The vital element of Safety: Training

Builders,

Like many aviation professionals, I have found the coverage of the Boeing 737 accidents pathetic. The media is very weak on most technical subjects, but aviation is always a topic they forget their journalism on and resort to inflaming public fears for ratings.

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Their entire narrative is about Boeing, totally ignoring to completely obvious factor: The 737-max 8 is one of the most advanced machines mankind has ever made, yet foreign carriers are operating these this crews who don’t have enough flight experience to qualify for giving a sight seeing flight in a Cessna 172 inside the US.  CNN has reporters trying to explain ‘fly by wire’ controls, ( Oblivious to the fact they are describing an Airbus not a Boeing ) and never mentioning that the Ethiopian Air Co-pilot had only 200 hours of flight time total, and very questionable training. Few people commenting on this aircraft understand that many foreign pilots are very, very reluctant to ever try to hand fly any element of this planes flight envelope, and they are discouraged from trying it, and this makes them very reluctant to turn off the autopilot, even when it is in error. The Ethiopian Air co-pilot would not have been allowed anywhere near the flight deck of a US operated 737, with good reason. Thinking you can be safe by having very sophisticated machinery, and ignoring the training level of who is flying, is insanity.

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Good thing no one in Experimental Aviation thinks that way, right?

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Look at the picture above, remember when you had 200 hours of flight time, and ask yourself if you would have been comfortable walking onto the flight deck of this plane, with the lives of 100+ people behind you, and taking off.  That is exactly what the ownership of Ethiopian Air did, and now they offer emotional commentary about Boeings alleged poor judgement.

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We are a week away from Sun n Fun 2019. I have been going there for 30 years. Wander through the endless displays and you can see a dazzling supermarket of things for people in Experimental aviation to buy. Ask any salesman if the product he is selling is ‘safe’ and without any doubt he will say it is.  Notice how tiny the segment of products are which qualify as direct training: Books, companies offering flight training and transitions, training on engines and systems. It is as if the management of Lion Air set the priorities of US homebuilders. How well do you think that will work out? 

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I have spent 30 years teaching builders about the engine that powers their plane. This wan’t done so they can save money like most people first guess. This was done because I know that training in aviation is paramount, and without it, no machine can be considered reliable nor safe.  Salesmen, ( and the ownership of Lion Air )would try to tell you otherwise, but that is like trying to argue that you could replace Chesley Sullenberger with a 200 hour pilot and expect the same outcome on the Hudson River.

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You don’t run Lion Air, nor Ethiopian Air,  but you are CEO of your own aviation enterprise, and you also will decide what portion of your budget will be for supposedly ‘safe’ equipment, and what portion of your program, in both time and money,  will be devoted to learning, training, understating and mastery.  Choose wisely, physics chemistry and gravity judge inadequacy without a trace of mercy.

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wewjr.

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PS; If you see me as an aviation grease monkey from Florida, perhaps out of his element commenting on International air transport, keep in mind I’m a graduate of the worlds finest aviation university, most of my close friends are aviation professionals, and the chief person I ran this past before typing this happens to be a current 25,000+ hour ATP qualified in both Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Anyone can question my perspective here, but if they are driven to do so, perhaps for the sake of their future passengers, they should ask themselves why they are downplaying training.

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Something humorous: How you know ‘journalists’ are a joke today: Boeing has more than 5,000 737s on order today, that is 10 years worth of production, it is the most successful airliner in world history, more than 10,000 of them have been built. This particular aircraft is the #1 threat to Airbus.  About a third of Airbus is owned by European states. Journalists are completely blind to how quickly and why European entities condemned the 737, these people have a very strong vested interest in seeing how many of the 5,000 Boeing orders they can get canceled. Notice how not a single news reporter questioned the flight data recorder being sent to France for analysis. It’s all a big charade. Just make sure your own aviation program has a lot more integrity that this circus, because you do have a vested interest in that story.

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A meeting of the ‘Appliance Assassins’

“I’ve killed microwaves and laptops. I’ve killed everything that plugs in or has a ‘not user serviceable’ sticker at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little water heater, for what you done to Ned.”

