Brent Mayo’s Corvair Powered Panther, now flying

Builders:

Florida Panther builder Brent Mayo had a flawless first flight a few days ago. He is the same builder in this story:

Job Offer: Work from home, learn a lot, make up to $400/hr.

Which is focused on the fact it took Brent less than 830 hours to build the whole plane and the engine.  It shatters the myth that selecting an automotive based engine adds a lot of time to a build. Below is a link to the SPA/Panther story of Brent’s first flight. This time he demonstrates that if you select the correct alternative engine , built and install it following a proven path, you can expect a flawless first flight.  For every one of you who has had to listen to an ‘expert’ in your EAA chapter tell you “automotive engines never work” , Brent just added another factual demonstration to a mountain of evidence proving that ‘expert’ is either a liar or an idiot. -ww.

Brent’s story:

 

Brent Mayo’s Panther SN053 Takes to the Skies

 

 

Brent Mayo's First Flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Job Offer: Work from home, learn a lot, make up to $400/hr.

Builders:

I will explain the title a little further into the post, but to start, examine the Corvair powered plane below. It is a brand new 3,000 cc Corvair powered SPA Panther, built by Brent Mayo, of Florida.  Besides the fact that it is an outstanding example of craftsmanship, read this next part slowly: Brent’s builders log shows that he has a total of only 828 hours of work into the plane, 14 months of build time, and this includes building the whole airframe and the Corvair engine for it, all the way through being ready for his FAA inspection.

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Rachel Weseman wrote at story about Brent’s plane on the Panther website. You can read it and see a lot of great pictures of the plane at this link, it is the second story down: https://flywithspa.com/category/panther/ Included in Rachel’s story is a link to Brent’s builders log, it is a treasure of information and pictures, and it clearly documents how little time it took him to do each of the tasks, and total hours for different sections. The log is inarguable testimony that both the Panther airframe, and the Corvair engine can be built in a very reasonable amount of time.

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Above, Brent Mayo’s Panther LS, powered by a 3.000 cc Corvair. It is a done aircraft, awaiting only it’s FAA inspection.  If Brent’s name rings a bell, it is because he was one of the five builders who finished and ran his engine at out first “finishing school” Get a look at this link and spend a few minutes looking at the video of the running engines. Brent’s engine was the first one to run, notice how quickly it starts and runs:  Corvair Finishing School #1, Video report.

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OK, get a look at Brent’s builders log, and see that he has 104 hours under the engine category. Note that this includes installing everything ahead of the firewall. If you break out just the part with is assembling and test running the engine, the hours total only 34 for the assembly and 8 hours more for the test run at the finishing school.

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Conceding that any engine needs to be mounted, cowled, have a prop and spinner installed and be wired, then selecting a Corvair and building it for his plane only added 42 hours to Brent’s total build time. Over the years I have seen plenty of magazine articles saying that “choosing and alternative engine adds a year at least to your build.”  While that might be so for a poorly supported engine that has never been mated to a particular airframe, it clearly doesn’t apply to the Corvair or installing on the Panther, or the other airframes we have long ago proven it on and support with installation components.  The reality is that the decision to use the Corvair, and build it himself, didn’t cost Brent any significant amount of time in his build.

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42 hours is less than 6% of the total of 828 hours invested in the whole plane.  But stop and think for a moment, that a Panther is one of the fastest planes on the market to build.  There are plenty of other good planes out there, but many of them take more than 2,000 hours to build. If you built the same 42 hour Corvair for a plans built fabric covered plane that took 2,000 hours to build, the engine would constitute just 2% of the build time. So much for the “traditional wisdom of experts” who speak on line and at EAA meetings.

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But lets stop and consider what a builder gets who decides to invest 42 hours gets for his time. First, he knows the engine far better than any guy who just buys some imported engine in a box and bolts it on. Second, there is a great satisfaction in building your own engine. I have shaken the hand of 300 builders a moment after their engine started on my stand. You can literally feel a builders pride in their grasp at that moment, it is a genuine, and it is a moment that doesn’t happen for people who buy engines. These are the two best reasons for any builder to select a Corvair.

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A third reason is the title of this story: Consider for a moment, that Brent’s engine is an absolute first class engine that utilizes nearly every part in in the FlyCorvair and SPA/Panther catalog of parts. I am pretty sure it has more than $10K in parts in it. The next least expensive engine option is probably a Jabaru 3300, and because of exchange rates that engine is actually down in price, near $18K.  Rotax and others are north of there, up to the UL-350 somewhere around $30K. They are all reasonably good engines, but just looking at the price vs the 42 hours, Brent saved between $100 and $400 per hour he invested in his Corvair build.

