Web Site: http://www.airdorrin.com
Posts by fdorrin:
- Record Pressure Altitude, OAT, RPM, MP, Oil Pressure, Cowls
- Mixture Full Rich
- Cowl Flaps Open
- 75% power or better – power as high as possible
- Record Pressure Altitude, OAT, RPM, MP, Oil Pressure, Cowls
- Climb to 5,500’; establish flight following
- Cowl Flaps Open
- Auto-pilot on following route
- Set power 21” MP / 2300 RPM (65%)
- Stabilize 1 minute
- JPI to Manual; prepare to toggle FF to CHT
- Lean one engine to 9.0 GPH
- Stabilize 1 minute
- Monitor CHTs
- Start GTX timer
- Decrement fuel by 0.2 GPH and pause for 10 seconds
- Continue until all 4 cylinder EGTs have peaked
- Generally, cruise LOP to be cooler, cleaner, cheaper, greener
- Don’t use EGT as a leaning reference for cruise flight. Absolute EGT values are meaningless. Determining peak EGT by leaning very slowly puts the engine in the area of maximum stress and ICP routinely. This is a Lean-Find approach.
- Do I want to go fast (i.e., achieve maximum airspeed) or do I want to go far (i.e., achieve minimum fuel consumption)?
- For modern airplanes like the Cessna TTx or Cirrus SR22 or Diamond DA40 with their superior engine cooling systems, those target values should be reduced by about 20°F.
- In cold OATs (below ISA), the CHT targets should also be lowered a bit.
- Fast: Lean so that the CHT of my hottest-running cylinder does not exceed 400°F for Lycomings. Does this imply that you can do this ROP without knowing where you are in terms of peak EGT???
- Far:Conversely, if the hottest CHT is lower than the target value, I can gain a bit more fuel economy by leaning a bit more (if ROP) or a bit more speed by richening a bit more (if LOP). Best economy occurs at Peak EGT. You’ll fly slower but further.
- Fly a period of time replicating first flight / CHT comparison
- Mixture Full Rich
- Cowl Flaps Open
- 75% power or better – high as possible
- Record Pressure Altitude, OAT, RPM, MP
- Pick up Safety pilot 33N if available
- Brief safety pilot duties
- Safety information
- Purpose of the flight today: Develop lean test data for GAMI engineers
- Electro-air ignitors
- GAMI injectors
- Handle radio as necessary
- Monitor legs page / planned route
- Navigate clear of airspace in pre-defined pattern
- Watch for traffic
- Monitor auto-pilot
- Maintain directional during repeated asymmetric thrust scenarios
- Don’t use rudder trim due to continuous change expected
- Be prepared for engine failure / unexpected power loss
- Climb to 3,500’ and check one engine at a time
- Set power 22.5” MP / 2300 RPM (65%)
- Record Pressure Altitude, OAT, RPM, MP, Oil Pressure
- Auto-pilot on following route
- JPI: Set FF/All/EGT switch to EGT for engine only data
- JPI: Set MANUAL Indexing and cycle to Cylinder #4, the highest CHT
- JPI: Still in MANUAL, Set FF/All/EGT switch to FF. Cycle through to display FF.
- This will allow toggling back and forth to check CHT #4 as necessary, and fuel flow in progress
- Lean the right engine to roughness (big pull) and richen to smooth operation.
- Move mixture such that it takes 2-3 secs to accomplish
- Note Fuel Flow
- Set FF/All/EGT switch back to EGT; monitor CHT
- Monitor CHTs and wait one minute to stabilize
- Use JPI toggle switch to check on CHT #4 either engine (hottest), and then back to Fuel Flow
- Slowly enrichen the mixture at 0.2 GPH increments (to allow data capture)
- Toggle between CHT #4 below 400o increasing Fuel Flow at 0.2 GPH increments.
- CHT shouldn’t be an issue doing this from the lean side and at reduced power (65%), but I’ll stop the test and reduce power if it is. Note that the Red Fin as it’s tip at 65%.
- Monitor all 4 EGTs on the bar graph until seeing them all moving down
- Restore mixture to 10 GPH
As you know, I’ve been tracking an issue with the left engine CHT #3 reading. You can get a sense for what it’s doing looking at the graph to the left that spans over an hour. Notice the two blips around 22 minutes into the flight that suddenly rise maybe 50 degrees over where they were. The sudden rise is a spike that lasts only 1 reading. Readings at the time of the flight were set to occur every 6 seconds.
I never notice this has happened until I see an alarm around 37 or so minutes into the flight.
You can see where the CHT #3 reading spiked over the bright red line that is set to Lycoming’s limit of 450 degrees. Those readings persisted for only two or three six second samplings, and then dropped right back to normal. They stayed high only long enough to startle me, and then settled right back down to normal readings. I was able to observe the spastic fluctuations that continued to occur for the next few minutes (you can see them approaching alarm levels again at 42+ minutes), although I lost 200′ paying too much attention to them.
This graph looks to me like a loose connection, so I shortened the flight until I was able to look for those. My A&P suggested I remove a panel and check the connections. I’d come to the same conclusion and went over to the hanger yesterday morning (5/11/2020).
Click on the picture at left and you’ll see a good shot of what I was facing. No way I’m pulling things apart to look more closely. There was nothing amiss I could detect, so I called Paul. I did take a moment to reflect on how clean everything looked and enjoy the fact that I owned this thing.
Luckily, Paul was available right at that moment. so I jumped on the chance to fly down. There were showers in the area and the winds were howling. I ignored my hangover, forgot that I had a dentist appointment that afternoon, and launched for the 15 minute flight to have him take a look. I’m anal retentive when it comes to driving that squawk list to zero!
I was surprised that each individual JPI wire has the purpose printed right on it. CHT #3 was clearly printed on the lead wire, once the bundle was unwrapped. This is quality material.
The only other connections are on the instrument side, and my understanding is that is a production cannon plug. All connections appear good, so we didn’t accomplish anything on the face of it. I definitely did – mind you. This was a necessary step before I talk directly to JPI, assuming the issue continues.
I did learn that some zip ties are able to withstand more heat than others. That was a new concept to me. I also learned more about washer type probes versus blade type probes, and that the engine cylinders already have a plug in the cylinder to accommodate the later. Thanks Gary M for reading my last post and calling me to share what you know. It’s all great stuff and it helps when we work together. Thank you!
There were no obvious connection issues found. Sometimes there are ghosts and gremlins in machines, and just touching them or swearing at them chases them away. Maybe that happened in this case. In any event, we put it all back together as the wind cranked up even more for the ride home.
I made it home in time to hangar the airplane, but not early enough to do it properly. I had to zoom off to my dental appointment and return afterward to finish putting N833DF away.
I’m looking forward to flying again. That might be today, but I’m not sure I know how to fly in less than 40 knot winds. We’ll see. The idea is to put 2 or 3 hours on the engines today, and try to get the CHT issue to repeat itself. When that happens, I’ll look for a warranty replacement of the probe itself.
I am so lucky to have finished this project before all this virus disruption happened. Now I sit here with a clear way to avoid the airlines for all but international travel. It’s been a long hard road, but I’m now poised to take advantage of the results.
Bev and I are planning Florida in July so we can vacation on the surface of the sun, and several other trips with our friends for the balance of the year.
