Late September Engine Notes
Few airplanes offer the purity of flying like a Pietenpol on a sunny day. Below, Kurt Shipman's beautiful Pietenpol awaits its next flight.
Kurt Shipman was on hand at the Pietenpol Reunion at Brodhead this year with photos of his plane. At that time, it had only 10 minutes of flight time on it.
The photos revealed five years of outstanding craftsmanship put into a magnificent plane. His engine features most of our conversion parts
and Falcon heads. Thanks to Ryan Mueller for taking the photo above at a fly in this month. Expect to hear a lot about Pietenpols this year. It's the 80th anniversary of the design.
Above, Chris Welsh with a smooth running 2,700cc engine we just finished for Al Rupp. The engine logged 90 minutes on its initial break-in run. It demonstrated
23 psi hot idling oil pressure with a standard pump. This is the hallmark of a Corvair engine with precision clearancing. The photo is framed by Grace's Taylorcraft wing.
Above is a photo to put a few things in perspective. The eight sparkplugs in the photo are replacements we just got for the Taylorcraft. On Gus' advice I picked up
iridium plugs for the bottom of the C-85 and standard plugs for the top. Make sure you're sitting down: These eight plugs cost $375. That's pricey. However, consider
this perspective: Small Continentals on classic American airframes are some of the most reliable and trustworthy aircraft ever built. Even with 70 years of age and
stingey or inept maintenance, these planes soldier on with an enviable record of reliability. Since this reliability is the foremost attribute of the plane, I am
always willing to spend money in order to maintain that attribute.
A C-85 has a 6.3:1 compression ratio. This low ratio and its magneto ignition system make it prone to fouling plugs when run on 100 low lead. By comparison, a
9:1 compression ratio Corvair with one of our 35,000 volt ignition systems is immune to plug fouling. Also in the photo is Champion sparkplug lube, Part No. 2612.
This is an absolute must for plugs going into Corvair heads. Plenty of people try silver anti-seize, but that's a mistake because it gets on the plug's insulator.
You can also get 14mm copper washers for your Corvair plugs from Chief Aircraft, Part No. CH-M673, at about 40 cents a piece. If you'd like to experiment with iridium plugs in
your Corvair, Denso makes a Part No. IWF16-5359. Please note that we tried platinum plugs with 100 ll fuel and it's a poor combination.
The above photo shows the new forged connecting rods available from Clark's Corvairs with one stock rod for comparison. The new rods feature ARP 12-point bolts. They're about 10 grams heavier than Corvair
rods, an insignificant number. I checked them carefully and they demonstrate exceptionally good balance, including end for end balance. I'm sending them out to have
the dimensions and metallurgy checked. At $299, they seem like a pretty good deal. I am told that the forgings are imported and the machine work is done in the United
States. More news on these as it comes in. If they test well, they'll likely go in all the engines we build.
Above is a stock Corvair rod equipped with traditional ARP Waveloc bolts. The arrow points to two spots where the stock rods are equipped with a very generous
smooth radius. Most small machine shops in America can afford a relatively inexpensive connecting rod machine. They commonly offer the service of rebuilding rods
for as low as $10 each. ARP rod bolts go for about $75, so this can be an inexpensive combination. But here's the hitch: Occasionally, machinists will spot face the
surface near the radius and nick the radius with the tool. This is a tremendous structural wound in an engine. The only rod failure we had in any engine we
ever built was in the Skycoupe about six years ago. We had a local "expert" machine shop do the rods for us, and he put just such a stress riser in several of the
rods. I did not see it on assembly because the bolts are pressed into place and the nicks were under the head of the bolt. Mistakes like this tend to come from local
machinists who don't appreciate that they're working on an aircraft part. In all the years since, I've encouraged people to use Clark's 9203 or get perfectly rebuilt
ones from Ray Sedman at American Pi.
When I occasionally hear of someone planning on building Corvair engines to make a buck, parts like this certainly come to mind. If your whole goal
is to maximize how much money you make on each engine, invariably you'll get some fool to produce the cheapest part that is far more likely to have this kind of
error in it. Although builders working for themselves are interested in budget issues, they'll invariably make the right choice when they themselves will be flying
the engine they're building - an important point that some people have not considered. Over the years, we've built many, many engines that have gone flying. While they
were profitable to build, their primary value was good advertising. These engines, like the one in Rick Lindstrom's 601, were sterling examples that spread the word about
Corvairs. We had far too many years invested in Corvairs to take a chance on building anything short of the best. This motivation builds an entirely different mindset
in supplying a done engine.
The above photo shows an Airflow Performance mechanical fuel injector specifically calibrated for the Corvair. For size reference, a core Stromberg carb is at top left
in the photo. Below it is the gold flow divider. One of the installation advantages of mechanical injection is the extremely small calibrated nozzles. Packaging six
electronic injectors that will fit in a tight cowl is challenging. Mechanical injectors have an 1/8" pipe thread on the bottom and are roughly 1/4 the size.
Above are 13 Nason switches. These are Part No. SM-2C-5F. We used to recommend a slightly different Part No., but it's important for 601 XL builders and others
using non-gravity feed fuel systems to understand that SM-2C-5F is our preferred part. This switch automatically cuts off the fuel pump when the oil pressure
drops below 5 psi. This is an important safety feature that we've always recommended for aircraft that use electric fuel pumps. The new recommendation is just a slightly
more sensitive switch. We have a large number of these in stock and will be glad to supply them at $34 including S&H in the U.S.
September 2008 Update
The month of September contains two dates on the Corvair calendar that are here this weekend. The first is the KR Gathering in Mount Vernon, Ill. We attended this
last year, got a chance to sit down with friends new and old and had a really good time compressed into one traveling weekend. If you're a fan of this design, this would be
a good chance to meet many of the other Corvair/KR builders and pilots. Mark Langford is already there. His engine features our new 5th Bearing design that has been in the
works for more than a year. He said his engine has never been smoother.
