Chapter 29 - Flight Testing continued

Bad News for Free

When Roger arrived in his RX8 I wheeled the plane out and sat him in the passenger seat. He's a bit nervous of airplanes, so I told him I can't take off without the cowling and he relaxed a bit. I cranked the engine. It hadn't run 10 seconds when he said - "Cut it. I've heard enough." After I shut it down and we pushed her back in the hangar he explained, "There's something wrong internally. Probably an apex seal. I can tell by the uneven cranking sound. The jiggling of the manifold pressure confirms it."

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case it's worth about a thousand dollars. The trace at the top is rotor 2 compressions taken from the trailing plug socket. Apparently the slight jiggles are normal when an engine is still bedding in. The lower trace tells the story of rotor 1. One peak, almost nothing, and a gap showing that one apex seal isnt holding compression. Asked what I owed him for coming over to check the compression he said "I don't charge for bad news".

After Roger left I removed the turbo and exhaust manifold to get a look at the offending seal. On the left you can see a good seal. It sticks out about 1/16 of an inch and is shiny from running on the rotor housing. If you push it hard with your thumb it springs back into its groove. On the right is the problem seal. It's intact, so that's good news. I may not have any damage to the housings. It only sticks out about 1/32 and it hardly moves when you push on it. It does move a bit, but there isnt enough spring in it to meet the rotor housing. Hence, no compression. There's a slim chance that it's just stuck, so Tracy recommended PB Blaster liquid spray (similar to WD40 but better) to try and free it up. After that doesnt work, which I don't expect it will, the motor has to come out and be rebuilt.

I called Char to tell her the news. Her reaction was interesting. "Oh Wow! Congratulations!", she said. "Er...Char - this means the engine has to come out and be rebuilt.", I moaned. "Right, she bubbles, but you've been banging your head against a brick wall for weeks trying to get the engine running properly. Now we know what's wrong, we can get it fixed and move forward. Good attitude. Roger said it would be a week before he could start, and the rebuild will take about two weeks. It would involve about 12 hours of labor at his $75/hr rate. With a bit of luck I'll be back flying early next month.

I spoke to Clark Lydick at Performance Props. They need the prop in-house for 3 weeks to do the final finish and the glass leading edges etc. This might be a good opportunity to get the final done while I'm waiting for the engine anyway. The original price included a final adjustment if needed, but I don't really have enough accurate data for him yet. The prop was made for 280HP and optimized heavily for high speed cruise. Clark agreed that, if I can get off the ground and climb just fine with it as it is, there's nothing to be gained by cutting it back unless I can't turn it at full speed in cruise. The old turbo was at 5150 rpm and 178 kts TAS, 155 IAS at 11,500'. It's not like a certified engine where I have a specific max power output and thats it. To turn the prop faster I just need to add a bit more boost. The new "high-flow" turbo was designed to do just that, and is balanced to take the high turbine rpm.

Self Help?

A lot of the guys on the rotary list rebuilt their own engines. They tell me it's simple, and I could do it myself in a couple of days and for a few hundred in parts. I must admit I'm tempted, but I'm uncomfortable about flying the first engine I've ever rebuilt. Another aspect is the time and effort involved. After 6 years building, all I want to do is fly, and I'm sufficiently frustrated by all this delay that my patience is running a bit thin. Writing a check is so much simpler than studying videos and learning the details of something so critical.

I tried the PB Blaster stuff and tapped at the seal with a piece of wood with no change. I get the feeling that the spring behind the seal is broken. After an hour of this I decided to bite the bullet and start on the engine removal. In 4 hours I had the engine disconnected from everything and ready to lift. Unfortunately my come-along is at home where I used it to pull logs. When I got home I saw the following post from Dale Smith on the rotary list:

Ah the classic "Quick Run Blues"!

From what I have heard, this is a real no no ... start it up, run it for just a moment or two, then shut it down. Why exactly I am not sure, but seems to me that it might have something to do with the (lack of) rebound of the seals, when they get hot quick and expand ... but the housing never expands to "let them loose" so to speak.

Result? they get stuck in the retracted position.

Solution? Squirt about a tablespoon of automatic transmission fluid (trust me, it works) ... into each leading plug hole. Spin it a bit. Wait 10 or 15 min. Spin it a bit more. Install new plugs. Make sure your battery is freshly charged. When it fires and starts, be prepared for a smoke cloud that will blanket the neighborhood!

Let it warm up before you shut it down and all should be well.

I wish I'd seen that before I'd spent 4 hours ripping the engine out. While my problem wasn't caused by a "Quick Run", it's still possible that my seal is just stuck, and this procedure might have freed it up. Ah well. Too late now. I'm not about to spend a day putting it all back together on the slim chance that the problem will just go away. If I find that the seal was just stuck when we get the engine apart I'm going to be really upset.

I brought the prop home and got detailed repacking instructions from Judy via email. I was half way through packing the prop when Bruce Turrentine returned my call. He's fairly swamped with work, but it looks as though I'll be able to drive up to his place in North Carolina sometime next week. I'll watch (and learn) while he breaks the engine down and fixes whatever's wrong. Once I've watched the expert I'll be much more comfortable with doing it myself next time. I just hope there isn't a next time. When it's done I'll drive back and bolt it back on the plane. I mentioned to Bruce that I'd like to install Tracy's new "indestructible" seals. "No problem, he said. "I manufacture them for Tracy."

With this new plan I could be back in the air by the end of next week - except that the prop would still be in Arizona. Hmmmm. I unwrapped the prop and put it back in the car. I don't want to get the engine fixed, then be stuck waiting 2 weeks for the prop to come back. I think I'll collect performance data with the new turbo, then get a spare prop before sending it back.

Next day, Thursday, I supported the engine with the come-along and took out the last few bolts. The electric nose lift is very handy for engine removal. An adjustment of the nose up or down will raise or lower the engine mount as needed. I lowered the engine onto a table, then manhandled it into the trunk of my car. I sent Bruce an email telling him it was in the trunk, and I would head North as soon as he was ready for me. While I'm waiting for "the call" I plan to clean-up the hangar and organize my tools and spare parts so I'm as efficient as possible when it comes to reinstallation.

A Quick Trip North

Bruce said he could take my engine on Thursday 10/14. He's just south of Ralaigh, NC which is 750 miles North. I was there at 8:30am. By just after 9 the engine was in parts on the bench. The "big nut" we're always hearing about came off in 20 seconds. Helps if you have a 460 ft lb impact wrench, says Bruce.

Once Bruce got the engine apart the problem was immediately obvious. The seal was undamaged, but "stuck" because something (presumably a piece of turbine blade) had impacted the end of the rotor and bent it sufficiently to trap the seal in the groove. The something then proceeded to follow the rotor around the housing making a pretty good scratch about 1/2 inch wide. Bruce discovered a few other issues as the engine came apart. I had paid for "street porting". The exhaust is ported, but the inlet isnt. It might have been polished a bit, but it's the stock size and nowhere near the porting template Bruce showed me. Bruce had a pretty tight schedule, and porting the housings would have taken too long, so they stayed as they were. The next item was interesting. There are small circular rubber plug type things that go in the ends of the seals. My engine didnt have any. Apparently this would cause a significant loss of compression. Something else which would cause lost compression was one of the side seals which had a 30 thou clearance where there should only be 2 thou. Lastly, as we were looking at the center housing I pointed out two holes with brass "jet like things" at the bottom. I'd noticed these before, but never really thought about them. I just ASSumed that they were supposed to be there. They are. They're the holes for oil injection. They're supposed to be plugged. Who knew? Bruce says I must have been producing quite a jet of air from these holes. My local engine "expert" never mentioned them, even when he looked over the final installation. In all, there were three things unrelated to the damage that would joinly lower my compression quite significantly.

