Name: Frank


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Posts by fdorrin:

    Feb 9, 2019 – ‘Final’ Inspection

    February 17th, 2019

    It’s Saturday Feb 9th and the weather cooperated for this second attempt to finish up the project with Matt. We are ending on a good note and Matt is a trusted and valued friend and expert. There is no doubt I’ll be reaching out for his advice as I continue to care for this vintage performer.

    I’m finding that my taste for flying in any weather has waned a bit; at least in this machine. I am sure that some of that is self-preservation. Intentionally slowing down my progress as I learn to trust the engines and instruments again. The airplane has been sitting for two years and the return to getting full use out of everything will take some time and effort. I have the time and will make the effort.

    The wind and turbulence has been present on every single hour of the 25 hours logged thus far. Not one single smooth ride that i can recall. In fact, the very first flight on Jan 6th was in 19 knots gusting to almost 30.  I sat on the ramp in VFR conditions watching the windsock whip around in various directions that were only generally aligned with the runway. The first flight with Matt went fine but in all the fuss I’d forgotten to visually check the fuel myself.

    I was running out of daylight and pressing up against another risk factor – night flying – so I verbally confirmed with Matt that he had added 8 gallons a side. With that assurance and the fuel gauges reporting the same, I decided to launch, but limit that first run to 30 minutes in the vicinity of the airport. That first flight went fine, so I landed and filled all of the tanks to take the airplane home. I’m a dumbass for missing that critical step – a visual fuel check and cap security inspection –  I know how it would have looked if I ran low on fuel or lost a cap on a maiden flight after 26 months on the ground. Mr NTSB investigator – the preflight was intense and done three times. We doubled checked everything, but I have to admit that the fuel thing evaded me. What an idiot.

    While pleased that I hadn’t forgotten how to fly a light twin airplane, it was evident that i was nowhere near as smooth in flying THIS airplane than I once was. I was missing steps in my flow process and delayed in reconfiguring. I didn’t like what I saw, and I’m still improving it. Give me time.

    Returning for this inspection, I landed at Delaware Coastal just as Matt was arriving in his truck. He followed me down to Ezra’s hangar where we’d do the work, and met me on the ramp. What he was watching is puffing oil smoke from the right engine, so he told me he’d have to look for the possibility of another cracked cylinder on that engine. Ok – I’m game. I’ll either get another cylinder to get me home, and ultimately buy a Factory Reman and swap that engine now. I’m going to do it at some point anyway, so maybe do it earlier and enjoy more of the hours from it myself. I’m 61 and will maybe fly this until I’m 80.  We’ll see how that goes.

    We’ll be inspecting engines; re-torquing the gear bolts; inspecting the metal work; and taking a look at why the right strobe flash tube isn’t doing its thing.

    Engines: Matt’s first chore was to do a compression check on both engines, and he started with the left where the good news would likely be found. I spent my time removing panels for him, but had to be reminded several times to stay clear of the props while he was adding compressed air. Putting compressed air into the cylinders could get you bonked on the head with a blade. Matt was patient with me and keep pulling me over to show me what he’d found, or how he was doing what he does. He never lost sight of safety.

    Compressions on the left engine looked great and there are no outward signs of wear or developing issues. The left engine has an ECI cylinder and an associated AD (airworthiness directive) requiring replacement at 2000 hours. I have another 400 hours left on that side, so we’ll keep running that one a little longer.

    The right engine is where Matt observed oily smoke while taxiing in. Previously he found that the #1 cylinder compressions were out of specs and that had prevented returning to service at the end of 2018. The only clue had been reduced compression, and a vibration that may have been related. I purchased an overhauled cylinder to replace that one, and now we are looking for another bad one, potentially.

    Each cylinder on the right engine actually checked good on compression. The associated picture shows oil on the exhaust stack, however, so Matt inserted a camera into the cylinder to have a look. We were both expecting to find cracks, but found none. What was evident, however, was a pool of residual oil in that cylinder – #2 in the right engine. It was deemed safe to return to service.

    Matt and I talked about this at length. The cylinder we replaced had valve guides that were very worn, allowing the valve to wobble around on the seat at times. It is likely that other cylinders of the same vintage could have similar wear. Had I not replaced Cylinder #1, it eventually would have failed. I’d like to head off an issue with the other cylinders, so I left there convinced that I’d be ordering a factory reman and being done with this.

    I replaced all of the panels and we wrapped up the engine work.

    Landing Gear and Metal Work inspection was next. Three of us worked to jack up the airplane just off of the ground. Matt removed safety wire and checked the torque on the gear bolts, while looking around for any signs of disturbance to the newly riveted parts and sheet metal in the area. It all looked good, so we lowered the airplane to the ground while I took off the right wing tip.

    Strobe Light: The right strobe light wasn’t working and taking off the right wing tip showed me that it wasn’t an easy fix, like neglecting to plug in a connector. I put the tip back on and did some research into a replacement bulb. Keep in mind that the wires for this aftermarket install that I had done in 2010 all pass through the area that had been extensively worked on. I was concerned the wire may have been damaged or disconnected inside the wing.

    Do i need to order just a bulb (flash tube); part of the fixture; a molex connector; or what? Will any of this even fix the problem? Frustrated that I could not get a straight answer from anyone on what exactly to order, I pulled the trigger and took a chance by ordering only the flash tube – no Molex connector. Turns out that I had ordered the correct replacement; the bulb had been the problem after all. Furthermore, I only needed to remove three screws to replace it and the job was done in minutes. Good to know for the next time.

    Transitioning Maintenance: Matt is developing his business and doing warbird restorations and other things. I’ll transition my maintenance back to an A&P I’ve used in the past. My plan is to put another 30 hours on the airplane and take it to Paul at 33N for an oil change. There we will discuss my squawk list; plans for the right engine; and a path forward to maintain and improve the airplane’s capabilities.

