A week with friends;

Builders :

I am a very lucky guy, I just got to spend most of a week working on special R&D projects in my hangar with some really talented friends…… who are also great company.

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Above, your humble narrator, 601XL builder and Panther pilot Phil Maxson, Scott Leveque, from the legendary Corvair racing family, and 750 STOL builder and pilot Vinnie Maggiore.

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We drank coffee on my front porch every morning, wrenched and fabricated most of the day and into the night, ate well, sipped beer told stories and shared laughs. Toped it off with a trip to Sun n Fun yesterday. It was all great stuff, and really recharged my batteries.

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William

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Sun n Fun 2022 – The diversity of homebuilders.

Builders,

I took a day out of the shop to spend it at Sun n Fun. I have missed only two years since 1989. As always, the best part was seeing friends, and the first spot I go to find them is the Zenith display.

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Look at the picture below: A global IT expert from Hong Kong, A southern Technical director, An international project manager for the world largest private company, an environmental engineer from Upstate NY and a grease monkey from Florida. What could we possibly have as a common bond? We have all built and flown Corvair Powered Zenith aircraft of course.

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Throughout homebuilding, there are people from tech counselors to magazine writers who think they can tell who will finish a plane. They all have some pet theory of the personality and characteristics they quietly, or not so quietly, believe the ‘anointed’ builders must have. Thirty Three years in homebuilding has conclusively shown me all their pet theories are crap. You know who finishes planes? The people who like the learning process, and are resilient and have a bit of determination. Thats it, nothing else required. Success has no look nor socio-economic status, it only has a perspective on how to address a challenge.

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Anyone ever try to discourage you with a comment or even a negative reaction? You probably didn’t fit their pet theory model for successful builders. F- them, they don’t fit my personal pet theory for people worth knowing. If you need information and encouragement, welcome aboard, I have a very diverse group of successful builders willing to share it.

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William

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Above,

Louis Leung, 601XL

Billy Stewart, 601XL (w/650 canopy, pictured)

Phil Maxon, 601XL

Vinnie Maggiore, 750 STOL

Your humble narrator, 601XL.

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William

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Sensenich Propeller order, Pietenpols, 750’s, and Classics.

Builders:

Over the last 18 months, we have been doing a lot of behind the scenes prop testing on slower aircraft in the fleet of Corvair powered planes. With the help of five builder/ pilot data contributors, I have distilled another very good option to supplement the 66 and 68″ Warp Drives that have been my standard recommendation in this speed range for the last 25 years.

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The prop in this discussion is a Sensenich WZKL- 64 x 35. This is a modern prop in planform and airfoils, it has a helical pitch distribution optimized for these aircraft; It is a very good match to the Corvair’s higher RPM operation (compared to other direct drive engines). The prop has a wood core, but it is jacketed in fiberglass, and it has urethane leading edges.

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I have been a Sensenich dealer for almost 25 years. While I have tested and sold a number of their designs for different applications, This particular prop, in this pitch, is very well suited for Pietenpols, Zenith 750 STOL’s, many classics like my Wagabond and others. It is also applicable to Zenith Cruisers as a prop with strong climb characteristics.

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The design and Configuration has been around a long time, Our original testing with it was back in 2005 on the Wagabond. Back then the design was natural wood and varnished, but the aerodynamics were the same. In 2006 we tested the same prop on 2 Pietenpols. The results were good. We went on to test the same ZKL 64″ props in 41′, 43″, 45″, and 47″ pitches on my 601XL 2004-08. You can see pictures of this in my manuals. I sold a great number of the 41″-43″ pitch models to Zenith 601 builders. For builders who preferred wood, it was a very good option to compliment the ground adjustable Warp Drives.