Comments Off on May 12, 2020 – Bumpy CHT inspection
I am ready to go fly again this morning. My last flight was on May 3rd, and you can watch some of that flight in the video clip below. The part I’m focusing on here is where I had flown down the coast and turning northbound as planned. I had just turned out over the water to avoid being low and making noise over populated beach areas when an engine monitor alarm flashed by too quickly to be read. I believe I was at 1500′ when it happened, and had just started the turn east over the water. You can find the segment of interest at around 13 minutes and 30 seconds in the clip.
The flash warning came and went so fast that I missed it, but I knew something had just happened. I remained in the turn, looked for traffic, and then was back inside monitoring that instrument more closely. It didn’t take long before I saw that the CHT#3 on the left engine had shot up from 330 degrees to over 600 degrees in one second!! Then suddenly it was back down to 330 for a few readings, and back up to 500 for a few seconds more!!
My checkbook was quivering at this point. I KNEW out of the gate with a 98% certainty that a temperature movement of this magnitude was nearly impossible without blowing something up. The engines purred smoothly the entire time, and no change in prop synchronization could be heard. This had to be data.
Supporting my theory was the fact that my friend Mike and I had seen one single CHT data point on the same cylinder shoot up and cause an alarm using Mike Busch’s analytical tools on that can be found on his website. We looked at it and discussed it, and agreed that it had to be data. Of course it is my sole investment, but I wanted my friends analysis to make sure I wasn’t blinding myself with wishful thinking.
The same data issue appeared on two subsequent flights, but this last one had several hits. I shortened my plan flight, particularly avoiding a low over the water leg to the NJ coast. I didn’t land short or rush anything, since I remain convinced it is bad data caused by yet a fourth loose connection. On the other hand, I wasn’t taking any chances with further flight until I talked with my A&P.
Getting hold of Paul last week proved a challenge. By the time I did, my wife and I were just leaving for a 3 day trip to visit with friends. We traveled by car, so the airplane wasn’t in play. Paul is the A&P who did the work, and suggested I pull the left nacelle panel and look for a loose connection on the CHT.
The Lycoming IO-320-B1A cylinders are numbered from front to rear, odd numbers on the right, even numbers on the left. That means CHT #3 will be found inboard and rearward on the left engine, so that is the panel I should remove. I found this information in the Lycoming IO-320 operating manual; confirmed it with Mike, and then confirmed it again talking with Paul.
Now all I have to do is figure out what it is that I’m looking for, and where to look for this mysterious loose connection. For some guidance, I downloaded the installation manual for the EDM 760 CHT probe and found this guidance:
5) CYLINDER HEAD TEMPERATURE PROBE (CHT), BAYONET
The Bayonet probe 5050-T has the 3/8-24 boss as part of the probe and is screwed into the base of the cylinder (See fig-2). The bayonet probe has a screwdriver slot to facilitate tightening.
Temperature indicating system with Fuel Flow (that’s me….)
6) SPARK PLUG GASKET CHT PROBE
Most factory installed cylinder head temperature gauges utilize a bayonet or screw-in resistive type probe that occupies one of the bayonet sockets. This probe is not compatible with the thermocouple probes required for the EDM-760.
The spark plug gasket probe, P/N M-113, replaces the standard copper spark plug gasket on one spark plug. The plug chosen, upper or lower, should be the one that provides the best correlation with the other temperature probes.
Due to the spark plug location, the gasket probe may read 25oF higher or lower than the factory probe. The probe is usually placed under the plug that receives the most direct cooling air. After many removals the probe may be annealed for re-use. Heat and quench in water. At additional cost an adapter probe (bayonet) is available that permits the factory CHT probe and a JPI probe to fit the same bayonet location.
I am not sure what I have, but will call Paul and discuss when I’m standing there with the panel off, and have gained some perspective.
If I find something obvious that can be tightened, I’ll go fly. If not, I’ll talk with Paul and maybe stop in on him with the airplane. Failing either of those options, I’ll wait until I talk with him again.
The only pressure point to flying is that I’d like to get to zero squawks again and be done with break-in before I take this airplane and my wife to Florida in July. Let’s just assume Florida will be open and pools will be open where we stay.
Fly safe – I’ll put out a video of my loose connection search later today.
Comments Off on May 11, 2020 – Left Engine CHT#3
The winds are dead calm this morning and the temperature is 29o in Chesapeake City, as you can see from my view out the window. I am so grateful that I put the heaters back in the airplane after the last flight. I had actually thought it would be warm enough in April and had packed them away earlier in the month.
I’m also grateful that I have a place to go and something important to do, now that I’m off of work for 30 days and it is too cold to bike on the trail. Yes, there are folks out there bicycling and jogging everyday, rain or shine, but I just don’t want to be one of them.
The steam fog I can see out of the other window captures the fact that it is both cold and calm, but it won’t be by the time I go flying this morning. Winds are expected to pick up and gust in the 12 to 19 knot range as the sun comes up. It will be worse later in the day, but that has been the experience since I started flying again in mid-February. More of the same.
I’m going flying this morning to gather some data while I perform two types of flying. The initial segment of the flight will be down low at full power, attempting to replicate an earlier flight so that I can evaluate CHTs. As I said in the previous blog, a significant drop in CHTs could indicate that engine break-in has been achieved. I haven’t seen that, and it may be due to the fact that outlying variables had changed. Cowl flaps, fuel flow, and OAT namely.
The second segment will be conducted differently than I had discussed in my previous blog. My understanding of the technical details and discoveries I talked about there haven’t changed, but the strategies for conducting the flight has. My Cirrus flying friend Mike and I spent an hour or so last night on a webex working out the details that will take better care of these engines.
Upon completion of the down low power segment of the flight, I’ll climb to 5,500′ and plan to be near Summit airport in central Delaware. From there I’ll plan a circuit south that will keep me in Dovers airspace, allowing for flight following. My safety pilot bailed on me this morning, so I’ll use Dover as another set of traffic eyes.
The 5500′ altitude affords me less traffic, will hopefully keep me clear of eagles and other birds, and will allow for 65% power in level flight. It will also be cooler to help ensure I can do the lean test with minimal CHT threats on my cylinders.
Here is my updated test plan:
GAMI Lean Test
Fly approximately 30 minutes – replicate the first flight for CHT comparison
Perform GAMI Lean Test
I will download the data and analyze both segments of the flight. The goals will be to determine if I see any CHT drops on the first segment, and then to calculate what the current GAMI spread is by comparing fuel flow to individual EFT peaks. It will be interesting to see what the data reveals.
This is what the long hand form looks like for determining GAMI spread.
I’m going flying and looking forward to it!
Comments Off on Apr 19, 2020 – Going Flying Today
One thing I have noticed in perusing the JPI Engine data is that the left engine cylinder #4 has been running significantly hotter than any other. That could be due to the break-in not being completed, or it may indicate the need to fine tune the new GAMI injectors to a tighter fuel flow spread.Of course, this could all be entirely normal, or it could be something else I haven’t yet considered.
In order to evaluate each engines GAMI spread, and thus eliminate injectors from further evaluation in the case of the hot LC4, I will be conducting a GAMI Lean Test on the airplane. Since this involves determining peak EGTs for each engine, and thus successively leaning each one, care must be taken so has not to abuse the cylinders as the data is gathered. This is where the GAMI technique is combined with the Red Fin concept and LOP leaning techniques to keep me safe.
