Effective Risk Management – 2,903 words

Friends,

I wrote this about a year ago. It was an explanation of how I came to the point of being vocally intolerant of foolish people in aviation, and an explanation to a new pilot of how anyone can recognize and avoid fools. I wrote it in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep after too much coffee. We live in a very rural area, and it’s dead silent in the middle of the night. It’s conducive to thinking about the things that you put out of your mind in the busy daylight hours. If you’re in a hurry, this will seem long. Leave it until you have more time, you will be closer to the mindset I was in when I wrote it.

I received some private e-mails in the past couple days. Two of these stuck out as perhaps worthy of slightly broader discussion. The first e-mail could be boiled down to the question ‘when did you become such an opinionated bastard?’ The second e-mail came from a guy who is new to experimental aviation, and had only made enough flights in general aviation aircraft to understand that he really liked it. His main point was that there was no real guidance for green guys on exactly what to do at the airport. He felt the standards for what is safe and what is not, and what might be interpreted as foolish by experienced aviators, were not spelled out nor defined. He was not so much concerned with how he looked, but whether something he might be doing unknowingly could be unsafe to himself or others. These two different letters can actually be addressed under a common theme.  I’ll address the subject of each letter separately, and work to tie together a little bit at the end.  I would like people to consider it, but in the long run use it as a starting point for developing or evolving your own values on the topic.

For a long time I have said the bitterest lesson I  have ever learned in aviation was a fairly simple one. Fools are dangerous. From the very beginning of my time at Embry Riddle this was drilled into our heads by serious men. This was not ivory tower textbook theory. It wasn’t trade magazine statistics. It was our Department Chair telling you something important he knew from more than 100 A-4 missions in Vietnam. It was our regulations instructor talking about the guy in front of him walking into a propeller of an E-2C.  It was our aerodynamics instructor explaining the right seat view from a B-52 when you’re about to have a midair collision with a tanker. It was the hydraulics instructor who was missing a finger, explaining about a guy mindlessly moving a lever in the cockpit without thinking about who was working in the nacelle.

The last story hinted at something ironic I was only later to fully understand.  Yes, idiots are dangerous, but in aviation for very odd reasons that can defy logic and are hard to explain, the fools often do their damage but walk away comparatively unscathed. None of our instructors fully explained this last part for students. To amend things that they taught me, things I would like to share with you, I would like to spell this point out. Way back then, I was not a bastard. I had a live and let live attitude. I figured I didn’t have enough experience to speak up when others were doing idiotic things. Peer pressure, and the observation that idiots who broke the rules on a weekly basis were still alive after a few decades, conspired to erode the hardest edges of my standards. These factors worked their magic to keep my mouth shut, to go along with the gang a little bit, and even do a little flying with people I shouldn’t have.  A number of events changed this.

In the early 1990s I was working at my friend Jim’s hangar at Spruce Creek. A guy from our EAA Chapter who had not flown his experimental in many years was out by the runway running it up. A part of this guy wanted to be young again, airborne, flying. The other part told him that the door had closed and the sun had set on that part of his days. A group of guys stood around him and goaded him into taking off. Jim had not been part of this but he was standing off to the side. Jim was a known aviator there and a physically big person. There were actions he could have taken.  He later told me that he wanted to step forward, tell all the spectators to shut up, and tell the pilot to go back to his hangar. He wanted to do this, but he did not.

The man took off and was never fully in control of the plane. He flew around the pattern a couple of times, did a few approaches that were agonizing to watch, and then crash landed. He lived, but he hit his face on the panel, and bled terribly. I sat with Jim in his hangar that afternoon. He was distraught over his failure to act. I got a real good look at the price of peer pressure. Jim’s own brother had been killed in a plane crash. You didn’t need to be a genius to understand that Jim had asked himself a million times what he could’ve done or said that would’ve affected his brother’s fate 25 years before.  On that day irony served him another chance, and he had not taken it. It was a hard thing to watch, perhaps uglier than the day’s accident. This was the first time I can clearly say I understood the cost of keeping your mouth shut. This was the first step to me becoming the kind of “Bastard” who publicly points out people doing dangerous things.

If you really want to understand the depth of my hatred for stupid people around airplanes you can go to YouTube and search the words “Titusville plane crash kills two” and you can join 359,970 other people, mostly ghouls, who have seen the remnants of our friends Phil Schact and Bill Hess burning to death.

