New Year Reflections

By Lisa Turner, EAA Lifetime 509911

This piece originally ran in Lisa’s Airworthy column in the January 2021 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.

“Let me see the rudder.”

“Okay, hold on.” Tim held his iPad up in front of him so we could see and walked to another part of the workshop. We watched a worktable go by, a desk with books and tools, and then saw a work area with a composite fuselage in slings.

“Let me set this down, and then I’ll explain.” Tim propped the iPad on the table, and we had a static shot of the rudder assembly. Tim came back into view and began explaining how the rudder attached to the fuselage. We asked questions, and Tim pointed out what he had accomplished and how. The assemblies were easy to see.

We were transfixed. Even in the best of chapter meetings, we rarely got this level of detail on a member’s aircraft project, even with a full verbal description. We could only imagine and view the log or pictures the members brought to past meetings. Mistakes and lessons learned were all on display for our educational enlightenment in this format.

“This is amazing,” one participant said. “Here we have 18 chapter members all able to see the project and ask questions from the comfort of their own home.”

“I wasn’t sure this would work so well, but it’s great,” Beth, another Zoom participant, said. “We should do this in addition to our regular meetings once we start having them again.”

Silver Linings

Being the Pollyanna that I am, I’m always looking for the positives in the worst of situations. Winter plus virus plus extra time equals . . . build or maintain an airplane! And yes, flying, when you can do so safely.

EAA chapters all got even more creative in 2020. Discovering Zoom meetings was actually a boon, with many members astounded that they could participate from home without any IT technical knowledge. Suddenly, with so many chapters sharing the same platform, there was a burst of interconnectivity.

Our local chapter decided recently to run the meetings concurrently — a Zoom call and a socially distanced in-person meeting. It worked surprisingly well.

Airworthy Quiz

A new year brings reflection and review. I’ve assembled reader questions and comments from Airworthy and provided some fun in a quiz format.

1. If you ground run your aircraft because you don’t have time to fly, how long should you run it?

A. 30 minutes
B. 45 minutes
C. 60 minutes
D. This is a trick question.

2. What’s the worst thing for your airplane in storage?

A. Mice
B. Dirt
C. Corrosion
D. Rain

3. If you can’t fly at least every 30 days, you should:

A. Not worry about it.
B. Run the aircraft on the ground for 15 minutes.
C. Turn the prop one revolution every week.
D. Put the aircraft into storage conditions.

4. Before beginning an antique or classic restoration project, estimate the time and money it will take.

A. Yes.
B. No — just launch into it.
C. Consult a mechanic first.
D. This is a trick question.

5. I was told to turn the prop backward to make sure there’s no hydraulic lock on my radial Lycoming before I start it. Is this a good idea?

A. Great idea.
B. It doesn’t work all the time.
C. It’s a bad idea.
D. It’s a really bad idea.

6. The two top fuel problems in certified aircraft are:

A. Clogged filters and putting the wrong fuel in the airplane.
B. Faulty fuel selector and incorrect labeling.
C. Fuel venting and fuel mismanagement.
D. Water in the fuel and faulty vent routing.

7. The two top fuel problems in experimental aircraft are:

A. Clogged fuel filters and not using aircraft grade fuel lines.
B. Fuel line routing and not using a gascolator.
C. Fuel tank too small and pump in wrong location.
D. Mislabeled fuel selector and vent in wrong location.

8. Most preflights fail to adequately inspect the:

A. Tires and prop blade face.
B. Engine oil and control surface hinges.
C. Caster of the tail wheel.
D. Fuel level and cap condition.

9. If you fall in love with an airplane that is for sale, the first call you should make is:

A. To your banker.
B. To your spouse.
C. To your hangar landlord.
D. To your mechanic.

10. One of the most important things you can do at the beginning of your homebuilt aircraft build is:

A. Take all the parts out of the boxes.
B. Set up and maintain a builder’s log.
C. Put plastic down on the garage floor.
D. Register the airplane.

How did you do? More than five of them right? Keep reading. Less than five right? Keep reading.

Airworthy Quiz Answers

Question 1:

D. This is a trick question.

Here’s a quote from Lycoming Service Letter No. L180B:

“Engine temperature and length of operating time are very important in controlling rust and corrosion. The desired flight time for air-cooled engines is at least one continuous hour at oil temperatures of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to 200 degrees Fahrenheit at intervals not to exceed 30 days, depending on location and storage conditions.” That one hour of operation does not include taxi, takeoff, or landing time.

Ground running your airplane is a last resort. While it may be better than nothing (and A&P mechanics are opinion divergent on how good or bad it is), it simply doesn’t exercise the engine in a way that gets all of the oil up to temperature for a long enough time to burn off acids and moisture.

Question 2:

C. Corrosion

Corrosion, or the chemical destruction of metal, is bad. If left unchecked, corrosion can spell parts failure. In an airplane, corrosion is insidious by its destructive march into places we can’t see. On inspections, the first job is to look for corrosion and address it.

Rain and dirt contribute to corrosion, and mice are the animal version of water on metal as they chew through sewing lace on fabric airplanes — both cause damage.

