William Wynne

"The Corvair Authority"
5000-18 HWY 17 #247
Orange Park, FL 32003 USA

Corvair College #10
Installation Manual Update
Again With The Internet

Corvair College #10 is approaching. The first day of the College will be Friday, Nov. 10, 2006. We'll be checking people in after 2 p.m. We'll have a group of informal activities until 9 p.m. The first full day of the College will be Saturday, Nov. 11. The events will begin at 9 a.m. and continue late into the evening. Saturday will be the main day. After dark we'll have a cookout, a few technical presentations, and the highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the first Steve Jones Memorial Trophy. We'll have plenty of time to socialize late into the night. Sunday will kick back in with more tech presentations and the running of the two demo engines. The learning and flying will continue through the afternoon.

In 10 days or so, we'll have a complete online syllabus/program available to anyone for download. We're lining up several more technical presentations. Arnold Holmes will be on hand to demonstrate dynamic prop balancing. We've already lined up two aircraft for demonstrations. Spencer Gould will share composite building tips as they relate to his Corvair powered SG 500 project. We're working to have Mark from Falcon automotive on hand. As expected, the regular cast from the Hangar Gang will be on hand to answer all your tech questions.

We had 9 Corvair powered aircraft on hand last year. We're shooting for 12 this year. We've heard from pilots like Joe Horton of Pennsylvania and Phil Maxson of New Jersey who will be flying in for the first time. If you haven't yet made reservations, let me again suggest the Edgewater Best Western, (386) 427-7101. The majority of people who've already made plans are staying here at the "Corvair College Rate," and it's an easy ride to the airport. More info will be forthcoming in a week or so, but make plans now.

In addition to preparing for CC#10 and producing all the regular parts, there are always special projects going on. General R&D, Fifth Bearing, Turbo work and product improvement all fall in this category. One of the projects that's been getting serious effort to finalize it in the past few weeks is the 601 Installation Manual. These photos represent the work going into a single chapter in the Installation Manual on building and installing the cowl. Steve Upson and I are working in the shop to make two complete perfect 601 cowls, document the process, and have a first class set of drawings made from the cowls. The aircraft in the photo is Rick Lindstrom's 601XL which will be on hand in flying condition at the College.

The nosebowl is held in place by a 13" plywood ring. The face of the fiberglass nosebowl is 7/8" behind the face of the Prop Hub. This will provide a uniform 3/8" gap between the 13" spinner and the nosebowl. Sheetrock screws through the fiberglass into the plywood and two bolts through the Prop Hub hold the nosebowl in perfect position. Make sure the nosebowl is level across the centers of the air inlets.

The sheetmetal on the fuselage sides and top are trimmed back to 70mm from the rivet line. This is illustrated in the 601 plans.

A string line is stretched from the two crease lines in the fiberglass nosebowl back to the center rivet, which holds the instrument panel to the fuselage top. In this photo, there's a straight edge lying along this line on the fuselage top.

The point where these two lines cross the firewall marks the aft width of the top cowling panel.

The top center panel is made of .025 6061-T6. The front edge is 275mm wide. The rear edge is 125mm. It has a 3/4" leg turned down on each side. This leg is trimmed away where the panel meets the fuselage top and the fiberglass lip on the nosebowl. Clecos hold the panel in place during construction. Upon installation, tinnerman nuts and PK screws will secure it.

The photo above shows, from left to right, the simple sheetmetal scoop that fits under the bottom panel of the cowling and functions as the carb heat box; a K&N filter from a Yamaha motorcycle; and the mold to make the fiberglass scoop wich holds the air cleaner in place and feeds the air to the carb inlet flange. They're sitting on top of a blank that will become a bottom cowling panel. We have flight tested these pieces for the past year-and-a-half on our own aircraft. They've flown additional hours on the 601s of Phil Maxson and Dr. Gary Ray. The construction of these pieces will be fully detailed in the Installation Manual. We've worked very hard to develop simple to fabricate components that work flawlessly to provide a complete installation for 601 builders. This system is adaptable to other aircraft. We're shooting to have the Install Manual complete with its formal introduction at the College.

In the photo above, Spencer Gould with a Front Spinner Bulkhead and Crushplate. He's smiling because he did the CAD work on the aluminum part and found it to be dead nuts on when he checked it. This unit has been a lot of work to bring to completion. The prototypes we've been flight testing have been pictured in many photos on FlyCorvair.com. The 601 construction pages discuss the concept of the part in detail. In short, it is only needed by builders who will be using a 13" spinner in combination with a Warp Drive Propeller. A handful of people have missed this, or do not understand that spinners require a front and rear bulkhead. Warp Drive props have thin hubs and require this unit to properly stabilize the large 13" spinner.

