Weekend work, December 2015

Builders,

In our week, the normal work runs through Saturday at noon, as this is when the local post office closes. We mail almost everything by USPS, as 20+ years of trying everyone in the shipping business mailing tens of thousands of packages has conclusively proven “If it needs to get there economically, send it with the Post Office, if you need the item smashed, send it UPS, everyone else falls in between.” The hours between noon on Saturday and when ever we shut the shop down late Sunday night constitute “the weekend” but almost all of this time is spent in the hangar anyway, we just shift to projects instead of production parts.

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Above, Ignition testing in action. Corvair/Panther builder, friend and neighbor Paul Salter works as an aeronautical engineer for the US Navy on the EA-6B prowler program at NAS Jacksonville M-F. Since Paul is a graduate of Embry-Riddle’s rival Parks, and he is a dyed in the wool Ford guy, it is nothing short of a miracle that I have talked him into using a Chevy on his plane.

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 On Weekends, Paul spends all the hours at the airport here, and he has long proven to be a great asset, and if you have a Corvair in your shop, you are a beneficiary of his contribution if you have met him or not. His contributions run from loaning me his truck for the 3,400 mile Corvair College #34 tour: Back in Florida – 10 / 5 / 2015 to running ignition tests on retard boxes for these Ignition part #3301-DFI, a new optional system. Shown is “Dinosaur meets space program.” My 1947 Sun distributor machine is running the DFI distributor, while Paul’s laptop is programing the delay box that can control the timing curve electronically. This will be of use for planes in high altitude cruise, planes with turbos, or ones using N2O injection. The white box is a digital  DC power supply. The spread sheet on the laptop is displaying the information while also allowing the curve to be altered due to RPM and MAP.

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Above, a test of how low a voltage the Crane ignition unit will work at. Look at the distributor machine, the red flashes are the firing indications shown by a strobe, projected onto a degree wheel. It is doing just great, and note the power supply is only showing 4.3 volts! Most computer ignitions on modern cars, that also involve electronic fuel injection, loose their ability to work below 10.5 volts. Our system works at far lower voltages (It actually needs slightly more than 4.3 to run the coil to send powerful sparks but the brains still work at 4.3V) The crane units and simple coils also use very little power, allowing a Corvair to run many hours off a battery that had just enough power to crank it. Many electronically dependent automotive conversions will run less than 20 minutes after the alternator throws a belt or the voltage regulator gives out. As responsible people, we test things to know that we promote a system with a great margin of safety.

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Above, our test stand, under constant refinement since we made it in 2004. It replaced the original stand that served from 1989-2003. Together they have run hundreds of engines. In 2016, this one will make the great western tour, covering these events:

Outlook 2016, College #36 and Western building tour

Outlook 2016, Corvair College #37 Chino CA, 4/22/16

Outlook 2016, Corvair College #38, Cloverdale CA, 5/6/16

To refine the stand and make it work better, and also get a N2O port in the intake, we spent some of Saturday afternoon working on it. One of the improvements was junking the cable throttle that it has used for years and replacing it with the lever and rod arrangement, which is much more positive. Alright motor heads, prepare to date yourselves: You are officially middle aged if you know the throttle arm is a Hurst Shifter: you could be approaching middle age if you know what a Hurst shifter was, and if you have never heard the term, you are likely a millennial, which is ok, but know that you missed the good cars. A Prius doesn’t make the world a better place in the same way that a W-30 455 cid Hurst Olds did. The rest of the linkage is an AN turnbuckle and a used Corvair pushrod, TIG welded to a ball socket.

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Above, Vern Stevensen’s latest transportation project, in my front yard. What is good about Florida? Get a look at how green the grass is, on December 5th. On weekends, Vern is ‘On Call’ in our shop. He works on his own stuff, but is available 12 hours a day to jump in as required on flight stuff. Vern’s original trike: Fun with Agkistrodon Piscivorus and Vern’s Aero-Trike now has more than 20 thousand miles on it. It gets about 60-65 mpg, but Vern wanted to shoot for 100 mpg, in a vehicle built out of purely recycled tras….ahem, ‘Treasure.’ Thus the new “light trike.”

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Above, The powerplant is a Honda 250 elite scooter driveline. In stock form, these will drive a large scooter to 70+mph. The frame is random tubing cutoffs from my hangar pile. The front suspension is a widened 4 wheeler ATV, steering is a rack and pinion from lawn equipment. Front hubs are Geo metro rear brakes, which I turned down the ATV spindles to fit. The canopy is RV-3 flymart buy. Front tires are space saver spares from a Geo. Thus retains the full electrical harness and instrument panel from the scooter. In Florida, this is an entirely street legal vehicle that requires no insurance, special paperwork, nor inspections. Vern is thinking about putting stringers on it and making the ‘body’ from fabric aircraft  covering. The canopy and frame lift to get in and out, but the canopy also slides forward 18″ while driving for optional ventilation. The weight right now is about 200#s but he wantes it to stay under 300 done.