    I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks. No flying for me for another week or so. My father in-law lived with us and recently passed away. When that is all settled, I’m on the schedule and working for 8 straight days. Probably do some flying in there during daylight, but then again it will be cold and snowy here in the coming weeks.

    Another complication will be coming up in the second half of this year as well. I will be getting type rated in a new jet that will keep me very busy and working away from home for weeks at a time.

    I still have to get the paint repaired!!  One step at a time.

    Fly Safe!


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    Feb 5, 2019 – WestWind Contract Trip

    February 10th, 2019

    I flew into Vermont and then did the leg into Montreal with Ben in the morning. The view was spectacular, as it always is when you can see anything at all. Click on the picture and the runway will show crystal clear. I’ve been flying all these legs as FO from the right seat so far. Our plan is to get me over to the left, but the timing of these trips presents a challenge. We’ll see how that goes.

    We had one pax with us from Burlington, and picked up three more in Montreal. Flying south as the sun came up, I found the scene and sensations relaxing. This was going to be another great trip.

    We had some avionics bugs to chase down and document as we headed south. Nothing unusual or challenging, but it was an opportunity to do some diagnostics.

    The temperature was 75 degrees at home in Delaware on the day prior to the trip; below freezing in Vermont and Montreal on the night I arrived; and 75 degrees again when we got to Raleigh around 10am or so. Our departure wasn’t until 4pm the next day, so we had the rest of the day today and most of tomorrow to enjoy the area.

    After a nice brunch of corned beef hash and eggs, we checked in early at our hotel. Ben did some work and I finished an excellent book I had downloaded a few days ago. Later we headed out for southern barbecue and a few drinks.

    Returning to the hotel area, I received a text from my cousin Ginny. She happened to realize that I was in the area from a FB Post, and volunteered to come meet us. Our rendezvous was at the Chilli’s Restaurant adjacent to our hotel.

    I had a few drinks with them, and Ben graciously hung out with us, blending right in. He is a very easy young man to fly with and be around. We had a very nice time that evening.

    I need some exercise but didn’t get to it again. Ben did go running, and I ended up walking over to the best buy to replace a worn phone case. Grey Goose was kicking my butt this morning, so walking it off was a good idea.

    The next morning I buzzed my wife and got a wonderful smile in return. That was followed by a real razzing about not calling her or texting her last night. She has lots on her plate with ailing parents, and I’d like to use that as an excuse today. I was being caring and considerate. She wasn’t buying it,  Love that girl.



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    Jan 31, 2019 – Replacing the Aspen Battery and Other Drama

    February 1st, 2019

    Aspen Battery:  The emergency backup battery in the Aspen PFD must be replaced every 3 years for it to remain airworthy. Even though I had asked, and reminded them, the shop missed it and I had to go back today to complete that portion of the IFR recertification. They apologized for missing it, and put me at the head of the line on their schedule. I’m good with that. I actually think working with Lancaster Aviation will be a positive experience, and need professionals to help me keep this amazing airplane in flying condition.

    Without pre-heat, I would not be able to get this work done on my airplane. No way. It would be March before all this was accomplished.

    Last night it was slightly below zero degrees Fahrenheit in Chesapeake City, and it didn’t get any better by the time I arrived at my hangar. The sun was just coming up and my dashboard read 7 degrees. Entering the hangar, my nacelles were warm to the touch; the cabin was comfortably warm; and the hangar itself was as cold as a walk-in freezer. I have no idea what the oil temperature actually is.

    I completed my pre-flight inspection with the hangar door closed to keep out the slight winds that were making it feel colder. The last items on the pre-flight were to pull the plug on the 3 pre-heaters; fold up the blankets and put them aside; and then finally to remove each heater to a storage location. I have an old desk in the hangar that holds the nacelle heaters in specific drawers, and the cabin heater comes out of the back of the airplane and is placed on a shelf in the back. Each one an easy reach when it is time to re-install.

    The Hornet 45 model from is what I used in the cabin. I’ve mentioned that I think it needs a handle to be able to better grip, and I’m more convinced of that every time I use it. The airflow arrow could be easier to see as well, but I won’t add an arrow sticker because I don’t know if the constant heat will wear that down. The metal frame itself acts as feet, and could be protected with rubber something. It isn’t sharp, but I have to constantly lean it against my upholstery in the back, and then go outside the airplane to move it. A handle would help.

    Starting up:  It is really cold outside. I’ve done an effective pre-flight and have 22 gallons of fuel in just the mains. I won’t be switching tanks for this 15 min flight up to Lancaster, but the full aux and nacelle tanks are there if I need them. I start the right engine first and it fires right up. There is zero oil pressure reading for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 10-15 seconds. The right engine has 100W mineral oil still, which is thick as molasses.

    Starting the left engine with its variable viscosity oil had the same experience. Fired right up and ran smooth while the first oil pressure indication took the same length of time. I’d be using runway 32 today, and was glad for the taxi time to warm things up. The cabin, of course was comfortable in this bullshit cold, and I’m liking that a ton. It will give my attitude indicator and autopilot a much easier time of warming up, and I think have a direct impact on radio longevity.

    The flying: Oh my God!  Pushing up the power on these engines is thrilling in this cold. I fly along in ground effect to blue line, and then pitch up 15 degrees (112 mph) to climb like an elevator to 500′. I’ll do this flight at 2500′ to ensure I don’t puncture Class B above, and because I like sensation of speed low to the ground. I’m looking at 200mph ground speeds this morning, and the airspace is quiet – just me.