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BTW, the 42 hours isn’t a record. We have a number of people each year that come well prepped to Corvair Colleges, and fully assemble and test run engines in a two and a half day event. Before anyone remotely suggests such engines don’t involve learning or are less than perfect, let me say that I have seen these engines built and run, they are first class, and I was there when they were assembled and can attest that these guys were motivated to do their homework and learned a lot. Open minded people with a plan happen to write a lot of success stories in experimental aviation.

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Before anyone gets too upset or comes back with other calculations or alternatives, let me flat out say that people should use/buy/build which ever engine they like, and it has always been my policy that Corvairs are not for everyone, and I don’t portray them as such, I just say they are a very good option for the right builder. I have owned, built and flown behind many different engines, there are reasons for the right builder to own any of them. The whole purpose of the story is just to illustrate that you can build a Corvair is a short number of hours, it isn’t a significant portion of the total build hours, even on a really quick building plane like a Panther, in comparison to other popular engines it is economical, even when you select the highest end build, and the biggie, that there is a lot to be said for the learning and accomplishment of building an engine yourself.

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There is nothing wrong with a guy who has had a Corvair in his shop for years, and he enjoys tinkering with it. Building the motor isn’t a contest, it is a group of choices and actions that are supposed to teach you things and provide satisfaction when looking at the completed engine.  But know this: I have seen countless guys spend years on internet discussion groups, following people who counsel making all manner of starters, hokey oil systems, and poorly thought out parts, all with the goal of making something ‘unique’ or saving some bucks. Even if that crap worked as well as the stuff we sell and teach people to use, (which it doesn’t) I can still make the case that it is a poor use of your life to spend five years making parts, when better stuff is available that bolts right together in 42 hours, proven systems you can trust. There is nothing ‘unique’ about making one off poorly thought out parts and finding out they cost nearly as much as our stuff, but discovering they don’t fit on your plane, you don’t trust them. This isn’t “unique” at all, people waste years of time and thousands of dollars doing this all the time. Want to do something that will set you apart? Make some smart choices, use proven stuff, build it according to our methods, and go out and enjoy it. In a world of people letting years slide by, deciding that you will not let that happen to you is a unique decision.

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The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics had the following data:

“–Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8
hours per day), accounting for more than half of leisure time, on average,
for those age 15 and over. “

2.8 hours a day is 1022 hours a year.  That is far more time than Brent spent building is whole airplane.  At that rate, it would have only taken him 15 days of TV watching to finish his engine. Is there really anything you saw on TV in the last to weeks that would make you feel like Brent did when his engine fired up?

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“There is a combination of simplicity/effort/money that can get a great number of people flying. You can be one of them, and the odds that you will be go up dramatically if you use my experience to avoid every mistake I made and paid for.”

from: Thought for the Day: Time…..Your enemy.

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-ww.

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Zenith 601’s at Corvair College #36

Builders,

Below, the Zenith 601XL’s of Pat and Mary Hoyt (yellow nose) and Lincoln Probst (blue). Although they are from Minnesota and Canada respectively, they both live in Texas now. They flew over for the college. Although it has been flying for seven or eight years, this was actually the first time I have seen Lincoln’s plane in person Both are powered by 2700cc 100 HP Corvairs, set up with all our standard parts.

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Pat, myself, and Lincoln.

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-ww.

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Kevin Purtee and “The Hat of Power”

Builders:

Last week I wrote a story about the biggest character in the world of Corvairs: Ken “Adonis” Pavlou advises aviators: “Life is short, Live Large” . Today’s chapter in ‘Corvair personalities’ will get a look at the biggest badass in the Corvair movement, Kevin Purtee.

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Using the term ‘badass’ makes people think of a guy walking around with a lot of bravado, but that isn’t what I am speaking of. Kevin doesn’t look like a badass, he is one. In public he has a clean cut look, he has language your mother would approve of, and he has a collection of ‘Hello Kitty’ tee shirts. Under the thin veneer of polite public decorum is a warrior with 26 years of experience flying combat helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache. He finds obscure forms of martial arts entertaining, not to watch, but to participate in. While he places great value on sportsmanship, his super competitive nature as an ‘alpha dog’ shows up when anyone proposes a contest of any sort, but turns this off when inappropriate. The thread connecting many accomplishments in his life is seeking out difficult things and doing them in with great intensity. This includes building his own airframe and engine and flying them hundreds of hours.  He is a great friend to have,,,,and may God have mercy on his enemies.

