Snake Season Returns

Builders,

This week brought the magic Florida spring combination of rain and warm weather that awakens all the snakes. Below is a 26″ “juvenile cotton mouth” ( they have greenish tails ) who greeted me in the workshop, and then made a bee line for the crawl space under the house. As unpleasant as chasing him was, it was better than trying to sleep thinking about all the ways he could get in, or having to worry about him crawling in the clothes  dryer hose for a little night time warmth. Living in rural Florida has things to be vigilant for, but in our neighborhood none of them involve humans.

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An interesting pattern that kind of looks like a bunny. The coloring makes me think digital desert camouflage had to be inspired by this.

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Bottom view, different pattern, green tail evident


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Topside view.

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Common tools of rural Florida, L to R ;

H&R 1871, 20 gauge 3″shell, 20″ (modified) barrel. Great all around yard tool, thumb break and powerful ejector allow opening and closing with one hand and loading with other. 6.5 pounds In an era of liability suits, it is nice to have a firearm actually designed with no safety, because you used to be able to expect people not to point loaded guns at themselves or others. Purchased new in St. Augustine sporting goods store.

Savage 24C, 1980s vintage. .22LR over 20 gauge 2-3/4″ shell (cylinder bore). 18″ barrels. An American classic in a rare compact package. Very well balanced, surprisingly accurate with .22 shorts. 6.75 pounds. Purchased used at a pawn shop in Green Cove Springs.

Ruger anniversary edition 10/22, .22LR, 16″ barrel. This isn’t modified, it came from the factory this way. It is a take down model with the short threaded barrel.  The only thing I added was fiber optic sights. I have owned a number of 10/22s in the last 30 years, I had more fun from simple ones than modified target guns. 5.25 pounds. Purchased at Jacksonville gun store.

Note, all the firearms above were made in America. Contrary to media myth each purchase required a full background check (which the buyer pays for) Lying on the form will get you arrested, likely before you leave the parking lot. Felon’s can not buy guns in Florida again. The media wants to portray my state as lawless to fit their narrative, even if it has nothing to do with reality.

The Ruger Mini-14 is in .300 Blackout, it is on loan from a friend. It is much better than the one I owned in the 1980s. Even using 220 grain subsonic ammo it is still loud without a can on it.

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Chris Pryce visit

Builders,

Over many years, builders have followed the exploits of 3,000cc Corvair / KR-2S builder Chris Pryce. He was just at Corvair College #39 in Barnwell, where he was PF Beck’s 300th passenger in his Corvair powered Pietenpol, but Chris’s involvement with Corvairs goes much further back.

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Chris got his Private Pilot license at age 18, just before he enlisted in the USAF. We met in person at Sun n Fun nearly 10 years ago,  where he explained his passion for experimental aircraft goes way back, as his father, a global commercial pilot, first started planning on a homebuilt about the time Chris was born. In spite of deployments, starting a family, becoming an officer, and a KC-10 tanker pilot, Chris has still made a lot of progress on his KR. He ran his Corvair at Barnwell college 18 months ago, and his airframe is now nearing completion.  It has all been a lot of hard work and well earned achievements in a life of a young American we can all be proud of.

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While on TDY in Florida, Chris rented a Cessna 152 and flew over to our little airport for a visit. I was glad to invite him as a small thank you for his returning work at the Barnwell College as a volunteer assistant. We had some fun around the airpark, went to dinner on the water in St. Augustine, and Chris got a chance to fly some hardware from a time before the USAF even existed.

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An officer in the USAF, flying 600,000 pound aircraft around the globe, but he still has a sense of humor. Here Chris at my backyard range brings the concept of the Captain Morgan photo op (“Captain Morgan” Contest at #39) to a new setting.

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Above, short 15 second film of .410 pistol in action.

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Above blast from the past, Chris at CC#24, Barnwell with Kevin and Shelley. You can see a film of Chris’s engine running three years later at Barnwell at this link: https://youtu.be/xDfX78pa6ug

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Above blast from the past #2, with Chris at CC #20. There is a very funny inside story about Chris flying a light plane this day, his first time in the cockpit in a number of years. He stayed to the very last hour of the College before driving home 1,000 miles to the Florida Panhandle. He drove the furthest distance to the College.