    Picking up the ATIS at Lancaster, I realize that I should have investigated how much snow they received. Tower recommended I use runway 26 and avoid the landing threshold since it had ice and snow compacted there. The runway condition code was 4 4 4, which is impossible to translate into actionable information other than ‘Be Careful’.

    Landing 26 I could clearly see patches of ice across the surface, but a mostly clear lane to the right of the centerline. That is where I touched down and rolled out, use no brakes at all and whatever rudder was available.

    The taxiways I used to pick my way over to Lancaster Avionics were completely snow and ice covered. Not the place you’d want to be in wind, so I appreciated the light winds I found this morning. I couldn’t take a picture of the really bad ones since I was on a high state of alert for sliding.

    I finally turned into the shops  ramp and realized maybe a better weather review should have been done by me. What I found was an inclined ramp that was 100% compacted ice covered by snow. The entry that was blocked by a cirrus owner who could have chocked the airplane just about anywhere else to leave it clear for the mere mortals coming behind him. I mumbled something about his being a pecker-head to leave his airplane where he did, and I maneuvered gently around him whilst avoiding the fuel truck on my left. Dufus.

    The shop had a technician just waiting for me, and he went out onto the frigid ramp to swap the battery. How difficult could this possibly be? I sat in the office to stay warm; worried about the engines cooling again after a short flight; and was happy when he came in a short time later and declared me ready to go. I paid the bill and picked up another sticker for my logbook. IFR Certification in the bag!

    Taking off runway 26: I taxied Alpha – Delta – cross runway 31 for a long taxi to runway 26. I wanted the runway I had landed on since I know where the ice is, and didn’t have to ask for it. Plows were on runway 31 trying to improve its condition. The taxi over got the engines warm again, and I was cleared for departure a short time later.

    Power coming in sounded great, but I was running out of dry patches and rolling over ice when I realized I had zero airspeed indicated on BOTH my Aspen and my analog indicator. In a flash I decided that moisture must have gotten into the pitot mast somehow, and decided NOT to abort the takeoff. I flicked on the Pitot heat while climbing out and deciding what to do. Let the pitot heat try to open itself, or return to the shop over ice covered taxiways to have them look at it.

    I flew just a few miles south before calling the tower and telling them I’d be coming back. With no airspeed, I used pitch, power, and performance to use known parameters and just estimate what the airspeed would be. Landing gear down on left base for 26 again; pitch up temporarily and listen to the wind before deploying full flaps and landing. I was happy with my performance during this event. Getting more familiar with my airplane. 

    I left the heat on all the way to the ramp and braved the ice skating rink back to the shop. Now two of the techs came right out and looked at me saying ‘Airspeed?’. I nodded and they got to work. Apparently the plastic Tee fitting used to route the pitot pressure to both instruments broke in the cold when it was moved. I suspect is was handled roughly, but what the hell. It was minus 19 C on the ramp where the tech was working; that is minus 2 degrees F. Bullshit cold. Stuff happens.

    New T fitting installed, I picked up yet another sticker for my logbook. The tech felt responsible and the shop didn’t charge me either time nor material. Called it warranty.

    I taxied back out to runway 26 and across the frozen tundra. Cleared for departure with the wind now about 7 knots, I scanned the airspeed a bit sooner. No movement and no airspeed (red – Xs on the Aspen), I rejected on the runway and taxied back once again. Takes about 20 minutes every time I do this, and one cold ass engine start sequence.

    Back on the ramp again, now 2 techs got involved. As they were headed out, I told them to get their test equipment to ensure we had this right before I started up again. I’d need the airspeed ground tested to avoid another taxi experience and rejected takeoff. The second tech already had the test equipment in his hand, plus new hoses and metal fittings to replace my older style fittings. They pulled the sundeck and replaced the plumbing back to the firewall this time, and it all tested fine.

    Going Home: Calling for taxi clearance once again, the ground controller responded – ‘Are you sure?’. Confidence is high, I responded. Let’s give this a try.

    Runway 31 was available now. The departure was easy and the performance on this clear cold day was spectacular. Winds were now gusting over 20 and the bumps were considerable on the way home. I had talked with Matt about my flying down to Georgetown after this appointment, instead of doing our maintenance and inspections Feb 1st. I’m glad he wasn’t available to move it – you never know how things are going to go.

    All through the day my engines ran well and the vibration only came on for short periods. I’m convincing myself that the engines will show themselves good tomorrow, and I’ll continue to work my squawks down up north over the coming weeks.

    That’s enough for now. It is Friday morning as I write this. I’m leaving the house at 6:45 to once again do a frigid morning departure. Flying to Georgetown’s Delaware Coastal Airport for a maintenance session with Matt. Engine oil; filter inspection; compression check; and strobe light diagnostic.

    Fly Safe and Stay warm!


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    Jan 29, 2019 – Addressing Squawks

    January 29th, 2019

    The morning departure from Wilmington was made just as the sun was coming up. I love starting my morning like this – cruising along at over 200mph not more than 2000′ over the ground. Engines were super smooth, sounds were fantastic, and the scenery just beautiful. I made it to Lancaster in very little time, and taxied into Lancaster Avionics to the get the IFR Certs done. I’d be waiting for the airplane, since I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone with rides and arrangements to save only a few hours.

    The IFR work is on my squawk list, which is my ‘project’ for this spring and summer. Up first is determining if I need a new engine soon, or will get to fly these for another year or two. This vibration thing is bugging me. I want super smooth.

    Squawk List: in order of priority as of this morning.

