Saturday, November 18, 2006

Test Flight

MS and the IFR Pilot met at the hangar early this morning. The plan was to test fly Mike Hotel following the 2006 Annual-From-Youknowwhere. That plan was modified after the A&P bravely volunteered to stand behind his work and accompany MS on the first flight.

Worked like a charm. A couple of landings later, including one with the IFR Pilot, and the 2006 Annual has been brought to a close.

Well, almost. We've got three follow-up items, which are being recorded here so they are not forgotten and the A&P can be harassed to actually get them done.

First, the upper white position light on the rudder needs to be replaced.

Second, the front strut needs a nitrogen boost.

Third, the gascolator drain needs to be extended so that it is outside the lower cowl.

Once these items are safely done, the IFR Pilot will be taking Mike Hotel for a litle trip to New Orleans. Time to visit some friends and colleagues post-Katrina.

Friday, November 17, 2006

2006 Annual -- It's Done

Just spoke to the A&P. The replacement pump arrived. He yanked off the left mag, had a helper assist him in making sure the cam was in the full up position before the new pump was inserted, and installed the pump. Lo and behold, it all works! Jammin' kids, looks like Mike Hotel has been restored to flight status. All we need are the logbook endorsements.

And the bill. :-(

Monday afternoon will be spent getting a free hour or so of dual instruction in the flight sim at American Flyers. The plan is approaches and instrument failures. We're taking suggestions as to good, challenging approaches that will test the IFR Pilot's approach plate sight-reading skills. Let's hear your suggestions!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kudos to Aero Accessories

As Chief Aircraft demanded, the IFR Pilot contacted Aero Accessories, manufacturer of the Tempest fuel pump that isn't working. The gentleman on the other end, Neal, listened to my whining with much patience.

Then, to my surprise, he said something along the lines of the following:

"We will send you a new pump, no problem. We'll make it right. But, just from your description, and obviously sight unseen, check to make sure the cam arm is in the full up position before the pump is installed."

A couple hours later, they called to say that they didn't have a new pump to ship, only an overhauled one. I nicely said I didn't want an overhauled pump because I have to send back the one from Chief, which was new. So I'd get stuck with the price difference. After a bit more whining, they said, OK, we'll build you a new pump today, but it won't ship until tomorrow (Friday). I said, fine, that'll do.

In the meantime, we ordered another pump from a different supplier on Wednesday evening, which should arrive on Friday. Our A&P is going to remove the left magneto to make sure that the cam is in the full-up position before the pump is installed. And he says he'll buy the other fuel pump from us, so we don't have to negotiate with one of the vendors for a full-price return.

What a pain in the behind. When will the annual ever end??? The annual we did earlier this year on 78S was so much smoother (and cheaper) in comparison to this one!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mysteries Abound; The Annual Continues

On the way home from rural Licking County today (read: 5+ hours travel time for a 12 minute conference with the judge; yes, I would have flow if the plane wasn't AOG, thankyouverymuch), the IFR Pilot swung by the airport to check on the progress of Mike Hotel's much-extended annual. The new fuel pump and strobe power supply had arrived earlier that morning, and we were hoping against hope that everything might have been buttoned back-up and Mike Hotel returned to the flight line.

Looked like Lady Luck was shining on us. The mechanics had replaced the power supply, which had rapidly cured the problem of the intermittent strobes. And they were just getting ready to pull Mike Hotel out of the hangar for a test run with the new fuel pump. So the IFR Pilot jumped in and "helped," by which I mean "try to stay out of the way and not drive up the hourly bill."

We pulled Mike Hotel from the hangar and started him up. Or at least we tried.

The first attempt failed after the IFR Pilot neglected to return the fuel selector to a position other than "Off." Doggone it.

The second attempt went much better. A little primer from the electric pump and the engine turned over and caught.

But then just as quickly it went out again. Okay, not enough fuel. Let's try that again.

