast from the past 1993-2003.

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Above a ground level view of the engine at power, during the last break in run. This was yesterday, today I crated it for shipment. Before I closed the lid, I gave it one last look. Not to inspect it, just a pause to consider when the next time I see the engine in person will be. Oshkosh? West Coast Air Tour? Hard to guess, but think about this: Spencer will not be my age until 2051. In the next 35 years this engine will take him on countless adventures. No matter what else he does in aviation,  I hope the engine and the things I as able to share with him, serve him long after I’m gone. That isn’t being morbid, it is just expressing my belief  the hours spent on this particular builder and project were very well invested. -ww.

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Waiex engine, 3,000 cc / 120HP Corvair of Gordon Turner. 

Builders

The fifth engine to run at Corvair Finishing school #2 was Gordon Turner’s 3,000 cc engine, slated to power his Waiex airframe (The Vee tailed Sonex.)  The Engine is a first class power plant featuring everything in the FlyCorvair / SPA Panther Catalogs, including an SPA billet, made in the USA crankshaft.

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Although the project started as a regular build and an core motor, Gordon, who is an international corporate pilot,  opted to convert this to an “Engine in a Box” complete kit engine. He selected this path after considering his available time vs the value in one of the Kits. If you would like to find out more about engine options, Call Rachel directly on the SPA hot line at 904 626 7777. (Her extension is #1)

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Above, Gordon’s engine on the run stand. For the break in we don’t use an oil cooler because we want the oil to come up to full operating temp quickly, to boil off any entrained water and evaporate solvents from things like assembly fluids the factory puts in lifters. Given the option of breaking in an engine on 140 vs 240 degree oil, absolutely pick the latter. The Sonex and the Waiex both use the #2601-R reverse Gold oil filter housing shown, To clear the fuel filler neck on these airframes. The oil like to the 5th bearing is connected to the case by a special fitting that Dan makes. Standard Gold oil filter housings do not need this, they use a #2802 block off plate.

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Above, the 3,000 cc Corvair at power, during the break in run.  It ran flawlessly during the run and accumulated a little over an hour. WE check a number of post run details closely, and the engine passed them all, this flying colors. Rather than take the engine with him, Gordon elected to have it shipped to his home, a task easily accomplished by the SPA team.

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Pietenpol 2,775 cc Corvair; Trevor Rushton from UK

Builders,

The fourth engine to run at the Corvair Finishing School #2  was the 2,775 cc engine done by Trevor Rushton, who flew over from Britain for the school.  He assembled the entire engine from its most basic components in two 10 hour days.  Because aircraft in the UK must meet the stringent standards of their LAA, the assembly required a high level of documentation, which I had to sign off as done under my supervision.

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Even with this extra time requirement, Trevor easily got the engine documented, completed and on the run stand during the finishing school.  As a crass colonial grease monkey, I am usually the champion of American ingenuity, but truth requires I say that Trevor might very well have come close to setting the record of most efficient builder at a Corvair event.  I honestly don’t think any of us could have gone east across the pond and made as good a showing assembling a Gypsy Major engine on their soil.

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The engine is a 2,775 cc “Engine in a Box” kit that Trevor purchased through SPA/Panther in advance of attending the Finishing school. If you are interested in learning more about the kit engine program, please call Rachel directly at the SPA hotline: 904 626 7777.

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Above, Trevor hard at work, measuring and documenting the case bore diameters utilizing the advanced tooling that Dan and I maintain for engine development and process quality control. The LAA governing body of sport aircraft in the UK, requires individual engines built to be documented in great detail, under supervision of approved inspectors. Trevor secured prior approval from the LAA that I could act as such an inspector on his engine build.  For builders with great enthusiasm, we will gladly match any effort they make toward special requirements. Much of the original contact and communication with Trevor was done by Terry Hand (in Happy Birthday to the USMC   story last week) who runs our “Pietvair” discussion group.

