Above, Joe Horton, 3,100cc/ Weseman bearing – KR-2S builder from PA, with Grace at Corvair College #21 . Barnwell was the 8th College that Joe has flow to. He has also flown to Sun ‘N Fun, the KR gathering and Oshkosh several times each. In 2010, we awarded him the Cherry Grove Trophy at CC#19 for his work promoting Corvair powered flight. Joe wrote us the following short note:
Just a quick note to update 357CJ. I am pacing my flying so that I can fly hour number 700 on my 55th birthday in 2 weeks. Hope to see everyone at Sun ‘N Fun. – Joe”
Below are a set of photographs that I took 10 years ago. It’s a Stits SA-7D Skycoupe that was owned at the time by Gary Coppen. In the Winter of 2002 I was just getting back in action after losing our Pietenpol. Gary showed up with an engineless Skycoupe and offered to leave it with us on long-term loan. He understood that we needed a new testbed and demonstrator, and he offered his proven airframe without cost or strings attached.
We set to work immediately and went about producing a modern Corvair engine installation. The photographs you see here are from the Spring of 2002. While some of the things look antiquated here, it’s worth noting that the layout of Front Starter and Front Alternator that we continue today is used on this aircraft. Our Pietenpol had used both front and rear starters and alternators over the years when we used that airframe as a testbed. By the time I got the Skycoupe, my ideas on installations that would serve the most builders were already sorted out. Simplicity would remain the overriding goal. Although we have continuously done research and testing, the Skycoupe in the 2002 update to our Conversion Manual marked a turning point in our work. Previous to this, our Conversion Manual was really my shop notebook filled with useful information for people working on their own conversion. The Skycoupe in the new Manual was different. The engine installation was meant to be something that builders could replicate and expect proven success from. The Manual had become more of a how-to document, giving a lot of information on building and installations like the Skycoupe, in addition to the previous material on operations and practices.
In 2003 we purchased our 601 XL kit from Zenith at Oshkosh. We had the aircraft complete and on display in the Zenith booth at Sun ‘N Fun in April of 2004. Our new Zenith rapidly eclipsed the Skycoupe as the focal point of mainline testing and demonstration. The Skycoupe was seen less often but still lived in our hangar for a number of years. In 2005, we took it to Sun ‘N Fun and put it on display as our flying Turbo testbed aircraft. It served in this capacity for a long time before it was damaged in a windstorm. Several years ago, we started a restoration but it was sidelined by more pressing projects. 18 months ago, Gary reluctantly put the Skycoupe up for sale. He owns a number of other aircraft, including Corvair powered KR-2S, and he didn’t want the Skycoupe to wait a number of years until he had more time.
Today the Skycoupe belongs to Craig Anderson of South Dakota. The airframe is undergoing a much needed total restoration. Craig is headed off to Corvair College 22, now only 10 days away. There he is going to assemble and test run the new powerplant for the Skycoupe. It is a 2,850cc engine with a Weseman bearing, Falcon heads, and all of our Gold system parts. Although this engine is state-of-the-art it does directly have its lineage in the Skycoupe’s 2002 installation. The starter and the alternator are in the same orientation, as are the cooling and electrical systems. The 2,850 will have 10 more horsepower than the 2,700 engine in the photographs. With its dished pistons, the 2,850 will run interchangeably without adjustment on both 100 low lead and 93 unleaded. In the photographs, the Skycoupe was equipped with one of our then state-of-the-art Dual Points Distributors. Craig’s engine will run with our modern variant, the Electronic/Points Distributor. Overall, his engine is a series of incremental improvements, carefully thought out over a decade’s worth of work. Less than one out of 10 experimental aircraft companies survive to see their 10th birthday. We had already had 10 birthdays by the time I took the photographs you see here. We are in this for the long run, to support builders as they work towards their goals. If you have dreams and plans that involve building and flying, and they have remained important to you for a long time, then make this your year of action. The decision is up to you, no one else can make it for you, don’t let it pass you by.
Here is an overhead view of the Skycoupe’s engine installation. The Starter is the same one we use today but on a different set of Brackets. The alternator is a permanent magnet, but an early 14 amp model. The oil system is virtually stock with a 12-plate cooler and stock oil filter.