I could write a lot of stories, but none of them would come very close to explaining much about what made Phil or Bill great guys. Here’s a small try: Phil was a career pilot, and airline man, an aerobatics instructor and a regional aerobatic champion. He is a relentlessly positive guy.  He was selling an antique aircraft for $25,000. He had a serious offer $24,000.  Phil hears that there’s a young woman at the airport who’s been taught to fly by old school pilots. She is thinking about buying a plane, looking at some spam cans.  Phil goes over, meets her, takes her flying and explains that she should really go after a different type of plane. He conveys to her that she has great promise as a pilot, and should keep working at it. Phil finds out that her total savings is $19,871.  In an act of kindness that was characteristic of how he lived his life, Phil forgoes the higher offer and sells the airplane to the young woman for the balance in her savings account. It is an act that changes the trajectory of her life. The aircraft is 1946 Taylorcraft. The woman he sold the airplane to was named Grace. Today, I am married to her.

On the last morning of their lives, Bill and Phil got in Bill’s RV-8 and flew 40 miles down to Titusville for a fly-in breakfast. They were consummate pilots, maybe 40,000 hours between the two of them. They landed and taxied well clear of the runway. They were sitting about 150 feet off the center line on a taxiway on the far end of the runway. Enter the idiot, flying a Velocity with an older gentleman who built it. It is later told in some detail, that this younger pilot is a first-class fool. He is from Europe, has come to the United States because flying here is cheap. He has no respect for the rules, he always flys straight in approaches. No one can understand him on the radio, and he does not listen to others, nor does he look for traffic. When spoken to about this, he is smug and does not care.  On this particular day, his straight in approach cuts off several aircraft in the pattern.

He lands the Velocity hard enough to break off the nose gear and  it sheds part of the winglet. At this point he’s over 2,000 feet from hitting the RV-8. All he has to do is pull the power off and slide to a halt.  Instead he decides he’s going to try to fly away.  This does not work, his plane crashes, slides off the runway and collides with the RV-8. I was not there that day. But I have spoken to an acquaintance who watched Bill and Phil die from 100 feet away.  After a few days in the hospital, the passenger in the Velocity died also. Upon his release from the hospital the pilot flees the country. After the accident, a number of people said that they had wished they had called the FAA on the pilot for his earlier transgressions. We are not talking about simple mistakes, we’re talking about a complete disrespect for procedures and other people’s safety that paved a highway to this accident. But most people don’t want to be called a bastard, so no one did. I can’t be mad at them for it, they were only giving in to the same peer pressure that I used to.

I have never turned anybody into the FAA, and I don’t view it is my job to do so. In aviation, my little neighborhood is Corvair engine building. I’m not concerned with the overall issues in aviation concerning the actions of fools. All I am concerned with is fools who wish to take up residence in our neighborhood. I am an individualist by nature. I think people should be allowed to do pretty much anything they want. Most people tend to add the phrase here “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” Often what they mean is “as long as I don’t find it offensive.” I don’t care if people are offensive, it isn’t a crime in my book. However, if you advocate things that I know from experience stand a good chance of harming somebody else,  I’m going to talk about it, even if this leads to some people thinking of me as a bastard.  I am not really smart, nor am I particularly self-aware, but I have absolutely learned in life that I am far better off having people dislike me for my tone or my approach than I am hating myself for something I should have done or said.

If you are new to the world of homebuilding, and maybe even flying, here’s something that you may not suspect: you’re actually in an excellent position to avoid the actions of fools. Compared to the general aviation pilots who are starting their flight lessons down at the local FBO mill, you have many distinct advantages. Down there, you take the first polyester clad flying prodigy they assign you as an instructor.  You’re flying a worn-out airplane, that they can hardly afford to keep going. Their mechanic is paid a wage that precludes him from living in a double wide trailer. The student enters a system that takes no consideration of who he is or what he wants out of flying. Whatever the intention of the FBO owner when starting out, a lot of these operations devolve to a poorly disguised system of draining your bank account into theirs. It’s very important to understand that such settings attract and tolerate idiots. Nobody wants to upset the system. Whatever ambitions they had of higher standards have long ago been worn away.

