Archive for the ‘Debonair’ Category

Rod-and-crankshaft action

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Rome wasn’t built in a day, the saying goes. And so it is with the Debonair’s engine upgrade. Right now, the pressure’s on to finish the job well in advance of Sun N’ Fun, so all you sweeps winners out there can see the latest improvements in person.

So where are we with the engine buildup? Most needed parts have been received, and that includes the new crankshaft and cylinder assemblies–as was reported a few weeks ago. The cylinders are from ECi, so thanks again to the folks there. Dawley Aviation of Burlington, Wisconsin is inspecting and modifying the exhaust components to fit on the new engine, Precision Hose Technology has come through with a new set of oil and fuel hoses, so thanks go out to Robert Williams for his help there.

Here are a couple of shots showing the connecting rods and crankshaft as they begin coming together at Genesis Engines by D’Shannon:

The six new ECi connecting rods being readied for installation.

The six new ECi connecting rods being readied for installation.

Putting one of the connecting rods on the crankshaft.

Putting one of the connecting rods on the crankshaft.

The plan is to ship the completed engine to Aero Engines of Winchester (Virginia) on March 10. It will take Aero Engines about three more days to install the engine in the airframe, attach the hoses, exhaust, and other components. So that makes it approximately March 14-15 when yours truly takes the new engine up for its first flight.

Sun N’ Fun runs from April 1-6 at the Lakeland (Florida) Linder Airport, but I like to get there earlier than that so the plane can be set up right after AOPA’s tent goes up. Right now I’m planning on getting there March 29 or so.

Stay tuned.

First Look: ECi Cylinders

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Time for another Friday report, Debonair fans!

This week saw the six new ECi cylinders delivered to Genesis Engines by D’Shannon, and the disassembly of the entire original engine. ECi’s account manager, Jim Ball (“JB”) explains that the new cylinders have dome-shaped combustion chambers, whereas the old cylinders have comparatively flat combustion chamber domes. This promotes the more efficient movement of the fuel/air mixture into the chamber, and the exhaust movement out. Here is a shot that shows one of the old, -K engine cylinder assemblies next to the new ECi cylinders:

Out with the old (left) and in with the new (right) cylinders

Out with the old (left) and in with the new (right) cylinders

Here’s another shot that shows the differences in the shapes of the combustion chamber domes. Notice the new valves in the -N cylinder head:

The -N cylinder head (right) is deeper than its predecessor. It's all shiny-new, too!

The -N cylinder head (right) is a tad deeper than its predecessor. It’s all shiny-new, too! The assemblies come with matching pistons (foreground). Notice how the -N cylinder’s valve seats are set at an angle; the -K valves are installed in a parallel arrangement.

Genesis is also providing new accessory-, oil pump-, and magneto drive gears:

Oil pump gears, old (left) and new. Notice the wear around the base of the old shaft.

Magneto drive gears, old (left) and new. Notice the wear around the base of the old shaft.

The crankcase for the -N engine is beefier than the old -K engine’s. It’s often called the “heavy case,” an example of which is shown below. How can you tell that it’s a heavy case?  Notice the “bumps” that surround the bolt holes along the top of the case in this shot of one half of the case assembly. The -K engine crankcases have flat-topped case halves:

The new, stronger crankcase. It's painted blue to match one of the paint scheme's color elements. In front of the case is a sample of one of the -N engine's exhaust stacks (the shiny one), which come with four holes to fit over the new engine's four mounting studs. Compare that to the -K engine's two-stud arrangement. Again, all of this makes for more strength to handle the extra horsepower.

An example of a “heavy case.” In front of the case is a sample of one of the -N engine’s exhaust stacks (the shiny one), which come with four holes to fit over the new engine’s four mounting studs. Compare that to the -K engine’s two-stud arrangement. Again, all of this makes for more strength to handle the extra horsepower and  provide extra durability.

What was discovered when the old engine was disassembled? There were signs of wear on the crankcase bearings, John Clegg said. “I don’t think it would have made it to TBO,” he added. So that’s confirmation enough for us: we made a good decision to go with an upgraded engine.

As always, stay tuned for more news as it happens. I’ll be away next week, but I’m betting that when I return, and as we close in on the end of February, this replacement engine will be well on its way to completion. We still have to obtain a new oil cooler, so that’s just one of the items on the punch list. Genesis won’t re-use the oil coolers of any engine that has experienced elevated levels of contaminants in the oil. The contaminants remain trapped in the old oil cooler, and would simply recirculate into the oil of the new engine.

