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Corvair College #18 in Livermore, CA KLVK

Story and photos by Rick Lindstrom, tigerrick@mindspring.com

Corvair College
The gang from Corvair College #13, January 2009

Corvair Encore!
If you dig up CONTACT! Magazine issue number 96 (free download), you’ll find an article covering Corvair College #13 held in Livermore last year. It was our first attempt at hosting one of these popular events, and it was an overall success with only a few minor bumps along the way. It was so much fun last year that we had to do it again; Corvair College #18 is scheduled this year for October 1 through October 3 at our FLAG shop very near KLVK. Right off the approach end of runway two-five right, as a matter of fact.

We’ve added additional bench space and air lines to our facility, as well as more solvent tanks. But what really makes for a successful event boils down to the basics: people, food, and flush toilets. We have plenty of all three!

Corvair College
Mike Studer trucked in his Cassutt and test-ran it outside to everybody’s delight. Even on a mild Corvair, this aircraft is easily capable of exceeding 200 mph.

The (un)Usual Gang
Of course, this three-day event is tailored to the need of those who are in the process, or just considering, acquiring a greasy old Corvair core and turning it into a pristine, 100-hp flight engine. Corvair College #18 wouldn’t be complete without on-hand expertise, and we’re very pleased to be welcoming back William Wynne from FlyCorvair.com and Roy Szarafinski from Roy’s Garage.

Corvair College
Who knows if any of these cases are suitable to serve as the basis for a fresh flight engine? Roy Szarafinksi does.

William Wynne is at the epicenter of the Corvair “movement,” having pioneered many of the engine parts and modifications that result in a reliable, direct-drive flight engine. He’s been doing this for well over 20 years now, constantly refining his methods and designs to the direct benefit of many of us who fly behind these marvelous little engines.

Corvair College
Roy Szarafinski helping a builder at CorvairCollege #16

Another guy well worth knowing is Roy Szarafinski, a top-notch machinist and engine builder by trade who recently became involved with Corvair conversions (he’s also building a Zenith CH 701) and has graciously shared his expertise with the rest of us. He’ll be available for questions and consultation all through the weekend, and his advice is highly useful when evaluating a core that may or may not be suitable for conversion into a flight engine.

Corvair College
Click for larger image
Rich Vetterli runs up his Corvair engine at CorvairCollege #13. That square yellow thing on top of the engine is just a cooling baffle for ground running. His CH 601 XL was nearly complete at the time of this photo, but with life getting in the way (in addition to rebuilding part of the wing and center section), he postponed first flights until September13 of this year.

We also will have our first Zenvair success story on hand, none other than Rich Vetterli himself who has persevered in the construction of his engine, then his 601 XL airframe, only to have to take it all apart to comply with the rather extensive airframe upgrade as mandated by Zenith Aircraft. He recently took to the air for the very first time on September 13 and is happily tweaking the airplane and flying off the required 40 hours.

Rich Vetterli’s first flight in his Corvair-powered CH 601 XL

Rich has also been generously assisting me with the upgrade on my own 601 XL, which should be airworthy once more by the time Corvair College #18 rolls around.

If you attended Corvair College #13 at the beginning of 2009, you may recall a very interesting chap with spiky white hair who talked funny. That was none other than Mike Francis, a Brit who has his own way of doing things. He has a rather interesting surprise in store for this year’s Corvair College, but he’s sworn me to secrecy until then. However, I can assure you that what he’s done is way beyond what’s considered “normal.”

Corvair College
Click for larger image
Mike Francis brought the beginnings of his 140-hp, fuel-injected Corvair conversion to CorvairCollege #13.

But Wait! There’s More!
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We’ve added a few guests to the program that will definitely ratchet up the knowledge level in two areas that all Corvair builders should find of interest. During Saturday’s tri-tip barbeque lunch, we’ll be featuring Paul Millner, who isn’t only an avid aviator but an engineer with Chevron. Paul will be discussing the differences between 100LL aviation fuel and automotive gas and the considerations when choosing between the two, or both, for the operation of your Corvair flight engine.

During Saturday evening’s feast, we have two more speakers whose presentations transcend Corvair-related topics. Once your airplane is flying to your satisfaction, the final step is to make it look nice, right?

Pasta and Paint
None other than Craig Barnett from Scheme Designers will be talking about proper paint scheme design, for aircraft both large and small, certified and experimental. His expertise in this area is vast, having designed the livery for hundreds upon hundreds of aircraft.

Jason Gerard is also presenting that evening. You may recognize his name from Hangar 21, the company that brings you the amazing, waterborne Stewart finishing system of aircraft paints. If you’ve seen the Stewart products demonstrated at the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Florida, or EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, you already know their potential for greatly easing the process of owner-applied paint jobs without the usual toxicity.

We’re calling this “dinner and seminar” combination Pasta and Paint, and we’re also opening it up to a limited number of attendees from the local area. The cost for the evening is $12 (cheap), and beer and wine will also be available from our no-host bar. Attendance is limited, so if you’re not already attending Corvair College and this program is of interest, reserve your slot by calling First Light Aviation at 925-443-9999 or use the “Contact Us” button at FLAGLVK.com.

Corvair College
Click for larger image
And here’s what makes it all worthwhile. A brand-new Corvair conversion, hatched at the 2009 FLAG event. The box-shaped shroud clecoed to the baffles is a temporary fixture used for test runs on the engine stand. It’s of course removed once testing is complete. With the engine on the plane and the cowl properly fitted, ground testing can safely resume.

If either the full-blown Corvair College or just the Pasta and Paint program are of interest to you, don’t wait to sign up for either one. The cost for the Corvair College is $75, which includes your food on site starting with lunch on Friday and ending with lunch on Sunday. The best way to sign up is to visit the FLAGLVK.com website and follow the link to the online sign-up sheet. We urge attendees to register ASAP.

If you’d just like to come for the Pasta and Paint program, we suggest a phone call to FLAG at 925-443-9999 as the best way to register. We can accommodate a fair number of people, but space is limited; we do need to cut off attendance at a certain point.

We also have an arrangement with the Springtown Inn just down the freeway, where per night lodging apiece is very inexpensive for the duration of the event. We’ll be happy to add your name to the lodging list if you need a place to stay. Clean but not fancy, there are plenty of other local hotels if you desire luxury during your Corvair engine building.

Given the rising popularity of the Corvair Colleges in the past, it has become a much anticipated annual event for the alternative engine crowd. If you have an interest in Corvair engines or just experimental aviation, please feel free to join us. We’d love to have you. Give us a call or drop us an e-mail.

For more information on attending a Corvair College, visit FLAGLVK.com and FlyCorvair.com or call 925-443-9999.

Rick Lindstrom is the founder of First Light Aviation Group (FLAG) in Livermore, California. He’s also a contributing editor for KITPLANES magazine, and he flies his award-winning Corvair-powered Zenith Zodiac CH 601 XL whenever he needs to refresh his grin. FLAG is a homebuilder’s resource in a very unique way. Over 5,000 square feet of shop area is devoted to the construction of experimental amateur-built aircraft, and up to four projects can be constructed simultaneously. Each build bay comes equipped with clean compressed air, is well lit and ventilated, and adjoins a sheet metal shop with a large shear, pan brake, drill press, band saw, and the other large tools one might expect to find in an aircraft construction facility. Rick is once again making his facility available to Corvair engine enthusiasts to work on their engine project with the help of several experts, including William Wynne.

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