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Above, ScoobE checks the mailbox. It is a half mile walk from the house. Our business address that we use for work is actually 10 miles from the house, but that is where the closest grocery store is, etc. It gets checked just about every day. The neighborhood box is just for family letters. My Dad who turns 90 this month, is one of the worlds great letter writers. Since I first moved to Florida in 1984, he has send me about 200 a year. I have every single one of them carefully stored. The are often just regular news, but they are the glue that holds the family together, and they are also the documentation of all the family history, going back to all the stories my father’s  grand parents told him 80 years ago, like how my great grand mother walked alone, the 90 miles to Belfast, and got in 4th class steerage to begin work as an indentured servant in a wealthy home in NJ. It was 1868, and she was 12 years old. Through years of toil she was able to bring her siblings to America. She never saw her parents again. Somber, but a great reminder of how comparatively wonderful my life has been.

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-ww.

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3,000cc Corvair (lower compression) engine

Builders,

Below is a look at an engine I just finished a few days ago. It is my own personal Corvair engine. We have several customer engines going together in the shop now, but I assembled ours in advance because I am shortly going to run a series of comparative tests with nitrous oxide injection. While the possibility of harming a motor is slight, you obviously wouldn’t test with an engine you are going to send to a builder.

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Above, break in run in our front yard. The engine is a 3,000cc displacement with 95 HP heads set up with a .050″ quench height. It has my own 5th bearing design as seen in this story: Group 3200, Wynne 5th Bearing .The Compression ration is about 8.4 to 1.  My intention is to run the engine primarily on 90 octane ethanol free fuel, commonly available in Florida for boats.  It’s only advantage over auto fuel is that it stores a lot longer without degrading. The engine will have no problem digesting 100LL, but I want to have a long term first hand study of lower octane fuel in Corvair powered planes.

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Above, I have actually owned this engine since 1991. It came in my 1967 Corvair Monza that was my daily driver for many years, accumulating 100K miles including a lap around America, ( look at the photo in this story: 2014 Conversion Manual Notes ) It went on to be the 2,775 cc engine at first flew in our Zenith 601XL in 2004, It was the test engine for my 5th bearing design in 2007, and it is staging this re-appearance as a 3,000 cc.  The engine has had roller rockers since 2004, and may have been the first engine ever to fly them. (No, they don’t make much power difference nor make the engine run cooler, both are misconceptions based on marketing claims which are only valid in limited circumstances.) To read more, look here: Pros and Cons of Roller Rockers. Over the years the engine has accumulated many details, most of which are things that we tested and found not to be a great value to most builders. If you look closely, it has ARP case studs (2003) ARP head studs (2004) and powder coated aluminum pushrod tubes (2007). and group 1800 powered coated lower baffles (2012)

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Above, a look at the topside. Almost all of the external conversion parts are our regular stuff. The engine has a HV-2000 rear oil case, a 2400-L Starter set up (the nose and bracket are powder coated black), a #2601 Gold oil filer housing, a #2802 block off plate, and an Adjustable Oil Pressure Regulator, #2010A. The top head nuts on the engine are Small Block Chevy rod nuts. This was an idea that morphed into #1706 head nut hardware, something Dan Weseman provides with finished heads.

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BTW, I was forwarded a picture of a first time builders enginge, a 3000cc motor. This guy made huge issue of objecting to using .041″ aircraft safety wire to hold the baffeling on the cylinders of his engine.  You can see this in the above photo as the neatly done stainless fine lines running at the base of the #6 and #2 cylinders. This is done because 3,000 engines have different cylinder castings which don’t fit the stock Corvair baffle clips. We have been using Aircraft safety wire for this task for more than 15 years, (because we used it on 3,100 cc Corvairs also.) The person, who evidently knows nothing about aviation, said “Bailing wire has no place in aviation.”

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Bailing wire? I have personal touched, with my own hand in museum restoration settings, a Lockheed SR-71, a North American X-15, and a Rockwell Space Shuttle Orbiter, all of which flew with Aviation Safety wire, so contrary to our new ‘expert’, it is approved for mach 3, mach 6 and mach 17 flight, as well as mach 0.12 experimentals.  Here is the stupid part: his forwarded photo shows that he painted his pushrod tubes flat black, which I have told people never to do because it makes them run very hot and gets the o-rings brittle. You know what actually has no place in aviation? People who can’t read. Perhaps a person shouldn’t be quite so proud of being from a state that ranks 5oth in the Nation in public education.