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Builders,

We had a very busy weekend working at my place, with a lot of assistance from Dan Sheradin on NC, the same Corvair/Pietenpol builder who helped out with this project: Stromberg Shootout, Pt #2.

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On Saturday afternoon Dan and I took a short break, along with Ryan from SPA, for another session of our club, The ‘Appliance Assassins.’ The subject of todays attention were two water heaters removed from my house.

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In my personal view, there are powerful consumer forces trying to fill your life with junk appliances, and the antithesis of this is choosing to have real machines in your life. I covered the concept in this story: Machines vs Appliances Part #2. Terminating appliances is powerful reminder to stay focused on mechanical quality, particularly in all things aviation. I have shot my old malfunctioning Dell laptop with a Thompson SMG, and it was the most rewarding feeling I ever got from a computer.

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Above, I’m holding Ryan’s Freedom Arms 83 chambered in .454 Casull, a very potent cartridge.  To see some of my previous “A-A” club work with Ryan, get a look at this: Machines vs Appliances, putting metal in microwaves.

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This is an appliance sticker, and it should be revolting to you also. Selling things knowing nothing about them is gross, and besides, this planet can’t afford to have 6 billion people on it running through disposable appliances. The comparative solution is machines which last, preferably built by your fellow countrymen who need quality jobs to have a fair shot at having a rewarding life. It isn’t PC or fashionable, but this is important: Made in America – data plates – obituaries to US manufacturing jobs .

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American craftsmanship, both of the above at Freedom arms products, one in .454 Casull, the other in .22LR

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Table of hardware, mostly Dan’s. Ruger Alaskan is in .44 Mag. The LCR-X is mine. All of these were made in America. Everyone has a natural right to be proud of the work of the craftsmen of their own land, only in America are some people apologetic about such natural pride, and it is typically people who have no connection to manufacturing who don’t understand why anyone would admire the craftsmanship of his neighbors, people from his own community and life experience. People who have been brainwashed to be pure consumers, people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, are the last to understand pride in craftsmanship and honest quality work.

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Dan with Marlin in .30-.30. Went right through heater, didn’t care it was full of water.

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.454 Casull went right through both sides also. .44 Mag had a bit of trouble doing so out of a 3″ barrel.

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Top to bottom, .30-.30, .454 Casull, .44 Magnum.

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Myself, Dan and Ryan, in my yard, after another productive meeting of the Appliance Assassins.

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WW

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The Limiting Agent: Motivated Builders.

If anyone reading this is offended, bear in mind I just write these things to keep from being invited to weddings and to keep my Christmas card list short. – love, ww.

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Builders;

Every year at Oshkosh, the most common question asked is “What if you run out of Corvair engines to rebuild? I get this same question 25-50 times a day, all week, and I have been politely answering it all week for 25 years.  “We will never run out of Corvairs, they made nearly 2 million, even if 2% are left, it dwarfs the amount of serious homebuilders.”

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Almost invariably, the person asking this is an EAA member, loves homebuilts, is certain he is going to build one someday, but if quizzed, he hasn’t made up his mind, they all look good but he is waiting to see how a new and exciting kit he read about in a press release is doing (as an industry insider, I already know in most cases they have already filed for bankruptcy) I will often see the same person, year after year. If you listen close, he always tells you some story of how he didn’t build X or Y because when he looked into it, he found the flaw

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The “Someday” homebuilder thinks he has discovered an issue with the Corvair, because they were built long ago, there must be almost none left. Doesn’t matter that I can rationally demonstrate that 90% of a 3.3L or a 3.0L EIB engine is all new parts, and the other 10% could be made if needed, but it will never be needed because there are 100,000 left, about 5 for every real builder in the EAA, It doesn’t matter rebuildable cores are so cheap I give one away at Oshkosh every year.

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None of my reasons matter because “Mr. Someday” isn’t asking for planning purposes or even to understand availability; what he is looking for is a plausible reason he can  yet again,  tell everyone in his EAA chapter the ‘flaw’ or the ‘issue’ he ‘discovered’ that he can tell his friends about, which he will offer as the reason he didn’t get started building anything again this year. Such a person isn’t likely to even buy a finished homebuilt, as he doesn’t really love homebuilding, certainly not enough to sacrifice nor work for it…..what he really loves is the idea of being perceived as a homebuilder. 