A Fast Rebuild

The circular hole at the side of the seal was a little out of shape. Using a specially cut piece of steel Bruce was able to correct the problem with the seal groove and circular hole. This part of the work took the longest. He would make a tiny adjustment, test the fit, then repeat. He did this forty or fifty times until the new seals fitted perfectly with just the right "feel" as they moved in and out. Once the rotor was fixed we turned our attention to the housing. That didn't take long. "It's Trash", said Bruce. Hunting around the shop he found a nice matched pair of FD housings, but he didnt want to split the pair. Finally he found a very good turbo 2 housing which is exactly the same casting, but has a port which needed to be plugged. Bruce drilled and tapped the hole, then plugged it with a brass plug. The replacement housing was ready to go.... except that my other housing has a ported exhaust port. They need to match, so Bruce would have to do the same porting job on the new one.

To avoid getting aluminum bits in all the parts of my engine, we shrink wrapped the table. Bruce then set to with his grinders and polishers. In 30 minutes the exhaust ports were identical on both housings. With the housing done it was time for reassembly. Watching Bruce work was fascinating. He's both fast and meticulous. He obviously knows the steps by heart, but you could see him pausing and double checking himself as he went. There were four or five different kinds of goo used at different stages. Even though the old seals were undamaged and only used for 8 hours, we installed the new "indestructible" ones. Time will tell. The oil O ring seals were replaced with the high temp teflon ones and everything slid back together. When the engine was assembled Bruce tested the compression by cranking it with a wrench. The "Pop" as the rotor passed the exhaust port was quite a surprise. I'd never heard that noise before. A bit like the noise you can make with a wet finger in a glass bottle, but 10 times louder and sharper. By 2:30pm the engine was shrink wrapped and back in my trunk. 6 hours start to finish, and that was with me distracting him and asking questions. Amazing. The bill? Less than the initial quote for labor only from my local rotary guy. I hate to think what I'd have had to pay for a new housing if Bruce hadn't been able to sell me the used one for a good price. I was hoping to meet with two other builders who live in the area. One was still at work. I waited an hour for the other, then realized I had 750 miles to drive, so I steered the stallwart saab south toward the sun.

Brain Pickings

As you might imagine, I took advantage of the visit and picked Bruce's brains on the state of the rotary industry, which engine and configuration is best and why etc. etc. Here's a summary of what I learned for those who are thinking rotary.

Bruce feels that the advantages of the 3rd gen over the 2nd gen are minimal and not really relevant for low rpm usage. 3mm seals, he says, are probably a negative since they're heavier and wear the housings faster. He's not a fan of turbos in general, and certainly not a fan of boosted 9.7 rotor configurations like mine. He thinks the usable range is too narrow and the danger of detonation is too high. I told him to save those rotor housings and keep an eye out for a pair of 9.4 rotors for my "next visit".

The 2nd and even 3rd gen engines are getting old, Bruce says, and good parts are becoming harder and harder to come by. With low availability comes higher prices. Mazda and the automotive world are concentrated very much on Renesis. When Bruce needs new parts for a 2nd gen engine they can take 2 or more weeks to arrive. The Renesis parts come overnight. This situation can only get worse for the second and third generation engines over the coming years. A spare (or replacement): rebuilt FD (3rd gen) engine would cost me over $3000. A brand new Renesis from Bruce fully modified for aviation is currently about $5700. The same engine from Mazda, without the modifications, will cost you over $6000. In effect you don't pay for Bruce's work; Mazda does with the dealer discount.

If I hadn't done all the work on a 3rd gen installation I'd be in the market for a Renesis for my next engine (assuming I need a next engine). If I were starting from scratch with a few years before needing the engine, then I think the $5700 brand new Renesis engine from Bruce with easily available spare parts is a "no brainer". Then, on the other hand, the Renesis is 10:1 compression ratio and Bruce says the race people who are putting turbos on them are blowing them up. I really want power at height for high speed travel, so unless I want to settle for "turbo normalization" I guess that puts me back at the 3rd, or even 2nd gen with low compression rotors. The most reliable, solid, maintainable aviation rotary installation for the future, however is undoubtedly an NA Renesis. With a 2.85 redrive there's plenty of power to be had from one of these. By the way, there are two models of Renesis, the 4 port (which I think goes in the manual) and the 6 port (automatic). If I remember it the right way around, the 4 post is a little more expensive, and has a little more power at high rpm. In any case, Bruce says that for us it's irrelevant. Either motor is fine.

Whichever configuration you decide on, my advise is to have Bruce build it. Don't even mess with it. Sure - it looks easy, but unless you're a real engine guy, there's knowledge and experience in those fingers that's hard to replicate in your own learning curve. You've got enough to do with the intake, cooling, ignition and exhaust systems anyway. You sure don't want to use one of the local race guys who won't tend to pay the attention, or have the aviation knowledge. I was that soldier. Two rotary engine rebuilder guys, and between them they could have killed me. I got the feeling these guys make so much money souping up Honda civics that they don't have time for us "off road" people. One thing I didn't know - Bruce is one of us. He's building an RV. Guess what engine it's going to have.

As for the $5700 price tag, you'll pay more than the cost of a professionally built engine just for the redrive and prop, neither of which will do you any good at all if the engine fails. Sure - you can buy a old core from a junk yard and rebuild it, provided you're lucky and it's within specs. By the time you've spent the money on the videos, rebuild kit, seals and O rings and any out of spec partys you'll save what - a couple of thousand on the most critical part of your 40-50,000 investment. So - I say "write the check" and get on with building the airframe. You'll feel better in the morning. That's my 6c (I figure I get an extra cent for each precautionary landing).

Putting it Back Together

Well, I got a bunch of emails saying keep the detail and none saying skip it, so here comes some more detail.

Saturday:
I removed the engine from the trunk and put it on my bench. I can actually lift the engine by myself and I'm no Arnold. The first job was the oil feed bolt that I'd butchered earlier when the bolt broke off (too much red locktight) and then the bolt extractor broke off inside the bolt. At Bruce's suggestion I'd picked a 6mm * 1.0 helicoil kit to handle this. Working with the engine on the bench was a lot easier. The helicoil was a bit short for the hole, but did the job nicely.