On the third try, the engine caught right away, ran for about 3 seconds, and then started to die. We threw on the boost pump and everything smoothed out right away.

Hmmm, this is interesting.

Kill the boost pump, engine dies. Keep the boost pump on, engine purrs, but the fuel pressure gauge isn't even reaching the bottom of the green range. Something just isn't right here.

So Mike Hotel is returned to the hangar and the pump removed. Which is no small task. We check the cam on the accessory case, and by turning the prop, we can confirm that the cam is working just fine. We examine the pump and the cam lever appears to be a bit out of alignment. That's cured via a quick trip to the vise.

The pump gets installed, and we haul the plane out of the hangar again for more engine tests.

Same story. No boost pump, no pressure, engine dies. But keep the boost pump on and everything's OK (but still the fuel pressure isn't registering).

Clearly, this pump isn't working. Did I mentioned that we splurged and bought a new, not rebuilt, pump?

We yank the pump off again. The cam lever is again out of alignment. So the cam seems to be beating on it, but the lever isn't actuating, it's just getting bent out of shape.

Time to call the supplier.

You've seen this coming, right?

They are not much help. They indicated they've never had this kind of complaint before, and we need to call the manufacturer to see if they can help us troubleshoot the problem. Of course, the appropriate person has left for the day, but "do feel free to call back in the morning."

Plan B: Order another pump from a different supplier. So we do that, at a cost of another $250. It'll be here Friday, and the mechanics will try installing that.

In the meantime, the IFR Pilot will argue with tech support at Aero Accessories (at least I won't be transferred to someone in India, I'm willing to bet) and Customer Service at Chief Aircraft. Our mechanic had just happened to have lunch with a rep from the manufacturer today, so he's going to make contact, report our difficulties, and see if the rep can help smooth things over with Chief to help us get our money back.

Bottom line: Aircraft still on the ground. The annual continues. The balance on the VISA continues to climb.

Stay tuned for more updates from the front line of Mike Hotel's Legendary 2006 Annual TM.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Photos

Out at the hangar tonight to run down the part number for replacing the power supply to the strobes, the IFR Pilot took some random photos for the sake of posterity.

First, here's the panel proudly sporting the new electric standby attitude indicator. Sweet!

Second, here's our brand new gascolator. The mechanic still has a minor bit of reconfiguring to do with the drain so that it will poke out the bottom of the cowl. He's leaving that for after the fuel pump gets installed and he buttons the cowl back up. But at least he bent the cotter pin after I harassed him about that on Saturday...

Third, here's a couple shots of our lovely Lycoming IO-360-C1C6 sans its engine-drive fuel pump (part number LW15473 , AC41234), which the IFR Pilot has to order tomorrow. Cheapest source for a new one appears to be Chief Aircraft at $239.

Fourth, here's the tailcone. Notice the excellent zinc chromate primer throughout. No corrison for us, baby!

Fifth, here's that power supply - a Whelen A413A HDA-DF-14. Look carefully and you'll see that the date of manufacture was October 1978, when the IFR Pilot was 10 years old. Guess we can't complain that the power supply lasted "only" 28 years. Chief Aircraft again looks to have the best price on this at $379.75.

Lastly, and relatedly, here's the stobe lights themselves. Whelen part number A427, 12 volt, 3 pin connector (not three separate blade-style connectors).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mike Hotel Annual Update

Well, the annual on Mike Hotel is just about done. All compressions were acceptable (lowest 72, rest were 75+), oil looked good, tires only needed routine servicing, landing gear retraction test were normal.

MS experienced some surging of the fuel flow (pressure remained steady) during his last flight before the annual. It smoothed out when he turned on the electric boost pump, so we initially thought we needed a new fuel pump.

When our A&P pulled the cowl, however, he ran across something else that he thought was causing the problem: a fuel leak. Seems that the gascolator on the Arrow is a piece-of-junk design. Apparently it got jostled (probably when the alternator was replaced), and was leaking. He convinced us to replace it with an STC-PMA approved new design. Only $195 from our good friends at Aircraft Spruce, plus $40 to the rats at UPS for overnight shipping.