    • Vibration: oil change, compression check, and visual inspection of both engines set for Friday. I want to be sure I’m not getting ready to lose another cylinder. Significant vibration was experienced at high power settings on takeoff from Lancaster yesterday.
    • Right Strobe Light Out: Matt and I will investigate Friday. I noticed the right strobe not working when I fired up in the dark. Hoping the wire wasn’t cut during all the work.
    • Paint Repairs: Kendall up at Lancaster Aero gave me a great price and great support for the repairs. I’m waiting for him to fit me into his schedule and we’ll get that done.
    • Left Mixture Cable Binding: This was almost a show stopper before I added pre-heaters. Very hard to move the cable when it’s cold. Replace at first oil change up north with Paul.
    • Autopilot: While it worked in various modes since I started flying it again, it is having some issues that need to be addressed. I will make a specific squawk list and arrange to have Lancaster Avionics bench test and repair.

    This list doesn’t seem all that bad, given that the airplane has been inactive for two years. I have now flown approximately 20 hours in it since Jan 6th, and am committed to getting as close to perfect as is possible.

    On the vibration issue, I’ve done several tests to try to identify the source. I was unable to find a pattern by altering prop speeds or power. With the vibration present, the flight controls were rock steady so I was sure it wasn’t airframe related. With the vibration absent – I pushed the nose over into a high speed descent. Smooth flight demonstrated that the airframe wasn’t the source.

    The leading theory is that the ignition wires may be worn and need replacing. Intermittent firing could lead to such vibration. I attempted to confirm this when the vibration was present by turning off magnetos, one at a time. That didn’t tell me anything, so I’ll plan on replacing the wires on both engines just to be sure. Maybe also look at the magnetos while I’m at it. If I still cannot identify the issue after that, I’ll start shutting engines down in flight when the weather gets a bit warmer.

    The last flight home yesterday was Interesting. On departure the vibration was very strong in a full power climb. I don’t recall ever having vibration on departure, so this was new. I was alert but the power was good on both sides; ball in the center; and all indications on both sides were good. On that same flight, I did a long and fast descent at 20″ of manifold pressure toward runway 14 at Wilmington. The vibration was completely absent – the sound and feel was amazing. I love this airplane – it’s fast and slick and sexy. I will have no problem running this issue all the way down. We’ll get it right.

    Lancaster Avionics Update: Kyle, I think his name was, worked on my airplane from 8am to 2pm to recertify me for instrument flight. The Aspen was reporting high on altitude and needed a more involved adjustment, while the analog (which I use normally) was 35′ low. They are both in tolerance now, of course.

    I didn’t expect to like dealing with this shop based on my previous impressions. Don’t ask me where I came to think that this shop would be difficult to deal with, but that is what I was thinking. After talking with the techs and staff, and walking through their shop several times, I’m feeling more comfortable that they know what they are doing and will provide a reasonably priced and knowledgable service. Some of the equipment I fly is dated, and you need a particular set of skills to keep it working. I’m going to need these guys.

    When I returned home last night, I put the stickers into the aircraft logbooks, along with the performance records for the altimeters. I checked to ensure all of the requirements were met and that I’d be legal, but found a problem. Even though I checked ahead of time that they had my Aspen battery replacement in stock, and reminded them more than once that it was a required item, they seem to have forgotten. I have to go back.

    The battery is used for emergency backup and was last replaced in September, 2014. The long downtime began in October, 2016, during which time the battery expired (2017). It is definitely due.

    EBB58 Emergency Backup Battery (use with MFD P/N 910-00001-002) The EBB58 Emergency Backup Battery when installed must be visually inspected and tested as described below once every 12 months to ensure it meets the minimum 30-minute requirement for powering the EFD1000 MFD under all foreseeable conditions. The EBB58 must be replaced every 3 years (from the date of installation) or 2200 flight hours (from the time of installation) (whichever occurs first), or if it fails the following visual or operational tests.

    My schedule is ramping up the next two weeks, so I don’t know when I’ll fit in a visit for that battery now. It can be frustrating to spend all day there and come home incomplete. Oh well – I’ll get it done.

    I do like having an experienced shop available to me though. I previously had used Penn Avionics for my autopilot maintenance, but they are now closed.

    There are changes coming at FlightSafety. For me anyway. I am excited with the opportunities I have to learn new things and to fly OPE (other peoples equipment). I have two contract trips in WestWind jets this month that I’m looking forward to, and I’m sure there will be plenty more this year as well. Almost too good to be true.

    Beginning in mid-year I’ll be learning something new. I can’t say anything more at this time, other than I’ll have a good amount of studying to do, and my travel schedule will be full. Beverly is very supportive and will be relying on her siblings more to support the home front and our seniors. It will be a busy year for all of us.

    With any luck, my airplane squawk list will be zeroed out, and I’ll be able to use it to travel to all these flying opportunities. That is my plan, after all – ride the Harley to the airport; my airplane to the jet; and the jet to anywhere.

    Fly Safe!


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    Jan 28, 2019 – Lancaster Avionics

    January 28th, 2019

    It was dark and cold when I pulled N833DF out of the hangar this morning. I really don’t like winter much at all. My pre-heaters are working perfectly. Wam cabin for sure, and warm engines for the start.

    I took off from KILG around 7am this morning and flew low and fast up to Lancaster. The ride was smooth and so were the engines. No vibrations.

    This is the first time working with this shop. They appear to be busy and I was greeted at the front desk was a less than warm reception. I have asked them to do the IFR certification; update the Aspen PFD software and it’s battery; update the Garmin 530W software; update the transponder; and to clean the contacts on the Altimatic III control head. It’s been an hour and a half so far, and I have no idea how long this might take.

    Starting up in the dark this morning, I noted that the right strobe light isn’t working. I spoke with Matt and If I get done in time, I’ll fly down to GED to have him help me figure it out. These lights are add-ons and not required for flight, so I’ll leave them off until we look into this.

