Corvair College #18/California Tour
First stop in California was Corona Airport to see Steve Glover, the man behind nVAero.com. He'd just moved into a giant new hangar, expanding in support of
his plans, kits and parts for the KR series of aircraft. I photographed him here sitting in his own personal KR-1, warming it up.
The next stop was EAA Chapter #1's Open House at FLABOB airport in Riverside, Calif. They are quite obviously the oldest EAA Chapter. I was invited out as a guest
speaker for their annual event. 601 builder Andy Elliot flew his 3,100 cc Corvair-powered N601GE to the event from Arizona. His powerplant is now nearing
the 500 hour mark.
Ken Smith of Aguanga, Calif., with his N601KS Corvair powered 601, above. After the Open House, I was a guest of Ken Smith and his lovely wife. Their home is atop
a ridgeline with panoramic views in all directions. Ken has recently completed the update to the wings on his 601 and has it back flying.
This little dog is the CH 750 building companion of Douglas Stevenson of Winchester, Calif.
Ken Smith drove over with me to visit the CH 750 project of Douglas Stevenson, above right. We met Doug at Oshkosh this year, and he chose to purchase a 3-liter engine with a
RoysGarage.com Bearing from Roy Szarafinski and Falcon heads from Mark at www.FalconMachine.net. I hit him with the idea of having the final assembly and test run of his engine
done for educational purposes at CC #18. He readily agreed.
Throughout the process, he showed himself to be an outstanding and friendly gentleman, the kind of person for whom we're always glad to go the extra mile.
Later that afternoon, I was the guest speaker at EAA Chapter 1279 at French Valley Airport in French Valley, Calif. They are the Chapter behind the uncovered
Pietenpol project they displayed at Brodhead and Oshkosh this year. They are a medium size EAA Chapter making a name for themselves and a good impact on homebuilding
far beyond their physical location and size. Grace and I have been glad to support them with their Corvair powerplant for their Piet.
The above photo is a Douglas Dauntless, better known in Navy terms as an SBD. This is the only flying example I have ever seen in person. It was on the ramp at
French Valley. In 1942, at the Battle of Midway, U.S. Navy torpedo planes were annihilated by the Japanese defenses. The Japanese fixation on the surface attack provided
a moment of surprise when SBD divebombers attacked vertically. In minutes, the Japanese lost four aircraft carriers to the SBDs. This moment was the highwater
mark of Japanese aggression in the Pacific. It was ended by these SBD aircraft and the very brave men who flew them.
Next stop was Livermore, Calif., for Corvair College #18 at Rick Lindstrom's FLAG facility. On the left, Rick invited Byron Stuart, the rep from Stuart Finishing Systems, to
answer any builders' questions about paint and finishing systems. On the right is our oldest builder, Dick Otto, of Concord, Calif., 89 years young. If you have some
doubt about what determined people can do in homebuilding, consider that Dick's airplane and engine are essentially done. It is a built-from-plans Zenith 601 XL.
Many people who have seen it will attest to its outstanding craftsmanship. This is Dick's first aircraft project, and he's still a student pilot. His progress
has not been impeded by people telling him what he should be doing at his age or what makes sense. Good path for builders of all ages.
Builders came from far and wide. Ryan Mueller of Chicago, Ill., at center above, was there to lend a hand. We borrowed a test stand for the College, and
spent some time debugging it. The old fuel filter on the stand disintegrated and polluted the inside of Gary Boothe's freshly overhauled carburetor in its first 30
seconds of operation. Here's where a positive attitude pays off: Gary, on the right, with the assistance of Ryan, stripped the carb and cleaned it, and changed the
fuel lines and filter. Shortly thereafter, the engine, with clean carb, was running like a banshee. It was the crowning achievement of several years of on and off
building for Gary. He wrote a very moving testament to the journey and posted it to the Web.
Dave Kruppa drove in with his wife from Arizona. Above, he's working on his engine, which he assembled all the way through the longblock. It's destined for his
Zenith 650 project.
Ron Miles of Arizona, left, gets assistance with his Zenith 750 engine from Mike Weaver. Many builders worked as teams and got a lot done with that approach.
Above is Mike Studer of California. At CC #13 he brought his running Corvair engine on the front end of his Cassut project. Mike exemplified
the finest tradition of camaraderie at CC #18. He spent the whole time assisting other people and working on the test stand. When I say the whole time, I mean he stayed
till 2 a.m. two of the nights we were there. He's an outstanding craftsman, and a very, very funny guy.
