June 16, 2007 News Flash -
Charles Leonard's Airplane Flys
Back From Break
The Monday Policy
As we were preparing to post this on the Web site, I got the good news that Charles Leonard's ZenVair 601 had made its first flight. A few days
earlier, Charles called just before and after N920EL, above, passed inspection. He'd made the prudent decision
to have someone with time in type make the first flight. Charles, of Punta Gorda, Florida, called to say it was
truly a special day, and thanked everybody who helped him. I reminded him that help is important, but really, a
typical builder like him put in 90+ percent of all the hours that went into his plane. In a world of group projects,
and being a small part of many accomplishments, the day you finish your airplane is a tribute to you, the individual. It is
a standout experience in life. Congratulations Charles Leonard, Corvair College #9 and
#10 veteran, creator of the 12th Corvair powered 601 to fly.
People who've visited Venice, Italy, will recognize Grace's location: She's standing above the main entrance of
St. Mark's Basilica. The first two weeks in May, we took a long-delayed honeymoon to Venice, the Greek Islands and Croatia.
Although Grace has been many times before, it was my first trip to Europe. It was an enlightening trip, and we
found the people very friendly without exception.
When we got home we had no messages on our telephone answering machine. Same story when we returned from New Jersey.
We figured out that when nearby lightning causes the power to flicker, the outage resets and clears the answering machine.
If your May message went unanswered, please e-mail or call (904) 529-0006 during our regular business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The above photo shows off Chris Smith's new paint job on "The Son Of Cleanex." The plane lives outside, a few miles away from the Atlantic Coast. Chris felt
that the paint job would offer the plane better protection than polishing.
Chris recently flew the Son of Cleanex cross country from Florida to its summer home of South Carolina. He wrote to say his Son
of Cleanex offered smooth, reliable transportation. He's just beginning to savor the rewards of his efforts.
The Corvair Movement In Action
Two events recently held in separate parts of the country are complete standout examples of what makes the
Corvair so different from other engines. In North Dakaota, John and Jean Kearney hosted an "Unfrozen Fargo Corvair High."
John and Jean are veterans of Corvair Colleges #5 and #6, as well as the California event at Michael Heintz's Quality
Sportplanes facility last year.
Simply because they like the people in the Corvair movement, they volunteered to organize a small technical conference.
John's intention is to promote the popularity of the Corvair in his neighborhood and use this group as the nucleus
for a larger Corvair event next year. John has a running engine on the test stand.
The event was a big
success. The most telling commentary came from a builder who wrote an eloquent letter explaining his initial skepticism, and
how he was quickly won over by the group and the Kearneys' hospitality. He contrasted the warm welcome of fellow builders
with the small minded individuals in day-to-day life who have a difficult time understanding people who need to create
and fly airplanes. Hats off to John and Jean Kearney.
Above is KRVair builder Pete Klapp, organizer of the Corvair Wings and Wheels event June 8-9. Pete's idea was to have a super
friendly event at the picturesque Barber Airport in Alliance, Ohio. He engaged Corvair pilots and builders as the
backbone of an event that attracted people of many interests two years running. We'd previously taught a
Night School as well as Corvair College #7 in Alliance and we can attest to the kind hospitality and positive energy of this area's builders.
Pete is an energetic, gregarious organizer, and made everybody feel welcome.
Rotaxes and Lycomings are certainly good engines. But it's difficult to imagine either one generating the type of
grassroots events organized by the Kearneys and Pete Klapp. From the very beginning of my work with Corvairs, I've
always made it more about people than hardware. This is the vital difference that leads to these events. Our
kudos go to these hosts. While the most common gripe we hear about light aviation is that it's over-commercialized, these
organizers and their guests have had a lot of fun proving that experimental aviation, at least in the Corvair
world, is still all about people.
