Archive for October, 2010

First engine run!

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Today’s a milestone—the key will turn on our 2011 Sweepstakes 182, and our new Continental IO-550′s 300 horses will come to life for the first time. Air Plains’ policy is to then fly the airplane five hours. In this time frame, there will be checks for any leaks or other squawks. At the same time, the airplane’s new JP Instruments EDM-930 engine data monitor will be checked thoroughly. With all the electrical lead feeding into the 930, that’s a lot of work. The 930 replaces the original engine gauges, and I’ll be glad to see them gone. The 930′s large, color screen shows much more than the stock airplane’s rather primitive instruments. This includes all engine parameters, plus fuel quantities in all four tanks, electrical system voltage and load, and propeller rpm.

After the five hours, the oil is drained and the oil filter removed. The oil is sent out for analysis–to check for trace metals that could indicate abnormal internal wear. The filter is cut open and its element stretched out and inspected for additional metal or other solid contaminants. The engine will run on mineral oil during the break-in period–about 25 hours of flying.

I’m set to show up at Air Plains on November 4, when I get a checkout in the rejuvenated airplane, and the next day is scheduled for my departure for Long Beach, California. That’s where the Crossover Classic (can I just say “CC” from now on?) will be at the airport’s static display. We’ll have the top cowling off so you can see the IO-550 in all its glory, so check it out.

By the way, I’ll be blogging all the way during the trip from Air Plains (at the Wellington, Kansas airport–KEGT) to Long Beach (LGB). So check back for progress reports. No way is the airplane set up for (legal) IFR flying, so I’m hoping for good wx all the way. So far, the wx forecast models are encouraging–as is the Farmer’s Almanac (just kidding–but I did look it over).

We’ll be using the southern route. That typically means passing by El Paso (ELP), then V94 to the Phoenix area, then V16 past the Blythe (BLH) and Palm Springs (PSP) VORs, then on to the Seal Beach (SLI) VOR for the arrival into LGB.

Though the CC is not suited for IFR, I will, however, ask for flight following–er, VFR Advisories–so the flight may well show up on www.flightaware.com as N52832. I’m also hoping to use my SPOT locator to mark our progress.

It won’t be a non-stop flight. I’ll be running the IO-550 hard, to help seat the piston rings and get a good break-in. That means a high fuel burn, so even with the full, 103 gallons aboard making it non-stop would be a challenge. Besides, I want to stop somewhere enroute to check on the engine, look at its oil consumption, and verify the EDM-930′s information.

So stay tuned for more blog updates!

Air Plains adds power, with speed!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Air Plains Services of Wellington, Kansas has been hard at work installing the Crossover Classic’s new Continental IO-550 engine, its accessories, and the Flint Aero tip tanks. Those tanks each hold 12 gallons of fuel. Add that to the airplane’s existing, 79-gallon long range tanks and we’ll have a 103-gallon Cessna 182. At 75-percent power, the IO-550 burns about 16-17 gallons per hour, so that makes it an airplane with at least a six-hour endurance. We don’t know the airplane’s ultimate, post-conversion true airspeeds yet, but let’s assume 150 knots. Six hours at 150 knots equals an 800-plus nautical mile airplane.

Assuming it’s flown at lean-of-peak mixture settings, that fuel burn can drop to 12.5 to 13 gph. There’s a slight speed penalty, but on the other hand there’s the opportunity for even greater range.

But hey, we’re getting ahead of ourselves! As we speak, the engine installation is being performed. The old engine is a thing of the past and the shiny, new, gold-colored Continental is being fitted with its new accessories, baffles, ductwork, GAMIjector fuel injectors, and wiring harness.

And man, is Air Plains a fast-working shop, or what?! I mean, those guys are really after that airplane! Take a look at this video to see the Air Plains shop, and their super-fast workers prep the engine for the final install. The prop is next, so stay tuned.


Skylane search success

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Logbook

Our 1974 Cessna 182P. What was once Tom Wortley’s is now the Crossover Classic.

