Archive for the ‘Debonair’ Category

Oil analyses: An IO-470 speaks

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

As I’ve mentioned before, the sweepstakes Debonair had a major overhaul completed in 2007, at Penn Yan Aero. Penn Yan does great work, but the then-owners didn’t fly the airplane much for the next five years. In that period of time they put approximately 28 hours per year on the airplane. Those hours most probably were local flights for currency purposes.

That’s not much time. For much of those five years it was tied down–outside–on a ramp at Hartford’s Brainard Airport. So the oil level sank to the sank to the sump in the crankcase, leaving the camshaft, pistons, valve assembly, wrist pins–the whole top end, in other words, left high, dry, and free of a proective oil coating. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly dry up there. Condensation must have occurred as humidities and temperatures rose and fell, and the seasons came and went. Obviously, this promotes rust.

Since taking delivery of the airplane, I’ve logged about 36 hours in N75YR’s left seat, on trips to Minnesota (D’Shannon Aviation, for tip tanks, window, and gap seal installation); Kansas; New Mexico (Santa Fe Aero Services, for avionics install); Lakeland (for display at Sun N’ Fun); Newburgh, New York (KD Aviation’s paint shop); Oshkosh (for display at EAA AirVenture); and Batavia, Ohio (for Air Mod’s interior renovation).

In other words, the airplane went from torpor to serious flying. Right before Oshkosh, we had an oil change done, and an oil analysis performed by Blackstone labs at the same time. The numbers–especially for iron–were disturbingly high. Iron particles in the oil represent wear from the cylinders. Aluminum (top end components), chrome (camshaft lobes), copper (bearings and valve guides), and silicon (dirt) were also represented in elevated levels. The high lead readings are from the lead in avgas, and aren’t cause for concern. Blackstone called us to express their interest in the engine’s condition.

A meeting of the minds–Penn Yan and Blackstone–came out with a recommendation to keep flying the airplane, but to change the oil at more frequent intervals. Compressions have been good, by the way, and the engine runs smoothly, puts out rated power, and meets book performance.

This is what happens when a long-still engine comes to life. Deposits work free as moving surfaces are cleaned by fresh oil, and acids and water are eliminated by long periods of combustion.

After Oshkosh, Air Mod changed the oil. It had been seven hours since it was last changed. We were hoping to see lowered particulate levels–and we did! Here is theBlackstone report, showing the results of the two analyses:

Blackstone's oil analysis from the oil changes made on July 23 and August 12.

Blackstone’s oil analysis from the oil changes made on July 23 and August 12.

So now the plan is to keep flying (look for more cross-country flying in the coming months) and keep quick-changing the oil. We’re also installing an Airwolf spin-on oil filter (the IO-470 has a screen, not a proper oil filter) so that we can better examine the filter for particles. The filter could also help capture any older particles that have been trapped over the years. In effect, we’re flushing the engine’s oil free of contaminants. We hope.

“If I sat on a couch for five years, then got up and went to New Mexico and back, I’d be shaking loose some deposits of my own,” said Bonanza/Debonair guru Adrian Eichorn. Well put. I’ll show the next oil analysis results when the time comes. If the numbers go down, great. If they don’t, we may have to consider another overhaul–an unplanned alternative we hope to avoid.

 

OK, who made the tail strike?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

As Air Mod continued its extensive belly-cleaning, work progressed toward the tailcone. Under all the gunk and dirt of the ages a surprise was uncovered. At some point in the airplane’s history there was a tail strike. The impact occured right on the tail’s tiedown ring, but left no sign of damage there. During the prebuy inspection a slight indentation was noted near the tiedown ring, so there was some suspicion of a tail strike. (But no evidence of any structural damage to the aft bulkhead supporting the tail structure. Good thing, that. Damage in this area would have been a very big deal indeed.)

Once the tailcone was made shiny-clean, the situation was plain. There had indeed been a tail strike, and of such force that it cracked a support bracket. Wow. Air Mod called some purveyors of vintage aircraft parts (a/k/a junkyards, er, salvage yards) and these brackets are apparently as scarce as hen’s teeth. Even so, hopes are high that we’ll eventually find one.