Above is a shot of Joe Horton's airplane taken by Mark Langford during Corvair Wings and Wheels 2007. A few weeks earlier,
Joe had a nosegear failure on his airplane that got his prop and
did some damage to the underside. The fact he's back in the air this quickly shows that once you get a good taste of
flying your creation, it's difficult to have it down for any length of time. You can see more of Mark's great photos
Family Reunion in New Jersey
Above are my parents and their four children. At the end of May, Grace and I and 53 other family members traveled
to New Jersey for my mother's 80th birthday, occasion for a family reunion as well. Many years ago, before Grace was a
civilizing influence in my life, I did dumb stunts like working in the hangar on Christmas Eve with Kevin ... 5 years
in a row. This extreme work focus got things done, but obviously was not a normal life. Although I still enjoy working
a lot of hours and regard work as a privilege, not a punishment, my life is far more balanced between work and family
now. In the photo, in back is my brother Michael, born in 1953 in Coronado while our father was deployed with ACB-ONE in
Korea. Michael is a civil engineer specializing in water management.
On the right, my sister Melissa was born in 1956 at Lakehurst, where our father was the project officer on the catapults
and arresting gear on the upcoming nuclear carriers. Melissa is a politician, attorney, wife and mother.
At left, our sister Alison, born in Pittsburgh, followed by me. In Pittsburgh, our father was Admiral Rickover's executive
officer, developing the reactors that powered the atomic submarines and Enterprise CVN-65. Alison is a nurse
practioner who specializes in complex organ transplants.
Throughout it all for 57 years, my mother Mickey has remained the foundation around which the family is built. All
of my better characteristics are directly attributed to my parents.
Above, on a Sunday afternoon I'm welding Spenser Gould's SP-500 flight controls. Spenser is our engineer, and you
can see a photo of him sitting in his custom fuselage in April 2007 At The Hangar. He's
exceptionally good at structural analysis. His control system was extremely light and rigid, made from .035 wall tubing
and folded thin steel sheets. It's reminiscent of the extremely strong, light weight designs of Curtis Pitts. Because of
the thin sheets, the control system was a challenge to weld. The largest factor in my favor was the Lincoln Precision 225 Tig
machine Grace got me for Christmas. It is one of their newest models, with Microstart technology among its features.
I've been welding since 1980 or so. Today's Tig machines are vastly easier to use than the ones I started on. Any homebuilder
who'd seriously enjoy welding can now use one of these modern machines and a little bit of instruction to produce
airworthy welds in a small fraction of the time it used to take to become good enough to do flight work. I
recommend this Lincoln machine without reservation. Oshkosh is six weeks away, and you can test drive
all these machines there. Lincoln frequently offers deep discounts to EAA members at the show.
The photo above shows our most important technical advancement of the past 12 months:
Our integrated oil filter housing, cooler bypass and installed
Niagara 2002 cooler. The cylindrical object behind the oil
cooler mounted on the firewall is an Aircraft Spruce Air/Oil Separator, Part No.
10570, about $40. We use it on just about every Corvair powered plane. These three elements combined
produce our Integrated Oil System. Our previous Heavy Duty Oil System used a firewall
mounted filter and bypass. These were off the shelf items served by four AN-6 hoses. We've been flying that system
for several years with a perfect track record. But staring at it, I always felt there had to be a cleaner and simpler way
to do it. The new system carries out all the same functions, but with only two hoses and no firewall mounted components.
The key part is the integrated Oil Filter Housing, a beautifully CNC-machined part that mounts on top of the
Rear Oil Accessory Case. This housing is machined to accept a K&N 1008 filter. What cannot be seen are the numerous
passageways machined into it to allow instrumentation that won't impede the internal flow. It renders the passages in
the block to the stock oil location superfluous. The K&N filter is much lighter and more compact than the stock
Corvair unit, and for those asking about messy oil changes, it has an internal rubber baffle that prevents it from
leaking oil when unscrewed.
The engine in the photo is Gordon Alexander's 3,100 cc on his Pegzair. The Fram filter in place is just for priming.
