Corvair Mission 2019, Part #2 -“Mobile Test Stand”

Builders,

One problem for us to directly serve west coast builders with in person training is the fact my current test stand must be driven to the event in a truck or trailer. In 2016, I did this lap around America: Back in Florida after 7,380 miles on tour., , but it isn’t the kind of tour you can run every year on a budget provided by the overhead from a low cost engine program.  Before this, we had used Pat Panzera’s test stand at College #5, #13 and #18. (all in CA) In 2009 in Washington I used a Zenith 750 airframe for demo runs. These were stop gap solutions, and this year we have an effective solution: The Mobile Test Stand. 

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Above, My test stand, which has run nearly 500 Corvair engines in the last 20 years. It has been through a number of changes, mostly to shrink it in size so it can fit into my enclosed trailer. (The tongue folds and the fuel tank pivots down) with an engine on it, it clears the trailer door by 5/8″.  It works great, but we needed a ‘clean sheet’ design to make it mobile.

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OK, here is the new idea:  Dan Weseman and I have gone over a mobile test stand design which can be unbolted into parts in 20 minutes, and strapped down to a pallet for truck shipping. We already have enough parts to set it up, we need only fine tune the design and build it.  Le’ts say we want to have a training event in Salt Lake City;  All we need is a local builder with a hangar, and we would truck ship the Mobile stand out a week in advance, and fly out commercial. On Sunday afternoon, break it down, put it on the pallet, and head home. We could be back in Florida working on Monday. This concept will make holding many events possible west of the Mississippi.  If we hold a session in Yuma AZ, and one later in Norther CA, the pallet could be driven in a pickup there or sent on a commercial truck. It need not always return direct to Florida. It is easier than anyone on the west coast building a stand, because that can’t easily move interstate nor make one way trips.  When we have big colleges like Barnwell, we can use it to run more engines side by side with out regular stand.

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Now, time to speak about costs: Building this new stand isn’t a big deal, it might cost $1,000 if we go fancy on it, take a weekend, tops.  But let’s start thinking of trips: How about another event in Portland OR? The Mobile Stand will likely cost $400 to move each way. If just me gets on a plane, call the travel expenses $600. Double that if Dan comes also. Maybe $300 more if we need a motel or a rental car.  So a basic trip like this is $1,500 -$2,500, and that is with us volunteering our time.

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I’m picturing doing as many as four or five of these a year. I’m thinking small group events with 10-12 builders. This allows us to do it without the logistics of large colleges like the ones Kevin and Shelley hosted in Texas or the nine done by PF Beck and crew in Barnwell SC. Other than Steve Glover in Chino CA, we don’t have a proven big venue that will draw 50-60 builders in the west for a full scale college, and if you go back and read part #1 of this series, I’m looking for ways to get much more effective training, and I think we are going to do it in smaller groups rather than more larger Colleges. Dan, Rachel and I have seen this work with events like this: Corvair Finishing School #1, Video report.. I still like regular Colleges, but I’m looking at how to deploy our finite resources, particularly time, to get the maximum amount of real information transfer to builders.

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Is this a valuable idea to builders?  Having a Mobile Test Stand solves the issue of taking weeks out of the shop and driving around the country, but it isn’t addressing the cost. Five events at a $2K average is a chunk of money, and I will assure anyone my mark up on parts has a hard time covering that, the $4K of going to Oshkosh and a few free Colleges.  So the core issue here is the simple question: Would you as a builder pay $250 to get into a 10 person training event in your home state? Would you be willing to do this even if your engine wasn’t ready to run? These are questions I would like to hear the answers to and perspectives from builders in the comments section.

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I have held 43 free Corvair Colleges, and there will be more, but to intensify the training in 2019, I’m looking at asking builders if they would be willing to cover the direct costs of smaller training events closer to where they live. I’m also listening for builders (specifically people who have attended at least one College before) who might host these gatherings. Please share your thoughts and possible locations.

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Wewjr.

