Jun 10, 2020 – Phase III Flying

Sorry – I couldn’t resist talking in phases with all this virus stuff still holding us back. I have been busy at work and too lazy to fly after working all day. The heat, humidity, and thunderstorms have been part of that equation too. I cannot blame the winds, as seem to be a bunch gusting to a bunch more every time I open the hangar door. My crosswind skills have been sharpened, but I am tending to land fast all the time. For now, I won’t be getting off at the first taxiway.

So my A&P, Paul, reached out last week to see how I was doing burning hours towards the next oil change. We have some issues to address on the Penn Yan engine work, and in general, and apparently he knew he’d have some time to address them. I had to get moving if I was going to get the full 30 hours in so we could change out of mineral oil.

Where do we stand: Oil consumption has been great. I put in 2 quarts of 100W mineral oil in 30 hours on the right side and 1.5 quarts in 30 hours on the left. Operation has been smooth, which is EXCELLENT!. The climbs, however, must be kept shallow with power reduced fairly soon to manage CHT#4 on the left side. That is an issue that needs to be pursued to a solution. (Suggestions?  [email protected])

The GAMI Lean Test results were addressed by the GAMI folks, who sent us two new nozzles for cylinder #4 on both engines (no charge). The new nozzles will increase the heat when ROP, so that means I’ll be even more restricted in climbs if we do nothing else. They’ll run cooler LOP in cruise, so that’ll be good. In any event, I’m only expecting a 5 degree shift either way, per GAMI.

I’ll have to confirm this with Penn Yan and Mike Busch, but I think I can begin LOP operations after this oil change. That may actually resolve the heat issue in cruise, but that remains to be seen. I’ll be conducting another GAMI Lean Test after the new nozzles, to verify the improvement. See the GAMI Lean Test Procedure here.

Paul will be pulling off all the cowls and inspecting mounts, connections, and everything else as a matter of course. While they are all off, I’ve given him a summary of the work I see that needs to be accomplished.

SQUAWK LIST:
1. Oil Analysis: Blackstone oil analysis starts with this change. Paul suggested waiting one more phase, but I’ll start that now.
2. Left engine Throttle movement restriction: Left engine fuel flow is lower than right. This reduces fuel available for cooling at take-off, exacerbating the already hot cyl #4 issue.
3. GAMI Fuel Nozzles: Install new fuel nozzles per the GAMI lean test
John-Paul Townsend from GAMI writes: On your left engine, #1 peaks first at 7.2 gph and #4 is last at 6.5 gph.  That is a 0.7 gph spread. We really want that to be under 0.5 gph.  The other two peak at 6.9 gph, so we should make #4 leaner.  That will make #4 CHT cooler while you are LOP and warmer while you are ROP, but not more than about 5°F either way. The right engine is almost identical. Two new nozzles are on the way.
4. JPI Repair: I’ve got a definite issue with CHT#3 and a possible issue with CHT#4
Left Cylinder #3 CHT is erratic. JPI suspects crushed wires at a clamp causing a short
Left Cylinder #4 is 30 degrees hotter and requires shallow climbs and open cowl door in level flight. This may be an airflow issue, a Penn Yan issue, a JPI issue, or a GAMI issue. We will eliminate one at a time. Tim Sullivan from JPI recommends:
– Disconnect the one wire from the factory CHT probe on the # 3 cyl. If probe bad or not grounded well, reading can become erratic.
– #4 CHT, leave probes where they are mounted and swap wires with adjacent cylinder, if problem moves the bad probe.
5. Gear door crack: Check small gear door crack near hinge rivet-stop-drill
6. Oil change and general inspection: We’ll be using 100W straight weight oil with CamGuard.
7. Cyl #4 Heat issue: check BAFFLES for the cause of left cylinder #4 heat (air leaks). Take pictures of both engines so I can explain baffles to others.  Swap the temperature probes between #2 and #4. Repair the CHT#3 issue.
8. Struts are dirty: Their extension is good, but I didn’t clean them so you could evaluate for leaks.

Running the Engines: Ok – so we know what we’ll be working on. I’m hoping I can get all the squawks out of the way and just focus on CHT#4 being hot. In the mean time though, I needed to run off the remaining hours. As of the last post on May 30th, I had 10.2 hours remaining in the Phase II 30 hour mineral oil run. I began feeling the pressure to ensure I have recent experience in cross country and instrument flights as well, given that I may be taking the wife in our airplane to Florida in July. It’s been too long since I’ve dodged storms and flown actual IMC in this machine, too long.

