An Email came in tonight from our “Senior Ranking Builder” (S-R-B) Dick Otto in California. At the end of this month, he will be 95 years old. I have known Dick for a number of years, and we have links below to some of the past stories about him. Builders at west cost events like CC#11, have had a chance to meet him in person. He is an inspiration because he didn’t get into homebuilding until he was 86 years old! Not an issue, and neither is being a student pilot, as he enjoys flight training. Dick built his own 2700cc Corvair with a Dan bearing, and is now nearing completion of his 601XL airframe he started in 2008. Sure that is a few years, but keep in mind that Dick is a busy guy, and most of his plane was built from plans.
From Dick’s latest letter:
“I am on the last leg now. The wings, ailerons, and flaps are finished and painted waiting in my hanger for the fuselage. I do not know if Woody told you but I built it from the plans buying only the steel welded parts, landing gear and canopy from Zenith. I have primed the fuselage and will paint it before going to the hanger. Contra Costa County the owner of the airport and hangers does not allow painting in the hangers. The rudder, elevator and stabilizer are still in need of painting. I hope to have the plane to be all put together this summer. I willthen go over the whole plane to see where I forgot a cotter pin or safety wire some nuts. All in all I have enjoyed the project and the learning experience. The only part that is hard for me is getting out of the cockpit. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get out. My next project is going to be the 701 or 750. I will be 95 at the end of the month. I am taking lessons to fly with the Travis Aero Club at the Rio Vista Airport. My instructor required 3 good landings in a row. My first two were OK but I could not come up with the third one. I did manage to do about 2 good ones about 30 times. I want to let you know that I go to Fly Corvair . net every morning after breakfast and read your writings. Surprisingly I agree with you at least 95% of what you say.”
One of the great things about having Dick as our soon to be 95 year old builder is having an occasional 65 year old guy ask me if he is too old to get into building and flying, and being able to show him Dick’s project and say, “You better hurry, you may only have 30 years left.”
Thanks for the update Dick, keep us all in the loop. For any of you guys who want to write Dick personally, or wish him an early birthday, his email is: email@example.com .
From Corvair College #11, 2007. “Standing beside me at right above is Dick Otto, Corvair builder from Northern California. Although Dick just got into Corvairs this year, he brought an entire collection of engine parts meticulously prepped. We used his stuff to demonstrate case assembly and installing the piston-rings-cylinder assemblies. Dick was a real trooper, working during the chilly mornings and staying late into the night. He drove about 100 miles to get to the College, and to stay close to the action, he chose to camp out near the airport. As it was Veterans Day, Dick shared with us the experience of crewing a self-propelled 105 mm in a U.S. Division drive into Germany in Spring 1945. Now read this sentence slowly: Dick Otto is 86 years old. He logged time in the mid-1930s, but has not piloted an aircraft since. He has a common story where a youthful love of aviation is interrupted by the responsibilities of a family life. But he’s absolutely serious about returning to aviation after a short 70-year break. If his prep work for the College is any indication, I’d say he’s a strong bet to take to the air again.”
Below is a look at the Pietenpol project of the CC#32 local hosts Kevin Purtee and Shelley Tumino. It is about 85% done. It is an extensive update on their old Piet. The photos offer a good look at what the most current Corvair installation on a Piet looks like.
In the descriptions, I am going to demonstrate how the modern part numbering system we use in our manuals, Web sites and communications makes describing and understanding the engine and its installation much more accurate and allows builders to visualize their own installation. The numbering system is universal: It applies to all Corvair powered planes, not just Pietenpols. You can get a general overview here: Group Sources for the new numbering system.
Above, a general view of the engine. It is a 2700cc / 100hp engine with a Weseman Gen 2 fifth bearing on a GM 8409 crank. It was test run at CC #24 ( Corvair College #24, reviewed in pictures, part three. ) All the information on cranks in our numbering system is in Group 1000. Weseman 5th bearings is Group 3000. Both of these are covered in this discussion : Jump Start Engines – part #4 , which is just one of the links from typing the term “group 1000” in the search block on our website. The group in covered in great detail in our new manual as chapter #1. ( Brand New 250 page 2014 Manual- Done )
Above, the other side of the engine. Visible at the top is the starter. Everything on starters is Group 2400. Kevin’s engine is equipped with one of our new ultra light weight systems: 2400-L Starter . This system is a complete group, and ordering one off our products page covers everything in Group 2400, including the ring gear #2408, the mounting brackets #2402-L , the top cover #2405, the gasket #2406 and the hardware #2407.
Kevin’s plane has one of our Electronic / Points ignition systems, #3301- E/P. The ignition systems are in Group 3300.
Above, shows the Stainless Pietenpol exhaust we make. Exhaust systems are Group 3900. We have sold a number of 3901-C exhausts to Piet builders with standard motor mounts, but our high thrust line mount does not fit that exhaust because the mount is 3″ longer than the one that was in the Pietenpol plans. Thus we have developed a new part number 3901-E, just for Pietenpols with our #4201-C motor mount.
Oil pans and installation parts are Group 2200. The Gold billet oil pan pictured is #2201-B. The new manual covers every detail of the engine, not just the parts we sell. For example, the motor mount bushings are #4203 and the mounting bolts are #4204. The book explains what they are and where to buy them directly. These parts have a #42xx number, because they are in the chapter with motor mounts.
Above, Kevin’s simple panel. Do not mistake his panel for an indicator of his skill set with aircraft. He has spent 25 years as a combat Helicopter pilot, he holds an ATP, and has several hundred hours in Pietenpols. Often, the most experienced pilots make the most appropriate choices when it comes to instrumentation in particular planes. Almost without fail, when a guy tells me he is going to put “Full IFR” instruments in a plane like a KR-2 or a 601, It means he has 0.0 hours flying on instruments in light aircraft. I do not blame these builders for such choices. Homebuilders have been bombarded with countless stories and thinly veiled marketing campaigns promoting excessive instrumentation in homebuilt planes for the last 25 years. Put what ever you like in your own plane, I am only suggesting an honest and careful evaluation of what will serve you, in place of just going with what is in magazines or is being promoted by dealers.