Between the filter and the housing is a prototype Bypass. The actual production models are a third smaller, elegantly
CNC machined. Gordon's installation is being plumbed with 150 degree AN-6 full flow hose ends we had on the shelf. These
two lines run right over to the cooler and complete the oil plumbing.
This view of Gordon's prototype installation gives builders a look at the oil system layout we'll be using on all engines.
The final products are significantly cleaner and even more elegant. In addition to neater
appearance, the system offers several other advantages:
The two hoses in this system will always be the exact same
length, regardless whether the engine's going on a 601, KR or something else. Thus, we can build these hoses and stock them, rather
than custom fabricating the lengths for customers.
Complete engines from us will be test run with the Flight Oil System in place. We're
moving toward delivering production engines with all the cooling baffling and wires in place. This will significantly reduce
Years of testing engines has convinced me that the pressure and temperature senders are now in the optimum location.
Our previous methods obviously work and have been proven in a lot of flight hours. We developed these parts in order to
optimize certain facets of the Corvair installation. If you've got a Corvair engine on order in our shop right now,
Your engine will be delivered with these systems. If you have any questions, call us. Engine buyers who've
patiently waited will be well
rewarded with a superior system. We've refrained from writing contracts on new engines since Sun 'N Fun because it's
our intention to deliver new orders with all these systems in place and test run with a commensurate price increase
yet to be determined. We'll post the new pricing information shortly.
Above is a top view of our 701 engine installation. It is also being fitted with the new Oil System. No oil components
on the firewall make the 701 installation much easier with its very limited firewall space. An oil filler neck is custom welded
into the Top Cover of this engine. It is made from a 1" aluminum tube, and has a Moroso O-ringed aluminum cap welded into
it. This was done for potential cowling clearance when we were thinking of a super narrow custom 701 cowl. At this point,
we're steering toward a 601 style cowl on the 701. We want to get this one flying
and gather flight test data. We're trying to keep as many of the parts for the 701 installation common to the 601 to
avoid a long development. We'll have more commentary on this installation when it's done and flying.
This is a view of the lower portion of the 701 installation. Although I had my doubts, Kevin found a way to rotate and
trim our CNC bent stainless pipes for 601s into a slightly different configuration that neatly fits into the 701's mount.
This engine will be equipped with an Aero-Carb.
The business end of Gordon's installation. In the photo above, several of our most popular parts are visible:
The Gold Hub, Alternator Brackets, Safety Shaft, Hybrid Studs and
Baffle Kit. Builders
should know that all these parts are A Category available, in stock for immediate shipment. The correct belt length
for the Gold Hub/John Deere installation is 28". The small blister on
the baffle below the alternator was custom made by Kevin to cover the flanged VW style exhaust on Gordon's heads.
This exhaust was a modification sold to Gordon by California car guys we do not recommend for any flight application.
Gordon chose the orange silicon rubber baffling; it works, but I much prefer the black fiber reinforced rubber
baffling available from Aircraft Spruce in 3" wide rolls, Part No. 05-00826.
Above is a 110 head modified by Falcon. It's not real easy to see, but the heads have significant porting done while
the valve seats are out for replacement. The late Larry Koutz performed before and after flow bench testing on Corvair heads
that had very similar porting clean up. This testing showed an 8 to 10 percent improvement at all practical lifts. On air cooled
engines, smooth exhaust ports make a big difference in eliminating hot spots. Even with great care and small tools, porting
like this is difficult to do with the seats in place. If you've already had your valve job done somewhere else, don't
be tempted to take out the valves and try it - I've never been able to do it without messing up at least one of the ground
Above, Fred Roser's engine on the dyno. The photo is a reminder that we prime, test run and operate Corvairs on
Shell Rotella T 15W40 oil. Although everybody has a favorite oil that's served them well on projects years ago, several
industry experts have told me that the formulation of many favorite oils has been changed for environmental reasons, often
compromising break in qualities by eliminating metallic based additives. Since we test engines on Rotella all the time,
builders can be confident that the current formulation of this oil works well in our favorite engine. We change the
oil and filter at 1 hour, 5 hours, 10 hours and 25. As KRVair Builder/Pilot Steve Makish pointed out, he's yet to see an engine hurt by
having the oil changed too often.