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Corvair Mission 2019, part #1

Builders:

I typically put out an ‘Outlook’ statement in January each year, outlining the game plan for who I will work with builder during the upcoming year, what we will focus on, events in the works.  This year is a but different, as it is my 30th year in the business, and I spent the last 4 months of 2018 speaking with many friends, in a rigorous evaluation of what the strengths of the Corvair movement are, what builders need, and how best to serve them.

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The Golden Rule: ” In a demanding environment, the most reliable machine will be the simplest one, at the hands of the best trained operator.” – ww.

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It has been my long held conviction that our motor and the process building them are very well developed, but way too many builders, including many who have attended colleges, are getting just a fraction of what we are offering in education and experience. The centerpiece of my work in 2019 will be increasing the understanding of each individual builder.

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After careful looking at operations and questions builders had in 2017-2018, It was obvious that three things were causing the majority of issues for some builders who were either too distracted by secondary things like avionics, paint jobs and interiors.  or were not focusing their attention on really knowing their plane.  This may sound critical, but it is honest. When a guy has a $2,000 interior in his plane, but doesn’t own a $39 timing light, he needs to be told his priorities are inverted. Likewise, a person who has painted their plane, but not bothered to open the inlets on their cowl, but when later questioned says ‘I ran hot before, but the weather is cooler now”  needs to hear this. Same goes for anyone about to fly a plane who has never heard of a “Two minute test.”

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This year is my 30th year of working with Corvair flight engines. The goal has always been to learn build and fly. The internet made the distribution of that information much easier, but it also brought incredible distractions, opinions from countless people without relevant experience, and it radically accelerated peoples consumerism, all of which distracted from or directly attacked the transmission of the experience and understanding I am working to share. This is pervasive, as some people attending Corvair Colleges miss basic information, simply because they got distracted by other things when the mission at hand was learning.  In 2019, I am going to directly and plainly address the “Learning Gap,” in everything I do, this will be priority #1.  If you got into homebuilding to see how much you could learn, understand, build and operate, this should be a very welcome declaration. 

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Plainly: The three main issues some builders have come from these points;

A) They are not flying the correct carb set up correctly for their plane. When correct, carbs are stupid simple and very reliable, and I will put their operational record against that of EFI any day of the year. But we have people who don’t use the right carb, or ever verify its operation.  Addressing this is the motivation behind the testing in these stories: Shootout at the Stromberg corral  , .Stromberg Shootout, Pt #2,.and. MA3-SPA Test Runs.. . This information will be part of an ongoing push to get builders to use the right carb, set up correctly.

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B) For 10 years I have told builders to not use the nose bowl inlets as they come out of the mold, but they must take 30 minutes when mounting the cowl to open the inlets and install inlet rings. Perhaps only 30% of builders did this. The other 70% of people includes people who were out on the internet complaining their plane ran hot.  It includes people who flew to airshows and Colleges. This is the equivalent of buying a new radiator for your car, but only filling it half way and leaving the cap off.  After a decade, The solution is to offer a new cowl, which has these things already done, so people who can’t be bothered will have it done for them. This cost a lot of time and effort to have new molds made, but in the end I said every thing I could about this and only got 30% compliance. The New cowl is better, but it’s primary goal was to address the 70% who would not follow the directions. .‘STOL Bowl’ availability starts tomorrow.. is a story about this cowl as a solution to getting people to use the cooling potential of the engine.

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C) I must have written 100 stories about how critical it is to set the timing on ANY flight engine. Just like this: YOU MUST SET THE TIMING ON YOUR ENGINE. Could not be more plain. I have showed 100’s of builders how to do this for free at 43 colleges, yet, we still have people who will not do this. Something which has emerged is builders who don’t do it because the don’t want to stand behind a running engine with a timing light. This is odd, because many of the same people stood right behind their engine when it ran at a College. Yet, when they are home, they may set the timing at idle, but will not run it up as required.  This leads to this development: .Dual 50K volt test ignition. This specific system has no points and no advance. The timing on it can be set at idle…….Is it better than the E/P and E/P-X systems that I have been making for 14 years? The answer is Yes, if the builder is not doing to set the timing at full static RPM.  This test:.“Corvair Fast Burn” Ignition timing settings , is an evaluation of fixed timing settings, and to further demonstrate that the timing must be set on ANY engine.