Above, the back side of the panel, and the passenger seat. The name is a reference to the film, “The Great Waldo Pepper.”
Above, the pilots seat. Kevin’s planes was one of the 30 Pietenpols that I weighed for the Weight and Balance project. ( Pietenpol Weight and Balance project ) Many of the planes we measured that had Continental A-65 engines had chronic aft CG issues, partial because that engine is lighter than a Corvair or a Ford Model A, but mostly because few Piet builders took the time to read the plans carefully, including the Weight and balance sheet provided by the Pietenpol family. Kevin planned better, and his plane could take a 300 pound pilot without going out of the aft CG limit.
We have just returned from a very successful CC#26 and Zenith open house. It was a great time, and over the next few nights I am going to write up all of the stories and moments from the trip. For tonight, a simpler task to get back into daily writing and updates; Let me share a few notes on Corvair builder and friend Larry Hudson.
Larry is a master automotive upholster and top craftsman. He comes from a family that has worked this craft for several generations. After Oshkosh I dropped off the seats from our Wagabond at Larry’s shop in Indiana. As I said then, it is no average production shop, the main car they we doing at the time was a 1959 Caddy Eldorado coupe in coral pink (a factory color). Larry is a guy you can trust with a unique interior in a car worth more than $75K. As seen below, he also does outstanding work on aircraft that are worth a small fraction of that. Larry stopped by CC#26 to drop of the seats. Larry knows that I like dirt simple aircraft with no frills, but said “Just trust me to do something good and simple…I will make it look old school and appropriate.” All I did was tell him the colors I painted the plane (Insignia blue and Nevada silver), mention that I like very firm seats, and he did the rest. The price was reasonable, the quality outstanding, and I think they are very tasteful. I sat in it today, and it was great.
Above, the seats back in our plane in our hangar. Our Wagabond started out life as a 1964 Piper Colt, and although it is highly modified, it retains the lightweight, folding, independently adjustable, quickly removable seats of the late model PA-22’s.
The seats are half vinyl half cloth, with custom made beading made from the cloth. The computer is making the cloth look shiny but in person it isn’t. I am always glad to mention the craftsmanship of builders we know, and this case is no different. If you are looking for interior work on your plane, give Larry a call and talk it over with him, he is a very friendly guy and a first class craftsman. His number is 317-965-2428.
Also, Larry wanted to mention that he has a fuselage for sale. It is a 1952 Piper PA-20 pacer, with the tail and landing gear, a mint set of Cleveland wheels and brakes and many other small parts. Like many of us, Larry has too many projects, and he is trimming his aircraft herd down to his own PA-22-108 and his Corvair powered Fokker D-VIII. The Pacer fuselage is identical in size to our Wagabond. Larry has a set of Wag Aero plans to go with it. The FAA frowns upon directly using parts from previously certified aircraft in homebuilts today, but people still do it with the assistance of a friendly and partially blind DAR (this is when they overlook things but can still see the color Green) If you are interested in the fuselage and parts give Larry a call he is asking $2,000. It would save a lot of work on a Wagabond project.
Also, Larry has a Corvair core engine in good shape for sale. The top end has late model 110 heads, but the bottom of the engine is from a 140hp model and has a factory nitride crank. If this crank is in good shape, you can have it cleaned, magnafluxed and polished, mate it with a Gen 1 Dan bearing and use it directly, a bargain in building and a time saver. He is selling the Core for $375, and it is complete. He is planning on traveling to CC#27 in Barnwell in November, so if you buy it but live on the East Coast, perhaps he can meet you at the college. -ww
Blast From the Past, Corvair College #4, 2003. Above, Larry Hudson and his son Cody working on the Corvair that is in their Fokker D-VIII today. Over the years Larry and his family have been to 10 Colleges. Long known as a good source of core engines in the Midwest, he has often pointed out that he has found more than 60 within 40 miles of his house. Further proof that Corvairs are still plentiful everywhere.
Following up on the topic of flat heads, here is the flagship of our personal flat head fleet. Pictured is a tiny flat head Ford from a 1948 Anglia. If you know model A’s, this engine will look very familiar.
Above, the busy side. This is a four-cylinder engine, but it is only 71 cubic inches. It has a nominal HP rating or 8 or 10 by some English taxation system, but its actual power output is about 20 ponies. This engine came in a very small car, a 1948 Anglia, built by Ford in England. I got the engine from Vern, who had it for 25 or 30 years. I have motored it over with a very powerful drill, and it has good compression. The only thing missing is the starter. The transmission is a 3 speed that would fit in a coffee can. The engine was built in England, but the design is pure Ford.
For size, that is a 12″ ruler sitting on the head. the item ay the lower right is an external water pump. The clutch is a 6″ unit. For a while I thought about making a 3/4 scale Pietenpol Sky scout with it, then gave some thought to re-engining our tiny Case tractor with it. It is a bite sized marvel of simplicity, and it makes you day dream of a use for it.
As an aside, I looked on the web and found that the starter is very easy to buy from clubs and shops in England where Angilas were predominantly sold. There are car clubs that restore and drive them there. The main thing Americans did with Anglias was use the bodies for dragsters.
Above, a blown, injected Big Block Chevy powers this American ’48 Anglia. It will run a 1/4 mile in the mid seven second range. Thats zero to 180 mph in less than eight seconds. This car probably has 75 times the original power output of the little flat head.
