Thought for the Day – ‘A Vessel of Human Courage’.

Builders,

The following story is an observation; How we as Americans, often fail to appreciate what it cost our Fathers and Grandfathers to provide the world we live in today.  Below is a simple example of how a media image, by inappropriately grouping two things together, ‘dumbs down’ a part of our history, and unconsciously dilutes our respect for a sacrifice we should still remember with profound reverence.

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Above, a photo taken at Oshkosh 2018. The image was very popular in the EAA.

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The bomber is a B-17, the very symbol of American courage, the willingness to invade in worlds most defended airspace in broad daylight to attack the most evil regime in history.  The US 8th Air Force  flew those missions, and they cost the lives of 26,000 Americans. Next time you are attending an airshow, walk up and place your bare hand on the skin of a B-17; it is just .040″ thick aluminum. This offers no resistance at all to a 20mm cannon round, none to a 13mm machine gun bullet, and effectively nothing to the fragments of an exploding 88mm flak shell. Our country once commonly produced young men who had the courage for 10 hour missions of this. Today, all that is left is a tiny fraction of them, old and withered, who you may have seen walk up to touch the skin of a B-17 once more. In 5 more years we will still have the planes, but the men will be all gone, and an element of our national courage will have left with them. We still generate good people, but its fair to say we will not have men like the 8th Air Force crews again, and this is what people at airshows should consider when they see a B-17.  It isn’t just a plane, it is a vessel of human courage, We made 12,000 B-17s, and we once had more than enough men of exceptional courage to fill them.

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The other aircraft in the picture is a Van’s RV-12, this years ‘one week wonder’. I am a person with different perspectives, and I find it being pictured with a B-17 a mistake. It may not matter to almost everyone else, but if your thinking doesn’t neatly fit in the ‘almost everyone’ box, maybe the reason will resonate with you. If you see it differently, thats fine, I present these ideas as “thought provoking, not thought providing.”

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Putting a fun plane in the picture with a B-17, draws the common idea they are both planes, and the EAA is all about planes. Good?…..I don’t think so. As I said above, a B-17 isn’t just a plane, it is a symbol of national courage, and it should alway be presented as this, if the sacrifice of the men who flew them is to be understood.  I find this particularly critical while any person who flew them in combat is still alive.  You would not present a picture of a Starbucks mug with the Holy Grail.  A proper “Salute to Veterans” isn’t the overbearing airshow announcer and the pyrotechnical ground show, it is quietly understanding, and respectfully addressing the courage these men had, and the RV-12 has no place in that presentation. To picture them together is shallow at best, and arguably disrespectful.

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I have attended 30 years of airshows since I started my work in aviation, and have seen hundreds of hours of warbird ‘airshows’.  The four hours I spent watching two films “Twelve o’clock high” and ‘The Best Years of Our Lives” provided more appreciation for the price the aircrews paid. If more Americans understood that in the fall of 1943 the loss rate on B-17 missions was so high there was less than a 10% chance of surviving 25 missions, perhaps we would have the taste not to include toys in pictures of aircraft which a best understood as vessels of human courage.

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Very special deal on “E-I-B” 2,775cc Corvair ‘Kit’ engine with Billet Crank.

Builders,

If you have been thinking about assembling a very high end 105-110 HP Corvair for your project, we have an outstanding, one of a kind offer, this week only, on a SPA “Engine in a Box” complete kit engine.

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SPA Engine in a Box kits come with every single engine part, but they have a wide variety of options. However, the centerpiece of this kit is a SPA made in the USA, new Billet Crankshaft.  ( 2012 story: Billet Cranks Made In The USA– 2018 story:SPA Billet Corvair Cranks) Almost all other parts in the kit are brand new also, just a few items, the case halves, the basic head castings and the accessory case casing are original remanufactured parts. Virtually all else is new, made in the USA.

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Here is the special deal:

All EIB kits have the available option of having the bottom end assembled for an additional $600. We also offer final assembly on engines and test runs for $1,400.  In the case of this particular engine, SPA is waiving the bottom end assembly fee, and I am offering an exclusive, one on one weekend training, final assembly and test run for the purchaser, at my own hangar, at no charge.

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OK, some basic questions:

How much is this this billet crank EIB kit?

$13,795.

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How long is the offer good for?

Until 11/10/18, the first builder who pays for it will get it.

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When do I have to come for the training?

The engine has to be paid for now, but the training offer is good for the next 5 months.