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The pay off: Trevor taking his engine through a perfect test run.  It is destined to power his Pietenpol, slated to be finished at the end of 2017 or early 2018.  After watching him work, I tend to think his time estimates are reasonable.  I told him I would probably fly to Britain to see it launched.

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Something about working with Trevor: I had many things I wanted to hear his perspective on, but we ended up speaking about the greatest UK import to the US in the last 100 years: Music. In the last 40 years I spent countless hours listening to Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones, all band from Trevor’s land.  I have never been to the UK, but know something about Brighton in the 1960s from listening to Quadrophenia a zillion times. Trevor said he was neither a Mod nor a Rocker, perhaps just a little of both.

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Zenith 750 engine; Andy Mechling’s 3,000cc/120HP Corvair

Builders,

The third engine to run at Corvair Finishing School #2  was Andy Mechling’s 3,000cc Corvair destined to power his Zenith 750.  The engine assembly was finished on Saturday, and the engine put down a full break in run during the4 afternoon.

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The engine features virtually every part in the FlyCorvair and SPA/Panther catalogs.  The engine started after less than 2 seconds of cranking. I made a quick check of the timing and it ran smoothly through the 30 minute break in. Although the finishing school is just 3 days long, Andy left with a sense of accomplishment and understanding which 90% of experimental aircraft builders never get from their engines.  By deciding that he would not be satisfied to simply be the engines owner, that his personal standard was understanding and being a very skilled operator, Andy set his path apart from other builders.

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Above: 90% of experimental aircraft owners settle for just buying an engine and being its owner. That is OK, but if you, as an individual, are looking for more, the Corvair offers a different experience. Get a good look at Andy’s expression the minute his engine fired up on the run stand. That is the pride and satisfaction of building, not buying.  People who simply write giant checks for engines which they have little understanding of don’t make faces like that.

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Something about working with Andy: Andy is an experienced builder, having previously completed a VW powered Sonex.  This gave him a better understanding of what he wanted out of his Zenith power plant choice, the Corvair proving to be the engine that made the most sense for him. Andy’s methodical and analytic perspectives likely date all the way back to being a 1973 graduate of the US Naval Academy.

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The Zenith 650 Corvair engine of Jim and Patty Raab.

Builders,

The second engine to hit the run stand at Corvair Finishing School #2 was Jim and Patty Raab’s 3,000 cc /120HP engine destined for their Quick build Zenith 650, which will take to the air next year.  They did some of the assembly at home, but came to the Finishing School well prepped to finish, run and learn more about their power plant.

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The engine was on the stand early Saturday and put down a good break in run. We made some small adjustments, but the smaller nature of the Finishing School gave a more relaxed pace than a traditional Corvair College. By the end of the afternoon, they had a great running engine, their confidence as skilled builders and operators was confirmed, and we all headed off to our local small town bar and grill for a dinner in high sprits.

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Above, Jim and Patty with their engine on the run stand. They are priming the oil system for 15 minutes before the first start. The red drip pans on the heads allow the visual confirmation that oil is reaching every single location in the engine. All Corvairs have hydraulic lifters and high strength head studs, neither of which ever need adjustment during the life span of the motor.

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Something fun about working with the Raab’s: Jim is skilled with tools, but earns his living as a nurse. On the other hand Patty spent 20 years in the USAF, working ordinance on strike aircraft. Not only is she the safety wiring guru in the family, she is well versed in following literature and procedures.  When your day job in aviation is installing guidance units and fuses in bombs that weigh more than a light sport aircraft, it contributes to making you picky about methods and practices.

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First engine run at finishing school #2

Builders;

First engine run at Corvair Finishing School #2 goes to the Swann family, Bearhawk LSA builders. Their engine is a perfect 3,000 cc Corvair featuring nearly every option in the FlyCorvair / SPA-Panther catalog.  It laid down a perfect 30 minute break in run just after dinner on day one of the school.

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A very proud moment after the run.