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LOOKING AHEAD: I will shortly put out notes on Colleges, Finishing Schools , airshows and and other learning and training opportunities. Builders will shortly see how the format of Colleges will be redone this year. If you wonder why, come back and read this, and understand that my primary focus of sharing my experience has never changes, but I am in the process of adjusting it to have a better success rate with all builders.

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WW.

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“Talk is cheap, testing costs money, and being ignorant costs a fortune.-ww.”

“Corvair Fast Burn” Ignition timing settings

Builders:

The sun is just setting here, but 15 minutes ago we had pretty close to standard atmospheric conditions here, and it was an excellent time for an important test I wanted done with a minimal correction factor. I was testing “Corvair Fast Burn” ignition timing settings.

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OK, here is the concept: If you…….

A) Have a tight quench area in the head, as SPA machines them,

B) Have the correct spark plug (the recommended Denso’s, nothing else)

C) Have the carb set for the Correct air/fuel ratio at wide open throttle

The engine can be set to make 98% of it’s potential power output, with greatly reduced ignition advance, giving it a very, very wide margin of safety against detonation.  Even with reduced octane fuels.

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NOTE, this isn’t the air fuel ratio we use. This is just the one captured in the picture. The actual ratio is 12;1 to 12.5:1 . -thanks, ww.

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Above, the digital Air-Fuel meter from this story:Shootout at the Stromberg corral in action. When I say the carb must be spot on for the setting to work, It means you have to have the correct model carb, jetting as we recommend, not something that kind of looks like it.  If you have a carb running lean, it will be very prone to detonation, no matter what other factors are at play.  When you read that 115/145 octane fuel was used on the last of the piston powered airliners and bombers, the dual rating of the fuel is its comparative Octane rating for running lean (the first number) and rich (the second number) The Octane of the fuel you are using means nothing if it is running lean.

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OK, the results. I use the panel of the run stand as a note pad, because it is easier than writing on a clip board in a 125mph wind. The first number is the total timing advance, the second number is the full static rpm of my test prop.

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LooK:

35 degrees (never use this) is 3360 rpm. This worked because it was a cool day, and I have everything set perfectly, on a hot day, sustained power at this setting would be on the ragged limit of detonation.

Now look at 26 Degrees: It turned 3340 rpm. That is 98% of the power output, but with 9 less degrees of ignition advance.  Note this set of tests was conducted with 90 octane gas. I will very shortly have a more formal recommendation to setting the timing on 3.0 and 3.3 Corvairs, but as a starting point, there is no need to use more than 26 degrees. The power output difference is hardly measurable, but the detonation resistance is radically increased.

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Wew.jr.

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Thought for the Day: What Girl Scout Cookies can teach you about Homebuilding.

Builders,

It’s that season again, when little green and brown clad urchins barricade supermarket exits and demand $4 and your will power before they let you pass. I’m against negotiating with terrorists, but I do have a particular problem with Thin Mints and Tag-alongs that makes me a poor negotiator on this subject.

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Wouldn’t it be great if Girl Scout Cookies were good for you? What if they had no calories, were completely balanced nutrition, and you dentist said things like “Your teeth are so white, I see you have been keeping up on your Thin Mints”.  A pleasant fantasy, but everyone understands it isn’t vaguely associated with reality.

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Above;  My 1939 copy of “Your Wings” by Assen Jordanoff, and proof I have no will power around Girl Scout Cookies.  The book is a classic from an era where knowing your stuff was central to being an aviator.  It still is, but most people would rather be wowed by interiors, glass cockpits and paint jobs. They pay little attention to the fundamentals of flying. This $20 used book has more human reward and satisfaction in it than any $2,000 interior ever will. 

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OK, so everyone understands how idiotic it would be if I tried to tell people a diet made of 100% cookies was good for you, why don’t the equivalent fantasies in aviation bring the same condemnation?