The raw fiberglass bulkhead as it comes out of the mold needs to be trimmed to a uniform width, as we're doing above. A cutoff wheel chucked in the 3,000 rpm drillpress held 1" off the table with the ShopVac right behind it makes quick work of this.

Above is the view of the rear face of the unit. This is the face that touches the Warp Drive hub. The aluminum crushplate is used to spread the clamping loads on the hub. Thus, the screws that hold the fiberglass bulkhead to the crushplate must be flush NAS screws. NAS screws have a 100 degree countersunk head. Molded into the fiberglass is a lip that holds the bulkhead exactly concentric on the spinner. The bulkhead mold was made in a lathe to ensure it is perfectly concentric with the lip. The holes in the aluminum crushplate for the prop bolts are a very tight .377". Standard off the shelf crushplates have holes that are 1/32" larger in diameter than this. This is because they're designed to work with wood props. Since this unit is to solely work with Warp Drive props which have machined aluminum hubs, we could go far tighter on the tolerance and have a much more concentric assembly. This concentricity shows up as a far more balanced propeller assembly.

Above is the front side. The fiberglass bulkhead is trimmed away around the prop bolt holes. It is completely unacceptable to have any form of fiberglass in compression by the prop bolts. With it trimmed away above, the prop bolts bear directly on the aluminum crushplate and clamp the Warp Drive hub to our Prop Hub. The rear bulkhead used is the stock Van's 13" aluminum bulkhead, which is included with the spinner. The NAS screws are secured by metal locknuts on the front side.

Internet Notes

The Internet obviously works to improve aircraft building in many ways. You're reading this off the Net right now, and most of the people who come to College 10 will get the initial information on it from our Web site. However, just like other sources of information, the Internet has its flaws, and some of these are magnified by the factors of immediate access and little accountability. I write the following comments as a reality check on some of the items which have appeared on discussion groups recently. I know that the ability for us to communicate with builders rapidly far outweighs comments of others which need correction. But it has been my experience that incorrect or incomplete information on the Net unchecked generates more speculation, builder paralysis, a lot of phone calls to us. I don't mind the last one. I am far more bothered by discovering a builder who spent months going down a dead end suggested buy a Net source, all time and money leading him away from completing his plane. My only goal is to share what we have proven to work in this specific application, and have builders use this to build and fly their planes with the lowest risk.

On the Internet this week, a builder loudly complained that he'd waited a long time to get a crushplate from us. As evidenced by the above photos, the part is obviously much more than a simple off the shelf crushplate. This doesn't even touch on the moldmaking, fiberglass samples, or any of the detail design work. Although we intended to perfect this far sooner, most reasonable builders understand that other issues like optimizing the new crank nitriding procedures and testing the results served the immediate needs of far more builders than having this unit available six months ago would have.

The post not only simplified the description of the part, but also deleted the fact that he promised a lawsuit over it. All ironic considering that we never cashed the check he sent for the part, just returning it with a letter which prompted his post. Unlike the heads of most companies in our industry, I build planes. Because of this I know that building an airplane brings out many moments of frustration, and this makes me understanding of the builders' feelings. In most other experiences in American consumer life, you can spend your money and expect instant gratification. In homebuilding, this mentality only brings frustration. Most builders recognize that my work is designed to bring affordable powerplants to rank and file EAA members. In the long run, my work on developing the Corvair has done far more to get them in the air sooner and more affordably. Events like our free Colleges have to be considered in the big picture with minor issues like delays on bulkheads. It's for individual builders to decide whether our work serves them.

In reviewing Internet notes, I saw many people ask or make reference to a formula for figuring true prop tip speed. In a discussion with several posts, no one mentioned that every Conversion Manual we've sold since 2002 has included the formula and a graph showing its use. While some of the Internet sites have the correct formula, none I've ever seen come with any practical experience or guidance. The experience I share comes from personally testing an enormous variety of props. Web sites with formulas will never come up with a 72" diameter prop turning 3,300 rpm at 195 mph as an efficient combination capable of producing maximum thrust. Every source without practical experience will tell you how terrible this would be. Here's the view from reality: This is the exact combination our friend and neighbor Jason Newburg just used to win the Silver Biplane class at Reno. Quiet enough for everyday use? No. Good enough to beat out slicker airframes and send Jason home with a big trophy and a fat paycheck? Yes. A triumph of practical experience over theory.

