Saturday, December 31, 2005

Intersting chat with The Builder

One of the attractive, yet intangible benefits of buying N466PG was that the builder lives right here in Ohio. My thinking was that I would be sure to have questions regarding how it was built, and possibly questions as to correct operation and past maintenance issues. As is my wont, I dragged my feet on contacting him until just a couple of days ago when I sat down and wrote a quick letter and sent it to the address on the most recent registration card in the plane. Last night I received a phone call from the builder, and we had a nice chat during which I was able to clear up a few questions that had been nagging at me for awhile.

First, I was curious about his history with F-86 tail number FU-466. There are typically two people that get emotionally bound to a single plane in a squadron: pilots and crew chiefs. My theory had been that he was a pilot, and FU-466 was the plane in the squadron with his name painted on it, and that is indeed the case. He flew the F-86 in the mid-50's, based in Toule, France. Other famous pilots that have been stationed there include Eddie Rickenbacker and Gen. Chuck Yeager.

This allowed me to test another of my pet theories: that RVs are attractive to current and retired fighter pilots because they have similar flying qualities to military fighter planes. His response: "If you want to know what it feels like to fly an F-86, get an RV." Well now, how cool is that?? I HAVE always wondered how those planes felt on the controls. I was 50-50 between them being a little heavier on the controls due to the speed they fly and the immense pressures on the control surfaces, but my alternate theory about that pressure being overcome by boosted controls was the correct one, as it turns out. Of course, there are still significant differences between the two planes, mostly having to do with climb rate and cruise speed.

I also had a few questions about the plane and some of the things I've noticed about it. First, the tires and brakes that I recently replaced were the originals, which indicates that I should be able to get 200 hours out of a set. That's good because that will likely be two years worth of flying. Keep in mind that most of my flights are short, so I do more landings per hour than someone that is taking long trips. Every other year to replace tires and brakes is fine by me.

I also asked about the landing light switch on the instrument panel, which has been intriguing to me since there are no landing lights installed. I'd like to install at least one, but I didn't know if any wiring had been run out inside the wing. It turns out that there is wire run out to each wing tip, so I could install a landing/taxi light on each side. That's the best possible answer since I really like the wig-wag lights, and have found that they greatly increase the visibility of the plane for both other planes and the control tower. It's GOOD to be seen! Now it's just a matter of working up the self confidence to cut a pair of holes into a perfectly good wing!

I had done a little poking around inside the aileron bellcrank inspection hole looking for wire conduits out to the wingtips and noted that the internal wing bays were primered. Not all builders primer all of the parts because it is expensive and time consuming, and since my plane is hangared I could live with it either way, but my experience with the Tampico, which was fully primered and 100% corrosion free after spending years in a coastal, salt water environment, led me to believe that full primer is desireable. I now know for sure that Papa Golf is fully primered, through and through.

I wanted to know a few things about instrument indications I'm seeing in flight. First, I was curious about the ammeter which has never had a steady reading. The needle flickers from 0 to 1 about twice a second. The voltmeter is reading over 14 volts (it would read 12 if the alternator wasn't working) and the battery is always strong, so I have no concerns as to whether the alternator is working or not, but I've always wondered why the indicator won't settle. I've done all the normal things like turning off the stobe lights and transponder (two electrical items that only make periodic demands from the electrical system), but to no effect. Apparently it has always behaved that way, so for this one I'm going with "no harm, no foul."

Another strange indication is more sporadic - I only see it now and then. This one is the fuel pressure reading high. I tried replacing the transducer, and that seemed to clear it up for awhile, but I've seen it starting to creep up again. My theory was that I was having a problem with the ground wire to the indicator, but I couldn't prove it. The symptoms were very familiar to the builder: "I thought I had that fixed." He suggested getting up behind the panel and putting a little pressure on the wires to make sure they are firmly in contact with the indicator. He went through all the trouble of having the fuel pump checked out with a mechanical pressure gauge, and eventually traced the problem to the indicator itself. Again, this is good news! I was pretty sure this was the case, but it's always nice to know for sure, particularly with something as critical as fuel flow to the engine.

Another of my theories was proven true when I asked about the conical engine mount. I had been concerned about the level of vibration from the engine, finding it to be far more than what I was used to from the Tampico and other planes I've flown. I recently noticed that the engine was mounted using a conical mount, rather than the more vibration daming dynafocal model. The only reason I could think of to use a conical would be if the builder came across a bargain priced engine that just happened to be set up for the conical mount, and that is exactly what happened. This one was more of a curiosity satisfier than something I really needed to know.

He had a few questions for me, too. He asked how the King KLN-89b GPS was working out for me, and I told him that I seldom used it since I mounted the Garmin 295 to the canopy glare shield. I told him that I consider this plane day-VFR, and that's why I'm not concerned about the flaky vacuum pump. While the vacuum pump works, it doesn't seem overly trustworthy in that it takes a good burst of power on start-up to get it to work. It's no problem for the kind of flying I do, and it works well enough in the air that I would be able to use it to get myself back out of a cloud should I ever unintentionally get myself into one. Still, I've been curious about it. He told me that he had had similar problems with it, and at one point removed the vacuum pump for repair. The problem turned out to be that for some reason, oil had gotten into the pump. I'm still thinking about how that could have happened, and of course I'm wondering if it has happened again. Something to look at someday when I get further into the A&P program.

There were a few other details back and forth, and I have to say that it was a very satisfying conversation. Of course, I should have written much sooner. One of my questions had to do with how to get matching paint. Well, until a week ago he could have sent me the extra paint he's had lying around for ten years, but he just cleaned out his shop and decided he didn't need it anymore.

I'm looking forward to nicer weather so I can fly out to Mad River and have an in-person visit. That should be fun!

1 comment:

  1. I found that electric engine instruments are very sensitive to ignition noise. Make sure the fuel pressure and ammeter wires are not run in close proximity to any ignition leads.