At this point Hangar owner and VariEz/LongEz builder Paul stopped by for the usual Saturday inquisition. He suggested that I drill the bolt heads for the oil pickup and wire tie them. Damn good idea. Why didnt I think of that? After drilling the holes, bolting up the oil pickup and wire tying it tightly I realized that it has to go on after the aluminum mounting plate, so I took it off again. Determined to get a good seal this time, I spent some a while cleaning up the surfaces on the oil pan, the mount plate and the bottom of the engine. Bruce had suggested making indents in the surfaces with a steel punch every 1/2 inch or so. Apparently this keeps the surfaces a few thou apart and helps the RTV do it's job. Otherwise all the RTV gets squeezed out between the totally flat mating surfaces. Brilliant. Bruce had noticed cured RTV all over the place when rebuilding the engine. He gave me a partial tube of the grey RTV he likes saying that if I need more than this, I'm using too much. After punching the surface as instructed I ran a 1/8 bead of RTV on the bottom of the engine, put the mounting plate in place, refitted the oil pickup, put a bead of RTV on the mount plate (making sure to surround the holes), then installed the sump. (oil pan) Another trick Bruce taught me was to tighten the bolts finger tight, wait for a half hour for the RTV to partially cure, then torque the bolts up. Finally I cleaned up all the squished out RTV. All this was a lot easier on the bench rather than upside down under the plane. It still took me about 6 hours.

Sunday:
Overnight I realized that I'd been so focused on the RTV I'd forgotten the locktight. I took the sump bolts out one by one, put blue locktight on each and reinstalled them. Next I tested the low oil warning switch Bruce had found for me to replace my busted one. It switches to ground when the float drops. Perfect. Another input for my voice system, once I get Char to record "John, the oil's all gone".

I've been aware for some time that my engine mount was badly designed. It's fine functionally, but Ed (the problem solver) Heishman hadn't thought it through very well. Two problems. First, the back of oil pan is "captured" between the two halves of the mount. This tends to bend the 1/4 aluminum mount plate when I tighten the bolts along the sides. I think this deformation has been causing my oil leaks. I need spacers to keep the side plates apart. Yes. I know you need pictures. I'll take some tomorrow. First I tried using washers, but I had a feeling this would put the bolts under greater strain, so I decided I needed a long plate down each side drilled for the bolt holes. This way I'll have a sandwich and any torsion between the plates will be taken up by friction between the clamped plates and not transferred to the bolts themselves. Make sense? Well it did to me. After searching around for a suitable piece of metal I located my long serving 36inch aluminum rule. Tomorrow I'll cut it up and drill it as needed. The engine will now be about 1/10 inch higher and the mount plate will stay flat. Maybe my oil will now stay in the pan instead of messing up Paul's nice hangar floor.

The other problem with the mount design became obvious when I came to install the assembled engine. As before, I pushed the plane just forward of the winch rope in the center of the hangar, and raised the nose. I manhandled the small table with the engine on it to under the winch and, using the come-along, winched the engine to the right height, then backed the plane up. Lowering the nose lift brought the mount up to meet the engine. Here's where I hit the problem. The rear of the mount stops the engine sliding between the sides of the upper and lower mounting plates when the sump is on. It's easy with the sump off, but then you'd have to do the RTV thing upside down under the plane. So, for the new owner in case I eventually build another plane and sell this one, or if I forget this trick 5 years from now, here's how it's done. I lowered the engine onto the top side plates, then using a couple of screwdrivers I bent the side plates out of the way to let the engine "fall through" the gap. There's actually quite a lot of flex in the chromealloy tubing, and it springs back into place when you're done. Of course, all this is irrelevant to others since you'll all be using the nice, easy, but expensive production mount from Fred at conversionconcepts.com.

With the engine temporarily bolted in place it was 8pm and I'd had enough for the day. I dismantled the winch system, cleaned up the mess and pushed the plane back to where it normally lives. Another 4 hours, but a bit more progress. All I have to do now is merge everything on my bench with the back of the plane. I forgot to mention that I'm cleaning up and repainting any scratched parts as I go. I spray painted the sump matt black for good heat radiation and gave the engine mount a new coat of gold. The engine got a coat of "cast aluminum" paint to make the new rotor housing blend in. I'm using the engine enamel spray cans from Pepboys. It's cheap, quick and easy, and it's supposed to be good to 500 C.

Note: I just added a comment to the Brain Pickings paragraph above regarding 4 and 6 port Renesis.

Monday:
A day off airplane work. Had other things that had to be done.

Tuesday:
I cut up the 36 inch ruler, drilled holes for the bolts and, since it stuck out 1/2 inch and I didnt want to trim it, I drilled holes all around the edge to make it easy to bolt things to. I've always planned to add ducts inside the cowl to help the air make its way out the back, but I've never got around to it. If I need to tweak the cooling, these bolt holes will help me mount the fiberglass ducts.

With the spacers in place I finished bolting the engine to the mount and wire tied all the bolts. With the engine in place it was time to start bolting things back on. First the water pump. I'd picked up a new gasket from Mazda on Friday. Once the water pump was in place I started on the intake system. Another trick I learned from watching Bruce - he cleans stuff by spraying with brake cleaner fluid, then blowing it off with high pressure air. I cleaned the injectors and rails this way, then installed them with new O rings. The primary goes on the engine, and the secondary bolts to the underside of the intake. The intake is them lowered in place. There's about 1/32 clearance in three different places as it goes down, but it does fit. I hooked up the fuel feed and return hoses, tightened all the bolts and pressurized the fuel system. No leaks, even when I wiggle stuff around. As a last job for the day I reconnected the throttle cable and wire tied the bolts. This was a short paragraph to describe what took about 9 hrs. I'm making good progress, but it's slow going as I check and clean every wire, pipe and bolt in the whole installation as I go. Tomorrow I'll start on the alternator, smog (vacuum) pump, turbo, intercooler and turbo pipework. After that comes the lower cowl, connecting all the oil and coolant pipes, then the redrive, prop and spinner. What all that's done I'll see what's left on the bench. Can't be much. Ah yes - I forgot the turbo heat shield. Another couple of days and it should be ready to fire up.

Wednesday:
Work got in the way, and I didn't get to the hangar till 8pm. I got just over 2 hours work in, and was busy the whole time, but it doesnt look as though I achieved much. What did I do? Hmmm. I reconnected the manifold temp sensor wires (checking the EC2 pins to be sure I'd got the right ones), wire tied some stuff, attached the ground strap and coil ground, searched for, and eventually found, the brass washer for the turbo oil feed, connected the oil feeds for the turbo and oil cooler, made a gasket for the thermostat (but didnt connect it yet because the pipe is easier to connect to the radiator first), thought about the wiring for the knock sensor and low oil warning (but didnt do it yet), took some pictures, put a new crimp on one of the smog pump wires..... I'm sure there were more little details but that's all I can remember. Tomorrow maybe I'll actually make some visible progress.

Thursday:
I hooked up the knock sensor (no way to test it yet, but I did listen to John Denver on the other channel for a bit to be sure the amplifier is functioning properly) and the low oil sensor. There's no oil in the pan yet, so the voice system says "John, the oil's getting hot". I guess that's close enough for now. With all the wires neatly tied, finally it was time to move something heavy off the bench and put it on the airplane. I decided on the exhaust side to get the heaviest stuff first. I installed the cast iron exhaust manifold, the stock manifold heat shield and the turbo itself. The oil and coolant pipes are a bit tricky, but I got them on eventually. This time I put some spare aeroquip heat shield piping over the metal coolant pipes to cut down on radiation. After dinner I went back and installed the alternator, smog pump and alternator belt. So, at the end of the day there WAS a lot of visible progress. I'd guess that there are another couple of days work to do before I can fire it up. I seem to remember saying that before. Tomorrow I'm going to Melborne to do a pre-buy inspection on a Cozy III, so nothing will get done on my Cozy.