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All of this makes it very funny when Kevin wears my sock monkey hat, Aka “The Hat of Power.”  It is a great visual twist that subtly says “I can wear this silly hat, or even a pink tutu if I wanted, and I would still be the biggest badass in the room.”

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When you’re a badass like Kevin, any hat you wear is “The Hat of Power.” Read this to get a better look at his aviation professionalism: Thought for the Day: Two paths in managing risk

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Kevin’s nature likes some things to be turned into contests, and this can be very memorable entertainment, if you are a spectator. At Corvair College #32, he got the idea was that he and Mark Chouinard should stand shirtless in the prop blast and see who could take it longer. Mark bowed out, as shown in the photo above taken by Grace in the rain, snow and sleet, but Kevin wanted everyone to know that 36F and raining isn’t really that cold. Note the rain drops  on the lens. Someone figured out that the wind chill in the prop blast was 90 below, even without the water cooling effect. He next time anyone asks if a Corvair college is a typical technical seminar, with power point presentations in the Holiday Inn banquet room, I will pull out this picture, it should cover the difference pretty well.  This photo was part of the story about Kevin’s plane: Current Corvair Installation in a Pietenpol, Part 2

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Kevin was in the first 100 people who bought a conversion manual from me, but I didn’t meet him in person for 13 more years, the day he flew his Pietenpol to Brodhead. This is exactly how I found him. On that day, Kevin had the left main gear on his Piet give out on a touch and go on a muddy spot on the field. With incredible cool and skill, he made a well planned landing on one wheel, after selecting the runway that allowed landing right into the wind. It was about 10 a.m. He was assisted by many members of the local Brodhead Gang, and the plane was back flying by the end of the day. A lot of people were very impressed by the chain of events. Kevin told me that he was moved beyond words by people he had never met before working diligently on his plane with him for eight solid hours.  He was impressively positive, as if nothing were out of the ordinary. It was just the kind of attitude you would expect from a guy whose day job is flying combat helicopters.

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Several years after the above photo, Kevin has a severe accident at the same airport, stemming from having water in the fuel. It was July, the week of Oshkosh. Grace and I went to see him and Shelley in his hospital room. He has a grocery list of damage that would have killed most people, including a smashed femur, collapsed lung, and needing his intestines resected. The doctor came in and said that with a years rehab, Kevin could walk again. Kevin responded by saying “I am going to f—ing run a 5K by November” The doctor smiled and turned to us and politely said “that is the morphine speaking” Shelley said, no, that is who he is everyday.  True to his word, Kevin returned to flight status with the Military and ran the 5K by November.  This story is my primary understanding of Kevin as a badass.

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Kevin’s immerses himself in experimental aviation, he and Shelley putting the finishing touches on their own engine upgrade at Barnwell CC #27.  Everyone who has met him understands him to be a very funny and friendly guy. Kevin is justifiably proud of his 31 years as a warrior, but in the setting of homebuilts, he likes to be thought of as another fellow builder. At the College he wore my sock monkey hat and Shelley had a shirt for him with the ‘hello kitty’ logo embroidered on it. Neither of these two touches worked to fully suppress Kevin’s tough guy nature, but the did very effective show that he has a good sense of humor. Man on the right is long time corvair movement builder Chris Pryce, USAF.

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Most people think of the words ‘narcissist’ or ‘selfish’ when the word badass is applied to someone. Kevin is the guy who proves they don’t have to be attached. At Corvair College #27, we presented Kevin and Shelley The Cherry Grove Trophy for their outstanding service to other builders in the Corvair movement. Although he is intense, Kevin channels this in the Corvair community to encourage others to operate with greater understanding and productivity.

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Here is an example of how the “The Hat of Power” doesn’t work for other people:  Above, fellow Piet builder, 6’5″ Mark Chouinard donned the hat right after his engine ran at Corvair College #30, to test the hat’s ‘magic.’ Although Mark is a tough guy (his Facebook page has testimonials from numerous friends about his outstanding skills with belt-fed weapons in the Army), the Hat of power didn’t have the same effect on him as it does with Kevin. Mark remained his friendly self. With Kevin, it is like meeting captain ‘Quint’ from the film Jaws.