Flying the Debonair

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Happy Friday, Debonair Sweepstakes fans and followers! While we wait for Genesis Engines to evaluate the condition of all the original -K engines’ internal parts, I thought I’d take the time to share a video with you. It appeared on AOPA’s last week’s weekly video webcast–AOPA Live This Week–or ALTW as we call it around the building.

It was a cold winter day when I took up Paul Harrop, an ALTW producer, up to demonstrate steep turns, stalls, and a lazy eight or four. Go easy on my technique–I haven’t done a Lazy Eight in a couple years! But I have to say that the camera doesn’t do justice to the deck angle at the 90-degree point; it was way higher than it seems in the video.

Some of you may have already seen the video, but for those who haven’t, here you go:

http://www.aopa.org/AOPA-Live.aspx?watch={5E55537C-4330-4325-8267-57425397FB87}#ooid=xnZTg0azqmmXM3sBr8lHrMYRuTDSUGSj

 

Pull that engine! And a crankshaft news flash

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Aero Engines of Winchester–based at the Winchester, Virginia Regional Airport–has removed the Debonair’s old IO-470-LCK engine and basically hand-delivered it to the overhaul shop. “All went well,” said Aero Engines’ Tom Schwietz, who flew the engine to Genesis Engines by D’Shannon’s overhaul shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. Schwietz’s shop has earned a reputation for quality overhauls and other engine work in its own right, but this kind of personalized service was an unexpected luxury. Schwietz’s colorful background includes buying and selling airplanes in the overseas market, as well as vast experience ferrying general aviation airplanes across the Atlantic. “Just when I tell myself that I’m fed up with ferrying, well, I somehow get the urge to do it again,” he said. “I guess it’s just gets into your blood.”

 John Clegg, Genesis Engines’ director of operations, reported today that the Debonair’s engine disassembly has begun in earnest. After Aero Engines brought it to Mooresville’s Lake Norman Airpark, it was taken to the Genesis shop to begin its six-week upgrade process.

Today, Clegg reported that the engine’s new crankshaft (“crank”) has been freshly recertified. The “yellow-tagged” crank (so called because of the yellow tag portion of the paperwork that accompanies it) was declared serviceable and airworthy by an FAA-certified repair station, and Genesis subjected it to magnetic-particle non-destructive testing to make absolutely sure that it had no cracks or other imperfections. Magnetic particle testing involves using a dye penetrant medium that will adhere to any defects, making them visible to Genesis’ technicians. The cranskshaft passed with flying colors.

The newly-recertified crankshaft is necessary because the -N engine uses a crank with four counterweights; the old engine’s crank had just two counterweights. Also, the -N engine’s connecting rods are beefier than the previous engines’. In spite of this, Clegg says that the original crankcase is compatible with the new crankshaft.

That’s it for now. Check back for more news as it happens. The next step should be the arrival of the new ECi cylinder assemblies.

Breaking News: Engine Upgrade!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

The Debonair sweepstakes airplane is going from 225- to 260-hp. That’s a big step up in performance, and there’s a good reason why we’re taking this route.

Those of you who’ve read the Sweepstakes Briefing item in the January 2014 issue of AOPA Pilot , or who saw the AOPA Live This Week video (http://www.aopa.org/AOPA-Live.aspx?watch={A395BD62-A728-4F52-948E-7A1CCDE2C475} know that we borescoped the Debonair’s cylinders and found evidence of pitting and corrosion. Bonanza/Baron/Debonair expert Adrian Eichhorn pronounced the cylinders fit, but we had a nagging feeling. We simply couldn’t give this airplane away unless we corrected the cylinder issue and made sure the entire engine was fit enough to meet the standards of an AOPA sweepstakes airplane.

Pitting as seen through a medical-quality borescope. The cylinder barrel is on te left. The cylinder head is the lighter-colored metal to the right of the junction

Cylinder pitting as seen through a medical-quality borescope. The steel cylinder barrel is on the left. The cylinder head is the lighter-colored metal to the right of the junction

We’d been seeing high iron levels in our oil analyses (the subject of a previous blog post) and after seeing the inside of those cylinder bores we knew exactly where they were coming from: the engine had been sitting for so long that the engine’s steel barrels had been drained of a protective oil coating, and basically rusted. So when I came along and flew the airplane across the nation to have restoration work performed, the corrosion was abraded. Though running the engine for 60-some hours had polished the corrosion and pitting, the bad news was that the iron particles were now in the oil. In short, the engine was “making metal,” and creating a potential danger by contaminating other moving components–like accessory gears, the camshaft lobes, and various bearings.

Eichhorn came up with an amusing metaphor: “Hey, if I’d been laying on the couch for five years, then jumped up and ran to Santa Fe, I’d be having some wear problems of my own.”