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In the last 4 months I have ordered a number of the WZKL64-35’s, and they have all sold. On Friday afternoon, tomorrow, I’m placing another batch order. The will be done in 5 or 6 weeks. If you would like to get in on the order, you need only text or call me. When the props are close to done, I will invoice you $1,349 + the shipping cost. The props are drop shipped directly from Sensenich. The two colors I’m ordering are black with red tips and gray with white tips. Take your pick. These props have seen about a 20% rise in cost in the last year (Sensenich’s website is not yet updated to the new price) , I don’t expect it to change again, but if you order one now, you no longer have to be concerned about it. Besides, you can display it in your living room until your plane needs it, because they really are works of art.

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Above, a Gray with white tips that I ordered for my own personal plane. Im just checking it to order the correct length prop bolts.

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Above, same prop, Black with red tips. You can see the careful packaging job Sensenich does, they are very sturdy boxes, I have never had one damaged in shipping. Boxing and shipping costs run $50-70 depending where you are in the country.

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Above, Vinnie Maggiore’s Zenith 750 STOL. This is the aircraft that flew from NY to my hangaring Florida a year ago to get a 2,850cc engine transplant. Vinnie did the lions share of the flight testing for this project; He flew extensive tests with five different brands and models of props. The WZKL Sensenich, shown in this picture without a spinner, was the best climbing prop, and has the highest top speed. (the Warp Drive was a close second) Notably, the three other designs which proved to be less of a match and lower performers where all advanced hollow carbon fiber props with advanced shapes. When it comes to props, the only thing that counts is honest testing.

William.

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Mike Weaver’s California Pietenpol.

Builders,

I had a long talk with Mike on the phone tonight. He now has 3 flights on his Pietenpol, and it is working and flying great. The plane has a 2700cc Corvair installed, and it utilizes a Culver 66×32 prop. I saw the plane uncovered in California in 2016, it has outstanding craftsmanship, and the photo below shows how well it finished.

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Guys new to Corvairs may imagine that Mike and I spent the hour talking about power plants, but it wasn’t so. We spent only a few minutes speaking of his engine, as there was nothing much to talk about, all the learning and understanding had taken place years before, the flying now is just an affirmation of Mike’s craftsmanship. His is a contrast with people who install engines they know little about, and try to understand them in a rush during the test phase.

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Almost all of our conversation was about Mike’s 20 year path building his plane, where the idea came from, things that he knew from his dad, builders who had inspired him, memorable hours in the process, and how he feels connected to the timeless elements of flying in the plane. I had some tings I was working on in the hangar, but none of it seemed important given the chance to spend an hour listening to a friend share some really moving things about twenty years of his life.

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Below, a short note from 2016 when Mike brought his plane to Corvair College #38 for a test run:

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William

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Painting

Builders,

He is a quick tip on painting your ring gear. I put it on a plastic cup, and paint it horizontally. It resists runs a lot better. I then flip it over and do the other side.

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After it dries, I hang in on a wire in my shop oven and bake it for 20 minutes at 300F. I do this last step in Florida because the very high humidity tends to blush very fast drying paint. The time in the oven makes it glossy again.

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This is the only brand of paint I use on engines. It is vastly better than other paints I have tried .

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Ready to bake.

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William

The Continuity of Aviators

Builders.

The Contents of the box in the picture are a complete set of Lycoming and Continental cylinder wrenches. The were once every day tools of my late friend Dick Philips. He gave them to me 12 years ago. It was something of an honor, Dick was a bad-ass aircraft mechanic of the first order, and the gift came with the unspoken understanding that I had learned things from him, and had the obligation to give his life’s work some immortality and continuity. Dick had already been diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him.

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Although I am an Embry-Riddle trained A&P for more than 30 years, and have owned both Lycomings and Continentals, I don’t do that much work on them. I have enough stuff to do with Corvairs, that I could work them and installation components 10 hours a day for every day I have left on earth. I came across the wrenches cleaning up, and spent some time thinking about Dick, now gone a decade. Time for the wrenches to move on, continue the validation that the skills and ethics of hard core aircraft mechanics are perpetual.

