Zenith’s Roger Dubbert, man who has flown 10,000 demo flights.

Builders:

Grace and I have known Zenith’s demo pilot, Roger Dubbert, for as long as we have been working with the Heintz family. ( See: https://flycorvair.net/2015/04/01/12-years-of-zeniths-powered-by-flycorvair-conversions/ ) but Roger has been at it a lot longer, having worked at the factory for more than 23 years.

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In casual conversation in a slow hour at Oshkosh 2016, I asked Roger how many demo flights he thought he had done in the 23 years he has worked in Mexico MO. He thought for a while and came back and said it “Might be as high as 11,000, but it was certainly every bit of 10,000.”  He later added that he has more than 40,000 take offs and landings in Zeniths.

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If you work outside experimental aviation those numbers might sound impressive, but if you work in experimental aviation for a living, they are nothing short of stunning. I later asked a handful of old school industry guys, and they all came to the conclusion that it very well might be the record, and that only one other pilot was even arguably even in the same arena. Keep in mind, Roger wasn’t blowing his own horn, he was just responding to my question. The conversation moved on, but Grace and I decided that we were going to do something to mark Roger’s milestone.

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When we were back in Florida we searched out a real USAF  CWU-45 Nomex flight jacket and had it embroidered to commemorate the achievement. On Friday night, at the Zenith Open House dinner, I presented it to Roger, who graciously accepted to a strong ovation from the standing room only crowd.  It was a great moment for one of the most admired men in our industry.

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Above Roger and I stand at the bar after the dinner was over. Besides being an outstanding aviator, Roger is an accomplished outdoorsman, family man, and father. He may look 24, but he is actually in his 40s.  In my dinner remarks I pointed out that very, very few experimental aircraft companies last 25 years, far less 43 like Zenith. (they have been in Mexico MO for 25 years )  The industry lifespan for new start ups is about 36 months, while some of that is economics, much of it is nefarious plans to lift peoples money without ever having to offer service on a poor product. Zenith is the polar opposite of that. The greatest single example of Zenith’s stability in the industry is the longevity of their workforce, exemplified by Roger Dubbert.

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If you are looking for a flight jacket, a word of warning: An actual CWO-45 jacket offers at tremendous amount of fire protection in an accident, because it is made for the USAF out of Nomex, but be aware there are many fakes on the internet that are Nylon, which will only melt to the wearer when exposed to heat. There are plenty of ads for jackets that are called “mil-spec” and “CWO-45 style” but they are dangerous fakes. For a look at a company that makes real ones, check this out:

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http://www.uswings.com/product/nomex-cwu-45p-flight-jacket/

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Notice the real thing is $650, five to ten times higher in cost than the fakes. If you would like the actual protection at an affordable price, most surplus ones are under $100, but look at it very closely and make sure it has the actual US military identification tag on the inside, below the collar. There is a picture of the tag on the website above. Note that all the real jackets are made in the United States. In my personal opinion, Nomex clothing and flying go together like helmets and motorcycles.

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-ww.

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Nine days to Zenith’s 25th Open House, Mexico MO.

Builders:

We are now just nine days away from a very important event, the Zenith Open house. I have been on hand for the last 10 open houses at the Zenith factory, we have held Corvair Colleges just before 4 of them, but this year, Zenith will mark their 25th year in Mexico. They are the very definition of a solid enduring company in an industry known for short lived business ventures.

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I have detailed information on what we are doing with Corvairs at the event at this link:  Zenith 25th open house, Mexico MO, Sept. 23-24.  It also includes links to Zenith’s website with information about attending the event. All homebuilders are welcome, there will be a large number engine and component companies on hand, and there is a lot to see at these events.

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  People often ask me how I had a number of great days in aviation, like this: From The Past: With Steve Wittman 20 years ago today. Here is the magic answer: I got in the car, drove there and showed up. It didn’t always generate a perfect day, but staying home reduces the chances of an exceptional day to near zero. Decide now that you will show up for the open house. It’s your life, make it count.

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Above, Zenith 601XL  builder and 500 hour pilot Ken Pavlou.  If you read a single story I have written this year, make it this one:Ken “Adonis” Pavlou advises aviators: “Life is short, Live Large”  If you spend a lot of hours wondering if aviation really is for you, read this story, it will introduce you to one of the all time great character in experimental aviation. If you are a Corvair builder, you can take a special measure of pride that our team has an exalted place for this man.

