Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ferry to Maintenance

Company has a hangar available for maintenance, so all I have to do is get there. There's a NOTAM out saying that all taxiways and the apron are closed for resurfacing, but the private hangar has its own apron that can be reached from the runway without my needing to use the closed taxiways.

I walk around the airplane carefully, looking for anything that would make me demand they come to this airport instead, or anything else they should be repairing during the downtime. There's no puddle on the ground from the oil, just what seeped out and flowed over the nacelle during yesterday's flight. It's not very much oil, as can also be verified by the fact that I didn't have to add any to make it up to the correct level on the stick. I wipe the nacelle clean, not out of fastidiousness--it will soon have greasy engineer and apprentice fingerprints all over it--but for their information. By asserting that I left with it clean, I am showing the engineers exactly how much leaked during the flight.

It's still not the shiniest airplane in the skies, but I wouldn't really say it needed painting. The tires are all okay and the gear uplocks and rollers click and roll as they should. All the vortex generators are present and I don't see any rivets shedding their paint. When the paint comes off the head of a rivet, it's a sign of stress along that join. Better to investigate when the paint is coming off than wait until the heads start popping off some of the rivets.

Happy with my preflight inspection, I secure my baggage and fire up the engines. They start nicely, better than they have all month, because every other flight I've done has been of a hot airplane, just returned from a flight with my colleague. Engines don't like to start when they are too hot or too cold. The too cold problem is because the oil is thick and provides resistance to turning. I think the too hot problem may be from the fuel vapourizing too easily and the engine becoming flooded. I'm not positive about that, but the hot start and the flooded start procedures are similar. It always feels like the airplane is complaining that it already worked hard this morning, why does it have to go out again? I regard the engines as a collection of tired horses shaking their heads and trying to bolt towards the barn, as I coax them to start, instead.

I text company to say when I will arrive while I wait for the engines to warm up. The oil temperature gauges and EGTs come up evenly showing temperatures I expect. I test the various systems. The right propeller doesn't respond to the feather check right away. I check the left and it is okay and then go back to the right and now it works properly. Part of the feather check is checking function, and part is just getting the oil to circulate through the hub. I make a note, though, because they supposedly just flushed the propellers at a recent scheduled maintenance, so it should be peppier. Maybe something they supposedly flushed is still oozing around in there. Also the left tach needle seems to be oscillating too, not just the right one. I guess we're going to wring every last bit of use out of this mechanical tach before we go digital.

The wind is calm and for once I'm not waddling out at max gross, so I take off from the nearest end of the runway without backtracking for the extra few feet available before the numbers. There's a gigantic blast shield before the threshold of the runway, so that jets taking off don't blow cars off the road behind them. That blast shield makes the beginning of the runway unusable for landing (unless you want to glide through the barrier) but I can still backtrack and use it for takeoff if I want to. But on this occasion I don't.

Power, gauges green, roll, rotate, climb, gear up, power reduction, turn on course, talk to ATC, level off, set cruise power, consult the checklist to make sure my fingers did all the right things, and adjust my heading as I speed up and require a different wind correction angle.

Now I just monitor everything, looking out the window for traffic, making sure the temperatures and pressures are what they should be, and looking through the "nearest" display on the GPS so that when someone calls on 126.7 out of Goat River for Empress Lake or dropping jumpers over Marvik (or did he say Bartuk?) I have a hope in hell of knowing whether he might be a conflict.

I call flight services on a discrete frequency with a position report, and to get an updated altimeter setting. It's a routine call and I go back to 126.7. About five minutes later flight services hails me on 126.7. Sometimes they do it if they are looking for an airplane and you are in the area where they think it is, so they will ask you to try and raise it. I respond. The specialist just thought I might like to know there was a NOTAM for my destination, that the apron and taxiways are closed. I thank him, and assure him I have the NOTAM, but leave it a mystery to him why I am going to an airport where it appears I cannot exit the runway. Was that cruel?

The destination is ahead and I'll be straight in for the runway. I pick up the ATIS of the nearest controlled airport to update my altimeter again and to confirm what I know about the wind from the ripples on the lakes. I'm going to be a few minutes late. I didn't include the time to complete the run up in my estimated time enroute. Another NOTAM warned of parachute activity here, so I call the ATC frequency that was given for more information, but the controller acts like he's never heard of such a thing. I guess it hasn't been a busy summer for the jumpers.