I am relying on several resources to help me prepare for this upcoming flight. Mike B, (not Busch) regularly flies Cirrus aircraft and introduced me to LOP and the Red Fin. He is my other set of eyes on this data and my understanding of it. Mike Busch is the author of ‘Mike Busch on Engines’, which has been my source for understanding the leaning process of non-turbocharged, fuel injected engines. He has a video tutorial on the break-in process which I’ve studied more than once. Finally, the GAMI fuel injector website has information on conducting the test and the company has offered to analyze the results once complete.
Background: N833DF has ‘new’ engines, and I’m uncertain as to whether the break-in process is complete or not. Per the collective wisdom, stabilized oil consumption and/or a clear drop in CHT per cylinder would indicate that break-in has occurred. I didn’t believe that would be obvious when I read about it, and I certainly haven’t seen indications of that in the data. I am not putting much faith in my ability to see a clear delineation of either variable with this approach.
Penn Yan overhauled these engines and says that engine break-in can take as little as 10 hours or as long as 100 hours. They tell you that stabilization of oil consumption is the key to knowing when your engine is broken in. They don’t mention CHTs at all. They’d like to see 75% power the entire time, and no touch and goes for first 30 hours. This is actionable advice.
Mike Busch says to watch CHT for a clear drop of 20-40o that would indicate break-in has occurred? I doubted from the outset that I’d see an indication like this, and I haven’t. Too many variables and too simplistic an approach. In his video on engine break-in, Busch says to allow up to 440o during the break-in for Lycoming engines. Note that he also states in one document that your should operate Lycoming engines up to 380o, and in another up to 420o normally. That is a considerable range and difficult for an engineer’s mind to apply. Still another reference calls for 400o as the maximum CHT.
Detecting CHT drops: I ran the engines hard the first 10 hours, allowing LC4 to get to as high as 430o. After the 10 hours, I limited myself to 75% power and 400o on any cylinder on the assumption that break-in may have occurred and I’m not aware of it. The weather and I have been inconsistent, so the CHT drop may have been masked. In retrospect, it would have been good to have recorded Pressure Altitude, MP, OAT, RPM, and Cowl Position for each flight. I’ll do that on subsequent flights if I can manage it single handed.
I’ll start off the GAMI test flight with a period of time at full power; full rich, cowls open at 2000′. I’ll compare that with the first flight on 2/19/2020 with the same parameters at 2o OAT and see if I can detect any CHT drops between the two.
Detecting oil consumption stabilization: How the hell would I be able to detect that already? I put 1 quart in during the first 10 hours, which is no surprise given that I was running around balls-to-the-wall the entire time.The general advice is to precisely position the aircraft in the same spot on the hangar each time, and measure the oil consumption each day. Measure with a micrometer, mark with a chalk line, and cut it with an axe. This is an approach that is just silly, in my mind. No way you can be accurate. I’ll measure it in 10 hour increments instead, thought I’ll obviously check it every flight. Pointless exercise for now.
That means I have no idea if these engines are through the break-in process or not. The engines are running well and developing excellent power. Fuel consumption is up, but my flying pattern is completely different. Nothing to see here, so let’s focus on LC4 being at a high CHT and go find out what our GAMI injectors are doing.
Current operating philosophy is to continue to use only high power settings (except for the short period I’ll run this test); keep all CHTs under 400o; cowl flaps open or closed based on CHT; and lean no further than 10 GPH while at full power. I do not know where peak EGT is at 75% power. Minimize low power operations. The 10 GPH leaning may be changed based on what I learn during the test.
Leaning is a very good thing, unless you do it incorrectly. Then it can be bad. Really bad. I’ll be revisiting this subject once I’m sure break-in is completed, and begin to operate LOP and ROP.
Mike Busch (paraphrased): High CHTs often indicate that the engine is under excessive stress, which is why it’s so important to limit CHTs to a tolerable value (no more than 400°F for Continentals and 420°F for Lycomings). High EGTs do not represent a threat to cylinder longevity the way high CHTs do. Therefore, limiting EGTs in an attempt to be “kind to the engine” is simply misguided.
EGTs are expected to be different (JPI DIFF measurement). It is not uncommon for well-balanced fuel injected engines to exhibit EGT spreads of 100°F. In fact, EGT spreads are usually smallest near or just rich of peak EGT (the worst place to operate the engine), and often significantly greater at leaner or richer mixtures (that are much kinder to the engine).
The mark of a well-balanced engine is not a small EGT spread (“DIFF”), but rather a small “GAMI spread”—defined as the difference in fuel flows at which the various cylinders reach peak EGT. Ideally, we would like to see this spread be no more than about 0.5 GPH (or 3 PPH). Experience shows that if the GAMI spread is much more than that, the engine is unlikely to run smoothly with LOP mixtures.
There is no such thing as a maximum EGT limit or red-line, and trying to keep absolute EGTs below some particular value—or even worse, leaning to a particular absolute EGT value—is simply wrongheaded.
50°F ROP is almost precisely the WORST possible mixture setting from the standpoint of engine longevity. The maximum cylinder head temperature (CHT) and peak internal cylinder pressure (ICP) occurs almost precisely at 50°F ROP. The hottest, most stressful mixture is about 50°F ROP, and mixtures that are richer OR leaner are better for the engine.
At 75% cruise power, you want to stay well away from that worst-case mixture setting, either by operating at least 100°F ROP (preferably richer) or at least 20°F LOP (preferably leaner), take your pick.
Mike Busch’s leaning technique – paraphrased
The Red Fin
Defines an area or zone of operation where we should not be. Note that the GAMI Lean Test calls for 65% power being used, and that is the very tip of the dark (danger) fin on the right. They recommend less power if the CHTs get up close to 400o as well. The GAMI test will determine where peak EGT is for every cylinder at 65% power. This graph relies on the first cylinder in each engine to peak.
[Again – extracting from Mike’s book] Busch recommends NOT using the “lean-find mode” of your engine monitor when doing this [leaning], because this requires you to lean very slowly to locate peak EGT. That results in spending a considerable amount time inside the red fin (and the dreaded purple zone), which is exactly what you don’t want to do.
When we reach top-of-climb, level off, and commence the cruise phase of the flight, we perform a “big mixture pull” (BMP) to transition from ROP to LOP. This should be done quickly to minimize the amount of time spent inside the red fin (and especially the ultra-abusive purple zone). About 2 or 3 seconds is about right for the BMP. Note that we lose a bit of power as we transition from ROP to LOP; that’s normal and expected, and will be reflected by a small loss of airspeed.
One question for Mike Busch – you say you don’t have any idea how far from Peak EGT you operate LOP, but at the same time, recommend at least 20o LOP for us. I’d say you have two methods for LOP. The first would be to manage CHT on the peak cylinder and assume that will give you better than 20o LOP. The second would be to precisely measure peak EGT from the lean side, and choose something greater (leaner) than 20o LOP. I found the answer in his book…..
Busch continues: If you feel compelled to locate peak EGT, it’s much better to perform a quick BMP to get into the LOP zone below the fin, and then slowly richen to locate peak EGT from the lean side. Personally, I don’t care about locating peak EGT, so I skip this step altogether. I just do a quick BMP to a known-safe LOP fuel flow—or until I hear and feel a small power loss that tells me I’m safely LOP below the fin—and then fine-tune the mixture using either CHT or my fuel totalizer as a primary reference.