When I contacted the people in England, a funny thing happened: They refused to sell me any part, including a manual for the engine. They pointed out that their website said “Absolutely no sales to Americans.” When I asked why, I was told that they were ‘afraid of being sued.’ I politely asked if they had ever heard of a single person in the US who had ever sued anyone in England over any vehicle part. They couldn’t name one, but they had decided to live in fear of this, even though there is no legal mechanism to allow it to happen. I pointed out that I was not likely to get hurt in a 20 hp car. No luck. Just because I am a jackass, I asked them if a guy wrote them from Pakistan and said he needed a part to finish the car bomb he had made out of an Anglia so he could drive it down to the market place, could he buy it? Answer: “Well, we don’t have any rules against that, so yes, but we do have rules against selling to Americans.”
Above, Nevil Shute. Pilot, builder, enginner and writer.
We have a number of friends in Great Britain. 145 years ago 50% of my DNA lived there. My favorite Aero engineer of all time is Nevil Shute. I have a 1959 Triumph 650. On the topic of English history, I am the most well read American most people have ever met. I like many things about the people there, but in many ways, today’s Britons live in a fear driven bureaucracy I would find maddening. Not only are they afraid of impossible lawsuits, you find other things like flying a Corvair there is illegal (technically it is under review, but is has been so for 10 years.) You can not build a Pietenpol in Britain, because the design was deemed, without any evidence, to be horribly dangerous. The Pietenpols in Britain look like ours, but their government paid professionals to design a new structure for it, presumably in the name of ‘safety.’ Fair enough: Would you like to build their ‘better’ version? You can’t, because of course they will not sell Americans the drawings.
Above, A man, a plane and an engine. In Britain, by bureaucratic decree, he is a dangerous person to be stopped, the design unairworthy, the engine not to be flown. Here, the engine flies by the hundreds, the plane has been built for eight decades, and the man is hailed as the patron saint of homebuilding. The Atlantic is very wide, but the gulf between perspectives is wider.
In the history of aviation Britain has had many outstanding pilots engineers and builders. They made many fantastic designs. If you like motorcycles, you know that the British ruled the roads for 50 years. They made great machines, even if we like to make fun of Lucas electrics. If their traditional creativity was unleashed, many people in America would be flying British designed and kitted experimentals, instead of the tiny fraction of their designs that are flown here. But somewhere along the line, for reasons I don’t claim to understand, they dropped out of the running.
A man I have never met, named Francis Donaldson, has been the sole person in Great Britain passing judgement over what people there will be allowed to build. As far as I can tell, he does this on his own personal whim. He has been in charge of this since 1990, yes, the same job, one guy 23 years. Many people from England have told me he is a nice guy, but I am not inclined to like a person who has been telling people for 23 years that a Pietenpol, a plane flying here for 84 years, is unairworthy.
Maybe if I was raised to believe that I was a ‘subject’, that God selected a king to rule me, and that a type of human called an ‘aristocrat’ was a better ‘class’ than me, I would have much more tolerance for one man arbitrarily making decisions for me. But alas, 50% of my ancestors left that behind when they got in 4th class steerage to come here, a land where they would be judged by their hard work and ethics, not their ‘class status.’ I am just another one of those “Crass Colonials” who doesn’t know his place, who will never understand the wisdom of a life appointment bureaucrat making decisions for me.
If you live on this side of the pond, and you like airplanes, go back to the family tree and thank the person who had the wisdom to get on the boat. Over the years, I have heard aviators who were political extremists from both sides of the fence make the stupid comment “If so and so wins, I am leaving.” What a joke. It would be nice if everyone who ever said that did us a favor and followed through, but I can’t think of a single one who ever did. This is your proof that things are not perfect for aviators here, just better than anywhere else.
Tonight, perhaps 200 people in America are going out to their workshops, to put in a few hours of progress on their Corvair powered Pietenpol project. When completed, many of these planes will be masterpieces like Mike Groahs, Gary Boothe’s and Kurt Shipman’s. Most will be good solid planes, and a handful will be pieces of feces. Every one of them can get an airworthyness cert. for phase one flight testing because the neither the FAA nor a DAR can deny a builder one. Here we believe that humans should be in charge of their own lives, including the potential to end these lives. Truly ironic that Darwin was from England, but we are the ones who recognize his genius in social engineering. This, in place of a lifetime bureaucrat is the single biggest reason why American designs dominate the world-wide homebuilt market.
We are not better than other people, we are not special humans. Unless your family was here in 1491, we are the other people, a nation of people from somewhere else. In this experiment, the people are the same, only the system is different. We have a system that allows the individuals who are better, work harder and are gifted to rise to the top. I don’t feel better than fellow aviators elsewhere, I just feel lucky to be here, working in our system. Some people here like to gripe, and that’s fine, as long as it comes with the acknowledgement that aviation freedom is a lot easier to pursue here.
If you are one of the two hundred, celebrate your good luck and freedom by going out to the shop to work on a plane that, were you living in Britain, would land you in prison after your first flight. Do some solid work tonight that would make Bernard proud. Think of your fellow aviators, men just like you, but fate determined you to have freedom to build as you mind wishes and your hands are able, and they must wait another decade or two for the whim of a bureaucrat to change. When you are done for the night, take a few minutes to admire your work. Offer a salute to your brother aviators living in repression on the other side of the pond by drinking a Cold beer.-ww
*If any friends from the other side of the pond are heading to Brodhead or Oshkosh, I welcome you to come over and lecture me at length about what a crass colonial jackass I am. If you can smuggle a starter out of the kingdom for me, I will print a retraction, sing God save the Queen, and do my best to drink one warm beer with you. If Frances Donaldson is visiting, please advise him that we plan to teach him how to have fun, culminating in him getting drunk on Jack Daniels, taking him Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in an F-250, and flying him around the pattern in an original Pietenpol powered by a Corvair. He may never go home.
We have had two unexpected visitors in the hangar lately, and as odd as this sounds, I feel kind of lucky about it. Agkistrodon Piscivorus is the Latin name for Water Moccasin. There are only four poisonous snakes in America, and this is one of them (Florida is the only state that has plenty of all four). In the past week we have had two in the hangar, an unpleasant experience to say the least.