    I’ll update this post once the work is done and I can evaluate the experience. It will be interesting to see what the autopilot does after the contacts gets cleaned. wouldn’t it be amazing if all the issues there evaporated.

    Fly safe.


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    Jan 27, 2019 – Automated Approach Practice

    January 28th, 2019

    Ok – so I’m at the 15 hour mark, but don’t see any harm in checking out how the autopilot is working.  I performed a detailed preflight this morning and launched for KGED from Wilmington. Weather was severe clear, but damn those winds and bumps were kicking.

    The mystery vibration is back, so I climbed to 3000′ and did some experimenting. In turn, I turned off each magneto for the left and right engines, one at a time. No impact. Next I brought the throttles to idle on the right and then the left. the vibration was less in all cases, but there were no distinct clues as to where the issue was coming from.

    Maybe I’ll climb high and do and airspeed test to see if it changes with airspeed at a constant power setting.

    For now I was experimenting with the altitude capturing features of the autopilot, and moving the pitch trim wheel for the first time in several years. That may not have been a great idea, and the airplane all of the sudden couldn’t hold its altitude properly.

    There were two other airplanes arriving for the same approach along with me, when I canceled flight following and changed frequencies. The wind was 40+ mph out of the southwest, and I became distracted with the sudden lethargy of my autopilot in holding it’s altitude.

    KGED GPS 22: I arrived over HUVOX with the COUPLER set in HDG and the Aspen set in GPSS mode. Altitude was 100′ low and I finally figured out that my airspeed was below 130 and that contributed to the inability to hold altitude. The A/P has a 130 mph limitation.

    Establish on the final approach course and still 3nm from HUVOX, I moved the COUPLER to the LOC position as shown in the diagram. There was a cirrus on 2nm final; a Bonanza 3nm behind me; and a Baron I think it was in there as well.

    Slowing the airplane for it’s 130 mph approach speed gave me a ground speed of just over 80 kts. I worried I was bottling things up or getting run over, so I made sure my traffic page was up. The blue glideslope light came on and the airplane began to slowly follow it. My airspeed was 130 and things were looking acceptable. Then all of the sudden the autopilot stopped pushing the nose over, deviating from the glide slope. Eventually the distractions were so great that I climbed to 2000′ and flew the beginning of the missed approach.

    That resolved my traffic issues, but I was spending time working on the autopilot; trying to figure out just what was going on. Too much head down and inside time, I admit. My altitude climbed to 2300′, and I called Dover back.

    Approaching HUVOX again and back down to 2000′, I tried re-engaging one more time and the autopilot would no longer hold altitude. Each time I engaged it, the airplane began a descent even though the level indicator showed a climb was required.

    Enough already!   I turned off the altitude control and continued to use the lateral mode of the autopilot, flying a nice approach to land on rwy 22.  The landing was fine, but I forgot to disconnect the autopilot after all these gyrations, and was fighting it without realizing it. I’m not happy with missing stuff today.

    I taxied in and filled all the tanks once again, departing as soon as Bump took care of that. The flight up to Wilmington was uneventful, other than continuous light chop with occasional moderate turbulence. On arrival they gave me the right downwind rwy 19 because a slower C172 was on left downwind and I was screaming inbound. I still ended up #2 behind him, and used rwy 27 to taxi back to the West T’s.

    I’m tired today, and just a little frustrated at making mistakes. I should have kept my speed up on the approach; not been so distracted by the autopilot; and not been so heads down all day.

    Fly Safe.  I can fly better than this!


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    Jan 26, 2019 – Cross Country Flight to North Carolina

    January 28th, 2019

    I am realizing how much I’m going to enjoy having a large and nicely equipped hangar right near my home and work. Having a nicely equipped airplane inside that hangar is an indescribable bonus!

    Mystery Vibration: You remember that vibration I mentioned earlier. It is still there and comes and goes. I had been kicking myself after we found a bad cylinder, assuming that the vibration I’d felt before was a tell-tale and obvious clue. Now that there the cylinder has been replaced – that obviously wasn’t the cause and I really didn’t miss anything there. The vibration isn’t all that bad, just annoying when I have been hyper-vigilant for any lingering issues. I want it resolved and will keep pressing until I figure it out.

    The monitoring we are doing on all systems should detect future cylinder issues. Compression and oil filter checks at 15 hours (due now) and again at 50 hours from return to service should catch another cylinder issue if that arises. Both prop overhauls have been done recently as well, so the only thing I can think of is motor mounts.  By the time I get done thinking about it, the issue will probably just disappear.

    Update: I spoke with Matt about the vibration over the last few days and he suggested ignition wires might be the cause. I asked him to order new ones for both sides, but the lead time is a month out for those parts. I’ll talk with the A&P that will be doing the work going forward, and have him get the parts on hand before the next oil change in March. So are that’ll mean left mixture cable and two sets of ignition wires.

    Cross Country Flight: The weather today is severe clear to the south, with ceilings locally around 5000′ going up to 8000′ to the south. It’s winter, so the air is cold and the wind and bumps are for real. I arrived at the airport this morning and found the ramp to be comfortable when the wind died down or was blocked. Temperature was in the mid 30’s outside, but the hangar felt as cold as a meat locker.

    I pre-flighted the airplane with the hangar door closed and saw the right engine was 1/2 quart low on 100W mineral oil. That engine has the new cylinder, and 1/2 quart after 11 hours operation isn’t bad at all. I grabbed a very cold quart of oil and added that before I opened the hangar door. What I should have done was taken a warm quart out of my car, which was in a relatively warm garage all night. No matter – I got it in there and buttoned up the airplane.