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Hats off to the Swanns, now proven motor heads in homebuilding, an arena where most people settle to know next to nothing about the engine they fly behind. Conversely, they are masters of their power plant.

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Larry Nelson’s first Engine run for his Zenith 601.

Builders:

In 2015 I wrote about 150 stories for this website, and they, and the older stories drew about 350,000 page reads. Out of all new stories, this one was clearly the most popular story of the whole year: Acceptable methods of payment for Corvair parts . It was about how a Zenith builder from Arizona named Larry Nelson paid his parts bill at Corvair College #34 (Photos from Corvair College #34 at Zenith A/C) in ammunition………

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“Benjamin’s, plastic or lead?  All are fine, as they all have understood value. Above, Larry Nelson’s engine on the bench at Corvair College #34.  The engine is a 2700 with a Dan Weseman bearing, outfitted with all our Gold System parts from our catalog.”

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Today Larry send word that he ran is engine on the front of his plane this weekend.  He send this you tube link for everyone to get a look at:

https://youtu.be/Asb9IRWJX0c

(Notice that it does have the new engine required cooling baffle on top of his engine)

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Larry is an Aviator, outdoorsman, and a family guy. He has long proven himself to be the kind of guy who shows up early, and works to make sure events are made better for other builders, most of whom he is yet to meet. He does this stuff without anybody asking him, it is just his style to put back a bit more than he got from things. He is living proof that taking rugged individualism and liberty very seriously is completely compatible with gregarious service to communities of others.

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Something to consider: About a week ago I got an email from a builder asking why I occasionally  had pictures of with firearms in my web stories, particularly after a number of violent incidents in our country in the last year. Instead of writing the guy back, or being ‘offended’, I walked out to the shop, picked up the phone and called him so we might actually communicate.

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I explained that I come from a very diverse family, and some members have very strong opinions against firearms ownership, which is their right, but the opinions are unfortunately based of media provided myths and stereotypes rather than personal exposure. I pointed out that when any of these members of the family say “Gun owners are…” They are making a blanket generalization about 100 million people, based on maybe meeting 5 of them, and in some ways it is just as repugnant as people who make blanket statements about ethnic groups.

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I shared that I also found the violence of criminals in our society horrific, but I said that my photos of responsible  sporting or utilitarian uses of firearms to have absolutely zero to do with the actions of criminals.  I don’t think husbands and wives should stop being intimate because we have a serious sexual assault problem in this country, I think they have nothing to do with each other. I pointed out that many people who knew nothing of general aviation wanted to end it after 9/11 because criminals used it as a small part of their plot, but no one suggested we take down our J-3 cub pictures because they would be ‘distasteful’ after the terrorists struck.

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In a few minutes, I shared that even though Florida was considered a ‘pro firearms’ state, most of the things he had heard about it were wrong. The state has real time background checks on sales through a state wide database, you have to have ID, and fill out an extensive BATF form, the entire process is videotaped, and if the info on the form doesn’t agree with the database, you not only are denied the sale, you will likely not make it out to your car before you are arrested. You also have to sign a form saying that if you buy the gun for someone else who is not eligible, you will go to jail for 10 years, no plea bargain, period. I explained that every “buy a gun on the internet” story is also a myth, because it has to be shipped to a federally licensed dealer, and he will do the above checks and forms.  While theoretically one individual can sell to another, no rational person does this, because they have no way of knowing who the buyer is or what they are going to do, or why they are not buying from a licensed dealer, and the civil liability follows the seller. I pointed out that it isn’t “the wild west” down here in the sunshine state, because since the 1970s Florida has a law called “10-20-Life” expressing what happens to people who display, discharge or kill someone with a firearm in the course of a crime. It is law in this state that even displaying a weapon” in a rude, careless, angry or threatening manner” gets one a guaranteed year in prison. For these reasons law abiding Floridians don’t screw around, and criminals here get a lengthily all expenses paid trip to a gated community. These are all facts, but they are rarely brought up because they don’t support the national urban media narrative that my home state is populated with dangerous red necks.

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