Above, Vern stands by our pond with a 42″ moccasin that I caught with a 20 gauge (2-3/4″ shell with #6 shot) last night at dark. This is big for a moccasin. World record is only 74″, and in 25 years in Florida, the biggest I have seen is about 50″. This size is plenty dangerous. Not often fatal to humans, they do cause lifelong damage by destroying pounds of tissue permanently at the bite location. They frequently kill medium and large dogs. I was closing the hangar door and found him 4 feet away, but this is not close at all.
Last week, Vern stepped on a 36″ moccasin in the doorway to the side of our hangar. It turned and bit right through his boot, injected his venom, but by a miracle, it soaked Vern’s sock, but failed to get his flesh! Vern is an experienced woodsman and a lifelong hunter, but even he needed to sit down for an hour and try to collect himself. For the past week, both of us have jumped out of our skin several times when an air hose or extension cord has brushed an ankle or foot. I was thankful I did not step on mine, and Vern felt a little charmed that he missed being bitten by 1/32nd of an inch.
Environmentalists can rest assured that moccasins are not endangered, there are enough of them in our neighborhood that they are now a trip and fall hazard. Right after I took the photo, Vern tossed him in the pond where he was promptly “re-cycled” by the very large alligator snapping turtle that lives there. He ate the last one also.
For builders who had a chance to see Vern’s aero-trike (1/2 Lancair 320, 1/2 Geo Metro) at Corvair College and Sun n Fun, here is a shot of it driving down Route 17 at 65 mph. I drove it 25 miles the other day, and it handles much better than you might guess. Vern was plagued with computer issues on the Geo’s original EFI set-up. I called Jeron Smith, noted Geo expert at Raven Redrives, and he provided us with a distributor and carb set-up to ditch all the computer and EFI stuff. Worked like a charm. Simplified, the vehicle runs flawlessly. So much for complexity. It gets 50 mpg in mixed driving. Vern even has the A/C working now. He has slightly under $1,000 in the project, total.
When you take the time to learn how to use tools and create things with your own hands, you are freed from only having products made by corporations in factories, designed to suit groups of people who may be nothing like you. If you are willing to get your hands dirty, you can experience the joy of having machines your way. Picking from corporate offerings is not freedom of choice. Deciding what you want to make for yourself is. -ww
We had a visit from well-known and liked Corvair builder Jim Waters. He is from Pennsylvania, but he drove down to Florida with a trailer to pick up a nearly done 601XL-B that he found for sale on Barnstormers.com. Jim has a Fisher Horizon project in his shop, but he has been reading about the adventures of 601/Corvair pilots like Lynn Dingfelder, Ron Lendon and Phil Maxson, and he decided to change gears a bit and put his complete, test run 2700/Weseman bearing engine on the more versatile 601 airframe. When this one came up for sale, he saw his chance, made the move and got his own aviation adventure into high gear.
Above: Jim, his girlfriend Suzi-Q, Grace and Scoob E do the “looking skyward” pose in our back yard. The airframe is a Zenith quick build kit, with a panel in it, instrumented by the original owner for a Corvair. Jim and Suzi spent the night at our place and picked up most of the parts to install Jim’s Corvair on the front of this plane, including a powdercoated motor mount. This plane could easily be flyable by the end of the summer with just part-time work. Getting an aircraft this complete does not present any 51% rule issues. As long as 51% of the work in the plane was done by non-paid builders, it does not matter how many of them worked on it. A plane can have 11 different owners who each do 5% of it, and it will not have any issue qualifying as a homebuilt. Note that Jim has a copy of Stick and Rudder in his hand. It is a good luck present from Grace and I at the beginning of his new adventure.
In looking at our Web site, I was reminded how many Colleges and airshows Jim has made it to, and how he has always been a positive force of fun at each of these. I found photos of him at CC #9, #14, #16, #17, #20and Oshkosh. He completed his engine at #14, and test ran it with a 5th bearing at #16. At the other events he just came to help out and enjoy the company.
At these events Jim saw the increasing amount of guys who were finishing 601s and flying them back to the Colleges, guys who had completed engines at Colleges right beside Jim. At some point he decided that time was getting past him a little too quickly, and it was time to switch gears and get in on the group of people who are out crisscrossing the country in Zenith 601s and 650s. I am not sure how long ago he started thinking about it, but from making up his mind to having his new plane sitting on the trailer at our place was about 21 days. He decided that he was not going to let another season get by without a serious change in strategy to make progress happen faster.
Although Jim has picked up this airframe largely done, it is only 25% of his “project.” As we sat around our dining room table, we spoke of how his project is four parts: Building the engine, building the airframe, putting the two together and getting them operational, and in Jim’s case, learning how to fly.
Although he has wanted to build and fly for a long time, he had other responsibilities. He is a man of action, ridden motorcycles all over the country, and experienced a lot of things. Building and flying is a just new chapter in his book. As I reminded Jim last night, learning to fly a plane with a good instructor is not a difficult task; people do it every day. Continuing to improve and hone your flight skills is what sets good pilots apart, not the initial license. I like the fact that he dove into The Arena, built the engine and got the plane, all with the confidence that he would later learn any skill he needed, including flying. There is a good lesson here for people just getting started.
By my measure, picking up the airframe saved him 25% on his four-part task. Smart move in my book because the goal is to build and fly. If a purist builds every single part, he may have satisfaction, but if his goal was to fly it and the depth of detail vs. available time equation means it never gets done, then that builder didn’t get his goal. Conversely, I think Jim has a plan of action, and the accomplishment of his four-part plan is now on the horizon and getting closer. There will always be purists who claim (often from the safety of an Internet connection and a mystery email name) that it isn’t really homebuilding unless it is plans built and you grew the trees for the spar yourself or smelted the aluminum. I don’t think like that.