    The PowerTow took 3 pulls to start in this cold, but once running did the job like it was still new. I worry that the thing only runs for minutes at a time, but can’t do much about that. With my camera installed and the door closed, I turned on the master switch and noted that the engine temps didn’t show as strong an indication as the last flight. It had been in the low 20’s overnight. Both engines fired right up and gave me a normal pressure indication readily. The pre-heaters are doing their job, and the cabin is toasty. Why did I wait so long to do this?

    YouTube: I have several new YouTube videos like this one for test flight #5. Search for AirDorrin and you’ll find other ones. I’m working now to tie both of these resources more closely together. I’m learning to produce more useful videos and keep only the processed product; not the mountains of raw footage. Keeping all these videos will fill disk space at alarming rates.

    The autopilot held altitude precisely, and tracked laterally with a slight wing wobble. I’m hopeful, at this point, that cleaning the contacts to the head unit will improve the performance, but that remains to be seen.

    The flight down to Duplin County airport (KDPL) in North Carolina will get me over that 15 hour mark, and also give me a chance to build my confidence in the airplanes reliability. It was clear skies all the way, but I filed IFR to refresh my single pilot skills in the system for a bit. I suffered a 60 mph headwind for much of the way southwest, and the bumps were mostly light to moderate.

    I requested and was cleared for the GPS 23 from JOSCH and set up the autopilot to capture the glideslope. That didn’t work for me, so I disconnected the autopilot and hand flew the approach.  Once I got home, I read that I needed to use loc/NORM mode 20 seconds before intercepting the glideslope from below to make this work. I thought I was doing something wrong. Still shaking off the cobwebs.

    Fuel was $4.53/gal at KDPL so I tankered full tanks home. The line guy came out to talk with me, and pointed out a few loose screws in the tips. I checked them all, and found many that were relatively loose. Took a few minutes to tighten all of them on both sides before mounting up.

    With my WAWA lunch in the right seat and my coffee at the ready, I launched on rwy 23 for the return flight. Seymour Johnson control initiated my IFR plan and cleared me direct Josch. Groundspeed kicked up to around 185 kts or higher.

    Made it home in good time, enjoying the outstanding view from 7000′

    Engine Starting: I feel like I’m getting better at starting these fuel injected engines.

    If they are COLD: Mixture Rich; Prime; Leave the mixture rich and start it.

    If they are HOT: , as you would experience on a quick-turn. Mixture Rich; Prime to clear vapors that may have formed; Mixture cut-off; Throttle full up; start and increase mixture while you reduce power.

    If they are FLOODED: Mixture Rich; DO NOT Prime; Mixture cut-off; Throttle full up; start and increase mixture while you reduce power. You might have to use this approach too, If they WERE COLD, and you had to shut them down because you were a dumb ass and forgot to remove the nose chocks.

    Fly Safe!   I’m still looking for that perfect flight!


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    Jan 25, 2019 – Test Flight #6 & Pre-Heat Report

    January 25th, 2019

    Report on the new Twin Hornet pre-heat system before the latest test flight is positive.

    Weather over the last three days has gone from bitter cold low 20’s to mid 40’s yesterday to mid 30’s today. The wind has been howling everyday, and today was gusting 26 knots. Inside the hangar I found all three heaters to be ON, the Nacelles warm to the touch, and the cabin comfortably warm. That is a good first sign – no heat stress on anything.

    I took my time developing a flow or process for taking the heaters out for a flight and storing them off to the side. Pull the extension cord plug that is powers all three heaters; remove, fold, and store the blankets; and remove the cowl plugs and pitot cover and store those as usual.  Then I pull out the new Twin Hornet 22 heaters from the nacelles and walk them to the buckets holding the left and right blankets. I need to be careful not to drop them, so I resist the temptation to lay them on the nacelles for a moment.

    I open the door to get the Twin Hornet 45 that sits on the floor and move it back to the baggage area. It is difficult to get a certain grip on it, and will be improved if it had a plastic handle on the top.

    I get out of the airplane and close the door, walking around to the baggage area from the outside. I take out the heater and put it out of the way on the floor. Again I am cautious not to leave it on the shelf in the hangar, worrying that tripping on the cord will send it crashing to the floor. Just a few minutes of care will keep these from being damaged.  This little cube needs a handle.


    I hooked up the PowerTow and towed the airplane out of the hangar. Very cool how smoothly it started and how great the adjustments I made were.

    With the airplane outside, I left the cowl flaps closed for now and chocked the airplane. Put the tow away and close up the hangar while my motors cool in the gusting winds. I can’t worry about that and won’t rush.

    With my car in the hangar and the door closed up, I climbed into the cabin and found warm and comfortable still. Master switch on, both oil gauges indicated on the low end of the scale. Any indication means the oil is heated, so I’m comfortable that I’m better off than without pre-heat.

    I push up the mixture for the left engine and see a most definite improvement in it’s movement. The pre-heat has made this cable, which I acknowledge is binding and needs replacement, much easier to move. It isn’t binding!  I’m not sure if the nacelle heat made the difference, or the cabin heat. One of them most certainly made this issue easier to deal with until I get the cable replaced.

    It was difficult to tell from my non-scientific testing if the starting was improved any. Both cold starts and hot starts fire right up. What I did notice is the oil pressure reached normal levels more quickly, and never went very high at all. Remember that the right engine has 100W mineral oil for the new cylinder, and cold pressures get pretty high. I think the heaters are doing a great job and I’m glad I bought them at this point!

    I take off from runway 32 and do a climbing left turn toward Georgetown. The winds were howling and the ride was rough, but the autopilot performed flawlessly.

    Is that because it’s warm, or because I have been exercising it over several of these test flights? I have no idea, butI can tell you that the airplane had bugs when I flew it the first time, and those bugs drop off one at a time and the airplane flies.