But let’s think about this. How could this have happened? The answer is obvious, of course. Either one of 75YR’s previous owners WAY over-rotated on takeoff, or WAY over-flared on a landing. Either way, the conditions must have been desperate for this to cause the damage we see here:

Wham-o! First off, look at how clean the internal skins are, now that Air Mod has cleaned them. But the cleaning revealed a crack in a support bracket. Meanwhile, only slight indentations in the skin tell of the tail strike.

Wham-o! First off, look at how clean the internal skins are, now that Air Mod has cleaned them. But the cleaning revealed a crack in a support bracket’s right side. Meanwhile, indentations in the tailcone skin tell of the tail strike.

The Debonair’s tail rides high as it sits on the ramp, so any rotating or flaring had to be on the violent side. Perhaps the pilot encountered a big downdraft on short final, and made a mighty effort to soften the ensuing landing/arrival? Or maybe a short runway and high density altitude encouraged an over-enthusiastic takeoff?

Whatever the reason, we’ll address the damage as part of the interior work package. Ah, those 50-year-old airplanes….the stories they could tell!

 

Air Mod takes on the interior

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
AOPA's Sweepstakes Debonair, on Air Mod's ramp

AOPA’s Sweepstakes Debonair, on Air Mod’s ramp

Look for an upcoming article in the October AOPA Pilot, but thought I’d show you some of the work now going on at Air Mod. Air Mod, located at the Clermont (Ohio) County Airport in Batavia, Ohio, does more than simply pull an old interior and replace it with a newer one. The company also puts a lot of effort into dealing with corrosion and hidden problems. “This airplane is pretty typical of the older airplanes we work on,” said Air Mod president Dennis Wolter. “It’s got rotting floorboards and about an inch of dirt all along its belly.”

The interior was an aftermarket replacement for the original. Features include no lumbar support and now-rotting carpet and sidewalls. Take a good look, because it's history--already.

The interior was an aftermarket replacement for the original. Features include no lumbar support and now-rotting carpet and sidewalls. Take a good look, because it’s history–already.

Wolter and his crew will spend about 80 hours just cleaning up this mess, the detritus of 50 years. A tarry substance–an asphalt-based goo that Beech used as a corrosion preventive–has attracted dirt over the years.  It will take days of work to remove it and inspect the bare aluminum below for signs of corrosion. So far, the news is good on this front–no untreatable corrosion. But the dirt is daunting, and hard to reach. Wolter uses lacquer thinner and lots of ScotchBrite pads to make the interior skins shiny again. After that, the skins will be chromated, and ready for years of corrosion-free service.

The belly of the beast. Here you get a good look at the asphalt, plus the static line for the pitot-static system. The tube ends should have been secured with hose clamps. Soon, they will be.

The belly of the beast. Here you get a good look at the asphalt, plus the static line for the pitot-static system. The tube ends should have been secured with hose clamps. Soon, they will be.

Dirt, old springs, washers, and much more fell to the belly of the 50-year-old Debonair

Dirt, old springs, washers, and much more fell to the belly of the 50-year-old Debonair

“I weighed it, just for kicks,” said Wolter of all the dirt. “It’s four pounds.”

Of course, the interior is now completely gutted, and the seats are bare skeletons, awaiting cleaning, corrosion treatment, and new, leather-covered cushions with headrests. The seats will feature a dark-gray leather design, the sidewalls and headliner will be white leather with Bubinga-wood trim, and the carpet will be dark blue.

The old headliner--here secured with duct tape--will soon go. The fresh air scoop is opened and closed using a headliner-mounted control and it will be lubricated for smoother operation.

The old headliner–here secured with duct tape–will soon go. The fresh air scoop is opened and closed using a headliner-mounted control and it will be lubricated for smoother operation.