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Above, a milk crate of Corvair forged connecting rods in my shop. This is 7 rows deep, 14 rods in each row. If these were O-200 rods, the crate would be worth more than $5,000, because they are scarce. Because they are Corvair rods, and GM made 12 million Corvair rods, the crate is worth about $12, the going value of 94 pounds of high grade scrap steel. 5 years ago the crate was worth about $500, but today no one buys Corvair used rods because new billet ones are available for less money that it would cost to rebuild these. There is no ‘availability’ issue with Corvairs, there never has been, and there never will be.

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The real ‘shortage’ is actual motivated homebuilders. The EAA has plenty of ‘Mr. Someday”s, the ranks have become swolen with spectators and posers in search of another excuse for not getting in the arena, but the actual number of real traditional builders is much smaller than you think. Someone is going to point out the number of RV aircraft at Oshkosh, but follow this microcosm: we have 10 RV’s at our little airport, exactly ONE of the ten is being flown by the guy who bought the kit and built it. All the rest are second owners, and many of their planes are the work of serial RV builders who have churned out many planes for profit. The percentage will vary at your airport, but understand that 10 RV aircraft doesn’t indicate the presence of 10  traditional builders. At my airport it means 1 builder, 1 finisher, and 8 retired airline pilots with money to spend, but unwilling to build.  I don’t think of that last group as homebuilders. To paraphrase Jeff Cooper, Owning a homebuilt built by someone else doesn’t make anyone a homebuilder any more than owning a guitar makes someone a musician. 

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Here is the Good News:  If you are a real homebuilder, and to me, you don’t need a plane to be one, you just need to be motivated and willing to learn and build, and have a plan in your mind that you are advancing on, then understand I am here to serve you, and their are far less people competing for my time than you are imagining. Want to learn? Want to build? Good, because I am here to share what I have learned with people who will use that knowledge.

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When I go to Oshkosh, I am looking to find just 50 new serious builders each year. Thats it.  I have several hundred active builders, but I try to add 50-70 new, motivated builders per year. This is a lot harder to find than rebuildable Corvair engines. Builders are the limiting agent, not just with Corvairs, but with the EAA in general. If this wasn’t true, the EAA would not have added the other divisions like aerobatics or warbirds, and hire writers who are aiming their output at spectators not builders.  If you are reading this and you have a dream of really learning and building, then you are not only a rarer breed than you think, you also happen to be the type of person the EAA was founded on, real homebuilders.  The shortage isn’t metal parts, its actual motivated builders. If you mistakenly think that my commentary here just applies to Corvairs, walk over to the Zenith booth at Oshkosh and ask them if their factories potential kit output is the limiting factor or if the number of people unwilling to settle for spectator status is the real limiting factor. It isn’t metal, it’s people. 

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Would you like to make this year actually count for you? Decide right now that you will invest $750 in yourself this year. For this money, you can buy a conversion manual of mine and DVD’s, buy a good Core motor in your area, and even later in the year attend one of my smaller group colleges and learn all about your engine. You will be choosing the path of traditional homebuilding, you will be identifying yourself as one of the 50, one of this year’s serious builders.  If you stop coming up with all the reasons why you shouldn’t get started, I will gladly, in one day, show you all the reasons why you will wish you started years ago. 

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Wewjr.

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shop.flycorvair.com/shop/

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Cruising at Flight Levels .5 to 1.0

Builders,

When selecting the lower Flight Levels for cross country work, particularly in aircraft with restricted forward visibility, be aware there may be large solid objects at your cruise altitude.  They may be inconveniently painted colors which camouflage them in low overcast.

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Found this picture in the bottom of an old file cabinet today. Took it from my Pietenpol on the way to Brodhead and Oshkosh 2000. The Alabama water tower says “Tuskegee.”  Even when I was younger, stupid and without plans of living to comb gray hair, I never intentionally overflew a populated area at low altitude. The picture above shows a pre-GPS navigational mistake on a 1,300 mile flight intended to be done entirely over rural areas.