Our friend, Corvair builder and major supplier of cores in the Midwest, Larry Hudson, also called
to say that if he could fit it in his schedule, he was planning on attending the KR Gathering. Larry and his son Cody attended last year, and brought a selection of core engines with
them. If you're thinking of attending the event and want to get started with a core, give Larry a call at (317) 535-9137.
The other event this weekend is the Zenith Open House in Mexico, Missouri. The Heintz family has expanded the event this year to include a series of technical
peresentations by recognized experts including Gus Warren, the test pilot of many of our creations. Additionally, Gus will be acting as our rep at that event. Gus has with him a number of our Conversion Manuals, 601 Installation Manuals,
and brochures as well as a complete set of our Gold components. He certainly will be able to answer any question about the
installation or operation of Corvairs in Zenith products. Gus logged the lion's share of the hours on our 601, and has flown a number of others. He is the
highest time Corvair/601 pilot in the world, and the only person who's flown both the 601 and the 701 on Corvair power. Builders can check out Gus' business Web site
Engine Building News
In the above photo, Chris Welsh and I with a 2,700cc engine that we've just about completed for Al Rupp, a 601 builder from Ohio. Like all the other 2008 series
engines we built, Al's engine features all of our Gold System components. These flight proven systems make for a simple, elegant engine that
integrates with all our other installation components like Baffle Kits and Cowlings. Of course, because it was built
from our components, to our specifications, it qualifies for affordable comprehensive insurance coverage from the EAA's insurance provider, Falcon.
In Chris' hand is a photo, reproduced below. I've known Chris for 18 years. We were roommates at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He is an expert in heavy
aircraft structures, systems and manufacturing. His main job is a lead structures guy for Grumman North Florida working on their E-2D program, one of the most
sophisticated aircraft in the world. Since graduating from Riddle with an A&P license and management degree 15 years ago, Chris has worked a number of interesting jobs
as varied as DC-10 cargo conversions and instructing at Colorado Aero-Tech.
But Chris' first love and expertise is the precision overhaul of piston aircraft engines. While many people know that Embry Riddle has the largest fleet of privately
owned light aircraft in the world, few people realize that Embry Riddle does 100% of the engine rebuilding for the fleet in house. Riddle's training aircraft log up to
2,000 hours a year. The primary engines are O-320 and IO-360 Lycomings. Riddle has a special allowance from the FAA to fly their engines hundreds of hours further than
standard TBO based on their exemplary decades' long overhaul and operation of these engines. The engines are overhauled with student labor under the direct supervision
of outstanding crew chiefs in the exacting environment of an FAA licensed repair station facility. Chris was selected as one of these crew chiefs while still a student
at Riddle and maintained the position for several years. In 2005 when we were doing investigative research on Corvair crankshafts, I turned to Chris, who used his expertise
with Embry Riddle's 3,000 amp magnaflux machine to test all the cranks in our study.
While a lot of people can claim to know something about engines, Chris' sterling training, experience and reputation is far beyond what most people think of when
they hear the term "aircraft mechanic." Chris has assisted me in the past few engine builds we've done in my shop, and we have a gameplan to build a series of
extremely high quality, high tech Corvair engines. A number of months ago we took down the Engines For Sale Web Page from FlyCorvair.com. Then we
worked through completing all the 2008 series Gold engines that we had on order without loading up the order book with fresh orders. We're now taking a 45 day pause
on engine building, the purpose of which is twofold:
First, we'll be working to complete all the backorders of regular production components. For instance, we've just received a fresh batch of Intake Manifold pipes.
Second, we need this length of calendar time to get some flight testing in on three of the latest high tech items we'll be offering on our next series of
production engines. These are our Fifth Bearing design, a retrofittable, wastegated turbocharger aimed at 601 installations, and mechanical fuel injection by
In the coming weeks, we'll have more updates and pricing information on these developments. The 2008 series of engines that we built had a list price of $7,995. We built
these engines from the finest parts, including Falcon cylinder heads and our Gold Systems. While not cheap, I always considered them an excellent value. Anyone
in the market for a high quality Corvair engine should contact me directly at WilliamTCA@aol.com. Our new engine models will feature
Fifth Bearings and a customizable combination of displacement and induction options.
Blast From The Past circa Winter 1993: Look closely at the photo: It's Chris with much longer hair. At the time, his daily driver was a '67 Beetle. He's holding its
hood ornament in this photo. In the foreground, a corrosion damaged Corvair case roasts in a roaring fire. I shot this photo in the backyard of 1235 International Speedway
Blvd., a 1907 two-story coquina stone house that a number of us rented during our five years at Embry Riddle. If memory serves, it was the end of a semester, and we were
blowing off steam with a backyard party highlighted by a bonfire fueled by Corvair magnesium blower fans. The case and a pile of heads ended up as a little
puddle by daylight.
People often hear me speak with pride of our years at Embry Riddle. I had a previous history degree that was a more typical college experience. Embry Riddle was far
more challenging and was an immersion environment shared with other very serious students. Consider what our other friends who shared the house with us are doing
today: Kurt Fabragass, A&P and aeronautical engineer, is a production engineer on the 787 Dreamliner. Chris Fin Boy Benweigh and Ed Hemmy are both ATPs and captains with
Continental Airlines. Andy Mel has a PhD in physics and works for the Naval Weapons Lab. Moose Kimbell has a masters in physics, is fluent in Russian, and is a
Mission Controller on the International Space Station out of both Houston and Star City, Russia. Not bad for a bunch of college kids in the backyard drinking beer.
Now At The Hangar
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