Best of all: the old seat belts will go. They’ll be replaced with four-point harnesses up front. The shoulder restraints are from BAS Inc. so many thanks to them. I hated flying with just a seat belt.

So adios, old interior! You were lovingly installed by a previous owner, but your glory days are done. And it had that moldy, Florida-damp smell, too. I once took something out of a saggy old pouch that was hung on the door. The pouch came off in my hand. Another time, I was getting a chart out of a side pocket. The chart snagged on a corner of the pocket, and r-r-r-i-i-i-p-p! There went a huge swath of that old brown sidewall. That looked ugly, so I pulled some more, and it was actually kind of fun pulling the sidewall free. It was so effortless! It was so…. rotten!

A glimpse of the near future: Swatches showing elements of Air Mod's interior scheme.

A glimpse of the near future: Swatches showing elements of Air Mod’s interior scheme.

As always, more news to follow, so stay tuned…..

A Debonair Oshkosh

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Engine start to engine stop, it was a four-hour, 28 minute flight from the Debonair Sweepstakes airplane’s home base at the Frederick, Maryland Minicipal Airport to Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A flawless flight, I might add. VFR direct nearly all the way, except for a few vectors around traffic in the Detroit area. Not that we didn’t see the traffic coming! We’ve got ADS-B and TIS traffic information aboard, so any nearby traffic was no surprise.

Now the airplane is proudly on display at EAA AirVenture. Flocks of people have come by to gawk and comment on the Debonair, which has made quite a bit of progress since its last public appearance at Sun N’ Fun in Lakeland, Florida back in April. Namely, that funky old paint job is a thing of the past. It’s been replaced by a Matterhorn white base coat, adorned with decals that describe the airplane’s improvements–and some facts about 1963, the year our/your Debonair rolled off the assembly line.

Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers came up with the decal idea after seeing an airliner done up with amusing decals. The idea caught on and now hordes of visitors stand, read, and remember that the Twin Comanche, Lear Jet 23, MU-2, Boeing 727, and Jet Commander were all born in 1963, that “Surfin’ USA” was a big hit, and that the average home price was a mere $12,800.

If you’re coming to AirVenture–or are already here–come by the west side of Hangar C and take a look. For those who can’t make the trip, here’s a glimpse of the action.

A good view of the decal work and logo. The new N-number--N75YR--is also a new addition to the exterior

A good view of the decal work and logo. The new N-number–N75YR–is also a new addition to the exterior

 

Front view, complete with passer-by. To the right is a structure that provides shade for visitors

Front view, complete with passer-by. To the right is a structure that provides shade for visitors

 

Paint shop home stretch

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Time for a few more shots of the Debonair’s paint shop adventures. Like I said in previous posts, this paint job will come in two stages: and all-white stage, and a later stage when the stripes are applied. We wanted to have the airplane completely painted for display at EAA AirVenture. But there wasn’t enough time, so it’s going to be all white for a time.

As you can see, the transormation is remarkable, especially when you compare this paint with the original scheme:

An in-progress shots shows the engine compartment, minus the new cowl access door from Select Airparts. The newly overhauled and painted propeller, from American Propeller, is soon to be added.

This in-progress shot shows the engine compartment, minus the new cowl access door from Select Airparts. The newly overhauled and painted propeller, from American Propeller, is soon to be added.

How white can white be? KD Aviation replaced that tired old mustard-colored paint scheme with this billiant Matterhorn white treatment

How white can white be? KD Aviation replaced that tired old mustard-colored paint scheme with this billiant Matterhorn white treatment

Even the cowling access doors have been painted--on the inside! New baffling will be installed at a later date.

Even the cowling access doors have been painted–on the inside! New baffling will be installed at a later date.

Paint sneak-peek

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Here’s a quick look at the latest goings-on at the paint shop, KD Aviation at Newburgh, New York’s Stewart International Airport. As you can see, the first coat of the airplane’s Matterhorn White paint has begun. Looks good, no?