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Wewjr.

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Corvair Mission 2019, Part #5, Finishing Schools and assembly/run instruction.

Builders:

Keeping in mind the central focus of the mission is to share what we know with builders by effective, rewarding paths, this story focuses on something that has proven to work very well for a number of people: Close person instruction at our shops here in North East Florida.

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In the last 3 years, we have held a number of “Finishing Schools” at the SPA factory here in Florida. The best look at the process chan be seen here: Corvair Finishing School #1, Video report. These are small events, highly focused on getting every engine on hand running, with the builders learning a lot. With just 3-4 engines going together, and both Dan Weseman and myself present, it is a more intense learning session than a typical large college. But they are also fun events, where we hit the local bar and grill for dinner and share the social side of building also. .

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We currently are studying dates for the next finishing school, which will be held in the next 90 days. We already have several Engine in a Box builders on board, and we are just looking for one more person who is willing to complete their engine or even purchase a EIB kit motor to fill out the schedule. If you think this sounds like you, Please call Rachel at SPA, 904-626-7777. She has all the information on EIB kits, and if you are a builder with most of your parts, she will be able to set you up with what it takes to complete and run your engine at the upcoming Finishing School.  With the start of the season, this will likely be our last finishing school before Oshkosh, so if it sounds good, act. 

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The second part of this story is about One on One instruction in my hangar.  For the last two years I have scheduled individual builders to come to my hangar to build and test run their engine.  Because I live and work at a private residential community airpark, and have respect for my neighbors, I traditional don’t have an open door policy at my shop. I did for many years in the Daytona Beach area, but that was when we were located at commercial airports. However, I do have serious builders schedule time at my hangar to learn and work directly on their engines. We can also use the time to build one off parts like unique motor mounts, or even tune up you welding skills. As long as a builder is serious about learning, I’m interested. The best example story of the potential of this is here: Justin Peters Starlet progress in one hangar visit. If this sounds like something for you, call or text my cell, 904-806-8143. (please include you name if you are texting)

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Above,  Finishing School Results: Jim and Patty Raab with their engine on the run stand. This is now flying on their Zenith 650. in the photo they they are priming the oil system for 15 minutes before the first start. The red drip pans on the heads allow the visual confirmation that oil is reaching every single location in the engine. All Corvairs have hydraulic lifters and high strength head studs, neither of which ever need adjustment during the life span of the motor.

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Above, Another Finishing School photo: Look at the smile, Jimmy Mathis is a fortunate man to enjoy full support on the home front. Get a good look at the motor, it is built straight from our manuals, parts and guidance. Jimmy’s engine will offer many, many years of reliable service because he chose to follow the path that Dan Weseman and myself have long proven. He didn’t look to the net and people with mystery online names for advice, he just went with two people who know what they are speaking of. Jimmy’s engine is built to power his Bearhawk LSA

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Another Finishing School Picture: Get a good look at David Koshinski’s smiling mug. This is the face of a very happy man. What produces this expression? The satisfaction of having an engine that you built with your own hands, an engine you really understand,  lay down a perfect break in run. This is what the very core of traditional homebuilding is all about. The fact that David had this accomplishment in the company of other like minded builders, and with the direct support of the two companies that guided him through the process makes it all that much sweeter…..David’s engine is on his Zenith 750

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Above, A Finishing School Picture:  Jim Siebenaler gives his take on the “Captain Morgan Pose”. That smile is provided by having the accomplishment and satisfaction of a perfect break in run of a motor built with his own hands, an engine he now understands very well. A day will arrive when this plane takes to the air later in the year. It will arrive because Jim didn’t blow off opportunities to learn, make progress, and have a good time. When you read about upcoming events, keep in mind they are all opportunities to advance your own project, to make sure that you also will have a day where your own aircraft takes to the sky. The only thing this requires is your personal decision you will not keep putting off your own goals for a ‘some day’ which will never come. Jim’s engine is for his Zenith 650

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Another Finishing School Photo: David Swan and son, in very proud moment after the run of their 3.0L Corvair, built to power a Bearhawk LSA.  David is a good example of committed builder, because he has also spent several days at my hangar learning welding hands on. Any training that improves your skills and makes you a better builder or pilot is money and time well spent.