At left, John Howard is assisted with the installation of his Weseman bearing with our
man on the West Coast, Woody Harris. Woody is in the final stages of reassembling his Corvair-powered Zenith 601 XL after installing the wing mods. He'd previously flown
the aircraft up and down the West Coast. His new engine installation is a turbo 2,850 Corvair.
Rich Vetterli, left, and Ralph Cloud with Rick Lindstrom's Corvair powered 601 XL, N42KP. The whole Corvair movement on the West Coast took a giant leap forward when Rick
Lindstrom documented the building of his Corvair powered 601 XL in our Florida shop in seven consecutive issues of Kit Planes. The aircraft brought many West
Coast builders into the fold, particularly a lot of Zenith guys. Rich Vetterli just completed and test flew his Zenith 601 XL. The aircraft's Corvair engine was seen running
at CC #13. Rich completed his aircraft, including the wing upgrade, in the FLAG building center. He had a lot to say about the change in
perspective in life when your aircraft is done, a milestone in life to which few things can compare.
This is the case assembly of the 3-liter engine that we built for Doug Stevenson. On the front end is Roy Szarafinski's fifth bearing. The first three liter that
we sold at Oshkosh had a Weseman bearing. Doug's engine demonstrates the integrated way that Roy, Dan, Mark from Falcon, Grace and I work together. The products we
make are designed to function together so that builders can make their choice as to what best suits their project, budget and skill set.
Daniel Kelley from California, above left, with Bill Siemsen, a gyro builder from Placerville, Calif., on a break just before one of the
many sit down meals offered by Rick and his family.
Piet/Vair builder Larry Keitel at right above, with friend Ron Applegate, an RV-3 builder. An RV-3 is the only Van's Aircraft product that is a good match for
a Corvair. RV-3s have been built with a wide variety of powerplants, and a large displacement Corvair is well within the CG and power requirements of the design.
The moment of truth: Gary Boothe's Pietenpol engine getting a full break-in run on the test stand with a newly sorted out fuel system. He did an excellent job and it
Rick Lindstrom, above right, speaks with a builder in the showroom portion of his facility. Rick's on site operation contains a very large workshop area, office
space for his video, media and writing companies, the showroom above, which offers many different lines of pilot products, and facilities for on-site simulator and
Doug Dugger, Zenith's West Coast rep, brought his own personal CH 750 to CC #18 and provided a number of builders with an introductory flight. Zenith 701s and
750s are not difficult airplanes to fly, but they do have unique characteristics due to their STOL capability that make it a particularly good idea to gain a
familiarization flight before considering test flying or soloing either of the designs. Doug can be contacted through QualitySportPlanes.com.
Roy Szarafinkski shot this photo over Doug Dugger's shoulder while flying in the 750 at CC #18. Roy's Corvair powered 701 is almost done.
Larry Keitel of Los Angeles made really good progress on his engine, seen in the photo above. Again, attitude is the key. In the early assembly, a large ding in the
crank flange gear was detected. Woody Harris and Roy Szarafinski put in a tremendous effort on Saturday to get Larry's crank gear changed locally. Someone else might
have thrown in the towel, but Larry's positive attitude made the people around him want to go to great lengths to assist him. The payoff shown here was a largely
complete engine on Sunday, all built around a perfect crank gear installed less than 24 hours earlier. Larry has had a long career of hardcore aircraft maintenance on
heavy transport jets. It's not a requirement for building a Corvair powered Pietenpol, but a positive attitude serves you well.
Corvair/601 builder Larry Winger, above left, with his Weseman bearing, 2,700 cc engine minutes after it came to life. Beside him is Mike Studer, whose outstanding
effort assisted in many success stories at the College. This is the major milestone in any homebuilt project. We have known Larry for a number of years, and he is
truly a first class gentleman. His project was initially nearly derailed by a ripoff artist from Georgia who took $4,000 and delivered little more than a spraypainted
junk core. Only momentarily deterred, Larry regrouped, and with our assistance, built his own outstanding engine. The story is both a cautionary tale of a detour to
be avoided and a lesson in persistence to be followed.
On Sunday, we had the traditional reminder of a good College: You know it has been an excellent event when guys who have a 7 or 8 hour ride home still stay till 3 in
the afternoon to hang out, have a few more cups of coffee and a few more hours with builders who have the same outlook on life. Sunday night, Roy and I finished the
three liter engine with his RoysGarage.com bearing on the front and prepped it for an early run on Monday, seen above. It fired up after 2 seconds of cranking and ran
flawlessly throughout the early break-in period, which is critical to the metallurgy of the cam and lifters. It was a nice wrap up for the College.