Logbook

Get a load of that nose bowl! The years have taken their toll on the 182′s lacquer-based paint job.

At last, we’ve found our Crossover Classic Skylane! It took a while, but after a two-month-long search we found our Cessna 182 at the Middletown, Ohio, airport. It’s a 1974 Cessna 182P, and it belonged to Tom Wortley—a local businessman who’s owned the airplane (N52832) since 1979. Sure, Don Sebastian, our pre-purchase inspector, found some squawks. But the main requirement—a sound airframe uncompromised by corrosion—was fulfilled. There was some light surface corrosion, but nothing that can’t be treated to restore the airframe to like-new condition.

You can read more about our prebuy, purchase, and first flights in the airplane in the November issue of AOPA Pilot.

And by the way, don’t feel too sorry for Wortley’s parting with his beloved Skylane. Together with a partner, he has fully restored a Piper J-3 Cub. This will be Wortley’s new ride, and it’s perfect for the purely recreational flying that he now pursues. The Cub’s data plate proclaims its date of manufacture as September 1946—a landmark birthday in the history of general aviation, in this project manager’s opinion.

In the October issue of AOPA Pilot, I wrote about our sometimes tedious search for the right Cessna 182. The reader response was nothing short of tremendous. It seemed as though everyone wanted to help us find a suitable 182. At last count, I received 132 e-mails, each one offering up a Skylane for consideration. A few members even phoned in with their recommendations. So, dear readers and potential 2011 sweepstakes winners, you can rest easy now that the die has been cast, and give your keyboards a well-earned break.

All this feedback is worth a comment or two. On the positive side, I think it proves that members are fully engaged in the Crossover Classic concept, and feel involved in the choice of airplane and its restoration process. On the other hand, the e-mails also prove that there are a LOT of older Skylanes out there. Based on the mail, many of them are sitting idle—and have been for months and months. What does this say about our used-airplane market? Knowing that the average age of a GA airplane is somewhere around 30 years old, this may mean that hundreds of owner-pilots have given up flying and now feel they must (reluctantly) shed their airplanes. Moreover, as I warn in the upcoming AOPA Pilot article, many of those older airplanes have serious defects that render them unairworthy. So, buyer beware! We certainly were spring-loaded in our search; that’s why we hired pre-purchase guru Don Sebastian (prebuy@msn.com) to ferret out the squawks.

Logbook

In many parts of the airplane, the lacquer finish has cracked to point of flaking off.

Logbook

This is what happens when you lubricate elevator hinges with WD-40.

Logbook

No, not rich Corinthian leather, but it will soon be replaced at Air Mod.

Logbook

Advantage Avionics has the task of yanking out this vintage 1970′s, pre-GPS panel.

At this moment, the Crossover Classic is at the Wellington, Kansas, airport, where Air Plains Services will install a 300-horsepower factory remanufactured Teledyne Continental IO-550 engine. A new three-blade Hartzell propeller will also be installed, as well as Flint Aero’s 12-gallon tip tanks and JP Instruments’ EDM-930 engine monitoring gauge cluster. While Air Plains has its work cut out, it’s what the company regularly performs. Its engine-upgrade conversions are extremely popular, with more than 2,000 such jobs performed in its 33-year history. If you want a power boost for your Cessna 172, 180, or 182, check out Air Plains. They also offer gross-weight-increase and propeller STCs.

When I was last at Air Plains, the original engine had been removed and the new IO-550 was being readied for installation. The IO-550 is proving very popular as a retrofit for Bonanzas, Barons, and other airplanes, and it’s easy to see why. More power, fuel injection, and the ability to take advantage of GAMIjector fuel injection nozzles for lean-of-peak cruise operations are all big draws.

Other components that have arrived at Air Plains include an exhaust system from RAM Aircraft of Waco, Texas; new baffling from Airforms Inc. of Big Lake, Alaska; a lightweight alternator from Plane Power Ltd.; and tires from Goodyear Aviation.

