Chapter 29 - Flight Testing part 4

It rained for most of Sunday. On Monday, 11/23 I removed the cowl and replaced the oil pressure sensor with the tube for the analog gauge I'd used when first starting the engine. With the pipe threaded into the cockpit and the gauge on the back seat I pushed the plane onto the ramp and started her up. Oil pressure when off the scale, past 100 PSI. As the oil warmed up the pressure came down until I was getting 45 PSI at 3500 rpm and 160F. This confirms the readings on the EM2. Another rotary flyer had said that my low oil pressure could be a blown front cover seal. Eek! I called Tracy to get his opinion, read out the oil pressure at various rpm and temps and was pleased to hear that the numbers sounded ok to him. It seems likely that the oil is a little thin from running over rich, but the pressures are acceptable. It won't hurt to change the oil soon. I plan to go to Mobil 1 at the next oil change, but would like to get the mixture right before changing. This led to an extended conversation with Tracy about how the engine is behaving and things I could try to identify the problem, like leaning it on one set of injectors.

As I put the cowl back on I came across a nutplate that was way too tight. This happens occasionally, and they sometimes rip the rivets out and spin leading to a time consuming drill out, removal and replacement job. Builders, especially those planning a non standard engine, might consider improving on the plans cowl attachment method. I though about using a hinge pin arrangement like the fuselage top, or those quick release screws, but got lazy and opted for the quick, easy and sure plans method. I've probably installed and removed the cowl 50 times in the past few months. The nutplates don't handle this much use very well and even the excellent torx screws sometimes get stripped. A hinged opening system, like an automotive hood, would be wonderful. I think Steve Wright did this on his Staggarez. I just didn't feel like spending the time to do it. Now I'm paying the piper. Anyway, my solution when a nutplate gets too tight is to retap the thread in the nutplate, but I couldn't find my tap. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to clean up the hangar, hoping that I'd find the tap as I went. I did, two hours later after the work bench, my wheeled toolbox and a large table had all been cleared of junk and reorganized. By this time it was getting too late to fly, and there was a low overcast with rain to the West. I finished off fitting the cowl and left the plane ready to go in the morning.

Another Cozy Visit

Cozy builder and flyer, Beniot Lecoq was due to fly into Miami that afternoon - in his big plane, not his Cozy. I'd arranged a Cozy evening in his honor with steaks to go with the French wine he'd bring along. Unfortunately his A340 had problems with it's cowl too, probably the nutplates. The picture shows him holding it shut. Benoit and his passengers sat on the ramp in Paris for 3 hours while the engineers got it fixed. By the time he got to Miami, Benoit had been in the plane 14 hrs. Understandably he was in no shape to drive 70 miles in the dark, so the visit was postponed until the morning.

Next day Benoit, Bulent and I had breakfast at the beach, then went to my hangar. I taxied out for a quick demonstration pattern, but couldn't latch the canopy prior to take-off, so I taxied back. As I taxied back toward the hangar Benoit took a short (10MB) video clip. This might be interesting for those wondering what a rotary sounds like. A Lycoming taxies past the camera just before me, so you can compare the sounds of the two engines.

Why did the canopy fail to latch? I'd done my canopy latch adjustments with the instrument panel top cover off, then installed the cover. It was interferring with the canopy enough to stop the latch closing all the way. So, instead of flying I took the cowl off and Benoit proceeded to give the plane a very thourough inspection. He made a couple of good suggestions for improving the way some wires and pipes were separated, pointed out that I should drill a hole in the end of the spinner to stop pressure building up inside it (apparantly he knows of one case where a spinner exploded from internal pressure), and explained how I could get rid of the play in my nose wheel bearing. At this point I started taking notes. Builders looking for useful input, beware. You'll tend to get generic "you did excellent work" type comments because the person looking at your plane wants to be nice. If they point out something that you could do better, get a pen and paper and make a note of it. This will let them know you're open to constructive suggestions and encourage them to give more. At the end of Benoit's inspection I had a page of notes. Only a few items, like tightening the nose wheel bearing, tightening the shimmy damper a little more, and drilling the spinner, need to be done soon. The rest are all good suggestions that I can incorporate gradually.

Implementing Tips from France

Next day was overcast and windy so I worked on a few items from the list. The nose wheel bearing fix worked perfectly. I ground maybe 1/32 inch from the ends of each aluminum "half axle" so they could grip the bearing a little tighter. Bingo. The little bit of play I'd had has gone away. I tightened the shimmy damper a half turn while I was at it.

Next I repositioned the connection strip for the EGT and CHT sensors wires. The wire tie installation was temporary, and Benoit's prompting got me to move it and bolt it down properly with cushion clamps. Another of Benoit's suggestions was a new (to me) method of wire tieing. When two wiring bundles, or a wire bundle and a pipe or an engine mount stay came close enough that they could abrade I had either been tieing the wires to hold them close to the pipe or I'd put a wire tie around each item with one tie going through the other. This way the wire ties seperated the two items at the junction. Benoit's approach is to put a larger wire tie around both items, then a small one between them to pinch the large one into a figure 8. I like this method much better. It holds the items apart neatly and securely.

Another job on my list was the heat shield extension. I'd installed it originally with self tapping screws, which were holding just fine, but nutplates was the right way to do it. Again, I used a suggestion from Benoit which I wish I'd heard 3 years ago when I was building the cowl. Every nutplate on his plane is attached to a small aluminum plate which is then glassed into place with 2 bid. I mentioned that a few of my nutplates have spun. The threads have a way of getting very tight and the torque, especially when you use a screw gun, is then too much for the little rivets in fiberglass. For the heat shield I made a thin steel plate to cover all five holes, fitted the nutplates to the plate, put some grease on the threads, then floxed and glassed the plate in place inside the cowl. At least these nutplates will never spin. At some point I'll replace any suspect nutplates around the cowl with new ones riveted to aluminum plates.

Next day, Thanksgiving, there was a cold front coming through with 800' broken and 20 kt winds, so I spent the morning working on a few minor items. I installed the cowl using the new embedded nutplates to secure the heat shield extension, adjusted the instrument panel cover for better clearance and installed the new microswitch on the gear warning system. The old switch was missing a piece of the black plastic housing, but it was still working, so this wasnt the problem. I replaced it anyway. I also noticed that a small piece of something (fiberglass, I think) had wedged itself between the switch and the spring - something to watch out for - the switch on the (Wilhelmson) gear is positioned to catch falling debris. Eventually I'll get rid of all the construction, dust, but I think it's time to give the plane another blow with the air hose. There's no way to get a vacuum nozzel in all the crevaces. 90 PSI air is a great way to blow the dust and debris to somewhere where you can reach it.

Installing the microswitch involved removing the AC plenum. Getting it out didn't take long (but would have been a real pain if the system had been charged with freon), but putting it back was a challenge and I didnt finish before it was time to leave for Thanksgiving dinner. I have that job waiting for me in the morning. Also, since replacing the switch didn't solve the problem, I have some more tracing to do on the gear warning system.

Yet Another Cozy Visit

This time Mike Lefleur and his son Matt drove down during his annual visit to Orlando. Before he arrived I struggled with the AC plenum a bit more, then decided that the only way to get it back in was to remove the blower and heater core first. I really didnt want to do this because it involves disconnecting the coolant pipes to the heater core. So, don't tell Char, but I took the AC plenum and condensor out and stored them on the bench with the compressor. I was just about ready to push the plane back when Mike arrived. I didnt want to stay up a long time and have Mike cooling his heels, so after two quick circuits I landed and we went for lunch and Cozy talk. Both Mike and Al, who was there working on his LongEz, mentioned that the engine had misfired once or twice during the take-off roll. Strange. I didn't hear anything different from the cockpit. On the go-around Mike said the engine sounded smooth. As usual I'm having trouble getting an ideal mixture setting. At lower rpm I can lean it off until it misfires, and at higher rpm it doesnt seem to care what the mixture is set at. After lunch I rolled her out for another flight, but the wind slightly favored 03, so cessnas were using this shorter runway. I had a slight radio problem which turned out to be caused by the amplifier for the knock sensor. Rather than use 03, or cross patterns with the aluminum I decided to call it a day and taxied back in. Another successful and uneventful flight, and another 0.2 hours on the hobbs.

Did I say uneventful? Not quite. There I was decending down the base leg at 100 kts when whisssh - a good sized bird, probably a seagull, went by 10 feet from the canopy. He came from below out of my view, and I had no time to react. One second I was looking at him as he performed a very complex roll and inverted tuck maneuver to avoid me, next second he was gone. I obviously took him by suprise. Maybe he's used to the Cessna's doing their base at 70 kts. I didn't have time to be scared, but I'd be willing to bet that there were some serious seagull droppings in Lantana this afternoon.

Next day was low overcast and rain, again. I fixed the landing brake warning, but couldnt get the gear warning to work. I traced the wires from the gear and came to a jumper. Duh! I'd shorted the switch out last week and forgotten to remove the jumper. So. The switch WAS bad, or maybe that piece of crud was stopping it operate. Now my gear warning LED and voice work correctly. I put another 20 gallons in the right tank, then, since I had a spare evening, decided to change the plugs. Two more nutplates bit the dust when I took the cowl off. This is getting to be a real pain. I changed the plugs, then checked around the engine. I noticed that the cowl flap was open about 1/4 inch with the lever was full forward. I must have got the adjustment wrong when I refitted the lower cowl. Maybe this is why the cooling seems a bit poorer. I could be loosing a lot of plenum pressure out the back. I adjusted the control cable to let the flap shut all the way. I've been holding off on changing the oil, but it's black and a bit thin, and I think this might be causing the lower oil pressures. I'll hold off on the synthetic until I get the mixture tuned better, but I decided to renew the current Castrol GTX as a temporary measure. Draining the oil is a real pain, so I found a new way. I inserted a length of nylaflow brake pipe into the dipstick hole and started a syphon. Yes, oil does syphon reasonably well. With a 1/8 ID pipe the flow is a slow drip, but that's ok. I left it draining into a gallon container overnight. This wont get all the oil, but it'll get most of it. There's always oil left in the lines and coolers anyway, unless you blow them out which I've been doing, and will do again when I change to synthetic. This time I'll settle for changing most of the oil with minimum mess.

Another Precautionarly Landing

Sunday 11/28 I changed the oil and filter. The syphon thing only got a couple of quarts, so I did the messy oil plug thing again. Next time the lower cowl's off I'll set up some sort of drain pipe and valve (which I'll safety wire closed). I replaced the nutplate on the cowl and got ready to fly. By this time it was 2pm. I hadn't eaten and was in need of a snack before what I planned would be a couple of hours in flight. I headed over to McD for a chicken sandwich. The fries were good, but the Paul's dog got most of the sandwich. Aircraft and self fueled and ready, I taxied out to the active. Oil pressure on the runup was 87. Again, take-off seemed fine to me, but an observer on the ground said I had a misfire or two on the take-off roll.