Profile for the GAMI test
Comments Off on Apr 17, 2020 – GAMI Lean Test
N833DF may not be the best Twin Comanche out there, but I can assure you it is the most expensive
This quote is something I came across in one of the aviation magazines I subscribe to, so I stole it. It is certainly true for me, and the joy I have flying this thing keeps me from crying 😉
Cross-country flight: Saturday, April 11th was supposed to be windy with gusts up north, but calm winds down near my destination, southwest of Norfolk, VA. Lately I’ve been flying in whatever wind I end up with so that I can get back in the groove again. All of my landings have been satisfying thus far, except the last one. I happened to notice the wind finally dropped to maybe 7 knots off the right wing, so I opted for my first full flap landing in awhile.
What I didn’t do was slow down enough. I’ve been battling high and gusting winds all along, so I’ve been adding airspeed and using little or no flaps. The result of coming in with full flaps and a higher airspeed was predictable. She didn’t want to land and I bounced it a few times.
For today’s flight I planned the flight south at 4,000′ while keeping the power up to at least 75% (24 squared). I’d either land at KPVG and taxi back to pick up my next clearance, or do a low approach and pick up that clearance in the air. That would give me some practice with what I’ll call IFR administrative duties. Shaking off the rust and getting back to normal again.
I have three action cameras now, 2 Heros & 1 cheap ActionCam. Rarely have I taken the time to use more than one of these cameras on any one flight. My interest in using multiple cameras at once changed when I watched a Bonanza pilot blog where the pilot used multiple cameras and perspectives to great effect. He set a high bar, in my opinion, that I acknowledge will be difficult for me to reach with the time I’m willing to invest. I am currently more interested in spooling back up my PA30 IFR skills than I am in improving my video skills. Maybe I can do both – we’ll see.
Engine Management includes continued break-in procedures. During this flight I kept the power up to 24 squared (75%) but did begin to lean from full rich. I leaned both sides initially to 10 gph and watched the CHTs. I acknowledge that I paid little attention the EGTs since this process started, since the entire focus has been full rich and cowl flaps open anyway. Now that I’m leaning and working the cowl flaps toward closed in cruise, I need to re-read Mike Busch and other sources to plan my leaning process going forward.
It seems to me that the right engine is fully broken in, based on CHT performance, and all that is left is to verify stabilized oil consumption. The left engine #4 cylinder has been running 40 degrees hotter than the same cylinder on the right, and I’ve been watching that as my limiting factor all along. Toward the end of the flight today, I did see that CHT drop to 30 degrees hotter. I think that one is finally breaking in. Can’t wait to see how it looks on the next flight.
You can see my one camera video on YouTube for this latest flight, along with many other videos included in my channel. Subscribe if you’d like to stay in touch and have something to watch.
My next flight will be in a different direction, possibly north. I’ll determine the range to ensure I have enough fuel to get home if the FBO happens to be closed suddenly. I’ll most likely install permanent sticky mounts for the GoPro on my sundeck, and put those other mounts away. We’ll see if I can ramp up to 2 cameras for the next flight, and also include battery power for the Hero8.
Comments Off on Apr 11, 2020 – Cross Country Run
Beautiful weather today and I took full advantage of it. Bev and I cleaned the dust out of our downstairs living area and polished the furniture. I turned on the electrostatic air filter and fan, and verified all the heating systems were turned off for the season. The washing machine we had repaired hummed constantly in the background, and I’m still feeling a degree of self-satisfaction with how well that went.
Then it was out on the trail with my Cannondale bicycle. I hadn’t really exercised much (at all) and had put on some weight over the last six months. I’ll blame it on winter weather, work stress, excessive travel, and keeping odd hours to attain all of my instructor qualifications on the G280. The only way to fight back on the weight issue when you are in your sixties is to add back the exercise. Eating less and drinking less beer when you live on the canal is a last resort I’m hoping to avoid.
Gone are the days when I could ramp up quickly and not hurt anything, so I vowed to start out easy and build up to riding the trail to the Grain restaurant and beyond. Out on my first ride, I was truly surprised how quickly I was moving along. Riding along was feeling easy as I reached the first big hill and down-shifted for the climb. At the top with not much effort, I seriously considered continuing on toward the next big hill and Grain H2O. Then I remembered the wind. The ride east had been like riding in no wind, even though I was moving along at over 10mph. That meant the wind was at my back, and would be hitting me in the face all the way home. I had made the mistake of under-estimating wind effects last year, and ended riding all the way to Delaware City thinking I was a rock star. The ride home had been arduous at best, and included a minor crash and a new understanding of wind effects on bicycling.
The decision was make to return home, ensuring that I ease into the effort again and not over exert on the first run. It was the right decision, as the effects of a headwind became apparent along the water. I made it back with a reasonable effort, very much enjoying the experience. Back into the ride, the water, and the sunshine.
Now that the housework and exercise were completed, it was time to pull out the Harley and take a ride to the airport. That is the definition of a very good day; getting a few things done at home and then riding a motorcycle to get the airplane out.
April 2nd was my 62nd birthday, and I celebrated it by flying my airplane home after it’s 10 hour mineral oil change. The filters were replaced and new 100W mineral oil was put in for the next 30 hours of operation. Bolts were tightened and one more inspection on the mounts and new accessories was completed. Everything looked solid, and I’m told the airplane sounds simply bad-ass. This was also the day that I paid the final bill on this project, which came out reasonably close to expectations, I’m happy to say. Thank God I started this project when I did, and that it ended at this point. I’d have been a bit more nervous if the project had just begun, and I’m certain there would have been countless months of delay added in there. I dodged a bullet.
When I dropped the airplane off the week prior, there were three known issues. Only one of these, the right alternator, would be addressed during this visit.
The vacuum A/I had been slow to erect on three occasions now. That will need to be overhauled before I begin doing instrument work with the airplane. Normal maintenance and I’m not worried about it. I need to hold off on it though, as I could send it out and not get it back until the virus clears. Let’s wait.
The fuel gauge in the airplane is pressure based. It read 8 gph on the left side during the first takeoff back in February. The right side was reading 12 gph correctly at the same time, which agreed with the EDM 760. On a subsequent flight, the pressure on the left side dropped all the way to zero and stayed there. The distraction caused by the left side flow flow (pressure) was the reason I forgot to raise the gear on that first takeoff!
Paul knew I had issues and blew out the line to the gauge while he was inspecting things. That did the trick, and I’ve been seeing accurate readings for the last few flights. Consider that gauge off of my squawk list. Good news!
We had intended to repair or replace the right alternator and/or voltage regulator during this visit. Turns out a loose connection was the culprit that caused the voltage spike. It is now working reliably in conjunction with the left side. No more voltage spikes, and no need to replace a voltage regulator and/or alternator. More Good News! I like where this is going.
That means the only squawk I now have is the vacuum A/I, which I’ll take care of after the pandemic restrictions allow people to return to work. Probably at the next oil change.
Frank’s Work Update: I am working through initial classroom instruction with a fellow instructor in the G280. It is just he and I and one other employee in the room these last few weeks. He is really doing well and doesn’t need me there except to have an audience to practice on. It has not been boring at all, and I’ve learned quite a bit more about the airplane while working through it with him. We are refining talking points together.