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Above, The engine at power during a 1 hour break in run. The differential compression test showed that the cylinders were perfect. The engine also has an #1100 cam:  Sources: Group 1100, Camshaft. This profile actually has slightly longer exhaust lobe duration than cams traditionally used. This doesn’t have a giant effect on normal engines, but it is a very desirable feature on ones using nitrous oxide. After some more time on the run stand we are going to progressively hit it with doses of N2O at 20, 25, 30 and 35 hp. The idea is to establish what is a safe level of power boost for 3 minutes. Contrary to what most people think this is not hard on an engine, as long as the fuel pressure never drops. I have worked with N2O on engines dating back to 1982, the stone age of commercial nitrous. Pushing a 550hp V-8 to 900hp is hard on it, but looking for a 20% power increase is not. Smaller engines like a Corvair flowing very low rates may run many minutes on a standard 10 pound bottle. The valve covers shown are the standard ones we sell in group #1900, like the ones pictured in this story: E-mail Now: Custom Valve Covers Available Through Monday.

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Nitrous boosts power in 3 ways sequentially: It is actually injected as a 1000 psi liquid, who’s basic evaporation robs all the heat out of the intake charge.  The temperature can easily drop below zero F, even in a hot motor. Then the N2O is compressed and heats above 800F, the molecule breaks up in a dissocation reaction, which raises the pressure in the cylinder, and frees up the oxygen. N20 has nearly twice the mass of oxygen as air, and this is then burned with additional fuel sprayed in. Think of this as performing a take off with your plane at a density altitude of 5,000′ below sea level. N2O works great, but it is very intolerant of anything that aggravates detonation, like not setting timing with a light, or using the wrong plugs, letting the engine run lean or not reading the instructions.  When you hear stories about to blowing up engines, smile politely and nod, and think “WW said it wasn’t for everyone, particularly people who can’t read.”

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I have no “secrets.” I have tried to teach everyone all the things we have learned over the years. Secrets are for people who want you to idolize them, have themselves remain ‘mysterious.’ To me, the only thing mysterious about such people is why potentially rational people abdicate from their ability to consider and learn, instead opting to spread myths about some alleged talents or knowledge that you are not allowed to look at. Think back to how people talk about others who own powerful vehicles, and realize that a lot of this is a weird form of hero worshp, peoplably because it takes less effort than learning what is going on.

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 Yes, I know a lot about Corvairs, but the goal has always been to share it with other builders. That is what the last two decades have been all about.

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-ww.

Group 3200, Wynne 5th Bearing

Builders,

I occasionally get questions about my 5th bearing design, which is Group 3200 in our manual numbering system. I developed it about a decade ago, thinking it might serve in special applications. Over many years, it has been conclusively proven that the Weseman 5th Bearing, (Group 3000) actually covers all common 5th bearing needs, and does so far more cost effectively than my design does. For this reason, my design is not in production, and all the production engine I build use Weseman bearings. The photos below are of my own personal 3,000 cc Corvair engine being assembled.

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Above, My bearing is a non-splitting design, which moves the thrust bearing to the prop end of the engine. The bearing is the actual aluminum plate, machined to the shape of a 3.375″ diameter bearing with thrust faces that are 4.375″ across. The plate in the bearing area is coated by Poly-dyn in Texas, but it also flew 100 hours with no coating. Some people said it would never work, but you can tell they never saw the inside of a Lycoming, as the thrust faces on 180-200 hp 360 cid Lycomings are the crank running on the bare aluminum case.

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The bearing is assembled by having the front and rear thrust journal on the 5th bearing as separate pieces. In operation the bearing stays perfectly round, because it isn’t bolted together. In the photo you are looking at the front thrust face, which only handles reverse thrust in the motor, like chopping the power and letting the plane drive the prop on landing. For 95% of the engine’s life, the load is taken by the forward thrust face which is behind the main aluminum plate and working against the rear face of the plate. Oil is fed by the AN-6 fitting at the top of the picture. The design is unusual, and it’s origins come from driving long distances alone without a cell phone nor a radio, just my thoughts.  None of my last 3 pickups, nor our Suburban have had a radio.  That is 300,000 miles of uninterrupted thinking. I have come up with a lot of good mechanical ideas in those miles.