Here, a rear three-quarter view. In the foreground is an aluminum box that houses the coils, the MSD coil switcher, and the voltage regulator. They were placed here because the Skycoupe has a 20 gallon gas tank immediately behind the firewall. The 1.5 inch scat hose feeds cooling air to this box (the box had internal baffles that restricted the airflow to less than the hose size suggests), the air flows out the bottom after flowing over all the components inside. The Distributor is a Dual Points model. The oil pressure sending unit worked in this location but the temperature always read incorrectly.
Here, the Oil Pan shown here is the first Deep Sump Welded Aluminum Pan that we made. We still offer these today. I used this same motor mount layout to build several other later mounts in the shop. It also appears on Dave’s Wagabond in 2004, our Buttercup project in 2008, and on our Tailwind project in 2011. The carburetor is a Stromberg. The large hose is feeding fresh air from the cowl, the small is for carb heat. The gascolator is at the lowest point in the fuel system.
Here, on the valve cover is a Cessna 150 breather. These worked under most circumstances, but proved to be very difficult for builders to get inexpensively. With the 601, we moved to the readily available Aircraft Spruce breather. The location, however, was a winner; we have put every set of breather lines at this location since. The exhaust system is ceramic coated mild steel. These do not last compared to stainless models. The tubing size here is 1 3/8″. Testing proved that it needed to be slightly larger. The overall exhaust system layout remains fairly close to this. The goal is minimizing the amount of surface area under the cowling.
This photo shows the passenger side view. The Skycoupe was the last aircraft we built that had a bolted on intake at the head. We abandoned this when we moved to our new Nosebowl shape with the Zenith 601. If you look closely, you can see that this intake manifold is made out of many separate pieces of of mild steel. A painstaking project of gas welding. Today the intake manifolds we offer are the same shape, but are made out of a single piece of stainless tubing. This also offers a good view of the side of the cooling box. The main battery cable and the starter cable meet each other on a phenolic plate on the side of the box. Internally, they are connected to the voltage regulator. The wiring bundles are packaged in red Fiberglas woven tubing for chafe protection. The front of the baffling looks blunt because this aircraft had previously been flown on a Subaru with a belt reduction. That engine had an extremely flat face, and the baffling seen here only filled up the original cowl. In later testing, the Skycoupe was converted to one of our Nosebowls which transformed it from an ugly duckling into a guided missile.
Above: One of the last tests I performed was blocking up the aircraft to a 22° angle and chaining the tail down. We actually ran it in this position for extensive tests of its fuel flow at full power, and checking that the Deep Sump Oil Pan would feed oil at this angle at wide open throttle. The system worked very well. In 2002 I sported Burt Rutan mutton chops. Grace isn’t nostalgic about them today. These photographs were taken in front of our old hangars at the Spruce Creek airport in Daytona Beach, Florida. The hangars were built in the 1960s and were among the oldest structures at the airport. By 2002, Spruce Creek had evolved into the world’s largest fly in community, a gated location of 1,200 hangar homes.There were many good people there. Our hangars, nicknamed “the ghetto” by the real estate agents, were the focal point of lively after hours beer drinking and hangar flying. Most of the aviators in attendance were successful guys with million-dollar homes and hangars with painted floors where nothing interesting was happening. Our hangars reminded them of good times in their past when things were simpler and fun was a lot more accessible. In 2003, NASCAR driver and spruce Creek resident Mark Martin bought our whole hangar row and had it torn down and replaced with four expensive hangars that ended up housing golf carts and Prevost motor homes. The lasting important lessons that I took away from the experience was never to envy wealthy guys in aviation, a lot of them have lost touch with the most fun elements that drew them into flying in the first place, and to make sure we retained the element of good times amongst friends in everything that we did.
Dr. Gary Ray, builder and pilot of Zenith 601XL N24845 , is the star of this story. His aircraft has now been flying for more than five years. Through this time, Dr Ray has put a lot of effort in sharing what he has learned and explaining the human value of homebuilding. When I got started building Corvairs more than 20 years ago, I hoped to achieve something that all kinds of outstanding individuals would gravitate to. When I think about Dr. Ray and other builders like him, I think we hit the mark.
