Pietenpol Cowls

Builders;

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

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Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks, William.

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

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How personally meaningful is your pursuit of Homebuilding?

Builders,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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William

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Above, Mark’s Father

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Joining the USAAC

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

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

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Mark and his dad.

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In House Manufacturing

Builders,

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

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

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

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

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

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WW

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Spend your way out of problem, or Think your way out?

Builders

Last week my 29 year old Lincoln SP-130T welder quit working. I looked inside for an hour, but nothing obvious was wrong. I looked on line, discussion groups had no clear faults, and were full of dumb people saying dumb things.

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The welder owed me nothing, it was about $600 way back then, and it had served me faithfully through dozens of 10 lb spools of wire and enough argon/CO2 to fill a small blimp. Looking around the hangar, there was hardly a steel object it had not played a role in creating. From my trailer that has driven around the county filled with Corvair parts to the 42’ main truss supporting the front half of the hangar, it had burned all the beads fusing them together. If it had struck its last arc, so be it, it had served above and beyond.

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I looked and saw that a new 180T was about $850, and I was ready to buy one, it seemed like a good solution… but something ingrained in me wanted to know why old faithful was done. Phil Maxson suggested calling the factory tech line, but I didn’t have patience to wait through an hour on hold to speak to someone in the Philippines or India in a call center who had never seen a welder before, as we have all come to expect as ‘customer support’. Besides, wasn’t I just going to be spending money trying to fix something that was worn out?

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Phil thought I was being negative and called Lincoln’s tech support for me. I was more than surprised to have a short wait , and was speaking to a master technician in Ohio, who had actually worked on the production line that had built my welder. He told us where on line to find the wiring diagram, waited while we printed it, and talked us through 45 minutes of careful trouble shooting, explaining how each system worked. I have been welding for 40 years, but I was learning a lot about how these functioned internally from this man. After all else was eliminated, he said this was the rare case where the board was dead. He told me I could go to a dealer, or I could find one on eBay, and how to tell a real Lincoln part from a counterfeit. The board was $130.

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Phil plugging in the new board.

The new board got here yesterday afternoon. 20 minutes after dinner, and my 29 year old welder was back in action. I was happy.

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My satisfaction wasn’t in the $720 saved over buying a new welder, nor any other physical factor. It was in deciding that I could think my way out of a problem rather than just submit to what consumer society implores us go do, spend money to ‘solve’ every problem. No matter how life changes, there are few things that feel as good as bring self reliant, particularly when the alternative that most others take, really comes down to subconsciously doing as you are told.

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If you decide to build your own Corvair engine, you are willfully deciding to think your way out of the question of what will power your plane, rather than spend your way out of the question. Just like Lincoln, I have been here a long time, I have printed information and real parts, and I will spend time to teach you all the systems. In the end, you will be safer because nothing has the lowest risk as a simple machine operated by a person who really understands it, and you will have the quiet internal pride that comes with the purchase of no consumer product , ever.

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William.

Parts delivery to the Post Office and UPS, by any means necessary.

Builders;

I mail out 500-600 orders per year. A number of these are single manuals, some are 10-15 part orders, an a dozen or so are engines. I appreciate them all, and try to take care of them in a very timely manner.

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Many orders from my site, placed before 2pm, go out the same day. After 2, they go the next day. Builders have a choice between USPS and UPS, but in many cases USPS is about the same price, but the service is faster.

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If I’m busy, friends from the airpark help out, and take the orders 7 miles into town. Today I had Zenith Cruiser builder Dave Wurtz here for a supervised build and test run of his engine. Phil Maxson stopped by and offered to run the days shipments to town. Phil lives 1,000′ north of me on the same side of the runway, and his around the airpark is a classic 1970’s mini bike, ( because we are need a chance to be 12 again, even for a few minutes a day ). The armful of todays packages was not a problem, he rode up to his place with them to get his pickup for the trip to town.

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It was a funny moment, as these parts will cover most of the distance to their destination in the belly of an airliner, and they well eventually go to work on a builders aircraft, but today, they all started the trip on a very basic for of transportation

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WW

Manuals fresh from printer

Builders;

The recent cover story on the JaG-2 twin caused a bit of a spike in manual sales. Yesterday my on line inventory went to zero, but I had already ordered a fresh batch to be printed.

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Above, manuals in my pickup, they just got a ride home from the printer.

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If you would like to pick one up, the inventory on line will be updated in an hour. 🙂

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William.

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Custom CNC oil fill caps, the part no one actually needs…… but you may just want one anyway.

Builders;

Corvair builder/pilot Ken Pavlou designed and built his own super heavy duty CNC mill last fall, and on a whim decided he was going to make a little run of billet aluminum oil filler caps, and engrave them for Phil Maxson and myself. That was before things got out of hand.

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Above, the prototype Ken made for his own 601XL. The little shapes are hold downs which fit in the ears to clamp the cap down for engraving.

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Above, after Ken made a few, including this one made from a scrap piece of 1/2′ 6061 aluminum ( the defect in the ear was already in the blank ) I sent them off to my anodizer to be coated gold to match my other parts.

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Above, Ken unleashed his machine on a large plate. There are 78 caps in this picture. He now has about 100 caps made.

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Above, Ken’s CNC going to work on parts. It has a very powerful spindle. cuts like this does not tax the machines capability at all.

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This is what the inside of the part looks like before the gasket goes in.

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Ken’s idea is to get the blanks anodized Gold or Black, and then let builders order them with their name, plane and oil requirements engraved on. We will have more info shortly, its just a fun side project for Ken, I thought I would give you an advance look.

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If you have thoughts, questions or comments, please share them in the comments section here.

