Thursday, September 29, 2005

Well, now I know jack

It was another gorgeous day today, so I grabbed my floor jack and headed to the hangar to see if it was suited to lifting the RV. It did a pretty good job, but there was no way to avoid putting a small bend in the very lowest part of the gear leg fairing. That's no big deal since one of the projects on my to-do list is to replace the wheel pants with the newer style and replace the aluminum leg fairings with new fiberglass fairings.

In looking at what it's going to take to get the wheel off, the axle nut measures at 1.5 inches so I'm going to need to go get a socket. I need one of those little tools that takes the Schrader valve out too. I'm also going to be doing the brakes as long as I have them off of the plane, and that is going to require a tool to de-rivet the old pads and rivet the new ones on. Unlike on a car, the brake pads are riveted in place so it's not quite as easy to replace them. The tool is less than $20, but it will take a week to come in, and I don't want to wait that long. I think I can borrow what I need from the mechanics at Bolton Flying Service. They're incredibly generous with their knowledge and tools, and seem to always be willing to donate small pieces and parts like bolts, clamps, wiring terminals and doo-dads like that to keep me from having to pay $2.50 shipping for a $.05 bolt.

You can also see, if you look closely, that the jack is leaking hydraulic fluid. I think I'll grab a new one when I go buy the other tools. You can also see the way the tire wears. I've heard, but never verified, that this is a common trait for the RV's. I've heard a couple of theories as to why they do this, but the pragmatic reality is that it doesn't make any difference. I'm very likely going to be putting new tires on once a year now. They aren't horribly expensive, though I might go with a better brand next time around. It depends on how well these retreads do.

It doesn't look like the plane is sitting very firmly on the jack, but I wiggled it around a bit and it turned out to be quite stable. I'll still look for a way to "safety" it with a 4x4 or something, but it's pretty solidly set on the jack so I'm not too worried about dropping it.

I went ahead and took the right wheel pant off while I was at it, both to get a look at the brake pads and to satisfy a sudden impulse and go flying. One of the bolts was an unholy pain to get out. It was really bound up and I ended up taking it out with needled nosed vise grips (one of my absolute favorite tools). That'll teach me to use stainless steel bolts rather than the more commonly available zinc that I used when I replaced the ones that were lost back when I broke that pant.

It was still early, and having just heard a very loud car crash out on Norton Rd. which dissuaded me from going to Lowes, I decided to go satisfy my urge to go flying. A quick preflight and I was ready to go. One of plethora of things that make a taildragger slightly more difficult to handle on the ground is the restricted view forward. I took a picture sitting in front of my hangar:

As a point of reference, RV's are considered to have very good ground visibilty compared to most other taildraggers. I don't think I would like that at all. As it is, I strain to see anything at all as I go down the small incline on the way to the runway.

Most of the recent flying I've done has been calm winds, but tonight I had 8 knots of left crosswind at about a 45 degree angle. That caused a bit of a leftward lurch (wind from the left pushes against the rudder, which causes the nose to go left) at that transition point from tailwheel steering to rudder steering, but it was easily corrected.

I flew around for 20 minutes out in the practice area then headed back.

I've been having horrible landings back at Bolton recently, probably due to a subliminal performance anxiety caused by all of the potential witnesses there. Tonight wasn't too bad, considering the wind. I got into a pretty hefty descent right over the runway and had to give the engine a quick blast before I pancaked onto the pavement, but recovered nicely from that and made a pretty decent crosswind landing. Mr. Personality was in the tower tonight so I must have subliminally figured he wasn't paying any attention anyway, so there was no one watching. That's my theory, anyway.

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