My work has put out a voluntary leave program during this pandemic. I’ve volunteered for it, and fully expect to be off from mid-April through mid-May. The leave can be extended monthly by mutual agreement, so it will be interesting to see where this goes. I see that as practice for adjusting to social security and not working.
This could be a trial run for me to determine if I can keep myself occupied without working. I’ll also be able to see if I’ll have an adequate cash flow to fuel my toys while not working. It has me thinking about what’s next.
Comments Off on Apr 5, 2020 – Satisfying Developments
N833DF Engine Break-in coming along! I have been continuing to fly off the first 10 break-in hours on the engines, while sorting out whatever work remains to get the airplane into fighting condition, and 100% ready for instrument flying.
Things tend to wear out when you aren’t flying routinely, and this airplane has been down for most of the last three years. I found a few issues and will get those sorted out as we run the engines in. Fresh engines are exciting!!!
Before we get to that…..
Everyone is impacted by the virus. Each of us has had some aspect of their lives put on hold or changed measurably. Try to stay positive and grateful for everything in your life. This too shall pass. The financial markets may dictate I continue working for a few more years, assuming that remains an option.
My good friend Jim just put his plans of upgrading on hold for several months. His airline is asking for voluntary unpaid leave from its employees for up to 3 months, and he decided to take it. His reasoning was to protect himself and his family, and to be there for the parents if need be. Only weeks ago he was planning his Captain upgrade, and now he is taking unpaid leave.
As for me, I returned home from Savannah G280 training by car on Wednesday morning, March 18th. I canceled a return flight scheduled for the following Friday, and had FSI rent me a one way rental car home. I made the decision to come home more to avoid getting quarantined away from home than out of concerns of getting the virus. I made the decision to drive out of an abundance of caution in protecting my wife and family from exposure for as long as possible. I appreciate the fact that FSI supported both decisions. The thought of leaving my wife home alone to deal with her mom and all this for several more weeks weighed heavily on my mind since this thing started.
I know I made the right call to come home, but I feel guilty about not following through on the work assignment. Making the right call doesn’t always feel good. The decision was made easier considering that the primary missions were accomplished. I am now initial ground school qualified and have completed my FlightEx flight experience requirement. The only thing I didn’t do was build more time toward becoming a TCE (examiner).
I learned allot down there from several real experts. I’ll be documenting and applying what I’ve learned mentoring others in Wilmington this week. While there, I’ll take normal precautions and practice social distancing.
Now for the fun part! N833DF is flying again, now that I’m home. For the last several days, I have been flying the same VFR pattern to the south of Wilmington, DE. Cruising along at only 2000′ and full power.
Initially I keep the mixtures full rich and cowl flaps closed, but I am growing more concerned that the oil temps never get into the 180 to 200 F range they should be in. Number 4 cylinder on the left engine is the hottest limiting temperature, and I keep a close eye on that one.
Looking back, there was never enough time to fly it to Savannah. I’m taking all of the pressure off of myself at this point and appreciate that I finally threw in the towel and slowed everything down. Here are just a few of the things that could have bitten me, or could have been one of the other final pushes that caused me not to fly.
- After I flew commercial down there, several strong storm fronts moved through over the subsequent days that would have worried me endlessly. N833DF sat would have been on the ramp the entire time.
- The right alternator failed on my 2nd or third flight – after I returned from Savannah. Had it failed enroute, I would have struggled to diagnose exactly what had happened. Diagnosing in flight requires a complete electric shut down, including the brand new electronic ignition systems. Considering that I have a wholly new configuration going, I would have been sorely taxed to figure it all out on the fly. Imagine IFR or night with no power and lots of new systems to suspect as the culprit.
- The vacuum attitude indicator is clearly close to failure. I didn’t realize this as I was getting ready, but it is clear now that I’m back from Savannah and flying. The last few months of disuse didn’t help it any. I don’t need to stoke anyones imagination as to how an out of practice pilot who is instrument current in jets but not in the PA30 systems might perform. Low approaches would have been a bad idea.
- I admit that I have been surprisingly behind this airplane since the first flight with the new engines. I was distracted on the very first takeoff and left the gear down when the fuel flow gauge failed on takeoff. I thought I might toast a new engine for few moments.
- The autopilot is working perfectly now, but the failing vacuum AI drives that. I need not elaborate on how this could increase workload.
- Engine break-in requires much higher fuel flow and considerably lessens the range. My initial planning didn’t account for that. I verbalized it and knew about it, but didn’t think about it enough to affect range planning in the long term.
- The new engine monitor is just that – new to me. It is a distraction and I need time to incorporate it in my scan and learning how to use it.
- The new electronic ignition system is new to me. it changes my process and my checklists, and requires a new approach to contingency planning regarding the electric system and the engines.
What is so crystal clear to me now could not be seen in the blind push to get the project done. Lots of stress trying to gain control over the project instead of pacing myself and accepting delays. The work that was done is impeccable.
Lessons learned. I’m home now and catching up. Going flying tomorrow and that will be it before the 10 hour oil change.
Comments Off on Mar 21, 2020 – Back home and flying
I learned a few things recently that I want to share with PA30 owners. How to re-install a nose bonnet on a PA30 the right way, and how to diagnose an electrical problem caused by a failed alternator (presumably).
I also want to discuss the risk factors of the flying I’m currently doing by identifying them, and then outlying how each was addressed.
While this may be intuitively obvious to many of you, these are things I had to relearn in the course of my busy life. Maybe you’ll learn something too.
Let’s recap how I have gotten to this point….
FlightSafety: I spent most of the month of January in Dallas, completing my sim qualifications that enabled me to provide initial and recurrent simulator instruction in the G280. My mechanic was traveling for his flying job and I was traveling for mine.
I was asked by FSI to stay in Wilmington for all of February to provide training in the Astra Jet. The implication is that i’d be spending open days doing self-study in preparation for getting qualified in initial classroom instruction in Savannah. I jumped at the chance to be home all month, and was able to spend quality time with my Beverly.
The first 3 weeks of the month were lost due to Paul’s schedule. He wanted to be home for the first flight of N833DF, and I was trying to accommodate that. Finally I got tired of waiting and went with his very professional assistant – Ralph. So much time lost to schedules – his and mine.
I had been mentally preparing for this first flight for weeks. There is a plethora of advice out there for each of the things with which I had to contend. I read engine books, watched videos, and talked with people I trust to develop a plan of action. Everyone I consulted is confident in their advice, and no one shows any signs of doubt. Not many agree either, and the details of how to actually do what they propose are often sparse. I am alone in my checkbook and alone in my cockpit. It is on me to decide how to proceed.
Meanwhile, the clock was ticking on my departure to Savannah and I still didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. Time spent with my airplane was time I wasn’t working to get ready to instruct. I desperately wanted to fly myself there, but I needed to get 10 hours and an oil change done before I felt I could do that. Paul’s schedule and my own was making that maddeningly difficult. I was rushed, agitated, and generally stressed. Risk identified.