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Above blast from the past #3, Chris and I at Sun n Fun 2009. What kind of a guy buys a Corvair manual while wearing a VW shirt?  Evidently one with a great future ahead of him.

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Above, back to 2017: On left Pat Amble, on left, production manager at SPA/Panther got to meet Chris at CC #39. When Chris showed up at our airport, Pat took him out for a several hour flight in the family 1942 Stearman. Pat’s father is a Vietnam era USAF vet. and liked the idea of sharing the experience with a current USAF airman.

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A week after Chris left, a got a short letter in the mail, It was from Chris’s father on the west coast (Jerry Pryce was at CC #38 in Cloverdale CA in 2016, he is building a 3,000cc Corvair / Sonex. Dad is also a DC-10 pilot, a nice connection. ). It shared a few words of thanks for things we have done with his son. I sat at my kitchen table and read the note a few times.  While I think of Chris as a friend, truth be told I am a lot closer in age to his dad.  Holding that piece of paper in my hands, it was very easy to understand how immensely proud Jerry must be of his son’s efforts and achievements. It was one of the very few times in my life where I wished I had children of my own.

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‘Rule of thumb’…. part #2

Builders.

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As a follow on to: Rule of thumb in evaluating gear mesh , I present part #2

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Question: Why does it say “Wear safety goggles” when it really should say “Do not put thumb on top of chisel when striking with hammer’?

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If you needed engine building advice, would you ask a man who just had a manicure, or the man who has a bloody thumb?

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Compression and Detonation Testing, #1

Builders,

I am going to cover this test project in a short series of articles. Below are some photos of the test hardware we will be using.

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As the title implies, we are going to run two separate tests, and share the data. I am going to put the results on You Tube also, because I want builders to see the results in action.

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The Compression test will be done first, it is fairly straight forward. I am building the engine, giving it a break in run, and then checking the differential compression, and running a base line full power run and noting the full RPM the engine makes.

I am equipping one head on the engine with small threaded ports next to spark plugs. For the base line run, these will be sealed. For the second test, I am going to open them up so the engine differential compression tests near zero 0/80) on those cylinders, and run the engine again and check the full RPM in comparison to the base line.

There is a widely held, but mistaken belief, even among aircraft owners and mechanics, that a cylinder with a differential compression of 40/80 makes half power, and one with 0/80 makes none. Neither of these are remotely true. The differential compression just measures flow against a known orifice, and does not correlate to any percentage of power out put. If the myth were true, the test engine with the three ports open would make less than 50% power output, but as we will see, it will do far better than that.  From professional dyno testing done by Dan Weseman and myself last year, we will be able to put HP numbers on the test stand RPM outputs, and the comparison will be enlightening to many people.

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The second part of the test is to show how rapidly, and how much power is lost when an engine is detonating.  Again, I will establish a normal running base line for the engine, and run it at full power for one minute at that setting.  This will be immediately followed by intentionally over advancing the timing to make the engine detonate. Several things I want people to see:

The engine will actually appear to run better at idle.

It will not detonate at modest power output.

When the throttle is advanced to full power, it will run normally for a few seconds, and when it reaches ‘kindling temperature’ it will suddenly begin to loose power.  This power loss will be far in excess of the engine running with 3 cylinders with zero differential compression.

If the throttle is not retarded, the power will continue to drop, to well below the level required for flight.

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We are working to get the engine instrumented with recording CHT’s and EGT’s for the detonation tests.  These will show a very sudden spike in CHT’s and a decrease in EGT’s, as all the BTU’s in the engine are destructively going into the heads. I will be working to capture this on video, so everyone can study the effect, know it when they feel it in their plane, and abort their test or take off. Again, a person with a correctly built engine and set timing will not experience detonation, but over the years, I have had a shockingly high percentage of people refuse to set their timing with a light, and I have people who never took advantage of my 39 free colleges to learn it directly from me.

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The last part of the tests will be a disassembly of the engine, after it has been detonated to the point where it would no longer make enough power to sustain flight, to show the internal damage done.  Because we teach people to use forged pistons in Corvair motors, and because the head studs in the engine are 9″ long instead of 1″ like a Lycoming or Continental, the visual results will be different.  I will carefully document the changes on the engine as a reference for people inspecting engines.