I did a pattern. The oil pressure was 65 on the downwind at 3600 rpm with temps around 180/175. After a low pass, which apparently sounded sweet from the ground I headed south a few miles and climbed above the class C. By the time I was over the field at 5000' the oil pressure was 24 at 3500 rpm, coolant temp was 230 and oil 220 (much higher than usual). I began a descent. At minimum throttle temps went back below 200, but the oil pressure was around 20 - 25. The engine began running rough. Richer mixture smoothed it out. I had the mixture at a 4 pm setting - anything leaner and it faltered. I switched off one set of injectors (the primaries I think) and it ran better.

At this point I had a "discussion" with approach. It was one of those discussions that you can have without saying very much. With the engine running hot, reacting strangly to mixture changes, and the low oil pressure I was not about to fly 6 miles away from the field and descend to 1000 to get under the class C. I called approach but got no response. He was busy. I had to wait for a gap to call again. Still no answer. I waited some more and tried again. No answer. My radio check had been fine. He was just ignoring me. On the fourth try he came back with "Unreadable". I tried again. No answer. OK, buddy. time for a few words. "Palm Beach approach, November Niner Six Papa Mike. Experimental on flight testing over Lantana. Pause. Request a response". That did it. He came back right away, gave me clearance and we chatted like nothing ever happened.

On short final at idle oil pressure was in single digits, and as I taxied back to the hangar it was actually reading negative. The landing was fun. I planted the mains on the numbers at 75kts and tried holding back on the nose wheel. I swear I was going about 20kts when it finally came down. Cool.

However, fun landing aside, this has not been a good day, other than to say that the plane is safe in the hangar and I'm safe at home with a 20lb turkey to pick on. Rather than the 2 hour flight I'd planned I did 0.6 and I'm really beginning to thing that there's something fundemental wrong with the engine, again. Perhaps I'll have a positive attitude in the morning. Right now, Y'know, I'm getting really sick of this.

Getting my own back

Up and at 'em. I headed down to the hangar armed with Char's wax thermometer, some wax and a mini propane grill. I figured out how I can fabricate a pressure calibration device using the air compressor, the regulator for my paint gun, an old fuel rail, my compression tester gauge and a tire pressure gauge. I'll drill and tap the fuel rail for 1/8 npt connections and check the pressure sensors against the built in gauges. This should tell me something. Then I'll calibrate the temperature senders against the hot wax thermometer.

At the hangar, I took the cowl off and checked around the engine. Everything seemed fine. Oil and coolant levels were unchanged. Turbo wheel still centered. No leaks or missing parts. Compression seemed normal when I turned the prop. I turned on the master. The EM2 showed 4 PSI oil pressure, then 5, then 7, then 4 again. Hmmm. I cranked the engine with the injectors off, and the EM2 still showed 4 PSI after 30 seconds cranking. Normally it jumps to 20 or 30 PSI when cranking. I removed the oil feed to the filter and fed it into a quart container. After 15 seconds cranking the container was half full, so oil is definately flowing. I reattached the hose to the filter, replaced the oil pressure sensor with a hose to an empty container and cranked again. There was oil in the container. I replaced the sensor and cranked again. Oil pressure immediately showed 25 - 30 PSI. [Tracy later suggested grounding the sensor case, even though it's screwed into a block without teflon tape and the block is bolted to the grounded engine.] OK. Let's see what I get with the engine running.

Fearing Paul's stealth approach, I shouted "clear" to the empty hangar and started the engine. Oil pressure went to 75 or so. I only ran it for a few seconds. After checking the engine I turned on the master again. The EM2 display now showed me two rows of square blocks where the numbers should be. I cycled the power and removed input plugs. Nothing would bring it back. The EM2 just upped and died. A call to Tracy didnt produce any magic answers so I ripped it out of the panel, joined the long, long, long.....long, line of christmas mailers at the Post Office and sent it back... again.

The next step is to obtain some simple cheap automotive gauges, calibrate them and find out what the engine is REALLY doing. I'm beginning to wish that the "plug & Play" concept applied to airplanes.

So.... what's this about getting my own back? I'd polished the wings and canard. After yesterday's short flight the leading edges of the wings and canard are splattered with dead bugs. Hundreds and hundreds of them. I'd performed a significant service to the residents of South Florida and yes, I felt good about it. I'm even wondering how much drag a small bug catcher on the nose would cause and how many I'd catch with it...

Back to Basics

Harbor Freight sell a set of 3 mechanical gauges for $10 that includes oil pressure, water temp and volts. Using various AN fittings, adapters and hoses I hooked my compression tester, tire gauge and the new oil pressure gauge to the air compressor. By letting the compressor reach it's limit, then turning it off and bleeding pressure a little at a time I was able to see that all three gauges were within 1 or 2 PSI all the way from 100 PSI to 10 PSI. Makes sense. I think all three gauges were made in China. Anyway, that's good enough for me. I connected the new oil pressure gauge to the engine and cranked. The pressure seemed a long time coming, but finally I got a reading so I pushed the plane out and started the engine. Pressure was immediately off the scale beyond 100 PSI. After a few minutes the oil pressure came down to 85 @ about 3000 rpm and eventually down to 65 with the engine as hot as I wanted to get it without temp gauges. So, maybe my oil pressure is OK. I'm still a bit doubtful. An electronic gizmo can lie to you, for sure, but errors usually dont maintain a logical pattern (oil & water temp up, oil pressure down). [Note: Later I read that there IS a logical senario where this will happen - bad grounding of a temp gauge will give false high readings, and bad grounding of a pressure guage will give false low readings. The grounds seem ok, but I'm thinking that a long run of both ground and data leads might have the same impact.] Anyway, I'm ordering VDO gauges from egauges.com to match the sensors I already have. This way I'll have a backup / crosscheck for the EM2, and I won't have to wait until it comes back. If the oil pressure holds during prolonged taxi testing on runups, then I'll try it out in the sky.

Feeling a little happier about the state of the engine I put my pants back on and went home. At the house I checked the EM2 manual for the temp sender type, only to find that it could be either of two. Now I have to check which ones I actually got with the EM2, and I'm thinking that the factory calibration on the EM2 could well have been off depending on which sensor I got. I made a mistake when installing the EM2. I ASSumed. The manual effectively says "The EM2 is calibrated for the sensors supplied, so you shouldnt need to recalibrate it". This reminds me of Leon Promet's favorite sign-off...

"Assume nothing. Check everything. Trust no-one".

Oh. Perhaps I should explain the comment about putting my pants back on. It wasnt anything to do with the heading for this paragraph or a lonely airplane builders fantasy, and no, I wasn't working on the plane naked (this time). I was referring to the wheel pants. I've been watching the brakes for leaks and overheating and seen no problems, so I decided it was time to put the pants on. Sorry for any confusion caused. Putting the wheel pants on involved a bit more "adjustment" to clear the tires and a couple of replaced nutplates, but they're on. They seem secure and well aligned. Taxi testing, and the first landing will prove how well they're mounted.

Later that week I heard from Tracy that one of the display line driver bits was blown on the EM2, it's fixed and on its way back. I hope to have it by Monday. Another case of electronic "infant mortality". I hope all the weak infants have now been found because this driver is a bit concerned about loosing ALL my engine data while flying - hence the retrofit of a few analog gauges, as soon as I get them in.

While Tracy had the EM2 unit I asked him to change the alarm from a flashing ground to a steady ground so it'll drive my voice annunciator, and change the data labels for air temp 1 and air temp 2 to read INT and CAB (intake and Cabin). While waiting for the EM2 and / or the analog gauges, I used the time to catch up on a few non-aviation things, like putting up christmas trees (two) and icicle lights along the roof. I have a small inverter. Maybe I'll put christmas lights on the Cozy too. The packet does say inside or outside use.....

Full Circle

I was placing an order with Wicks and needed to know the gauge of the music wire used for the hidden bellhorn springs (my wire on one side has been bent twice and I'd like to replace it). I did a google search and guess what popped up - my own web page with the 0.05 size clearly noted. Cool. I did myself a favor for once. I also ordered a couple of SHP-100 hole covers so I can drill holes to get at the valves inside the wheel pants, some 1/8 npt Tees so I can have two pressure senders on each outlet and some F900 torque seal. The latter is another recommendation from Benoit. You put a bead of it across bolts to the surrounding metal. It dries hard and you can tell at a glance if the bolts have moved.

Next day I prepared the panel for installation of the VDO gauges which should come in tomorrow. After at least two reorganizations my nice walnut veneer panel has holes all over it. I removed the Westach 4 way gauge (which I never did like anyway) and installed a matt black aluminum plate with holes for six 2 inch gauges. The fuel pressure and manifold pressure gauges I already have went in the bottom two holes. The top two will be Coolant and oil temp, and the middle two will be coolant and oil pressure. I already have a digital coolant pressure guage, but it never behaved well, so that stays on the bench too and a simple analog unit will take its place. I think I'm going to like the new arrangement. Best of both worlds. The EM2 gives me 32 data items and warns me if any of them get out of range. It'll also be very handy for detailed info such as fuel flow and mixture, but the EM2 takes time to read, so my "at a glance" information will come from the bank of 6 analog guages.

Once the mess of panel modification was cleaned up I reinstalled the EM2. Not quite as simple as it sounds. 4 wires had to be rejoined, 4 vacuum hoses refitted and secured, 4 plugs reinstalled and 4 grounds hooked up. The EM2 now has numbers on the screen. Cool! Using my paint gun pressure regulator, compression tester and a bunch of fittings and adapters I hooked up the oil pressure sender and compared the readings. 90 PSI was as high as I could go. At this level the EM2 reading seems fairly accurate. From about 40 PSI to 80 PSI it looks like the EM2 is reading about 10 PSI high, and at 25 PSI (on the other gauges) it drops to about 4 PSI and stays there. Hmmm. I think I'll wait for the VDO guage to come in tomorrow, do another comparison, then calibrate the temperature readings.

Next day, Wednesday 12/8 the gauges came in, eventually, and I went down to the hangar to fit them. Five hours later I was still fitting them. All the VDO gauges come with internal lighting, but my manifold pressure gauge doesn't have a light. It does have a hole in the case, so I bought a white LED at the "shack", hooked it up to a 680 ohm resistor,shrink wrapped the entire assembly and used RTV to hold in in the hole. Next I linked the lighting on all six gauges to my Bob Nuckolls dimmer. Yes - it works on LEDs too since it varies the voltage. At this point I needed some wire labels, so that was my excuse to stop work for the day. Before leaving I drilled a couple of 1" holes in the wheel pants and fitted the press in hole plugs from Wicks. They're a good tight fit, so I dont think they'll come loose. They sat proud of the surface about 1/16 inch, so I dremelled a lip to countersink them into the side of the wheelpants and painted them white. They'll need refinishing when the plane gets repainted, but for now that's another little job done.