To my perspective, “homebuilding” isn’t a competition over building aircraft, and I don’t think it is really about planes at all. I think that the real project is how the accomplishment changes the builder. How much more he knows, how much more he can make, and how he sees himself on the other end of this major challenge. The only person you’re competing with is the lesser side of your personality that would settle for you doing less with your life. That is the real enemy that you are confronting, and that is who you will defeat when you reach your goals. I look forward to hearing of Jim reaching each of his new milestones as he met the ones he has achieved already. Of the thousands of builders we have met in the past 20 years, Jim is one of the really special ones, and on the future day that I hear he has flown his plane, I will take an hour out to just simply be glad for him.
From the archives: Jim’s engine running on our stand at Corvair College #16:
“Above, Jim Waters in front and Mike Quinn take Jim’s engine for a test flight. Want to know what riding a motorcycle at 130mph is like? Try your engine on the Dyno at 3,300 rpm. These two characters had not met before the College, but formed a quick bond as people who see a lot of potential fun in any moment. Jim’s engine ran like a banshee.”
Below are photos of three Corvair engines. All of them were sold to new owners this year. The sellers of these engines said things to get the new owners to pick them up, things that we will just call “Less than honest.” One of the engines was said to have been built by myself; another was said to have been inspected by me, and successfully flown; the other was said to have been built “according to the WW manual.” Let’s look at why these statements are not accurate, and at the end I am going to make some serious suggestions about shopping for second-hand engines or engine projects.
Above, a 2700 engine that was built by a WWII B-17 pilot named Sam Sayer of Florida, who has now passed from this earth. The engine was sold with his plane from his estate, then resold to the new owner. I knew Sam, and he was an outstanding human. He was shot down on his first mission by an 88mm flak shell that went through the throttle quadrant but failed to fully detonate. He evaded capture and returned to England. You can read more about him on this 2006 link to our main Web site, a story about Corvair College #9:
He was a great guy, and I spent a fair chunk of time with him. He was a “regular” at our Edgewater hangar. But this doesn’t mean that the engine he built was airworthy nor worth buying.
Plenty of things are wrong with me; in many ways I am an opinionated jackass and I have made plenty of mistakes in life. But here is something that I do correctly: When a veteran aviator in his 80s shows up at my hangar, doesn’t have a medical, is pretty much aware that he isn’t going flying, and just wants to enjoy himself by exercising some creativity and building something with the hands that still bear the scars of shrapnel from an 88mm shell fired 60 years before, he gets the red carpet treatment.
I am not there to lecture a man my father’s age that he is “Doing it wrong.” It is my task to make that man’s day a little brighter and do anything I can for him: Tools, time, coffee and being a good listener. If a 35-year-old guy came to a College and wanted my help to build and run the above engine and then put it on his plane, the answer is of course “No,” and I am going to make Mr. 35-year-old do it the right way, because he is going to take it flying, and he didn’t sacrifice his youth in 1944 trying to do something to stop fascism. Most aviation companies wouldn’t let a guy like Sam hang around any longer than it would take to find he didn’t have a lot of money to spend: “That’s just good business.” To hell with them, they may be business people, but in my book they are not aviators and they are piss poor Americans if they judge the value of men like Sam by the thickness of their wallet. This country is filled with people who think that having a yellow ribbon sticker on their car that says “Support the Troops” completely fulfills the obligation.
Back to the main point: Look at the photo above. It has no 5th bearing and the crank probably isn’t nitrided. Look at the rust on the hardware. Do you think this was stored wrapped up in a really dry place the past 7 years? The guy who sold this to its current owner said that it was “Assembled by WW for Sam Sayer,” and was selling it for many thousands of dollars. I didn’t build this engine, the guy just said that because he is a B.S. artist who wanted to make a buck. Trust me, he isn’t the only guy like that selling something in aviation.
Above, rear view of the engine: I have not put a rear starter on an engine in 14 years. Note there are no rear tins. I have never put a belt driven alternator on that side of the back of an engine; search the name of my friend “John Blackburn” and “V-6 Ford crash” on my www.FlyCorvair.com Web site to find out why. The valve cover clamps are on backwards, the distributor clamp is the wrong one, none of the accessory brackets are strong enough. I have no idea what is inside this engine, I didn’t build nor assemble it. What I did do with the builder was spend two Veterans Days in a row with Sam in my hangar, treating a great guy with the respect and camaraderie that he deserved.
Round Two: Above is the KR-2 built by David Dergins in Florida circa about 2002. I saw this plane in a housecall, and was very concerned that it would crash on the first flight. Dergins was a very friendly and successful real estate guy, and he had the money to do a good job, he just didn’t have the patience. I told him it needed to be redone. Several months later he brought it to our hangar at Spruce Creek on a trailer to “Show Me” that he had taken my counsel seriously. He had not, and he stated he was going to fly it that week. Kevin, Grace and I had a real dilemma; we had no power to stop him, we were all pretty sure it was going to be an accident, and Dergins had already shown that he wasn’t going to listen to advice. We were looking at a bomb that was going to destroy a lot of the reputation of Corvairs that we had worked to build, we had no way to defuse it, and after it went off, we all knew that few people would understand that we had really tried to defuse it. I had already been in the engine business for 10 years at that point, and I knew the story would be “And Dave, that wonderful craftsman, had it up at WW’s hangar just the week before for his approval.” Dergins took it home in anger, and later said that he did get it off the ground, had problems on rotation, did a very low 180 and said he would never fly it again. He said to me several times that I was wrong, it did “fly.” By a miracle, the bomb was a dud. It was as if he had fashioned a suicide vest made to look something like a clothing line we sell, but at the last moment, it didn’t go off.
Above, Dergin’s engine. Look at the front cover and compare it to Sam Sayer’s. Sam had craftsmanship but little money, Dergins had money but no craftsmanship. To settle the academic debate, I would rather fly Sam’s engine, but in reality, no one should fly either. Just get a look at the intake logs on the head. Yes, this engine will run, but cylinders 5 & 6 will run super rich, 1 & 2 will run very lean, and the head gaskets will blow in a few minutes of climb. The seller of this aircraft represented it as a KR-2 in flyable condition that has a WW inspected engine. Factually true? Yes, if you get into legal debates such as “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” For the rest of us, we can just say that the seller is not an honest man. I have spoken with the new owner, and he is a good guy who fully understands that every single part needs to come out of this and be looked at with a very critical inspection.