Friday:
An aluminum tube dropped Rich Hughes off at PBI and we drove 2 hrs up to Melborne wishing we were flying my Cozy. It's high time I got to use the plane rather than just work on it. As always when you drive, it was perfect flying weather. We Met Tom Gross at his home and spent some time going through his building pictures and logs. There's another good reason to take good pictures at every stage. It'll help a lot if you ever come to sell the plane. Looking through the pictures allowed me to actually SEE that Tom had done the reinforcement layups correctly. You can't get this from looking at a finished plane. Flipping through the book was like reliving every chapter. It's amazing how something out of the ordinary jumps out at you. In this case the differences were those between the Cozy III and IV. I also got a general feeling for the quality of workmanship which was confirmed when we drove over to the airport and pulled Tom's cute little Cozy out of its hangar. From my perspective the engine installation looked really ... well...simple.

Tom and Rich went flying while I walked over to the FBO for a soda. Now try getting back onto the ramp. No way. Security. Gotta have a ramp pass. I waited 45 minutes stuck in the parking lot until Tom came back and let me back through the gate. Other than feeling like I had my "priviledges" withdrawn for an hour, the day went well. We drove back, talking Cozy all the way. Tomorrow I may get to meet my friend Murphy. My DAR, John Murphy, that is. He's going to do a leak-down test on the Cozy III to confirm the engine health. It'll be good to see Rich back in a Cozy. Right now he's like a man with a missing arm. In case you didn't know - Rich "broke" his previous Cozy III when the engine failed on final to ISP. The aircraft was destroyed, but it counts as a good landing 'cause he walked away. Well limped away, actually, but that still counts in my book. Now he's yearning for more of the fun he was having before that unhappy day. I have a feeling Rich will be slipping the surley bonds again very soon. Listening to him talk of the flights and good times at fly-ins I learned a new lesson. Once a Cozy driver - always a Cozy driver. Keep this in mind as you build. Once you fly this bird you'll never get it out of your blood, and a C172 will never be fun again.

Next day Rich and I drove back up to Melborne for the compression test. The numbers were "ok", but a little lower than Rich would have liked. Another good day of Cozy talk ended with a steak dinner and more Cozy talk. Rich flew home commercial on Sunday thinking about where he would park his Cozy, how much it would cost to insure and where he'd go in it. I think he'll be back. Finally I got to work on my Cozy again. I'd had a nice 2 day break and good company, but I'm anxious to get this plane airborne after all this time. Watching the Cozy III flying only added to my impatience.

I'd noticed that my throttle cable bracket was moving, so I added a small steel brace to hold it firmly to the engine mount. Using a 13c C clip from ACE Hardware I reattached the manual wastegate cable. The last item to go on before the lower cowl was the intake duct from the turbo to the intercooler. I repainted it, then clamped it in place under the engine at the back of the radiator. Now the job I'd been dreading. The lower cowl. I cleaned off all the grease and oil and lifted it onto my small table. Man that cowl is heavy. If I ever rework this installation the cowl is where I'll be able to save some weight. Then again, most of the weight is the big radiator and two oil coolers. Perhaps the fan can go, and I could rebuild the cowl using carbon fiber, but that's a whole other project. Not today. I reconnected the fan wiring, put new RTV where the cowl butts against the firewall so there'd be no leaks from the plenum, then lowered the plane until the cowl mated up at the back. With two cowl screws in I then have to lift the bottom of the cowl to get it to spring outwards at the forward end so I can get the front screws in. Sounds complex, but it only takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it. With the lower cowl screwed firmly in place I raised the back of the plane again (by lowering the nose) and reattached the coolant and oil hoses. Another 5 hours invested and the airplane looks a lot closer to being ready. I'm left with only a few items on my bench. The redrive, intercooler, prop and spinner. I should be able to get these in place tomorrow, then it'll be time to add fluids and do some cranking.

A Cozy Touring Vacation

That was the plan. Char scheduled 2 weeks off work so we could go touring once the Cozy was done. She has to book vacation 3 months in advance, so in July, just before the turbo blew, we picked the end of October. We'd start with a low pass over Tracy's fly-in, then head north. We were going to visit friends and family in far away places from TN to PA, then maybe even WA and CA. We'd take a look at the Grand Canyon on the way back and visit Cozy builders along the way. What a glorious vacation it would be. After almost 6 years building, this would be the dream come true. The icing on the cake. The proof of the pudding.

But there's no cake, and no pudding to be had right now. Just the dream. It's amazing how fast 3 months goes by when you're having fun. Here comes the end of October, and our travel machine isn't ready. What to do? The lady deserves a vacation. So, much to our disappointment, we have a new plan which, unfortunately, doesn't involve any flying, or even flight testing. I'll tell you about it later. Might even take some pictures.

The Cozy seems happy with the new plan, and content to sit quietly in the hangar till we come back. We often refer to our planes as though they have intelligence. For example - the phrase "The airplane is talking to you" is often used when we hear a new noise or feel an unexpected vibration. Well, my plane seems to be talking to me. I think she's decided that it's better to wait. Why? They are still working on the runways, and only the short one is open. I think they're painting the runway markings next week. All three runways are expected to be finished and available effective Nov 1. I think my Cozy is telling me she doesn't want to fly until then. Well. I still have four days left before the alternate plan takes effect, so maybe the Cozy and I will be having further discussion on the subject of flying the short runway. After all, I get the final word - right???

Almost There

4 hours on Monday (10/25) got the redrive fitted and torqued up correctly, and the intercooler in place with all the intake pipes tight. I reattached the cowl flap cable, changed the coolant hose on top of the engine for a longer one with better routing, and used the shorter 1/4 ID coolant hose for an oil breather overflow. Another 3 hours on Tuesday and plugs are new, the battery's charged, the fluids are in and the prop is on. Adding oil was interesting. I turned on the master and watched the warning light on the panel to see when it went out. The fourth quart did the trick. After cranking the engine to get oil pressure she took another quart. As suggested by rotary experts I'm using "dino" oil (GTX 5w30) for the first few hours, then I'll change it and put in synthetic. The coolant took a gallon of Prestone, and another gallon of water. When it came time to fit the spinner I realized that the back plate for the flow guide wasnt aligned correctly, so the prop has to come off again. I noticed something different when turning the engine by hand. The compression is noticeably higher, and there's a serious popping sound as the compressions pass. In all the time I've had it the engine's never made sounds like that.

Taxiing in the Dark

After a long lunch-break I went back to the hangar and removed the prop, aligned the backplate and reinstalled the prop, torquing it to 35#. Next I installed the spinner using Paul's neat little trick of putting three 1/16 pins through the matching holes I'd previously drilled in the spinner, flowguide and backplate to get the alignment exactly as it had been before.