Most aviation businesses know the people who they work with as customers in a computer database. We are the opposite of this. When your work involves teaching people a skill, you get to know a lot more about them and who they are as individuals. I have been to Dr. Ray’s home, hangar and business, met him at Colleges, open houses and a number of airshows. I have spent a lot of hours on the phone with him and listened to his perspectives on things. Very few aviation business owners know a single one of their builders at this level. In my book, that’s their loss. Listening to our builders has refined and improved our work. Although I like engines, I like people more. Knowing our builders is one of the major rewards of our work.
Dr. Ray is a very skilled and accomplished veterinarian. He offered a lot of counsel on the care of Whobiscat, the Edgewater hangar Siamese, and our dog Scoob E. Here is a very important point in understanding Dr. Ray’s philosophy: While he clearly loves animals, he is 100% emotion free when discussing their care. He is all about logical evaluation and decision making. In his perspective, how you love animals is logically caring for them. Here is the aviation connection: Making decisions in homebuilding that are purely factual and data driven does not subtract from his love of flying, to the contrary, it is something of a prerequisite. His work brings him face to face with the people who will or will not follow through with the care of the animals he is treating. Decades of this has made him a very keen observer of the human condition. Sharing a cup of coffee with him is thought-provoking.
For our 2009 Flight Ops Manual I asked Dr. Ray to contribute anything he wanted to share with other builders. I told him it could be up to 10 pages long. He sent back 282 words on motivation. Of the 10 articles in the Flight Ops Manual, this is the most referenced Chapter in the responses we get from builders. Dr. Ray is an absolute adherent to the creed of rugged individualism. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t interested in others. He has a long record of giving back to the Corvair movement. To some people, supporting a movement means idealizing and candy coating it. To Dr. Ray, supporting it means offering an honest evaluation and frankly saying what types of people he feels will succeed at it. The former makes the greatest number of people feel good, the latter is of real value to people who have chosen to build.
Above, Dr. Ray’s plane on the ramp at Corvair College #20. The aircraft features a 2,700cc Corvair with a RoysGarage.com 5th bearing. The engine is bored .060″ over for a few extra cubic inches, and utilizes Falcon heads. All of our installation components and Gold Systems are on the plane. It originally flew with an Ellison EFS-3A, but Dr. Ray soon switched to an MA3-SPA. The aircraft has been flying since 2006. It was one of the earliest “ZenVairs” (our term for a Corvair powered Zenith). The prop is our standard choice for 601/650’s a two-blade 66″ ground adjustable Warp Drive. The panel on this aircraft is based on a Dynon display. Dr. Ray got a little help from us on the engine, but the plane is a real tribute to his building skills. It is his first shot at homebuilding. Many planes look good in pictures, this one also looks good in person.
Above, Dr. Ray (in the middle) speaks with other builders at Corvair College #20. He has been one of the most outgoing people in the Corvair movement. Over the years, he has hosted a Night School, flown to a College and the Zenith Open House and flown to Oshkosh several times. At each of these events, Dr. Ray took a lot of time to share his experience with other builders. He has a basic message of encouragement for anyone who is just entering The Arena of homebuilding. He does not minimize the size of the challenge but states that it is met with good decisions and steady productivity.
Above, Oshkosh 2010: Fisher Horizon/Corvair builder Jim Waters, at left, speaks with Dr. Gary Ray.
Above, from our 2005 Midwest Night School Tour: On Feb. 14th we were at Dr. Ray’s garage with a group of Corvair power enthusiasts. Gary’s plane was about a year from its first flight. The guy in the back with the bushy beard is someone few people would recognize at a glance, it’s “Brother Roy”. Our reputation as people who take our builders seriously wasn’t built by forming an LLC and printing color brochures for people with deep pockets. It was made over time by events like the 5,000 mile tour in the winter where we met with builders every night in small shops and answered their questions, all for free. This was part of our long term plan to get to where we are today.
Above, Dr. Ray beside his aircraft in the Zenith booth at Oshkosh 2007. Many builders working on their planes tonight are thinking about flying their creation to Oshkosh. When a builder accomplishes this, and displays his craftsmanship in the kit manufacturer’s booth, it is a very good day. For five years straight, at both Sun ‘n Fun and Oshkosh, we arranged with Sebastien Heintz to have a Corvair powered plane on display in the Zenith company booth. For the first two years, we used our own aircraft N1777W. As soon as builders like Phil Maxson, Dr. Ray, Rick Lindstrom and Dick Schmidt completed their planes, we switched to highlighting their achievements. Sebastien was a direct supporter of this recognition of builders, understanding the motivational power of having the display focused on successful builders. In recent years, we have moved up to having our own booths at both Oshkosh and Sun ‘N Fun, where we continue the tradition of displaying builders’ achievements.