It was also erroneously reported that our Stainless 601 Exhaust Systems do not fit tricycle geared 601s. The Exhaust System actually fits all models of 601s with tricycle or taildragger gear. Gary Boothe, a veteran of the California gatherings, offered the correct observation that he'd just seen one successfully installed on a 601 tri-gear. These exhausts are now installed on about 10 aircraft, and the only one that's not tri-geared is our 601. Some of this erroneous information about our Products are simple mistakes. It's easily countered by asking anyone who's been to our Colleges, seen our DVDs or read our Web site thoroughly.

Speaking of erroneous info on the Net, many months ago there was a very disturbing Internet report that a Corvair pilot in Brazil had been killed in an accident. The report had a very factual tone and seemed credible. It included such details that the builder was working with carburetion prior to the accident. I found the report particularly disturbing because the only builder close to flying in Brazil is a great guy named Tadeau. We sent many e-mails back to the originator but got nothing back in return. This week, we received an e-mail from Tadeau, who is alive and well and had no such accident. I think the incident was more of a mistake in facts than malicious rumor, but it was disturbing nonetheless.

Just to remind me that the Net is not the only source of disinformation, today outside my hangar a mechanic from our airport carefully and factually told me a story about V-8 engined Lancairs, and how they never flew because the gearboxes never worked. He presented this with the authoritative tone of someone who was really in the know. Anyone hearing him would certainly assume he was correct. Anyone except for me, who built and flew a lot of hours in the very aircraft he was claiming never worked. I didn't even bother to tell him he was wrong. I'm sure your own airport has at least one version of this guy. In the past 15 years I have met more than a handful of these guys. It is worth noting that some of them owned planes, but I am yet to meet one of them with an airplane he built. You can't buy experience or crediblity.

A number of builders on the Net were put off by some comments on an unoffical RV builder's Web site. This led to a few shared experiences about poor behavior among RV fans. With 4,000+ planes flying and twice that under construction, odds say their camp will have a few antagonistic people in it. But keep in mind that all the RV people, builders and flyers make up only 10% of the EAA. It seems like more because they have an evniable track record of action. I have to strongly agree with old school Corvair builder John Bolding's personal observation that considering his accomplishments, Richard van Grunsven is one of the most humble people to ever set foot in our industry. You can't know him by looking at the least civil act of a member of his fan club who probably never spent 5 minutes in conversation with him. Personally, I get a chuckle out of anyone who thinks of RV people as "elitist." Anyone who feels this way has not yet met Lancair IV-P owners.

Corvair College 10 is the place to come if you want the actual facts revealed by testing and personal flight experience. You can come and learn in the presence of like minded aviators who have built or are building machines to successfully pursue their dreams in aviation. My ultimate retort is to run this event in the most factual, interesting and fun way possible. We'll make it a haven for open minded positive people.

Grace's ultimate retort: Good times

The reason why I love my wife, # 1,526. After a long week of working in the hangar, I return home to find Grace and her father, Bob, engaged in a beautiful father daughter day. They shot a few hour's worth of trap with pump shotguns in our back yard, then went to the dog track, won the longshot trifecta, superfecta and several quinelas, and spent their winnings gorging themselves on seafood at a waterfront restaurant. Don't write in. I'm well aware I don't deserve such a woman.

Notes From California

I've just returned from Cloverdale, Calif., where we held a tech seminar and Open House at Quality Sport Planes, Zenith's West Coast facility. Michael Heintz hosted the event. He did an outstanding job of welcoming Corvair builders to his hangar.

The event kicked off on Friday with a small group tech session organized by Michael. This mirrored a session previously held at his facility for Jabiru builders. The latter part of the weekend was open to Corvair builders in general, so that everyone had a chance to come and learn, have their parts inspected and hang out with friends. In the photo above, I'm wearing the Sensenich shirt addressing the tech class.

The airplane we used for the demo is a Quick Build kit that belongs to West Coast builder Woody Harris. Woody picked me up at San Francisco airport, we loaded his fuselage and engine into a race car trailer, and proceeded to Cloverdale. This is what his firewall looked like when we arrived at the workshop. In the background is the Jabiru powered Quick Build kit which was the subject of Michael's prior tech session. Our event overlapped with Michael's Open House for West Coast Zenith builders on Sunday. While there, we had a good time with 601 builders using Lycoming, Continental, Rotax and Jabiru powerplants. The mood was exceedingly friendly, and operational information and notes were exchanged among pilots.