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Can I fly in commercial and have the test run engine shipped to me?

Yes, you can fly in to Jacksonville FL, and we will do the work at my hangar. The engine owner is responsible for the crating and shipping charges, but we have access to very reasonable rates on this.

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Can I bring my spouse, kid or friend to the weekend?

Yes, Yes, and Yes. 

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If I can’t make it to your shop, can I have the engine assembled, run and shipped?

I will assemble and test run it myself, but the buyer is still responsible for crating and shipping fees.

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Do I owe a core fee on this engine?

No. There has been a core on previous EIB kits, but it is waived for the offer, on this engine kit.

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Who do I contact about buying this engine?

Rachel Weseman at SPA 904-626-7777

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Who do I complain to if I want the engine, but wait too long, and I have to read the story about the guy who bought it and see the pictures of him doing the CMP- (“Captain Morgan” Contest at #39) outside William’s hangar?

I understand that SME (Spilled Milk Enterprises) offers a special ‘self anger and loathing’ seminar on Regret Island in the Bahamas next year. You will have to make your own reservations, but they will have mechanical grief counselors on staff.

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Above, Front quarter view of a 2,775 engine built in our shop. When assembled, the EIB kit engine will look just like this one.

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Further 2,775 stories:

New 2,775 cc Corvair for a Zenith 601XLB

Pietenpol 2,775 cc Corvair; Trevor Rushton from UK

2,775 cc Pistons are here.

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Aeromatic Prop – and a point

Builders,

Well known, 800 hour Corvair/Pietenpol pilot Bob Lester and his girlfriend Dusty flew across the top of Florida on Saturday, from their grass airstrip to ours. The took Bob’s classic Stinson 108, which he has owned about 15 years. The Piet was not used for the trip because he brought over its leaky 40 year old fiberglass wing tank from it in the Stinson, so vern and I can use it as a template to make the Piet an aluminum one.

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Bob recently spent $6,000 to buy the prop which is pictured below. If you don’t know what an Aeromatic Prop is, google the wikipedia page and read up. I know a lot about props, and these are arguably the most elegant and beautifully simple automatic props off all time. Open the throttle wide, and it will go to the full redline rpm of the engine, pull it back for cruise and it automatically drops rpm and increases the pitch for efficient cruise. The great part of all this: it accomplishes all this with no controls, no governor, no oil, no electricity. It works very elegantly, simply on the balance of forces.

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Above, the business end of the 108; the engine is a 165HP Franklin, which is the closest certified aircraft engine to a Corvair that you will ever see. The slot on the spinner is for the counterweight on the prop blade to swing when the blade changes pitch. On the ground, you can walk up to this prop and change the pitch with your fingertips. The hub is alloy, but the blades are wood. They are a 1940’s design. They work very well on a certain speed range of planes. They were largely superseded by constant speeds, because they can cover a wider speed range and can feather, but these features of constant speeds came this greatly increased cost, weight, pilot workload, maintenance and complexity.

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Above, the sticker on the prop. If you look at the logo it shows an exaggerated feature of the aromatic design: the blades do not line up with each other in the hub, nor is their axis of pitch rotation perpendicular to the crank.  Without these geometric features, the prop could not be made to work automatically. Understanding how this geometry could be harnessed in proportion to the pitch centrifugal and aerodynamic forces is the brilliant part of this very unique design. Notice you can see my reflection in the prop finish. This was not an overhauled prop, it was new.

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The point:  Bob bout the prop, which cost about 25% of the plane, because it provides a critical safety margin over the fixed pitch prop when operating out of short fields on hot Florida days. $6,000 is a lot, but it isn’t much to make a dramatic performance improvement, and thus a safety improvement in the plane. It could now lose a cylinder on climb out and not have a forced landing. to better understand the concept, look at this story: Critical Understanding #5, Knowing “+ROC/5” Rate of Climb on Five cylinders.

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Likewise the gas tank we are making for Bob’s Pietenpol isn’t going to be ‘cheap’ either, unless you factor in what happens to the passenger if the dated, softened polyester fiberglass tank pours fuel on them. Bob has been around planes for a number of decades, his dad was a B-25 pilot in WWII, he has a family history of knowing that gambling and aviation don’t go together when there are improvements available which keep all of your operations within a reasonable aviators assessment of acceptable risk.

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Thoughts on gas tanks and a point.