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If you are a Zenith builder headed to the open house. and you want to pick up a mount or an exhaust, check out the two stories below and Contact Rachel Weseman at 904-626-7777 about ordering them in advance.- Thanks.

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Part #3901-A Zenith/Bearhawk Stainless Exhausts, now on shelf.

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#4201-C Pietenpol Motor mounts, now on the shelf, ready for shipping.

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West Coast Event: Contact! Magazine alternative engine meet: September 24th French Valley California.

Builders:

For west coast builders, September 24th is an opportunity to head to French Valley California, for the alternative engine round up, organized by Contact! Magazines’ Pat Panzera. You can read all about it at this link:

http://www.contactmagazine.com/roundup.html

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Corvair Quickie Q-2

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Above, a Corvair powered Dragonfly at the 2014 event.

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Zenith 601/Corvair builder Larry Nelson, from Yuma AZ will be on hand to cover Corvair Questions. Larry Was a big help to Dan Weseman and I at Corvair College #34 in Mexico MO., and is up to date on developments on our engines. Additionally, Steve Glover, from NV aero, who hosted Corvair College #37 in Chino in the spring will be at French Valley for the event. Steve has a flying 601XL with a 2700cc Corvair of his own.

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This is the 13th event Pat Panzera has hosted, and they offer a wealth of technical information for highly experienced industry people and homebuilders…..And one more thing: the event is free, part of Pat’s long standing commitment to support homebuilding.

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-ww.

 

Deland FL, “Sport Aviation Showcase” November 3-5

Builders,

Deland Florida is about 20 miles west of Daytona Beach. It has a very active airport, well known as a center of skydiving. In central Florida, the airport is known for having a very productive and supportive relationship with the city, and for this reason it has become a very active light industrial center, while retaining it’s small town airport feel. After several years of planning, they are going to hold the first “Sport Aviation Showcase” there this November 3-5th. If you like sport planes, and particularly if you are a homebuilder, this is a new opportunity not to be missed.

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kitplanes24

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Above, Dan Weseman flying the Corvair powered Panther. Dan and Rachel were one of the first companies to sign on to be at the Sport Aviation Showcase. Their booth is #8 at the event. They will be there with a number of flying Panthers, and they will have all of our Corvair parts, and their own line of Corvair stuff on display. You can read more about it at this link to their site:

http://flywithspa.com/new-deland-showcase-november-3-5-2016-welcomes-homebuilders-join-us/

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What is different about this event? First and foremost, it isn’t an “Airshow.” By its very definition, an airshow is at it’s core a show, which means a spectator event, aimed at entertaining.  The Deland Showcase has a different name, to accurately reflect that it is being held to get more people personally involved in aviation, not as spectators, but as participants, people actually in the Arena of flight.  I have written at great length in stories like this: 2015 Your year in aviation? about making the decision that you will be a participant in aviation, not a spectator. This event is built to directly serve people who’s goal is to be a participant.

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The “Showcase” element of the event is getting manufactures to directly interface with builders and pilots. While you can go to an “airshow” and speak with companies, it is very rare that you would be able to see their Sport aircraft fly up close, and the odds of being able to get a demo flight are non-existent, because the airspace at an airshow is monopolized by performers for spectators.  The Deland Showcase corrects this by focusing the event on direct contact between the aviator and the manufacturer. There is no ‘airshow’ so manufacturers will be able to demonstrate their aircraft all day, and supply demos. This isn’t an add on to the event, it’s built in to the DNA, all the way do to having 40′ aisle spacing between manufacturers rows so that their aircraft can quickly be moved to the flight line for demos.

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The long term goal is to make Deland the Sport aviation center of the South East.  The city of Deland has set aside a very large tract of land on the airport grounds to build new permanent infrastructure to attract manufactures to move to the airport or operate their regional dealerships from. A number of kit manufactures I know are already speaking of this.  Most airshows are run for profit by companies which have the city as a paid host.  Conversely, the city of Deland is not just the location, but they are the organizer of the event, and their goal isn’t maximum profit, it is to highlight their long term plans to become a very important center of sport aviation.