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Kevin Purtee is known both as a very accomplished homebuilder and pilot of his corvair powered Pietenpol, but also as a combat military pilot. In recent years he has continued to fly helicopters in the civilian world, but has expanded his skill sets to flight instructing and A&P maintenance. Perfect candidate for continuity of Dick Philips skills and values. Into the box they went.

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By deciding to build your own aircraft, and build the engine for it, you are reaffirming all the things that made Dick Phillips’s post war career in aviation meaningful. Your life is better for it, better for deciding that aviation for you will not be just another consumer experience. Stay with it, invest in yourself with skills and understanding, and if follow the path long enough, you just might turn out to be someone’s Dick Phillips.

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Dick Phillips was my friend and neighbor here at the airpark. He was something of a mentor to me, not fully on mechanical matters, but on how a man of ethics conducts himself in a world that presents daily, a string of petty, small and corrupt people. By example, he led his life on his own terms, and he didn’t care if it wasn’t popular nor apparently lucrative. There was nothing a man would gain by giving up being himself.

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I have included below a story I wrote after his passing. It is worth your time. Some of the photo links expired in the last decade, but the moral of the mans life is still there.

Ironic postscript: Dicks original place at our airport was a super cool 40′ x 40′ concrete hangar with an A frame house on top of it. It sits on one acre, right on the southern end of our runway. After he passed, his widow revealed that Dick driving a 35 year old truck and being frugal was a facade; he was actually quite wealthy, and had secretly donated cubic yards of funds to peoples aviation education. She said that Dick had loved the place, and asked me to find any good person for it. The money wasn’t important, she just wanted someone to enjoy it as Dick had decades earlier. She asked for $50K, and was willing to hold it as an interest free loan for 10 years. The first person I offered it to was Mark from Falcon machine, my friend in WI who rebuilt Corvair heads for years. After 30 days he declined, saying Florida was “Too full of rednecks” . The next day I offered it to Ron the drummer, who signed the papers that afternoon. He has lived there every day since. With the escalation of property values here, he has been offered six and a half times what he paid for it, but he doesn’t care. He views every day of his life here as invaluable, he doesn’t see the world as dollar signs. Dick would have concured with that perspective.

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William

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Pietenpol Cowls

Builders;

In the picture are four complete cowls for Pietenpols. These came out of the molds I had made last year. This has been a long term project that started a number of years ago. It was originated by Dan Sheradin for his personal plane, and I liked it enough to have molds made. That took a long time due to Covid closing my composite shop for most of a year. In a few days they will appear on my products page as regular catalog items, but you can se the origins in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8XjNBbrAGI

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Notes:

These are only for Corvair powered Pietenpols, they will not fit other engines.

These only fit planes with my “High Thrust Line” mount. ( https://flycorvair.net/2016/05/24/4201-c-pietenpol-motor-mounts-now-on-the-shelf-ready-for-shipping/)

The cowl is designed to use the same Van’s FP-13 spinner we use on all my other installations.

These are not for everyone, if they are not to anyones tase, no problem, they can make any cowl they like. This is just about making a good part available to a limited group of builders.

I’m still hammering out the cost with my fiberglass shop. He is giving me several quotes on ordering a number of them, when this is finalized, the part will appear on my product page, with the price and shipping costs.

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Thanks, William.

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Tiny vehicle in the picture is a 240cc trike designed and built by my friend Vern Stevenson.

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How personally meaningful is your pursuit of Homebuilding?

Builders,

Mark Gravatt shared some pictures from his family and a story of his personal connection to building a Corvair powered plane. Builders share a lot of powerful thoughts in letters, but this one resonates on many notes, and leads to the question in the title here. Every son who had a better father than he had a right to expect, would be moved by Marks words

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Mark’s father joined the United States Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor. He worked on aircraft, particularly ones powered with Allison engines. He went on to post war work with Allison, moving into their gas turbine engines.