Above is Dr. Gary Ray’s 601XL just after its first flights. I wrote the following words about the milestone 5 and a half years ago. They are just as true today, and many builders since have followed Dr. Ray’s path to success in the subsequent years. “He flew its maiden flight out of Pontiac (Mich.) Airport September 1, 2006. This is the latest 601 to take to the air on Corvair power. I saw the airplane in person just a few months ago, and I will attest to the fact that it is one of the nicest 601s ever built. Not bad for a guy who never built one airplane part before starting this project three years ago. If you’re working on parts for your own first airplane, look at the photos closely, and think about Dr. Ray’s success. It’s all about the decisions you make and the persistence you show. I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating on this occasion: Money, skills and time all take a back seat to simple persistence applied on the correct heading. Persistence will inevitably lead you to your own day in the sun.”
Dave saw his plane on the List of Flying Zeniths and sent us this letter and photos:
Above, Dave and his 650
Dave Gardea CH-650 N631DG 2,700 First Flight – 5/4/11
“N631DG now has 81 hours on the hobbs and would have a lot more except I was down for a few weeks last summer while waiting for my new heads from Falcon. My project Web site is at http://n631dg.t15.org/home.html
My YouTube video channel of the first and other flights is at http://www.youtube.com/user/dgardea11/videos
(Dave started flying on a set of heads that just had a simple valve job done on them. After one of them had a valve guide slip he got to learn first hand that Corvairs fly just fine on 5 out of 6 cylinders. At that point he went to a set of heads rebuilt by Mark Petz at Falcon machine.-ww)
“The engine I built includes Falcon heads, all your high quality parts, Niagara cooler, a Dan 5th bearing, nitrided crank, Marvel Schebler 10-4894 (Model MA3-SPA) carb, front starter, John Deere alternator, and a Warp Drive prop. I have never had the opportunity to attend a Corvair College. Larry Hudson in the Indianapolis area was a great resource during the build as well in addition to your detailed manuals.
I have also attached a few pics. Please keep up the great posts on the new flycorvair.net! “
Above, the 2,700 Dave built. The engine is straight out of our Conversion and Installation Manuals
Above, the rear view of Dave’s engine. Gold Oil Filter Housing and optional Sandwich Adapter feeding a heavy duty oil cooler. These components and the Baffle Kit from J.S. Weseman make a very clean professional look in the engine compartment.
Below is a partial list of Zeniths that our builders finished and have flown. I am still combing our records to bring all the data to one spot. A handful of the first flight dates may have the wrong month, please feel free to write in with any correction or addition. My intention is to gather the info and use it to update our page on the Official Zenith builders Web site. Grace is out of town with family for a few days, so the errors or omissions on this list are mine. Many of you know that Grace has a phenomenal memory and could have typed this data out directly from her head. Between Grace and some help from builders, we should have an accurate list shortly.
When looking through the information, the first thing I thought is that it is a large body of work. It is quite a success story. There have been a lot of alternative engines that got a lot of play in the aviation media that never ended up with this many planes flying total. Here we are just looking at the Corvair powered planes from a single airframe brand, albeit a very popular brand. These builders put in a lot of work to reach the finish line, and we were very glad to play a role in their success. If we were just a buy-it-in-a-box engine company, these names would just be a list of consumers. Because of the nature of the Corvair movement, the builders listed all learned a lot more about engines, have much more pride in their planes, and a greater degree of achievement at the finish line. When you think about what these builders knew and what they thought they were capable of before starting, and then contrast that with the same people the day their planes flew you are looking at the real body of work. Speaking with Chris Heintz at Oshkosh last year, I said that the planes that are built are hardware, just the end result of the real project, each builder working on himself, improving his skills, capabilities and expanding his belief of what he can do. He smiled and agreed that this was the fundamental value of homebuilding.
