Corvair College #14
I've just returned from Corvair College #14 in Lowell, Mass. It was a very successful event. The 82 pre-registered guests made this the largest College ever held
outside of Florida. However, the story is in the quality, not the quantity. Host Pramod Kotwal and Master of Ceremonies Ken Pavlou put in a lot of effort to learn from
previous Colleges and bring a lot of detailed preparation to the event. This paid off with allowing builders in attendance to focus on learning, making progress and
having a good time. To make it a little easier to download, the photos are on several pages. Get a cup of coffee, and take the time to really look at the people in the
photos. Over the years, we've hosted hundreds of people at Corvair Colleges. With four events scheduled Coast to Coast this year, we are providing free of charge a lot of
opportunity for anyone willing to take the initiative and claim their seat at the table. The faces of the builders tell the story: This College, and all the others, are
much more than technical events. They are a true meeting of builders whose common bond of creativity, self reliance and friendliness unites them. Enjoy the story, and take action to find
your place at the next College.
At noon Saturday, we dragged everyone available into a quick group photo. Ken told me that the total online registration count was 82 people, a good majority of whom
can be seen in this photo taken by Dave Mullins.
Into The Shop
Above, our emcee, Ken Pavlou, indulges himself with a bullhorn he bought off eBay. It was a surprisingly effective tool for herding people in at lunch and dinner. Behind Ken is
Pramod's CNC milling center. Ken asks those who attended the College, if you haven't already, please take a moment to fill out a survey at https://cc14.wufoo.com/forms/corvair-college-14-survey/
Above, an overhead shot showing a group gathering for a technical point I'm explaining on Jared Geary's engine. Although Jared had really good prep work on a number of fronts, he
had removed the head studs from the case. Replacing them is time consuming and potentially a source of trouble if any of them bind up on the way in. For many years, I've actively
discouraged people from removing the head studs unless extreme corrosion or mechanical damage makes it absolutely necessary.
Above, a few of the eight separate groups tearing down core engines at the event. The industrial nature of Pramod's
facility made heavy mechanical work easy. Nitron is outfitted with a loading dock, crane, palette jack, and a herd of very heavy duty industrial carts. The builders
naturally gravitated to small groups and dove into any project that interested them. I floated among groups and covered the technical details of each process.
Jared Geary and his girfriend Katia work on a very nice 2,700 cc engine destined for his own Cleanex project. Jared had previously attended Corvair Colleges
#9 and #11 which set him on the Corvair path and allowed him to formulate a detailed plan. Despite having a job that requires a lot of travel, at times overseas,
Jared has made a lot of progress on both engine and airframe, and may very well finish by the end of the year.
KR/Vair builder and pilot Joe Horton from Pennsylvania, center above, is welcomed to Corvair College #14 by Pramod, at right, and myself. This was Joe's fourth College, and the
third one to which he's flown his own plane. He now has 400 hours on his 3,100 cc KR-2S.
Louis Leung, extreme right, above, was one of five builders who opted to pick up a core engine from Pramod at the event. He's completed about 85% of his 601 XL airframe. The photo
shows how many helping hands are available for any task at a College. Louis is no slouch with tools: He impressed a lot of people by working with a ratchet in each hand at
Louis and his group made short work of disassembling the core he'd purchased from Pramod. Louis was born in Hong Kong, a place with a well earned reputation for generating some of
the most dynamic people in the world. My father, who'd been to Hong Kong a number of times, enjoyed reminiscing with Louis about the vibrant city.
Four hands make short work of a core.
This fully assembled engine was done by 601 XL builder Larry Webber of Rhode Island. Larry is a very dynamic guy, with a long history of doing tradeshows in the
woodworking industry. At the opening day of Oshkosh 2008, Grace and I were greeted by a very enthusiastic Larry, who pitched in to tell anybody
within earshot the merits of the Corvair from his own personal experience.
KR-2S builder Dave Mullins of Nashua, N.H., brought down his Corvair engine project, sporting a planetary reduction. He's chipping away at a highly modified airframe with
a unique engine installation. The Corvair has served as a beginning point for many people with extremely diverse ideas.
