…. the Debonair’s new engine is installed and ready for break-in. Yours truly was on hand for the final installation checks at Aero Engines of Winchester, located at the Winchester, Virginia Regional Airport last Friday. And the new engine’s first flight.
A view of the Debonair’s 260-hp Continental IO-470-N, installed and ready to fly.
Side view shows the new baffling, complete with seals colored to match the airplane’s final paint scheme. The original orange breather hose on top of the engine will be replaced with new hosing that will also match the paint job. The new ECi cylinders seem huge in comparison to those in the previous engine.
By the time I arrived the engine had had its first engine ground run, which included fast-taxi tests. All was in order, but when I started the engine for its first flight the oil pressure read zero! So it was with disappointment that I shut it down. Soon, four mechanics were elbow-deep in the engine compartment. A mechanical oil pressure gauge was fitted to the engine to determine if the Electronics International MVP-50P digital engine/systems analyzer might be giving faulty data.
Turns out we were on to something. A second start showed healthy oil pressure on the mechanical gauge. That meant the problem was either with the MVP-50P, or in the wiring feeding it. Sure enough, a misconnected transducer wire was discovered, and the subsequent start showed normal oil pressure readings on the MVP-50P. What a relief!
First impressions? The engine runs smooth–much smoother than its predecessor–and has the throaty sound you’d expect of a bigger Continental engine.
During the pre-takeoff runup, I made sure to check that all the engine controls–magnetos, boost pump, throttle, propeller, and mixture–performed as expected. All the engine indications were normal during the published runup done at 1,900 rpm, and again at full power. Which required extra pressure on the brakes, by the way. It was a hint of what was to come.
Did I feel like a test pilot? Hey, I was a test pilot, by definition if not profession! And I certainly sensed all eyes were on me from the time I taxied out. Hey, no pressure…..not!
Then it was line up on Winchester’s runway 32, stand on brakes, full power, another look at engine indications (all in the green and normal), and brake release. N75YR surged forward and we were off to the normal rotation speed of 89 mph/77 knots. That took a few short seconds, then it was time to pull. (Incidentally, the takeoff airspeed is seven knots faster than the original airplane’s, according to the Airplane Flight Manual Supplement that comes with the engine conversion.)
And we’re airborne! Vy is 104 mph/90 knots, and I held that speed until reaching 3,000 feet above the airport. Then it was time to orbit the field for a half-hour or so to make sure everything worked properly in flight. That’s the test-pilot part. Of course, I’d already scoped out the territory around the airport for suitable forced-landing spots. There were several that would be in easy gliding range once I got to, say, 500 feet above pattern altitude (1,700 feet msl/980 agl), but not so many below that. Turns out I didn’t need them anyway.
I kept the power up and had an uneventful time of it, and was glad to have the ADS-B traffic information to help me locate the traffic below in the pattern. The MVP-50P reported all was normal under the hood.
After 45 minutes or so, I descended and entered the pattern for a landing. The “new” engine’s first flight was a success! A postflight check showed no oil leaks or other anomalies, so it was off to AOPA’s home base at the Frederick (Maryland) Municipal Airport. With me was Paul Harrop, a producer of AOPA Media’s weekly “AOPA Live This Week” webcast, who videotaped the day’s events.
This means you should check next week’s AOPA Live broadcast for footage taken the day of the first flight.
On the short, 15 minute trip home I jotted down some information: at 75 percent power, N75YR was showing 168 knots true airspeed on 16 gph flying at 3,000 feet msl. Now those are preliminary numbers, mind you. But that’s a good 16 knots faster (and one more gallon per hour) than the previous 225-hp engine’s performance.
I’ll provide more information about the airplane’s performance after flying it to Sun N’ Fun. I plan to leave on Saturday March 29, and hope to make the flight nonstop by topping off all the tanks. That will give me 114 gallons and about five hours of endurance with reserves–which should be more than enough for the approximately 775 nm flight from Frederick (KDK) to Sun N’ Fun’s location at the Lakeland Linder Airport (LAL). Of course, it all depends on fuel burn, true airspeeds….and the winds and weather.
Besides, we’re in the engine’s break-in period. As with all break-ins, the advice is to run the engine hard so that the piston rings seat properly, so fuel consumption and speed will depend on the results of sustained flying at power levels of 75 percent, or more.
Thanks again to Genesis Engines by D’Shannon for its outstanding overhaul and conversion, and to Aero Engines for itsskill and attention to detail (they also dressed up the firewall and engine compartment) in the installation procedure.
I hope you’ll come by AOPA’s tent at Sun N’ Fun to see the airplane and its “new” (actually, zero-timed since major overhaul) converted engine–converted under a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) held by D’Shannon Aviation. Even if you can’t make it, I’ll do a couple posts from tent-side, if that’s the word.
I’ll be there to answer any questions, and to show you around this almost-fully-restored classic airplane. See you there, and as always, check back for more posts in the Sweepstakes Logbook.