The engines and the workmanship are a thing of beauty. I am very happy with the outcome there at this point. Given that every single system has been touched or disturbed in the process, I did my best to lay out a plan of action for a complete or partial engine failure of either side or both. I even thought about what I’d do if I had an abnormal temperature or pressure indications, including which of the instruments would be believed. Precautionary shut-downs were a possibility. I was ready for anything – or so I thought.
Complicating the matter considerably was the fact that I had to rush each flight by design – to avoid ground run time. Maybe rush isn’t the right word, but it was the result. Increasing the pace of your flying in an airplane you haven’t flown in some time is problematic. Risk identified.
Breaking in new engines dictates that you minimize ground time, and change your flows and process. Do not cycle the props as you normally would, leave the cowl flaps open for the entire flight, alter the mag check, and learn to include new instruments in your scan. The new electronic ignition system could actually cause a nasty backfire if performed incorrectly. Finally, the EDM 760 engine monitor with all of the bells and whistles was new to me. It would be essential for this flight, and would require significant attention.
Mistakes were made; I think I mentioned that on the very first flight, the one that carries more risk than most, I allowed myself to be distracted and left the gear down for some time. I had to remember not to close the cowl flaps, so that interrupted my cruise flow to begin with. Fuel pressure on the right engine was normal on takeoff, but the left showed that it was far too lean. I momentarily considered an abort against continuing. The investment I’d made was a factor. I had to do this right.
On the roll, fuel flow on the old instruments were 8 gph versus 12 gph on the right (as it should be). If that old gauge was correct, the left engine would burn up if I continued. I was working hard to decide, until I found and focused on the new engine monitors. Button pushing on the roll wasn’t helping. By leaving it alone it finally confirmed that both engines were pulling 12.4 gph. This confirmed that the old indicators were junk by the time I was level in cruise. I was far behind the gear up part of my flow by now, and they stayed out for a while.
Had an engine failure occurred climbing out, I can only hope I would have reacted appropriately and brought the gear up then. If not, I certainly would have landed straight ahead and trashed a perfectly good airplane. I’d have lived, but what a dumb ass. Move on and learn from it.
Level in cruise now, the autopilot didn’t work in any mode. It appeared that the work Paul had done adding the new engine monitor had completing disconnected the autopilot. Nothing was working there at all, except heading mode. I’d spent time and money getting it just right last year, and now it was dead when I could really use it. Not good!
It wouldn’t be until the third flight that I realized the autopilot pitch mode was the only part that stopped working, and I’d had issues with that before. What made me believe that the entire systems was disconnected was that I’d forgotten how the complex system worked. I’ll get pitch mode fixed later, but I started realizing that IMC was a risk I didn’t want to take until I got my act back together in this airplane. Significant risk identified, at least for the proposed flight to Savannah.
With all that going on, my performance under these conditions disappointed me. I imagined being wired tight and ready for anything. The skill safety margin was not as broad as I imagined, and the luck bucket contributed a bit on the first takeoff.
Keep moving forward. For the second flight, I vowed not to make that same mistake ever again. Therefore, I’d made some entirely new ones! This time, I left the door unlatched on takeoff. I caught it in time for the climb out, however, and properly secured the door before it popped or the speed prevented it from closing. There goes a perfect flight, and in comes a distraction that led me to leave the fuel pumps on after takeoff.
The sound from the pumps led me to believe that the door still wasn’t sealed after I leveled off, even though it was. That led me to decide to terminate the flight short of the one hour recommended break-in flight length. I landed at my hangar after only 45 minutes of run time. Safety dictated I do that, but when I realized during the descent flow that the pumps were already on, my ego was further deflated. My luck bucket level is going down. What a dumb ass.
Clearly, I needed some time to figure out the new engine monitor and learn to fly the airplane again.
Still, I hadn’t thrown in the towel regarding my plans to fly myself to Savannah! It should have been obvious at this point that I couldn’t get it done safely. Preparing for my class – the first one I’d be doing and one that would last a full 9 days; getting in 10 hours of break in flying; arranging an oil change and the associated vehicle logistics; and then launching for Savannah with a failed autopilot and no recent instrument practice in this airplane. I just wanted the damn engine project done and I couldn’t see beyond that! It had taken too long and I wanted my airplane back! I didn’t want to fly commercial if I did not have to!
Launch time: It is a beautiful VFR day with winds that were actually light for the season. I had picked up my new battery minder from Paul’s wife yesterday, and connected it last night. The engine and cabin heaters I’d purchased last year were keeping everything warm. Oil temp was in the mid-50s before I started up this morning. Things looked pretty good.
Bev had packed me a lunch, and my goal was to get a 3 hour flight in today with no mistakes. I am thrilled to have the airplane in its hangar and to have control over the flying again. The rust is beginning to come off, and I’m feeling better. I’ve re-learned how to use my autopilot and the only single squawk on the airplane is that the autopilot isn’t sending pitch trim signals. It won’t hold altitude, but I can live with that until I get it fixed in the spring.
Startup is immediate with these new ignitors. I’m ready in no time, even though I still don’t understand what the engine monitor is doing most of the time. The information I need eventually surfaces on the display, and that will have to be good enough for now.
Yesterday I requested a short taxi and immediate takeoff for the engines. Paul tells me I’m being overly conservative, so today I accept the longer taxi to hold short of 32 on foxtrot. The warmup time will do them good, and it won’t take too long,
Holding short of 32, I do the modified runup for the engines and props, and then do the specific mag check. All is well and I contact the tower.
Tower clears me for takeoff, but at that time I see a flashing BAT on my EDM. I verify low voltage with the older voltmeter, and they agree. Something is wrong.
My incorrect attempt to diagnose and remedy the situation begins with turning off both of the alternators, then restoring them one at a time. Voltage was dropping into the 11-12v range, and neither alternator was coming online. I tried this several times, and then told tower I’d have to return to my hangar. They cleared me to taxi and I informed them I’d be shutting down my electric system and continue to taxi without comm.
What could have happened? The only thing that changed in this perfectly running electric system was the battery minder. I had ordered this and dropped it off while the engines were going in. It was possible that I’d been given the wrong charger, so my first thought was to take the nose bonnet off and visually confirm what battery I had. My logbooks were in Paul’s shop, so physically looking was the best way.
I removed 100 (maybe 30) stainless screws and the bonnet. Next I removed the safety wire from the battery box and lifted the lid. There I found the Concorde RG-35A 12V SLAB. Next I looked at the Battery Minder/charger-desulfator Model 128CEC1-AA-SS 12V-8A device. There was a number for support written on it, and I had the chance to speak with an engineer there by the name of Steve. I described my situation, and he quickly confirmed that I had the correct charger for the battery I was using. He went further and gave me his opinion that based on my description, my battery was most likely fine.
At that point I re-installed the battery box lid and safety wire, and attempted to put the nose bonnet back on. I began to re-install the bonnet at this point, but became incredibly frustrated trying to line up the screw without stripping them. The worry over ground runs, frustration over the systems failure and yet another delay, and the increased pressure of trying to get all these things done that I’d mentioned were simply too much.
I threw in the towel at this point. I just had a total electrical failure in my airplane – the one with dual alternators and new engines, and that is what it took for me to realize I was trying to do too much too soon. I’m tired, pissed, and frustrated. Let’s slow everything down.