Finally the reinstallation was complete. All the parts were gone from the bench, and there were only a few nuts, bolts and clamps left over in my parts box. Just once it would be nice to reassemble something and have nothing left when done. Somehow this never seems to happen. With everything ready for engine start I polished the plane. Well not a full polish, but enough to get the dust and some of the spider sh.t (a Florida problem, I think) off the wings and canard. This polish before flight thing is becoming a bit of a ritual. I learned it from Dan Cruger who always puts a squirt of Pledge on his flying surfaces before flying. The logic is that it helps with the laminar flow, but I think it's becoming more of a "pat the horse on the nose" type of thing for me. Maybe I just don't like having a dirty airplane.

By this time it was 9pm and dark. I pushed her out of the hangar and did my walk around with a flashlight. I had no intention of flying, but the walk around gets done anyway. The top canopy was still off, and I double checked for tools and bolts in the cowling area.

I climbed in, did the prestart checks, shouted "CLEAR" and cranked the starter. BrrrrrrRRRRRRRAAAPPPPPP. She dipped down on the nose gear as I held her on the brakes. Oh wow. This feels good. Not wanting to bother the guys who were working late in the hangar opposite, but were already standing outside watching, I clicked on the taxi light, nav lights and strobes, then let her roll onto the ramp and taxied around for a few minutes. The engine seems very powerful and responsive. I was concentrating on taxing without hitting anything, so other than checking for good oil pressure and temps not going too high, I didn't pay much attention to the engine monitor. In one short runup I managed to get 4050 rpm before the brakes couldnt hold her any more. The brakes are no better with the parking brake removed except that they both come off when I let go. I like that. I still need to do the mod to the rudder pedal / master cylinder linkage to improve the advantage, but the brakes will do for now.

According to the EM2 the engine is running a little rich, so I need to do some tuning with the EC2. There was no sign of soot on the prop or the heat shield. In general its running as well if not better than its ever run before. There were no sign of any leaks after shutdown. Just a bit of oil smoke which died off after a minute or so. I'm pretty sure it was just burning off the oily fingerprints on the exhaust manifold. I noticed that the rear coolant line wasnt very warm. Maybe there's still a bit of air in the system. Oil lines to turbo and redrive checked warm. Pleased with the first runup I pushed her back in the hangar, locked up, and smiled all the way home. After a lot of work now, perhaps, I get to play some more..... but then there's that alternate vacation plan looming.

Taxiing in the Daylight

After working through the night on a project I need to tie up before my vacation, I wasn't up to doing much with the airplane, but I felt I at least owed her a visit. Char asked me if I was going to fly this evening. I told her No. I'm too tired. I got down to the hangar at 5pm and pushed the plane out. As usual (now) she started right up and ran well. I taxied about for 1/2 hour monitoring temps, boost, oil pressure etc and trying different configurations of primarys and secondary injectors, leading and trailing coils, mixture settings, fuel pumps etc. to see that nothing stopped the engine. Nothing did, and I got the expected slight rpm drop when running on two coils or two injectors. I'm not happy with the low rpm range, and some tuning is definitely in order here. Below about 2000 rpm I'm getting a surging that I haven't seen before, but have read about in Tracy's manual. Anything over 2000 is very smooth. After a 1/2 hour doing run-ups and taxing around the ramp and taxiways, the water and oil temps were steady at about 185 (70F ambient) and I shut down to check everything out. No leaks or problems were evident, and the brakes wern't hot, so I started back up and did another 1/2 hour, this time with some high speed runs on the taxiway. There were people doing touch & go's on the only runway so I stayed off. There's lots of power, thats for sure. The prop starts to bite at about 40 kts, but that's getting too fast for the taxiway so I can't really get the full impression of power available. MAP at what I think is about 75% power at 40kts was around 38. I did't note the rpm. I seem to be getting power without the high boost levels, just as Max (the aussie turbo guy) said I would. Full power static run-ups, which arnt quite static, seem to get me about 4100 on the engine, then that's all she wrote. More throttle gets me nothing extra. With a bit more braking advantage I think I could hold this beast and get a true static number. By this time the coolant was up over 210 and the EM2 was flashing at me, so I headed back toward the hangar. The engine seemed a little more rough as I came back in. I'll check the plugs in the am.

OK. You've been waiting for the goof of the day. Right? Here it comes. I got out of the plane on the ramp and saw that it was busy taking a leak. Fuel was coming out of the left vent. I ran around to remove the right fuel cap and let out the pressure, but what I let out was more fuel. Then it clicked. I'd been running on both pumps. The right tank was full, and the return from both tanks had been going to the right tank. Duh! I guess this is why we don't fly when we're tired. I can just see me climbing out like that 747 in the movie with a trail of fire climbing up behind it. Scary. I clicked on the return solenoid to send fuel to the left tank, hit the right pump switch, and the flow stopped. This item has been on my todo list for ever. It just got promoted. I've always intended to rewire the pumps to a on-off-on switch which triggers the return solenoid to return left when the left pump is on. With the wiring done this way, overflow from fuel mismanagement cant happen. I'd left this item because it's handy to be able to move fuel from one side to the other, but it's time this got implemented, so I'll order the proper switch to have it here when I get back.

After shutdown all the coolant and oil pipes were warm indicating good flow, coolant and oil levels were unchanged and the brakes were still fairly cool. What else. Oh. the right rudder seems to stick a little. I need to check the rudder pedals and cables to see what the problem is here. The new runways now have lines, but they're still closed. No rush. I think I'll take the EM2 and EC2 manuals, and the FAA flight testing circular with me on vacation for some light reading.

A Norwegian Guy with a Boat

Next day I was busy tying up loose ends before the vacation and didn't even get near the hangar. So....it looks like that's it for a week or so. You see, I happen to know this Norwegian with a really big boat. He's heading down to the Cayman's and Mexico for a week, so Char & I, (plus 1,998 other people) are going with him. I plan to come back relaxed, refreshed and ready to finish off the flight testing.

Relaxed is right. After 7 days sailing the seas in luxury it's disorienting to hit dry land and have no-one to bring you breakfast. If anyone's considering a cruise, I highly recommend NCL. They're excellent in every way. But... back to dry land and aviation. The first order of business was a Biannual Flight Review which ran out in October. I let it run over into November to get the 13 months. My first 172 landing in some months was performed Cozy style. Oops. You're a foot or more higher off the ground in the 172, so my flair was a bit late. I changed gears and flew the 172 the way it wanted to be flown and, after a good flight and some ground school refreshment, I'm good till Dec '06. This was probably my last ride behind a Lycoming for a while. Thankfully it purred like a kitten and got us back safely. The contrast between my plane and the Cessna was striking. Speed, visibility, vibration and simplicity. I have a lot more of the first two, and very much less of the others.

Preparing to Fly

My first 8 hrs in 96PM have been dedicated almost exclusively to engine testing and debugging. I'm expecting a few more flights to establish that the new installation is solid, then I hope to move on to the recommended control, speed, C of G and weight tests. While sailing along the coast of Cuba I sat by the pool and re-read the FAA Flight Test manual. I'd picked up a hard copy of this well written document from the FAA booth at Sun & Fun, and read it through before the first flight, but did not follow some of the recommendations for the first few flights. For example, I wanted full concentration on the job and did not want the distraction or peer pressure of a "ground crew". Also, I wanted the first flight very short, so I could get down and check under the cowl. Most of the FAA document is aimed at tractor aircraft with certified engines. I think things are a bit different when you're testing a unique engine application on a pusher, but in general the guidelines make a lot of sense. I made notes of the items applicable to testing the Cozy, and an hour or so on the computer this turned into the flight test check list I'll take with me on flights over the next few weeks. I didn't break it down into specific flights yet. What gets done on each flight will depend on a number of variables, like the weather, how the engine behaves, and how badly I need to pee.