Calibration day - Pressure

After another 4 hours work (where does the time go?) I had the engine instruments installed and wired. While I was at it I reinstalled the capacitance fuel gauges. Since the Van's fuel sensors won't fit in my strakes without rework of the holes I'll have to forgo fuel data in the EM2, at least for now. I have the gauges, but wasn't very happy with the consistency of the readings. Right now they read full, and both tanks are full. I'll take it from there using the sight gauges as the primary and calibrating the sensors as we go along.

I spent another 3 hours experimenting with the oil and coolant pressure calibration. My analog oil pressure gauge gives similar readings to the EM2. It's fairly close above 30 PSI, but below 30 it drops off to nothing very quickly. At 20 PSI (confirmed by 3 mechanical gauges all reading the same) it reads zero. I worked with the EM2 manual for quite a while trying to calibrate the EM2 to deal with the sensor output. First you set the sensor offset to match the sensor voltage at a low reading, then you set the low offset to that low pressure reading. Now you go to a high pressure and use the scale factor to adjust the EM2 to match that pressure. Easy, once you get your head around it. Doesn't work. At least not for this sensor. I get the low reading right, and the high readings are way out. Adjust the high reading to read correctly and the low readings are too low. I followed the procedures multiple times and got the same (useless) results each time. Conclusion - the sensor is bad. Either that or I'm expecting too much from it. I also tried hooking up both the analog gauge and the EM2 to the same sensor. Tracy said it wouldn't work. He was right. The EM2 doesn't affect the VDO much - just sends it about 5 PSI higher. The VDO affects the EM2 a lot - sends it 30 or 40 PSI higher. I tried calibrating the EM2 to the outputs with the VDO gauge in circuit. Didnt work, so I'm going to need 2 sensors. I already have the 1/8 NPT T, so all I need is a pipe and another sensor. If the new one behaves differently to the one I have now I'll send the first one back for replacement. I made a chart of the actual pressure and what the analog gauge actually reads. This should be enough for me to test it on a runup while I wait for the new sensor.

OK. On to the coolant. I haven't had much time to check on coolant pressure while flying since the engine rebuild and installing the EM2, but when I have looked it's always seemed very low - like zero or 2 PSI. To test the sensor in place I removed the temp sensor and installed a pipe to my testing "apparatus". This way I was actually pressuizing the coolant system itself, not just the sensor. I let some pressure into the system and immediately heard air coming out of the pressure cap - not the one which releases at 23 PSI, the other one which isnt supposed to release at all. I removed the cap and noticed that the rubber washer was out of line. I adjusted the washer, put the cap back and it didn't leak with pressure again. Hmmm. If this cap was leaking while I was flying this could explain the high temps. But - then again, I hadnt lost any coolant. But, then again, I'd only checked the cap on the swirl pot at the top of the system. I wonder if this level could stay at the top, while the level of the coolant in the system goes down. I dont see how. Mysteries abound.

Now I had a sealed system I bumped the pressure up to 25 PSI and, sure enough, heard bubbles going into the overflow. The EM2 read 5 PSI. My analog gauge didn't help because I got the wrong one. I need a 30 PSI gauge, not the 80 PSI one I got. Duh. I'll be exchanging this tomorrow. Getting familiar with the procedure now, I calibrated the EM2 and, after a couple of shots was able to get it reading correctly at zero and 23 PSI. That'll do for now. I'll see how it behaves on the next runup. That's enough for one day. It's 10:30 pm. Tomorrow - temperature.

Calibration day - Temperature

Well, after a whole day of screwing around with hot wax, a thermometer, electronic sensors, temperature probes, gauges and the EM2 I've established that temperature readings go up when you heat the sensors, and go down again when you don't. That's about it. I heated the wax to about 250F then carefully carried it to an insulated box by the plane where I lowered the electronic temp sensor, and the VDO probes into the wax. Then I watched the readings as the wax cooled to 120F or so. As the EM2 manual says it will be, the electronic sensor is totally in agreement with the thermometer at all temps. That's the good news. The bad news is that all the other sensors are way off. The other bad news is that 250F wax melts shrink wrap tubing. Anyway, the VDO water temp gauge and sensor are about right down around 200 where they read high by 5F increasing to 10F as you get lower. The VDO oil temp gauge and sensor are anywhere between 30F and 10F high. Using the same sensors the EM2 is 20F to 30F high on both oil and water temps. I need readings I can trust between 180 and 230F, and today's experiments don't give me a lot of confidence that I have equipment that'll do that. Tomorrow I'll work on calibrating the EM2 to the sensors.

I decided that the problem was improper grounding of the temp sensors. Since they're not screwed into the engine to get the ground I'd wrapped wire around the body of the sensor. I think I perhaps I wasnt getting a good connection when this was dipped in hot wax. Next day I drilled and tapped an aluminum block to take the sensors, and added a properly connected ground wire. There's only one hole for an oil temp sensor in the engine, so I'll plumb the redrive oil feed to through this aluminum block to get the second temp sensor. As an added bonus, this will let me check that the redrive is getting oil.

Once the al block was made, the sensors screwed in firmly and the ground wire attached I heated the wax again and lowered the assembly into it, together with the electronic cabin heat sensor and the wax thermometer. The temp readings I was trying to calibrate lagged behind the electronic sensor and the thermometer by 20 degrees or more. Of course - you saw it coming didnt you - the aluminum block is acting as a heat sink, so I get different readings from the sensors. The only way for this to work would be to maintain a constant heat source and let everything stabalize. The problem with this is that I'd have to either extend all the wires (thereby changing the experiment) or put the propane stove on the fuselage. I'm not keen on the second option. Ah well, the block is needed anyway. For calibration purposes, I'll just have to come up with a good sensor ground that isnt also a heat sink. Another 6 hrs invested with no significant progress. More tomorrow.

Temperatures - Take 2

Sunday was a perfect flying day. Pity. I headed to the hangar with a plan. I cut a 3/4 inch * 8 inch strip of aluminum and drilled and tapped it for four sensors and a ground strap. I mounted water and oil temp sensors for both the analog gauges and the EM2 and used aluminum tape to strap the electronic sensor to one of the probes. Now just the probes are immersed in the hot wax, and the electronic sensor is mainly getting its heat directly from a probe. I got much better results. At this point I also tried Al's neat little lazer temperature gun. The problem there was that it was measuring the temperature of the surface of the wax, which was cooler than the wax on the probes by 5 - 10F depending on where I pointed the lazer dot. Using the electronic sensor and the thermometer as my base lines I started at 250F and let the temperature decay to 150 taking readings every 10 degrees. The EM2 eeded calibration, and the analog gauges (which can't be calibrated) are reading a little high, but I ended up with all six temps (including the wax thermometer) within 5F of each other over the important part of the range - i.e. 180F to 220F. I erred on the high side. Now all I have to do is figure out how to plumb the extra oil and water temp sensors into the engine itself, and I'll be able to trust (and double check) my temp readings. I have a replacement oil pressure sensor on the way, so hopefully this calibration stuff will be complete in another a day or two.

I got an email suggesting that I use boiling water (212F) as a known temp to calibrate the sensors. I've been avoiding this because I didn't want to put the propane stove on top of the instrument panel, or extend all the wires. I decided it would be a good idea to double check my calibration before taking the experiment apart, so I made a cardboard platform to support the stove. It worked out much easier that I'd thought. At boiling point I had EM2 readings of 214F on both oil and water. A small adjustment of the scale factor got me to 212F. Feeling better about the stove's stability I filled the pot with a quart of oil and heated it slowly. As someone suggested, the oil works much better than wax. The heat flows more freely through the liquid, so the temps are more stable. I took the oil up to 240 and verified the temperature with the electronic EM2 sensor and the wax thermometer. I can now safely say I am confident that the temp readings I get on the EM2 are within 3 or 4 degrees of the truth. The gauges are about 10F high over 230. Anyone following this can just do the last two experiments with boiling water and hot oil. Use a well grounded sensor with minimum heat sink and you'll save a couple of days of learning what works and what doesn't.

Once the apparatus cooled down I carefully removed the sensors and tagged them for the various inputs to be sure I didnt mix them up. Next I removed the thermostat housing, drilled and tapped it for another sensor and installed the water temp gauge sensor there. The extra oil temp sensor is a little more difficult. I'll install it in the aluminum pass through block I made. The feed for the redrive can go through this block. Another trip to the hose shop was called for. I feel like a pro when I walk in there these days.... "I'd like two dash 4 to 1/8 NPT aluminum 90's and two dash 4 teflon braided hoses, one 16 inch with male 1/8 npt on each end, and one 7 inch dash 4 - dash 4."Sure thing, says Jason, and off he goes to make them. Ten minutes later he came back with the hoses and fittings. That'll be $43, please. . Ouch. Hopefully my replacement pressure senders will come in tomorrow and I can finally get this job finished off and find out what's really going on with the engine.

I don't #@$%ing believe it

Sorry. I just couldn't come up with a better title for this paragraph.

The pressure sensors finally arrived on Monday 12/20, so off I went to fit and calibrate them. I found a small aluminum tank which came off an AC system and drilled and tapped it for two sensors. I'd noticed that the inlet and outlet were very close to 1/8 npt size, so they were easily tapped for AN fittings. This tank isnt big enough for an overflow bottle, but it could be useful for other things. Anyway, using an eclectic combination of pipes, fittings, gauges and sensors I was able to hook up all four pressure sensors to the AC compressor via the paint gun regulator. OK. Now for some calibration. I carefully set the pressure at 5 PSI intervals from zero to 100 PSI, calibrated the EM2 and noted the readings on the analog gauges. I went up and down the scale two or three times and was getting close when the EM2 flashed a low battery warning. Fair enough. I've been working with the master on for a while now, and the battery needs a top up. I powered on the backup battery and noticed that the oil pressure now read 27,864 PSI. The coolant pressure was much lower. Down around 24,000 PSI. Looking at the data in calibration mode showed a sensor offset of -24,573 and a scale factor of 17,000. I tried adjusting the numbers, but they dont seem to want to come down. I called Tracy and explained the problem. He said it's like driving in Boston - one of those "There's no way to get there from here" situations. The data on the chip got scrambled because I was in calibration mode when the voltage went low. Apparantly another user recently hit the same problem, and Tracy's working on a fix. A way to reset defaults would be good. The only solution right now is a new chip. Tracy's sending me one. So, my EM2 is out of service once again, but guess what? I don't give a rat's asset. I have analog gauges that work all the time. Tomorrow I'll clean up, wheel her out, and see what the gauges tell me about the engine.