On the Internet, often cantankerous debates take place on engine selection. These are most frequently started by builders without flying planes. If you're a quiet observer, it's worth noting that this is a figment of the Net. In person, the mood is pure camaraderie amongst operators of all engine types.

Although we focused on Woody's installation, we had ample time to go over other individual engines. On the extreme right in the photo above is Gary Boothe, a veteran of Corvair College #5 in Hanford, Calif., who brought his near complete Corvair conversion for inspection. His crank had an ampersand on it, indicating it was factory nitrided. However, it was ground .010/.010, which negates the factory nitriding and requires re-nitriding. Testing we've done confirms the long held belief that factory nitriding on Corvair cranks works in its standard form, but requires re-nitriding if the crank has been ground undersize.

Here's a look at Woody's panel. Economical, but enough instrumentation to cover a huge array of flying adventures. Woody's decades of experience in the automotive racing world predispose him toward traditional analog gauges. His tachometer is the same Stewart Warner we use, but with a slightly different face. Woody chose to use a slightly different switching pattern for his ignition systems and pumps. It made sense to him, but I would not recommend it to pilots in search of the ultimate simplicity. I noticed one error in his panel we commonly see: He has a standard magneto key switch. Magnetos work by grounding the p-leads. You can wire one of these switches to operate 12 volts to the coils. The off and both positions will be reversed. But here's the hitch: You won't be able to take out the key in the new off position. The solution is to avoid mag switches and run an automotive key switch if you choose to start the plane with a key. Our 601 does not have a key.

Woody's plane has the dual stick option and is set up to use a standard aircraft throttle and mixture in the center of the panel. These controls will operate an MA3 carburetor. Many control and carb combinations will work on a 601, however, if you're a builder without any prejudices or preferences, the dual stick, MA3 throttle combo is my optimal recommendation.

John and Jean Kearney of Reno, Nev., made a special trip in with their running 601 engine to share it with builders. They took time to do this in spite of being in the midst of moving to Fargo, N.D. The effort was much appreciated by the builders on hand. John and Jean are also veterans of Corvair College #5. The engine seen in these photos was torn down at that event. It was built up under our supervision in our Florida hangar. Having the running engine on hand gave everyone the chance to absorb firsthand operational experience. A test stand like this affords the opportunity for builders to touch the intake manifold above the idling carb with their fingertips and have direct sensory understanding of carb icing potential.

Above, I explain the installation of the Front Spinner Bulkhead. This bulkhead is only required when mating a Warp Drive prop to the Van's 13" spinner. When I returned from California, Grace told me that the long awaited CNC crushplates were done at the machine shop. Matt at Lahti Aerospace called to report that he's finished his first composite bulkheads. In a few days, these parts will be on their way to customers who patiently waited. While I certainly understand the ocassional request for an info update on this part, it's hard to describe how many many hours go into perfecting the tooling and production of seemingly simple parts. Several molds were made for the bulkhead, each subtly different, and test parts were constructed. Two different manufacturers were used, both for the bulkhead and the crush plate. This was not a first priority job because other parts in development were needed by more builders far earlier. Very expensive handmade originals were sent to builders with the planes that are flying. Merely adding the criteria that the parts must be made affordable in line with the Corvair philosophy is the trump card. Today, we've brought this all together for the benefit of all builders who will use Warp Drive props. When the backorders are filled, this new product will appear in our Online Catalog.

Here, Woody Harris works on his installed engine. It is a standard 2,700cc with Falcon Heads that Woody built himself using all of our Conversion parts. While our customers build very good engines in general, most of them have small details which, while not affecting airworthiness, leave them slightly short of the Engines we build in our shop. This is to be expected as we're professionals, and our amateurs do an outstanding job for first time builders. With this understood, I'll say that Woody's engine is the closest customer built example I've seen to matching our production engines. His engine had ARP case and head studs, and a very high level of finish. It may have been two different colors, but it's only one level of quality: Excellent.