This list has planes on it that are not flying today. One of the best known Zenith/Corvair pilots on the list is Scott Laughlin. His aircraft was the first plans built 601XL. He had never built a plane nor an aircraft engine before, and was not a pilot when he started. He had a lot of great times in his aircraft, some of which can be seen on YouTube videos. After flying about 200 hours he kindly let another pilot try a landing in the plane. It was damaged so badly that Scott took the plane apart, and sold off the pieces. Hopefully time will see Scott’s return to another round of homebuilding. The list also includes 2 planes that have moved to a different engine. There are several other aircraft that have flown that we will add later, so the total aircraft number is a good representation. When the list is compiled, I will write up a set of notes on each aircraft, and include photos of each of the planes. For right now we will start with the basic list.
We have a list, far longer, of builders who could finish and fly their Zenith before Oshkosh this year: Ken Pavlou, Larry Winger, Patrick Hoyt, Jeff Cochran, Thomas Siminski, Gerry Scampoli, Larry Webber and Ron Lendon are the first names on this list that pop into my head. You can get a good idea of the number of builders close to the finish by looking at the pictures of running engines in our Corvair College albums. This effect is continuous, in 30 days we will be at Corvair College #22, and we have already lined up four engine runs for the event. All of these are going into Zenith airframes that are largely complete.
We have a third wave, just as important, who have been chipping away at their project for a number of years. A number of these guys were slowed by a move, a kid headed to college or a change in jobs. I know many of these builders just as well from having them at Colleges and making house calls to their shops. People outside the Corvair movement are often mystified by some of our most vocal supporters. Many of the people who go out of their way to say something positive about our work are in this third group. This is because I take their project seriously and treat them just like builders with more available time or funds. Every aviation LLC takes your project very seriously when you are in their booth at Oshkosh with your hand on your wallet. The outfits that are here for the long run take your project seriously all the time. We are here for the long run and I look forward to adding your name and N-number to this list of successful builders.
Builder’s Name Model N-Number Engine 1st Flight
William Wynne 601XL N1777W 3,100 May ’04
Greg Jannakos 601HDS N4399 2,700 June ’05
Randy Stout 601HD N28RS 2,700 May ’05
Gary Ray 601XL N24845 2,700 Sept. ’06
Phil Maxson 601XL N601MX 2,700 Mar. ’06
Brandon Tucker 601HDS N601XT 2,700 Nov. ’06
Rick Lindstrom 601XL N42KP 2,700 Nov. ’06
Cleone Markwell 601HD N998ZZ 2,700 Mar. ’07
Dave Harms 601XL N618PZ 2,700 June ’07
Charles Leonard 601XL N920EL 2,700 June ’07
Murray Rouse 601XL N47186 2,700 Oct. ’07
Ken Smith 601XL N601KS 2,700 Nov. ’07
Scott Laughlin 601XL N5SL 2,700 Jan. ’08
Woody Harris 601XL N734WH 2,850 Feb. ’08
Sandy Crile CH-701 N9569S 2,700 Feb. ’08
Lincoln Probst 601XL C-GXLP 2,700 Apr. ’08
Scott Thatcher 601XL N601EL 2,700 May ’08
Steve Mineart 601XL N164SM 2,700 July ’08
Lynn Dingfelder 601XL N4ZK 2,700 Oct. ’08
Jay Bannister 601XL N2630J 2,700 Oct. ’08
Andy Elliott 601XL N601GE 3,100 Nov. ’08
Ray Griffith 601XL N614RK 2,700 Dec. ’08
Al Barnard 601XL N472AB 2,700 Dec. ’08
Zersis Mehta 601XL N601ZM 2,700 Jan. ’09
Louis Cantor 601XL N601LV 2,700 July ’09
Gary Thomas 601XL N124GT 2,700 July ’09
Dave Coberly 601XL N601XZ 2,700 July ’09
Rich Whittington 601HDS N601RW 3,000
Shayne & Phyllis McDaniel-650 N5880Z 2,700 July ’10
Rich Vetterli 601XL N56DV 2,700 Sept. ’10
Doug Stevenson CH-750 N632DR 3,000 April ’11
Lathrop/Neff 601XL N601LN 2,700 April ’11
Dave Gardea CH-650 N631DG 2,700 May ’11
Alan Uhr 601XL N15AU 2,700 Mar. ’11
Roger Pritchard 601XL N20RB 2,700 Oct. ’11
I had a chance to speak with Woody Harris on the phone late last night. He spent some time telling me about the flying he had done lately in his Zenith, but he also spoke of other aviators he had met and flown with and that he had just bought a set of plans after getting to know an experimental aviation stalwart, Callbie Wood. Woody also told me about his new hangar nearing completion on a small airpark in northern California. If you were listening to Woody and didn’t know his background, you might think he had been in aviation for 50 years, a real old school guy. But that is an illusion, Woody has been around aircraft for only 5 years. Even knowing Woody very well, I often forget that he arrived recently. There is a good lesson here: If it is worth doing, Woody immerses himself, he gets in and stands In The Arena. It isn’t his nature to sit on the sidelines and watch the game.