 

Wings and empennage get the first coat of Matterhorn white at KD Aviation

Wings and empennage get the first coat of Matterhorn white at KD Aviation

 

As mentioned earlier, this will be an all-white paint scheme at first, with decals explaining the upgrades. Later, the stripes will be added. But for those of you going to EAA’s AirVenture, this will give you an idea of what to expect. Note: the control surfaces will be painted separately, then balanced before they are added to the airframe.

Gear door rescue

Friday, June 21st, 2013

A new nosegear door–the left one, to be precise–was yet another of the many replacement parts we needed for the Debonair. As you can see in the photo, the Deb’s original gear door had a nice notch in its leading edge.

A close-up of the LH nose gear door damage

A close-up of the LH nose gear door damage

How did this come about? Probably from a stone or stray chunk of asphalt. Now you know why it’s not a good idea to do your runups on rough surfaces, or take off from runways strewn with gravel. At some point in its past, an owner probably did just that. When I first saw it my thought was, “oh, no, now where do we find yet another ancient part?”

Granted, it’s a small dent. But go to an airshow and listen and watch as visitors invariably focus on it. Could we simply leave it be, and trust that no one would notice? Not gonna happen.

And didn’t happen, thanks to Select Airparts of Weyer’s Cave, Virginia. Select’s Michelle Souder was manning her booth at Sun N’ Fun when I asked her to take a look at the door. After scoping it out, she checked her inventory and lo and behold, there it was: a 50-year-old nose gear door, left hand side. In short order, the door was shipped to KD Aviation, our paint shop at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York.

Now I know why Select calls itself “the Beechcraft Specialists. Nobody else I hunted down had such a rare part. So, Beechcraft restorers, add Select to to your Rolodex (does anyone have one of these any more?) or contacts list should you need airframe and/or other parts. They’re at www.selectairparts.com .

And thanks to Michelle for her diligence!

Flap attack!

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Well, we had an alternator bracket crack earlier in the restoration process, and I blogged about that under the title “Bracket Attack.” So now, the latest unanticipated surprise–yes, another “attack”–is the right flap.

Folks, sometimes, I think that we’re conducting an aging-aircraft study.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Roy Williams of Airframe Components by Williams Inc. reported that the right flap had issues. As in, the Debonair’s right flap’s being cracked, and failing at the actuator attach point. Beechcraft Service Communique SC 313 addresses the problem, which affects the right flap more than the left for the simple reason that people step on that flap’s wingwalk. After 50 years’ worth of entering and exiting the airplane. cracks happen. Moreover, this sort of crack can’t be observed during a preflight; you have to remove the flap to see the extent of the damage.

Same thing with cracks and wear on the flap nose ribs. Here, have a look at the damage:

Wear and cracking at the actuator attach point at the flap leading edge

Wear and cracking at the actuator attach point at the flap leading edge

Cracks at the flap nose rib area

Cracks at the flap nose rib area

Bottom line, Williams came through with the fix, repaired the cracks, and re-skinned both flaps for good measure. Bravo!

Now for the “after” photos:

Repaired nose ribs got doublers to strengthen the trouble spots

Repaired nose ribs got doublers to strengthen the trouble spots (left). The right nose rib shows the cracked and missing aluminum of the original flaps

And voila--the final products--repaired, reskinned flaps on their way out the door. Looks better, no? flapsreskinned,

And voila–the final products–repaired, reskinned flaps on their way out the door. Looks better, no?

As for the rudder, some of you out there have taken us to task for its so-called non-compliance with an Airworthiness Directive (AD). Well, Roy checked the rudder, too. It’s had AD 93-2403 complied with, all right, and Aircraft Components even issued a yellow tag to the rudder, stating that compliance has been previously accomplished.

Again, thanks to Roy Williams and Aircraft Components. Their repair work is immaculate.

 

Stripped!

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

To many–yours truly included–the Debonair’s trip to the paint shop couldn’t come soon enough. That old, funky, faded paint job had to go! I mean, you could see where previous owners tried to “rescue” it by actually spray-painting some touch-ups. Guess they went to Home Depot or Lowe’s and got some cans of spray paint. Looks good….Not!