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This is a very rare opertunity to be a part of someing new, to directly serve homebuilders and pilots. When I heard about the concept of the showcase, I immediately understood that this would be a very different event. I went down and met Jana Filip and the team working on the event, and was impressed enough to immediately offer my support as a volunteer. I have been guest speaking to Florida EAA chapters to encourage them to participate in November. I expected the message to be well received, but the response from chapter members has been incredibly positive, with upwards of 90% of the members on hand stating they are planning on being at the Showcase. To me this is a very good indication of the appeal of an aviation event focused on participation. It takes very little explanation to old school aviators before they say “It will be just like the legendary Rockford gatherings in the 1960s.”  or  “This is what was great about Sun n Fun 30 years ago.” If you are a relatively new arrival to sport aviation, The Deland Showcase is your chance to get in on a new event that will certainly be considered among the best events, because it is designed to return to the roots of what made all the previous ‘classic’ events special: Participation.

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To directly learn more about the event, read this link to their website:

http://sportaviationvillage.com/

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-ww.

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Zenith 25th open house, Mexico MO, Sept. 23-24.

Builders,

Zenith Aircraft is holding their 25th annual open house September 23 and 24th, in Mexico MO, to celebrate 25 years of kit production at that location. (the company’s origins date all the way back to the early 1970s in Canada.)  This is a landmark event in an industry noted for short lived businesses.  The event will be well attended by builders, but many industry people associated with Zenith will be on hand to celebrate and make a contribution to the success of the event.

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I have been working directly with Zenith and the Heintz family since Grace and I bought our 601XL kit in 2003. You can read the story at this link: 12 years of Zenith’s powered by FlyCorvair Conversions.  We are writing new chapters in this story all the time, such as this one: A tale of three Zenith builders. But for the 25th, We are planning on something new.

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At the open house, Dan Weseman and I will be on hand, and We are going to start to finish, assemble and test run a large bore Corvair on Friday the 23rd. We will demo run the engine on Saturday also.  We will be on hand for the whole event to answer any builder question and inspect builders core parts. While we have previously held four Corvair Colleges at The Zenith factory, this demonstration assembly is a different event, it is open to all interested builders, and unlike colleges it does not require signing up in advance. Want to learn a lot more about Corvairs? Just show up.

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To learn more about the Zenith open house, follow this link provided by the EAA: http://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/eaa-news-and-aviation-news/news/07-07-2016-zenith-aircrafts-25th-annual-open-hangar-days–flyin.

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Here is Zenith’s own page with a detailed description of the event, including directions and area information: http://www.zenith.aero/profiles/blogs/planning-open-hangar-day-25

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Above, Dan Weseman and I in 2012 at the test run of his 3,000 cc Panther engine. We have been friends for 15 years, neighbors for 10, and for the last year, He and Rachel’s company, SPA/Panther has marketed and distributed our line of Corvair products and components alongside with their own Corvair stuff. This collaborative effort serves builders as a one-stop resource for everything they will need in building and mastering the Corvair.

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Important points:

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Everyone interested in homebuilding is welcome; you do not need to be a Zenith builder to be welcome at their open house. The Heintz family has a 40 year history of supporting homebuilders of all kinds, not just their current builders.

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Dan and I will be demonstrating all of our assembly techniques; we welcome builders taking pictures, notes and video. While I will have plenty of Conversion manuals on hand, anyone seriously interested in getting the most out of following every detail of the build and test run should read the manual through in advance. If you don’t have one, you can order one here: http://shop.flycorvair.com/shop/ and it will be shipped out right away.

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We will have a limited selection of Corvair parts and installation components with us, but if there is something specific from either the Flycorvair or the SPA/Panther catalog you would like to pick up at the event, the only way to insure that we have it there is to order and pay for it in advance. The single most popular items to pick up at events are motor mounts, because you can save nearly $100 on shipping by doing so. If there is a specific item on your shopping list, contact Rachel Weseman at 904-626-7777, about making sure it is ordered and in the trailer before we leave Florida.

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We will be conducting “Parking lot Inspections” which means any part you have for your Corvair that you would like us to look at, bring it, and we will.  If you have a case, crank, heads or any other part that you would like inspected, bring them, and we will be glad to give them a look. This is also an opportunity to get in the game and save the shipping on sending these parts in for overhaul or modification. We will load them in the trailer and bring them back with us to Florida. This saves packing and shipping, and gets you started and ready for the coming Corvair Colleges.