Homebuilding can be just as bad, but it doesn’t have to be. You can make it any way that you want to. In this case, you’re going to be the aircraft manufacturer, and the engine manufacturer also. You have time to seek out intelligent qualified people for your further learning.  Building an engine can teach you a lot about whose advice you take, and who you don’t listen to.  This phase can be done while you’re still safely on the ground. If you set your standards very high, you will attract other people who take flying seriously.

Aviation works just like life, quality people tend to gravitate towards the same setting, and dirt bags tend to collect where the standards are low enough that they don’t stick out. In homebuilding you control the entire show. After the plane is done, you’re going to be the director of maintenance, the chief of flight operations, scheduling, dispatching, and the chief financial officer.  It’s a beautiful system where you’re entirely in control of things that you normally have to resign to others. To me this is at the heart of what is captivating about homebuilding. The process is an opportunity, but not a guaranteed transformation. If there is a guy in your local EAA Chapter who doesn’t really strike you as the human personification of self-reliance and self-actualization through homebuilding, yet he has completed an airplane, it isn’t the process’ fault. If you are new to homebuilding, do not judge the potential of the experience by looking at people who merely went through the motions, ended up with the plane, learned the minimum amount, etc. The greatest dad ever and a guy who made a deposit at a sperm bank are both technically involved in fatherhood. Only the former understands the rewards of the experience.

I would be doing new guys disservice if I didn’t clearly say that Bill and Phil’s accident was the freak occurrence of an idiot harming somebody who was not in his immediate vicinity. In general it is plenty of protection to not take advice from nor fly with idiots. There are rare occurrences their range is further, but for the most part if you give them up wide berth and don’t listen to them you’ll do okay.

If you have not spent much time in airports, the basic rules are pretty simple: Pay attention to what’s going on; don’t talk on your cell phone or walk around with your head somewhere else; don’t drive your car on the runway, taxiways or parking aprons; don’t smoke around airplanes or in hangars; do not interrupt people who are pre-flighting airplanes or engaged in intensive maintenance. Introduce yourself before you ask a question, and if you do ask, make sure that you listen to the answer. If you’re addicted to looking at your smart phone, leave it in the car. Most older aviators take it as a sign of real disrespect if you glance to your phone the whole time they’re talking to you. Spend twice as much time listening as talking. If someone specifically tells you not to do something, don’t do it. This is all that it takes to blend in at 90% of the airports in America.

There are a couple of obvious character traits in people who I like to steer clear of when it comes to planes.  I only fly with people I know fairly well; I will not get in an airplane that a guy pre-flighted while he was talking on his cell phone. I stay away from people who are in a big rush at the airport. These people often don’t have the time for a preflight, a mag check or taxiing to the downwind and to the runway. I will not speak to a person who knowingly does downwind takeoffs or landings to shorten the distance to his parking spot. I have nothing to do with people who brag about having their annual inspections or biennial flight reviews pencil whipped. I don’t fly with pilots who do things that are forbidden in capital letters in the pilots operating handbook (Example: slipping a 172 with the flaps down).  I’ve never taken a flight lesson of any kind with an instructor who couldn’t tell me what condition achieves the minimum turn radius in any aircraft ( Maneuvering speed, bank angle increased until the plane reaches its positive G limit, full power.) I stay away from pilots who say things like “this plane has a bad glide ratio when it’s heavily loaded” (aircraft of the same glide ratio and gross weight glide as they do lightly loaded) I steer clear of people who offer testimonials on flight characteristics planes they never sat in (“Republic Seabees glide like bricks” ),  avoid people who are poor listeners or openly brag about things that they have gotten away with.

The above paragraph might describe 20% of the people in airports. That’s okay, I don’t need to pal around with everyone.  If you’re new to aviation, spend some time observing people and develop your own set of values. Be discriminating. If you’re new you have no track record, then you’re a thoroughbred as far as anybody’s concerned, and the only way that is changed is if you spend a lot of time with fools and idiots and let them turn you into one. If you believe this is possible, then the corollary is also possible. You can choose to spend your time with skilled, competent, aviators and let their experience and your hard work turn you into one yourself.

 -William Wynne

Thought for the Day: Risk and Reptile Recycling.