    It was very nice to see the airplane perform so well today, as I reach 10.4 total hours since the Jan 6th return to flight. Only 4.6 more hours and I’ll schedule time with Matt for the 15 hour check.

    I love the airplane and I absolutely love the hangar setup with pre-heat. As I stood there admiring it all, I couldn’t help but see how badly my spinners need polishing! As soon as it gets warm, I’ll spend a wonderful day to that one at a time.

    Oh – I made another VFR mistake like a rookie. I turned downwind to taxiway Bravo instead of runway 28 at Delaware Coastal (Georgetown).  I announced turning final on 28 and the heading indicator wasn’t near 28. The picture out the window confirmed I was an idiot, going around to try again.  At least it was solid go-around practice and I did it right the second time.  Dufus!

    The flight home was bumpy, but uneventful I even flew a circuit around my house before heading back to the barn.

    I am planning to fly tomorrow, but am not sure in what direction.  I may do a few approaches, since I haven’t done one in this airplane in a very long time. The Autopilot works 100% and I can’t wait to try it.

    Fly Safe!!


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    Jan 22, 2019 – PreHeat is here; and so is the cold!

    January 22nd, 2019

    I’m not flying today. I have a sim session starting this morning at 11am, and that won’t leave me enough time to do a daylight flight and put the airplane away without rushing. I’m still limiting myself to day VFR until I get all the planned test flights in. It’s 15 degrees outside, and I’d love to try out the pre-heated experience this morning, but I actually have to work today. Bummer. The next opportunity to fly will be Thursday through Sunday. I’m thinking there has got to be better weather in there somewhere.

    Pre-Heat is here! I invested in a pre-heat system for my airplane after a bit of research. In for a penny, in for a pound. I ordered a cabin heater at the same time.

    Historically, my flight hours have dropped off in and around February when it gets bitter cold. Rather than have more equipment to maintain, I just limited my engine starts to temperatures above 20 degrees. Flying in February, unless I was headed to Florida for an adventure, just wasn’t worth all the hassle.

    This year, I decided to fly through the winter since the airplane has been unavailable for so long. I really want to fly it, and don’t want to wait for March. Besides, I need to get the 15 hours in to be able to close the project with Matt. I’m as anxious to close that project as he is. On top of all that, there is work to get done on the airplane for the IFR cert up in Lancaster, and then the paint repair in the same area. I’ll be flying in the cold if I want all this done.

    Continuing to fly through winter will ensure I have a sound airplane by the time warm weather gets here and I’m ready to travel. Decision made – I began my research.

    I ended up on The heaters I chose are deigned for aircraft, and may be used where fuel is present. They provide low level consistent heat from the top of the engine down. These heaters need to be placed into the engine inlets and laid on top of the engines just behind the propellers. That was my first concern – I couldn’t see how there was much room for anything in there since I have the LoPresti Wow Cowls on my airplane. Those cowls are pretty tight, meaning I had serious doubts about the ability to just slide then in and expect them to fit.

    I called the company and spoke with one of the designers about my concerns. I told him about the after market cowls. He understood but was confident that they’d fit. He suggested that I build a cardboard mockup and actually go try it to see for myself. I built up a 2″ by 2″ by 9″ cardboard mockup and headed over to the hangar. I’ll be damned!  They slid right in there and I could move the block around and lay it on top of the cylinders inside of the baffled area.

    At least the mockup could be easily inserted, and with a bit of finagling, I could lay them right behind the props. I spoke with Bryan Knowlton ([email protected]) at You can his video that explains the product on YouTube, and learn what I did.

    The installed heater went in more easily than the mockup, actually. In the picture at right I had just put it in to see how much room I had. The final position was to rotate to the right and lay it up and behind the prop.

    I had planned to have Beverly make me two custom nacelle covers when I couldn’t find them for sale. i discussed this with Bryan and he told me that testing was done using two moving blankets from Harbor Freight that were $5 apiece. Beverly was ready to start, but the girl is busy. I purchased two of the larger blankets at $9 apiece for each side, and for a total of $36 bucks I had the insulation I needed.

    The cabin heater unit is a small block with a fan in the back and exhaust out the front. You can see here that I placed it between the front seats in a way that the heat exhaust will flow toward the firewall and up behind the instrument panel. The cabin would then warm from the panel on back.

    Each unit each comes with 40′ heavy duty cord that can reach either side of the hangar. For the cabin heater, I routed the cord between the front and back seats, and then out the baggage door. That door has an airshock, so it will hold itself closed (for the most part) without crushing the cord. Nice fit!.

    My outlets are near the entrance door. The cabin heater cord drops out the baggage door on the pilot’s side rear and then comes under the wing and over towards the outlet. The nacelle heaters have plenty of cord to bring then directly to the same outlet. I just added a 3 position short heavy duty extension cord for convenience.

    Each of the plugs lights up to verify power to the heaters. I opted not to test their thermostats, and just plugged them in. You could hear the fans from all three units right away, and feel the warmth from the cabin heater immediately.

    My plan is to leave them plugged in all winter. It will take a few days to stabilize the temps from the cold soaked state they are in now, but once I’m there I’ll be good.

    Bryan and I talked about putting the heaters in right after a flight, and he assured me that the units can take the heat. His only guidance was to put the heaters in as the last thing you do. I tested this theory before I ordered them actually, and found I could put my arm in there by the time I had the airplane stowed in the hangar. This could actually work.

    Testing: The only testing I’ve done so far is non-scientific. I visited the hangar about 5 times to verify I wasn’t burning the place down or peeling paint off my nacelles. The tops of the nacelles are warm to the touch and the tops of the cylinders are warm too. The nacelle bottoms are very cool, so you can’t tell what is happening down there. I turned on the master switch to see what the oil temps would say as an alternative way to evaluate.