Ground Tests

After a two week silence 96PM made noise again today. After finishing off the Hobbs reinstallation I taxied around with the cowl off until a rain shower threatened, then parked her back in the hangar. As often happens when I take the bird out on the ramp, an A&P from one of the maintenance shops followed me back to the hangar on his golf cart and poured over the engine installation. This guy knew his rotaries. I asked him about the sound. He said he liked it.

In the post run inspection I found no leaks and nothing was burning. After 20 minutes taxiing with some higher speed runs the water temps were 170/160 (OAT - 65F) and the Oil pressure was 60 PSI at 3000 rpm. The engine ran well. A little surging at idle, which richer mixture didnt seem to fix, smooth at the higher rpms. I have a couple of squarks. The EGT is reading 32F. Maybe the EM2 data is scrambled and the new chip, which is already on its way, will fix it. I think not. I've seen intermittent problems with the EGT before, so I ordered a new probe from Wicks. While ordering I also invested $4 in a male/female 1/8 NPT restrictor for the oil pressure sensor line (to cut down leaks in case of a ruptured hose) and a 0 - 30 PSI pressure sender for my coolant pressure gauge. The coolant pressure gauge I got reads 0 - 80, so the typical pressure barely shows. The new sender should give me full scale movement for 30 PSI. I'll just have to recalibrate the scale. Also, the mixture reading on the EM2 is suspect. It reads low even when I richen the mixture to the point that the engine stumbles. I have a spare sensor, so I'll swap them over.

The wheel pants stayed on, but the tire is awfully close on the inboard side of the left one. This needs a little more trimming. Reading the fly-rotary list has reminded me why wiring my fuel pumps on one switch for left, right or both is a bad idea. The new wiring is great for avoiding crossfeed, but it doesn't let me take-off and land on both and it introduces a single point of failure, so the pumps need to be rewired on seperate switches. I think I'll also change the plugs, then I'll install the cowl and maybe get a flight in before heading, by road unfortunately, to Char's son in MS for the holidays. I hope it rains all the way there. I hate driving under clear skies.

Getting ready for the new year

Well, there was no way we could have flown to MS, so I didn't feel so bad about the 12 hour drive. We had low clouds and rain most of the way there, sleet and even a bit of snow during the stay. The return trip was under blue skies but as they say... the sun always shines on the scene of the accident.

Monday 12/27 was recovery day. I managed an hour at the hangar to install my new pressure sender. Now I have a 0 - 30 psi sender attached to a 0 - 80 psi gauge. (egauges.com don't sell a matching 30 psi gauge). I calibrated it with the tire gauge and the cheap mechanical pressure gauge. It now reads 20 PSI at half scale and 40 PSI at full scale which is perfect because I can see minor movements, and the normal reading will be with the needle straight up. I'd like all the gauges to be like this so a glance confirmation will be easier. I also tested my new Norton PSA sanding disks from Supergrit on the upper cowling. Excellent. I don't think the prep for new paint will take very long using Paul's air sander with these disks. A repaint is my first job after the time's flown off.

I'm still waiting for USPS to bring my replacement EGT sensor and EM2 chip. In the meantime I'll adjust the wheel pants and rework the fuel pump wiring.

Failing toward success

I read a quote today that says it all.

"The only time you don't fail is the last time you try something and it works. We fail toward success"

Well, if that's true, I must be making a lot of progress. After a bit of time off to catch up with other stuff, and waiting for various parts to trickle in, I installed the new EGT sensor, replaced the EGO sensor, installed the restrictor in the line to the oil pressure sensors, and tidied up the wiring around the new gauges. I also removed the mini amplifier I'd installed. It doesn't seem to make any difference to the CD player, and the knock sensor just sounds like interference. I dispensed with the CD player for now, and hooked the knock sensor direct to the intercom via a switch. My plan for entertainment, once I have a chance to enjoy it, is install a cheap FM radio / CD player somewhere, then borrow the XM radio out of Chars car which has a built-in FM modulator. All I need is another antenna for it and I'm all set.

I'm still waiting for my new EM2 chip which is lost somewhere in the USPS system, so today I did an experiment I've been meaning to try for a while. I've had the feeling that the brakes still aren't as good as they should be. I've been thinking that the problem may be insufficient travel on the pedal, so today I disconnected the rudder cables, stuck a "Rudders INOP" sticker over the artificial horizon and went for a taxi test. Bingo. The brakes work much better with the rudder cables disconnected. The culprit is the compression spring in the cable. It only compresses about 1/2 inch so full braking is restricted by the rudder stops and I don't get that last important 1/4 inch of movement on the master cylinders. I need to fiddle with the leverage, the springs and the cable adjustment some more.

The taxi test seemed to go well until I tried a full power runup. At about 3800 rpm the engine hesitated a little, then picked up again. Hmmm. I goosed the throttle some more. Guess what. I can finally hold it on the brakes. At around 3900 the engine coughed badly, cut, then immediately picked up again. It would do this repeatedly with the occasional backfire as long as I held the throttle open. Mixture adjustments didnt make any difference. I'm hoping it's the plugs. They've been in for a while, and have been cleaned (sandblasted) a few times. Oil pressure seemed ok during the taxi testing, but was down to 20 PSI at 1500 rpm by the time I taxied back to the hangar. It would go up to 50 PSI when I increased rpm to 3500 or so. This seems lower than it used to be, but still well within limits. I just wonder why it's lower, or am I now seeing correct information which I never had before.

As a last item before calling it a day I filled a couple of tiny nicks in the prop with flox. I've been saying this for a week, but hopefully my EM2 chip will arrive tomorrow.

Starting the New Year off Fresh

My EM2 chip arrived on New year's eve. Before removing the old chip I made notes of the calibration variables for everything except the scrambled oil and coolant pressure. Fitting the new chip was easy. In less than an hour the EM2 was up and running, and all the calibration data had been reentered. Now I need to recalibrate the oil and coolant pressure and I should be set. I'll do that tomorrow. OK, now on to the rudders. After various experiments I concluded that the main problem was the brackets I'd added to get more travel on the rudders. With the rudder cables detatched I marked the side of the fuselage at the limit of brake travel. I stretched the springs about an inch, moved the cables back to the original hole in the pedals and tightened the cables with the adjustment under the cowl. The left side is still too loose, and consequently a bit short on rudder movement. I'm at the limit of the adjustment on this side, so I'll have to remake the piano wire hooks to get them shorter.

What's this got to do with starting the new year off fresh? Nothing. The title refers to the fact that I had to call Danny's Sewage and get friend Dan to pump 750 gallons of "unwanted material" from our sewage tank. I wonder - what do they do if the check bounces? Bring it back?

A happy New Year to all. Make it a productive one and build, build, build.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

While calibrating the oil and coolant pressures (again) for the new EM2 chip I decided to recalibrate the fuel pressure while I was at it. I'd have to look back in my log to be sure, but I'd swear I'd done this at least once if not twice before. I calibrated the EM2 against the mechanical gauge which has been cross checked with two other gauges and proved accurate, or at least the same. Once the fuel system was reconnected the EM2 gave me a reading of 50 PSI with one pump, and 52 with both. The analog gauge reads 38/40. Hmmmm. Overly high fuel pressure is known to give mixture problems. I took everything apart again and repeated the calibration. It's correct. I adjusted the fuel pressure regulator to it's minimum setting and got the fuel pressure down to 38/40 on the EM2. The analog gauge now reads just under 30.

Intrigued to know if this made any difference to how the engine runs, I changed the plugs, left the upper cowl off, and wheeled her out. The engine ran very well on a couple of high speed taxi tests. There are still lumps of flox on the prop which need to be sanded. I could definately feel the vibrations caused by this at certain rpm. Full power runup got me about 4100 rpm with no hesitation, back firing or coughing whatsoever. The brakes are now absolutely excellent. I had no idea that they were supposed to be that good. If the cowl were on I might have flown it, except for the flox on the prop and the loose rudder cable. The mixture readings still don't make a lot of sense. It shows very lean, the mixture control seems to have little effect, and there's still a little soot on the prop.

On my return to the hangar Paul said it sounded sweet, and why didn't I put the cowl on and "go fly". Why? Because my internal "No go/Go" meter was reading way to the left of the green area. This meter reacts to all sorts of factors, but peer pressure ain't one of them. Weather was perfect except perhaps a bit windy. It was after 3pm. I'd had a very late night of New Years Eve partying. I hadn't eaten all day. There were still a few minor jobs to do to the plane before it would be flight ready, even discounting the puzzeling mixture readings. I politely told Paul "not today", and went home feeling quite pleased with the day's progress. That night Char & I had a great night with friends, which, while worth it, pretty much pegged my NG meter for the next 24 hrs. I didn't feel like working on the plane, never mind flying it.

There IS a Santa!

Monday 1/4 I tightened the left rudder cable by remaking the hooks for the compression spring. Next I sanded the flox repair on the prop and gave it a thin brush coat of epoxy. Of course, the epoxy need to cure, so flying was out for another day. On Tuesday the epoxy on the prop was cured so it was time to put the upper cowl back. With the cowl sitting in place I could see with a flashlight that my new sensors were a bit too close, so the cowl came off again while these were repositioned.

I was about to put the cowl back on again when I noticed a few areas that have gotten slightly damaged and needed some micro. I'm slowly preparing to repaint the plane, starting with the removable pieces. So... I mixed up some micro and dabbed it on where needed. The wheel pants also needed fixing in a few spots. Of course, the micro needed to cure so flying was out for another day.

What the #@$% is this guy doing? I hear you ask. Why is he messing around with cosmetic details instead of getting on with flying? Well, the answer is simple. About 3 weeks ago, during a conversation with Tracy Crook about my mixture problems, I asked if he'd consider coming down to give my installation the once-over and help me with the tuning. He said yes, he'd love to, but his schedule was pretty busy and it might be a few weeks. So... I've been soft peddling waiting for the big day. Somewhere between conciously and semi-conciously I've been finding things that need to be done, and ways to avoid the temptation of flying. With the zzzzzen of rotary aviation coming to look over my entire installation any day now, I felt it prudent to wait. Discretion versus valor and all that stuff.

There's nothing quite like having someone like Tracy (is there ANYONE like Tracy?) listen to the engine, test things, poke and pull at the pipes and wires, and tell me what's bad (or good) about the installation. Maybe he won't find anything significant, and we'll just do some tuning. Maybe he will. Either way, I'll be happier about flying it after the visit.