Builders,

Now it is Halloween month, a little picture below,

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Above is the bone structure of a 36″ water moccasin, with a Corvair Gold prop hub for size comparison. The Hub is about 6″ across the face. I have written a number of snake stories like this: Rain, Snakes, and Power Testing, over the years. People who live in a similar setting understand the primary consumer of snakes are large birds. At our airport, we keep the grass on the runway and in the yards short, which allows seeing the snakes, but also makes it easy for birds to keep snakes in check. The snake above was hit by a tractor, but within 30 minutes as recycled to the condition above by large birds. Moccasins are common here, but in reality, they are not a significant risk if you understand something about them, exercise some precautions, and remain alert.

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Your Aviation Connection: 

The general public perceives both snakes and flying as frightening, because they know little or nothing about the topics, and they have no idea that both are just risk management issues. Armed with understanding and awareness, the thinking person can operate with either subject.  Minimizing your risk starts with knowing the subject at hand, and this is why education is the cornerstone of all my work in aviation.

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Wewjr

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Thought for the Day: Two paths in managing risk

“At Corvair College#28, Kevin Purtee remarked that he and I are both the same age, have both worked in aviation every day since we were 26, both hold the same degree from Embry-Riddle, and have both extensively studied and managed risk programs. Yet he pointed out that he has learned a lot from the things I have written on the topic.

There is a simple explanation for this. He has worked in a very dangerous environment (combat) but has done so with professionals who understand risk management. Conversely, I have spent the same years in the wilderness of homebuilding, working with people who often didn’t think they had anything to learn from me. Simply put, I have had a front row seat to countless examples of dangerous thinking and seen the results. I have enough stories, but right now, someone is working on adding to the list. Just make sure it isn’t you.”-ww.

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Left, Hans Vandervort, middle Kevin Purtee and myself, all  Corvair /Piet guys. Kevin has two lives in aviation, one as a fun-loving homebuilder who wears a sock money hat and Hello Kitty tee shirt at Corvair Colleges, and the second as a deadly serious Attack Helicopter pilot with 25 years in the trade.

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In person he is polite, charming and friendly. He and Shelley were the hosts of Colleges #22 and #28. We awarded them the Cherry Grove trophy in 2012 for their contributions to Corvair Powered flight.

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Kevin says that his two worlds in aviation are so far apart that the professional Warrior stays “at work.” I have spent a lot of time with Kevin, and can verify that this is almost always true.

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The sole exception I can think of was when a self-described “professional homebuilder” was giving Kevin an unsolicited lecture on how the style of his plane was not quite right. Kevin politely responded with a big smile, telling the guy that he appreciated the advice, but he builds planes just for fun, it isn’t his day job. He looked the guy in the eye and said “I kill people at work.” You can dress him in a sock monkey hat, a pink shirt or whatever, He is still 100% Warrior under it all.

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Kevin and Shelley keep a busy schedule. For example, the week before Corvair College #22  they were having dinner at the White House.

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Further reading:

The Cherry Grove Trophy

50 days until CC#28, and a look at CC#22

Corvair College #22 KGTU Texas Spring Break 2012

Guest Writer: Pietenpol builder/flyer Kevin Purtee

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A word of caution or being a kill joy?

Builders;

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The sign above, is pictured Thursday night at our airport in Florida.  It is normally stored on my back porch, hopefully never to be used. It’s only purpose is to keep unethical TV reporters in search of ratings, out of our neighborhood after an accident.  On Thursday afternoon, one of our neighbors went for a short flight in his RV-4, and never returned. Our little community only has 119 people here, the man was known and liked, friend to both myself and the Weseman’s.  This was the second fatal accident this year. The circumstances are unknown, and not important. He was a highly skilled guy, flying a good plane, and we will not see him in this life again.

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2020 will make my 31st season in aviation. Plenty of people have been around longer, but I most have them have spent their seasons in far more benign parts of aviation. Experimentals, antiques and aerobatics and other riskier parts of general aviation are arguably more dangerous than flying in the military.

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Salesmen in our industry understand that any discussion of accidents and risk management makes people who might dabble in homebuilding nervous. Conversely, I’m not a salesman, and I’ve long said that homebuilding is the wrong place to dabble. If you are interested in devoting your attention and ambitions in homebuilding, then I have some perspectives and experience to share with you, to give you understanding and tools to effectively minimize and manage your risks.