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The hub in the photo is missing it’s gold anodizing because it has been shortened. This was done so it could be the exact same length installed as a Weseman Bearing. This allows the engine to fit into a standard cowling, and use standard hybrid studs and safety shaft. The original design used custom parts and a long Gold hub, and was about 1.25″ longer.  I shortened this one so that our own plane can test engines equipped with Weseman 5th bearings.

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Above, The bearing with it’s oil seal cover bolted in place.  The seal rides on the stepped down face that is 3.00″ in diameter, the same as the back of the hub.  I only ever made a handful of parts sets for this design. The protoypes were expensive, something like $3,000 a bearing. I gave one to Mark Langford in exchange for his flight testing of the design (I don’t sell things that are not flight proven) He flew it 450 hours in his KR-2S. Other than a teething problem caused by trying to run too tight of a clearance in cold weather with 20w-50 oil, it had a good record. The while item in the engine is the nylon U-shaped block I use to stop the rotation of the crank when tightening the studs and safety shaft nut on an engine. The red sealer is Loctite 515, the same stuff used to mount a Weseman bearing. This is also popular as a sealer at the base of 3,000 cc cylinders, which do not use base gaskets.

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Above, Installation almost finished.  Note that shortening the hub required removing most of the front alternator pulley, leaving enough to act as the ring gear mounting point. This is OK, because my engine is set up with a Weseman rear alternator, #2950.This is another view of the nylon anti-rotation block in place. Note the case also had ARP main studs, these were installed as a test in 2003. In the long run they have proven to be a nice thought, but not required.

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If my sole interest in Corvairs was making the maximum buck or having my ego polished, I would tell every builder that this was the best 5th bearing, that it is “Technically Correct” and other BS to get them to spend more money and buy it. In reality, my goal it to teach builders about engines, and get them flying with the parts that best serve their own personal aviation  goals. When it comes to 5th bearings, this means advising builders to use a Weseman bearing, just like we do on production engines.

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Read More:

Sources: Choosing a 5th Bearing

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-ww.

Ignition part #3301-DFI, a new optional system.

Builders:

We are now in the testing phase of a new ignition system, The “DFI”. The title stands for “Dual Fixed Ignition”.

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Above, the system installed on a running engine gathering data. This project is now about 2 years old, as you can read in the related link below. With some more testing, this will likely become the premium ignition system in 2016.  We will still offer our other ignitions – E/P and E/P-X Ignition systems, (3301E/P and E/P-X) – but there are several reason why I have developed this new system.

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At it’s core, the DFI system has 2 Crane units, and has no advance. The primary is set for the full advance, the second Crane is bolted into the housing with retarded timing, which aids in starting. I actually had six base plates CNC machines before we settled on the amount of timing offset we have on the first production plates.

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Here are the advantages of the system:

It uses a Ford, HEI style cap instead of the Corvairs 1960’s distributor terminals; The timing on this unit can be set at idle, there is no requirement to check it at full static rpm; The spark is more stable because it is tripped with a star wheel rather than a point cam;  The spark is not affected by shaft wear; proper operation and care of the system doesn’t require the builder to understand and follow directions on working with points; The system will be the basis of other systems for turbo engines and very high altitude applications.

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The down sides of this system:

It is more expensive; In theory, the diversity of an E/P system makes it more resistant to failure from something like an overheat or voltage spike (But in the last 10 years we have never had a single Crane unit fail in operation, only  issues were where builders pinching wires under the cap or wiring it backwards) ; It is new, and although we are testing it, it will be a long time before it has the track record of our E/P systems.

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Above is half of the system running in my 1947 distributor machine. The base plate is machined from .250″ aluminum. You can see the mounting holes for the second unit. The cap is head on by studs, just like our E/P-X distributor. I sketched the layout of this on a piece of paper, but the real CAD work was done by Corvair/Panther builder Paul Salter. Paul lives at our airport, and helps out on countless tasks from CAD work to loaning me his truck for the 3,400 mile trip to CC #34

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Above, a look at the main shaft with the star wheel in place. The wheel was laser cut for accuracy. It was made for us by Dan Weseman, who in the course of producing all the parts for their Panther kits, has become even more of an expert in many different types of aerospace grade production, like having parts laser cut.

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Above, a look at where the design was a year ago. You can read this story: Ignition system, experimental “E/E-T” for a look at how we make parts, and what the logic was.  This is a good photo of the Ford HEI cap used on the DFI.