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If you have never met Dan or myself in person, and you are still in the decision process of which engine will power your homebuilt, the Zenith Open House is an outstanding opportunity to come, look and make a much more informed decision. I have always said that Corvairs are not for everyone, but for the traditional learn build and fly homebuilders with the goal of mastering their engine, not just owning it, the Corvair is an excellent option. I welcome the chance to meet new potential builders in the relaxed setting where they can get a very good look at how much Dan Weseman and myself have to directly share with builders.  The very best relationship between a builder and his engine provider is one based on mutual respect. Come meet me in person and get a much better understanding of why I have been continuously working with homebuilders for 27 years.

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-ww.

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The ‘Wrath of Gall Bladder’

Builders:

Thinking  I was in the clear when I made it home on Wednesday night,  it soon became obvious my dear old gall bladder wasn’t quite done messing with me. Just like a dying Messala says to Ben-Hur at the end of the Chariot race: “It goes on”  For those of you who have exorcised the little demon from your chest, perhaps you can relate to the black humor; for those living in a fool’s paradise, believing your own bladder has nothing personal against you, enjoy it while it lasts, and remember this story when it suddenly feels like someone shived you under the ribcage with a rusty rebar.

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To recap: Everything was normal Saturday night at the airpark, Vern and I were grilling chicken and enjoying the twilight. I felt a slight twinge, but wanted to dismiss it. By midnight, I was well into the worst gall bladder attack I have ever had in 15 years of having them. Yes, there is a small, stupid optimistic part of my brain that was able to believe that each of them would be the last, this is the same part of my brain that thinks I am just as strong and tough as I was when I was 24, The same part my doctor is addressing when he looks in my eyes and says “People don’t actually get younger, you are middle aged, period”

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At 5:30 am on Sunday, I would have confessed to being friends Osama Bin Laden to make it stop. Time to go to the ER, but the ability to drive had passed several hours earlier. We are way out in the country, and 911 takes more than 15 minutes just to get here.  I called Corvair Panther builder, and my neighbor, Paul Salter.  He didn’t answer, but it wasn’t smart enough to roll his hangar door all the way down. I crawled under it in growing desperation, and got him up and we were shortly in the Baptist-Clay ER, IV Demerol to the rescue. Paul is a great guy, and waits through six hours of tests. It is a slow morning, and the primary entertainment is mocking the guy so dumb he would to this for 15 years. At noon I am put in an ambulance and transferred to Baptist-South, where the extraction will take place. Monday it is out, Tuesday is recovering, and Discharge is Wednesday night at 5 pm. Problem solved…..for 3 hours.

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After just three hours at home I had a 101 fever, and Rachel Weseman sent Dan over to drive me back to the Baptist-Clay ER, exact same spot where the adventure had started 84 hours earlier. I actually get the same shift crew.  I honestly hoped to an inspection and maybe a new prescription, but instead was there from 9pm until 5 am the next morning getting a full battery of tests including a CT scan.

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Dan Weseman is the best kind of friend and neighbor, and his sits in a chair next to my gurney through all of this.  In between samples and vitals, the nurses entertain us with comments about men being comparative poo-nannies, who describe everything as a “10” on the pain scale to a nurse who had 5 C-sections, etc for several hours. All in good fun.  Over the hours the conversation with Dan drifts from this sucks to little planes we’d like to build and fly, what you want to be doing in 10 years etc. By 4 am sleep depravation is getting to Dan, and I am being treated with narcotics, and our conversation drifts to the concept that my gall bladder might have really had a mind of its own; there is plenty of evidence that it was out to get me; locked in a 15 year death struggle, just like Captain Kirk and Kahn, and just like Messala and Ben-Hur, It would go on.  Just silly stuff to entertain when you can’t think rationally anymore.

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5 am brought the decision that I would be transported back to Baptist-South, just like a few days earlier. The nursing staff keeps calling this “Ground Hogs Day” in reference to the movie where life keeps repeating the same nightmare for Bill Murray.  The transfer ambulance is staffed by two drivers in their early 20’s, working to become county EMT’s. They are very nice, and they hear the nursing banter about repeating the trip. As they are closing the doors one of them asks Dan why I am actually going back, and with a strait face Dan tells him I am having my gall bladder reinstalled.