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This approach is not always welcome. A week ago, a new second owner of an experimental openly said on a discussion group that he couldn’t wait to get his plane because he wanted to take his kids flying in it. If that attitude doesn’t unsettle you, maybe you don’t know this fact: The first flights of the second owner of an experimental are statistically proven by the FAA to be the highest risk events in general aviation, several times more likely to result in a fatality than even the original flights of the aircraft. This is solely because of the second owner, and his rush to use the plane without transition training, often without a Pilot’s Operating Handbook, and without studying issues like Weight and Balance, loading and systems configuration specific to that particular plane.  These issues are not new, read 20 year old NTSB reports on John Denver’s accident, the circumstances never change.

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When I suggested to the new second owner that he might look into training, a POH and alerted him that his plane might have a very limited useful load, his public response was to openly say he had flown the plane over gross, had done his flight training over gross weight, and he thought it was “No big deal”. He directly said he just wanted to ‘spread some joy’ and took my comments as being a know it all.

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His reaction isn’t unusual today; twenty years ago, the majority of people were willing to listen to experience, today, people, particularly second owners, are very quick to take offense to nearly any comment that doesn’t validate and endorse their conception of how things work, often based on the ‘its no big deal’ perspective.  This summer I pointed out a Pietenpol with a structural issue about to be flown. The owners response was to demand I remove from my website, a picture he himself had put on the internet. He took no action of the items I referenced, and 45 days later the plane crashed on rotation on its first flight, and was completely destroyed. By an absolute miracle, the pilot survived. He later told an observer that he might have listened to me, but I wasn’t nice enough to him in my comments. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you believe him.

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TO BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR: This story is not making a comment in any way about my neighbor’s accident. The point is only that I have known and been fairly close friends with more than two dozen men and women killed in light planes.  They were good people, and the real tragedy is that more than half of accidents were easily preventable.  Each loss offered some wisdom, if you were willing to learn. I share the  stories like these: Risk Management reference page with people willing to gain some understanding to improve their own risk management. On the other hand, it can all be dismissed as me just being a kill joy.

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Need Help Contacting the Builder of this Aircraft ASAP.

Builders,

I was forwarded the image of the modified Pietenpol pictured below.  It is Corvair powered, and I have been told it was signed off by the FAA, but I don’t have a record of working with him.

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UPDATE: The builder of the plane has sent a request saying that he wanted the image removed from this story and from our FB ‘Corvair College’ page. He prefers to not discuss his plane in public. I offered to help, meant it. I’m leaving the rest here because first time builders need to understand having a 100 people tell you on FB your plane looks nice isn’t an endorsement of the details.  

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Above is the Plane in Question. I do not consider it airworthy, even though the FAA signed it off.  The first thing Piet builders will spot it the tiny weak diagonal cabanes, as I discuss here: Pietenpol Fuel lines and Cabanes and here: Fuel lines and Cabanes, part 2. But that isn’t the main point, it is the Vee shaped lift struts on a parasol with near vertical cabanes and a center section. It is not structurally sound.

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In 1989, a guy in my EAA chapter, #288, named Bob Spenk, built a steel tube Grega with a nearly identical lift strut arrangement. To my then-uneducated eye, it looked fine. The Embry-Riddle department chair of engineering was also a #288 member, and he sat down and explained that the new strut arrangement had almost no ability  to resist the wing rotating in relation to the fuselage, and any differential load, such as deflected ailerons, would impart this.  He explained that in a cabin airplane with the same lift struts, the upper longerons contacting the rear spar and the diagonals in the fuselage resist the twisting, and he showed us that one of the largest tubes in a J-3 fuselage does this.  He went on to show that a heath model V parasol has no center section, but it still requires diagonal brace wires from the rear spar lift strut attachment to the motor mount.  He pointed out that a it was superseded by the Heath N, and follow on airplanes like the Baby Ace, with parallel lift struts are required to have the diagonal brace wires between the lift struts, even though they have no center section.  Aircraft structures is a very complicated business, and it doesn’t care if all the local hangar fliers say “I will be alright” and it doesn’t care if all the people on the internet say “Its just a low and slow plane’.  neither of those statements will make the plane right. it doesn’t work that way.

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“Hey, William Wynne, you are a jerk, mind your own business, the guy is probably very nice and you are only pissing on his parade. He probably isn’t even a customer of yours. This is why many people think you are an ass.”

 …….In 2016, a lawsuit for $350,000 was tried against me. It came from a person who had a Corvair in their plane, but never bought a single thing from me. If you thought that couldn’t be done, I understand, I didn’t previously believe it was possible either, but yes, it can get to federal court.