Above is a photo of the 701 airframe in the main Edgewater hangar. This illustrates how we tackle complete
airplane projects in 2007. The 701 is being
built as an E-LSA, which allows it to be built 100 percent for hire, unlike amateur builts, which must meet the 51% rule.
The owner separately contracted us to build the firewall forward package for his airplane. Gus Warren of Fly With Gus
separately contracted to build the whole airframe. At the conclusion of the 701 project, Gus will be available to
assist other builders with their airframe work. The final details of the engine installation are being taken care of
for me by Kevin.
Although we've done a tremendous amount of airframe work and will continue to develop new firewall forward packages,
we no longer do airframe work. It was once necessary to jump start the Corvair movement and get a lot of airplanes flying, but
the program today is to stick with the knitting and just work with engines and installations. Gus, whose strongest
expertise is in airframes, should be happy to assist builders with airframe needs.
In the photo above are 20 sets of components for our CNC stainless Exhaust Systems.
Even in this highly pre-fabricated state, there's still a few solid days of welding here. These 20 sets significantly
exceed all the existing backorders for Exhaust Systems. Thus, when I finish welding these, a part with a long
history of being backordered will be moved into the A Category of Availability. I have
the components for another dozen sets in reserve, which will permanently keep this system in stock. It takes time
and a lot of work, but things are changing for the better.
The mail last week brought a DVD from Murray Green in Canada showing his Corvair powered RW-20 Stork in flight.
Another first for Corvair power. Hats off to Murray. Chalk up another one for the Men of the Frozen North.
The same week brought news from Norm Beauchamp of Texas that he'd gotten in some flight time on his Corvair powered
Kitfox Model V. I'm reasonably sure that Norm is the first guy ever to
fly a Corvair in a Kitfox, although there's been years of discussion and intense interest. He reports being genuinely pleased with the combination, and his only squawk is a slightly
high oil temperature. The Model V has a gross weight of 1,550 pounds, and is capable of climbing at some fairly slow
airspeeds. In a phone call, I told Norm that the plane is a good candidate for a larger Niagara
It may not be intuitive, but faster planes like KRs and Cleanexes have good performance from stock
Corvair oil coolers. Slower planes such as Wagabonds, Pietenpols and planes in the Kitfox category, which are capable of
full power climbs at slower airspeeds, are primary candidates for heavy duty oil coolers. We put these coolers on all our
production engines because they're new and perfectly clean inside, and they keep oil temp low in any weather/climb/load
In the photo above, Dan Weseman sits in his Cleanex, chatting with the master of the light plane, Ed Fisher. Ed and
his wife Val traveled from Sebring to visit with Dan and his family. Ed's a really humble guy and he hates it when we
point out he's the only person in history who's designed, built and flown two different Oshkosh Grand Champion aircraft.
"Gee whiz," Ed says when we address him as Mr. Grand Champion.
Ed always has new ideas emerging on his drafting table, and I've supplied him with a complete mockup engine to steer
more of his ideas and work toward Corvairs. You can take a look at Ed's creativity at www.RaceAirDesigns.com
Long Term Project
I frequently ask old school EAAers who've completed a variety of different projects to give me some feedback on
the Corvair movement and their impression of what element is underserved or insufficiently addressed. After some serious
consideration, Dan Weseman came back with an unexpected reply: He told me that despite having one of the most powerful
and expensive Corvair engines flying, he felt that the basic foundation of the Corvair movement would always remain
the builder on a tight budget, and therefore these people should specifically be served with flight proven recommendations
instead of leaving that group to speculate on what would be the best low-cost combination.
What emerged from the discussion was the search for an engine that might not have the longest TBO, but would not
break. We're talking about building a proven engine that emphasizes elbow grease and craftsmanship over all else.