I let Paul know that I had trouble with the bonnet and that the new screws sucked! I also told him the charger and the battery were good, so that wasn’t it. His point was that a voltage dropping into the 11v – 12v range was abnormal. I know better – it is entirely normal for a loaded SLAB battery to drop voltage linearly and then recover when unloaded. I did the right thing shutting the system down when I did. Look elsewhere for the issue. I had an attitude and it was leaking through.
Leaving the hangar before I started stripping screws out was the best idea. I closed up and went home for a few days, declaring that I would not be flying my airplane to Savannah. Instead I’d refocus my efforts on FlightSafety and do my best at getting ready to run a classroom full of experienced aviators.
Learning #1: The next day I returned to the scene of the crime with the bonnet still off. Paul walked me through the process for determining what was going on with the electric system. I started the left engine first. The alternator came on just fine, and the voltage bumped up to 14.2v on both indicators. Next, I started the right engine and both alternators were online. Wow – and ugly intermittent problem would not be good.
After only a few seconds, the entire electric system dropped off and I was back to Batteries once more. This is when Paul told me that the only way to reset the alternators for an over-voltage relay trip was to remove all volts from the bus. The master switch would have to come off.
I had already shut down the engines by the time this information came out. What we now knew is that the left alternator was fine longer than the right, so I’d restart the right engine, leave off all the avionics, and see what the voltage did.
Just what I wanted to do with brand new engines – diagnostic restarts!
With the right engine running you could see that the voltage started at 12v, but then rose to 15v; back to 12v; and finally to 16.5v where it tripped the voltage regulator.
Wow! This means that the right alternator is failed (maybe the voltage regulator0 and causing the voltage to spike, thus tripping BOTH alternator over-voltage relays. In flight – I’d would have had to diagnose this by turning off the master switch and resetting each alternator in turn. Just imagine me being this rusty and having to do this while flying an approach into Savannah!
Mystery solved! It is worth noting that the only device that was carried forward during this engine project was the alternator that failed. I had directed it’s replacement, but Paul told me that he ran out of time and used it anyway.
Learning #2: After a few days went by and I addressed some of my other stressors, I tried to figure out a path forward with Paul to get the right alternator fixed and the bonnet back on. Communication is not his strong suit, for sure. I was convinced that the bonnet screws would be a problem he’d have to address, but nailing him down and getting him to come up and fix both issues was a problem.
Some background that might help you understand my frustration, which turned out to not be justified, will be helpful. Years ago, I had paid Paul to install quarter turn stainless fasteners in the bonnet, at his suggestion. Later he found them to be difficult to use, as did I. I had actually damaged some of receivers to the quarter turn fasteners myself, so I know they were a pain. When he asked me to change them once again to simple screws with back-plates, I agreed. He could do that while the airplane was down.
Now that I could NOT get the damn bonnet back on I was really pissed. After hearing many suggestions from Paul to get my airplane going again, and not seeing anything actually happen, I decided to go to my hangar and try to get the bonnet on one more time. I was calm now, having made progress at work and home. It would either work, or I’d stop trying until April when my travel was complete and I had more time to address it. If Paul wasn’t available then, I’d get it done in Wilmington.
It is ironic that I’m writing this on the first day of March, while sitting on the commercial airplane bound for Charlotte and eventually Savannah. I say eventually, because we taxied back to the terminal over an hour ago, and this broken bitch is still getting worked on. The very commercial trip that I was trying hard to avoid is biting me in the ass. It could be worse – but it is funny. Somebody farted an hour ago and I swear they were thinking about evacuating the aircraft.
Back at the hangar yesterday, the last day of February. The month I hate to fly anyway. I am calm, ready for Savannah (I hope), and appreciative of the fact that I now realize how much better it will be to get back to flying this complex machine at a measured pace.
The bonnet is resting in place with no screws. I take my time and test each nut-plate to ensure I haven’t already stripped or damaged any. They all appear good. Paul and his wife have been communicating with me this morning, since I told Paul I’m done waiting for him and trying to make this come together. Told him that I’d decided I’ll talk with him again in April, and if not then, I’d get it looked at up here.
That sparked a back and forth where the three of us tried to transfer hangar keys so he could do it while I’m gone. I considered it, but 2 hours of driving and another 2 of putzing around on the day before I leave would just tick me off further. I declined and continued working my the bonnet.
At that point Paul and I began texting again. I noted that half of the screws were smaller than the other half, and wanted to confirm where the short ones went. His instructions were as follows:
- Use the short ones first
- With the bonnet in position, start at the aft (top) center, then forward (bottom) center.
- Think of it like putting a wrap on the nose, and work your way out from the center
I did it the way he described, and it went on smoothly and with no fuss. The nose bonnet is on and the aircraft is now flyable on one alternator.
We have a plan! To avoid any further ground run time, and to conform to the Penn Yan recommendation, I will launch the airplane for Paul’s airport and fly the break-in pattern for at least an hour before I land. Paul will have a spare alternator, recently overhauled, ready to swap for the right side.
Depending on timing and weather, I may fly off the remaining 4 hours of the break-in time and get the oil changed while I’m there. That will give me 30 hours of free run time on mineral oil, just before I go to Dallas again. I’ll fly the snot out of it in April, and maybe get the autopilot pitch issue resolved during that time as well.
Comments Off on Feb 21, 2020 – Still Learning
It’s Thursday morning and I went into work early. The plan was to leave after lunch to go put another two hours on the airplane at full power. I’m feeling a little crunched on time – given what I have left to do. I need to practice the G280 classroom instruction and read; burn off the 10 hours of flying no later than Tuesday; arrange an oil change between Wednesday and Friday (and the logistics around that); work at FlightSafety; and do a jet trip this weekend.
Let’s think that through after this flight. For now I need to be focused on not making any mistakes.
No video again today. I won’t add that distraction until I can do everything automatically again; not forget anything; and be smooth in my operation. I’m not there yet.
Starting out from the hangar, I sought to minimize the ground run time. Both engines fired right up and I taxied out to Echo for the call to ground. Ground cleared me to runway 32, but I came back to them requesting Runway 9. I explained I had new engines; needed to minimize ground time; and they granted Runway 9 with the winds at 320/4. Tower got me right out too!
Got the gear up on time, but the fuel pumps were left on for two minutes. Still working on getting my groove back. I did notice that the left prop didn’t come up to 2650 on the roll. It finally did by the time I reached 1000′. I did not want to abort for that.
Lycoming guidance on oil temps was to keep them 180 to 220. With the cold air and cowls open, I haven’t gotten above 160 degrees on these flights. I was nervous about closing the flaps, but did so partially during the flight. Still unable to get to 180 degrees.
Power was maintained throughout at 26 squared. Smooth operation and a pleasing sound, though it’s hard to be pushing this investment so hard. You gotta do what you gotta do though, so I’ll head out and do it again tomorrow. I had to reduce power occasionally as I was topping out on airspeed – well into the yellow arc.
CHTs on the #4 cylinder of the left engine are now under 400 degrees, from as high as 420. Temp came down on the hottest cylinder to under 400 in the second hour. Limiting factor was airspeed – top of the yellow at times
I still have not mastered the EDM 760. It is still doing whatever it wants and I can only generally influence it. I’ll do a training video on that once things are normal.
About 10 minutes into the flight I realized that I had forgotten just how to get the autopilot into NAV tracking mode. All the new stuff I’d learned on other airplanes pushed that penguin right off my iceberg. It took me another 5 minutes to remember that heading mode is the default, and you hit GNSS on the Aspen PFD to engage NAV. How could I have forgotten that?!