  ……..If you work in aviation, or even spend time here, you will have to decide at what level you are Your brothers keeper?  I have long ago decided that I’m fine with many people thinking I’m a jerk for pointing out something like the plane above, but I am unwilling to go to bed at night and try to sleep with a pillow made of justifications and rationalizations.

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If you want to read the story of the exact day I learned this, 25 years ago, look here: Effective Risk Management – 2,903 words

“This was the first time I can clearly say I understood the cost of keeping your mouth shut. This was the first step to me becoming the kind of “Bastard” who publicly points out people doing dangerous things.”

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wewjr.

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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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Larry Elrod’s 2,700cc Test Run

Builders;

KR-2 Builder Larry Elrod and his lovely wife scheduled a visit to my hangar for a full day test session and a bit of one on one training this past Friday. They dropped the engine off at dinner time Thursday, and rested up at our local Holiday Inn.

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We started at 9 am on Friday, and had a smooth, productive day were I answered every question Larry had. His engine arrived fully assembled, I just checked a number of adjustments, and for the most part found them spot on.We cover these same things at Corvair Colleges, but some builders prefer a more relaxed and personal day. We took a short break for lunch in my dinning room, and went back to prime the oil system for 30 minutes. At 4 pm rolled the engine out to my ramp for a break in run.

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The engine cranked for 1 or maybe 1.5 seconds, about 2 revolutions, and it lit right off and ran smooth. It was a great moment of personal achievement to Larry. Although he spent 20 years in the USAF, he worked on missiles, not internal combustion engines. At age 66, he now joined the ranks of real ‘motor heads’ by fully rebuilding an engine with his own hands, and having it run perfectly.

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Over the last 29 years, and 42 Corvair Colleges I have been present for this same moment, in the lives of more than 400 builders. I can assure you, it has never become commonplace. Playing a positive role in another person’s personal achievement, one which will be a foundation of their ultimate goal of being master of the complete aircraft they build themselves has a satisfaction which does not fade. It is the root of what is rewarding about my work.

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Above, the moment of achievement: Larry strikes the obligatory “Captain Morgan pose.”  To read more about this integral part of Corvair building read: “Captain Morgan” Contest at #39

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Above, a short video of the engine running. In the film you can see than my front yard is literally adjacent to our 2,600′ grass runway. Over the years we have had perhaps 30 guests to our home and hangar for an engine run. These have to be scheduled in advance, and a friendly reminder new people: I wouldn’t stop by their residence uninvited, so they should not invite themselves to mine.  

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Above, Larry has a very important asset for his project, which not all builders enjoy: A highly supportive spouse. They have been married a long time, and are mutually supportive. After we spoke in the phone, they drove down from Michigan in a small pick up. The trip made sense to them because it allowed Larrys engine to be inspected an run here. The trip and the run seemed like a good personal risk management decision to them.

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Above, 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?.  Its also worth reviewing this story: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #2, Hardest working engine.

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As you look at Larry’s engine above, notice that it is built around all of our standard systems. It has an ultra-light front starter, E/P-X ignition, welded on intakes, a Weseman 5th bearing, short gold hub and a Gold oil system. For these reasons, it will have the same successful track record of the Corvairs we build, and it will be able to use our proven, off the shelf items like baffle kits, Oil Coolers, and cowls, intakes etc.

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 Over the years, there was a general trend among KR builders influenced by the internet, to build ‘unique’ and one of a kind engine installations. While everyone has a right to build what they want, none of these installations had a track record of reliability that could match one of our standard installations. This should come as little surprise, I have been doing this a long time, and have always ‘reserved the right to get smarter’, and our installations have evolved. No builder on his first look at one engine could seriously match what I have learned with an outstanding education, a quarter century of specific experience, a number of smart professional friends, and the benefit of studying several hundred installations. This is why builders who understand the phrase ‘the second mouse gets the cheese’  choose to benefit from my work and research instead of being offended by it. For a look at some one of a kind KR installations and the results, look at this: Built by William Wynne? Built according to The Manual?.

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Installation Components:

We have a full range of bolt on Installation Components to mount a Corvair in a KR. Check out some of these linked stories:

MountS: A 2016 story about our mounts: Zero back ordered Motor Mounts.