Down at the hangar I modified the fuel pump wiring to left, off, right. When switched left the return solenoid is activated. This is much simpler, but I'm concerned that it might take a second for the second pump to come up to pressure, so I'll do a fuel pump switch during a runup to make sure the engine doesn't falter. [Note: It doesnt falter at all, even at high rpm]. The next job was to fix the leaking fuel sender in the left tank. My previous fix was still seeping a little fuel, so I drained the tank, sanded the outside flat and reassembled the fixture with ultra-grey RTV. I wanted to give the RTV overnight to cure and I didn't feel like flying with one tank full and one empty, so I just did a few more run-ups and taxi tests.

Next morning I spotted what looked like the supervisor chatting with some workers on the runway, so I walked over to ask when they'd be done. Apparantly they're working on the lighting and installing an ILS. The runways are supposed to reopen on November 12th. Right now there are trucks driving up and down the closed runways, and airplanes are only allowed on the shortest one. I'm tempted to hold off a few more days. I have flown off the short one without any difficulty, but I'd much rather have more options. At the hangar I checked around the engine, then installed the upper cowl. This wasnt as simple as it sounds because the intercooler was too high. I had to remove the intercooler, reroute a couple of oil hoses and reinstall it a little lower to get the required clearance. With the cowling finally on I prepared to start her up. During pre-flight checks I noticed that there's a little play in the nose wheel bearing, so I removed the wheel, repacked the bearing and tightened it up. Finally I pushed her out and fired her up. It was quite windy so I'd already decided this would be a taxi test, not a flight. The engine ran smooth and sweet. I adjusted the idle mixture a little to get rid of the slight "hunting" or surging. After a few runups I took the active for a high speed taxi test, aborting at about 60kts. Braking is still less effective than I'd like. Everything else seemed fine, but after so many changes I'm treating this like the first flight. I wouldn't have done the first flight on runway 03/21, even with perfect wind conditions. Maybe I'll use the time till Friday to make the brackets and do that brake advantage adjustment I've been planning. Since the last flight I've done almost everything required for an annual condition inspection. The FAA book suggests that you do one after about 10 hours, so now might as well be the time. Maybe I'll renew my medical a few months early too, this way the BFR, Medical and Annual will all run out at the same time.

Fixing the brakes

I've never been satisfied with the braking power. It's sufficient, but I have to practically stand on the brakes to do a run-up, and even then the plane moves at anything over 4000 rpm. Braking on the runway has been "ok", but not spectacular. On the advise of Matco owner and JD I made short brackets out of steel to
change the pedal geometry and lower the point where the master cylinders hook to the pedal by about an inch. Now the distance between the pivot and the master cyclinder activator arm is 2.8 inches. Sounds simple, but the modifications took me about 6 hours. There was a bit too much play in the left rudder cable, so I adjusted the hidden bellhorn compression spring to tighten it up. Once everything was back together I went for another taxi ride. Up and down the taxiway, three more runups and twice at high speed down the short runway. The wind was 20kts at 40 degrees to the runway, so I needed a bit of braking to hold her straight. Even then I was up to 60kts at the 1000' point. A good time to test the brakes. They worked much better, but the right brake was biting better than the left. Off the runway I tried another runup and felt something give in the left brake/rudder system. Now my left brake was as good as the right, but the left rudder wasnt getting full travel and wasnt returning properly. Back in the hangar I removed the front cover and found that the hidden bellhorn compression spring had let go. Either the piano wires unbent themselves, or broke. I'm not sure which. So, I've established why the left brake wasn't as good. I was at the compression limit of the spring. I think this may have been part of the problem all along. Those compression springs hit their limit quite quickly, then you can be left with not enough travel to get full braking. I need to adjust the master cylinder actuators to fine tune the amount of travel on both the rudders and then the brakes. The engine, by the way, seems to be settling down nicely. The max rpm on runup was 4050 (with only a little forward movement). Idle is now fine at 1250 - 1300 and full power gets me 46 MAP and 4050 static. I didnt check the rpm at 60kts, but I'm sure its higher. Acceleration is good and the engine is consistent through the rpm range. It's still a little rich, but that's better than lean at this stage. A bit more work on the brakes and rudders is needed, then I think she'll be ready to fly.

Inspections and Checklists

I borrowed Marc Zeitlin's conditional inspection checklist, [Note: Credit should also go to Marc for my preflight and in-flight checklists and my weight and balance spreadsheet which were also based on the documents he developed and kindly made available on his web page]. Obviously the conditional checklist is modified significantly to suit my installation. [Read - more items to check]. In the case of the flight test documents, I chopped out a lot of Marc's flight script, added some items from the FAA manual, and boiled it down to a few pages of items to check, record and/or complete. I'm still adding to and modifying these checklists as I go along.

While waiting for the weather I'm working my way through the annual condition inspection item by item. I'm sure high off-shore winds are great for the surfers, but I need calm, or at least winds down the runway if I'm going to use 03/21. The weather report says wind and rain tomorrow, and then it'll be Friday. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have decent weather and 3 runways to go at by the weekend.

Canard Aviator Scars

While you're building you spend a lot of time working with the wings installed on the airplane, you're probably in a confined space, and you learn how far to duck to walk under the wings. At least this is what happened to me. I can walk from the front of the plane to the back without missing a step and without even slowing my pace. The problem comes just before you fly. The last items you install, even after the final paint is done, are the vortilons. These little suckers are sharp, and they stick out below the wing an inch or so. They're attached with RTV, but don't let that fool you. They'll take a sharp hit and stay stuck. Nat once testified that they'll stay stuck, even if you hit them with your head. Why am I telling you this? My previous canardian aviator scars were almost healed. Today I got a new one. After so many times I know how far to duck under the wing, but my "habit" is ingrained, and I keep forgetting the vortilons. Ouch! Another scar on the back of my shoulders tells the tale. I ducked just right, but I stood up a half second too early. The vortilon is sharp enough that it'll cut the skin right through a tee-shirt.

Apart from getting a painful 5 inch cut on my shoulder, today was a fairly good day. I fixed the compression spring on the left rudder by bending the piano wire back into shape, then adjusted the rudders and brakes until I had full rudder travel and what I think will be full master cylinder travel. I'll test the brakes and rudders again tomorrow. Next I replaced the temporary radio shack injector switches (I'd installed what RS call heavy duty switches to replace the mini switches) with the high quality switches available from B & C. After removing the seperate switches for the two pumps and the return solenoid I had two spare switch locations at the top of the panel, so I put the new switches there where they're easier to reach.

The conditional inspection checklist calls for a look at the wiring behind the panel. This brought my attention to the LED annunciator connector. It's been knocked loose by the instrument panel cover and is floating around on its wires in a very unprofessional manner. Also, I found that gear warning LED isnt operating. (but my low tech masking tape "GEAR" sticker below the ASI still works fine). I snipped the wires and began the process of eliminating the connector and soldering and shrink wrapping each wire individually. Tommorrow I'll track down the problem with the gear warning and finish tidying up behind the panel. Winds were 25kts and gusting higher today, so I didn't even taxi the plane, never mind fly it. Tomorrow the winds are forecast at 5kts, but we're also supposed to get rain.