Saturday at 11 a.m. we all took a break from wrenching for some introductions. Here, I ensure that everyone knows their host Pramod. I met Pramod at one of my Oshkosh
forums six years ago. Of all the people we have met through our work with Corvairs, Pramod is among the most highly educated in the field of engineering and metallurgy.
Pramod is a modest gentleman, but truth be told, he is an international industrialist with strong contacts in his native India. Everyone got a chuckle from my story about
Pramod and I being accidentally dumped out of a tiny Gator dumptruck at Sun 'N Fun 2007. I had moments before told him that we were going to get the
VIP treatment, being chauffered to my forum.
Above, I introduce our host Ken Pavlou. Ken is building a 601 XL which is about 90% complete, and sports a running Corvair engine. In addition to an impressive job at the College, he has a long
list of accomplishments: emigrating from Greece at age 8, he has gone on to earn an electrical engineering degree, become a registered nurse and skilled pilot. Happily married
and the father of two, he's also the State Ballroom Dancing Champion of Connecticut (no kidding). Not bad for a guy who's barely 40.
Above, I introduce Rick Perrson. Rick is the third person of the Pramod-Ken-Rick trio of trouble. Their campsite at Oshkosh is the scene of a lot of breakfast,
lunch and after hours fun. Their latest adventure was a bonzai, multi-state tour to pick up the nine cores that Pramod had on hand for the College. When Ken related the story,
he started off by saying, "An Indian, a Greek and a Swede get in a minivan ... " A lot of people thought it was the beginning of a joke. Rick is a fourth generation
wooden boatbuilder, a trade noted for mind blowing levels of productivity and craftsmanship.
Above, I introduce the real William Wynne, my father. My Dad has attended a number of Corvair Colleges and enjoyed them all. His career in the mechanical
world spans being a Company Commander with ACB-ONE in Korea through Director of Advanced Technology for Raytheon. The single thread that ties all of my father's experience together
is an absolute allegiance to quality control. Seven and 1/2 years of my father's 33 year U.S. Navy career were spent working directly under Admiral Hyman Rickover, The Father
Of The Nuclear Navy. Rickover's career spanned the impossibly long 1918-1982. Widely misunderstood as an all-powerful tyrant who was apparently immortal, my father states that
Rickover is easily understood when viewed as the ultimate proponent of quality who was willing to accept nothing short of perfection to ensure the dominance of the U.S. Navy in
the Cold War.
Above, I take a moment to introduce the ever-friendly Joe Horton of Coopersburg, Penn. After Sun 'N Fun, we posted a large update on our Web site.
Joe wrote us a very thoughtful e-mail saying that the last four photos on the update and their descriptive paragraphs is the core of the Corvair movement as he sees it. I have long listened
to his counsel because he is truly a man In The Arena. His outgoing nature and his travels far and wide give him a valuable perspective on the movement. Many people new to Corvairs
have the false expectation that the engine is another consumer product. Joe is living proof that you will get the most out of the Corvair movement when you regard it as an opportunity
to learn, build and fly, in a movement which happens to have some very inexpensive hardware. His aviation focus on Self Reliance has a common thread that extends back through Lindbergh all the
way to the Wright brothers.
The record for the furthest distance traveled to CC #14 goes to Kurt Schweikhard of Germany. I met Kurt several years ago at Sun 'N Fun. Like Grace and I, he's building a
Wittman/Luce Buttercup. He has a long and interesting background in aviation. At Sun 'N Fun, he gave me a detailed comparison of manufacturing variations
in Merlin engines that he had learned during the restoration of WWII aircraft. An engineer by trade, he worked with Opel for many years. He has a very detailed and
precise knowledge of the history of engine manufacturing. He shared some of this while looking at an original set of blueprints for the Corvair engine. Over the years, we've had
a number of European guests at the Colleges, and it was nice to have Kurt continue this tradition.
