Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back in school: Engine Maintenance class

The class schedule has finally rolled around to the two things that I required before starting again: a subject interesting to a piston engine airplane owner, and a class not taught by the former instructor that I had so many problems with.

Class actually started Monday night, and one of the first topics covered was the syllabus. There has been a significant change to this class, as it turns out. This used to be the engine overhaul class, but the focus has shifted to maintenance. While I was initially a little disappointed in the change (I have been looking forward to tearing an engine apart for a couple of years), I soon realized that this is a very positive move. In reality, the chances of my ever overhauling an engine are so close to nil that they could safely be described as "never." Maintenance, on the other hand, well, that happens all the time.

Tonight we got our team project assignments, and you can rest assured that I wasted no time volunteering for the three person team that is assigned to remove the O-320 from the Piper Cherokee and tear it down in an attempt to determine why it is destroying the electrodes of both spark plugs in the #1 cylinder within just a few minutes of run time. The first step was obvious: remove the engine from the airplane, bring it into the shop, and tear it apart. I had asked last year whether we would ever have the opportunity to remove an engine, and was told no. With the change in the focus of the class, that disappointing answer has obviously changed.

It turns out that removing an engine is fairly easy for three guys to do in just a couple of hours. I can safely predict, though, that it's going to be one hell of a lot harder to put back on! The airplane was somewhat unfortunately located in the hangar - it was within a couple of feet of the drainage grates. Of course, I managed to get two washers to roll straight into the grates after dropping them. Like a magnet, I'm telling you, those grates are just like a big magnet!

We got the engine into the shop and removed the alternator, magnetos, vacuum pump, valve covers, and a good bit of the baffling (I'm baffled as to how I'm going to get a wrench onto the last nut, though - it's a tight fit) before we ran out of time. The "tool" classes go a lot faster than those interminable lectures last year, and I'm looking forward to going back next Monday.

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