Woody is a very outgoing and modest builder. When I first met him I asked him what he did for a living, and he told me, "I work on cars." Something inside told me he didn't change oil on Toyotas at Jiffy Lube. On the visit to California, we passed through his MSI shop, a high end tune up and road racecar import operation. It's the first shop I've seen in a while with a chassis dyno built into the floor. Amongst the racecars, mechanics, slicks and lifts are momentos from decades of all out effort at tracks from coast to coast. '

Almost all the builders on hand were assembling their own engines rather than purchasing a finished one from our shop. In light of this, I went well beyond installation and covered subjects like the valve adjustment I'm doing here, and Front Starter installation. I forgot to pack my custom bent 9/16" wrench that I use for this job. Woody emerged with a Snap On part # XO-1618, which is an off the shelf wrench capable of doing the same job. In the photo above, Richard Vetterli and Gary Boothe find the process quite amusing.

An early morning shot of the group around the Kearneys' engine. Cloverdale is an exceptionally beautiful setting for an airport. The atmosphere was far away from the hurried and hectic pace of Oshkosh. West Coast builders who haven't had a chance to make a visit should call Michael and make arrangements to do so. His business is built on outstanding customer service in a friendly atmosphere. This combined with his family's proven products is a combination worth any Corvair builder's serious consideration.

Corvair College #10
Four Corvair Powered KRs At The Gathering
Building Philosophy: Case In Point, Ignition Systems
Notes From The Hangar
Four Days Till California Meet

Corvair College #10
This is the official announcement for Corvair College #10, Armistice Day weekend, Nov. 11, 2006. We'll have further updates in the coming weeks, but wanted to give everybody a heads up right now with six weeks to go. This will be the 10th major College that we've held. As always, it is a free event. If you have not attended before, you can get a good idea of the flavor by reviewing Corvair College #9 on our Web site. I'm hoping to draw more than 12 Corvair powered airplanes to the event. Nine Corvair planes at College #9 was a sight to behold. With this many planes and pilots on hand, builders have a chance to see their own favorite plane in action, and get direct firsthand information in person from the best source: Someone with time in type.

Our Colleges are fun, social events. Yes, they're about learning. But, enjoying the company of like-minded aviators has always been the centerpiece of our events. If this sounds like your style, you're more than welcome. Bring a friend, or come meet new ones. The event is the cornerstone of the year in the world of flying Corvairs.

There will be only one significant difference to previous Colleges, and it's important that builders understand the difference and why we're instituting it. At prior Colleges, we worked on dozens of builders' engines simultaneously. This worked because it jumpstarted a lot of builders' projects, and finished many others' to running engines. But the system had three major issues: The 80+ builders last year taxed our resources in terms of engine building stands, table space and most important, the ability of Kevin and I to supervise the critical engine assembly of so many builders. (We later disassembled, checked and reassembled two engines that went together without our direct supervision.)

Second, too many builders get focused on one small step in their own engine. They'd be much better served watching two engines go together, asking questions, taking notes and photos, studying the process all the way through. We've had builders attend a College and spend a weekend putting their bottom end together. While this is progress, they later find themselves at home missing the firsthand experience of how to install a cylinder head, although it was done by a dozen other people in the same hangar. An intense overview of the whole process is much better preparation to replicate at home at an unhurried pace.

The third issue is also important. With the rising popularity of Corvairs, last year's event attracted a very small number of people who came primarily because they could get their engine assembled for free. This is obviously contrary to my mission of teaching people and the spirit of the College, which is all about having fun. While two or three people out of nearly 100 is a tiny fraction, the mission of these people dictated that they were impatient with my crew and did not respect the good times of others.

Builders coming to have their parts inspected, to observe and learn by participating in two builds, and have a good time making new friends and perhaps doing a little flying will find the event to be the great success that all the previous ones have proven themselves. Only people who do not care to learn, make friends or have a good time will find this new format "a waste of their time."

I encourage builders to bring their parts for inspection. The two builders whose engines we've selected for the assembly process are Scott Thatcher and Fred Roser. Both of these guys have shown themselves to be complete gentlemen on numerous occasions. This was the primary reason I selected theirs as the demo engines.

We'll have more updates in the coming weeks, but plan accordingly. For people who want to make accommodation reservations early, we recommend you call the Best Western hotel, (386) 427-7101, built just around the corner from the airport since the last Corvair College here. This is a nice hotel at a national level, and you should ask for the "Corvair College" rate. Some builders have had the real Edgewater experience in terms of lodging, and the Best Western is nothing like that. We'll have the full lodging list up shortly for the truly adventurous to help you get ready for an event you won't want to miss.

Four KRs at The Gathering
This past weekend was the Annual KR Gathering, in Mount Vernon, Ill. Four Corvair/KR pilots flew in their birds. Certainly a strong showing for Corvair power.