Friday, 11/12. We didn't get rain, and the winds were around 8 - 10kts at 90 degrees to the runway. I fixed the wiring for the LED annunciator and tracked the gear warning to a faulty microswitch on the gear. I got the switch from Jack Wilhelmson to be sure I got the right kind. I have a spare at home, but temporarily wired the gear voice and LED warning to activate at throttle close whether the gear is down or not. [but then - there's always the STFU button]. I was thinking about pushing the plane out of the hangar when a friend came by and suggested lunch. After lunch I glanced at the windsock, and the trucks on the other runways, gritted my teeth and steered home. I'll replace the microswitch tomorrow. Unfortunately this probably means taking out the AC blower, condensor, heater coil and AC plenum, which is a non-trival job.

Back in the air

Saturday, 11/13 the new 3500 ft runway was open as promised, and wind was 7 kt. I hadn't been able to find the spare microswitch and decided it was OK to fly with a gear warning whenever the throttle is closed, whether the gear is down or not. I pushed the plane out and was busy with my checklist when Paul Mason pulled up for his customary Saturday inspection. We chatted briefly, but Paul knew better than to distract a pilot during his preflight checks so he wandered off into the hangar and left me to it.

Checks complete, I started her up and taxiied to the runway. As normal for weekends, the pattern was infested with aluminum, so I had to wait about 10 minutes for a slot. Inexplicably, people were using both 21 and 27 at the same time and there were two patterns going.

Runup again showed 4050 rpm and 46 MAP with about 75 rpm drop on disabling either set of coils or either set of injectors. I took the runway and began the take-off roll. The wind wasnt straight down the runway and I needed a few taps on the right brake to hold her straight. Acceleration seemed a little slow, but I rotated about half way down the runway and climbed out at 85kts. Climb was steady, but also seemed weaker than before. I noticed about 4600 rpm and 46 MAP with temps just over 200 as we climbed past 500'. Temps were about 210/200 for oil & water as I throttle back on the downwind, then they settled back to about 190/185. I kept the first approach fast and went around at 500 ft. Climb again seemed a little weak. The engine ran relatively smoothly, but not perfect, and was still running rich according to the EM2. I'll wait until I have more height before I start fine-tuning. Eager to check everything under the cowl before making a long flight, I made the second approach a landing and heard Char's incessant warning to lower the gear as I slid down short final at 80 kts. The gear was already down, so I hit the STFU button. I was being watched by one of the first VariEZ and LongEZ builders, so I wanted to give a good account. Thankfully the landing was a greaser. I enjoyed the luxury of the extra 500' of runway to roll out without using very much braking, taxied back in, then spent a couple of minutes trying to unlatch the canopy. I'd adjusted and greased the latch mechanism a few days earlier, but its tighter now than it it was before and will need further adjustment before I fly again. There were some oil trails on the lower cowl. I'm pretty sure this came from the small spill I made when rerouting the oil pipes under the intercooler, which I never wiped out of the NACA scoop. The oil trails showed an interesting pattern. Straight lines underneath, and smooth curves around the sides. Sorry, I wiped them off before I thought to take a picture. There was soot on the prop and the exhaust shield confirming my indication that it was running rich. Paul confirmed that there was no sign of black smoke or overrich smell from the engine. He also mentioned that, unlike the Cessnas, he could hear me all the way around the pattern.

After the flight the boost lever was not in the full [wastegate closed] position I'd set it in during the runup. I need to tighten the friction on the throttle quadrant. Maybe this, combined with almost full fuel tanks, was why everything seemed a bit weaker. I removed the upper cowl and checked around inside. Everything seemed fine. No leaks. Oil and coolant levels unchanged. Everything secure and tied down. Before the next flight I'll fix the canopy latch, change the plugs, and crank the overall mixture down a couple of notches. It's nice to be flying again.

Frustration sets in

I spent a couple of hours fixing the canopy latch. The latch was excessively tight because the weather strip I recently added was getting in the way of the canopy closing. I ripped out the weather strip. The problem is that I made all the clearances as tight as I could get them, and a little expansion or contraction of the canopy makes things tight. My weather strip is built into a groove in the canopy, so it only takes up about 1/16 inch, but that's more than I have. Builders working on the canopy - be sure to allow about 1/8 inch all around for paint and weather stripping.

I changed the plugs, generally checked around the engine and reinstalled the cowl. By then it was dark so I left the plane ready to go. On Tuesday, 11/16 after a couple of days of nasty (for Palm Beach) weather I decided that it was time for some flying. The engine ran well during taxi so I left the overall mixture alone. There seemed to be a little more power on the runup and take-off roll. Once airborne I did a couple of circuits, then contacted PBI approach for clearance to climb through their airspace. Circling the field at 5000' a couple of minutes later, I was a bit uncomfortable with the readings I was getting. EGT was cycling between 200 and 1500. Fuel pressure seemed a little erratic on either pump, and mixture didnt want to behave at all. At lower rpm the engine wasnt quite smooth, but richer mixture would smooth it out. On full rich, things were smooth but not nearly as exciting as they used to be. Watching the fuel pressure vary from 35 - 45 PSI on it's own made me nervous. I switched tanks, and after a barely perceptible hesitation the engine ran as before. Maybe the filters are collecting crud. I haven't found much debris in the filters when I've checked them before, but something isnt right with the fuel flow. I decended back into the pattern and noticed coolant and oil temps at 175/195 on the downwind. In the climb they'd been just over 200. As I throttled back on base Char's voice in my headset reminded me to put the gear down. It already was, so I hit the button. On a long, high final the engine seemed a little less smooth, and mixture went down to two bars. Increasing the mixture setting didnt help much, and the adjustment was at the stop. once I had the runway made, I goosed the throttle - plenty of power and everything seemed relatively normal.

Landing is becoming the easy part. I landed, taxiied to the hangar and parked the plane. The prop was, once again, black with soot, even though full rich wasnt bringing my low rpm mixture reading past 3 bars. I shut the hangar door in disgust. I have 0.6 hrs more on the hobbs, and absolutely no clue why the engine isn't running correctly. When I get my energy and positive attitude back I'll remove the cowl, check the fuel filters, the injectors, the wire for the EGT sensor and anything else I can think of.

Back at it

A good night's sleep is usually enough to get over the negatives. Next day I was back down there tearing into the checks. Unfortunately I didn't find anything obvious. The filters were clean, and the fuel flows freely to the rail from either pump. The wire to the EGT sensor looks fine, the connections are secure, and the cold engine reading is normal. I inserted a dash 6 fitting with a 1/8 NPT hole in the side in the fuel line to the rail, added a short extension hose and mounted the new fuel pressure sensor on the firewall. The EM2 says I have 56 PSI of fuel pressure while the analog gauge says I have 40. The lowest adjustment on the regulator gets me 35 PSI on the analog and 48 on the EM2. I think the regulator is supposed to be adjustable from 35 - 60 PSI, so I suspect the analog gauge is right. I'll calibrate the EM2 and set the high/low warning ranges tomorrow.