    It was 18 degrees the last time I checked the heaters, and the oil temp gauges indicated in on the low end of the green. The fact that they indicated at all tells me the oil is being warmed up. The indications I observed are generally what you see when you reach the hold short line on a cold start day. It appears that these heaters are working.

    As for the cabin heater, I should have done this a long time ago. I know I only have one vacuum instrument left and it is for the autopilot. Still – I believe that a constant temperature in my cabin will extend my avionics life and make things work better. It also makes the cabin warm from the start.

    I’ll make an update when I do my first cold morning operation later this week.

    Fly safe!!!






    It Actually Fits!


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    Jan 17, 2019 – Test Flight #5 Williamsburg

    January 20th, 2019

    I’m feeling much better about things this dreary winter, with my two languishing projects behind me. Last year with the airplane and deck projects both struggling, I’d about had it with project work. Thank God those projects both came to a successful conclusion, and I can focus on other things in 2019.

    Note: I added a YouTube link to the video of this flight you can see here==> I’m playing with Wondershare Filmora 9.0 today as a means for documenting the return to flight of N833DF.  Actually – it’s just another way of keeping my idle hands busy during the winter season…..

    Test Flight #5 is going to happen today. The overnight temps were in the high 20’s, and by the time I made it to the airport around 9am, we had just inched over the freezing mark. I don’t like starting the engines below 20, and with a cylinder just replaced, wanted a margin above that before I’d go. I was torn between waiting for the pre-heat system I’d purchased, and wanting to reach 15 hours of run time so I could close out the project with Matt.

    Ceilings were slightly higher than 3000′ for most of the way down the peninsula. Conditions were forecast to improve slightly, so I was comfortable I’d be able to get down to Williamsburg and back with no trouble.

    Starting the left engine first, as I’d been doing, allowed me to practice my starting process for todays conditions on the good engine, so I can minimize the impact on that new cylinder on the right. The first thing I noticed is that the binding on the left mixture lever is a genuine squawk. To open the mixture, I’d have to hold considerable pressure and let the cable slip through the bind to catch up. I did this in stages until I was sure it was as open as it would get. This cable will be replaced at the first oil change after Matt does the 15 hours. Matt isn’t interested in doing this work, and I understand that. I’ll have Paul Phillips at 33N do that at a 25 hour oil change after Matt, and start looking at how to improve my engine monitoring while I’m there. I’ll replace the cable before that if I need to.

    My oil change schedule will return to every 50 hours after the 15 hour and then 25 hour changes and inspections are completed. By that time, the IFR recertification and the paint repairs should be wrapped up.

    Angel Flights will start, assuming there are no outstanding squawks of any significance, at the 50 hour mark. Bev and I won’t travel much until the senior situation stabilizes, but I’ll start taking longer IFR cross country trips for lunch and maybe motorcycle excursions…..

    The AutoPilot works! I hadn’t read my own notes, and was using it incorrectly. The autopilot is working fine, other than a wing wobble you get from time to time. I am expecting that wobble to settle out with use, since the radios and other devices seem to be getting their act together in the same way. It used to be that the first leg of the day you’d see a wobble, and then it would disappear as things warmed up.

    You can see the process I should have followed by clicking on the preceding link. I had written that back in December, in anticipation of flying the test flight back then. Instead of taking the time to read the process I’d written, I tried to test the autopilot while still closely monitoring the engines and other systems. The rust keeps coming off in buckets, and I’d forgotten an awful lot of the finer details.

    I had more time today and followed an older checklist I’d written; not realizing my latest one was actually a blog. Once I pushed the buttons correctly for the autopilot implementation, the thing came alive. That was exciting!!  As frustrating as working through this project has been, you absolutely have to respect the talent Matt has in working on all these systems. I do.

    Mystery Vibration: I’m keeping my eye on a vibration that comes and goes. It doesn’t seem to be affected by RPM or MP. Reducing power to idle leads me to believe it is coming from the left side, so naturally I’m concerned I have a cylinder doing what that one bad one on the right was doing. We’ll be checking compressions at the 15 hour mark to try and catch that, but in the meantime, I’m just watching it.

    Both engines sound solid and strong on takeoff and there is no apparent difference in output at cruise. Indications are different left to right, but I suspect that the left mixture cable has something to do with that. I can damn near match them up with dissimilar mixture lever settings.

    It’d be nice to positively identify an ailing cylinder and replace it. I’d rather know what it is and get it smooth again than have something unknown to manage. More monitoring would be nice.

    The flight went smoothly and I put 2.7 hours on the engines. Decided against coffee and just landed and departed. Important to count gear cycles as well as flight hours. After the flight home, there is only 7 hours to go before I fly down to Georgetown for one last check and oil change.

    The IFR cert in Lancaster will be on the 28th, so I plan to file IFR on the way home from there. Hopefully – the weather will permit that and it will be one more thing done. The next few test flights should include practice approaches performed in VFR conditions for an equipment check of my own.

    Hangar Improvements: I took a snow shovel to the hangar and stopped at Lowes on the way. Purchased a new trash can, fire extinguisher, and a few other amenities for the hangar. I’ll bring a few bag chairs over there too for those spring and summer hang-outs I am looking forward to. Life is good and getting better still! Already met one neighbor with a Single Comanche – Jim. He used to own a PA-30 and came right down.

    The next post will be to cover the pre-heat system I purchased. It’s installed and running, and I’ve checked on it three times. No flying today, but I’ll be over there monitoring how it’s doing later today.

    Fly Safe!





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