I land and then turn around on the runway to taxi back to where I can see my PRM standing with an engineer the company often contracts to, on the private apron. The PRM has come out to make sure this airplane gets everything fixed properly this time. The engineer gives me marshalling signals and I shut down in front of them. Oh you're not going to believe this, but the left tach is now dead. It couldn't even make it through the flight.


Frank Van Haste said...

Dear Trix:

Re: "By asserting that I left with it clean, I am showing the engineers exactly how much leaked during the flight."

Damn, you're good.


Anonymous said...

What type of airplane is it?

GPS_Direct said...

"By asserting that I left with it clean, I am showing the engineers exactly how much leaked during the flight."

It's amazing how so little oil can look like so much when it streams back over the cowling...

Went from Florida to OSH and back with a slow leak (picked it up in flight on the way north). We wiped things down at each fuel stop and checked the level. Ended up a half-quart low each way.

Sure LOOKED like LOTS more! Ended up being a front seal.

Verification word:
Forforaf - sounds like a Wonka candy.

Aviatrix said...

Yeah, I hate flying with oil leaks, but you're so right about it looking like more. It's like blood from a head wound: it flows down someone's face into their eyes and they look like a zombie when it's only 10 cc. In either case, it's essential fluid coming out of an important place and spreading out, so a little looks like a desperate situation.

Ed said...


Partner Relationship Management? :-)

JimB said...

PRM: Person Responsible for Maintenance

Ed said...

Ah. Not heard the term before. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"What type of airplane is it?" -Anonymous

Good luck in getting her to give that up lol. I though I had it nailed until a post about electric equipment on one breaker didn't match my guess...

@ Aviatrix re: sluggish prop... Make sure your wrench monkeys aren't greasing the prop too much. One place I worked they figured lube was the solution (in that friction was making it slow to feather??). As it turned out it made it worse and worse. Finally one refused to feather at all. I asked how they had been clearing the snag and they said all they would to is re-grease it.

When the prop was removed the hub was literally filled with red ram. No oil in there at all or able to pass through either. Cleaned about a pound of grease out and reinstalled it and it worked like new. I took a picture and put it up in the AME lunchroom to remind them more is not always better... If you pump until it comes out around the blade shank, you have put in five times more than needed according to my prop guy.

I'd love to replace my cables with an electronic tach. I wasn't aware this was even an option. I'm jealous ;P

Jimmy Mack said...

"What type of airplane is it?" -Anonymous

Still a weedwhacker, right?

Also, cleaning the oil off the cowling is a good idea... but sometimes the oil coming out is not from inside the engine, but just from inside the nacelle. Oil that misses the filler neck can come out looking pretty black as it picks up all the dirt and grime on an engine.

I know you know that Aviatrix, just thought I would share some knowledge.

Aviatrix said...

JimB is correct re: PRM. Person Responsible for Maintenance is an official title in a Canadian operation, like Chief Pilot.

Anonymous 6:17 is correct answering Anonymous 1:45 that I'm not naming the aircraft. Those that know can figure it out, those that sort of know can have fun trying, and those that don't, don't need to know.

And Jimmy Mack is right about old oil continuing to leak out of a cowling after a problem is fixed, if your maintenance guys don't wash the cowlings, or if the pilots are sloppy adding oil. In this case the oil is coming from the propeller area, forward of any spilled oil or old accumulations.

Anonymous said...

I think you should name the aircraft. A woman's first name that was popular at the time, in the place, where it was first registered.

Aviatrix said...

Neat suggestion, and neat research project.

The only one of our fleet that has had a name other than the skin letters was called "Greased Lightning" in recognition of the copious quantities of oil it shed all over itself, and the untraceable electrical problems. We got rid of it.

Jimmy said...

'Greased Lightning' I love it...

I used to fly a BN2 we called 'Dirty Debbie'. Oil from the breather would stream down the legs and nacs and end up on your shirt. We called that 'Debbie's kiss'.

One of the apprentices put the name on the nose in cheap vinyl letters. The owner vetoed it.

I always thought she would have looked good with some WWII pin up art and that name on the nose lol.

Aviatrix said...

Aww, Jimmy, I so agree. I wonder if the chief pilot would go for a mud flap girl sticker. Or maybe Hello Kitty.