Building Philosophy: Case In Point, Ignition Systems
Several people called this week to say that there was a giant Internet discussion on ignition systems. Normally, I am too busy to keep up with what's hot for a day or two on a discussion group, but this case is worth considering. I read back through the archives to get a better picture of what builders understood and what they missed in these discussions. Even if you're planning on using our proven ignition system, the discussion is an interesting examination of builders' philosophies, and the costs and rewards of different approaches. The pattern plays itself out with every aspect of the engine's installation. It's an opportunity to understand something more about the philosophies of the people who build airplanes.

Many Internet commenters falsely assume that my crew has only looked at one way of doing things. The photo above shows various ignition parts, some considered, some tried, some still in the works, sitting on the shelf next to my distributor machine. Seen in the photo are a low profile crab-style cap with a corrected firing order from an import; a ball bearing distributor housing from the same engine machined to fit in the Corvair case; distributor shafts from small block Chevys that have identical diameter and oil pump drive; HEI ignition system from 4.3 liter V-6, Pertronix points eliminator; Mitsubishi optical trigger; and miscellaneous other parts. We build and test an awful lot of stuff that does not make it to the discussion level. Just because we have one way of doing it that has proven to work well does not mean we don't understand how to do it many other ways, and have considered, tested and perhaps rejected ideas brought up as new discussions on the Net.

A builder posted that he experienced an on ground failure of an MSD 8210 coil switcher. No one has ever had one fail in flight. In the Conversion Manual, I outline that it must be insulated from the airframe. A very important point: You should never, with any type of ignition system, crank the engine with any of the high tension leads ungrounded. I did not specifically state this in the Manual, but there is no cause for doing so in normal operation. If I had to guess why the 8210 failed, this would be my primary hypothesis, and obviously this couldn't happen in the air. This comment from one builder sparked about a hundred posts on ignition systems.

The four KR/Vairs that flew to The Gathering have about 900 flight hours between them. They all have our Dual Points Distributor installed. I can think of only two or three flying aircraft that we've seen in the past few years that didn't use it. Almost every running Corvair has one installed. This is a pretty strong success story. You'd need a darn good reason to feel that your project should be equipped with some other ignition system.

Some of the posts raised interesting questions that our research has covered. One builder asked if the ignition could be locked at 30 degrees. Here's the problem: You need 30 to make full power, yet it's very difficult for the starter to crank the engine with this kind of advance. A Front Starter is likely to break an ear off the starter on a kick back, and a rear starter is likely to shear the key holding the harmonic balancer to the crank. Even if retarded during cranking, it's possible to get the engine to detonate at 1,500 rpm if the prop is too large and the MAP is high enough at a low enough rpm. Additionally, most electronic delay boxes that might satisfactorily perform this task must be used in conjunction with a complex and power hungry CD ignition system.

Other builders asked about optical switches. The most popular aftermarket stand-alone switch in the world is a Mallory Unilight. Builders with experience will tell you that optical triggers are rarely used in applications where absolute reliability is required. They're susceptible to dust inside the cap, and it should be remembered that a clogged or frozen over breather will lead to oil vapor inside the distributor body, which will interrupt the operation of the trigger. But the main form of failure is due to voltage spikes. This is serious enough concern that Mallory now makes a filter specifically to protect the Unilight trigger.

Several people commented that their modern cars seemed to run great with computerized ignitions, and proposed using some type of modern car system on the Corvair. Besides other issues, "I owned one and it worked great in my car" needs to be balanced against what experienced field mechanics say about those components. A while back, I was speaking with Mark Petniuas about GM HEI systems. Owning a shop and being a full time mechanic who's studied these systems in great detail allowed him to share the thought that if I wanted to use an HEI system, I should experiment with a four-pin module and a trigger from a distributor with no vacuum advance, as practical maintenance on these vehicles had shown him that the subtle movement of the vacuum advance sometimes causes the internal coil wire to fail. Ownership of a vehicle and even light maintenance on one doesn't give you this kind of detailed perspective on systems. The only mechanic I know who's regularly on the Internet with this level of background is Clare Snyder of Canada, who I believe is using points and a snowmobile carb on his running Corvair.