Tracy zzzzzoomed in at around 10:30 am. Man that engine sounds sweet. He'd noticed a slight bump in the oil temp on the way down so he took the cowl off to check for leaks. A slight seep was seen at one fitting, and the oil was 1/2 quart down. Tracy topped it off, but decided to leave the fitting alone till he got home rather than disassemble things on the ramp.

Scrambled MAP and Donuts

Tracy poured over my installation for quite a while, locating things and mumbling to himself. I heard the word "nice" a few times, and asked him to please let me know if there was ANYTHING at all out of order. I had my notepad and pen ready. He pulled the prop through and commented that the compression was a bit low, but not lower than expected on a recently built engine. Compression on his engine seems much higher, but part of that is the higher ratio redrive. He commented that I'd gone from a dash 10 to dash 8 at the filter input. He thought to himself for a second, then said that's fine. Not a problem. Finally, he mentioned that my oil temp sensor was attached closely to the redrive - a massive heat sink - and the readings would be off. I need to move the sensor. Once he was satisfied with the overall setup, confirmed that everything seemed ok, we wheeled the plane out and climbed aboard. I started her up and sat back to let Tracy do his stuff. Playing the EC2 and EM2 controls like a piano he whipped through a few screens, held his hands up in the air with a look of exasperation, then signalled for me to cut the engine.

Tracy explained that the map tables in the EC2 were pretty much scrambled. Not just a bit out. I'd seen the screens as he was working through the tables, and some columns were empty, some were about right and some at random, were off the scale. This means that at very slightly different map readings and rpm settings the injector pulse width, and subsequently the mixture, would vary from one end of the scale to the other. No wonder I had trouble adjusting the mixture. It only took Tracy a few minutes to recover the defaults and, with the engine running, make a few adjustments to get the tables right. Sounds easy. There are just sooooo many things that could cause strange mixture readings, and the EGO sensor readings themselves aren't a lot of help. This gives me an idea. Maybe the EM2 needs calibrating to the EGO sensor. It shouldn't, but still - I could put a propane torch on the EGO sensor. This should give me a full scale reading on the EM2 mixture bars. Hmmm.

Anyway, Tracy did the tuning mostly by ear. The big question is how did the tables get scrambled? I'd checked them when I first installed the EM2 and they'd looked smooth. Since then the only programming I'd done was in mode 3 which imapcts all the readings at once. I'd done no mode 1 or mode 9 programming to impact individual columns on the map, and I'd have had to push the store button thousands of times to get it as far out as it was. Tracy wondered if electrical noise could have affected the long wire from the store button to the EC2. A shielded wire would solve this, if it's the problem, but I also have "EC2 - mode 0" on my preflight checklist and programming theoretically can't happen in mode zero. Thinking about it later I'm wondering if the grounding incident with the EM2 might have fried some numbers in the EC2 at the same time as it fried the EM2 chip, or maybe the low voltage condition while calibrating the EM2 also sent garbled data to the EC2. Whatever the reason it seems that I'm the first person it's happened to (why me) and its fixed now. The other thing to consider is that the engine ran with garbage in the map table. Not all that well, but it ran. Not bad.

After making a few minor adjustments during a third run of the engine Tracy declared it to be running perfectly - except for one thing. At almost wide open throttle, around 4050 rpm and 45 MAP he noticed a "slight hesitation" and chopped the throttle. He did it again and "felt" the same. I didnt notice a thing. Tracy said it was a seat of the pants thing. Could be ignition. Could be the onset of detonation. He didnt know, but he didn't like the feel of it and suggested that I keep it below 45. Other than that he felt that the engine was now as good as it gets.

The last issue was the oil pressure. On the third run I noted the readings - 80 PSI on startup. Once the oil was warmed up I had 15 at idle, 25 at 2000, 40 at 3000 and 60 at WOT. Tracy felt this was just a bit low. Why? Lots of possible reasons. I have a take off for the redrive and the turbo. Maybe this is drawing too much pressure. Maybe the bearing in the redrive is worn. Unlikely. I could find out by warming the engine, putting a restrictor in the line to the redrive, restarting briefly and seeing if the oil pressure changes. Maybe the main bearings are worn. Unlikely. They were checked by Bruce 2 hrs ago. Maybe the oil pump drive has lost it's key and is slipping on the shaft. (This happened to Ed once). Unlikely. It seemed fine when the engine was apart and Bruce didnt touch it. Maybe the oil pickup is sucking air. Unlikely - oil pressure wouldnt come up right away. Someone on the rotary list suggested an O ring, but I'm not sure which one. I think I'll call Bruce in the am and run it by him.

I fed Tracy some donuts, thanked him for coming down to help, and watched as he took off. He was airborne in much less than 1000 ft, held it at 6 ft until he got level with me, disappeared upwards with a wonderfully Zzzzzealous whine.... and was gone.

Are we There Yet?

I spoke to Bruce the next morning. He said he didn't make an issue of it at the time he did my repairs, but it looked to him like my main bearings and oil pump had NOT been replaced when the engine was rebuilt, even though I paid for the parts. Either of these could be responsible for my lower than normal oil pressures. The guy who rebuilt the engine, Chris Harris, has since gone out of business. Another lesson learned. Either learn to do it properly yourself, or have Bruce do it. Don't trust the local guy.

According to Bruce another possibility is oil foaming. This can be caused by too high an oil level. He suggested running the engine at 1500 rpm (to avoid foaming) until it's hot, then see what oil pressure I have at 4000 rpm. It should be about 60PSI. If it is, then foaming is the problem and I should lower the oil level. So. I have a few experiments to do. Since it's relatively cheap and simple to do, and addresses three of the possible reasons for lower oil pressure, I'll also change the oil and filer. The oil has always been very black after only a few minutes of running because of the screwed up mixture. Perhaps the black is burned 2 stroke oil. I don't know, but I wonder if this reduces the effectiveness and viscosity of the oil significantly. Anyway, I'm changing it again and putting synthetic in.

Next day, Thursday, I got down to the hangar fairly late armed with 6 qts of Mobil 1 15-50 performance synthetic oil and a K&N 1008 oil filter. (NAPA 1356 also works - thats what Tracy has in his Renesis). Looking at the engine, I noticed two items which might be relevant. The IN oil fitting on the filter was seeping a little oil. The OUT fitting was dry. I find this interesting because they're both very tight, and the IN would be taking all the pressure if the oil filter were causing too much resistance. I'm measureing oil pressure after the cooler. Maybe I should see what the pressure is before the filter. The second item was some white foam inside the top of the filler cap. Hmmmm. I drained the oil from the sump, blew the remaining oil out of the oil coolers (into a can this time) and added 3.5 qts of oil to get the level on the stick. Using a welding rod to measure with, I confirmed that the full mark on the stick is about 1/4 inch below the bottom of the aluminum plate, so full on the stick is about at the maximum limit. Ideally I should target about halfway between E and F on the stick (about 1/2 inch below the plate) as my standard level. With the oil plug back in place and all hoses tight I cranked the engine with ignition off. Oil pressure jumped to 20 PSI instantly, then to 40, then 45 PSI within a few seconds. I checked the oil again, since cranking will have filled the oil coolers, hoses, redrive and turbo lines and lowered the level in the sump. It took another 1/2 qt to get back to the midpoint. (Note: it takes more than that. See below).

I wheeled the plane out and started the engine. Oil pressure was instantly 85 - 90 PSI at 2000 rpm. After taxiing around for a few minutes I noticed an LED warning on the panel. The IP cover was off, so the warning labels and icons are missing, but I was pretty sure that this was the low oil warning. I wasnt wearing the headset, so I reached over and put it on. Sure enough, Char had been bitching to herself about the oil. I hit the STFU button and headed back. Oil pressure was still good at around 40 PSI as I taxied back the few feet to the hangar at low rpm.

The cranking had obviously not filled all the nooks and crannies. It took another qt to get the level back to the mid-point. After about a pint the low oil light went out. That's interesting. A low oil warning when only a quart down and while I still have enough to reach the pickup. That's good. I thought it went much lower than that before the low warning triggered. OK. I started her up again and taxied back and forth for 15 minutes or so until the coolant read 220 and the oil temp hit 210. Oil pressure was a little better than before the oil change. I was getting about 70 - 75 PSI at 4000 rpm, 45 - 50 at 3000, 25 - 30 at 2000 and 20 at idle. After lots of discussion on the fly-rotary list about what oil pressures are "acceptable" these numbers are ok. Not exciting, but ok.

While taxiing I noticed a few other anomolies. Coolant pressure on the analog gauge was ridiculously high at 30+ PSI. My cap releases at 21 - 25 PSI, so I don't think I believe the reading. The EM2 CP was reading 8. Very strange. [Later it occured to me that air in the line to the sensor might cause this, so I need to fill these lines with fluid.]. Also, just before I shut down, the analog coolant temp was 225. The EM2 was showing 30 degrees higher at 255 which is also ridiculously high. Oil and water temps have always been pretty much parallel. I'm beginning to wonder if calibration with the engine off and the voltage at 12v will give different readings when the alternator is running and the voltage is 13.8. It seems that, after all my efforts of installing duplicate gauges and calibrating sensors, all I've achieved is multiple uncertain sources of information. I'm still not sure what the truth is at any given time. Color me frustrated. On top of all that, the left rudder is sticking. Push the pedal - rudder goes out. Release the pedal. Rudder stays out, and it takes a fair push at the rudder to get it back. Not good.

The news isn't all bad, however. The engine is running very VERY well. Better than ever before, and yes - I know I've said that a few times. It's true this time too. The engine is now smooth through the entire rpm range. I held WOT and 4050 rpm and 44 MAP for about a minute and she never faultered at all - at least not according to the seat of MY pants. Maybe Tracy has thinner pants or special sensitive underware. Maybe I'm just not the sensitive type [I've been told that] Anyway, I dont feel a thing wrong.

Back in the hangar I took a look at the left rudder while the engine cooled down. I'd tightened the sliding bolt a little too much. I backed it off a couple of threads and the snagging ceased. By this time it was getting dark and the engine was still hot, so I called it a day. Tomorrow the cowl goes on and, if everything looks good, I'll see if this baby can still fly.