As always, stay tuned for more developments!

Narrowing the Hunt

Friday, October 8th, 2010

The October 2010 issue of AOPA Pilot contains the first of what will be a series of articles about AOPA’s sweepstakes Cessna 182 (a.k.a. “Crossover Classic”) and its metamorphosis to a raving beauty. As you’ll see in the article (“Skylane Seeking,”), finding a good 1970s airplane poses huge challenges.

Here’s the nitty-gritty on the details of my search. I used Aircraft Shopper Online, Barnstormers, and Controller as starting points. At these sites you can see all sorts of Cessnas, most of them Skyhawks, but a batch of Skylanes as well. I picked out a half-dozen promising candidates and called their owners—or their brokers. Of course, the ads promised the usual mantra: Always hangared, complete logbooks, no damage history.

Don’t believe it. Especially the part about damage history. A couple ads were up-front about damage. Usually the damage had to do with busted nosewheels, bent firewalls, and propeller strikes (and subsequent engine inspections for related internal damage). Seems that Skylanes, being naturally nose-heavy when loaded with two up front and little in the way of bags, need a good pull in the flare to make absolutely, positively certain that you don’t make a “three point” landing, or—heaven forfend!—nosewheel first.

Logbook

One of the airplanes we checked out had a crack in a critical landing gear component: the fitting between the stur and the wheel assembly. Somewhere along the line, someone stop-drilled the crack—an illegal repair in itself on such a component—but the crack propagated beyond the stop-drilled hole. This made the airplane unairworthy.

Logbook

Check out the airframe logbook entry for another 182 we examined, then rejected. Look at line four…. “left wing tip bent up at 50 degree angle.” The seller first said the airplane hit trees, than added that it might have hit a deer at one point. In each case, the assertion was that the damage was “light.” Good thing the mechanic was diligent in his entries.

One ad fessed up and said the airplane had been through three firewalls! Firewalls get bent when nosewheel assemblies transmit the shock of a nose-first arrival through the engine mounts. One of the first things our pre-purchase inspector, Don Sebastian, looked for was a bent firewall. Sebastian says another way to check for nosewheel- and firewall-related damage is to measure the gap between the prop spinner and the cowling. Is the gap uniform for the entire circumference of the spinner? If not, the engine is, in effect, sagging in its mounts. Any firewall/nosewheel assembly/engine mount damage is usually a deal-killer, Sebastian says. It would cost too much, parts would be hard to find, and the repairs mean a lot of down time. Expert insight like this is why we hired Sebastian to check out our airplanes.

Closing in

It seems that all this searching may soon end. We’ve located a suitable airplane in Middletown, Ohio, that just may work out. Problem is, the owner is ambivalent about selling it. It’s a classic approach-avoidance quandary.

I was talking to renowned Skyhawk broker George Van Bortel about some owners being overly sentimental about their airplanes. So George tells me a story. Seems he took a buyer’s airplane as a trade-in, but the buyer was reluctant. Got emotional. Said he wanted to fly his old airplane just one more time. For old time’s sake, just once around the patch.

Van Bortel says, “OK,” and the pilot gets into his old airplane, takes off, and flies away! He went back to his home field! In effect, he stole his own airplane!

Air Plains anticipation

Whatever we buy, I’m looking forward to flying it to Air Plains Services at the Wellington, Kan., airport. Air Plains will be yanking the old engine and replacing it with a factory remanufacted Teledyne Continental Motors IO-550D engine of 300-hp. That’s 70 more horsepower than the stock engine! Carolyn Kelley of Air Plains tells me that some of their customers see true airspeeds of 160 knots once this very popular conversion is installed. Extra range, too, owing to the Flint tip tanks—which will also be part of the Crossover Classic’s conversion.

Please stop back often for updates on the project. Time flies, and sometimes breaking news may appear here before it does in the magazine.