I know guys who have been thinking about doing something for more than 10 years. They have read all the stuff I have written, we have talked about it, and a big part of them would like to have the adventures Woody is having. Most of these guys have much more time in their lives and more funds than Woody. Some inner message tells these guys to hold back. They were not born with this attitude of reluctance, someone taught it to them along the way. Some one subtly sent them the B.S. message that they “were not good with their hands”; taught them to worry about what other people would think; told them they weren’t good pilot material; simply, they weren’t worth the investment, that their place was on the sidelines watching the action.
If someone sent Woody these messages, they never stuck. If I had a time machine I would go back and restart all the reluctant guys with a pure positive attitude. The only real option is to start today, and replace all the negativity with positive experience, and really come to understand that Woody is just like you. You are entitled, by virtue of just being an individual, to the same adventures he is having. If someone hasn’t said this to you, let me make it clear: Flying a basic aircraft safely is a skill that anyone can learn. Building planes and engines that are reliable is something that anyone can learn. For various reasons, none of them good, some people like to pretend that you have to be Chuck Yeager to fly a basic homebuilt, and that you have to be a Northrop master craftsman to build a safe plane. Both of these are false, and if you buy into either, you’re letting someone escort you off the field, to a seat in the spectator section. Yes, building a plane is a challenge. Yes, flying your plane is a great and liberating milestone in life. But these rewards belong to anyone who rejects the negativity and fears, any builder who puts in the hours and wants to learn the skills. I am speaking from experience here; for a number of years I bought into some of the B.S. that says aviation is for special people with “talent” or “gifts.” I only started making real progress when I rejected that kind of thinking. To this day, when I encounter that kind of attitudes, stories or writing, I quietly repeat the mantra “F.T.S.” (For polite people, think of this as “Forget that stuff.”)
Woody spent years building and racing cars at an international level. He probably learned a lot of the stuff a bit faster than a person with little or no mechanical experience. This doesn’t matter, you’re not in a competition with Woody or anyone else. You’re only measuring yourself against how you will feel if you let another year slip by, loosen the grip on your dreams a little more. Any step in the correct direction of putting you in the center of your life is progress against drifting away like that. Just as negativity is contagious, so is being positive. I have always done much better when I spent my time with guys like Woody and actively worked at having no contact or exposure to negative people. This means attending events like Corvair Colleges and making positive friends, while ceasing to listen to people who think planes are all dangerous, and reading negative comments on the Net.
Below is a photo series that I have taken from our main page, FlyCorvair.com. (This blog is FlyCorvair.net.) I have gathered it here to put it in one place. Because they happened over time, they appeared on our FlyCorvair.com pages in many different months on the “At The Hangar” updates. The latest photos are now 6 months old, but they are still a good read. Woody is sending in more soon and we will put them up here. I have left the original notes with the photos, but I have added some current notes in blue.
Woody Harris’ ZenVair #18, N743WH, taking off on its maiden flight at 0733 PST February 27, 2008.
Our man on the West Coast, Woody Harris of Vacaville, Calif., ecstatically reported that he enjoyed the first flight February 27, 2008, pictured above, of his Corvair powered 601 XL. Using the 601 XL quick build kit and All Our Installation Components, he finished it in a little over a year. Woody has a very busy schedule, which includes running his high performance automotive shop, auto racing, co-hosting two West Coast Corvair College Events, flying Rick Lindstrom’s ZenVair 601 XL (as featured in Kit Planes magazine) from Florida to California, and being a good husband and father, as one of his daughters got married in the past year as well. This shows you Woody knows how to use time well, and also demonstrates that a 601 quick build kit is one of the fastest to assemble that we know of. Choosing a Corvair to power it does not add a major time component to the construction of the aircraft.