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Two hours later I am beyond exhausted, drugged, and now filled with radioactive dye. I am being put through the HIDA machine, a nuclear imaging device that can find very tiny leaks in your bile system. You get to lay perfectly still in your gurney, and it is lowered down to you. I am told my job is to layback and fall asleep for 90 minutes. Sounds great. I fall asleep right away. Somewhere in the middle of my test the nightmare/hallucination arrives that my gall bladder, who speaks exactly like Ricardo Manitoban, has taken over Baptist-South, and tricked me into returning so he can kill me. I am being fed into a large casket, painted just like a Sharps infections material container, which is very coincidently the same size and shape as the HIDA machine.  As he is closing the lid, Gall Bladder wants me to notice the interior is made of “Fine Corinthian Leather.”  I must make a desperate lunge to escape!

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Bolting upright from a motionless sleep, I smash into the HIDA scanning heads while yelling “Gall Bladder!” Bizarrely, I find myself in the Nuclear imaging lab rather than in the clutches of my nemesis. Two lab techs are staring blankly. They say nothing, I wisely decide not to try to explain.  The test is completed without any of the light hearted friendly banter it previously had. They were young and likely still had their gall bladders, and wish them health and peace before they have to learn what evil lives in their own chests.

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“Gall Bladder!!!!!!!!”

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Here is something very real to take away:

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I finally came home late Friday afternoon. In my absence neighbors had mowed my lawn, recharged the house A/C, Paul’s mom and cooked enough food for a week and stocked it in our refrigerator, the Wesemans offered their guest room if needed, several people offered to stay over a few days in Grace’s absence.  It was all very moving because I am blessed with far better friends and neighbors than I deserve. I wanted to tell everyone that, but couldn’t finish any of the sentences without crying. It had been a very long week, and I was very thankful to be home.

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-ww.

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Parts for Oshkosh 

Builders

We are 15 days away from arriving at Oshkosh.  We have a number of items on the shelf, particularly large items like motor mounts, which we will be glad to bring to the event, but if you would like to make sure we have it for you to pick one up at the show, the best idea is to buy it in advance.

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This is the link to out products page:

http://shop.flycorvair.com/shop/

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When you place an order on this site, it is directly logged with the Weseman’s at SPA/Panther, where the inventory is actually stored. Thus, it can be shipped, packed or organized for pick up right away, no matter where I am in the country. This is the system we have had in place since February 1st, and it works great, and allowed excellent service to continue even while I am doing things like Back in Florida after 7,380 miles on tour.

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If you need to ask about a specific part or check available inventory, you can call SPA at 904-626-7777.

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Above, a set of Group 1900 valve covers. We had a special run of ten sets done in Black wrinkle finish (this is powder coating not paint) , and we have 7 sets left. If you were around hot rods in high school, you will remember the very popular M/T (Mickey Thompson) valve covers for V-8s, which had this same look.

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Above, a close look at the finish on the valve covers. They can be supplied with graphics for any HP output, 100-110-120.

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Above is a high thrust line Pietenpol motor mount. There are currently two of these on the shelf, and I am going to bring them to Brodhead on Saturday, were I am giving my traditional afternoon forum.  If you wish to insure picking one up, paying for it in advance is a good idea. Shipping on motor mounts is substantial, and we save builders this cost when they pick it up in person. For more info, read this: #4201-C Pietenpol Motor mounts, now on the shelf, ready for shipping.

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Above ScoobE with Zenith mounts on our back porch. Read the 2014 story he wrote on them: 750 Mount 4201(B) for sale, Story by Scoob E  . Over the years I have made more than 100 zenith 750 mounts, and more than 250 zenith 601/650 mounts.  That is a proven product from a stable source.

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We also have 6 Zenith 750 mounts and one 650/601 mount on hand. Read Parts Production improvements- #4201 Motor Mounts. These are very popular at Oshkosh, and often sell out by the second day.  If you would like to pick one up and save the shipping, order in advance.