Wow. What else have I forgotten? Am I really ready for a surprise instrument approach in this machine that cruises at 172 kts? Maybe not.
So now I realize that Paul did not disturb anything at all related to the autopilot. The NAV mode works fine, but it is the Pitch mode that doesn’t work again. It may come back on it’s own, but I’ll take it up to Lancaster Avionics in the spring. Lack of use kills it I think.
I’m stepping back and slowing down now. Looking at the time remaining, I can’t see how I can get this flight time in and arrange the logistics around an oil change before I leave for Savannah on the first. Remember – I have to study and prepare on top of everything else. Weather has to cooperate. Travel plans have to be secured.
I did see that XM weather is working and the FlightStream 210 also works well. The traffic display on the Garmin and on the iPad was invaluable today; particularly around Delaware Airpark.
The route I followed was based on the Smyrna VOR (ENO) and several waypoints that generally defined an area south of the C&D canal and north of Dover AFB. I requested flight following from Dover when I crossed the canal. I should mention that Wilmington tower had set me up with Philly when they heard what I was doing, but I declined thinking that it would be easier just talking with Dover.
As it turns out, the area I chose had me switching from Dover to Potomac to Philly for flight following. I was inconveniencing everyone as I went around. After heading back to Dover, I canceled flight following with Philly and just let Dover know I was in the area listening, but did not want further flight following. That seemed to work well, giving me another set of eyes in busy airspace. He did call me out as traffic to the SP Helicopter, and i chimed in that I had a visual on him. Worked fine.
I put my airplane away with the heaters and the battery minder, and then went home to prepare for Savannah. After dinner, I talked about the planned flight with Bev and voiced my concerns over time pressure and my inability to do any practice approaches before I left. I would only be doing full power VFR runs up to that point.
I convinced myself that the airplane might be ready, but I am not. I’m either going to take the Harley to KSAV, fly commercial, or drive. I’m happy to have my airplane home, but I’m working to hard on too many things to do any of them well.
Todays Flight: The new engines are so very cool! I talked with Paul about the low oil temps, and he tells me to fly it like I normally would. The cowl flaps will be closed today, and I’ll do full power runs and watch CHTs and OIL.
I do a jet trip over the weekend, and then it’s all Savannah prep next week. I can’t come up short down there. Nope.
When I get home I’ll be able to start doing practice approaches. Looking forward to getting back in the grove in N833DF.
Comments Off on Feb 20, 2020 – Successful 2nd Flight!
Last night I went over all my notes and summarized my plan of attack for the next day. This summary was just for me, but I’ll share some of it with you.
Paul sent me instructions on how to do the mag check; what to expect; and what not to do. I now had an instruction sheet to take with me for this unique procedure.
I watched a video on the EDM760 monitoring and it seemed easy enough. Downloaded the user manual and declared myself ready.
- How much fuel was in the airplane as of now?
- How would I move it to the fuel pumps if I did need gas?
- How much fuel should I carry?
- Should I fly it for two hours, or just one? If there was a leak – one would be better.
Ralph is a mechanic Paul uses. He participated in the installation of my engines and associated systems and is meticulous. He was there to meet me and support the launch and post flight inspection. Lots of respect for him, and I very much appreciate him being there. He had no concerns this morning and asked if I had any questions. We reviewed my plan and discussed it at length.
Next, I’d set the power (one engine at a time) to 1700 RPM and slight lean the mixture for a sign of a slight rise. I did see one, and it was slight.
Turn off the RIGHT MAG first and observe little or no RPM drop. The right mag is the electronic ignition system. Turn the RIGHT MAG back to complete the mag check.
Skip the feather check until the engines are broken in.
Repeat for the other engine.
This would be an expedited takeoff. I need to minimize the low power runtime on these engines until they are broken in. Expediting anything comes with its own risks, namely forgetting something important in the ensuring haste. It also means breaking tried and true flows that I’m used to. I should have spent more time pondering this, as it ended up biting me twice.
Ralph had recommended a static power check for takeoff. Both props should give me 2650 or better before I released the brakes. I took the runway ahead of landing traffic on 2 mile final – quickly and only after getting her permission. Props came up full and the engines sounded mean. I released the brakes and surged down the runway.
My scan of the instruments was all over the place, but I landed on the original fuel flow gauge. The right engine was showing 12 gph, but the left only 8 gph. If the left fuel controller was failing, that engine might exceed temp limits holding full power. I decided to continue, but it cost me seconds of concentration. There was no asymmetric thrust.
Back to the engines: They felt strong and were holding consistent indications on the old gauges. My eyes went to the EDM 760 and I saw 12.4 GPH showing briefly for the left, and 12.5 GPH for the right. Clearly the engines were fine. Let that go.
Leveling off at 2000′, I had to remember NOT to do my flow and leave the cowl flaps OPEN. I went back to scanning the instruments and watching for traffic. I had been distracted from raising the gear, and didn’t even realize it. They stayed out for quite awhile.
Had I had an engine failure on takeoff, I would have landed straight ahead if I had not realized my oversight. I had increased my risk by missing this key item. Rookie mistake. I will continue to beat myself up on this one as we go.
At this point I updated my Garmin flight plan successfully from the iPad. Then I engaged the autopilot and it didn’t track NAV at all. Now this is the same autopilot that I spent time and money tuning up just before the engines.
If flew the airplane for an hour, eventually getting the gear up. Number four cylinder on the left side had the highest CHT around 430F at times, but mostly 420F. Ralph checked it as good.
Logistics: I called my neighbor Tom at the last minute to see if he could bring me from Wilmington back to Smyrna to get my car. I sure as hell could have arranged all this ahead of time, but I could not get these folks to commit or communicate. Very frustrating. It worked out that Tom could do it, so I launched to fly it home and would return for my car later in the day.
Another run-up and expedited static power takeoff. This time I didn’t get the door fully latched, but I did get the gear up. I realized the door was not fully sealed as the speed built, but managed to latch it fully before it might have opened. I got the door closed fully, but by the time I leveled off I could still hear air leaking from the seal. An open door in a PA30 creates significant tail vibrations and is unpleasant at best. I weighed the risks of the door popping open against making this a short flight. I decided to head directly to Wilmington, while keeping the power up as much as possible. I eventually had to raise the nose the get the gear down, but it is what it is. Less than ideal.
Upon landing I realized that the air sound coming from the door was actually the fuel pumps I’d left on after takeoff. Screwing with my flows after not flying for so long isn’t going well. Not real proud of myself. I am confident that all these flaws will be sorted out before the next flight on the 21st – later today as I write this.
On the ground at Wilmington, I hurried the taxi and shut down at my hangar.
As for Savannah. Progress was made. I need 9 hours on the airplane before the oil change in order to go. Possible, but will be hard to do. The autopilot would have been nice to have for the trip, given I haven’t flown this since last July. I’ll have to seriously weigh whether or not I’m up to the task, given that low weather will cancel me anyway. Being March doesn’t help, as I expect some winter action to be coming.
Riding the Harley to Savannah is my backup plan. I am happy either way, just to have N833DF back in my hangar.
Heading to work for the morning. Flying later today (21st)
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