Sunday, December 10, 2017

Back in the Air

KFAM 101956Z AUTO 27008G15KT 10SM CLR 13/M04 A3001

at times, it seems as though this has been The Year of Not Flying. After the time down to fix the cowling, I had about two months to fly until the annual was due.

And it was not good. One of the first things that was done is a compression check. It's far more involved then this, but basically, they take a spark plug out of a cylinder, hook up a pneumatic test rig, and see how much air pressure the cylinder will hold. The reference pressure is 80psi. Compressions in the 70s are fine. 60psi is acceptable.

Last year, five out of six were in the 70s, on in the 60s. That indicates that a cylinder bears watching.

This year, five were in the 70s and one in the teens. Oopsie. The exhaust valve seat was kind of cruddy. So the cylinder was pulled off (aircraft engine cylinders are bolted to the crankcase) and sent off. Turnaround time wasn't exactly rapid. There were issues with the pushrod tube seals and other fiddly bits.

The airplane was returned to me two days ago. Yesterday was very windy and cold. Today was no peachy day, but I flew. I climbed up to 5,500' and 6,500' and flew around at full throttle to help break in the new(ish) cylinder. Landing, well, that's a 70 degree crossswind, but when you can land on grass, you've got a little more margin.

I'll probably make another hard/hot break-in flight again. Possibly in conjunction with a $100 breakfast.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back in the Skies Again

KFAM 082356Z AUTO 07005KT 10SM CLR 26/15 A3013

It has been about six weeks since I last flew.

Stinson top cowlings have a central spine; the left and right cowlings are attached by piano hinges and lock down with two quarter-turn fasteners. The front of the piano hinges were each missing a couple of hinge fingers. A mental image of the cowlings unzipping in flight was enough for me to not fly.

Then came the comedy of maintenance and scheduling. The wrong parts were sent. Obtaining aircraft parts in July can be fun, as the suppliers are gearing up and going to Oshkosh for the big EAA show. It also was ungodly hot for a few weeks, which reduces the time that the mechanic is in his hangar, working on airplanes.

But it was done late yesterday. Talked to the mechanic for a bit, did a preflight and went up. (It was outisde his hangar; he was appreciative that I turned the airplane around before starting it so that, when I turned to get on the taxiway, I wouldn't blow schmutz into his hangar.)

Got the oil warm, then shot three landings; two on the pavement and one on the grass. If I can break free this afternoon, I'll wash and repeat, for the weekend weather forecast is basically shitty.

Funny thing, when I don't fly for awhile, I think about hanging up my headset. But when I can fly, then I stop those thoughts.

The airplane behind mine in the hangars is this one:

It had a hard landing, slammed down on the nosewheel and it may be totaled. There are a lot of photos here. The firewall is wrinkled, so is the cowling.

Sad to see that. Unless someone takes that on as a rebuild project, 932's days are numbered.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Day and Night

KFAM 051756Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 12/01 A3011
KFAM 060056Z AUTO 09003KT 10SM CLR 10/01 A3009

I flew twice on February 5th. A day flight means that I can do an easier preflight and refueling at the self-service pump (the only way one can get avgas at KFAM).

There seems to be a lot more pollution in the air these days:

I wonder if that's because wood pellet stoves seem to be gaining in popularity. So apparently is heating with wood itself. When I am out and about in the winter, I smell a lot more wood smoke than I once did.

Anyway, after a gap of several hours, it was back to the airport for a night flight.

My airplane sits in a shade-hangar. Each two-airplane bay is lit by a single overhead light (with a switch, so they're not on all the time). This is the bay where my airplane sits, after I had pulled it out to start it up:

That single bulb may not look like much, but anyone who has done a nighttime preflight with a flashlight and maybe the headlights from a car will appreciate the convenience that is afforded by that single bulb. Oh, I still have to use a flashlight, but being able to walk around and give the airplane a once-over without having to play the beam of a flashlight about is heavenly.

This is also the first airport that I've been based at where I had the airplane in a shade hangar. At all the others, it was on a tiedown. An airplane in a shade hangar is exposed to the wind and the cold, as well as the sun for a couple of hours in the day. But it's not rained on or snowed on and it isn't baked by the sun all day long. I've noticed that over time, there has been a dropoff in the niggling problems that would arise when it was tied down.

The other thing that's nice is that there are electrical outlets. My airplane, like a lot of others at the field, has a battery conditioner on it. The ease in starting has been dramatic. The owners who fly a lot in cold weather also have electric engine heaters, which I've not bothered with. As I have aged, I have found that flying in cold weather isn't all that much fun.

I've done more night flying this season than over the past several years. There have been enough warmish days (40degF or warmer) to accommodate that. I like flying at night, but for me, it's all solo work. If the engine quits at night, the chances of getting seriously injured or killed in a forced landing are significant; I don't feel comfortable sharing that risk.

Night flying season will soon end for me. Sunset now is at 1730 local. A month from now, it will be 1800 and then it will jump to after 1900 when Daylight Savings Time comes into effect on March 12th. Night landings (and takeoffs) only count for currency purposes when they're done no earlier than an hour after sunset. When I was much younger, I had no problem with launching around 9PM for an evening flight.

Those days are gone.