Sunday, March 16, 2008

You just never know

Believe it or not, out of pure selfishness I was hoping for cruddy weather this weekend. It never pays to try to out guess the weather in Ohio, but I try anyway. Last week's snowstorm convinced me that this would be an excellent time to get the annual condition inspection out of the way since I'd clearly be grounded for a couple of weeks anyway, if for no other reason than the inevitable ice wall that would form an unsurmountable barrier in front of the hangar.

So, here I am with my airplane all taken apart for the inspection, and clear blue skies visible through the official Weather-out-the-Window portal. The taxiways are bone dry, without an icy obstruction to be seen. Oh well. Brave Sir Hogarth and I will go over this morning and do some of the routine things like removing the air filter for cleaning and inspecting the filter screen in the gascolator.

I had already pulled the spark plugs out for inspection:

Beyond the routine stuff, the inspection always finds things for me to fix, and it will be a lot nicer working out there on a nice day than an icy day. I was out there a few days ago sweeping out some of the dust and insect detritus that gathers during the winter months. I'm rarely in the hangar during the frigid weeks of the annual flying hiatus, so it was a lot like coming back to a long neglected house and going through the re-familiarization process. It felt nice to be there - winter is the season when I spend so much time out of the flying routine that I start to question why I even bother having the thing. It's a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (or 'SAD,' one of the more apt acronyms I've seen) I suppose. Odd that something as simple as pushing a broom around for half an hour can cure it, but there it is.

The reason I was out there in the first place was to remove the inspection panels so the AP/IA that I have come in and do the inspection wouldn't have to. Interestingly, if I had built the airplane myself I would be allowed to do the annual inspection myself, but I think I would choose to have a fresh set of eyes come in and do it anyway. This may be a personal flaw, but I have the capability to become completely blind to things over the course of a year. This makes the annual inspection a kind of mixed blessing: it's good that the inspector finds things that need to be fixed, but often times the things he finds make me question why I didn't find them myself.

For example, the federal regulations require that the airworthiness certificate be displayed in the airplane. I had taken mine home to make a copy, and rather than returning it to the little display window, I just left it in the envelope I carried it home in and stuffed the envelope into the window. That was pretty sloppy and doesn't constitute being displayed, and it feels a lot like it would feel to have a maid come in to clean your house and be confronted with an unflushed toilet. Sure, she's there to clean, but there are some things that you really ought to do for yourself. So there it was on the notes sheet yesterday afternoon, and I have to confess that even though I was completely alone in the hangar, I blushed a little bit. Well, at least the floor had been swept!

There were some things that I found myself, though, and left him notes to point them out. The heat muff around the exhaust has been rubbing itself raw against the side of the cowl, which doesn't bode well for the long term health of either. I wasn't sure what was causing the pipe to hang lower than normal, so I left a note to have him take a look.

It seems one of the clamps that hold it in place is at fault, so that should be an easy fix. The little white night navigation light on the tail was burned out, so I added that to the list. I have to confess that I didn't notice that light being defunct on my own, but that's another story, and an uncomfortable enough one that I will only share it in live conversation. I'll just say that it was one of the most uncomfortable things that's ever happened to me at the airport.

Also in the notes was a short sentence describing a mysterious hole in the carburetor, possibly intended to hold a probe (carb temp?) of some type:

I don't think there's ever been anything in there. It's a mystery.

It was interesting to pull the cowls off for the first time since I finished the engine class. Having been working in that realm for the last ten weeks has perceptibly changed the way I look at things on and around the engine. In fact, my mechanic asked me if having torn apart an engine and reassembling it, and as a result having seen how relatively simple and robust those engines are, has made me more comfortable with flying around behind one. It was a good question, but I had to be honest and answer no. I've never been overly concerned with anything failing inside the engine, what with it being only 300 hours since a factory remanufacture and the major parts typically lasting for thousands of hours as long as they aren't abused. No, what gives me pause with regard to the engine is not the engine itself, but all of the ancillary stuff attached to it.

Magnetos, fuel lines, oil lines, and support equipment of that nature cause the majority of engine outages. This is part of the reason I've decided to buy and install an EGT gauge, and it is also why I'm considering the replacement of the 8 to 10 year old oil and fuel lines. While it's remotely possible that the forged steel crankshaft could break in flight, it's far more likely that an oil line would rupture. The net result would be identical. The hoses are still fine, but they're starting to show age:

I can replace them both with premanufactured (as opposed to buying the tools and parts to custom make them myself) hoses available from Vans for about $130 for the two of them. It doesn't have to be done now, of course, and I'll probably defer it until summer.

I could work on the plane all day, although at 40 degrees I was getting pretty cold. The temperature doesn't really bother the hairy-faced-son-I-never-had very much, but he does bore easily:

That's ok, I have a pretty extensive shopping list now, and it will take awhile to get it all found and ordered from the massive Aircraft Spruce catalog, and the canoe could use a little attention too.


  1. Maybe Brave Sir Hogarth should start attending A&P classes with you so that he could become a little more involved. He does look bored to tears!


  2. The little hole on the carb is for carb temp probe. Can not tell if it is plugged. If not, plug it up.

  3. I'm just an anonymous reader, but it does pique my interest when the _most_ uncomfortable airport moment you had involves an inop. white position light. Surely you could expand a _little_ in print. =]