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William.

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Where is the Corvair conversation taking place?

Builders;

In years past, I have been a prolific blog writer on this webpage. There are more than 1,400 stories here. But in recent months, my attention has been in the shop, and I have not written many in-depth pieces. I am now returning to writing here several times a week.

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Many builders, particularly new people ask where most of the Corvair builder to builder discussion is taking place on the internet. This has an easy answer: On my “WW Flycorvair” Face Book page.

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Pictured above, the cover image from my WW FlyCorvair Face Book page.

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I will start by saying that, like many of you, I also detest Mark Zuckerburg, and most of Face Book, so yes, I feel your moral dilemma at the thought of using FB as a data site. But, good news, I have this set up as a public site, and you don’t have to have a FB account to read it.

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Second, it has a lot of activity. Look at the page, it has 2,800 members. It is an easy format for individuals to share pictures, stories and video, and there is a lot of fresh stuff posted every day. I run it with a very close focus on flying Corvairs, and anyone posting junk is ‘terminated with extreme prejudice’ and blocked for life. Remember, on FB people have to have a personal profile to write comments, so there is none of the troll comments from sad little people with internet identities like “Toolbuilder26@hotmail” It doesn’t happen often, people have learned very quickly it isn’t a political site, nor do we discuss VW engines or tolerate people trying to advertise Rotax based businesses.

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Even when Im not writing a lot here, there is always activity there. It is a great resource for finding core engines, as I have more than 1,000 Corvair car enthusiasts in the membership, and they have advised dozens of new builders to find a core engine.

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A number of well known corvair pilots are frequent contributors, and they help to keep the focus directly on flying our favorite engine. Again, my intention is to return to regular writing here, but the FB page is well worth checking out.

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William.

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A respect for mechanical simplicity

Builders;

Below is a picture of my truck, It left the GM #2 Truck Plant in Flint Michigan 36 years and 400,000 miles ago. I changed the front brake pads on it yesterday. Most people reading this know the part in my had as a disc brake pad, but the subject of todays short story is the part of it that my index finger is pointing towards.

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How did I know it was time to change the brake pads? If the truck was 36 months old rather than 36 years, Perhaps the onboard computer would detect some signal from fragile sensors in the ABS system and light up an idiot light in the panel; maybe a really new truck might degrade the engine output to keep me ‘safe’ at the same time. Maybe communications link in the truck would tell GM to send me an email or text, or have my local Chevy dealer call me and tell me my warranty is expiring? There would certainly be some complex system involving IT people, lawyers and service mangers, the unholy trinity of vehicle maintenance, all claiming a right on behalf of the nanny state to protect you…and drain your bank account, while demanding you thank them for it.

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Could there possibly be a lower tech system that would alert me to change the pads? Unimaginable to the people who have an addiction to electronics and feel every single thing in their lives could be improved with an ‘app’, there is actually a system that was perfect, and cost about two cents per vehicle, and had zero electronics. Yes, the little tab riveted on, at the tip of my finger, touches the rotor when the pad is worn, it squeals, the driver hears this and knows it’s replacement time. The only real problem with the system is it counts on the driver having slightly more situational awareness than a tree sloth, and we we all know less and less of the public has that with each passing year.

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OK, How does this relate to the plane I want to build? All the people addicted to electronics, combined with all the people selling ‘high tech’, have a powerful influence on what your read, see and hear about experimental aircraft, and the possible things you can equip them with. Just as with the brake pad replacement question, there are traditional low tech, long proven, elegantly simple was of doing things, and there are incredibly complex ways of doing things, and you get to choose……or do you?

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Electronic, avionics, app and all that stuff can have mark up north of 1,000%, which makes them extremely profitable, and provides a war chest of money spent on advertising, paying “influencers” ( who are masquerading as friendly impartial fellow aviators. ), bribing aviation writers for reviews, running big booths at Oshkosh with ‘give a ways’ and ‘sponsoring’ things to make them all seem like they just have your best interests at heart.

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Old school low tech has no budget. Its stuff someone who is actually your friend teaches you, and their only reward is belatedly paying back the old school aviator who taught them. Analog instruments at the flymart have no vocal advocates, and no magazine writer is going to get a free EFIS for writing a glowing review about them. Old school has spokesmen like long haired grease monkeys from Florida with archaic perspectives on simplicity and situational awareness. In the end, the only thing old School has to ‘sell’ it is your choice to use it, for your creation to include elements of simplicity that make sense to you. Its your life and your choice. Take your pick, you don’t have to justify your decisions to anyone but yourself.

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WW

Stories of the design, construction and testing of the Tomaszewski JaG-2, Corvair Twin.

Builders;

With Jim and Ginger Tomaszewski’s JaG-2 twin on the cover of Sport Aviation, a number of people have asked questions about its development. The feature story in the magazine is long, but only enough to cover the highlights of a 9 year build.

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Over the years I shared a number of stories about the project, and for the benefit of the builders who like to see where things come from, I have collected the stories here. Included are video links and images that will give a lot of insight to this ambitious project that has become a proven aircraft.

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Above, Ginger and Jim at Corvair College #31 in Barnwell SC, 2014. Between them, their matching 3,000cc Corvairs. The engines were finished and test run at the College.

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January 2013

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May 2013

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November 2014

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September 2015

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August 2018

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September 2018

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August 2019

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July 2021.

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Jim and Ginger really are the super nice people you see in the video. If you want to understand Jims line of thinking and Craftsmanship, get a coffee and sit down and go through the links above. You may not be planning a Twin, but if you are a traditional homebuilder at heart, Jims determination and positive attitude are all qualities you can directly relate to.

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WW – FlyCorvair.

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