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Above, the unit on an engine in my hangar. The primary tests have validated these ideas:

The engine can actually be started on either ignition, as long as it is being cranked by a 2400-L Starter. Any normal starter will start it on the back up/starting retarded ignition; When being run on the back up, the engine looses a certain amount of power, but this loss is only half of the loss of running on 5 cylinders, (and any application we promote will fly and climb on 5 cylinders); The retard on the back up is enough to greatly suppress detonation if a flyer found himself with a detonating engine; The DFI fits and operated with all our other parts and systems, including the recommended ignition coils.

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As a side note, the testing also showed that it is a complete fallacy that a Corvair will make it’s full power potential with only 25 degrees of advance. I already knew this from years of Dyno testing and flying planes, but we captured this test on film. At Oshkosh 2015, an “expert” who has never owned a flying Corvair told people that 25 degrees was all the engine needed, and claimed he learned this on a dyno, which seems unlikely, as I just tested this and showed the engine to loose more than 100 rpm just going from 30 degrees of advance to 25.  It is a fee world, and people can listen to whomever they like, but if you want to be successful at building and flying planes, perhaps it is best to restrict one’s sources of information to people who are aircraft mechanics, pilots and have own flying planes and tested them.

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Following a flight testing, we will have more information on our products page.

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-ww.

2,850cc Corvair Engine Run – Don Murphy

Builders,

Below are a few photos from Don Murphy’s 2,850cc Corvair run done at our house today. The engine is a 110 HP model destined for Don’s Zenith 650.  Don is a highly experienced aviator; he flew medevac helicopters in both Korea and Vietnam. I take it as a compliment to our work when an aviator of Don’s experience and understanding chooses the Corvair as the powerplant option that makes the most sense to him.

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Above, Don’s engine running in our front yard. It started in 2 seconds of cranking, and put down a perfect 45 minute run. The engine features all of our most up to date systems, including a 2400-L ultra light in weight starter system. The engine is a 2,850 cc 110 HP engine set up with 95 heads. This motor will run on 91 octane car gas, or 100LL without issue. It is built around a Weseman Gen II 5th bearing, which all feature a billet CNC bearing housing. The crankshaft was processed as a pair by Dan and Rachel at SPA/Panther.

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Above, engine on the run stand, priming taking place. The plugs are out because it makes the prop easier to turn while priming. We do this for at least 15 minutes. Fram 6607 filters are only used on break-in runs.

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Above, oil drips off the rockers into the catch bins. It is stained red by the sticky engine assembly lube we used. We check the oil flow and prime every engine run this way, including all the engines run at Corvair Colleges.

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Above, Lucas ZDDP, found at most chain auto parts stores. It is $20, and it supplements the ZDDP in the Shell Rotella T for the break-in run. When adding oil before the valve covers are on, you pour it down the distributor hole.

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Grace taking a minute to film the movie linked below. In support of freedom and human rights she elected to wear her red, white and blue bikini. This is only a joke on the surface, as Grace is making a point that the most repressive regimes in the world always start by treating women as possessions and dictating what they can wear, often under pain of imprisonment or death.  Grace does not care how modestly any woman chooses to dress, she is just opposed to women being forced to dress in ways dictated by men.  In a world where 80% of the 3 billion women on the planet live in places where the government can dictate their dress, how many children they have, and even if they can learn to read, it is startling how few people care about this.

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Above, the first 25 minutes of any run should be done between 1,700 and 2,000 rpm.

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Above, the engine running at 2,500 rpm for the second half of the break-in run.

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Above In the middle of the run, one of our neighbors came home to pick something up in the “company vehicle.” Landed in his front yard for five minutes and took back off with a very smart looking maneuver. Seemed very fitting background for the first run of Don’s engine. Below is a link to a movie of the run:

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Above, gratuitous dog photo. Scoob E gnaws the head off his stuffed red squid, but gently naps one minute later with his stuffed dog.

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-ww.

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YOU MUST SET THE TIMING ON YOUR ENGINE

Builders,

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This is not a story about people making mistakes, because everyone does that when they are learning, This is a story about people reading the correct way to do things, and then thinking it over, and deciding not to, because they have some rationalization like ” I think someone did that for me” or “I’m busy, I will look at that later” or “I read that once, I suspect that mine is wrong, but there is too much information on ww’s site, it can’t all be important.” I wrote this last night after working 18 hours in the shop. It has a lot of spelling errors, and we have just 24 hours before the college. I was going to take 10 minutes to correct the spelling, but thought about the guy who will later say “I didn’t set the timing because I decided the advice wasn’t any good because I am a grammar and spelling Nazi and I can’t get past that, even to learn how to save my life.” Have a nice day.