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Allison was a regular division of General Motors, just like Chevrolet. Chevy didn’t design the Corvair as a flight engine, but they were doing it with a very long and successful history of aviation powerplants. If you know engines, the Corvairs ‘unique to automobiles’ offset 2+1 intake runner arrangement appears four times on every Allison V-12.

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Mark drew a connection from his fathers service, to American manufacturing, and his fathers aviation career. He sees his homebuilt aircraft, also powered by a GM engine, built and operated with principles that his father would have concurred with, as both an an extension of his father’s story, and a tribute to it. It’s a very moving idea.

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In 120 days, I will be manning my booth at Oshkosh. At least 1/3rd of the people who wander through will say some close variation of this phrase: “It would be cool to have one of those Homebuilt planes”. Notice it doesn’t say Build” it says “Have”. This isn’t a semantics game. The guy who says build is thinking about making something, working, learning and using tools. The guy who repeatedly uses the word “Have” is in an entirely different mindset. He is thinking about acquiring something, buying it possessing it. He isn’t thinking of making anything, he is just envisioning the possession of the object as “Cool”. I’m not clairvoyant, and I admit it when I wrong about individuals, but let me say with a great deal of certainty, Thirty Three years of working with homebuilders has taught me that thinking a plane “would be cool to have” isn’t enough motivation to get anyone through the building process, and people with that mentality who buy second hand homebuilts have come to a lot of grief.

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You don’t have to have as strong a personal connection to aviation as Mark does to succeed at homebuilding and to have the process of learning, building and flying be transformative to your life. But you need to have motivation well beyond “Cool, dude” to get much out of homebuilding. If you like learning, if you want to build skills and understanding, and have a strong desire to make things with your hands, that is more that motivation enough, and I have a long proven process to challenge you and support you enough that you will succeed, and perhaps become the motivator to your own kids that Mark’s father has been for him.

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William

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Above, Mark’s Father

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Joining the USAAC

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Notice it says “General Motors Corporation”. Your Corvair has a legacy that few other automotive engines can make a claim to.

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Allison V-12, Compact potent engine in P-38’s, 39’s, 40’s and many other aircraft. Many elements of this engine are more rugged than those inside a Merlin. This is the engine the training certificate above applies to.

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Mark and his dad.

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In House Manufacturing

Builders,

A defining characteristic of my business has always been personally making most of the components I sell, for example all of my welded components are made in my hangar, Conversely Gold parts , like the hubs and the oil filter housings, have been made to my specifications by the same Florida aerospace machine shop for 25 years. The CNC machines that make them cost hundreds of thousands of dollars .

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In the last 18 months I have spent a great deal of time and a cubic yard of money to increase the percentage of products I make in house. The first Tool and system I bought was a Van Norman 944S Boring bar, so I bore and hone all the cylinders I sell right in the hangar. Second, I purchased a new MillRite, the CNC in the video, it makes any flat part like top covers, alternator brackets, ring gears etc. The third system is a Winona PH-2000-12 seat and guide machine to rebuild Corvair cylinder heads. The whole goal is to have better control of the time line of parts production, and to directly control the quality.

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None of this happens without the assistance of good friends. The PH-2000 was picked up in remote Arkansas and brought to my shop by a old friend: the Van Norman was loaded by a crew of my friends and one of them went to great lengths to track down modern tooling for it; the selection, installation, upgrade and training on the MillRite is all the work of one friend, 601XL Builder/Pilot Ken Pavlou. I have had it in operation for nearly a year, but Ken was just here and completed radical modifications of his own design, to make it vastly better, and importantly, much easier for The Troglodyte in Chief , (me) to effectively use.

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This installation is the last major production upgrade for the year. We are 115 days from leaving for Oshkosh, and it is time to use this increase in tooling to fill the shelves.

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Video: The is the upgraded CNC in my hangar, it is machining a ring gear for a #2400 ultra light weight starter kit. It is working on the six mounting holes. It doesn’t drill them, they are milled with a circular pattern, so a 1/8″ mill can make a 3/16″ hole. The hex shape on the screen is the tool path between the individual holes.

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