The "Have" Club - Junior member

Saturday, Jan 8th. I moved the oil temp sensor block and put a rubber pad under it to insulate it from the redrive heat sink. Al was working on his Long installing the remote compass for his new Dynon EFIS. I had Al hold the propane torch to the EGO sensor. The EM2 read full scale mixture. It went to zero when he removed the torch. I think that proves the EGO sensor and EM2 mixture reading is working correctly. I removed one of the coolant pressure sensors and lowered the hose until coolant flowed through it, then reinstalled the sensor. This should eliminate any air in that part of the system. I put the cowl back on, sanded down the blobs of micro I'd put here and there, and reinstalled the turbo heat shield extension. The bird was ready, but first I needed some breakfast. Two donuts and a coffee later I wheeled the plane out and began the preflight. It's been a while since I flew, so I took my time determined to be totally anal about everything. I worked diligently through the pre-flight check list. Finally I climbed aboard, started her up, waved to Paul & Al and taxied to the active.

During the runup oil pressure was 80 - 90 and temps were 150/140. The engine sounded excellent, so I took the active and opened the throttle to 40 MAP *. Off we went. Oil pressure 85. Acceleration was good. I've seen better * with higher boost levels, but I wanted to keep the boost down until I was more sure of the turbo and engine. Oil pressure 85. Speed was increasing nicely, but the end of the runway was getting closer than usual *, and I wasn't airborne yet. Speed 75 kts. Oil pressure 85 - 90. I gave the stick a slight pull and we unstuck.* Oil pressure still 80 or so. Once airborne I felt the buffet * of the gear and brought it up. Oil pressure 85. Climbing at 80 kts * and 1000 fpm * I was soon crosswind at 1000 ft. I throttled back to 4000 rpm. Oil pressure 75. I called downwind, then turning base but announced that I'd be staying at pattern altitude. Oil pressure 45. Temps 255/240 *

Oh sh.t, I thought. The engine's blown after all. My oil pressure concerns were a warning. Must be an O ring or something, and now I've blown it all the way out. I throttled back. The engine seemed to be running normally, but those temps are outragious. By this time I was directly overhead the threshold of the active at 1000'. Temps 270/260 and I could smell the heat. This is NOT good. I checked the analog gauges - the needles were off the scales. I considered flying another pattern, but decided I didnt want to use ANY power at all, so it would have to be a glide approach from here. I considered shutting the engine down altogether, then decided I might need it if I misjudged my height on final. Just short of calling an emergency, I called "Lantana Traffic, Cozy 96PM on final for 15, overhead the threshold at 1000', circling descent to final. We have a problem. Other aircraft in the pattern - I need the runway. Please don't get in my way on this one". A Spam can on the ground acknowledged, and confirmed he would hold his take-off.

Pretty much at idle all the way down, except for one blip to check that I still had an engine, I did a fairly tight decending 540 degree turn, using the spare time to figure out in my head how much this was all going to cost, and came out at 400 ft lined up where I wanted to be. I felt high, but she decended nicely *. Char mentioned quietly that I should probably put the gear down at this point. Seemed like a good idea. Landing was normal. I held the nose off for a while, then decided to drop it down and get on the brakes. I rolled out, taxied gently to the hangar and shut her down. Paul was giving me the thumbs-up sign as I taxied in, and looked somewhat relieved. I guess he'd been listening on the hangar radio.

I parked the plane at the hangar door and shut down. While I was still climbing out Al ran over with his leaf blower and stuck it up my NACA scoop . There was coolant coming out of the overflow. Paul went round the back and released my cowl door to let the heat out. These guys seemed remarkably well organized, I thought. It's as if they knew I was overheating before I even got back. They did. They'd watched the take-off which was toward the hangar, and they'd watched as I climbed overhead..... with the landing brake down.

Paul had got on the hangar radio, but it's not transmitting for some reason and I didn't hear his warning radio calls. So... they say there are two clubs. Those that will, and those that have (landed with gear up). I'm still in the "will" club for gear, thankfully, but I'm now a fully paid-up, card carry member of the "have" club for landing brakes. My excuse? None. How had I missed the landing brake on the runup checklist? Simple. I hadn't used the checklist. I was fixated on the oil pressure. I'd used the checklist line by line until engine start, then put it aside. It's not that I didnt bother to look at the list. I simply didn't remember. How come I missed the LED and voice warnings? I did the runup and take off on the MAP gauge and didn't use full throttle. The warning circuit microswitch only activates on full throttle. I'd better change that.

After walking around slapping my forehead for a few minutes I began to wonder about the engine. Paul & Al said it sounded very sweet as I took off, but not quite so happy as I taxied back. With the temps that high I'm not suprised. By this time the temps were back down to reasonable numbers, so we wheeled it back onto the ramp and I fired her up. Start-up was normal. Oil pressure 75. Temps 180/170. I gradually opened the throttle. WOT seemed normal at 4050 rpm. Oil pressure 80. Y'know what - I think I might have gotten away with it. I taught myself a really good lesson, completed the landing brake down take off part of the flight tests, and it looks like I didn't damage the engine. Whew. That's enough excitement for one day, I thought. Tomorrow I'll check the fluids and take a good look around the engine for heat damage. I pushed her back in the hangar, and treated myself to a celebratory ice cream on the way home. Total time - now 11.4.

Perhaps you were wondering what the *'s were for in the above text. These were the warnings that the brake was still down. I missed every one of them. I hope readers are enjoying and learning from all this. I certainly am.

Crop circles?

Sunday I removed the cowl and had a very careful look around. There was no evidence of heat damage. The coolant took about 4 qts. Oil level was unchanged. I removed the throttle quadrant and adjusted the trigger for the microswitch until it engaged on about half throttle. The same microswitch activates the canopy warning. I tested both to ensure that they'd operate at the throttle settings I've been using. Finally I put everything back together and cleaned off the bugs ready for a flight in the morning.

Monday morning I was back at it. After triple checking the landing brake and the pre-takeoff checklist I launched off runway 09 and into the blue with oil pressure over 90. hmmm. OP seems to be getting better with each flight. The climb out was much better (duh!), and I was soon turning downwind at 1000'. Temps were a bit high at 230/220, but they came down slowly as I backed off on the throttle. My first approach was somewhere between a high speed pass and a go-around. My initial intention was to stay high and just overfly the runway. But, as I came down final at 500' I started to think about trying to make the landing. I brought the throttle back and used the rudders to loose some energy. The approach was looking OK until I glanced at the ASI which read 125kts at 100 feet. Hmmm. I wonder if I could still make it, I thought. Probably not, but I'm still experimenting with this airplane, and the attempt might be an interesting exercise. I was over the threshold at 115 kts and the runway was whizzing by awfully fast. The plane had no inclination to stop flying, obviously, and halfway down the runway at 10 feet and 95 kts it still wasnt looking promising. Could I have got down and walked away? Maybe, but there's a lake at the end of that runway, and I think I'd have got my socks wet. Call me chicken if you will. I sure wasn't about to try it. I goosed the engine, retracted the gear and was back on crosswind at 800ft in almost no time. That was fun. I'd Zzzzed the airport.

Just as I was about to call downwind, someone else did. I called my position, no joy, and the other pilot came back that he had the Velocity below him and to the left. That's a Cozy, not a Velocity, I said. Swollowing a dissertation on why the Cozy is better, I asked if I was ahead of him on the downwind. "You are now" he said, a little frustrated. Ooops. I guess he wasn't used to people screaming around the pattern at 120 kts plus. I must have snuck up on him faster than expected as he joined on the crosswind. Serves him right for not coming into the downwind on a 45 like everyone else. I kept the speed up on the downwind and base, then brought it back to reasonable numbers on final. A quick glance showed temps of 160/150 as I slid over the threshold at 75. I was parked in my hangar by the time the Cessna behind me needed the runway. As often happens, my Zzzzing the airfield brought out an A&P who wanted to know all about the plane and the engine.

There were a few minor oil spots on the lower cowl, hopefully still residue from spills during the oil change, but I think the cowl better come off to be sure. Thankfully the engine seems no worse for it's Icarus experience. Oil pressure is ok to good and static rpm is unchanged. Todays flight temps were tolerable, but higher than I used to have long ago when I first flew this beast. The OAT was much hotter then too. I looked for anything that might explain the difference. I crawled underneath and shone a flashlight into the NACA scoop. My two stock 3rd gen oil coolers looked strange. Most of the thin aluminum fins between the oil channels are bent flat, blocking the air flow. Those that aren't bent are toward the lower edge of the cooler where airflow would be lower. The fins are all bent the same way, away from the NACA in an even pattern that would indicate to me that this was either done by one of those crop circle guys on his day off, or by the high pressure air hitting the coolers at an angle. I hear that there's a comb you can buy for this at Harbor Freight. That'll be interesting. I haven't used a comb in years. I wonder though. If I spend a couple of uncomfortable hours under the plane, will the fins just bend flat again on the next flight? Flight time today 1/10 = 0.4. I would have flown again this afternoon, but - who'd have thought I'd ever get to say this - I gotta comb my oil coolers.....

The fly-rotary guys think some idiot probably bent the oil cooler fins hosing off the lower cowl while it was off the plane. Ah well. The idiot will bend them back and go from there.

Next day it took about 3 minutes lying under the plane for me to realize that straightening the fins through the NACA scoop just wasnt going to work. Two and a half hours later I drove home with the two oil coolers, the radiator and the intercooler in my truck. I spent a lazy evening straightening fins by the TV and, hopefully, will start reinstalling everything in the morning.

4000 Triangles

So much for being done next morning. I stayed up till 2 am to get the first oil cooler finished. After various experiments with kitchen knives and forks and Char's afro hair comb I found that the best tool for the job was a sharp thin bladed knife to bend the fins into rough shape, then a pen-knife I found which just happens to have the perfect shape to fit into the tiny triangles in the zig-zag of aluminum fins. While bending and straightening each little triangle I counted them. There are exactly 1000 of those little buggers on each side. About 60% of mine needed attention, and 20% of them need a lot of persuasion. A thousand triangles, probed with the knife from each side of each cooler adds up to 4000 individual triangles. Phew. New oil coolers would have been a lot easier, but provided I haven't damaged the oil galleries with my probing, I'm guessing that my oil coolers are now about 60% more efficient.

Next day I needed a break from fin straightening, so I went to the hangar and sanded the lower cowl. Since I have it off I might as well get it ready for painting. There were some cracks in the micro where it had been bent and abused, so I dug out the micro in those areas with a dremel and replaced it. I have also noticed slight oily marks at the joint between the cowl and the wing about 4 inches ahead of the trailing edge. Air is forcing its way out of the cowl at this seam. This makes sense, because when it gets to that join it has nowhere else to go. I'm thinking of adding small air outlets in the corners to release this air and, hopefully, improve the overall airflow.

I spent another evening of fin straigtening by the TV and eventually finished the second oil cooler. I now have about 13 hours invested in these bent fins. Sounds a lot, but hey! That's over 5 holes/minute! Now all I have to do is clean up the fins on the radiator and intercooler, paint the cowls, put everything back together and I'm ready to fly again. I hope to be airborne again by the weekend.