In Contact! magazine many years ago, a builder wrote in to say that he had built an EFI/ignition system for his Japanese-engined RV-6, and 15 minutes after an alternator failure, the engine quit because of a combination of the high current draw of the system, and its requirement for steady voltage for the electronics. His aircraft was severely damaged. He wanted a response from the outspoken advocate of the system he had just used to reverse engineer his plane back into project status. This advocate had a similar system on his plane and had written a glowing review. The advocate's printed response was about amp hour ratings of batteries and power consumption. It was all a simple calculation to him, but clearly the advocate had not tested his calculations. In reality, the draw lowers the voltage and the electronics then quit from the lower voltage far faster than the paper calculation says it will. Real testing is about trying to find how a system might fail in actual use, not toodling around the pattern a few times and pronouncing something flight proven. Even if it got some time on it, all tests are not equal. I could re-ring and re-bearing any gooey car motor in my collection, install it in our 601 complete with 40 year old cast pistons, stock rod bolts and a worn crank. If I retarded the timing, lowered the RPM and made the mixture very rich, I would have a $400 motor which made 60HP at 2300 rpm. I could take off gently and then fly several laps around America at 90MPH. This is not real testing. The same well traveled motor installed in Dan Weseman's Cleanex, and operated at full power would have a very short life, perhaps as little as one good weekend. While you may not plan on flying like Dan, it is importiant to understand valid testing must match or exceed typical operation.

An international builder proposed building a very elaborate system with dual plugs and six separate coils. Many systems of this type, even if they have six separate modules, can simultaneously be wiped out by a very serious voltage spike. Aircraft alternators, static electricity and lightning strikes can provide just such voltage spikes. I've heard of aircraft strobes getting voltage critical systems. It's something to consider. By the way, points are comparitively immune to this stuff.

Some of the discussion thought the mechanical advance might be a failure point. I have disassembled several hundred Corvair distributors and I have never seen one with a broken mechanical advance. Rusted, from sitting yes, but I have not seen one that is broken from operation. Anyone who spends any time trying to get around the advance because they feel, based on no experience, that it is unreliable, is wasting their time, and is almost certianly going to dream up a "solution" which is less relaible than the stock advance.

One of the ironies of these issuse is that many of the people who come up with some system which will allegedly make the Corvair more reliable are not just mistaken about their igniton ideas, but many of the other systems which they intend to "improve" on their planes. I have seen a "foolproof" fuel system that had 4 pumps, 6 valves, 12 check valves and enough fittings to fill a small shoebox. The builder proudly upheld this as a great innovation. Mind you this was on a high wing design which has flown countless times as a gravity feed plane with no pumps and one valve. If you are new to aircraft building and some of the talk about "elimination of failure modes" is getting your ear, know this: Risk management in homebuilts comes down to building a good replica of the simplest system which has been extensively tested in your plane. Then get good training in your plane and fly it often.

Charlie Johnson, a builder who flys an 1,835 VW powered Dragonfly once asked us how much power the engine made on the dyno with two cylinders disconnected. The answer is, enough to successfully fly an airplane that works on an 1,835. This clears the way for a certain type of simple ignition system using three dual tower wasted spark coils. However, it should be understood that most Corvair powered airplanes will not successfully climb at gross weight with two sparkplugs grounded out (because it makes less than 66% power dragging two dead cylinders), which would be a mode of failure in the above system. Unless your Corvair powered plane is super efficient or a motorglider, our flight experience and dyno say wasted spark systems are off limits.

Builders often cite seeing someone fly a different ignition on another engine, and uphold that this means it is a good idea on a Corvair. However, this only means that it could work, nothing more. Very few of these guys do what Dave Stroud did, which is see it on another engine, assemble one on his Corvair and go fly it. It worked for him, in his application. Systems are proven at the airport, not the keyboard.

Towards the end of the posts, Corvair/KR pioneer Steve Makish made a comment about flight testing a system with points on one side and a Crane XRI points replacement module opposing the points. His comment went largely unnoticed, despite being based on actual flight testing. I knew Steve had this cooking because he had called to borrow a distributor body two weeks earlier. He stopped by my hangar over the weekend and told me that it had flown fine and that he was going to keep testing. We discussed a purpose built CNC plate for it. This set up, which obviously works but needs more testing, has my bet that it will prove to be an innovation which is affordable, buildable and has no Achilles heal. The potential of this is a good lesson on how stuff happens: A guy who has his plane flying and debugged works with a little support from us to make a flight tested variation.