On June 5th I flew for 2.2 hours with storms in the area and strong winds. I intended to do this flight VFR, mostly due to the storms being embedded at times. The plan was to fly to Ocean City, Maryland for a few practice approaches in VFR. After that I’d fly to Salisbury, Maryland for a few more and then home to Wilmington. I watched the weather as I flew south and it became clear I would’t make it home VFR today.

Since I hadn’t filed a flight plan today, I opted to land at Ocean City and use my phone to file IFR from Salisbury to Wilmington. ForeFlight really improved the iPhone interface to make that easy. I then flew to Salisbury and did an approach there to a low approach, picking up my clearance on the go.  It was becoming clear that developing storms in Wilmington might preclude me from getting back home even IFR, so I headed north after only one approach.

Landing at Wilmington was in gusting winds and MVFR ceilings with a storm cell 10nm north of the field. Total flight time 2.2 hours with 0.7 IMC. It began to rain as I closed the hangar door.

On Saturday, June 6th, my wife was busy. My plan was to fly for 2+ hours both Saturday and Sunday, getting closer to the oil change time. Then I found out that my wife had convinced several of her siblings to provide care for my elderly mother in-law on Sunday, and Bev was ready to get out of the house. She is an angel for doing what she does every day, and I wouldn’t think of being busy when she can get out.

I canceled flying for Sunday to make our day out happen, and decided I needed to fly longer on Saturday. I’d been talking with a fellow PA30 owner recently about maybe meeting halfway somewhere for lunch. We are both in the same boat – not having flown the airplanes recently and with voluntarily raised personal minimum. Jim lives in Atlanta, one of my favorite towns. I decided to drop in for a visit. Bev packed me a lunch and I was off.

Storms were expected, and the area was mountainous, but I had that Florida trip coming up and I wanted recent cross country experience. I launched on what would be 8.9 hours of flying, down and back. I made a few mistakes along the way, but the airplane was flawless. I will say I ran the entire trip ROP at reduced power to manage heat. Still made what I consider great time, when you include a stop for cheap fuel in there.

One notable pilot error was stopping for gas at an unfamiliar airport. Cherokee County (KCNI) is in the middle of hills and terrain, and has one hell of a slope landing west (rwy 23). It also has cheap gas, which apparently drew every cessna and piper airplane into it’s pattern. It was a bit distracting hearing all these aircraft (5 or six at once) in the pattern call out ‘Cessna 123 left downwind 23 Cherokee’. By the time I entered the pattern I was number 3 and could only see one of the aircraft in front of me.

I got the gear down early, but my mistake was in NEVER running my GUMPS check. This is part of my nature, but I got busy looking for traffic and it dropped off. I’m working hard to find traffic and two airplanes are waiting to depart. With a start!, I realized my omission on short final and stole a glance out at the mirror to verify gear down. Since I wasn’t looking forward, I didn’t see the runway slope filling my windscreen until the last moment. My landing was reasonable, but I only saved it in the last few seconds (that is what if felt like anyway). On a good note – I heard several compliments like ‘Nice Twin’ on short final.  I never looked at the AFD and was not aware of that significant slope. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB.

On Saturday, June 10th, I had completed the Phase II hours and was ready for my oil change. I made the short flight down to 33N, and my wife was freed up to come bring me home. As it turned out, Paul had an emergency and had left the field. He expected me to leave the airplane on the ramp, but I chose not to. Thunderstorms were in the area that night, and expected in the morning. I turned the wife around and flew back home. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.

On Saturday, June 11th, as I write this, the airplane has been delivered. Thunderstorms are expected; winds are gusting as usual; and low clouds are in the area. Wilmington airport has shortened hours, and the tower is closed until 8am. I filed an IFR flight plan for a 7am departure and picked it up easily on the ground with Philly departure. I climbed into the clouds around 1500′, heading for 4000′.

One of the reasons you need recency is learning to trust the instruments and the autopilot. The winds were 30-40 knots climbing through 2000′ and the drift bug and correction angle the autopilot was commanding looked wrong. I was communicating with Philly and watching the systems do their thing, while seriously considering disconnecting the A/P.

I reconsidered, figuring I could monitor course and attitude easily, and take it when I needed to. Instead, I wanted to verify it was working when I needed it to. The approach from that point, including clearance changes for the RNAV 27 into 33N from Blare, was absolutely flawless. I disconnected the automation around 900′ because I was getting bounced around in gusting winds, but flew the needles right to the ground. Good to know what is available in an emergency, and I’m confident I could rely on the airplane to get me where I needed to be.

That’s it for now.  If you have the chance to fly an instrument approach before you start your workday – do that. I’m stoked with enough energy to make it fun all day.

Fly safe!

Frank