Builders,

One of the most enduringly popular stories I have written is this one from 2012: Steel tube fuselages, “Safe” planes and 250mph accidents. The surface subject is a discussion of fuselage materials, but the bigger point behind it is getting builders to think about developing their own personal risk management assessments.

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Another one, focused more on todays topic was this one from 2016: Dated Sources of Information: Example – Fiberglass fuel tanks. Again, it has a deeper point, that what is popularly deemed “acceptable risk” changes over time, and todays builders should not blindly accept yesterday’s standards, particularly because some critical elements of building environment have changed.

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Today’s story is a bit more specific look at some example gas tanks, but it also has a bigger point drawn from it.

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Would you fly in a plane which had a plastic fuel tank in the fuselage with walls just the thickness of a spark plug gap? How about if that plane had no firewall between the motor and the gas tank? What if it had open vents also? What if I also told you these vents would pour gas on the engine if the plane was put on its back? Think I’m making this combination up? Guess again, this is the actual fuel tank from a Kolb mark III pusher aircraft, and it sat right behind the occupants, directly below the engine. This particular one was signed off by an FAA inspector, and flown for early 20 years. The fact it never burned the plane down is one of those things that leads me to repeat my personal mantra; “god has a sense of humor which I am yet to understand.”

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OK, some plastic tanks are very good. In the center of the picture above is the plastic tank from my 15′ Boston Whaler. It is indestructible. It was made by Jazz, a fuel cell manufacturer, and it came from Summit Racing. It was less than $200. In the field of experimental aircraft, the best known tank of this style is the custom made one that goes in a Sonex aircraft. These are excellent, and they have nothing to do with the glorified milk jug from the Kolb.

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On the other end of the picture, is the milk jugs replacement, an aluminum gas tank folded up, which I’m TiG welding up for my friend Alex to put back in the Kolb. There are two of them in the plane, they will be slightly over 5 gallons each. I am making them in such a way where they can be heavily distorted in an accident without bursting a seam. This is done with several subtle details, like having generous radiuses, having no butt welds, and having the ends be inserts with outward facing flanges. Of course the vents will be properly located, the plane will now actually have a sump to drain the tanks and check for water on pre-flights. Alex is a good guy. Friends with TiG welders don’t let other friends fly with milk jugs for fuel tanks.

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The Bigger Point: Every year, many people quit their project, because they hit a serious stumbling block they don’t like on the design. In about 90% of the cases, particularly with first time builders, they have picked the wrong system or detail to get bent out of shape about. They just need to talk to some other experienced builders and learn why a particular part is done the way it is. However, there are cases of things which builders may have a legitimate discomfort with. In that case, instead of fretting over it for months and letting it sap motivation, the solution is to enlist some help from AVIATION PEOPLE, NOT “RACE CAR” PEOPLE, and come up with a good workable solution, like I did with the tanks above, and get on with making it, and get back to finishing the plane. Don’t be one of the countless builders who allow a small issue to sap their motivation, let their project languish, and eventually never come back to it. Point: if you have an issue, go to the experienced builders with your specific plane, and only if you need to, align the detail design to better suit your own acceptable risk management standards.

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A Blast Cabinet and a point

Builders;

Below is a ‘new to me’ very large blast cabinet I picked up a month ago. It was sitting, unused for many years, in another hangar on our airport. It came from a friend, a thank you for sharing the fundamentals of personal defense with his daughter, for whom he had purchased a S&W Airweight.  A shop tool someone had paid $3k for in the 1970s or 80s, swapped for a rewarding afternoon at my backyard range, showing a petite woman in her 50’s how the word ‘No’ is a command, not a pleading request, when you have the right tool in your hand.

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Above, the cabinet and the separator are products of Zero Mfg. Once the finest brand of abrasive blasting, great products made in Missouri, today a relic, a victim of a very clever bankruptcy engineered by bean counters who thought nothing of the manufacturing jobs they threw away.  It is 40″ x 36″ x 30″, the whole front opens, the round discs are counterweights on the door.

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Over many years at the airport, this cabinet had several owners, but none of them found it to work very well, and it eventually fell into disuse. This made little sense to me, as this was an industrial tool, it should have worked better. All the hoses and wiring were rotted from sitting, and I carefully replaced all of it. When going through the air lines to the foot pedal, I found the culprit. Some time, many years ago, someone had put an adaptor fitting in the air line with a restrictive internal diameter, about 1/8″. I replaced all the air lines with 1/2″, and made sure the smallest restriction in the line was 3/8″.  The nozzle in the BNP gun is 3/16″, the smallest orifice, as it should be. Set up this way the cabinet is now doing an incredible rate of work. Its performance was a tiny fraction of this for decades, all due to a single fitting that’s carelessly installed by someone now long gone.