After the College, I drove the same engine all the way to the southern end of the state for my second housecall to Doug Stevenson's project. Although he's only been
working on his project for a few months, Doug is well more than halfway done. His Corvair engine complete, he followed every detail of our Zenith Installation
Manual and I was well impressed with his background work. Attending the College gave him the chance to see his engine go together in person and will make him a
much more informed operator. The Corvair is an excellent match for the 750, and is proving to be a popular choice amongst its builders.
On the way back from engine delivery, I visited Steve Glover's new facility in Corona, where he'd just moved in the preceding week. Seen in the photo above are many
of the molds for wing skins and fiberglass components for the KR designs. In a time where many shaky aircraft businesses and LLCs are tanking, expansion like this is
only possible when you combine a knowledgeable person who is highly respected with good products. We have been friends with Steve for years, and he enjoys an
excellent reputation in the KR community, extending years back before his commercial interest. Steve's famously modest quote, "I'm just a giver," rings true with people
who know him well.
Later on, Steve and I visited Jeanette Rand at her home. Jeanette is entrusting Steve to carry on the legacy work of her late husband, Ken Rand, who designed
the KR series of aircraft. By coincidence, they recorded the 10,000th set of KR-2 plans sold while I was there (there have also been more than 6,000 sets of
KR-1 plans sold). The KR is undoubtedly the most prolific plans built experimental of all time. If you've been around experimental aviation for any length of time, you
know that it's unfortunate that a small number of unscrupulous people have always attempted to cash in on the work of other people. These unscrupulous people,
having made no contribution themselves, have often tried to make discount, unauthorized parts for many designs, or outright copies. These unscrupulous people and
those who enrich them discourage talented designers and honest businessmen from doing legitimate R&D and testing as a prelude to offering products to working class
homebuilders. Steve is the complete antithesis of this with his approach to the KR series of aircraft. He is a respected member of our community.
The last housecall in California was to Larry Winger's. His engine, back from running a few days previously at Corvair College #18, was installed on the front
end of his aircraft in Southern California. Larry's aircraft is a magnificent 650 XL built from plans, not a kit. He is also finished with the wing upgrade and in the
homestretch of his build.
The above photo shows Larry's engine from a different angle. There are an unlimited number of ways that you could mount and detail a Corvair on the front end of
a Zenith. Many builders are initially tempted to include some different piece in their installation, such as a larger alternator, or a rear starer, or a different intake manifold., or
a homebrew oil system. Invariably, if I can speak with these people, I can clearly show them that their choices are almost always based on the false belief that they
are solving some problem which is actually non-existent, or the savings of $100 on an alternator is poor economy if you have to change a dozen things to put it on
your plane. I'm not against creativity, but the most unique engine layout that is perennially sitting in a builder's garage is less of a testimony to his creativity
than any flying Corvair engine following our proven, tested methodology is to his decision making skills. Let your running, flying aircraft that you
are out enjoying be what you're known for.
Start to finish, I spent a little less than 2 weeks in California. The trip was sincerely made possible by the generosity of old friends at every step of the way.
A full day of flying back on the airplane gave me a lot of time to reflect on the journey. The personal connections made, the housecalls, getting to know new friends
and old friends better, is the real value of such a trip.
I was only home a few hours before making a run to South Carolina for a family gathering and my sister Alison's 50th Birthday. 800 miles and 36 hours later,
I was back in the shop and began to return phone calls. One of the first people I spoke to was a guy who had called with a general inquiry about using a Corvair on his
aircraft. Several times in a few minutes, the guy said to me that he really didn't understand why the Corvair and myself in particular had so many vocal friends on
different discussion groups on the Net. Although he wouldn't come out and say it directly, it basically bothered him to read unsolicited testimonials about the
Corvair movement. I thought about trying to explain to him that these people had genuinely experienced something really rewarding with the Corvair, and that a great number
of them had been the recipient of direct attention to their project, often in their own shop, always at no charge. Looking at the length of the call back list, I
decided not to borther; some people you just can't reach.
If we haven't met you in person yet, come to a College, an air show or write us a letter. We'll be glad to play a positive role in your project as we have in the
projects of countless other positive people before you.
It was great also to see old friends like Craig Payne and Pete Kozachik. Special thanks to Cory Emberson and Rick's whole family.
"Real freedom is the sustained act of being an individual." WW - 2009
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