To continue flying posed too many uncertainties. Were the camshaft lobes worn, spalled, or scored? Were the pistons’ oil rings about to wear to the point that the engine would begin burning oil? How much longer could the engine go on like this without sacrificing safety?

We had to do the right thing. That meant a top overhaul (new cylinder assemblies, complete with pistons, connecting rods, and associated hardware) at the very least, and a major overhaul at most–if there was any evidence of damage to the “bottom end” (crankcase, crankshaft, camshaft, and their associated bearings and journals).

We debated the options. Among them were doing a top overhaul on the existing engine, or stepping up to a 285-hp IO-520 or 300-hp IO-550 engine. In the end, D’Shannon Aviation proposed another alternative: converting the existing 225-hp IO-470-LCK engine (a -L engine changed–hence the “C”–to a -K variant) into a 260-hp Continental IO-470-N engine of 260-hp. D’Shannon holds the STC for this upgrade, which has proven popular over the years. In fact, there are very few IO-470-K engines out there; most have been replaced by now with more powerful engines–most under D’Shannon STCs.

After some debate, we opted for the -N. We could use the extra 35 horsepower, and we could keep the two-blade McCauley propeller that American Propeller Company had recently overhauled. Besides, we wanted to stay in character as much as we could with the Debonair idea, and going to the -520 and -550 engines would have meant too much power for a complex single that serves so well as a step-up from smaller fixed-gear singles. The 260-hp option seemed the best pathway–and the lightest.

The conversion will be performed by a newly-formed branch of D’Shannon that focuses on engine overhauls and upgrades: Genesis Engines by D’Shannon. With a shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, Genesis Engines is in the heart of NASCAR country. Maybe that’s why it’s called “Race City USA.” Genesis has six technicians with NASCAR engine backgrounds and prides itself on its high quality and extreme attention to detail. John Clegg, director of Genesis operations, puts it this way: “When it comes to balancing pistons, for example, most manufacturers’ overhaul manuals allow two to five grams of difference between pistons. Here, we balance them to within a tenth of a gram. This allows our engines to generate much less vibration, which results in longer engine life.”

After being overhauled By Genesis Engines by D'Shannon, this Continental IO-550 runs on a dynamometer to check power output

After being overhauled By Genesis Engines by D’Shannon, this Continental IO-550 runs on a dynamometer to check power output

Another key partner in the engine upgrade is Engine Components International, or ECi as it’s known. ECi will be providing six new TITAN cylinder assemblies for the upgrade. The cylinder bores will be coated with ECi’s nickel+carbide treatment, which makes them much more durable, longer-lived, corrosion-resistant and reliable than the rusty old cylinders in the original -LCK engine. So so long steel barrels, hello nickel-and-silicon carbide coated ones. ECi has built more than 140,000 TITAN cylinders since 1994 and provides them with a 60-month warranty against premature wear and corrosion.

The TITAN assemblies will come with new valves, valve guides, pistons, connecting rods, wrist pins, and other necessary top end components. ECi will also be reconditioning any bottom end components that may need it, or providing any new such components if those components are worn.

And by the way, ECi’s cylinders come from the factory already balanced to Genesis’ strict tolerances.

Of course, we are well aware of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the FAA is proposing, which would be an Airworthiness Directive affecting certain ECi cylinders made for the Continental IO-520 and -550 engines. The details of the NPRM (by the way, the comment period closed in December 2013) are complex, but it boils down to the FAA wanting some of those 6,000 cylinders taken out of service at 1,000 hours time in service, and some of them removed from service after 25 hours if their time in service is less than 500 hours. The cylinder assemblies not affected by those restrictions would need inspections every 50 hours for their entire lifetimes.

All this because of 30 instances where cylinder head and cylinder barrel junctions failed. Out of 30,000 installed cylinders. And ECi asserts that in none of the 30 cases did a failure cause an accident or injury; typically, there was a loss of 20 percent of engine power–enough to make safe landings.

AOPA feels, and has represented, that the proposed Airworthiness Directive is regulatory overkill, and an unwarranted waste of time and money (The FAA estimates that compliance with the AD would cost almost $83 million).

So by using ECi cylinder assemblies in the Debonair we’re backing up our belief, and have full confidence in the quality of ECi components. Besides, the cylinders being provided for our IO-470-N conversion are not mentioned in the NPRM.

There’s a lot more to this engine upgrade/overhaul than new cylinders, however. I’ll get to the full list of improvements and add-ons in the next post. I just wanted everyone to know that a new engine’s coming, and that it’ll be a huge asset to an already huge project. And if you go to Sun N’ Fun–or several of the regional fly-ins that AOPA is having this year–you can see it for yourself.