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Another example of the Hat not working: In the case of Terry Hand, the Hat did more to bring out the wise-ass than the bad-ass. Terry has a wicked sense of humor, ‘refined’ by years in the Marine Corps. Above he is intentionally provoking an inter-service rivalry by wearing the “Hat of Power” normally reserved just for Kevin. This, like Mark trying it on, is a major protocol violation.  This is what led to the shirtless artic contest with Mark. In Terry’s case Kevin is still dreaming up the ‘contest.’

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The photo above is from late at night, Barnwell College #31. Terry and fellow Marine Andy Shorter were joking around saying things like “The Marines have been sent in Force…Two….why so many?” We expect this stuff on the day before the birthday of the Corps (Nov. 10).

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 Kevin lives two lives in aviation: His day job is piloting an Apache helicopter and his passion is his Pietenpol and his part in that community. Symbolic of his wearing two hats in aviation is the fact he’s wearing a sock monkey knit hat while making a serious point on his introduction speech at one of the four Corvair Colleges that He and Shelley Tumino have hosted.

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In a typical season of airshows, I meet thousands of people, and with them come a small handful of trolls, I am pretty good at dealing with them, but even after 27 years, some of them are still grating. Many years ago I unexpectedly found Kevin at the Brodhead Pietenpol fly in, he had just returned from a deployment and flown his plane up from Texas. It was about 7am, and we had just barely greeted each other, when a troll, an “professional homebuilder” came up and told Kevin that his airplane wasn’t right. Not a question of airworthy, the man who frequently criticized the planes of others on appearance,  told Kevin that the cosmetics of his plane were not original nor ‘correct.’

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Kevin’s response was to put a big smile on his face and explain to the ‘professional’, that homebuilding to Kevin was just fun, and he didn’t do it as a ‘professional’ like the troll did, and Kevin’s plane only had to look right to him.  Kevin looked they guy in the face and  said he liked to keep his fun flying separate from his work flying, because “At work I kill people for a living”.  Kevin gave him a friendly slap on the back and sent him along. I was impressed because it didn’t even raise Kevin’s blood pressure, he shrugged it off, explaining that tolerating that guy and trying to be nice to him would have been stressful, and sharing a different perspective was no problem at all.

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If I have made Kevin sound rough and without charm, let the photo above be a correction. Kevin and Shelley, having dinner at the White House. Above, they sit in front of a portrait of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the Vermeil Room. The event was to honor Iraq war veterans. Kevin was chosen to represent the State of Texas at the dinner. While his accomplishments in experimental aviation are a standout, it means a lot more when you consider that he spent most of his building years deployed.

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Ken “Adonis” Pavlou advises aviators: “Life is short, Live Large”

Builders,

In the Corvair movement, we have many characters, and space for plenty more, but no aviator in the world of Corvairs is a bigger character than Ken “Adonis” Pavlou……and this man has a simple message for his fellow aviators: Live Large.

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Ken holds The Cherry Grove Trophy, 2014 at CC#31 Barnwell. His aircraft is named “The Blue Speedo.”  The humorous origin of the name is best left unprinted and only related verbally between adults with Ken’s sense of humor.

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A bit of background: Ken was born in rural Greece, and he didn’t speak a word of English when he was 9 years old and entered the 4th grade in Connecticut. Ken shares the story of a slightly awkward kid with a lisp from the land which was the butt of many childhood jokes. Think you had a difficult day being the ‘new kid’? On his first day he brought a roasted goat’s head to school for lunch. But inside that small schoolboy surrounded by screaming classmates lived the indomitable sprit  of a character who was destined to live life in one size only… large.

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Fast forward 35 years; Ken is literally a renaissance man, and insomniac-genius who packs two working days into every 24 hours and still has 8 hours to entertain himself. The happily married father of two, he is a critical care nurse and the state ballroom dancing champion of Connecticut.  He is guru on electronics, mathematics, and finance. He professionally plays traditional Greek music, and much, much more…..Oh, yeah, and he built and flies his own plane, including building the engine for it.  When Grace commented on Ken’s depth and breath of knowledge, he took a long drag on his cigarette and said  “The mind of Aristotle, but the Body of Adonisand so the most popular nickname was born.