Anyway, I flew the Deb to KD Aviation at the Stewart International Airport (KSWF) a week ago on a blustery day. Surface winds were gusting to 35 knots out of the west, so Stewart’s super-long runway 27 was a welcome sight. By the way, KD is located off taxiway L in case you want to fly in for a visit. It’s over in the cargo area where they store the snowplows.

KD stripped off the old paint in a jiffy. The stripper reeks of ammonia but the shop uses eco-friendly materials and procedures. That was hard to believe when I stepped into the shop–it took my breath away. After the stripper is applied, the old paint sort of shrivels up and then dries. The next day, the dried-out flakes of paint are brushed off (if they haven’t fallen off already) and swept off the floor into bags for disposal.

What’s left is what you see in the accompanying photo. Notice that the control surfaces have been removed during the pre-paint process.

So long, old paint. Note that the new engine access door is being tried on for size in this photo, and that the control surfaces are currently removed.

So long, old paint. Note that the new engine access door is being tried on for size in this photo, and that the control surfaces are currently removed.

And, as always it seems, a new issue emerged. The right flap actuator had damaged the nose ribs of the flap. This was damage that couldn’t be seen during a preflight inspection. Soooo, we shipped the flap to trusted airframe components supplier Aircraft Components by Williams Inc. (formerly known as Williams Airmotive).

Roy Williams heads up Aircraft Components, and he has helped us in the past with difficult-to-find airframe parts. In 2004, he stepped forward with a new stabilator for the AOPA sweepstakes plane that year–a 1965 Piper Twin Comanche. We called that project the “Win-A-Twin.” Remember? Williams’ stabilator was a beauty, and it saved our skin because the original stab was patched. Patching control surfaces is a no-no, especially in the Comanche and Twin Comanche, which have had issues (now resolved!) with tail flutter.

“Send both flaps,” Williams said of the Debonair. “And send the rudder too.” Thanks a million Roy. Williams is double-checking to make sure that any and all rudder Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins are complied with.

Anyone out there need control surfaces or other airframe parts for old airplanes? Then call Roy at 260-347-0807, or visit his website at www.airframecomponents.com/. And tell him I sent you.

As always, watch for more updates coming soon. And remember folks, this is a two-year project. The winner won’t be flying the Debonair away until the AOPA Summit in Palm Springs in 2014.

Beech supports the Deb!

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The Debonair is currently at KD Aviation at Newburgh, New York’s Stewart International Airport, awaiting its much-needed paint job. But before we can paint, we need parts! You can’t expect to find a 50-year-old airplane–no matter how nice–and not find some cosmetic problems. Period.

One vexing issue was the leading edge of the left cowling access door. Decades of opening and closing the door, plus all the airloads, have caused erosion of the leading edge. The aluminum has worn away, and over the years the wear has left the leading edge with a serrated look that conforms exactly to the crimping that Beech put in the nose bowl. So we needed a new cowling door–left side, please.

Here, take a look at the problem area:

 

Years of friction and air loads have cut these "teeth" into the leading edge of the cowl door

Years of friction and air loads have cut these “teeth” into the leading edge of the cowl door

 

 

Well, yours truly looked and looked, but no cigar. I was about to give up and accept a patch on the leading edge when Beechcraft came through with a like-new door. Thanks to Beechcraft’s Jeff Ellis, Director of Part Sales and Support Programs, and Denise Burkholder, Technical Sales Representative for the cowling door. It looks great, and spares us the risk of an ugly patch right where all would see it.

And now, the new door that Beechcraft found in their excess inventory warehouse at Global Parts Inc. in Augusta, Kansas:

35-910160-618 (3) (2)

Much better, no? Thanks Beechcraft. This proves that yes, parts are still available for 50-year-old airplanes. Beechcraft has been in the news a lot lately–most of it bad–but this certainly is an encouraging sign that the company still has the spirit when it comes to older Debonairs and Bonanzas.