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The engine in the tests will not have a fifth bearing, nor will it have new seats and guides, and afterword, I will salvage some items like the prop hub and starter, but these test will still be expensive, costing several thousand dollars and perhaps two weeks of labor.  I am conducting them so builders will have a chance to learn something. It this happens the time and the money will have been well worth it.

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Test engine, 2,700cc’s. This bottom end came out of one of the two core motors we found. The plastic orange plug set is a kit sold by SPA/Panther specifically for Corvair storage and painting. Note, old style bell housing cover in place of 5th bearing.  This engine isn’t going flying, and the tests are all taking place in the combustion chambers.

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Heads getting reworked at SPA/Panther in advance of the tests. Travis Young (aka “Retro Black”) took care of the machining operations.  Their machine shop is set up for both engine and airframe parts production. The heads are getting perfect head gasket machined surfaces, and welded on intakes, but the valve job and the guides are just street car level work. Again, the motor will run for less than one hour, it doesn’t need new guides.

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Engine getting decked in the mill. These surfaces are now perfectly true and flat. After severe detonation, warping in the heads can often be measured directly with a straight edge. The head gasket areas are often impressed into the heads, and the lower row of studs can become misaligned. Detonation puts a tremendous amount of heat into the heads, enough that they will plastically deform.  Most people think of detonation putting holes in pistons, but it only does that on cast pistons. On forged Corvair pistons, the damage is more subtle, the oil control rings become stuck in the grooves. I intentionally specified forged pistons because the engine will actually tolerate a lot of abuse with them. They are a margin  of safety on small mistakes, but they will not provide immunity for fools.

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Head bolted to a fixture plate in the Mill. The unit is a very nice Chevalier with DRO. It is in good shape, having lived in a tool room most of it’s service life. Next time you See Dan at a College or an Airshow, you can get him to share the story of how he bought this piece of equipment for $6.

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“It ran great when we parked it”

Builders,

Vern and I picked up two core motors on Saturday. Vern knew the owner very well, and he had them both for more than 25 years, stored inside, in a dry place, but not sealed. Vern even knew the Corvair collector, another friend who sold these engines to the man we brought them from. Below are some pictures to illustrate why you should carefully store your engine following the advice I wrote in this story: Storing a completed engine.

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Upon inspection, each engine had 2 cylinders which were clogged with corrosion. Why? because on a Corvair, one exhaust valve on each side of the engine is always open. If the exhaust isn’t sealed, or the engine isn’t in a bag, over a long period of time, those cylinders will rot. This is why I have always said to bring a 3/4″ wrench and turn the engine 360 degrees to make sure it doesn’t look like this inside. These motors didn’t rotate at all, although they were probably perfectly fine when pulled from a car thirty years ago.

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Above, “Weird scenes inside the gold mine” . Think about how many times someone has told you the BS that lead in fuel is “good for valves” as if  it was the 11th commandment.  I have said this a zillion times: “The byproducts of combustion of leaded gas are highly corrosive in the presence of any moisture.” Leave it for a week , or a month, fine, but not longer. This is why we use unleaded fuel to break in motors at colleges, because they will be stored before use.This engine probably did run great the day it was pulled from a car. But with the exhaust left open, it formed this corrosion in two cylinders. The engine was filled with lead, so I am guessing the last time this engine ran in a car was in the mid 1970s. Historical note: I have been working on engines for decades, but I have never seen a Valley Forge brand spark plug. Maybe the specialized in the cold end of the heat range.

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Judging a book by it’s cover story: When we got the engines back to my hangar, I knew they were going to need a fair amount to work, so I broke out the pressure washer and the 375,000 BTU steam generator. Combined with a generous dose of purple cleaner, the engines looked very good on the outside in a few minutes. When engine shopping don’t care if the engine is clean, only if it rotates. Counterintuitive Grease Monkey Experience: an engine that is covered in goo on the outside constantly leaked oil, and thus had a continuous oil change going on. This motor invariably looks better inside than one which drove the last 3 or 4 years without an oil change. Besides, an oil leak core motor began the “self cocooning” anti-exterior corrosion process before hibernating a few decades waiting for you to need a flight engine core.

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Above, another hint at how long this motor was stored: When was the last time Shell sold spark plugs?  Look at the size of chemistry project going on in Cylinder #2. Part of what drives this process is the fact Corvairs have aluminum heads and iron barrels, diving a dissimilar metals factor an all iron car engine would not have.