Above, the normally modest Roy Szarafinski gets the full Captain Kirk treatment from me. It can be a tad embarrassing when I drag you up front to say nice things about you, but
it's all in good fun and gives builders some insight into the man known as "Brother Roy" to his friends. Roy has attended a long chain of Corvair events; he was our guest at
CC #12, #13, Sun 'N Fun, and now CC #14. Look for him at CC #15 and #16 later this year. In addition to sharing details of his fifth bearing design,
Roy has consistently helped with very accurate measurements on builders' cases and crankshafts.
Above, I present Roy with one of our "My Ex Wanted Me To Quit Flying" T-shirts. Look closely and you'll notice he's wearing a similar shirt he fashioned. Roy said it's a popular
sentiment at his home airport. Roy is working hard to finish off his pilot's license in anticipation of completing his Corvair powered 701 this year.
Above, ZenVair 601 XL builder Larry Webber of Rhode Island gets an introduction. I jokingly told everyone that Larry had a long personal struggle with shyness. To spend
20 seconds in his company is enough to know he never had a shy moment in his life. A guy with a ribald sense of humor, everyone who spent a bit of time with him later
realized he's a very nice guy underneath it all.
I introduce our attorney, the illustrious Jason Bogli, above. For the past several years he's been on our legal team. With other advisors, our primary challenge was
to efficiently explain the landscape of experimental aviation. With Jason, the reverse is true. A ZenVair builder himself, he knows the landscape very well and hits the
ground running on any issue. He attended the College with his lovely wife and three sons.
Above, Ben and Roger Pritchard take a bow for bringing their yellow bird to the College. The aircraft is truly complete, but they opted to bring the fuselage in on a trailer
to allow 601 builders to get a firsthand look at a complete installation. Builders just getting started often feel that those who have reached the finish line must have some
secret advantage. New guys generally think this advantage is a thick wallet, a lot of assistance or a giant shop full of tools. I assure new builders that none of these are a
guarantee of success because I've seen plenty of people with all of them fail. The secret weapon that Roger, Joe and all the people with complete airplanes have is persistence.
In the course of his project, Roger has experienced the ups and downs that modern life brings, yet because of his persistence, his airplane is now complete.
Mark Newton, above left, best known to Corvair builders as "Mark from Clark's," drove across the state to meet CC #14 participants. Through all the years of our work with Corvairs,
Clark's has been a consistent and stable provider of high quality parts. In December 2008, Mark gave me a very impressive guided tour of their facility in Shelburne Falls, Mass.
Mark has worked for Clark's for 25 years and knows the facility inside and out. Most impressive is Clark's long-term approach to Corvair products. They have quantities of materials and
tooling, indicating that they plan on being in the Corvair business for decades to come. Mark brought samples of Clark's most popular proucts for flight engine builders. He
also brought several cartons of catalogs, which he provided to each and every builder who did not yet have them.
Ken and I introduce Matt Wien, the first guy to register for CC #14, at center above. Ken let everyone know well in advance of the event of his efficient check-in system.
When he put the system in operation, he was stunned to see the first registration arrive 19 seconds later. We were all curious to meet the guy who was that punctual and
efficient. Matt turned out to be a great guy, got a lot done at the College, and was a good sport about being called "Mr. 19 Seconds" for half a day. We look forward to
hearing about his progress in the coming months.
I introduce Dave Mullins of Nashua, N.H., above. We first met Dave at the 1999 KR Gathering at Lake Barkley in Kentucky. Known as a KR builder, perhaps
Dave's most impressive talent is photography. He took many of the photos in this update. He
teaches photography at a college level, and brought an impressive portfolio of his work with him.
One of Ken's most clever ideas was making available a full meal plan. Just about everybody took him up on it, and consequently, stayed on scene instead of taking a break to
run out to a restaurant. Pramod's facility is about 15,000 square feet on two levels. All the catered food was delivered upstairs, where we had a clean, civilized place to eat
and enjoy ourselves with presentations and conversations. Ken's attention to detail extended all the way down to matching tablecloths.
Several builders had their better half on hand for at least part of the event. Janet and Roger Barnes, above, had good time throughout.
