Let me first say that Life is Good!  No Great! My wife and I feel like we’ve been putting out fires, one after the other for most of the past month. We feel very fortunate, however, that the challenges were given to us one at a time, and in a manner that we could manage. Had these events happened all at once while away from home, we might have had a more difficult time getting through them.

Saturday, April 20th, 2024

I had spit out a very small piece of tooth the week prior, but I wasn’t totally sure it was actually from a tooth, nor which tooth it would have come from. I’ve had a temperature sensitive wisdom tooth for some time now, but it will settle down if you leave it alone. I thought maybe the piece came off the side of that tooth, under the gum line, since I couldn’t feel anything with my tongue. Nothing to see here, so I stopped worrying about it.

We had planned to leave on a brief Jekyll Island vacation by airplane on Monday, but with Biden closing the airport again this weekend, I would be unable to depart before 2pm that day. That’d make us late on arrival to pick up our Red Bug golf cart for transport, so a new plan needed to be hatched.

I called 24 hours ahead for a TSA screening on Sunday that would allow me to reposition the airplane to Summit Airport, just a few miles south but outside of the inner ring. TSA was available that day, and I’d be able to get the airplane outside of the tighter security on the inner ring. From Summit I’d be able to leave whenever I want on just an IFR flight plan. I’d place my wife’s car in my hangar and move the airplane down to Summit on Sunday. When we came back, I’d unwind the cars and put the airplane back in my Wilmington Hangar with no fuss.

Biden’s weekly TFR that closes airspace and makes life difficult for everyone except him. Other presidents do this, but not nearly as often.

On Sunday, screening day, I was cleared to taxi down runway 27 to the other side of the airport to meet TSA and Secret Service. The TSA guy had no personality, and did his wand thing. On the other hand, I enjoyed talking with the Secret Service guy as we inspected the airplane and he casually interviewed me.

I told Bev to go home, since I had no idea how long this would take, and on landing had to tie down and cover the airplane anyway. The airport I was relocating to is actually closer to my home, so I’d call her when I was ready for a pickup with our other car.

On takeoff, I saw my EGT probe drop to zero on Cyl#2 right engine. The last time this happened (on the left side) I had a broken stack. I had to decide quickly what I’d do here, so I decided to continue out of the inner ring on this 7 minute flight. I didn’t land back at wilmington because I’d not be able to get out again. I didn’t divert another 15 minutes to my maintenance airport further south out of concerns for the TFR implications and the logistics with my wife. Things were happening fast, and my original plan would have me on the ground the most quickly, had the least potential complications, and was the shortest flight time. There was only a few seconds to decide, so I did.

Landing at Summit (KEVY) I opened the cowl and found the pipe looking good, but the probe was out and the bracket that was designed to hold it was entirely gone. Looked like an easy fix, so I called my Comanche Expert mechanic to see if he had parts. He told me to bring it down, so I told my wife to expect a delay, filed another flight plan and few south to see Paul. We inspected the system; installed the new clamp and probe parts; and I departed once again.

I made a Mistake: Maybe it was decision bias, but I noted that an EGT diff was still showing after takeoff back to my staging airport (Summit). I convinced myself it was because the EGT had crud on it and that would eventually burn off. Maybe the probe was damaged, or something else was affecting the reading. We had just looked at the system, so I decided to continue back to Summit on a short 10 minute hop.

Departing the next day I saw the same diff. It remained at the same level for the 2 hour flight to our planned rest stop at KOAJ – Albert Ellis Airfield. We had enjoyed a rare zero headwind flight this far, and most likely would have continued to Jekyll without the stop. However, the DIFF wasn’t going away and needed to be checked where maintenance was available.

During the landing, I reduced the power to idle and heard a backfire. That seems to be a tell tale sign that the DIFF meant an exhaust stack break, so another inspection was warranted. This time found a clear break on the same cylinder that grounded us.

The maintenance shop on the field was quite busy with a helicopter that had landed with maintenance at the same time I did. They also had a full plate of scheduled maintenance in progress, but were able to find an an associate of theirs to help us out. He seemed like he knew what he was doing, so I authorized him to buy new parts or find serviceable ones while we continued on with our vacation. The guidance was to spend whatever he needed for a new or serviceable part that would get us back in fighting shape as soon as possible.

Plot Complication: We sorted all this out and the folks at the SkyPort FBO were wonderful. They hooked us up with a nice rental car, and we continued on to our Jekyll Island vacation. The 2 hours of flying replaced by 6 hours of driving. Bev and I are flexible, so off we went.