Breakers v Fuses

I used Bob Nuckoll's book and teachings, and installed fuses for everything except the alternator overvoltage system. The following post in the Cozy list has me thinking...

> I have had experience in flying where an electrical problem 
> caused a breaker or 2 to pop.  It was night and all the lights 
> went out.  I was at a controlled field and was just turning 
> downwind on my last landing for night currency.  There was 
> traffic in the pattern and my radio was dead.  I reached down and 
> started pushing in breakers and everything came back on.  I 
> landed without incident (except for the need for a clean pair of 
> shorts) Taxiing back to the hangar, and flipping landing light 
> switches (right, left 1961 Piper Commanche)  yielded another 
> breaker pop.  One bad starter (drained the battery on start-up - 
> not a problem during the day.  Lights kept the battery from 
> charging after assault by starter.  Old, sticky gear motor drew 
> too many amps and caused the ALT field breaker to blow, which 
> left the almost dead battery to carry the load with radios and 
> nav lights still draining it.)  There is NO WAY I would have been 
> able to operate that aircraft at that time in a safe manner (by 
> myself) using fuses.  If you only use your aircraft during the 
> day, you could probably get away with it.  But at night, when 
> you're blind without lights, and you need your eyes to be 
> somewhere else (on the defensive, now, without lights, no one can 
> see YOU!) a little raised bump of a circuit breaker button feels 
> pretty good.  
I think if I were doing it again, this example might be enough for me to use breakers instead of fuses. On the other hand, this was his alt field breaker. I have a whole spare battery. Today I ran the engine with the master off. She kept on running. Turning the alt battery on brought up the rest of the electrical system. I think I'll keep a flashlight very handy during night flights, all the same.

Almost a bust

I didn't get much done on the plane on Friday 11/19. I did test the fuel pressure with a stand alone pressure gauge. I got 35 PSI, which confirms the analog gauge, and the minimum setting on the regulator, so it looks like the EM2 is off. I calibrated the EM2 to read 35 PSI with the pump on. I was just finishing off putting the cowl back on when a local guy showed up looking for a flying LongEz. We chatted for a while and ended up having lunch. After lunch it was fairly hot and the pattern was full, so I went home and left the plane ready for a test flight tomorrow.

A Matter of Mindspace

I've been asked why I'm not flying three times a day to get the time flown off. Well, apart from wanting to take things slowly and step by step, I've had other things on my mind. A business partner once likened working complex problems to carring a house of cards in your head. Try to pick up too many cards at once and you drop the lot. A complex software project I designed 4 months ago had a few "unwanted features" and it's "house of cards" has been occupying my mindspace. I found it difficult to concentrate on all the issues related to testing and flying the plane, because my head has been working on other things. So... I've been backing off on the plane a bit. This morning I finished the project, delivered the software and packed the cards away in a drawer. Down at the hangar I was able to get my head around the plane much better.

The plane behaved well today. Power seemed a little better on take-off. I wonder if the difference is just fuel weight. Temps at 1000' were 210/205 so I backed down on the power and did my usual 1000' pattern to give them chance to catch up while I called Palm Beach Approach for clearance into the class C.

"Palm Beach Approach, Experimental Cozy Niner Six Papa Mike".

A lady's voice replied instantly [thanks Kevin]. "Six Papa Mike, Go ahead".

"Six Papa Mike is an experimental on flight testing. We'd like to climb to 10,000 while remaining over Lantana

This is true - honestly. She said "Six Papa Mike. Will you be climbing vertically?.

Smiling to myself, I answered "Negative. Not just yet. We'd like to do a few circles on the way up if that would be ok".

Grinning verbally, the controller gave me a squark and up we went (circular style). A little later she came back to ask "Six Papa Mike, How's it flying? I answered that it was just fine, and thanks for asking. It's nice when controllers can make time to be human and have a sense of humor. The same controller gave me a few traffic advisories and tracked me back into LNA when I was done.

I kept the climb gentle at 30 MAP and 3600 rpm. (1650 prop). I just calculated that out, and realized that's about the setting for a 500 fpm descent in a Cessna. Hmmm. I was getting about 500 fpm climb with the EGT at 1450 and the temps at 190/179. The intake temp read 103 and OAT was 51. At 6000' I leveled off and opened her up to 5000 rpm. Temps were 170/175 at 160 kt indicated. I'm on full right trim, and the airplane wants to turn left a little. I put this down to having a full left tank and only 10 gallons in the right tank, so I switched to the left tank for the rest of the flight. I've been using the right tank for take-off because it has 93 octane in it. I know there are plenty of mogas airports where all I'll get is 87, so I'm running that in the left tank to find out how the engine behaves on it. So far I havent noticed any difference.

After a few minutes at 6000 I pushed the throttle to 5400 rpm (46 MAP) and climbed at 140 IAS with temps at 195/192. I didnt notice the climb rate, but I'd guess at around 1000 fpm.

Level at 8,500 I opened the throttle slowly to full which got me 45 MAP and 5460 rpm with a TAS of 184, an IAS of 155 and temps of 210/205. Backing off to 5200 rpm [41 MAP] gave me 177kt TAS with temps back to 186/192. I noticed that there's a lot of throttle movement from the full power stop until the engine actually starts to slow down. I think this is a difference caused by the new turbo. It's pushing out a lot of air, but not as much boost pressure. Cutting the prop back a little may get me a little higher up the rpm band and hence more power. I've been watching the oil pressure which seemed a little lower than usual at between 32 and 40. This was the first time I'd had a chance to see it on the EM2 for any length of time, so maybe the oil pressure sensor is a bit off calibration, although the initial readings had been very close to those from the analog gauge. Something else to double check. Maybe soon, on the ground, would be good....

In the descent at 21 MAP and 3800 rpm the temps went down to 159/180 and the oil pressure settled at 45. Joining the downwind I was smitten with the "Invisible Mooney" that's been plaguing the area. I called downwind. 5 seconds later, he called downwind. I dipped, turned and bobbed. No sign of the Mooney. "Mooney on left downwind at Lantana. Say position. I didn't catch his reply, and it was time to call left base. GUMPS. The gear went down and fuel is good on left tank. Belts secure. Distracted by the invisible Mooney I'd failed to bleed off speed, so there I was at 120 kts on final. Back off to idle on the power, speed down to 100. Landing brake down. Rudders out. Over the numbers at 80. Touchdown at 75. It'll do. I'll work on those speeds when I have more time to play. As I taxied back to the hangar I heard the "invisible Mooney" call downwind again. This time a Cessna on the downwind asked his position. The reply was 3 miles SW of the field. Geesh!

Back at the hangar the prop was black, once again. OK. The engine had run smoothly and consistently for the entire flight, so now I feel more comfortable leaning the mixture. After a half hour break, a check of the oil and a cold drink I climbed back aboard. The taxi to 09 is a long one. By the time I was done with the runup temps were 210/205. I had been ignoring a minor headache. I figured that questionable oil pressure on the last flight, high temps and a headache added up to three things, so I did a fast taxi down the runway and taxied back to the hangar. While I'm keen to get on with the testing, I decided to ponder the flight overnight and come at it fresh in the morning.

This flight also takes me over 10 hours, so it's time for a new page.

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