One First-Rate Interior

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

What a pleasure it was to pick up the Debonair from Air Mod and fly it–with its new interior–to AOPA Summit’s static display at the Fort Worth-Meacham airport (FTW). The trip took five hours , 11 minutes, made possible by the airplane’s massive, 120-gallon fuel capacity and its wonderfully comfortable seats. That large Gatorade container also came in handy, if you know what I mean.

Air Mod’s Dennis Wolter is a fanatic about ergonomic design, and it shows with the seats. He’s fond of opining about the design merits of the concept of “the measure of man.” This term refers to the dimensions of a “standard” human, and it’s updated every ten years. Turns out, a standard human of the 1940s is much smaller than the overfed, overweight, beamier version of today. So it makes sense that design convention calls for re-evaluating average human heights, weights, and waistlines every few years.

Think this is baloney? Then you haven’t tried to move around inside a B-17 or other World War II-era airplane. People were comparatively tiny back then! In Rick Atkinson’s excellent three-volume series about World War II’s European theater (An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light), he notes that the average American recruit was five feet, seven inches tall and weighed 150 pounds! (130 pounds was the minimum weight).

How about today? Well, look around….

Me, I’m five feet 10 inches tall and weigh 205 pounds. The last time I was in a B-17 I gouged a pretty good, bloody ding in my skull trying to scramble around in there. But I fit today’s measure of man, which is a sad commentary I suppose.

Anyway, Wolter starts with the measure of man and then custom-tailors the seats of each airplane he overhauls to conform to the customer’s actual dimensions. So when it comes to comfort–and fatigue reduction at the end of those long flight–it’s quite like having your shoes custom-made, rather than buying them off the shelf and hoping they stand the test of time.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to Summit, here’s what you missed:

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair's Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

New front seats and sidewalls now join the Debonair’s Aspen/Garmin-dominant panel

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

In keeping with the sixties motif, the rear seats were kept in a bench configuration.

 

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Original Beech medallions adorn the front sidewalls, as well as gooseneck lamps.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

Wolter took advantage of some unused space in the spar covers to make a huge cubby hole for storing charts, flashlights, and other pilot gear.

 

The overhead panel was completely repaired. "Everything was broken," Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The overhead panel was completely repaired. “Everything was broken,” Wolter said. The fresh-air valve (silver handle at rear of panel) had to be completely rebuilt. It opens a cabin air intake door on the upper fuselage.

The front-seat headrests got "The Debonair Sweepstakes" logo embroidered on them. You like?

The front-seat headrests got “The Debonair Sweepstakes” logo embroidered on them. You like?

That’s it for today. Watch for another post later this week…..

Coming together at Air Mod

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The pressure is definitely on. Air Mod is still working, hammer and tongs, on the Debonair. The airplane has to make it to Fort Worth well before AOPA Summit’s doors open on October 10. In fact, setup day is Wednesday October 9th. So I better have 75YR in place by Tuesday.

Now it’s time for more photos of just some of the home-stretch work at Air Mod. Here we go:

 

Gray sound-dampening material noew replaces the bad old sticky-tar job of 1963

Gray sound-dampening material now replaces the bad old sticky-tar job of 1963

 

Refitting and installing metal window trim moldings

Refitting and installing metal window trim moldings

 

BAS' intertial-reel four-point shoulder harness installation. Now the airplane will have a proper restraint system

BAS’ intertial-reel four-point shoulder harness installation. Now the airplane will have a proper restraint system

 

Stripping the control yoke T-bar. It was covered by the usual chips and sctratches that affect older Bonanzas, Debonairs, and Barons

Stripping the control yoke T-bar. It was covered by the usual chips and sctratches that affect older Bonanzas, Debonairs, and Barons

 

The control yokes, now reconditioned and repainted

The control yokes, now reconditioned and repainted

 

The Debonair Sweepstakes logo, embroidered into the newly-fabricated headrests for teh pilot and co-pilot seats

The Debonair Sweepstakes logo, embroidered into the newly-fabricated headrests for teh pilot and co-pilot seats

 

Air Mod Refurbs

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Air Mod is still on the job, and the past week was one devoted to even more interior fixups. A picture’s worth a thousand words, they say, so here are a few that illustrate the nature of the work. It’s all part of a wide-ranging series of incremental improvements. Take a look:

The old, rotten plywood floorboards are gone! Long live the new, much stronger and better looking aluminum-reinforced floorboards--both front and rear. Here you see the front floorboard.