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Above is Gardiner Mason’s Pietenpol. The plane was nearly destroyed in the sun n fun tornado, but he rebuilt it. It flew for years and had a condition inspection every year. It was wrecked in a hard landing that tore a wheel off, it had a number of forced landings. During the years that Gardiner flew the plane, he adamantly refused to ever set the timing with a light, he never did it. He no longer flies a Corvair, and I am glad about that. Let some other engine be blamed for his death. BTW, Gardiner flew for both the military and Delta, and has 30,000 hours, and I honestly have to say he never learned anything from me, in spite of many attempts on my part: http://www.flycorvair.com/pietengineissue.html today his engine runs perfectly in the hands of someone willing to use a timing light: Terry Hand’s 2700 cc Pietenpol engine – w/Weseman 5th bearing

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I have said in countless places that every one must check the timing on their engine with a timing light before flying it. I have even said that I suspect more that 1/5 of the people who fly Corvairs never do this. Perhaps you have read this and thought I was bull shitting people….Well understand this, and read it clearly, Today, I had two people with flying planes tell me in a single day that they never checked the timing on their engines. Yes, two in one day.

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Guy “A” wrote with a picture that showed a broken piston ring, and asked what caused this? When asked, he stated that he had never checked the timing, because he had bought the engine from us years ago, and just assumed that it was OK to fly it without ever checking the timing.

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Guy “B” wrote to say that his plane has one flight on it that went OK. When asked, he stated that the Cowl inlets were only 3.6″, He had no EGT information, one CHT, and he never set the timing on the engine. Again he bout the engine years ago, and some how assumed that it would be fine.

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Here is what is wrong with that mentality: I have said in countless places, that being an aviator is about leaving nothing to chance that you can easily check yourself. Since you have to own a timing light, and you have to check the timing at least every annual, why wouldn’t you check it before flying. “Because I thought someone did this for me” is not an acceptable answer in aviation if you are planning on living long.   If I sold you a gun several years ago, and then you left it in your barn for several years, would you pick it up and handle it without checking to see if it was loaded? Only if you were a fool. Likewise, during an engine installation, there are many ways with lifting the engine, installing baffling, wiring the ignition, that the timing could be altered. It takes only ten minutes to check……but still, people who took 5 years to build a plane, evidently don’t have that 10 minutes. I wouldn’t install a Lycoming engine in a plane and not check the mag timing. Why is this OK to do with a Corvair?

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I have to ask myself why I bother to write detailed stories and organize the in this format: Engine Operations reference page if people are not going to read them. In a previous photo Guy “B” sent me a picture of his engine running on his plane, with no cowling or airbox. I have said countless times that this is totally unacceptable, the same as running a water cooled car without a radiator or coolant. Yet there was some need to do this on a brand new engine. If there was ever a time in the life of an engine not to do this, it is when it is brand new. Between this, the undersized inlets, no timing set, and no egt information, how much damage do you think was done to the engine? If the engine fails in a few hours like Guy “A”‘s engine did, please tell me if you thing that all the guys in their EAA chaperts are going to say “I can’t believe he didn’t bother to take 10 minutes to set the timing” or do you think they will say “Stupid Corvairs, what a rip off that long haired jack ass in Florida is.”

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How many people are going to try this? I don’t know, but here is a story about a guy refused to buy a timing light and check the timing on his Corvair, because I had build the engine 10 years earlier, and it had been sold twice since then, moved all around the country, and put on two different planes, but he was still sure that the timing must be set correctly, because I built it a decade before. Guess what happened? He crashed the plane on the first flight, with a passenger. Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #6, 98% DNA not enough.

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In 24 hours we are leaving for Corvair College Number Thirty-Five. Is anyone learning anything, or am I just assisting in a free assembly service? This website has 740 stories on it, including many specifically on the need to set the timing on every Corvair. Is anyone reading stories like Ignition Timing on Corvairs or When to check your timing, Lessons learned Pt#2 which contains the sentence : 1) The timing needed to have been set on installation and checked at least at each annual. Please show me where it says “unless you think someone set it for you years earlier”

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Every week brings this kind of news. Last week I spoke with a guy who has been flying his plane for four years…..and he has never done a compression test. Try this, call your FSDO, tell them you don’t believe in compression tests at annual condition inspections and see how fast they revoke your repairman’s certificate your plane. Better yet, tell ask your insurance agent if your coverage is still valid if you only do part of a yearly inspection. Freedom to build homebuilts doesn’t mean that one is free from following standard procedures of aviation.