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Preservative and cage free lunch in rural Florida. 

Builders,

When you speak in terms like “Cage free”, “Non Genetically modified”  and “all natural” people from more densely populated places just assume you are speaking of a trip to the Whole Food Store or one of those places where ‘enlightened and aware’ people shop.

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Well, here in Florida, we have just such a place in our little rural town, except it is also our local NAPA auto parts store. On Fridays in good weather, lunch is served to the staff and regulars. Today it was particularly fresh pork, which was smoked out back since 7am. Not only was it delicious, but it also met all the credentials touted by the enlightened such as no preservatives, cage free, etc.  It is a nice part of living in a place where people are well aware that food does not originate at Supermarkets, and there is a sure fire way of assuring that your food is all natural.

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I don’t think you can taste antibiotics in supermarket ham, but by comparison it insanely salty, and the ‘glazed’ stuff is only processed sugar coated. I am not a ‘foodie’ but when you are exposed to real natural food, it is a real moment of awareness on how far from normal consumer taste has been dragged.

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Above: I took the photo of the smoked pork on my plate. Just above it is The NAPA store owner’s phone, with a picture of what my lunch was doing a few days before.  Feral hogs are an invasive species in Florida, and they not only do extensive crop damage, they also harm native animals. The fact feral hogs are tasty combined with the high percentage of firearm ownership in Florida works to restore the natural balance in the environment and provide lunch at NAPA. Other than the last 1 second, this animal had a far more humane life than any animal existing in a ‘food’ factory. Lest anyone claim an AR has no sporting use, this meal was provided by an AR-15 chambered in 6.8 SPC.

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Needed: Core motor close to running.

UPDATE #2: Tomorrow at 6am, Vern and I are driving over to north central Florida to pick up two running Corvair engines for $500. Although we had many very thoughtful offers that I found moving, the best option to stay on the time line was to get an engine here locally. I missed Vern yesterday, but when I mentioned the project to him today, it took him exactly 4 phone calls to find just the right motors at the right price, within 90 miles. More news at the end of the day tomorrow. 

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UPDATE: Several people called to generously offer the use of their flight motors. Let me clarify what I am doing. I am going to run a destructive test on the engine. The term “core” doesn’t mean the middle part of a flight motor, I mean core as in the rebuild able unit as removed from a car.

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I am going to first put a prop hub and a starter on it, and run it as a base line. Then I am going to set the timing with 8 degrees too much advance on car gas, and I am going to show that it will run for 15 seconds before going into detonation, and when it does the power will decline rapidly. Before it blows, I will stop this. Next, I am going to differential compression test it. Then I am going to drill a 1/16″ hole in 3 cylinders just below the head gasket, and run a differential compression test to show each of these cylinders reduced to 0/80 compression. With the timing set correctly, I am then going to prove that a motor with zero differential compression on half it cylinders will still have plenty of power to fly a plane. when this is done, I am going to set the timing with too much advance, and run the engine that way until it blows. All this will be filmed and documented. This is why I need an old engine out of a car, not a newly rebuilt motor. If someone was planning on using their core for a rebuild, I will replace any part I break or render unusable from my own core parts collection.  

Builders:

I am going to run a very specific test on the run stand, and I am looking for a regular, stock 95 or 110HP car core engine to do this with. I need the results in a week or so, thus I am asking for help finding a test motor.

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All I need is an assembled case, pistons and cylinders, and heads for the test. It doesn’t need to have carbs alternator, nothing else. It will just save me a bunch of time over assembling a greasy core from worn parts to run a 20 minute test on the stand.

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I will gladly buy this motor, or if it is a builder core I will come and pick it up, or you can come to my hangar for a day of interesting testing, and then we will tear it down and get it started being processed into any flight engine you would like. Several different options here, the only critical element is I need to move forward this coming week.

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If you can help, use the comments section, send me an email to WilliamTCA@aol.com, text 386 451 3676, or call. Glad to listen to any options.

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Above, Grace takes apart a core engine at Corvair College #3 at Spruce Creek Florida, 2002.  With her is Gus Warren and Mark Christmann. The engine I need today could be just slightly more assembled than this.

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