Finally, on Thursday I headed down to the hangar with all the heat exchangers. The first job on my list was painting the cowls. I thought about the time and effort involved. To hell with it. The paint can wait. Let's get this bird in the air. It might be an ugly duckling, but at least it'll be a 200 MPH ugly duckling. I'll paint it all in one go after the time's flown off. In the meantime I'll do the prep bit by bit between flights.

I installed the oil coolers into the lower cowl using RTV to seal the edges. I removed the Ferrari fan and stuck it on the shelf. I really don't think it's doing any good, and it has to be damaging the airflow. Loosing the weight wont hurt either. Looking down the cowl I spotted air gaps at sides of the cowl flap where pressure could escape so I duct taped the flap and floxed the gaps. Finally I installed the radiator with more RTV, even sealing the gaps at the header tanks where air could flow out.

I was about to install the lower cowl when I realized that two nutplates had ripped out of the fiberglass, and needed to be replaced. I used Benoit's trick of riveting new ones to small strips of aluminum and flox/BIDing these in place. I am starting to really hate nutplates, but I don't feel like changing the cowl attach system right now. If I were doing it again there wouldn't be a nutplate on ANYTHING that gets removed frequently. While I had some flox mixed I dremeled away the micro from aft of the cowl screw holes on the turtleback and replaced it with flox. The screws had been causing this micro to crack and break away here and there. The flox had to cure and I had non airplane things to do, so that was it for the day. On Friday I didn't get much done. I did a bit of cleanup on the flox and covered it with a thin layer of micro. Once this is sanded down the cowl and most of the turtleback will be ready for paint.

Reassembly

Saturday I sanded the micro around the cowl holes and reattached the lower cowl. Reminds me of the plans. One sentence that took just over four hours. Tomorrow I'll reattach the oil cooler and radiator hoses, cowl flap actuator and intercooler, then I should be ready for an engine test with the upper cowl off to test for leaks. The weather isn't expected to clear till Tuesday anyway.

Sunday I did a little more micro work and laid-up 2 BID of glass over a deoderant container. I spotted the (Old Spice) deoderant while looking around the supermarket for something the right shape for my new cowl exit ducts. I don't use Old Spice. If I can get it out of the cured glass without wrecking it I'll donate it to Buly. He's been sweating a lot recently trying to get his engine installation done.

After another 2 hours the oil coolers, radiator and intercooler were all reconnected. I just have the cowl flap actuator to do. I'll pick up some coolant and oil on the way to the hangar tomorrow, then the engine will be ready to start.

Bastille Day

My friend, Cozy builder and flyer, Benoit drops into Miami fairly regularly in his big plane. This time he brought Michel with him. Michel is also an Air France pilot, and a canardian in a small way. I mean that in the nicest possible way - he flies a VariEZ. Michel is starting on an Aerocanard and had just come back from a meeting with the new owner. Benoit & Michel stopped to visit Buly on their way up from Miami. They found his project interesting because of it's front hinge canopy and modified cockpit, but unfortunately didn't get to hear it make the ZZZZ noise. Buly's battery was too low and he couldnt get a spark. By the time they arrived at my hangar I had the fluids in and the cowl flap hooked up. I pushed her out, fired her up, ran the engine for a minute to get the oil coolers filled, then shut down. I topped the oil off and did a cowl off taxi test to check for leaks. I noticed that the oil pressure during the taxi test was over 100, and temps didn't get above 130 or so despite 10 minutes of taxiing and runups. The engine felt sweet and ready to go, so I put her back in the hangar to fit the cowl. But, instead of working, we chatted back and forth for a while, then decided to get some lunch.

A dozen Maryland crabs and almost 3 hours later, Benoit needed to head back to Miami and I was too stuffed to work on the plane, so the cowl fitting got postponed till the next day.

Next day, Tuesday, I decided to do something about the cowl air exit before fitting the cowl. I originally made the top cowl with a V to hold the nutplates for screws coming from the lower cowl. This V goes the full width of the cowl sides, so it's blocking any possible airflow. I cut away the V except where it was needed to hold the nutplates, then installed the cowl. Now with a die grinder I changed the curve of the back of the cowl, from the wing to the main body of the cowl to open up a slit on each side where air can flow out. Yes. I know you need a picture. I'll take one next time I'm down there. Eventually I was done with all this and ready to roll the plane out. I went to raise the door and it was raining. We have a bit of a cold front coming through with fairly stiff winds and showers hanging around the coast line. The weather was marginal for a VFR flight, but the rain did remind me of something I wanted to do. Following advice I read in the canard forum, I cut a piece of 4 mil plastic and RTV'd it to the top of the instrument panel, draping it forward over all the electronics. So, the plane is ready to push back as soon as the weather picks up. Now I've sanded away all the gloss and most of the trim paint from the back end it desperately needs a paint job, but otherwise it's ready to fly.

"Practice" Forced Landing

Y'know, after only 12 hrs in my Cozy I probably have more forced landing practice than many experienced Cozy pilots. Today just added to the experience a little more. I guess if you're going to get good at something, forced landings should probably be it. Today was also a first. I had a doctor's visit in the morning, so rather than wear my usual work teeshirts and shorts I dressed in good clothes. So... I ended up at the hangar dressed for flying instead of working. I like that. I wheeled her out, went through my checklist carefully and started up. Oil pressure was over 100. By the time I taxied to the active at the far end of the field temps were still 110/100 with an ambient of 65. The runup went well, and got the coolant to the 135 I was waiting for. I double checked the landing brake and rolled with 42 MAP and 4100 rpm. Oil pressure was 95 during the take off roll. I was off the ground in about 1000' brought the gear up and climbed at 85kts and around 1000 fpm. Downwind temps were 170/160, oil pressure 85, coolant pressure 15.

The only problem was that Char keeps telling me to lower the gear at 3600 rpm which is what I was using to cruise around the pattern at 120 kts. I need to adjust that microswitch some more. Also, the brake and canopy warnings are still too high on the throttle for the settings I'm using.

I stayed at pattern altitude and did a couple of patterns. On the third pattern I was about midfield downwind and was about to change frequencies to get clearance into the Class C above when, as well as telling me about the gear, Char added "John. The oil's getting hot". A quick glance at the EM2 confirmed with the analog gauge told me she was wrong, but she knew something wasn't right. The LED on the panel helped me figure it out. This was the low oil level sensor. I'd wired it to an old message and hadn't had a chance to get Char down to the hanagar to rerecord it. Low oil and hot oil are close enough, and get the same reaction. Hmmm. Why would the oil level be low? An oil leak, perhaps? Instead of my normal downwind call I called a "practice engine out", and headed for the numbers. A 182 called short final. At this point the engine, which HAD been behaving perfectly, began running rough. RPM was fluctuating and lower than the throttle would dictate. Apart from checking that both fuel pumps were on I didn't pay too much attention. I was committed to landing at this point anyway. I told the 182 I saw him and would follow him in, adding that I'd appreciate it if he'd clear the runway as soon as possible since this was becoming a real emergency. Oil pressure and temps - good. I was on a high and very tight base at 100kts and 500 ft. A blip of the throttle didn't produce encouraging results. Hesitation and stutter. I did not want to go around. The 182 called clear. I slapped down the gear and landing brake, then stood on the rudders coming over the numbers at 85kts while still turning final. Tight patterns are great, arnt they? I used most of the runway with mild braking, then taxied back to the hangar. Before shutting down I noted the temps at 170/160 and oil pressure at 65 at 2500. No problems there. I shut down and climbed out. Everything seemed normal. The engine didnt seem overly hot, and there were no signs of oil.

I little further investigation showed that the left tank vent (under the right strake) had been venting a little fuel. I could see the patterns the fuel had made running along the paintwork and coming up at the back right edge of the cowl. I'd had both pumps on. The left tank is now full. I had this once before with similar symptoms. Looks like crossfeed bit me again. I think the engine must get a higher fuel pressure when the return can't go anywhere because the receiving tank is full. Thinking about it, the rough running started when I throttled back = more fuel returning to the tank. I have the relay to give me a crossfeed warning. Just haven't fitted it yet. Now might be a good time. The oil level was on the lower mark on the stick. Maybe I found an air bubble in the oil system since the recent change. Perhaps the oil cooler thermostats didnt open on the short taxi test with it being colder out. I need to confirm what the oil level should be. I'm not certain this is the right oil dipstick, and the mount plate lowers the pan. Buly says he has 3 inches of oil in the pan. I'll check mine in the morning, but I think it's less. Overfull isnt good because you can get foaming in the sump. Underfull isnt good either. It can cause foaming at the mouth. I'll ask other rotary flyers to tell me the depth of oil from the bottom of the pan and double check where I'm at. I'm also aware that checking the oil with the nose down gives a lower reading. I usually check it with the plane level. I have a little soot on the prop, probably because I took off on rich and didnt back it off, plus the overhigh fuel pressure would cause this. I have to move the GPS so I can see the mixture control better. So, I have another list of minor squarks, another 0.3 on the plane, and another forced landing under my belt. All in all, a good day.

The Psychology of Test Flying

A LongEZ pilot reading my web site sent me a thought provoking email. He politely told me that I was afraid of the airplane. I'm using any excuse to abort a flight, or not fly. I should just bite the bullet and fly the damned thing. He commented that, for example, I should have ignored the low oil warning on the last flight and continued with the planned climb to do further testing. I had good oil pressure and good temperatures, so the low level warning must have been wrong.

The first reaction when you get something like this is to be defensive and justify your actions. I had a bit of an advantage, since I've also had it from the other direction - you're being too cavalier. You should never have flown that plane without dyno testing the engine, tieing it to a tree and running at full power etc. etc.

So, I've been stewing on this for a couple of days. The lead attorney presented the case for the defense. The prosecution dived in with some very stiff arguments, the judge summed up, the jury sat through the night and the verdict was presented. The procedure was fairly quick and painless, mostly because the defense, procesecution, judge and jury are all me. Here's the ruling:

Scared of the plane? Not guilty. I pled guilty to three lesser charges: Being scared of crashing the plane, being scared of dieing and being scared of breaking something that'll cost me $5k to fix. I put 4000 hrs and 5 years into this baby, and I'd really like to get some use out of it. Secondly, I like my life, and would kinda like to keep it, and I really don't want any more delays or major expenses. As sure as the gloves that didn't fit, the deciding factor in the case was urgency.