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The thing that gets me the most is the guys who are the beneficiaries of some great research and writing I have done, but willingly choose not to use the information, because they don’t have the time to correct some stuff, but evidently they have plenty of time to rebuild their plane. .Example: Plane flying to Oshkosh, with the landing gear 9″ too far back. I inspected the plane in California, told them the plane had poor CG and incorrect gear location. Neither corrected. On the way to Oshkosh, the engine is running poorly, (problem later traced to certified carb) but they flew past several optional airports to get to the one where the support van was…and promptly put the plane on it’s back…and said nothing when internet people blamed the accident on the Corvair engine of course. Plane flying again now, but with Chinese rockers…..

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Plane under construction for 20 years, finished the engine at a Corvair College. Made a custom and unique cowl, but never felt the need for a CHT to see if it worked, operating at 7,000′ DA, leaning the carb, but of course no EGT, inspite of the fact I have said in countless places a Corvair leaned to rough running is detonating. Main gear installed 7″ too far aft, in spite of my reports on CG….First flight last 20 seconds to loss of power.. with gear too far aft plane ends up on it’s back….It is publicly blamed on my ignition buy builders “Expert”…plane is flipped over, and proves to run perfectly on points, pilot quiets admits he never flipped the switch to the back up…Later testing shows that distributor runs perfectly on BOTH ignitions, the problem was caused by the experts wiring.

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Want to know how many Corvairs have been wrecked by running out of gas? Read this: Comments on aircraft accidents, everyone on the net thought that the accident that sparked the debate was caused by the Corvair…Maybe, just maybe I already knew that the pilot was a danger….He had damaged his $35 cam gear by not reading the installation instructions, so he didn’t replace it, he chucked it in a lathe and turned the aluminum gear down to save the money….and later tried flying his plane with only 5 plugs screwed into it.

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Think that was the only time a pilot flew on five cylinders? Guess again, We had a pilot who did his first several flights, but missed that he never connected the 6th plug wire….He was also doing the flights with no working charging system. Same guy later flies his plane a 601, with 4″ of lateral slop in the stick from completely slacked aileron cables. Why? because he “just had to get to his destination.”.

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How about flying to Oshkosh, having 80 hours on the plane, and never having changed to berak in oil? How about the same thing with 65 hours? How often do you think those builders inspected under the cowl? What did they learn?

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I could keep typing these stories for hours.  Right now, there is someone working on making my list of stupid stories one longer…Just make sure it isn’t you.

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Ignition timing on Corvairs, Part 2

Builders:

Eighteen months ago I wrote a comprehensive story on ignition advance and timing on Corvair flight engines. I consider the story one of the most important and fundamental elements of mastering your Corvair. If you have not seen it in a while, or you have joined up since then, I suggest making 15 minutes in your schedule to read this and give it your full attention. The story is here: Ignition Timing on Corvairs.

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I use the term “suggest” above because I am my brother’s keeper, but not his jailer. I care about people, but I can only appeal to their willingness to learn and do a good job, their ethical responsibility as an airman to take risk management seriously. I can not force anyone to do anything with their own property. If you would like a real world example of this, we have this story from last year: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #6, 98% DNA not enough. In it you can read about a person who destroyed his plane on it’s first ‘flight’,  severely injuring himself and a passenger, simply because he didn’t care to understand timing, long refused to buy a timing light, and refused to stop what he was doing when I warned him.

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For Part 2 , a slight update: On the internet, there is a suggestion being made by a non-pilot, that fliers using Corvairs should only use 24 degrees total of ignition advance on their planes, because this will allegedly make the same power as using the full advance we recommend. After 25 years of doing this, building several hundred Corvair flight engines, countless tests and having spent 5 years of my life at Embry-Riddle, I an assure builders that they should simply follow my timing recommendations for best results. To offer some further ‘why’ to expand the understanding.

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Ignition advance isn’t magic, it is Chemistry in action, particularly a branch of study in it called ‘rate of reaction.’ While I am not a Chemical Engineer, I was fortunate enough to have a number of classes with Dr. D. Cameron at Embry-Riddle, and he was an outstanding professor who really understood and could teach the physical properties of this branch, and he also knew internal combustion engines very well. This doesn’t make me an expert, but compared to a guy who slept through 9th grade Chem class, I am Alfred Nobel on the topic.

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How long it takes to burn the air and fuel in the cylinder, and thus how much ignition advance the engine needs, is a rate of reaction problem. Combustion dynamics in a real running engine are very complex, driven by the fact that once the combustion starts, the reaction itself is changing the dynamics of remaining unburned fuel and air. This acknowledged, the principles still apply, and they can be seen in action and tested easily for their proportion and effect.