Over the years I have had a dozen guys without a running engine tell me that they were going to build a better ignition. I am yet to see one turn a propeller. Henry Ford said it best, "A man cannot base his reputation on what he is going to do." I am no smarter than most people, it is just that I have spent an awful lot of years working with the Corvair, and I have tools like the Dyno, several planes, and the distributor machine at my disposal. I can see the bigger picture with installation and operational issues which are not apparent to a guy who has not yet finished his motor. I do not say this stuff to discourage innovation. I just don't want builders who could be flying to their own Gathering or to our next College sitting at home because someone who has never seen a Corvair motor turn a prop is talking about how unreliable our ignition system is. One of these people went so far as to suggest that I support our ignition over others because we make money selling it. I don't think this was said in a mean spirited way, but it is thoughtless, considering my track record on the crank issue. If I think something is dangerous, I tell people without any thought of economic repercussions. Every businessman in experimental aviation says he would react the same way, but the track record suggests there is a big margin between good intentions and real actions.

Notes From The Hangar

In the above photo, the blue jig is for 601 Motor Mounts. Stacked to the left are two 601 Mounts that are now in the hands of builders. There was some discussion amongst 601 builders speculating on the amount of offset to put into a mount. We install very little, about one degree nose down and one degree offset. Other engine installations in the 601 use several degrees in the opposite direction. There are reasons for this, but the final proof for each individual installation is in the flying. About 500 hours have been racked up on our mounts flying in 601s and I'm satisfied that we have the optimal amount for a 601 installation. The 601 is a far more tolerant airframe of variations than others. I would not be afraid to fly an airplane with 3 degrees of offset, but it would not be my first choice on how to build it.

In the foreground above are two KR-2 Mounts. One of these went to Cary Howard of Georgia, the other, Glenda McElwee brought to The Gathering and immediately sold. We received an e-mail asking what our current lead time on a mount is now that we're caught up. I'll call it 30 days, although if we got more than four or five orders, they'd have to be pushed till after Corvair College #10.

On Friday in the hangar we received the very first of our brand new split-type nosebowls made by our new composite contractor, Matt Lahti of Michigan. For many years, Matt has run a high end aerospace composite shop. He'd offered to do the nosebowls a long time ago, but we were still having them produced here in Florida.

Here's a glance at a manufacturing issue that homebuilders don't ordinarily get to see. Liberty Aerospace, 80 miles south of us, produces an FAR 23 certified 2-seat aircraft. This design is so successful, and they're so well financed, they're absorbing every skilled available aircraft builder in Central Florida. The pay rate is astronomical by Florida standards, and almost all of the skilled composite guys I know have signed on with them. Tim Hall, who produced numerous nosebowls for us, is now one of their chief moldmakers. Our goal is to produce affordable parts of high quality. To compete against Liberty for the skilled labor, our nosebowls would have to double in price. While many people thought Liberty would be a flash in the pan, they're going strong with solid orders and now have several hundred people on the payroll. This lead me to take Matt up on his offer.

After some discussion, he and I decided we'd go with a two-piece nosebowl. Although I've never had to remove the one-piece nosebowl on our own airplane to do maintenance, many people prefer a two-piece nosebowl. The single operation that will be made significantly easier with the two-piece nosebowl is dynamic propeller balancing. The cowling seen in this photo belongs to Woody Harris and will be on display at the California event. Matt is going to make us a few more before I can quote the updated price for this. His production capability is two to three a week. It is my intention to fill the backorders for single-piece nosebowls with the new two-piece items. We'll have more news in a week or so.

Above is a good view of the side joggle that Matt built into the nosebowl. Matt's nosebowls are high end epoxy fiberglas and are bagged into the molds. They'll be shipped with the gray epoxy gelcoat, eliminating the need for builders to fill small pinholes.

California Meet In Four Days
It is only four days till the California Corvair event at the Zenith facility run by Michael Heintz in Santa Rosa, Calif. Based on the response we've gotten, I'm expecting a very large turnout. We heard from John and Jean Kearney of Nevada who'll be bringing their running 601 engine on a stand. Although I've never been there, numerous friends said it is an exceptionally nice airport, and the facility is large enough to accommodate any size group. I encourage any West Coast Corvair builder to come, learn and meet other builders with the same outlook and goals as yourself. Again, Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday are free events and all Corvair builders, not just those working on Zeniths, are encouraged to attend and bring a friend. We'll see you there.

Now At The Hangar

June 2011 At The Hangar

May 2011 At The Hangar

April 2011 At The Hangar

March 2011 At The Hangar

January 2011 At The Hangar

December 2010 At The Hangar

November 2010 At The Hangar

October 2010 At The Hangar

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December 2009 At The Hangar

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December 2008 At The Hangar

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Christmas 2007 At The Hangar

November 2007 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

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

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