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I have known Ken for 10 years. I met him when I was driving a plane on a trailer from Florida to Boston. I was exhausted, it was midnight and a giant snowstorm was starting. I was thinking of stopping at Ken’s.  Within a few minutes Ken convinced me that the snow would clear I-95 of all the ‘amateur drivers’, we would have the whole road to ourselves, 4wd was crutch for lesser drivers, and we would make great time, be back by sunrise, and he knew a great diner we could hit on the way back.  This was my introduction to Ken’s ‘live large’ concept.  He took over when I drove too slow, rolled the windows down, chain smoked and told hilarious stories.  In the decade since, I have never known the man to shrink from any adventure. He is a 300 pound bull in life’s china shop of timidity. After a lifetime of reading about Teddy Roosevelt,  I believe a few days with Ken gave me far more insight into what TR’s world looked like.

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What do you do when you encounter a 300 pound Greek guy with an I.Q. of 160 and a wicked sense of humor? Make friends with him seems the best option. Ken is the very definition of infectious fun, a pied piper of things you thought you were too old to still do. You will laugh at stories like “the airport manager and the shovel” and “the 100 mph minivan”.  While many ‘characters’ are a one hit wonder you quickly tire of, Ken is the opposite.  Ask me about dressing him in a black suit and thin tie, putting a fez and wrap-around 1960’s sunglasses on him, and introducing him as “Kamal Mustafa, my attorney.”  He is versatile, and always the center of the fun. He could give lessons on swagger to guys from the Dominican Republic. But through it all, he rolls with the motto “Life is short – Live Large”

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Many people Know Ken because he has flown is Corvair powered 601XL to events all over the country, nearly 400 hours on the meter in the first two years. This includes two trips to Oshkosh and a number of Colleges. We awarded him the Cherry Grove trophy in 2014 for is outstanding work behind the scenes supporting Corvair builders and the Colleges.  In technical settings, he is a wealth of experience, assisting other builders, in social settings, he makes every evening memorable, right up to the point where people trying to keep up with him can’t remember what happened.  At Oshkosh 2015, a number of friends all stayed at our tent late, after the cookout and night airshow. Several of them staged a misguided attempt to keep up with Ken. It was a beautiful night and lots of fun, and one by one I relieved them of their car keys after they traded a little stuffy dignity for youthful fun. It ended at 3am with just Ken and I awake. He then gave a very interesting take on the mistakes of Athens in the 2nd Peloponnesian war while we looked up at a starry night.  At sunrise he made a big pot of coffee and revived our sleeping friends, saying “drink this, I’m a medical professional” , the same thing he had said at 2am.

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The point of this: Your workplace is filled with people who talk cool, but have lives that consist of fantasy football, drink special night at Applebee’s and talking crap about other people. When you mentioned building and flying your own plane, they mocked it and called it crazy, because they needed to disguise the fact they are scared little people and they almost wet their pants when you said it.

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Everyone building a plane should feel the same swagger as Ken, but sadly they don’t.  They should walk around knowing they have set themselves apart from the masses, but instead they get side tracked by defensive ‘Geeky-ness’ brought on by the critique of non flying people. This is unfortunate and unnecessary. These people just need to channel their inner “Adonis”.

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The easiest place to see this is in builder discussion groups on line, and the common expression for it is endless talk, to the point of compulsive behavior, over “Saving weight.”  Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot about building planes and I am not advocating intentionally making them heavy, but it is easy to spot the new builder who is endlessly concerned about if his plane is ‘worth building at all’ if it is going to weigh 20 pounds more than others, which many without a flying plane have determined to be ‘ideal’ empty weight. This is sad, because they are concerned that the success of their project will be measured on a scale, with some number, determined by others to be a ‘failure’.

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Here is the real “failure” in homebuilding: If any builder misses the opportunity to understand that by merely choosing to build and fly his own plane, he has set himself apart from the timid people who were so afraid of ‘failing’ that they didn’t even get in the arena.  Second, if a builder gets too comfortable as a perennial ‘builder’, taking their guidance from other perennial builders, fixtures on the net, rather than pilots who are finished and out there flying like Ken. The real failure is not adopting the mindset of Ken Pavlou, who is out there in the arena, having a great time, unconcerned about the judgments or others on the net. Homebuilding is your opportunity to live a facet of your life as a lion, and you will not experience this by exchanging emails on builders groups. If you are going to let others determine if you are a failure, just save yourself a lot of time and money and head back to Applebees with the rest of the co-workers.

