Archive for the ‘Engine’ Category

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!

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.

 

Sun N’ Fun Countdown: Panel-Perfect

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

 

The Debonair's new front office. Can you believe this is a 1963 airplane? That's the SAnta Fe Municipal Airport on the Garmin GTN 750's display, and a view of the sectional chart for the Santa Fe area on the iPad Mini. Photo by Robert Talarczyk, Darkhorse Designs.

The Debonair’s new front office. Can you believe this is a 1963 airplane? That’s the Santa Fe Municipal Airport on the Garmin GTN 750′s display, and a view of the sectional chart for the Santa Fe area on the iPad Mini. Terrain is depicted on the left Aspen MFD screen, and an approach chart is on the right MFD display. Photo by Robert Talarczyk.

The Debonair Sweepstakes airplane’s panel has been completed, and what a work of art it is. Thanks to the dedicated team of specialists at Santa Fe Aero Services, its funky old, Mad-Men-era 1963 panel has successfully been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Just take a look at all those screens, and think of all the information they can convey.

I flew the airplane twice today, and I can tell you that not only did the technicians do a great job at reworking the panel, but they did an equally remarkable job of bringing a tired engine back to specs. They installed a new fuel servo unit, retimed the magnetos, lapped a valve, cleaned the fuel injectors, cleaned the fuel filter, cleaned the oil screen, cleaned up the firewall and baffling, installed new engine mounts and spark plugs, along with much, much more. The result is an engine that performs a whale of a lot better than before.

Even at Santa Fe’s 6,300-foot elevation, takeoff performance wasn’t shabby at all–and the engine runs smoother and has a more macho rumble to its exhaust note. The first flight of the day was at 7 a.m., and the air was as smooth as glass as the airplane climbed away at a maximum of 62-percent power at that rarified altitude. Climb rate in the cool morning air: 400 fpm. “It sat too long, that was its problem,” said Pat Horgan, Santa Fe Aero’s CEO, v-p and general manager. Horgan and company director Ron Tarrson are co-owners of Santa Fe Aero Services.

True, the engine had had a Penn Yan major overhaul in 2007, but the airplane had only flown a couple dozen hours in the two years before AOPA bought it, and the resultant internal engine deposits were a big part of its performance shortcomings–before. In comparative terms, the shop turned a 90-pound weakling into a fire-breather. Well, as much of a fire-breather as normally-aspirated 225-hp engine can be in the terrain of northern New Mexico.

The crew that turned a panel around, left to right: Pat Horgan (VP/GM); Arturo Torres (servic emanager/chief inspector); Chris Rea (lead airframe mechanic); Joshua Sandoval (mechanic/installer); Brandon Maestas (lead avionics technician); Gerardo Ontiveros (piston maintenance technician). Missing: Nate Holman and Mark Wood (Avionics technicians), and Kermit Gowe ("The Mag Man.")

The crew that turned a panel around, left to right: Pat Horgan (CEO/VP/GM); Arturo Torres (service emanager/chief inspector); Chris Rea (lead airframe mechanic); Joshua Sandoval (mechanic/installer); Brandon Maestas (lead avionics technician); Gerardo Ontiveros (piston maintenance technician). Missing: Nate Holman and Mark Wood (avionics technicians), and Kermit Gowe (“The Mag Man.”)

But back to the avionics. I tried to be diligent and read all the owners’ manuals cover-to-cover (does anyone ever do that?) for the Aspen Evolution 2500 system, as well as the Garmin GTN 750 and GTN 650 navigators and the Electronics International MVP-50P engine/systems analyzer. But in the end it was a matter of pecking away at the keys and controls as a means of learning these very, very capable boxes. I’ll talk about the avionics in an upcoming article in AOPA Pilot magazine, but for now let’s just say that these boxes are as intuitive to use as they are sophisticated. Whoever wins this airplane will have it all: electronic charts, terrain, TIS-B and ADS-B traffic, XM WX and ADS-B weather, dual AHRS, battery backups galore, and an in-panel iPad Mini with the Garmin Pilot app. There’s also the ability to add future apps that will talk to the three-screen Aspens using that company’s new Connected Panel technology.

So it’s a big thanks to the dedicated “Team Debonair” at Santa Fe Aero Services, and off to Sun N’ Fun where visitors can gawk at the panel in the flesh. Believe you me when I say that this panel is not just cutting edge, it’s the only one of its kind in the world. Going to Sun N’ Fun? See you there! I’m the guy with the sunburn next to the airplane.