Cowls: http://shop.flycorvair.com/product/complete-kr2kr2s-fiberglass-cowling/

Exhausts:  Stainless Steel Exhaust Systems

Intakes:  Intakes and Internet myths

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Contemplating a individual test run? Call me, 904-806-8143.

Thanks, William

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The Next Event on the Schedule:

FlyCorvair/SPA – Joint Workshop/Open house, May 18,19,20

Also get a look at:

Build a 3.3L Corvair at the May 18-20 Workshop/Open house.

Read the links now and make a plan today.

In Your Shop: Studio or Cell?

Builders;

Over the last quarter century, I’ve taught perhaps a thousand people how to build an aircraft engine from a Corvair motor. Some of these builders chose to also consider what else I might have to share on the greater topic of aviation, such as these bitter lessons: Risk Management reference page. The words below are addressed to a still smaller subgroup, the builders concerned with how the hours in the shop might protect ones sanity and provide some clarity and peace in a society which values neither. 

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I wrote the words below in 2013. They address what you might find if you treat the hours in your shop as time spent in a creative studio, where you are investing in yourself. Far too many people approach experimental aviation as a consumer experience, and the look at every hour of building as a trade of time for saving the cost of buying a factory plane. These people are sentencing themselves to time in a prison cell.

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As the months pass, the builder who is working in a studio will develop new skills and find the peaceful time to cleanse what modern life soils. He looks forward to the hours of self investment. The customer who’s only goal was to own the appliance will soon discover he is in a prison cell of his own choosing. He will stay only until a frustrating day arrives and he ‘self-paroles’ by quitting the project, unaware that homebuilding had much more to offer than having an airplane. -ww.

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” If you have never met me, but beleive I am charmed with myself, you got it all wrong. I know countless humans who are better people. They are kinder, smarter, and harder working. I can’t sing nor dance, I learn slowly, and I can’t stand to hear my recorded voice nor see my image on film. If I was once handsome, all trace of it is gone along with my uncorrected eyesight. I can be a conversational bore, and I deeply wish I had given my parents more moments to be proud of me. At 50 I look back on my life with a very critical eye and stand on the far side of a very wide gulf from the heroes of my youth.

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Honest evaluation leads to harsh thoughts like that. I spend a lot of time alone and have long bouts of insomnia, which can lead to thinking about things excessively. But here is a secret, shared with anyone who feels the same way at times; I have a sanctuary where I am insulated from much of my self-criticism. It is a place where at 50, I am much better than I was in my youth. When I am building things with my hands in my shop, I rarely feel poor. Although I now need glasses to do any close work, and my hands have lost a lot of dexterity, I am a far better craftsman than I ever was in my youth. I am not a great craftsman, but over a very long time I have worked to develop these elements in my life, and I compete with no one, except who I was last year. While all else fades, these things flourish. It is a gift I am most thankful for.

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This did not come into focus until 1999, the worst year of my life. (The plane crash and burns were 2001, a picnic compared to 1999.)  Feeling dangerously low, I sought the council of a guy I knew. He had come back from such a year. He is an artist, working as an incredibly detailed wood carver. He told me to forget everyone and everything else, go back to my shop and tools and work with my hands. Give up your apartment, but never your studio. Explore all the things you can’t forget, have stolen, give away or loose. At the moment, I was having a hard time picturing surviving another week, and I asked him how long it took him to recover his sanity.  He thought with great care a slowly said “two, no really three..” I was jolted and blurted out “Three months?” he looked me in the eye and said “No. Years. It’s probably your only way out.” It turned out to be a painfully accurate prediction.

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In the years since I have read letters or posts from many people in a tough spot, who are selling their project or tools. I often think their ship is sinking and they have just traded their life jacket for five more minutes on the deck. They are blindly committing a very self destructive error.  I have also met a number of successful builders who have said that when everything else in there lives was broken, they had a place of refuge in work and creation. Of the thousands of people I have met in aviation, these people are truely brothers, for we share the same salvation.”

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Above, a very rare night run of a Corvair engine at Corvair College #22 in Texas. The engine belonged to John Franklin. It ran after dinner on Saturday night, and he had many fellow builders to cheer on his achievement. It was a great moment among builders with similar perspectives.  These hours are a rarity in homebuilding. The vast majority of the time is spent alone.  The quality of these hours is solely determined by the builders attitude, which will determine if he is working in a studio or a prison cell.