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Read this: The installed weight difference between a Rotax 912 and a 3,000 cc Corvair is about 40 pounds. The installed weight difference between an FAA standard person and Ken Pavlou is about 130 pounds. If a new guy read the hand wringing on the net over how ‘terrible’ the performance of a 601 would be with 40 extra pounds, he would have to conclude that it would barely leave the ground with Ken, far less Ken and a Corvair, and not get airborne at all with Ken, a Corvair, a loaded airframe, and a passenger……and yet Ken has 380 flight hours on his plane, all saying his reality is more accurate than the theory of people making internet pronouncements over 40 pounds.  Keep in mind that Ken is also using the smallest Corvair we suggest building, the 2,700cc engine.

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Much of what people say about weight on the net is wrong, or ridiculous oversimplifications: I have a degree from Embry-Riddle, and I was a stellar student on the subject of Performance. and I am in a good position to call BS on many things people say, including often quoted paragons like Tony Bingelis. He was a ‘nice guy’ and wrote useful tips, but he was out of his element on performance. His books are one of the chief sources keeping old wives tails alive. Look through his books and notice the complete lack of testing or calculation to back up his claims on props or weight. His statement saying that weight hurts a planes glide ratio is patently false. Weight of a plane affects sink rate, but has absolutely no effect on glide ratio, and this holds true for any plane, 601XL or B-52. If you doubt me on this, go ask any competition sailplane pilot why they add water ballast in a sport where glide ratio is everything.

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Another example:  “If a 912 is 40 pounds less than a Corvair, the 912 will have 40 pounds more useful load right?” This is a ridiculous oversimplification, and not usefully true. To actually understand aircraft performance is to know that planes can “Gross out, cube out or CG out”. This means that the limit, depending on the specific case loading, can be set by the plane reaching it’s gross weight, running out of interior volume, or running out of the aft limit on the CG range.  Anyone who makes a statement about useful load without checking the specific case of this last factor is not qualified to be giving you comparative advise, period.  I put a lot of work into designing our Corvair installation in 2003 to insure that it’s maximum take off weight was not limited by reaching it’s aft CG limit. I flew our 601XL at 1525 pounds (on a 105F day), and it was safe because it was in CG. Ken’s plane will not reach the aft limit until the plane weighs 1625 pounds, and it has been flight tested at such weight.  Anyone on the net tempted to argue CG with me should review some of my credentials on the subject: Pietenpol Weight and Balance project. It is a topic I know very well.

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If you are sitting at home reading this in front of a Computer, and anyone has said something about the weight of ‘auto engines’ that has made you reluctant to have faith in yours, understand that those people don’t known enough to give you advice, and we have plenty of flying examples like this: 16 Flying Corvair powered Zenith 601/ 650s to prove my point.

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If you are sitting at home reading this in front of a Computer, and like most American men in homebuilding, you weigh a lot more than the FAA imaginary 170 pound person, don’t let any techno-geek posting how critical he thinks 5 pounds it to the ‘success’ of a homebuilt affect your positive determination to build, finish and fly your plane. The whole point of homebuilding is to get you to the self reliant mindset, where you follow positive flying examples rather than listen to people who still live in a world of doubt and fear.  You deserve to have your own adventures like this: 1,500 mile Corvair College flight in a 601XL , and when your plane done and proven, and you fly to a College or Oshkosh, and are greeted by the warm welcome of others who rejected the negative techno-geeks, I have only one further suggestion, If Ken is there, don’t let him talk you into “just one small glass of tequila.”

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Above, A 2014 picture of the five Corvair powered Zeniths that flew into Corvair College #30, all parked for a photo in front of the Zenith Factory  The engine installation on these planes are clones of the one we developed in our own 601XL 12 years ago.  Read more here: Corvair College #30 Good Times and here: Corvair College #30 Running Engines

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Corvair College #33, Mid Florida at Eustis Airport, April 17-19, 2015

Builders, here is a photo report on Corvair College #33:

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The major change in this year’s spring Florida College was the location: With just 19 days to go, we opted to change from the county airport we had planned on, to a privately owned, public use grass airport just 14 miles away. The shift turned out to be an excellent improvement, and made all the difference in the experience of Corvair College #33.

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Above, Bob Lester’s Pietenpol at CC #33, with the Ercoupe  and a Luscombe in the background. Bob gave an intro flight to almost all of the Pietenpol builders on hand. The airport is our new spring College location, Mid Florida at Eustis.

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Our new location’s full name Is “Mid Florida at Eustis.” It is a privately owned, public use, grass airport, with beautifully kept grounds. It is in the 12 o’clock position on the extreme northern perimeter of the greater Orlando area. Its identifier is X55. It is an airport completely focused on flying for pleasure and sport.