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Above, An example of one on one building at my hangar. It’s a fun picture: Mark Borden sets his “Captain Morgan Pose” with his running engine. complete with torque wrench sword and actual product (which neither he nor I drink) but it was all part of a very good time. Captain Morgan probably would find the ‘product placement’ humorous, but I’m guessing that Flight Safety would rather not have their jacket in there. Too bad for them, we were having a day Pappy Boyington would have found fun.

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Above, Another example of one on one building at my hangar. This is the satisfaction of progress, of having a plan come together. We did this Super Bowl weekend. Later in the year, when the outcome of the Super Bowl has long faded, Justin will take his airplane out to the flight line for its first time. It’s your year, spend it wisely.

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Above, one on one building at my hangar. Larry Elrod, a justifiably proud man.  Larry’s 2,700cc 100HP Corvair is straight from my Conversion manual, and it is built exclusively from my conversion parts and those from SPA/ Panther.  Although this engine is going on a KR-2, it follows the logic of this approach: Why Not the Panther engine?.  Read the whole story: Larry Elrod’s 2,700cc Test Run

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Its your year, make it count. 

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William

Corvair Mission 2019, Part #4, Large Colleges.

Builders:

Below is the story of our largest change in operations in 2019.  Many people think of large Corvair Colleges as our only interface with builders, ignoring events like airshows, finishing schools, demonstration EIB builds (like CC #44 will be) and one on one training at my hangar, and the newly emerging idea of the 10 person remote build schools.  Over the last 20 years, the 43 full Corvair Colleges I have held did gather most of the attention, but we also did a lot of other work. 2018 brought a lot of  evaluation, and the honest assessment that while  the 14  large flagship Corvair Colleges of Texas and Barnwell were outstanding events, they put a very heavy annual burden on two small groups of highly motivated volunteers. While the hundreds of builders they hosted were deeply appreciative and expressed this, in our larger community of builders if kind of became taken for granted that there would always be a Texas or Barnwell College to attend when ever people got around to it.  Nothing wrong with someone saying “I’m going to attend Barnwell someday” but the intention was not to conscript these friends into lifetime service, they were stepping up years ago, to fill a need and motivate others.

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Above, P.F. Beck in the black shirt and part of his loyal crew at Barnwell. I shot this the last hour of Corvair College #43 last november. These people brought you Nine Corvair Colleges.  – think about that; not just 20% of the Colleges held, but because of their size, 35% of the people who attended a College did so at Barnwell.  There were very detailed events, and the typical budget was over $7,000, but not a dime went to these people, they did it all as a show of South Carolina hospitality, their belief in the Corvair as an excellent way of getting more active builders in experimental aviation, and a particularly strong pride in their home airport, a facility they devoted a large part of their lives to.

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Above Kevin Purtee and Shelley Tumino, between Earl Brown and Katrina. I took this picture at Brodhead 2018. These friends, along with ‘Super Dave’ Hoehn of AZ, were the core people of bringing five major Corvair Colleges to Texas.  Again. this was a titanic first class effort, done completely as volunteers. They hosted more than 10% of the Colleges, and more than 20% of the builders. They hosted a College every year Kevin wasn’t deployed.  Additionally, Shelley did all on-line registration for all the Colleges for many years. People like this do not grow on trees, and you can justifiably feel blessed to have a handful of them in your life.

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After speaking with P.F. , Kevin and Shelley, I have come to the decision that we are going to suspend large colleges in Texas and SC for 2019, replacing them with the smaller training colleges I was speaking of in part 2 of this series.  While I am already nostalgic about good times we have all had, this isn’t a tough choice, because while neither group ever complained a bit, it was very obvious to me and  many other people, that a handful of Volunteers were doing a tremendous amount of work, and it was long past when would should have others shoulder some of the work.

