I had all these good intentions – to blog weekly about my upcoming flight to Oshkosh. And to get started on my “To-Do” list that HAS to be done so that I can leave on Tuesday, July 19. So what happened? The weather turned into real flying weather, and I’m getting distracted! I go to the airport to fly “just for 30 minutes” and I can hear Norm chuckling. When I see him three or four hours later, he never says “I thought you were only going to fly for half an hour.” Maybe that’s why we’re still married after all these years – he knows when to stay silent!
In my last post I wrote about gunk in my fuel filter, and deciding to get a new gas tank to replace the fiberglass one that appeared to be disintegrating. Boy am I glad I did!
After I gave Ed Griffen the go-ahead to replace it, we both were curious about what the tank would look like inside. So Ed cut it apart after he took it out. The bottom was soft, but not coming apart. But the two interior baffles were definitely decomposing, with fiberglass threads clearly visible and fiberglass “pond scum” clinging to the walls and baffles.
So Ed fabricated an 18 gallon aluminum tank for me. The new tank is lighter than the old one, is shaped differently, and gives me more cargo space than the old one. It now sits right on the CG. Before adding gas, I put the front wheels on scales, jacked up the tail wheel and put it on a scale, and did a new weight and balance…empty weight.
Before adding gas, I had to mark my fuel “gauge” – a piece of clear fuel line that runs up the outside of the tank. Ed figured out an ingenious way to calibrate the gauge. First, I went to the gas station and filled three six-gallon gas cans, and one, one-gallon can, making sure to fill them with exactly six gallons and one gallon. Back at the hangar, I put the full one-gallon tank on a scale and weighed it. I know that a gallon of gas weighs six lbs., but I wanted to know what the gas can added in weight, and what it would show on my non-calibrated scale. Exactly 7.5 lbs.
Then I poured the that gallon into my new fuel tank. I couldn’t see any gas rising in the fuel line, so couldn’t mark off one gallon. Next I put the empty one-gallon tank on the scale, and slowly poured gas into it until it weighed 7.5 lbs. I poured that in, and saw fuel in the line. So that was my first mark – at two gallons. Put the empty one-gallon can back on the scale, poured more gas in until it hit 7.5 lbs., poured it into the fuel tank and made another mark on the fuel line.
On and on, a gallon at a time. I double checked myself each time I emptied a six-gallon can – and sure enough, the method worked! It took almost 3 hours to transfer the 18 gallons of fuel. Of course, that included some talk time as other pilots came over to see what I was doing.
With all the gas aboard, I gingerly climbed into the jacked-up plane and did another weight and balance computation. Finally, I added my gear and did a third computation. The FARs don’t require the second computation I did (just me with full fuel,) but I was curious.
By then it was too late to fly – so I headed home. The next day I was at the airport nice and early.
I did a really careful pre-flight, (Ed had to take off one wing strut to get the old tank out and the new tank in, and so I was doubly careful that all the nuts and bolts and wires were where they belonged) and then I was warming up the engine.
As I took off, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ed had done a really, really good job of checking whether his welds were solid. My head said “Of course he did, and he explained that he pressure tested them three times!” yet my gut said, “Remember, things can go wrong in spite of every precaution.” But the Talon flew like a bird with absolutely no problems.
With the new tank, it is so perfectly balanced that I can let go of the stick and it stays in straight and level flight. What an exhilarating feeling!
Tomorrow I’m scheduled to go flying with a pilot who I’ve never met except on-line. He’s flying into Sandy River Airport in a Cessna 150 and he thinks we’ll be able to fly together fairly well, since my Talon can cruise @ 80-85 mph and that’s just a little slower than his 150 likes to fly. THEN I HAVE to stay home and start packing for Oshkosh!
If you’re going to be at Oshkosh, come by the Ultralight Tent @ 10:00 a.m. on Friday, July 29. I’ll be giving a talk (complete with pictures!) of the flight to Oshkosh.