If urgency exists and is valid, then yes I'm taking it too slow. If there isn't any urgency, then aborting or cancelling a flight for some potentially trivial issue has no impact. I don't really care if it takes another month, or another year to complete the testing. For example, my "accusser", said that I should have transferred some fuel, topped up the oil and flown again that same day. Get back on the horse, as he put it. The defense countered that there were some fairly minor squarks that needed attention. The gear warning at medium throttle, the crossfeed warning, checking on the proper depth of oil in the sump (3" = full by the way), moving the GPS so I can see and reach the mixture setting better.... Why not fly now and deal with these later - simple. This is the test phase. Finding stuff like this is the diamonds. You find 'em and you fix 'em and THEN you move on. They have to be fixed sometime. Why not now. Weather down here really isnt an issue, so there's no urgency to fly while the weather's good.

What about the fear issue. Defense stipulates that fear exists, but counters that a little healthy fear is a good thing. It gets the adreneline moving, and keeps you sharp. It's those without fear who are the dangerous ones. The defendant answered this question. Yes. there IS a little bit of fear as I pass the point of no return on the runway until I get to around 500 feet and know I can get back. I find myself thinking "Not now, baby. Please not now". Failure to admit this would be less than honest, and I'm not ashamed of it. I have the same feeling in Cessna's and even on commercial flights. Routinely getting past the danger area will cause this feeling to lessen with time. Even Mike Melvill admited experiencing fear as he piloted Spaceship One. The procecution jumped right on that with "I know Mike Melvill. Mike Melvill is a friend of mine, and John, you're no Mike Melvill". OK. Fair enough. I sat down and shut up, suitably deflated.

Moving on, my "learned friend's" thinking is based on his experience test flying a Lycoming power LongEz. I've been getting a bit of the same "pushing" from my LycEz hangar buddies. It makes sense. On a scale of 1 - 10, the complexity factor of these airplanes is a 3. Mine's a 12. My choice, and I have to live with the consequences. My panel has more buttons, lights, switches and dials than a 747. Not really, but you get the point. These are LOTS of both big and little issues that have to be delt with, checked and verified, and monitoring everything in flight takes up a lot of mindspace. For every one lever you have, I have three. (e.g. cowl flap, boost & throttle). Complexity is exponential. I've flown a Jet (Strikemaster). This is harder, mainly because I don't trust all the systems yet. If I'm a little bit tired, or have my head around some other problem (like a software design or a business plan) there isn't enough left for flying, so I don't. The prosecution's final argument is what clinched the case. Referring to the low oil level warning, he said: I hear you can run those rotary engines without oil for quite a long time. The defense siezed that right away. Sure you can.... but then you have to go buy another one. Having to buy another engine could cost my client 6 months, not to mention his airplane or even his life, so he abort's at the slightest indication that something isnt right. I ask you - members of the jury, is that fear, or just plain good sense?

What about the counter argument? - he's too cavalier and he's rushing it? Easy. This is a matter of personal limits. Many are scared of flying commercial. Some accept this as a reasonable risk, but wouldn't dream of flying in a cessna 172. Then there's the certified general aviation crowd who think those who fly experiments are out of their minds. Finally, there's the bleeding edge of this community who modify the airframes, design their own or, even worse, install car engines. Are we crazy. I don't think so. We're actually very very careful about what we do within the limits of what's practical with limited resources. Apply commercial certified engineering standards to what we do, and we'd never get airborne. Rather than use a wind tunnel, Burt tested SS1 strapped to the roof of a truck. It's not perfect, but it's the best we can do under the circumstances. Sometimes all the theory in the world isn't worth one trip around the pattern. And yes, before you send me an email, I know I'm no Burt either.

Anyway, in summary, those who are reading this daily and getting impatient (or nervous). My apologies and regrets. I'll be moving along at my own chosen pace and I'll get there when I get there. Deal with it, or go read another web site. Comments, suggestions or just good old encouragement, however, are always welcome. I'm always open to critism, even when it's invalid. It makes me think, and I thank my accusers (from both directions) for that.

So - what happened over the past few days? Not much. I worked (non aviation work) and only made it to the hangar for a couple of hours each day. Bit by bit I worked through the squarks. I installed the crossfeed warning system using a spare flashing red LED on the panel. This wont tell me if the solenoid fails, but it will tell me if I leave both pumps on by mistake. The oil depth in the sump was 2 1/4 inches. I topped it up to 3". I found a new mounting spot for the GPS. Those wanting to have a panel mount on the buget of a handheld will like this. My Garmin 196 doesnt look like it can be mounted in a panel. In fact I'm sure they deliberately design it to make this difficult. I got around them. I made an aluminum plate to hold the EC2 panel, the EM2 and the GPS. I traced the shape and cut out a hole for the front of the gps unit, gradually sneaking up on the perfect size hole to fit the front of the unit. The outside shell of the GPS is a silghtly soft rubberized material, and there's an indent where the two halves of the unit join. I found that I could make the cut out a tiny bit undersize, and gently push the body of the GPS into the hole from the back. When the al plate got to the indent between the halves it snapped into it for a nice tight fit. Bingo. I have an $800 panel mount. I can see and reach the EC2 controls below it, it's easy to reach and it looks good.

While I was working on the panel I noticed that the flashing "nop" message on the EM2 (which means it's not talking to the EC2 controller) didnt go away when I powered on the backup circuit for the EC2, just when I powered the main circuit. Thinking it was the tiny micro switches I threw these out and installed big aviation style clunkers. Still no communication on the backup. Hmmm. I checked the fuse and traced the power to the switch, but there was no power on pin 33 at the EC2. Somewhere along the route contact was being lost. I had a spare wire - the old Ferrari fan wiring, so I hooked this up at both ends and the problem went away.

Next I adjusted the microswitches for the gear, canopy and landing brake warnings, adjusted the right wheel pant a little more and left the plane ready to go. If weather is right, and all the traffic lights on the way to the airport are green, just maybe, I'll take her around the pattern a couple of times. Then again. Maybe not.

Slick Kitten

That's my new name for this bird. Finally on 1/26 I got to the hangar and pushed her out. Weather was perfect, clear blue and 72. I had to taxi up and down the ramp for 10 minutes to get the oil up to 135. The runup was good with a double check of the redundant coils, injectors and computers and a TRIPLE check of the landing brake. I rolled on the left pump only (but ready to hit the right pump really fast if needed) with oil pressure (OP) 90, temps of about 160/150 at 40 MAP. She lept off the ground suprisingly quickly with only 4500 rpm. In keeping with my usual practice lately I did a few circuits at pattern altitude. Temps were in the 170's and OP was 80 or so. Everything seemed fine except for the canopy. I'd made the mistake of washing it off, and it had dried with spots all over it. Visibility was ok, but next time I'll clean the damn thing properly.

With everything still in the green I got climb clearance and worked my way slowly up to 5,000 ft, then on to 7,500. After a few minutes of poodling about at 140 /150 kts I pushed the throttle forward just a little. There's a slight vibration as the engine comes under load that goes way as the speed builds up. I've noticed this on take-off too. I've been suspecting that the cowl is touching somewhere as the engine moves on the mount. I noticed that the EM2 is flashing the voltage of 14.1, even though the high limit warning is set at 15v. Something else to check. I gradually built up to 165 indicated, then tried a flutter test. I whacked the stick forward, then back, then side to side. Non event. The damping is sure and solid. I nudged it up to 170 and tried again. Nothing. I can tell the difference the wheel pants make. Wind noise and vibration are definately less. The plane seemed to purr along like a kitten, and I could imagine what it must be like to actually be going somewhere instead of just flying circles around Palm Beach.

Here's a few details for the number hungry:
At 6000' and 4440 rpm I had 135 kts, OP 71, temps 174/179, MAP 32, Fuel Pressure (FP) 38, Coolant pressure (CP) 10. At 6500' and 155kts I had 5020 rpm, MAP 38, OP 69, temps 182/192. At 7500ft and 170kts indicated I had MAP 38, 5500 engine rpm, CP 15, EGT 1450 and temps of 187/203. This was on the EM2. The analog gauge was showing oil temp 240, backing down to 220 as I reduced power. I remember that the analog gauge calibration showed a bit high at higher temps, but I didnt think it was 40F off. The two sensors are at different places. I might swap them over to see who's telling the truth. In descent I saw 4200 rpm, 135 kts, CP 10, MAP 26, temps 145/155.

After an hour or so sinset (oops - fraudian slip) was approaching, so I headed down. She doesnt want to run smooth below about 2500. I can adjust the mixture at each throttle setting to smooth it out, but then increased throttle needs more adjustment. Definately some tuning still needed here. Keeping the rpm at around 3000 I decended into the pattern giving a couple of 172's ahead of me plenty of room to get down and out of the way. Forgetting Pauls words and fighting the speeds a bit because of the rougher running at lower rpm I found myself on short final high and at a good 125kts. Landing brake, gear and rudders wern't helping much and I came over the numbers at 120+. Knowing this wasnt at all good I followed through to see whether a landing was going to be possible. Answer - yes, but it would NOT have been easy to stop. Even with the throttle all the way back she did not want to stop flying (Duh!). I managed to get the mains on the runway for a second, then I was back up at 15 ft. Deciding that this was enough experimentation for one day, I slapped up the gear and landing brake, pushed on the power and climbed away hoping no-one was watching. Someone was. The next approach was much better at 90 kts, down to 80 over the numbers.

As I taxied back to the hangar a big red truck followed me in. This happens to me a lot lately. Hangar 'bum', Bill (a friend of the local Murphy guy) had heard me circling over his house, watched me with his binoculars, then driven over to the field to get a better view. He'd watched my entire flight, including the first "landing". Thankfully he didn't bring a video camera. Bill said "You were really pushing it on that flight." Actually, no, I said proudly. I was holding it back a lot. Bill said I seemed to be going very fast over his house. I checked the GPS. It says my max speed was only 219kts TAS, I smiled. Oops. Thats 252 mph, but there was a pretty good wind at altitude. By the way, did you see the first landing? Yea, says Bill. You were a bit hot on that one.
[Note: I sit corrected - of course the GPS doesn't know outside air temp and density altitude - how could it possibly give me TAS? The 219kts reading was groundspeed.]

As I chatted with Bill we walked around and noticed some oil on the cowl. After removing the cowl and checking for leaks it seems that I'm getting some oil (maybe 1/2 cup) blowing out of the breather. The sump plate join looks a bit wet, but I think most of it is coming from the breather. Steve Brooks had the same problem, and I've been meaning to fit a catch can high on the firewall. I guess now is the time. I discovered two marks on the underside of the top cowl where the blow-off valve and vacuum regulator are touching. Some adjustment needed here. In general it was an excellent flight, 1.4 hrs, and the engine behaved purrrrfectly. The oil on the cowl made me think of the new name - slick kitten.

A few more diamonds found, and a lot of progress made. I think this is the beginning of a new chapter in the flight test, and this page is getting long, so lets turn the page....

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