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Because of its private ownership, it is an integrated part of the neighborhood where it is located; entering the airport grounds is like finding a welcome park, in contrast to the fencing, gates and barbed wire that most county airports have adopted in the past decade. Our Colleges are educational, friendly and social events. They fit  in much better at a grass airport than one that could be mistaken for a maximum security prison.

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As nice as the location is, it is the ownership and management of Mid Florida at Eustis that sets the airport atmosphere, and makes it a standout. The field is owned by a gentleman universally known as “Rama.” In person he is very modest, but clearly of considerable personal success. He speaks of the airport, with its tree-lined green grounds, as an important peaceful refuge from a hectic world.  I had a single 20-minute meeting with him to explain what a Corvair College was, and he was captivated by the idea, and immediately made his facility and staff available to us. It struck me as the way of traditional aviation; a meeting of ideas, a handshake, and on to progress.

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Rex Wyatt, the airport manager, took every effort to support our College. In an era where many counties find their airport manager by calling HR and asking for any bureaucrat with an MBA, Rex is a reminder of the time when the title “Airport Manager” was reserved for the most experienced aviator on the field, a friendly but firm man of character. He is also quietly modest, but in conversation it is revealed that he flew F-84Fs, helicopters out of Pleiku, and continues to this day flying corporate jets. On the lighter side, he has an impressive GA background that includes being a longtime EAA member and having an enviable collection of classic American light aircraft. With some quiet pride, he shared that his grandson will shortly be attending Embry-Riddle. Having a manager with this depth of experience sets the tone for a friendly, but professional location.

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The airport provided spacious grassy camping areas shaded by live oak trees, next to a small lake. They set us up in a clean hangar, put up a large tent as a dining hall, and provided for every detail. The groundskeeper, Mr. Leroy, who lives adjacent to the airport, was available 24/7 throughout the event. He attended to the smallest point, such as finely mowing the camping area. When I tried to explain to him that Corvair builders were low key and didn’t require “the red carpet,” he smiled and simply said, “Rama said you were to be welcomed here,” and went back to his work. This welcome is part of Rama’s personal philosophy and has nothing to do with economics; the hangars are near full occupancy, they do not sell fuel, and there was little expectation that many of the College builders would be back before next year.  I spent some time thinking about how these men were solely motivated by a basic pride in their airport and its good reputation, the factor that makes all the difference.

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Above, first day of the College, builders gather around for a detailed inspection and discussion of rocker arms. Corvair Colleges are a mixture of small group discussions and individual progress.

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Some Colleges have many cores being taken down, others have lots of engine going to the test stand. #33 saw many of the former, a good indication that we always have many new people getting started in the Corvair movement. My sidekick, Vern Stevenson on the left, and 750 builder Lane Seidel on the right. Lane has been to a number of Colleges, and having worked in nuclear power operations for decades, he has a professional’s take on procedures and quality control that fits well with aviation.

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Above, a number of case assemblies were closed at the College, and I gave a demonstration on installing a Weseman 5th bearing on Saturday morning, which was replicated by a number of builders on their own engines. I keep a Weseman installation kit in my College tool box. It was supplied by Dan and Rachel to assist us in showing builders how to install their bearings at Colleges. Their builders who work at home can borrow an identical field kit from them. Even builders who just came to observe saw how simple the installation was.

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It was warm weather, and dining outside made more sense. Everyone who signed up was fed catered food all weekend and all they could drink, all out of our modest fee. 100% of the collected money goes right back into the event directly. Central Florida has many well known BBQ houses, and Grace selected Black Bear Smokehouse to provide us with vats of pulled pork and brisket, and plenty of side dishes.

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Hot weather isn’t really conducive to gorging one’s self, but builders at the College did a great job anyway, loading up on seconds. All the breakfasts were catered by the local Bob Evans, because eating BBQ three meals a day isn’t considered a balanced diet in today’s nutritional guidelines.

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The smaller nature of #33 led to a lot of close attention between myself and builders. Even at big Colleges like Barnwell, I meet with every builder personally, but #33 afforded more individual time. The spiffy new wash tank is part of my program of buying 4 of many of the pieces of College equipment and leaving them on site for the following year. Before the College, Vern, Lynn Dingfelder and myself made eight new 4’x8′ tables that can be disassembled and packed for any College where we need to assure space for more builders. They are sturdy enough to have 4 engines built on them at the same time.