He installed it in good order, and it's a beauty.

But it didn't solve the surging problem. So now we'll return to the original plan, and replace the engine-driven fuel pump.

The only other item of note is the strobes. We're going to try replacing the bulbs to see if they are past their useful life, but if that doesn't solve the problem, we'll be doing some electrical work replacing the power supply.

All in all, not too bad. We'll keep our fingers crossed to see what the final damage is to our wallets.

Oh, the bill for the garage door repair came in at just under $200. And the co-pilot ate the mini-blinds in my son's room. He's grounded until further notice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mike Hotel Update

The hangar door's fixed and we're operational again.

In the last month, however, Mike Hotel has been grumbling and our wallets have been hurting. In no particular order, we have had the following repairs and improvements performed:

1. Replacement of the alternator. MS was in the clag when the alternator went Tango Uniform. He landed without incident, thanks to some help from a King Air on the ground with TCAS (the airport is in a non-radar environment), at near minima via the VOR approach. Guess I have to give him props for all the MSFS'ing he does. Anyway, to get the plane back operational, we had to locate an alternator and bribe one of the local pilots to fly to Pittsburgh to get it, fly the alternator to the airport where Mike Hotel was stranded, and then fly home. The damage wasn't too bad -- except for the plane rental.

2. Installation of the Standby AI. We submitted to the wallet-gouging otherwise known as Sporty's, and purchased an electric standby AI. The original plan for its installation involved moving the engine analyzer to an open spot near the throttle quadrant and installing the standby AI to the left of the turn coordinator. However, contemporaneous with failure of the alternator, the TC also went TU. Since the standby AI is TSO'd as a replacement for the turn coordinator, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what we did: Ripped out to the TC and installed the standby AI in its place. Because nothing is cheap in aviation, however, it's installation, at the recommendation of the avionics guy who was at the airport that day, involved replacing the wiring from the circuit breaker. Five hours and $200 later, we now have no TC, but do have redundancy in the event that the vacuum system fails.

3. Servicing of the ELT. The ELT in 3978S was a thing of beauty when it came to servicing. Take out the old batteries and replace them with new ones. Four Duracell "D" batteries. (Sorry, Energizer batteries won't cut it, for whatever reason.) Relatively cheap on the wallet. The ELT in Mike Hotel, however, is of some other variant, and its replacement cost $55, plus an hour of the mechanic's time.

On Friday, MS reported that the engine-driven fuel pump may be OTS. Reports of engine surging that disappeared when he switched on the electric fuel pump. Since the annual is due this month, we moved it from the end of the month to this week. No sense having the mechanic crawling around the engine now, only to do it again in a couple of weeks.

Hopefully, we'll come out of the annual with a minimum of additional repairs. We have no other known squawks or deferred maintenance issue, with the possible exception of the strobes. Either the bulbs are shot, or the power pack(s) may need to be replaced.

On the other side of the ledger, however, the IFR Pilot attended a seminar on Saturday at the local branch of American Flyers. Co-sponsored by the FAA, the subject was "Advanced Navigation." Didn't really learn too much that wasn't already stored somewhere in the aviation trap of my mind, with the exception of a little VOR interpretation trick (determine where you are relative to the VOR by looking at the opposite side of the TO/FROM indicator and the opposite side of the needle -- slick indeed). The real motivation, however, was that every attendee received two complimentary hours in their FTD, including instructor time. This will prove great during the days where real flying is impossible due to winter WX conditions. A couple of hours shooting approaches, with some systems failures thrown in will be great! Thanks, American Flyers, for your loss-leader marketing!!! (Oh, but Mr. Instructor, that town in Columbia you were referring to is pronounced "Bow-gahtaa," not "BO-gata." Instant credibility sapper.)

And now, I need to go work, to make the money sufficient to pay for all of the foregoing.