It is that time of year again for the A36’s annual inspection. Good times.
This year, we are going over the airframe extensively and replacing many wear normal items. In addition to repairing 3 cylinders for leaks around the exhaust valves on the IO-550B, we are overhauling and replacing parts of the fuel system, including the fuel lines to the cylinders.
We resealed and repainted the McCauley 3-blade, C-409 propeller, ensuring all the prop AD’s are up to date. According to a AD, these are life limited to 10,000 hours.
We replaced the Cleveland brake discs with Black Steel brand discs and new brake pads. These discs are CNC machined and treated for heat and wear. They are a third of the cost of replacement discs from your normal sources, last longer and look great.
During our downtime, we are sprucing up the engine compartment and replacing some blast hoses with GeeBee extruded silicone ducts. They look better and are much more durable than the worn skeet and scat ducts in the aircraft now.
We have also cleaned and repainted many of the engine baffles and replaced some baffling material to ensure the cylinders stay nice and cool.
One of the fun things we did was to media blast the rocker box covers and refinish them in black power coat. The original finish on the rocker boxes was very tired, and the refreshed ones look great! All it took was a little labor.
Once we powder coated them, we block sanded the raised Continental logos with a very fine grit to a bright aluminum shine. I’m not sure how we will keep these from corroding, but I’m thinking an occasional wipe down with LPS-2 might help.
After media blasting and after powder coating:
A few weeks back, a friend and I had the opportunity to fly into Leeward Air Ranch for their annual classic airplane event. We flew the Bonanza in and waited our turn to land, and the pattern was full of aircraft.
It was a great day to practice our soft-field landings and take offs, although the turf was manicured like a golf course.
Leeward is located about halfway between Ocala and Leesburg, FL. It’s a fly-in community centered around a well manicured 6,000 foot grass runway.
Leeward Air Ranch was the home of Jimmy Leeward, who was lost in September of 2011 at the Reno Air Races, when his P-51 experienced mechanical problems and crashed.
There must have been well over a hundred aircraft that day, and the sponsors for the event ran out of food.
Nevertheless, we got to view some beautifully restored classic aircraft from the 1930’s and 1940’s including this polished beauty.
My family has travelled to the western North Carolina mountains since I was a small child. To this day, any chance to escape Florida for the mountains is quickly taken advantage of. For us, a dreary 9 hour car drive is replaced by a 170 knot, 2-1/2 hour flight.
Flying instead of driving essentially frees up two additional days for a trip that is otherwise spent on the road. This time is better spent hiking and exploring.
Signature Flight Support is just north of the passenger terminal at Asheville, KAVL. They always treat us well, even though my A-36 is usually the smallest plane on the ramp.
Asheville is a busy Class C airport, with a mix of Allegiant and Delta jets, as well as Gulfstreams , Citations and Cessnas. The airport is sandwiched between two mountain ranges, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Coming in on a visual to RW 17 is over the mountains with the right downwind flown at 4,000 feet.
Here is a shot the French Broad River on our approach into Asheville.
If you are lucky enough to own a plane, you are lucky enough. If you have an enclosed T-hangar at your home airport, you are really lucky. Many airports have long waiting lines for hangars, and they are usually very expensive once your name comes to the top of the wait list.
Once you are able to buy or lease a hangar of your own, the first thing you want to do is create an environment that is comfortable and functional for yourself and passengers. Also a place where you can hang out and socialize with other pilots when you are not flying.
For me, having a fully stocked refrigerator, some comfortable chairs, a large floor fan and some storage for tools is important.
My ‘fridge is stocked with bottled water, cervesas, Gatorade and Coke Zero Cherry flavored drinks. Perfect for those passengers about to embark on a longer flight, or as a refreshment after returning home.
The next best investment we made was to purchase a Power Tow EZ40 gas tug. Pushing 3,000 pounds of aluminum up an inclined ramp into the hangar is challenging, especially with leather soles.