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The of the good things about the 10-12 builder new format is how it allows a host to come forward, without them committing to the giant workload of a College the size of  one in Texas or Barnwell.  In NC, we have already had Dan and Tracy Sheradin offer to host one in the fall to take up part of the gap which will be left by Barnwell.

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If you get anything from reading this story, take this lesson to heart: While I’m pretty sure we will have another large Texas event years ahead, I’m reasonably sure that the Barnwell crew are going to rest on their record of nine Colleges.  I spent some quiet time speaking with P.F. about this, and he is very proud of his team and their work, and he wants it to stand on a high note. If year after year you read about Barnwell Colleges, and always promised yourself you would go ‘someday’, your chance has now closed. Aviation and life don’t wait for ‘someday’ , they are happening now, this season. In the next few days, when you read about the smaller events we will hold this year, do not make the same mistake of promising yourself that you will attend one of these events….’someday.’

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If you are one of the many who benefited from the generosity of these hosts, please use the comments section to share a note of gratitude for their efforts and what you received from them. 

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William.

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Corvair Mission 2019, Part #3, Events

Builders,

I will get to Corvair Colleges next, but here we will cover ‘Events’ which are public airshows and other general aviation events where I am going to be meeting builders. Below is a list of events I will be attending. I may add something later, but you can count on these.

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Above, is picture I took the night before Oshkosh 2018 started.  It is Paul Salter’s Panther parked in my booth at sunset, 12 hours before the start. The image captures the moment, months of prep work with friends, and the last quiet hours before the start of the worlds largest airshow.

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Sun n Fun, Lakeland FL. April 2-7th

I attended Sun n Fun every single year, 1989-2015, usually staying for the whole week. After missing 2016 because I was on the western tour, I have had a limited presence, but I will be back for much of this years event.  SPA, always has a full week presence, showing the Panther aircraft and Corvair parts. SPA holds their sign up BBQ every year on Friday in the campground, a great social occasion. This year I am also 1/4 sponsor of a cookout for Zenith builders. It will be held on Thursday evening. If you are heading to Sun n Fun, there will plenty of good things to see and opportunities to meet other Corvair builders.

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Brodhead Pietenpol Gathering, Brodhead WI, July 19-20th.

I have missed Brodhead only 3 times in the last 25 years, but I will be there in 2019.   It is one of Americas great small airports. It is about 90 miles south west of Oshkosh. It is informal, and if you are a Pietenpol builder, it is a must do event. I’m usually the last speaker on Saturday.

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Oshkosh / AirVenture July 22-28. 

I always have a booth at Oshkosh, it is always in the North Aircraft Display area. This year, they have entirely re-arranged the area, but know that my booth is just 75 yards from where it has always been. The entire area traditional reserved for experimental companies, has now been turned into aircraft parking, and the companies have all been moved closer to the forums and workshops. This will be a very good year for Corvair powered planes at Oshkosh, if you were thinking of going some day, this would be the year to do it.

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Zenith Aircraft Open House, Mexico MO. / Corvair College #44,  September 20-21.

I attend this event every year. If you are a Zenith builder, it is not to be missed. We have held many traditional, large Corvair Colleges at Zenith just before the open house. In recent years, we have switched to having an EIB Corvair engine build up and test run, in addition to limited work on several other builders engines, selected for their educational potential for people watching. This event will be called Corvair College #44, but it is open to anyone present wishing to observe, unlike traditional colleges which require registration.  You don’t need to be a Zenith builder to attend.

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Deland Sport Aviation Showcase, Deland FL, November 14-16. 

I have attended this the last few years, and it is unique among general aviation events that it is centered on homebuilding. There is no “Airshow” this is about participating, not being a spectator. Im considering doing an engine assembly and/or  bringing my Wagabond down for demo flights. This event is very inexpensive, and low hassle. in USMC parlarance,  it has an excellent “Tooth to tail ratio” .

https://www.sportaviationshowcase.com/event-info/index.

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I’m open to other ideas, please use the comments section if you have an event you think Corvair builders should get together at.

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wewjr

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