Round Three: Above is the inside of a case of an engine that I tore down for the second owner. The guy who built it and sold it stated that it was built according to my manual. I ask all the reasonable builders to show me the part in my manual that tells builders to overspray all the rotating engine parts with orange paint. This was under the bearings, down in the lifter bores, and in the oil galleries. I guess he didn’t want the inside of the aluminum case, bathed in oil, to get all rusty? Looking at the engine, and reflecting on my communication with the orignal builder, I will tell you that this engine wasn’t a budget nor a craftmanship problem, it was an attitude problem. Specifically, the builder didn’t like taking advice from someone whom he perceived as a long-haired, opinionated, know-it-all, punk kid from Florida.
First, I do have long hair, live in Florida, and I am a jackass, but even if you hate me, that doesn’t invalidate my words on engines. Maybe now that I am 50 years old we can put the “He is too young to know a lot about planes” crap to rest. I may not know every single thing about engines, but comparing my understanding of Corvairs with this builder, I am Albert Einstein (and I have the hair style to prove it).
Above, a piston assembly out of the engine. That’s not just a cast piston, that is a Chinese-made cast piston. That symbol, just ahead of the wrist pin, is “Genuine Brand,” a massive, low quality Chinese engine partmaker’s logo. Their Web site says they are ISO-9001 certified, but this is taking the word of people who claim Mao Tse-tung was a great humanitarian, and that everyone in Tibet welcomes the 50 year Chinese military occupation of their country. When I say that every flight engine needs forged pistons, it goes without saying that you don’t consider using cast ones from a communist police state.
The engine had many such “features” inside. Every single one of them was the result of the original builder saying “This will be alright,” or “This is just as good.” Often the justification for going against the experience I share falls into two categories: The builder doesn’t like me personally, or he is going to “show me” what he knows. Neither of these are good motivation for taking a detour from what we know to work.
Most often, the people who have decided they don’t like me have never met me. Out of 2,000 pages of written information on our Web sites, they have found a few sentences that they deem offensive, or they got set off by the moniker “The Corvair Authority,” or they thought the words “The Corvair movement” sounded like some hippie commune. From that point forward, they decided they were justified to selectively reject information from me that didn’t validate their existing mindset. That’s how you get cast pistons from China in a flight engine. Know this: If I threw away everything I learned about airplanes from people whom I didn’t find charming, I would know about 50% of what I do. Just because you don’t want someone like me for a son-in-law, that doesn’t invalidate what I have to say about Corvairs.
Second, I have encountered many people who were going to “show everyone” something, namely how wrong I am on some topic. This is very poor motivation for anything that is potentially as dangerous as flying. Usually it is just a waste of time and money, like when a quitter named Robert Haynes told everyone on the Net he was going to show everyone the things I say about EFI are wrong. (He never even made the engine run, far less fly.) But it is also a very dangerous motivation, and it played a role in the fatal accident of Steve Jones, a great guy, but a hyper-competitive person who always falsely believed that everyone around him was judging his efforts. I have a handwritten letter from him saying that he was going to have the fastest KR-2 or die trying. His accident was testing CG locations, but I hold that his attitude on “showing everyone” was the underlying cause of it. If you ever detect that you are about to do something in aviation that you normally wouldn’t, but some part of you wants to impress others, just stop. Just stop.
In summary, don’t buy a second-hand engine, no matter what anyone tells you about it. The average asking price of the engines above was more than $5,000. Sound like a bargain? The motivation to get a deal or a running start is not valid. You are not in a contest to see how cheap you can build an engine, and you are not in a race either. Both of those mindsets come from day-to-day life outside of building and flying.
You have to identify thoughts and motivations like that and shelve them when getting down to learning, building and flying. You are here to learn as much as you can, build a first class engine, and operate it with intelligence and good decision-making. We are not here to waste money, but it isn’t going to be “cheap.” It is going to require investment, not primarily of your money, but something more valuable: your best effort. Anyone who can take advice and read can do better work than the engines above. They were not a bargain, even if they were free, because accepting these as a starting point is about looking for something of a deal or a shortcut. If you come across one of these, recognize that the primary problem with them isn’t mechanical. If an advertised engine like the ones above has appeal, it is an indication that you have not yet come to see that you can be a better craftsman than you realize, a craftsman who will not accept the work of others as good enough. Developing that understanding is the real value in building experimental aircraft. -ww
Jim just sent in two more photos of his progress, seen below.
Above, a look at the wing extension. Having the engine on the wing is a ‘releving load’ on the wing spar, much in the same way that tip tanks are. Even though the wing is extended, it may feel no higher bending load at the root.
There was a time when the EAA was made of builders, when a guy like Jim was still a stand out, but his work and motivation to create would have been understood by any EAA member. We still have plenty of people like that, but we now have a more ‘inclusive’ EAA membership and a management to go with them, that often seems to forget what the first word in the acronym EAA stands for.
In the Corvair movement we have never lost our respect for the dedicated craftsman willing to put forth the extra effort to design, test, and fly his own creation, to build something really original. To my perspective, you do not have to build an original design to be a ‘real homebuilder.’ I think that the guy who builds a good Zenith, RV, Sonex or Rans that is the mechanical equivalent of other proven examples of his design is just as much a homebuilder as Jim, and I think Jim would agree with that.
The distinction to me is easier made on this dividing line: If you are the kind of builder that supports Jim’s right and passion to develop his own unique machine, even if it is not something you would choose for yourself, or even a design that you appreciate or fully understand, then you are a real homebuilder. You understand that at the very core of homebuilding is individual choice, challenge and achievement, something that we each should be able to pursue on a path of our own choosing.