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When people say:

“I want to have a totally reliable homebuilt, that never gives me any issues, and I want to safely fly my family around the country in it. I want it done in one year, and I want it to look great.………But I’m unwilling to spend any money on the engine, I don’t comply with AD’s and Service letters because they can’t make me, I never read directions, I only listen to people who tell me what I want to hear, I paid $2,000 for an interior but will not spend a penny on transition training, I can’t tell you the Va of any plane I have ever flown, and I bought my kit off barnstormers because it was 25% cheaper than a new one, and I’m just going to ignore all the ‘snowman’ holes drilled in the spar with no edge distance because I’m not going to fly aerobatics and planes are overbuilt. “

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If you catch anyone in homebuilding saying any part of the above statement, or any variation on it, please treat them as if they are telling you Girl Scout Cookies are pure nutrition.  Well built planes are made of reading, learning, understanding and craftsmanship. Their successful operation is made of training, understanding and good judgment. There are no short cuts to this, there is no magic. 

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There is a certain kind of person who doesnt like hearing what I just said. They like thinking they can game the system, or in modern parlance, “hack” it to allow them some personal short cut. They think paying your dues, learning and real training is for average people who can’t figure out the angles.  After 30 years in homebuilding, I can tell you these are the first people to quit…if they are lucky. In the rare chance they finish, sooner or later, reality and physics show up with a bill that can’t be paid.

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Wewjr

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Dual 50K volt test ignition

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NOTE, Dan Sheradin put a link in the comments to a working 30 second video. I have issues with getting videos from my iPhone to directly work with the blog software.

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Builders,

Not all tests are directly aimed at making a product next month, some are pure R&D to test ideas which may or may not be integrated into later products. Either way, the understanding which comes from afternoons like this is part of what makes my experience valuable to traditional homebuilders.

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Above: On Sunday I let this test ignition run on my 1947 sun distributor machine for several hours. Get a look at that spark, it is arcing over a 3/4″ air gap. It performed flawlessly, but is it something useful? In spite of working great for hours, it would still have to pass three critical tests: Power consumption, elevated heat tolerance and low voltage ability.  My current E/P and E/P-X ignitions do, and they do it affordably.  Looking at a system like the one above, it has advantages, but they come with questions and a different price tag. These are the the things you consider while this hums away in the shop for several hours.

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The Details:

Body: Corvair dual bushing

Cap adaptor: Ford V-6

Pickups : Chrysler slant 6

Reluctor: Hand made

Module A : Chevy V-6

Module B: 1981 Pontiac 301 turbo.

Coil : Echlin 1990s GM E style, ultra low resistance.

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The wiring is spread out a lot to make it more accessible for testing, it facilitates putting the heat gun and thermal camera on individual elements to see how the perform under duress.  Yes, Vice grips have a place in the world of tests and evaluations.

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wewjr

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‘STOL Bowl’ availability starts tomorrow.

Builders,

A long awaited image below; that is six of my new “STOL Bowl” nose bowls next to my truck outside the loading bay at the SPA factory. These are now boxed up and ready for shipment.  We are now at a regular production rate of 5 per week coming out of the new mold.  We will update the products page in a day with pricing to reflect this availability.

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Above, after many months of development, we now have regular production. This part, #4201-B, will be the new “Standard” part, and it supersedes the #4201 for all applications. There is no appreciable drag penalty on Corvair planes flying below 140mph, and the “B” model does have a significant cooling advantage. Starting tomorrow, the products page will reflect these status changes to 4201 and 4201-B, and we will have the new bowls available at an introductory price.

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More news shortly.

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William.

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3,000cc Corvair, Video #2

Builders,

OK, now you know I’m not kidding about being a knuckle dragging troglodyte around computers. Good thing I have the charm of David Niven, the wardrobe of Sinatra and the dance floor skills of Fred Astair .

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Video #2, 3,000cc Corvair in my yard today, idling smoothly at 700rpm.

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