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The aviation Point:

Over the years, I have seen a dozen Corvairs where the owner was plagued by some issue, poor performance, overheating, rough running. Most of these people went to the internet to ask for feedback, and were provided with an endless array of highly improbable reasons, and equally arcane ‘solutions’. Just like the restrictive fitting in the air line, the answer was always simple; just ask what is different from other installations that are nearly identical, but have long proven to work, there lies the answer. It is almost always something ‘custom’ the builder included, often at the suggestion of a local expert or a mystery person on the net.  When I show this to people, something as simple as never having opened the nose bowl inlets on their plane, they express some disbelief, later a little thanks, but I’m yet to see one go back on the internet and tell everyone the solution was something simple, and just making it as I suggested in the first place.

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3.0L Corvair for Zenith 601XLB, Steve Mason.

Builders,

Two weeks ago,  Steve Mason made a family trip down to Florida from upstate NY. He brought his Corvair down, so we could run it on my test stand. Its a few casual hours of prep and inspection it was ready to break in. I turned over twice in a second or two, lit right off, and ran flawlessly.

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Above, Steve give his best “Captain Morgan” pose, something of a social requirement on public Corvair test runs. This picture was taken right in front of my house, looking north up the runway.

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Above is a 14 second engine run Video. Just a little look at a 30 minute test run.  In the first 1/2 hour the primary thing we are after is breaking in the cam correctly. This is done by having ZDDP added to the oil (this comes with my cam kits) and running the motor at 1,800-2,000 rpm.

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Above, a bit classier picture of Steve. He built the engine from an SPA “engine in a box” kit.  These kits come with every single piece needed to build and run a Corvair flight engine, including every engine part from my catalog of Corvair parts, plus all the appropriate ones from the SPA Corvair catalog. If you would like more info on price and availability on EIB Corvair kits, call SPA at 904-626-7777.

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William.

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PS: I have builders at my house, but only by prior arrangement. Once every few months someone tries to stop by uninvited. I take a dim view of this, just the way you would if anyone invited themselves over to you residence. I live in a private residential airpark, and the neighbors are pretty cool about me having guests over and running engines for extended periods, but the are not too keen on uninvited people driving through the airpark in circles looking for my house. I have people over for one on one training, to fabricate special parts or for test runs, but these are all done by prior arrangement, and they are regular work, so they do have labor charges. Anyone inclined to stop by and talk airplanes should just come and find me after hours at Oshkosh.  Thanks in advance for being understanding.

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Very effective small parts cleaner

Builders;

Here is a piece of shop equipment that isn’t very expensive, but I have used for more than 15 years as very useful tool. You may not have one, or even an air compressor, but if your friend does, you can purchase some materials and get the same results.

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The basic set up is a pneumatic paint shaker, for one gallon cans, just like the one local paint stores use.  You can buy new, empty one gallon cans, put steel parts like rocker arms, guide plates and various bits of hardware in the can, add ceramic media and a quart of simple green, and shake it for 20 minutes. It does a great job of both cleaning and polishing.  You open the can and pluck the parts out with a magnet, wash them off with water, and they are ready for inspection. The best part is you can drink coffee and watch the shaker, and still feel like you are getting work done.

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This close up shows “Triangular ceramic finishing media”  You can get 5 pounds from the worlds greatest shop catalog,  McMasterCarr.com. It’s part number 4918A181, and it only costs $20. Theoretically you can wear it out, but the media pictured is actually 19 years old, so its not really a consumable item.

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Above, a regular pneumatic paint shaker. They don’t consume much air, you can run one off a fairly small compressor. This arrangement does a very good job on small parts, and leaves them with a much better finish than other methods. If you don’t have one, just clean the stuff up by hand, but if you have a buddy with a shaker, its a pretty useful arrangement.

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You can buy a cheap shaker from Harbor Freight, but it is provided by the same people who brought you Tiananmen Square. You can look for a US made one, or grant yourself a pass on this part, it isn’t a torque wrench.  Even I am a sell out, as I used an iPhone to take this picture, and I’m sure the phone was made by near slave labor in a police state, just so all the staff at headquarters in Cupertino California can make high incomes and bow at the statue of Steve Jobs, the worst parent in history. ( look up the story, he shouldn’t be anyone’s hero.)

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