I expect people from outside aviation to miss the point of home building. I can even see a person from a far branch of flight not ‘getting’ a project like Jim’s. But if a person in the EAA would criticise or seek to restrict the freedom to do original designs, I believe they forfeit the right to call themselves a ‘homebuilder.’
Such a person is too dull to see the connection that leads from Jim’s plane, through Dan and his Panther, through countless creative craftsmen. It is the same compelling force that was present with the Wright’s at Kitty hawk. Any person who suggests that we should all build O-320 powered RV-6a’s and that flying them in regular patterns at controlled airports is homebuilding, has missed why Americans wrote much of the history of aviation, they have missed what homebuilding is about, and they understand nothing about being an individual. Their self-inflicted punishment is that they live in a ‘safer’ but far lesser world, a place that traded Heros and Champions for living in fear and hoping for a tiny bit of safety increase.
At it’s very core, homebuilding has the power to liberate you from allowing thoughts like that to creep into your mind. If you are going to spend thousands of hours building a machine to seek your own freedom, then it makes sense to start by rejecting anyone who has a smaller deffiniton of freedom already picked out for you.-ww
Saturday was a good day in the history of Corvair powered aircraft. Dan and Rachel Weseman had the first public roll out of the Panther. It is now about 21 days from its first flight. Only minor details and a final FAA inspection remain. The weight and Balance on the aircraft revealed a very light 688 pound empty weight, and the location was exactly on target. The power to weight ratio of this aircraft with its 120 hp Corvair will provide outstanding performance. Couple this with Dan’s higher than typical aspect ratio selection and a demonstrated ability of the wing to take more than 9 G’s, and we will see the kind of flying that one rarely associates with terms like ‘LSA legal’ and ‘automove conversion engine.’
Our local EAA chapter was invited to the roll out. As impressive as the plane itself is, a number of us on hand understood that the plane was just the physical evidence of one man’s incredibly strong-willed determination to exhaustively educate himself on all facets of aircraft design and manufacturing. Our chapter has an impressive collection of engineers from Americas top aviation schools, Embry-Riddle, Parks, USNA, etc. In speaking with them, each said that they were astounded at the depth of Dan’s self acquired understanding on all facets of this design, particularly his mastery of stress analysis and structures. Every single one of the engineers readily offered their formal training and industry experience gave them no better understanding of the subjects than Dan’s dogged self pursuit of the subjects.
In an era where it has sadly become acceptable for people who wish to be in aviation to publicly state that they really don’t want to learn anything, and there is an expanding array of consumer appliances to entertain such people, I find it a refreshing honor to know a man who set his personal goal on finding out how much he can learn and master, not how little. Dan may have been born in 1975, but his attitudes and will are from an earlier era when American aviators would accept no reason nor excuse for being diverted from their personal destiny to achieve. When JFK set Americans on the path to the moon in 1962, he directly stated:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
These attitudes are at the very core of being an American. We restore and sustain ourselves through their practice, our demise is through dismissing them as antiquated. I have been in aviation for 25 years, and in that time, I can think of no better example of example of an individual setting his personal goals on the highest levels of understanding and mastery, and then using these skills to create an outstanding aircraft with his own hands. If you have been told that aviation innovation and opportunity for achievement are not accessible, I suggest meeting Dan in person, he is the strongest proof that your destiny is only limited by your will. -ww
Special Note to RV Builders:The section of the Van’s Airforce discussion group that showed just a few pictures and short descriptions of this aircraft generated thousands of hits before their list moderator banned the photos and deleted references to it, and put up his own negative comment. That list is operated as a commercial venture by Doug Reeves, a controversial personality who promotes a very conformist model of homebuilding and flying. He will delete your posts if they reference things he dislikes, often as simple as making a low pass. Last week, the tracking on our site showed that 220 RV builders on that site followed a link to come here and read my story 2,500 words about levels of aircraft finish… Reeves also deleted all of the links to that story to block RV builders from even referencing it. It was deemed too controversial because it included the single sentence“We were not the ones who decided that regular looking people and the planes they built were not cool enough to be on the cover of their own membership magazine. That one is on the Editors and the management of the EAA…” To my perspective, Reeves is a throwback to the type of aviation magazine editors of the 1980s and ’90s who worked to make sure only people they “approved of'” felt welcome in experimental aviation. RV builders are often unfairly characterized as uncreative conformists. Reeves’ actions unfortunately reinforce this stereotype. RV builders with open minds are welcome to come here and directly read unfiltered ideas. -ww
Note: If any of the pictures are distorted, try hitting F5 at the top of your keyboard.
Above, Jim and Ginger Tomaszewski in our booth at Oshkosh 2012. They are very interesting and dynamic people, a lot of fun in person. The computer in his hands shows a picture of their twin under construction. Over the years, we have had a handful of people look at building a Corvair twin, but none of them had the flight experience that Jim brings to his project. When pictures of this project were on the Van’s site, most of the commentary was kneejerk reactions, from people without 1% of Jim’s experience. The one standout comment of positive support was from the EAA director Chad Jensen, a real homebuilder we met at the Zenith open house. I like to think that Jim’s work is best appreciated here, where Corvair builders celebrate traditional homebuilding creativity and challenges. Below, Jim tells the story of the JAG-2 in his own words. …
TWIN JAG… a twin-engine Corvair powered aircraft project.