The morning after our arrival, I awoke with a painful tooth. The pain worsened as the morning progressed, so I began to look for a dentist. I certainly couldn’t fly like this, but before I committed to any action, I first called my personal dentist for advice. They knew what to do and sent in pain killers and an antibiotic to a pharmacy nearby. Surprisingly, it only took 24 hours to take affect, and I felt I would be able to hold off on further treatment until I got home. I stopped using pain meds after the second day to I would be clear of them when it came time to fly.

Updates from the mechanic were not encouraging, and having the airplane ready by Thursday was not going to happen. Bev and I were enjoying Jekyll Island, so we extended our stay there, as well as the rental car.

Friday came; my tooth was under control, but the airplane wasn’t done. We got a hotel in Jacksonville, NC after learning that the part had arrived and would be installed Saturday morning. Flying home commercially was an option out of that airport, which was my fall back position.

Further Complications: The work on Saturday morning dragged on, and it was clear the mechanic was struggling to get the part installed. When it was finally completed, I inspected the exhaust before it was closed up and didn’t see any issues then. I did find 5 missing cowl screws that I had to install before departure.

We took off and I noticed that I now had a 200 F DIFF. The problem may have improved, but something wasn’t right. I chose to continue the flight in IMC and rain back home, which is a decision I’m still thinking about. The flight as nearly all IMC in light to moderate rain – a nice IFR experience were it not for the intense monitoring that took place for the entire flight.

On landing back home I found that the old portion of the pipe on the other side of the same engine was now cracked. The mechanic had manhandled the system in and broke the old segment. Furthermore, my lower engine cowl showed a crack and a burn mark because the installed part lacked adequate clearance at the bottom of the cowl. It was the wrong part or was improperly built.

Scheduling Side Effects: The airplane was due in Lancaster for my new #2 radio just two days after our arrival back home. This is a maintenance slot I’ve been waiting for many months to get, so it sucks that I’d have to cancel, but I let them know that first. There was no way I was going to ask my mechanic to save my butt again last minute, but when I told him what had happened, he offered to come up the next day and put all new parts in. Unbelievable.

I reversed my position with Lancaster Avionics and delivered the airplane with a normal DIFF of around 30F the very next day. Phew!!! I even phoned a friend to get a ride back home in his airplane, so Bev wouldn’t have to drive.

Radio work completed – Murphy’s Law isn’t done with me: Bev drove me back up to get my airplane on a Thursday; which is about a 2 hour drive. Biden was closing my airport yet again the next weekend, so getting the airplane home today was definitely better. I noticed that Bev was our of sorts on our ride up, but the ride was long and we were both pretty road weary. I told her not to wait since I’d planned on test flying the airplane before coming home, and that’d take some time.

I was right. After performing 2 ILS approached in busy airspace, I found an issue with my radios talking with each other. Back to the shop to sit on my butt once more and wait – a common theme lately. By 3pm we were all back together, and I flew home.

Arriving at my house I found one of my air conditioners in critical alarm and broken. Then I found out that Beverly had a rough ride home and was under the covers and in pain. Off to a remote ER for a three hour wait, which ultimately sent me to the hospital with her at 12:30 in the morning. Long day for both of us.

Bev’s appendix had to be removed the next day, so I got her settled and went home to get some sleep. After all – my long awaited emergency dental appointment was the very next day. By the time I arrived back home – alone – I learned that the surgery was happening right now – around 2am. I went to bed and found her well and recovering early the next morning.

I left the hospital for my dental appointment, and learned I’d be living this way until June, when a specialist can work on it.

My air conditioner guy came and the repair isn’t all that bad. We’ll point a parts cannon at it and get it going again.

Beverly is home and resting after having her appendix removed.

The airplane is in great shape again and my new radio is installed. We have a trip in May and a trip in June to look forward to.

All is well that ends well. We are both a little tired, but we understand that it could have been much worse with different timing, resolutions, or locations for these events. I’m really happy with how we go through it, and looking forward to a quieter time in May and June when we travel again.

Fly safe and be well.


By fdorrin

Fully retired now, unless something interesting comes along. I’ve enjoyed a lucrative career as an Electrical Engineer, Certified Software Solutions Developer, and Project Manager. An excellent and fun career that I’m very proud of. I began flying commercially in Dash-8 aircraft for Piedmont Airlines, and moved on to instruct in the Gulfstream 280; WestWind; and Astra jet aircraft. I’ve also been blessed with a type rating in the B-25 bomber in a fortunate turn of events. My wife, Beverly, and I currently own and operate a beautifully restored PA30 Twin Comanche, which we use to explore the CONUS.