Above, Steven Mason, 601 XL builder from New York, in the upstairs dining area. This area gave us a quiet place to comfortably sit and talk between work sessions. In many
previous Colleges, the unbroken shop time kept me from getting to spend a chunk of time with every person on hand. At CC #14, the logistics of the event made it possible for me
to spend some quiet time with just about everybody.
At center above, George Berven, E-Racer builder from Mass., who was on hand for the whole event. Although a Corvair is not an engine candidate for an E-Racer, George came to learn
about the Corvair for his general knowledge and next potential project. He was at the center of a lot of work in the shop, and his time was well spent there.
Dave Simon, above left, with my father. Dave, like many people at the College, spent a lot of time speaking
with my father. The common connection is that both served in U.S. Navy Construction Battalions. The initials of these form the basis of their name, "Seabees." John Wayne starred in a typical
Hollywood movie about them in 1944, but the real Seabee story is far more interesting. They were at every amphibious assault, from Guadalcanal to Normandy in World War II, and played
vital roles in Korea and Vietnam. Seabees are active today on infrastructure projects in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Dave's Battalion, MCB-12, was based out of Davisville, R.I.
In the mid-1960s, my father was the Executive Officer at Davisville, which was then the home base of many Seabee battalions deployed around the world. Seabees are known throughout
the military as a fun-loving group who make up for a slight lack of military discipline with impressive efficiency. But when called upon, Seabees are prepared to fight. One of
the most famous Seabees was Marvin
G. Shields, whose name appears on the second panel of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Shields was a Seabee from Davisville who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Peter Kerwin of New Mexico, above right, and Gary Shubert, two very nice guys, relaxing in the upstairs dining hall at Pramod's facility. Peter was kind of robbed because until
Kurt showed up from Germany, he was a shoe in to win longest distance traveled to the College.
Above is Bob Pustell, one of those guys we've seen at aviation events all over the country. We'd last seen him at Corvair College #13 in California.
Bob has had a long and full career flying for the majors, paralleling this with his love of general aviation. Bob's observations on the nature of aviators, especially those in the
airline industry, remind me of those Ernest Gann wrote in Fate of the Hunter.
John Weigel's smile, above, is indicative of the good time had by all. John is wearing one of the Official Event T-shirts. The phrase "I got my crank hardened at
Corvair College #14" continues a tradition of fine Corvair College apparel. The phrase is a tribute to Pramod's nitriding capability. In the background is Bryan Bourgeois, a member
of the Future Cleanex Pilots of America Club.
Back To School
Nothing attracts a crowd like the sound of a Corvair. Above, everyone gathers outside to hear Pramod's engine run on his own test stand. In addition to offering crankshaft nitriding
and aluminum cylinders, Pramod is working toward having a number of resources available for area builders, such as his run stand.
Above, Roger Pritchard has the honor of running Pramod's engine. Note the baffle box supplying a lot of fresh air to the new engine. From a safety standpoint, it was a good College,
and a lot of attention was paid toward good engine run practice, with fire extinguishers, crowd control and safety chains.
Once the engine run was over, builders moved in for a close look. For everyone with a test stand, I highly recommend putting a large knife switch from a boating supply store on
the negative battery terminal. On our own dyno, I open that switch every time I stop the engine. This disables the Corvair's
ignition system and starter. Most people do not appreciate that simply being struck by a propeller just being cranked by the starter is potentially fatal. Working near live
aircraft engines demands the same presence of mind and precaution you would utilize when handling firearms.
Grace shipped a very large quantity of our Conversion and Installation Components and Educational Materials to the event (we have learned that a Safety Shaft in your checked luggage
is a guaranteed visit with the TSA). Even though the vast majority of builders attending had never been to a College before, there was little hesitation about
jumping in and making progress. Pramod sold most of his cores, and we sold almost all the parts we had on hand. From buying a Conversion Manual or
DVD straight on through purchasing a core and all the Gold Components, most builders chose to advance their engine projects by
quantum measurements that made sense for their own plans and budgets. Almost all other engine choices are an all-or-nothing consumer purchase. The Corvair and VW remain
available to traditional homebuilders and those working on a budget.