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I could list 10 factors playing a role, but let’s look at just two of the ones that make using too little ignition advance an issue:

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The lower the pressure in the cylinder, the more advance it will need to make full power: Rate of combustion is greatly affected by the pressure in the cylinder when the spark happens. Three factors on this are the compression ratio, how wide the throttle is open, and what is the atmospheric pressure outside. While a max power test on a high compression engine, at sea level with the throttle wide open, may show OK results with less advance, That isn’t how planes go flying. Lower the compression to what most builders are using, understand that much of flying is cruising at part throttle, and the critical item a car mechanic never sees, the reduction of atmospheric pressure as the plane climbs, all call for more ignition advance for the engine to make best power and run efficiently.

The lower the starting temperature (given the same density)  the more advance it will need to make full power: While cold dense air burns fairly quick, cold thin air does not, and it needs more ignition advance to run efficiently. Again, this is a common factor to planes that few car mechanics consider. As a plane climbs it will do much better with even a slight increase in timing. Many people know that Klaus Savier’s Vari-eze is one of the most efficient homebuilts ever made, particularly in any contest where he can get some time at altitude, and he primarily credits his ignition that has far greater total timing than the magneto it replaces.

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There are plenty of myths about aircraft timing. I have people tell me every year that “aircraft engines all have 25 degrees advance” Really? evidently this people missed all the manufactures data working A&P mechanics use. Look at this Mandatory Service Bulletin from Continental:   http://www.tcmlink.com/pdf2/msb94-8d.pdf  Notice how the A-65’s all use 30 degrees of advance on both mags. People tell hangar stories about ‘the big bore of aircraft engines needing two plugs’ ignoring the idea that an O-200 continental’s piston is just 5/16″ larger in diameter than the one in a 3,000cc Corvair. The internet theories are endless, but mostly based on things easily disproven on inspection.

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Limited timing does appear on some other engines, like Jabarus and some VW’s, but this is driven by the mechanical design of those ignitions. Such engine are not noted for easy starting nor high altitude efficiency. Some people tout that Continental reduced the timing on O-200’s years ago, but his was actually driven by pilots using auto fuel that didn’t meet the STC requirements, and doing damage to the cylinder mounting studs on certain models. Car mechanics don’t know this, but ask anyone who flew a 150 before and after the timing reduction, and they will tell you the 4 degrees Continental ‘dumbed down’ the engine made a power difference.

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On it’s face, saying the Corvair makes full power at 24 degrees doesn’t make sense. What would GM, the original manufacturer use far more advance than this if that was all it took to make full power? Even the most torque oriented Corvair engine, the 95hp model, which had a peak torque at just 2,400 rpm and made it’s full rated power at 3,600, arguably closest to the flight engines we build, used 32 degrees of total advance (with the vacuum advance disconnected). If the engine made full power with 24 degrees, GM would have made them that way.

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The only possible motivation for a car mechanic to recommend using less ignition advance is if he is concerned about an engine having been assembled with substandard parts, like Chinese valves, and he is trying to convince people to lower the power output to protect the cheap parts. This also applies to telling people the engine can not fly with cht’s that touch the 400’s like this: CHT info taken from test flight of 601XL  Many of the issues where builders have been told they hurt their engine by running it to hot and be re-evaluated. There have been plenty of builders who made poor cowling choices who damaged engines, but we have positive evidence and factual data that shows the Corvair can run the CHT at my recommendations, provided of course, it doesn’t have sub standard valves in it.

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Above, a closer look at an E/P distributor in my distributor machine ( circa 2008). The machine has a large electric motor inside that spins the distributor. I have made hundred’s of Corvair ignition systems over the years.

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From  Ignition Timing on Corvairs :

“If a builder reads and follows the directions, he has mastered level 1). If he reads, considers and understand this story, he has moved his understanding up to level 2). Does he need to know more than this to effectively use the engine? No, but if he would like to know far more, it is one of the things I have a good understanding of in engines. This did not come from years of being a mechanic. The further understanding came from a number of years in Engineering classes at Embry-Riddle, Particularly the Chemistry classes. While the subjects we studied were academic examples for almost all of my younger classmates, I was 26-28 years old then, and the information was enlightening when I had a sudden understanding of combustion dynamics that I had observed for years in automotive racing, but didn’t have a detailed view of how the factors worked together, far less that you could make calculated and predictable changes.”

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Above, as you see it, this is a non-running model, but it has a serious purpose. The red parts you see are plastic, and were made for us by Corvair/Panther builder Paul Salter. Read the story here: Ignition system, experimental “E/E-T”

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