The unit clamps onto the nose gear axel, and moves up to 4,000 pounds quickly and easily. It starts on the first pull, and I use sumped avgas as its fuel supply.
And of course, no hangar is complete without the requisite #hangardog, just for company.
Now all that I am lacking is that 4 burner stainless steel gas grill!
On my last few flights in the Bonanza, during my instrument scan, I noticed that the oil temp started fluctuating slowly, up or down by 15*C. It never reached red line, and the oil pressure stayed very stable at 40lbs. It appeared to be an instrumentation problem rather than an engine problem.
On a Continental IO-550, the normal operating temperature is 80*C and redline is 116*.
At first, I thought it was the vernitherm on the oil cooler unit that was stuck, but a call to the America Bonanza Society put me in touch with a tech that quickly diagnosed the problem over the phone.
It turns out it was a defective oil temperature probe. This probe screws into the bottom of the oil coolers on IO-550 Continental engines.
A newly installed probe runs about $225 and it now works perfectly. The indicated temperature is lower and there is no fluctuation in the gauge in cruise flight. We accomplished this switch during a regular oil change so there was no additional down time.
I fly behind an IO-550 Continental engine. Last year I had the GAMI #6 cooling baffle kit installed. This is an aftermarket kit that keeps the front left cylinder cool on climb out, especially on warm days. Temps dropped an average of 40 degrees on the cylinder on climb and cruise.
I was so impressed with cylinder head temps drops on this cylinder, I added the #2 baffle kit this year. On climb out this weekend, my #2 cylinder never went over 375* and dropped to 290* in cruise, LOP. The baffle replaces the factory baffle at the rear of the cylinder and improves airflow behind the fins.
The #2 and #6 cylinders are notoriously hot, and I’m convinced these upgrades will help prolong cylinder life.
I was on my take off roll in the A-36 when I saw this indication on my Insight G-2 graphic engine monitor. So I aborted and coasted to the end of the runway and taxied off. The EGT on the #3 cylinder was way high and fluctuating.
After an engine run-up, there was no roughness and it turned out to be just a bad EGT probe as evidenced by the diagnostic page. Mission scrubbed but better safe than sorry. Its always better to sort this stuff out on the ground than in the clouds.
At the end of April, the Tavares Sea Plane Base (FA1) held its annual seaplane fly in. In addition to some large crowds, 25 or more seaplanes flew in for the event.
About a dozen seaplanes participated in a “bomb drop” that comprised a crewmember dropping a watermelon at a target anchored offshore, while the pilot concentrated on flying the aircraft.
The highlight was “Zeus”, an HU-16C Grumman Albatross that flew in for the event. She was built in 1954 and served in the US military. A quick search shows only 2 of these rare aircraft still on the FAA registry.
Powered by supercharged Wright R-1820 radial engines, she made a loud statement as she took off from Lake Dora, in Tavares, FL for a series of fly-bys. Each engine puts out over 1,425 horsepower, and the crowd nodded their approval as she thundered past.
After the second fly-by, Zeus took up a bearing for home, Lone Star Executive Airport, Conroe, TX.
A business trip took me to south Florida in the Bonanza this week; a quick down and back to Ft. Lauderdale. (KFXE)
On the return flight home, I had planned to be back in the air in order to land before dark at my home base, but a fueling error at Fort Lauderdale Exec delayed my departure for over an hour, until near sunset.
This was a poignant reminder to always visually check your fuel tanks, rather than rely on the FBO invoice indicating the plane was fueled.
Looking at the silver lining, it did allow me to capture some great photos while cruising past Lake Okeechobee on my northbound track, just before dusk. And there was a tailwind for once.
Approaching Leesburg (KLEE) after dark, I cancelled IFR 10 miles out with Orlando Approach, to yield the protected airspace to a Cirrus flying an instrument procedure. I extended my downwind and followed the Cirrus on final.
These shots were taken just before sunset from 6,000 MSL.