Where the flight experience comes in might surprise you: If you were given a choice between using new valves in the
intake or exhaust, which would you choose? Without testing, you might guess the exhaust valves, because they're worked
a lot harder. However, the correct choice is intakes because testing has taught me that a Corvair flight engine
will easily withstand a burned out exhaust valve without a drastic reduction in power. However, the highly unlikely
event of losing an intake valve is a much more serious matter. Most Corvair powered airplanes would have a difficult
time maintaining altitude with a heavily damaged intake. (The ignition in that cylinder will tend to blow out the
mixture on the entire bank.)
We kicked around the idea of buying a core off eBay and keeping very accurate records on what the steps were, what
it cost, and where every part came from. Good car magazines like Car Craft do stories like this all the
time. We've been investigating the low cost extreme for a few months, and it's a more attractive idea to me than many
builders might guess. We'll likely dig into the reasearch after we clear the back orders and finish the 601 Installation
Important Policy Note: "The John Monday Rule"
I recently spent a lot of hours thinking about this, and if you read the following paragraphs and the sentiment doesn't
take hold at first pass, please give it another read. Like a lot of strong feelings, it's difficult to articulate,
especially in writing, but I think it's important to take a shot at communicating the point.
John Monday, by all accounts, was an exceptional guy. While I spoke to him on the phone many times, the only time
we spent in his company was at Corvair College #5, which he attended with his son. About a year later,
he was killed in a tragic Bonanza crash. When looking for something on our Web site, I'll occasionally stumble over the
photo of him and his son at CC #5, and it always disturbs me that this man full of so much energy isn't with his family
Prior to the accident, John had sold his Corvair engine to a South African builder.
Mr. South Africa has a background working on motorgliders, and has friends who operate VW engines in his home country.
Although he hasn't run his Corvair engine yet, he's become somewhat fixated on changing the ignition system. He's thrown a lot of his ideas
out on the Internet, which met with lukewarm response. He's so sure his ignition idea is a good one, and people are
mistaken about not choosing it, that he spends a fair amount of time trying to prove there's something wrong with
the Ignition System I developed that's flying around on the majority of
Mr. South Africa isn't the first guy down the alarmist "Solving Nonexistent Problems" path.
Every other year, someone on the Internet emerges to play this role. To give him his due, he's been more persistent in his
exaggerations and implications than most of the others. The issue is really distasteful to me because it can't be fixed
or solved. He'll never get off the Internet, he'll never come to the United States, and experience has shown me that like the
others, he'll never build and fly the system he advocates. We wrote him a number of private letters. His responses were a
mixture of compliments, attacks, contradictions and implications in a tone we found annoying. It was profoundly ironic
to me that John Monday's engine was in this person's hands.
While staring at John Monday's photo, it occurred to me
that if he were granted another 24 hours of life, he would certainly spend the majority of it with his family.
He might spend an hour aloft, or even take a few moments to create something with his own hands. But one thing I'm absolutely
certain he would not do is spend a single second arguing on the Internet with a guy on the other side of the world he'll
never meet. While we all have a lot more than 24 hours left, the point's the same. From now on, when confronted with an
e-mail from the argumentive types, I'll simply refer them to these paragraphs. We all have something better to do.
Now At The Hangar
June 2011 At The Hangar
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December 2006 At The Hangar Part 1
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 2
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 3
December 2006 At The Hangar Part 4
November 2006 At The Hangar
October 2006 At The Hangar
September 2006 At The Hangar
August 2006 At The Hangar
July 2006 At The Hangar
June 2006 At The Hangar
May 2006 At The Hangar
At The Hangar In April 2006
At The Hangar In March 2006
At The Hangar In February 2006
At The Hangar In January 2006
At The Hangar In December 2005
At The Hangar In November 2005
At The Hangar In October 2005
At The Hangar In September 2005
At The Hangar In July 2005
OSH, Illinois and SAA June 13, 2005
At The Hangar June 13, 2005 Part II
At The Hangar In May 2005
At The Hangar In April 2005