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The Next Event on the Schedule:

FlyCorvair/SPA – Joint Workshop/Open house, May 18,19,20

Read the link now and make a plan today.

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WEWjr

SPA Billet Corvair Cranks

Builders,

Our Neighbor Paul Salter has a 3,000cc Corvair Powered Panther. The engine on it is actually the one from Dan Weseman’s Prototype Panther. It has the first SPA-Made in USA Billet crank in it.  Just about the time Paul was finishing his airframe, Dan was getting his 3.3Liter Billet crank stroker engine going.  Because the three of us take risk management seriously, an intelligent plan was formed where the proven engine with several hundred hours on it would move to Pauls new airframe, and the new 3.3 Liter engine would be tested on Dan’s proven airframe. Common sense tells you this is a better plan than New engine/new airframe.  Because we are all friends at the  same airport, moving the motors around was not a big issue.

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In 2012, when Dan was very busy finishing the Panther Prototype, many friends showed up to play any small role that would let Dan focus more energy and hours on his then-new design.  My part was I offered to assemble and test run Dan’s Corvair engine.

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Above, Dan Weseman and I test run his 3,000 cc Panther engine in my front yard in 2012.

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About a month ago, Paul decided to inspect the 3,000cc engine and remove some of the non standard  test items off the engine (like a special oil pan with an inspection window for monitoring cam gears) and to remove some lead build up from the combustion chambers.  The engine had been on his plane about two years, so it has five birthdays. No big deal, it was some gaskets and a weekend of casual work.

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Paul Called me after he got started and asked if I remembered “leaving anything in the engine” when I assembled it in 2012. I said no, but he did get my attention, as I imagined what he might have found. I drove over to his place to see this:

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Above,  Paul is holding the top cover. The lettering was inside the engine since I closed it in 2012. No one else had seen this, and honestly I had forgotten all about it.

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Above, a close up look. The handwriting is mine.

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If you would like to lean more about the SPA billet corvair cranks you can check out their products page or give them a call at 904-626-7777.

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Wewjr.

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The Politics of Pouring Gasoline

Builders,

Today I went out and bought 3 new 5 gallon cans to store 100LL in. As most of you have noticed, in the last few years, we have all been subjected to “Safety” spouts and pouring devices on new gas cans. Speaking as someone who has spent a lot of days in the burn ward, these devices are stupid, and are not the way to prevent accidents. Obviously, education is. You can’t make the world “safe” for imbeciles, and I personally resent attempts to idiot proof everyone’s world, in a futile attempt to protect those who are working very hard to remove themselves from the gene pool.

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Here is something ironic: The bag above contains a normal spout that replaces the “Safety” spout. Look at the states in which this device is illegal: right at the start of the list is California, Aka: “The People’s Republic of CA“.  Notice that the actual Commies in China produce the device to defeat the pseudo-commie legislative “safety” spouts mandated in those 11 states and DC.  Yes, I own a copy of Das Kapital, and I know it is an economic model, not a system of gas spouts. I think of anything that seeks to remove an individual’s right to choose his own path in life and replaces this with forced compliance with the alleged good of the masses as, for the lack of a better term, “commie”.

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Before anyone from California or any of the other States starts typing, please understand I have been to all 50 states – (State #50, North Dakota), I love CA (just not it’s legislature Water Bomber at twilight) , I think of Albert Camus as a great man (he was a commie – Thinking of the people of France) and of course I am just an opinionated idiot –Lifestyles of Troglodytes.

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Something funny: Three 5 gallon containers, and two 30 round containers in the same picture. I don’t know who designed the gas containers, but the two others work with machines of George Hyde and Gordon Ingram (L) and Eugene Stoner and James Sullivan (R).  When looking at the list of states which forbid the use of regular gasoline pour spouts, it nearly overlaps exactly with states that forbid the mere ownership of the 30 round containers. It is all a misguided attempt to make the world ‘safe’ by removing anything that might be used by a fool or an evil person to cause harm, rather than removing the person who is doing the harm.

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One of the great things I love about aviation, is the fact it is one of the last bastions in American life, where the participants understand that it is a better investment in risk management to educate the participants rather than make a futile try to ‘idiot proof’ the machines.  While I can’t fix your gas spout if you live in a “safety” state, we should both have loud vocal objections when anyone suggests they have an idea for idiot proofing aviation…..unless that idea is escorting the idiots off the airport.

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WEWJR

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