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Above , Sunset in the dry part of eastern Washington, 75 miles south of Spokane.  The arrangement with the Weseman’s to distribute the Corvair parts in our catalog has worked incredibly well. Crucial to my goal of teaching builders skills is being able to travel to them, and I can now do this without taxing customer service.  Six months ago, I had a very long back order list, including things like 44 E/P-X distributors and 27 Zenith and Pietenpol motor mounts. Today we have no back orders on these, but that is just part of the story. I have also done the Western tour with three colleges, continued on a high pace of R&D projects, kept up with communications , and most important, been able to spend a significant amount of time with my Father. My gratitude for the efforts of the Weseman’s this year is particularly based on this last item. When good people assist you in making the right thing happen at a critical time, perhaps the only way this can be described is as a blessing.
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-ww.

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Oshkosh 2016, booth and forum schedule

Builders,

We are now about a month away from Oshkosh. Our booth is #616 in the North aircraft display area, the same location it has been for six years, directly across from Zenith aircraft, right next to SPA/Panther. The show starts on the 25th, but commercial displays are assembled the day before. If time allows, we will be stopping at Brodhead WI for the Pietenpol gathering on the way to Oshkosh.

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I have been giving The Corvair forums at Oshkosh the last 18 years. This year I have the following  three scheduled:

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Tuesday, July 26 · 8:30 AM – 9:45 AM
Workshop Classroom B
Wednesday, July 27 · 8:30 AM – 9:45 AM
Forum Stage 2
Saturday, July 30 · 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM
Workshop Classroom C

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Oshkosh is a good time to see friends, get a look at parts in person, ask a lot of questions and make some good memories. While we are there I always catch the Zenith dinner, the Homebuilders dinner, and The Panther/Corvair BBQ. Many people close their booths right at 5pm, but ours is something of a social spot after hours. I hope to see as many of you as possible at Airventure. -ww.

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The EAA is an organization I believe in. I have been an EAA member since 1989, 1990 was my first trip to Oshkosh, I have been a Chapter president (288) and a Tech Councilor, worked for EAA publications for a number of years, Participated in the original Sport Pilot rule conferences, made display donations to the museum,  have been a guest speaker at dozens of chapters, given Airventure forums for almost 20 years, and been a commercial presenter at Oshkosh for more than a decade. This said, I have still gotten more back from the EAA and it’s membership than I have been able to put back.

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Below I would like to briefly mention three people who are long time EAA people who have worked on behalf of the interests of the membership for decades. They are some of the best people I have met in aviation. They all knew Paul Poberezny, ( Speaking of Paul Poberezny) and each of them bring their own version of his spirit to our organization.

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Above, The EAA’s Charlie Becker ( in blue) Grace and Joe Sarcione hanging out at our Oshkosh tent for the night airshow in 2015. Charlie is the EAA’s director of the homebuilding community. Charlie is an accomplished pilot and homebuilder, and supremely qualified for his mission. In a world of soft morals and tepid commitments, he is integrity defined.  While impressive in his craft, it is his actions away from flying that generate the great respect of all of Charlie’s friends.

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Above, EAA Editor Mary Jones with Chris Heintz.  I think that Mary is the most influential aviation journalist of our times because her work has always been about the story, just the opposite of many other writers. Countless times I have read a very good story, only noting at the last moment her name on the by line. This  is as it should be, her work always carrying the hall marks of quality and accuracy.  Everyone knows her as tough but fair, an excellent listener, an outstanding writer. Readers inherently understood that her coverage was accurate and reliable, the only yardsticks that matter. Her work to define and promote the Sport Pilot rule demonstrated her commitment to the lasting success of aviation in this country. As my mentor is publishing, she taught me why some stories are not main stream : Thought for the Day: “The only guy promoting alcohol, firearms and aviation” but she is also a lot of fun; when she visited Grace and I in Daytona Beach we spent a pleasant evening at “The Last Resort”, the bar made famous as the favorite place of serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

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Above, the EAA’s forums chief, Mark Forss.  Forums are a critical interface between members and the EAA when it comes to supporting the original mission of learn, build and fly. Articles in publications are very good at igniting dreams, but to make things happen, for dreamers to become builders, the best point of entry are the face to face exchanges of understanding provided by forums. Mark supports this mission year round with his involvement in the sport air workshops. He is a skilled builder and a pilot. Grace and I, and countless other people are very grateful for all of the work he as done for EAA members.

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Icon A-5 , A unicorn going extinct in spite of glowing ‘journalist’ reports?