The old, rotten plywood floorboards are gone! Long live the new, much stronger, lighter, and better looking aluminum-reinforced floorboards–both front and rear. Here you see the front floorboard.

This is the center console, reworked to include an access panel so that repairs and inspections of the mechanical landing gear position linkage can be easily made in the future.

Air Mod's Dennis Wolter, cutting the "waterfall Bubinga" hardwood veneer for the interior side panels.

Air Mod’s Dennis Wolter, cutting the “waterfall Bubinga” hardwood veneer for the interior side panels.

Final fit and check of the new side panels, armrests, and seats. Also, a look at the pilot's new seat, showing off the Garrett leather covering.

Final fit and check of the new side panels, armrests, and seats. Also, a look at the pilot’s new seat, showing off the Garrett leather covering.

Air Mod made a storage box in the forward spar cover. This takes advantage of previously-unused space.

Air Mod made a storage box in the forward spar cover. This takes advantage of previously-unused space.

More to come, so stay tuned! Soon we’ll be able to show off  the finished job……

Slidedown tiedowns

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

While we wait for another report from Air Mod, I thought I’d mention Sal Corio’s “Slidedown” tiedown system. Corio came up to the Debonair display at Oshkosh–er, EAA AirVenture–and wondered if we wanted to try out his knot-free tiedowns. Of course, we said.

The Slidedowns are meant to work with The Claw and other stationary ground tiedown rings. Slidedowns, as the name implies, use small sliding cylindrical tubes to exert a locking force on tiedown ropes. No more elaborate knot-tying here. Just slide down the tubes until the ropes are taut, and you’re done. They come in various colors, and are cut to fit both low-wing and high-wing airplanes. Retail price for a set: $69.85 through Slidedown, Aircraft Spruce, or Banyan.

They make for fast tiedown jobs! Here’s a look:

The Slidedown's tubes hold tension on the tiedown ropes. No more knot-tying drills!

The Slidedown’s tubes hold tension on the tiedown ropes. No more knot-tying drills!

Contents of the Slidedown package

Contents of the Slidedown package

Close-up: Air Mod’s work in progress

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Thought I’d share some photos that Air Mod sent along. They document the steps Air Mod takes in its corrosion-control initiatives. It’s labor-intensive work that’s essential to keeping airplanes alive–especially older ones such as our/your 1963 Debonair. Air Mod president Dennis Wolter told me, “Sure, the interior will look great, but if you had to show people the single most important thing we do around here, it’s this attention we pay to dealing with corrosion. When we’re done with an airplane, it’s good against corrosion for another 20 to 30 years.”

There are also some good shots of the seat buildup and reconditioned interior parts.

Air Mod is also installing an Airwolf Filter Company spin-on filter assembly. This will help keep the engine oil cleaner (the original engine has a screen, not a paper filter), and let us examine the filter element for any particulates at oil-change time.

So here’s a look at the work in progress:

De-gunking the belly, with lacquer thinner, Scotchbrite pads, and a respirator

De-gunking the belly, with lacquer thinner, Scotchbrite pads, and a respirator

Belly clean. Note Reynolds Aluminum name on corrosion-free skins.

Belly getting cleaner. Can you imagine 80 hours of this?

One clean, corrosion-free belly

One clean, corrosion-free belly

 

Inner sides of fusalge show the end product of a thorough cleaning

Inner sides of fuselage show the end product of a thorough cleaning

Belly, finally cleaned up and finished with a coat of zinc chromate

Belly, finally cleaned up and finished with a coat of zinc chromate

Cutting the patterns for the seats. Air Mod has used Garrett Leather for past AOPA sweepstakes airplanes

Cutting the patterns for the seats. Air Mod has used Garrett Leather for past AOPA sweepstakes airplanes

Making the template for the rear seats

Making the template for the rear seats

New, aluminum-reinforced floorboards (foreground) replace the beat-up old plywood ones behind them

New, aluminum-reinforced floorboards (foreground) replace the beat-up old plywood ones behind them

Reconditioned, ergonomically correct seat, waiting for back and headrest covers to be installed

Reconditioned, ergonomically correct seat, waiting for back and headrest covers to be installed

 

Inspected, reconditioned, and painted seat frame, new reinforced seat sling, new foam, and new rollers

Inspected, reconditioned, and painted seat frame, new reinforced seat sling, new foam, and new rollers

 

Airwolf remote-mounted spin-on oil filter, awaiting fire-sleeved oil lines.

Airwolf remote-mounted spin-on oil filter, awaiting fire-sleeved oil lines.

That’s it for now. More to come!