First, about myself…
My name is Jim Tomaszewski and I am a 46-year-old professional pilot. I live on the east end of Long Island, N.Y., with my lovely and VERY understanding wife Ginger. Although we have no children, we do have 2 Yorkies that are treated like our children. I rent a T-hangar at Mattituck Airport & own a hangar and property at Heaven’s Landing Airpark in Clayton, GA. We plan on moving full time to Heaven’s Landing (www.heavenslanding.com) and building our dream home in the near future. I live & breath aviation. If you MUST look up every time an aircraft flies over, aviation is in your blood! I feed my aviation addiction as a professional pilot and currently fly as a Captain on a Challenger 605 corporate jet. I am an ATP with type ratings in the Lear Jet, Falcon 50/900, Embraer Legacy, Gulfstream IV, Challenger 604/605 & Douglas DC-8. I have roughly 15,000 flight hours with over 14,000 of them in multi-engine aircraft. I have been interested in aviation since I was 4 years old after my first flight on a TWA 747. My dad is retired from TWA after working 37 years as a Sheet Metal Mechanic & Maintenance Inspector. I used to feed my budding aviation addiction by flying around the country using passes from my Dad! I was also an avid model aircraft builder. When I was 16 years old, I rode my bicycle to my local airport and took a $20 Discovery Flight in a C-152…I was HOOKED!!! I came home with a smile so big I needed plastic surgery to remove it from my face! I told my parents that I was going to be a pilot. Although they were not pleased, they did help me get all my ratings and supported me along the way. I soloed at age 16, got my Private License at age 17 and Commercial/Multi/Instrument at age 18. While getting my ratings, I worked as a Line Service person at the FBO I was flying at. This was my FIRST introduction to homebuilt aircraft! There was an older man who owned a Soneraii II and he kept telling me that I should get involved in homebuilt aircraft since I was so young. It was 1984 and I couldn’t comprehend how somebody could fly in a tube & fabric homemade aircraft with a VW engine and wood prop! I smiled and told him politely “no thanks”. I felt right at home in that factory built Cessna. Fast forward 20 years later and I find myself flying worldwide as a Captain on a DC-8. On one particular trip, my flight engineer showed me some pictures of his homebuilt aircraft. It was a beautiful Van’s RV-6A! After seeing the pictures and talking for hours with him, I was sold. The rest of that trip I spent thinking how to convince my wife that I wanted to build an airplane! When I broke the news to her, she said “no” faster than I could get the words out of my mouth. After showing her pictures of the RV she changed her tune. Originally, she had visions of a lawn chair duct taped to a hang glider with a weed wacker engine! Well, she came around and let me purchase the tail kit. Subsequent portions of the kit followed and in 5 years I had a flyable RV-6A. After flying off the 40 hour Phase I (it had a Sterba wood prop…thus the 40 hours), we traveled around the eastern US for the next 9 years in the RV-6A. Most people would be happy with the achievement of building a kit aircraft, but not me!
Above, the Twin jag looks like a mirror image…looking up the trailing edge of the rudder.
Now, why I’m building it…
Since 95% of my flight time was multi-engine, I began to search for a twin-engine homebuilt. There was nothing that matched what I was looking for. I only needed 2 seats and it had to be fast! That is when I decided to take the bull by the horns and began engineering the TWIN JAG. My wife began to get suspicious of the 100+ drawings I made night after night. She knew something was brewing…
At this time, I purchased the plans to build a Cozy MKIV. It will have twin Corvairs also. That project is currently about 1/3 complete. I put that project on hold and began the TWIN JAG project. The TWIN JAG began it’s life as a flying RV-6A. I made a decision out of respect for Van’s Aircraft to not refer to this aircraft as a “twin-engine RV-6A”. I hope that everyone will do the same.
About 3 years of R&D, engineering and planning went into this project before I began dismantling the RV-6A. I felt the RV-6A had some shortcomings, some in the design…some in my original build. Experimental aviation gives us the freedom to “think outside the box” and I feel it is one of our last great freedoms! People quickly forget what experimental aviation was about before the “kit” days. In the 1950’s & 60’s, just about all homebuilts were either plans built or one-off original designs. Nowadays, experimental aviation is too full of “sheeple”…the type who think any paint job other than the kit factory paint scheme is a major mod! Experimental aviation has a lot to offer to a broad spectrum of pilots. Not all facets of homebuilding appeal to every pilot so choose your level and get started. exercise your freedom and use what experimental aviation has to offer YOU.
Finally, what is the TWIN JAG and why Corvairs???
My project can be viewed at my Web site,
www.homebuiltdirectory.com. It is listed under “Original One-Off Designs.” I started this Web site as a single searchable site where you can view all types of homebuilts. It is a showcase of homebuilders craftsmanship and costs nothing to use. There are several Corvair aircraft and projects listed there and invite any others to please list your aircraft or project for others to see.
Here is an overview of the TWIN JAG:
2 seat twin-engine fixed gear aircraft
Wingspan: 26′ 6″
Estimated Empty Weight: 1400 lbs.
Gross Weight: 2150 lbs.
Estimated Cruise Speed: 190 mph
Estimated Stall Speed (GW): 64 mph
Just some of the features:
2- 120hp Corvairs with Weseman 5th bearing and new billet crankshafts
2- 27 gallon fuel tanks (no fuel in passenger cabin)
Unique prop brake system in lieu of heavy high maintenance constant speed props
Dual 10″ Dynon Skyview with dual AHRS
Fully IFR equipped w/ autopilot & electric elevator trim
The philosophy that I based a lot of the design of this project on is “Simplicity & Redundancy = Reliability.” Remember, the glide ratio of ANY (properly flown) twin with an engine out is better than the glide ratio of ANY single with an engine out.
I have been going to Oshkosh for the past 11 years and I began attending William’s forums on Corvair engines about 5 years ago. Two years ago, I spoke to him and committed to building my 2 engines using his quality parts and expertise. The decision to use the Corvair came 5 years ago after the first Corvair forum. The prospect of a smooth, powerful, strong engine that I can build myself was hard to pass up. In addition, it has a low drag profile since it is relatively narrow. BUT, since I chose the Corvair, I found the best reason of all to use it…the people!!! I attended the informal BBQ last year at OSH held at their tent and I was floored by the genuine kindness and camaraderie that I found there. From William & Grace & Scoob E to Dan & Rachael to Mark P. and the countless others, thank you for your hospitality and advice! I look forward to seeing you all in July!