Builders,

If you came here to read the article listed in the title, sorry, after several days of it being up, I have elected to take it down. I got a phone call this morning for a very well known person in experimental aviation, even though they liked the message, they convinced me that the drama caused by the story wasn’t going to do much to fix the issues illustrated in the story, but it would likely disrupt things that are important to me right now, which are finishing the Western builders tour and having a good year at Oshkosh and staying focused on assisting my siblings in the care of my parents. I have said my 2 cents, some else can take a turn at being an industry critic now.

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All the stuff I write on my website is just directed to people who might be called traditional homebuilders, the learn, build and fly people. The only two points I wanted to make in the Icon/unicorn story come down to this:

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Aviation ‘journalism’ doesn’t always have the ethics we expect. A lot of it is really just press releases, and there are factors going on that most people new to homebuilding are not yet aware of. I just want homebuilders to understand that they really need to consider these factors. I am pretty sure none of my regular readers nor customers is among the 1,850 people who have a deposit on an Icon A5, but many of them will buy components for their homebuilt or a kit, based on published ‘reviews’ of those products. Many of the same writers and publications will produce the reviews they will read, and builders should be aware of the limitations of the information they will get.

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Second, I wanted my readers, who are mostly guys who are never going to buy a $200K Cessna 162 or a $239K Icon, or any of the other planes of that category, to stop being concerned about what happens to those companies. Many of the articles about them are written as if the future of light aviation is hanging in the balance of their success. If a new guy reads enough of this stuff, each of their failures brings questions about the health of the small plane industry. Alternatively, I want the new homebuilders to understand that the vast majority of new light planes in the last 20 years are homebuilts, Homebuilts are doing great, and if you are a homebuilder, either by choice or economics, you are already in the successful part of the industry. I want them to know that their personal adventures in flight are determined by what they will build with their own hands, and they have nothing to do with commercial ventures, good nor bad.

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A positive note about Homebuilding: It is easy to understand why Icon buyers wanted the planes. Flying off water is a beautiful thing, and it takes little imagination to picture some of the best flying one could ever do, hours you would treasure forever. The 1850 people who put down deposits obviously were motivated by ideas like that. If the company doesn’t pull off an industrial miracle, these buyers will likely never have their dreams become reality.

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Conversely, nearly any homebuilder reading this, who had the same dreams, can decide to make them real, and isn’t dependent on the success nor failure of an over extended company. A homebuilder mostly just counts on himself. He can go buy a set of Volmer plans or any number of planes on floats, and work with his own mind and hands to have the experience. It may not have the special interior, but it isn’t going to have the 40 page agreement nor the 4 bedroom house price tag. The message is very simple: People who are willing to learn and get their hands dirty can make their own dreams come true, and people who are not willing to do these things will remain dependent on others.

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Anyone who thinks the interior or glass cockpit, or composite construction is essential, get a look at the following link: It is a fantastic video of French kite boarding wonder Pauline Valesa, waterskiing behind a Zenith 701 on floats in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, the reefs off New Caledonia on the east side of the Coral Sea. Watch the video and tell me that you wouldn’t want to be there yourself.

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http://www.zenith.aero/video/video/show?id=2606393%3AVideo%3A508941&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_video

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ww.

Back in Florida 

Builders,

Yesterday afternoon, we departed from my Parents house in NJ, and 996 miles later, pulled into our driveway here in the airpark in Florida early in the morning. North of DC is was raining with accidents, and northern Virginia was it’s typical 60 miles of pointless traffic, but the over night drive was very nice. It was a full moon that rose just after sunset illuminated the clear skies so well, you probably could have driven the run with the headlights off. I-95 was empty, and a set the cruise control at 74 and drove all night with the radio off, just thinking of things I have seen and done with builders in the last six weeks on the road.

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Above, an actual sign in the I-95 Florida State welcome center, right next to the parking lot. I like living in a state with serious wildlife. Given a choice between water moccasins and DC beltway traffic, I opt for poisonous snakes.

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I am back in Florida for two weeks, to replenish the stocks of parts on the shelves here, and get through the next rounds of orders. In the next few days I will be highlighting products we have on the shelves and in process, to give a better look at how our inventory has been greatly updated. Tomorrows story will be about Pietenpol Motor mounts.

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After this shop phase in Florida, I will be flying back out to northern California to continue the western builders tour.

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-ww.

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