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Pictured above are 12 cases, already chemically cleaned and machined to accept 3,000 cc cylinders. A number of builders sent their case in advance, and we processed it and they picked it up and started assembling it at the College. The price of this is included in the 3,000 cc kits we sell, but we are glad to break it out as a separate $300 charge, to allow builders to budget closing the case, and pay the balance of the piston, cylinder and rod kit later.

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Out of the blue, the early Corvair convertible above showed up 3 hangars down – the owner had no idea that there were 36 other Corvair engines 200 feet away.

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Above, on Saturday night after dinner, we had an “unplugged” gig from our friend Ron Thomas and his friend Ren. (The full band goes by the name “Afterburner.”)  They covered a number of tunes from the 1970s, including a powerful version of the song “Sandman” by the band America. Ron, who is singing above, is a native of New Orleans, and has made a living in music all his life.

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Ron has met a number of Corvair builders at our Oshkosh booth over the past two years. He is a pilot, an Ercoupe owner and fan, just getting to know experimentals. At Oshkosh 2013, he met Pat and Mary Hoyt when they flew in with their yellow and polished 601XL. At Oshkosh 2014, Ron got out of his truck after driving 1,300 miles solo, walked past a yellow and polished RV-12 being filmed, mistook it for Pat and Mary’s plane, and promptly said to the guy in front of the camera, “Dude, Pat and Mary, what great people! These Corvair/Zeniths rock!”  Ron said the guy being filmed had some kind of childish negative reaction. I later walked down to the Van’s aircraft booth with Ron, and when he pointed the guy out, I thought it was funny because it was Richard VanGrunsven.

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Above, Fisher celebrity builder Skip Beattie, Grace and myself in front of the hangar. Vern’s “Aerotrike” nose on the left in the picture.

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Above, late night Scoob E sits in his chair while the three rules sign is displayed.  Grace painted this several years ago, and it has been to all colleges since. The top is self explanatory: Politics is not an allowable topic of conversation. The second isn’t in the same context that John Lenon used it in the song Imagine, We use it in the sense that I consider faith a private matter, and the diversity of builders at the Colleges means that it is merely good manners to be quietly respectful of others. Anyone who has attended any of the 5 Colleges in Barnwell knows that P.F. Beck and crew start the dinner with a prayer to give thanks and a moment of silence to remember those past. The two words on the sign are to remind a small number of people the popular understanding of the term “Pious” implied a faith that was evident in deeds, and not spoken of. The third line is a reference to the notion that you can’t build a good American engine with torque wrenches made in a police state like the People’s Republic of China.

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Above, dinner time in the chow tent.  Vern Stevenson is standing in the red shirt, his Aerotrike, half Lancair 320 and half Geo Metro, is in the background. It has 18,000 miles on it now. Under Florida’s open minded Motor Vehicle code, it is considered a motorcycle. Behind it is its custom tiny 4×8′ 5th wheel trailer Vern built for it.

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Above, gratuitous dog photo. Scoob E was very happy to be at the College, but 7am on Sunday, he makes the “get started without me” face.

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The Last Man Standing Photo: From left above are Lane Seidel, Jack Reynolds, Grace and Scoob E, Richard Tomanio, Lynn Dingfelder, Bill Reynolds and Robert Audsley. Colleges have a tradition of a handful of builders staying late to get in the last wrenching and assist with the pack up. This crew was great assistance.

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If it looks like it was fun and productive, that is because it was. We are looking forward to another College in Eustis next year. Don’t miss it. -ww.

Gary Boothe’s Pietenpol, flying video

Builders,

Here is a link to a 5 minute You-tube video of Gary Boothe flying his Corvair powered Pietenpol around the pattern in his home state of California:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3aWGxwgSuw

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Above, Gary stands with the plane in a rear quarter view. It is a beautiful period piece of aviation, but it utilizes a fully up to date Corvair engine with electric start and a 5th bearing.

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Above, One of my favorite photos of the Corvair movement,  Gary Boothe on the left and Patrick Hoyt on the right point to their hometowns on a map at Brodhead in 2009. These two builders are featured in this story and the one before. They are both out flying and having a great time in planes they built, powered by engines they built. I know them both, they are different individuals, but they share the fundamental perspective that homebuilding should be distilled to “Learn, build and Fly.”

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To get the background of Gary’s building and flying, read this:

New Pietenpol, Gary Boothe, Cool, Calif.

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