The father-son team of David and Dan Yager dive into their core disassembly, above. Their project aircraft is a Q2. We got a chance to
discuss some installation points, including motor mount layout.
One of the best things about having a College in New England is spending time with people of true New England character. Above, Mike McManus with the engine and test stand he
brought to the College. He is simultaneously rebuilding a 180 hp turbo engine for his car restoration, and a 100 hp aircraft powerplant for his flying adventures. A colorful
storyteller, Mike shared his entry into the mechanical world, which blossomed when he quit his job as a dishwasher at age 14 to be apprenticed into a motorcycle shop. He did a lot
of work on both lower ends at the College while adding a lot of color to the event with his perspective.
Jim Waters gets a friendly headlock from his friend Paul Reppert. Both of these guys are from the Philadelphia area. Jim is well known to guys who were at Corvair
College #9 as the fun-loving, gravelly-voiced guy who rode his Harley all the way down to the November 2005 event in our old Edgewater hangar. In the foreground of the photo
is his completed engine, sporting Falcon cylinder heads and all of our Conversion parts. It was a magnificently clean piece of craftsmanship, soon to
be installed in Jim's Fisher Horizon project. Jim and Paul have been friends for many years. Separately, each will tell you that the other one is from an entirely different
part of Philadelphia, quietly emphasizing their own neighborhood is the real Philly. What's funny about this is that the two of them are so close in voice, expression and
sense of humor that you'd think they were twins.
Myron Pickard, above left, with Archie Frangoudis. Both of these men are well known New England motorsports guys. We met Archie at Oshkosh a few years ago. An engine builder of
considerable experience, Archie's reputation preceded him, as a number of other New Englanders I respect had referenced him as a resource in their engine education. We met Myron at
Sun 'N Fun
four years ago. He is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame, and one of the owners of the New England Dragway. Every motorsport has a Golden Era in which the serious players
suddenly got access to frighteningly powerful new equipment before sanctioning bodies and safety could catch up. For top fuel drag racing, this was the 1960s, and Myron was a
nationally known competitor running front engine top fuel rails with blown Chryslers. Running 6.6's at over 200 mph with a 2,500 hp Hemi sitting right in your lap is not for the
timid. This era predated national sponsorships, and Myron, like most of his competitors, wrenched on the car and drove it. Today he's working toward a more subtle experience in
Side view of the Corvair powerplant in the Pritchard's 601 XL. This installation uses a lot of our components, which they picked up
individually. The engine is fully overhauled, but is very similar to the economical engine we displayed at Sun 'N Fun this year. Sharp eyes noticed
a slight blister atop the Nosebowl to accommodate an unmodified Subaru starter, and a stock GM oil filter housing and 12-plate cooler. An
engine like this can be built for well under $4,000. The Corvair movement has many paths available for people of all budgets.
Ben, above left, and his father, Roger Pritchard, stand proudly with their ZenVair 601 XL. The aircraft is newly completed and about to undergo its airworthiness inspection. In going
over the engine installation, I found only a few small details I would adjust.
My father, William Wynne Sr., speaks with the father-son team of Dan and David Yager. We had three father-son teams at the event.
The striking photo above gives a look inside Pramod's nitriding chamber at work. The ionized gas gives off a mesmerizing purple light. Pramod is the best known nitrider of
Corvair crankshafts, having treated those of some of the best known pilots in the movement. I picked up three crankshafts at the College that I'd sent to Pramod for our
own engine building back in Florida.
With me above is Thomas Siminski, a highly skilled machinist of the Old School variety. He had some very helpful suggestions about prepping threaded holes that he shared with
builders. When I got a chance to speak with him one-on-one later, he impressed me with his broad personal experience from a candid perspective.
One more look at the gang, upstairs on Sunday afternoon, above.
Joe Horton in his KR-2S on climbout, headed home after another fun and successful College. Make your plans now and we'll see you at the next one.
Now At The Hangar