Here, Woody Harris works on his installed engine. It is a standard 2,700cc with Falcon Heads that Woody built himself using all of our Conversion parts. While our customers build very good engines in general, most of them have small details which, while not affecting airworthiness, leave them slightly short of the Engines we build in our shop. This is to be expected as we’re professionals, and our amateurs do an outstanding job for first time builders. With this understood, I’ll say that Woody’s engine is the closest customer built example I’ve seen to matching our production engines. His engine had ARP case and head studs, and a very high level of finish. It may have been two different colors, but it’s only one level of quality: Excellent. (The above photo was taken at Corvair College #11 in California a few months before Woody’s first flight. His first engine was 2,700cc. He later added a Dan bearing and upgraded to 2,850cc pistons and cylinders.)
Woody is a very outgoing and modest builder. When I first spoke with him I asked him what he did for a living, and he told me, “I work on cars.” Something inside told me he didn’t change oil on Toyotas at Jiffy Lube. On the visit to California, we passed through his MSI shop, a high end tune up and road racecar import operation. It’s the first shop I’ve seen in a while with a chassis dyno built into the floor. Amongst the racecars, mechanics, slicks and lifts are mementos from decades of all out effort at tracks from coast to coast. (The first time I hung out with Woody we went to the Performance Racing Industry trade show. I had a hint that he knew a lot about racing when we walked past the Cosworth display and everyone knew him on a first name basis.)
A head on view of Woody’s N743WH taxiing in from its first flight.
The 601XL is an outstanding packaging of a very roomy cockpit, a fairly sleek airframe in a very buildable package. The narrow 28″ width of the Corvair and our Low Profile Nosebowl and 601 Cowling Kit complement this.
Woody, above left, and his friend Steve celebrate with cigars and Piper Heidsieck champagne after the first flight. Woody has had a lifetime of achievements in the world of motorsports that the rest of us only dream of. Yet he still rates flying an airplane that you built yourself as a landmark event in life.
This is the output side of the turbocharger that we will be using on the turbo engine. Note that it has an integrated wastegate. This is a common feature on modern car turbos. However, almost no modern car turbo has the capability of being used in a drawthrough application, which is a highly desirable format for aircraft use. It took us a long time to find an expert on turbos who could properly fabricate a modern turbo, appropriately sized for our application, with a carbon seal. (Eventually, Woody’s plane will be retrofitted with this turbo. The 2,850 is the best engine for turbocharging, as it intentionally has a lower static compression ratio than a 2,700cc engine.)
This Exhaust System is built out of 321 stainless. Its future home is on Woody Harris’ 601 XL. Woody just completed a 66 flight-hour circumnavigation of the United States. He will be retrofitting his 2,850 cc engine with a turbocharger. This is the engine half of the exhaust system, and it was built in my jigs. Our regular Exhaust Systems are built out of 304 stainless, which is extremely durable and fairly resistant to heat flow. 321 is the alloy of choice for Turbo Systems, as it withstands elevated temperatures even better. Notice how the one pipe crosses underneath the engine to go over and meet with the other before heading into the Turbo. After thorough testing, we may offer this as an option to a handful of builders who have need for it. It is worth noting, however, that naturally aspirated Corvair powered 601s with 2,700 cc engines have exceeded 17,000’ and have little problem with density altitudes over 14,000 feet. People building a Zenith today can continue to work with it knowing from Woody’s example that the Turbo system is intended as a later retrofit for an existing flying aircraft.
In the above photo, Woody Harris’ 2,850cc Zenith 601B sits at the end of the ramp in North Carolina at First Flight Airport with the Wright Brothers Monument in the background. This brings his aircraft to the end of his first leg of a coast-to-coast and return flight. I believe that this is a pretty classy way for Dad to show up at his daughter’s house on the East Coast. Although Woody has spent a lifetime in the mechanical world predominantly driving race cars in both Europe and America, it’s worth noting that he’s been in aviation less than five years. While he certainly would have thought of it before, it was at the urging of his daughter who is an ATP, that he explore some adventures in flying. I mention this because if you’re out there reading this and you’re thinking that you might be too late in the game to have your own adventures, you’re quite wrong. If you don’t have a pilots license, you have never built an airplane before, and you’re 63 years old, you are at the exact spot where Woody was four years ago. Yes his mechanical background gave him a leg up, but it plays a smaller role than most people suspect. His determined character and his quest to learn new things were much bigger factors in his favor. If you had been standing next to me at Oshkosh when Woody arrived, and watched him hop out of the airplane and talk for 4 minutes straight about the previous days flying, including sentences like “We timed it perfectly because Old Faithful went off just as we flew by,” you would note that all the hours that you’re putting in your shop are well worth the adventures that lie in your future. Go out there tonight and get one evening closer to writing the same chapter in your own story that Woody has written in his. (I have Woody looking into his logbooks, but I am pretty sure he has flown a Corvair powered plane in more states than any other person. I don’t bring this up as a point of competition, I just want builders at home to understand that with good judgement and training, you can go a long way, even if you have not yet written in the 500th hour in your logbook.)