Question 3:

D. Put the aircraft into storage conditions.

What does this mean? If you’re away from the airplane for five weeks and then start flying again, I wouldn’t worry about it. But if you aren’t flying every month, in other words, you’re gone for three months at a time, you should store your airplane so that corrosion is minimized to preserve your engine. For those of you who have done this, you know it’s a lot of work. Flying regularly is a lot easier, but sometimes this just isn’t practical. Be sure to follow the engine manufacturer’s recommendations on short-term and long-term storage procedures — both for putting into storage and taking out of storage.

Do not turn the prop through every week to avoid putting the engine into storage. This will accelerate corrosion, wiping all the residual oil off the cam, followers, and cylinder walls. This is true even if you use a super slippery oil like CamGuard.

Question 4:

D. This is a trick question.

“Be ready for anything” is the answer to both why you should get an expert review on a potential restoration project and why you or anyone else can’t flat-rate a restoration on an older aircraft without a clause that addresses surprises. Unless you’ve owned the aircraft for a long time and know what is hidden, you don’t know what you will find. There will be surprises.

One Stearman owner questioned whether to take the airplane all the way down to the frame or just throw on a new cover. He smartly made the decision to take it down to the frame and was shocked to find a wing spar broken in two places alongside the wing attachment hardware.

Question 5:

D. It’s a really bad idea.

Radial engines have a love/hate relationship with oil. They love oil, they attract oil, and they fling out oil everywhere they can. Those of us who own radial engines are buying kitty litter even if we don’t own a cat. Radial engines consume oil, and they love putting oil where they shouldn’t put it, like in the combustion chambers of downward-facing cylinders.

Overpriming the engine can also introduce fuel into the upper cylinders (where the primer usually is). If oil or fuel, both incompressible, are attempting to occupy the same space when both valves are closed during a power stroke, something will break. Things that break inside your engine end up being expensive as well as depressing.

Back to pulling the prop backward. This action can cause the liquid to flow out of the intake valve into the manifold, and then be drawn back into the cylinder on start, actually causing a lock. The only way to detect a lock is to pull the prop forward, with experience — someone who knows how to feel for a lock. Of course, make sure the switch is off. If you are new to this, get advice and training from an expert.

Question 6:

C. Fuel venting and fuel mismanagement.

Fuel venting can be too much, such as when a pilot leaves the cap off and the fuel departs the tank, or too little, such as in a clogged vent that prevents fuel from flowing. Intuitively, we don’t think about fuel vents and even forget to check for mud dauber nests during the preflight. But for fuel to get out, air has to get in. A clogged vent without an alternate source of air can collapse and even break fuel lines.

Fuel mismanagement, according to the NTSB, is the sixth leading cause of GA accidents. Wishful thinking, an “I’m sure we have enough fuel to get there” mentality, poor planning, not checking for contamination, and not understanding systems contribute to this statistic.

Question 7:

A. Clogged fuel filters and not using aircraft grade lines and hardware.

In the excitement of flight testing, we can forget the fuel filters, which need to be changed very soon after beginning testing. No matter how careful we are in cleaning out the tanks during the build, debris will appear, and keep appearing for a while. Thankfully, the filters catch most of it, but in so doing, they themselves become jammed up. They seem to fail at different times on a two-tank installation, so if you’re in the air, a tank switch should bring the engine back to smooth running. Get on the ground as soon as you can to check out the problem if this happens to you.

Fuel lines — I have seen far too many plastic and rubber fuel hoses that hardened and cracked early, seeping fuel or oil. Rubber fuel line is wonderfully easy to install and less expensive than most other designs. If you decide to use it, don’t buy the unmarked cheap stuff. Do your homework and get a high-quality, fully marked line. Learn what the markings mean on the side. Realize that if you go with a rubber fuel line, you will have to replace it periodically. All rubber hose is time-limited, so make sure you can access it.

Question 8:

A. Tires and prop blade face.

Tires can be hidden under wheelpants, escaping our attention, and many prop blade defects rest on the face or the side that we don’t see when we face the front of the airplane.

Question 9:

D. To your mechanic.

The biggest mistake that aircraft buyers make is to get the prepurchase inspection done after the purchase. Whether experimental or certified, finding major deficiencies once you own the airplane is a drag. As an A&P, I have seen a surprising number of individuals find serious problems after a purchase because they did not get a thorough inspection before putting their money down.

Secondhand homebuilt buyers in particular should heed this advice. Experimental aircraft have their own proclivity for problems that could present serious hazards if not identified.

Question 10:

B. Set up and maintain a builder’s log.

The builder’s log should be the repository for your project plan, your build records, your hours and tasks, comments about what went well and what didn’t, manufacturer checklists, emails from other builders, electrical diagrams and engineering information, and, of course, detailed descriptions and photographs of your build.

Your completed builder’s log will provide information for your pilot’s operating handbook, the insurance company if some calamity strikes, and your airworthiness certificate review material. It will also come in handy for your condition inspections and will be valuable to any future owner.

Lisa Turner, EAA Lifetime 509911, is a manufacturing engineer, A&P, EAA technical counselor and flight advisor, and former DAR. She built and flew a Pulsar XP and Kolb Mark III and is researching her next homebuilt project. Lisa’s third book, Dream Take Flight, details her Pulsar flying adventures and life lessons. Write Lisa at Lisa@DreamTakeFlight.com and learn more at DreamTakeFlight.com.

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