I asked Rex Johnston to send us some more info on his Davis with electronic fuel injection. He mailed back the following letter of technical notes and the photos. As you may be able to tell from the spelling in my previous post, my editor in chief, Grace, is out of town for a few days. This is my first try at posting pictures from files on the Web, we will see how it goes. Worst case, Grace will be back in a few days.
Again, hats off to Rex, as I am pretty sure he is the first guy ever to fly an EFI Corvair engine. A lot of people think about doing stuff like this, but a very special group of builders meet the challenges of doing something very different, and see the project all the way through flying. This is not for everyone, but the beauty of the Corvair is that you have the choice to build it the way that meets your personal needs. The Buy-it-in-a-box alternative engines only come one way, the configuration that makes the manufacturer the most money. With your Corvair, you are the manufacturer, and you can make the engine in the best configuration for your plane and personal flight goals.
Every Corvair builder, even the ones using simple carbs, can read this post and understand that Rex is to be congratulated not just for the EFI, but for finishing an outstanding aircraft, a plane he dreamed of, and then persistently worked on until it became a reality. You don’t need to ask if he felt like a king the day it flew. I am sure he will vividly remember the day for the rest of his life. Every Corvair builder reading this deserves to have his own personal version of that day. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or that it will not be worth the effort. Reject these negative messages and go to work for yourself. Be persistent so that I can post pictures of your completed aircraft and you can enjoy the praise of fellow builders who truly understand your achievement.
Here are the pictures you asked for. Highly modified Davis DA-2A with RV-4 spar, Riblett airfoil, left side door, rounded fuselage and wing mounted fuel tanks.
3100 Corvair, machine work done by Ray Sedman. Standard VW cylinder and piston 3,100 conversion. 100LL only due to compression ratio. Roller rockers due to an off center valve guide on number 5 which caused the stock rocker arm to not stay centered on the valve. At least that’s what I think was causing it. Conversion parts are all yours from a few years ago. No 5th bearing but nitrided crank. May install a fifth bearing at some point but this is a 120 mph point a to point b aircraft and I’m not particularly worried about the crank.
Holley projection system modified for use in an aircraft. Manual mixture adjustment set by a wide band fuel air ratio meter. The system only picks up rpm and throttle position. Dual fuel pumps with a manual bypass valve to a nozzle in the intake to be used if the injection system fails. The engine runs surprisingly well at 2,500 rpm with just this nozzle. I run dual batteries in the aircraft with a generator failure warning system. I also have a knock sensor installed that is connected to a warning light. Neat system but I have no way to calibrate it so don’t know how useful it is. So far it hasn’t gone off but I haven’t done anything to the engine that I think would cause it to detonate.
Have about eleven hours on it now. Starts and runs very well. Hard to keep the mixture set during warm up in very cold weather but otherwise the mixture is very stable. I can take it anywhere from 11 to 1 to over 14 to 1. Engine runs smoothest in flight in the 14 to 1 range. I use 12 to 1 during high power settings.
Top view of the 3,100cc engine. It has a Front Starter and a rear alternator.
Above, a rear quarter look at the back of the engine. Note the cover that keeps the alternator belt from attacking the ignition wires if the belt is thrown. This is a crucial safety device.
Above, a bottom view of the engine. Note that it still has carb heat. Fuel pumps are on the firewall on the right in the photo.
Above, the modified airframe. A Davis is a classic design from the 1960s. Rex’s has extensive modifications.
Above, a view from the bottom of the left side of the engine. Large black strut is the nose gear.
Above, the same view from the other side.