Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Test Flight

I stay in the hotel this morning, anticipating the airplane working in the p.m. and me needing a fresh duty day. I believe they cleared some small deferred snags in the morning and then I joined them for lunch and to check Greyhound for our package. The AME returns to the truck swearing. He has the package. The disinterested girl at the counter has just told him it arrived yesterday. He says he didn't even bother telling her, "You just cost the company $10,000," because she wasn't going to care.

He manages to remove the old servo in an hour, but it takes three to put it on and reassemble the airplane. We go for dinner, where the service is terrible. The waitress never looks at us. She has admirable breasts, and probably complains about people staring at them, but lady the "my eyes are up here" thing works both ways. We get pretty much all of our service requests relayed through a waitress who is working in a different section.

After dinner the AME starts the paperwork. He asks me to check the throttle and mixture cable connections inside the engine, something I haven't been officially assigned before. After verifying that they are attached and that the levers have proper cockpit travel I sign part of the paperwork, too. I've signed many times after a test flight for the airplane conforming to the type, but this is my first dual signature for the work itself. The law allows me to do this as the pilot of the airplane, because I'm expected to know how it should work.

We run up and taxi out for a test flight. The AME wants to fly, so I do the same thing I did as a flight instructor: have him taxi along the centreline of the taxiway so I can see his control. The taxiway is wiggly here, as it goes around the terminal loading area, and he follows the line adequately, so I have him do the take-off. We start with full static power (that is: advance the throttles to full while holding the brakes) to see that the correct power is developing with all the temperatures and pressures correct. It is, so we release the brakes and I let him drive for the take-off roll. I call rotation and coach him to the correct attitude for a blue line climb. Everything looks good and I bring back the power to slow cruise. There's no one around, so it doesn't matter where we go. He does a couple of airborne doughnuts and everything is fine, so I direct him to a downwind back towards the airport and ask him to reduce the throttles by one inch of manifold pressure. He pulls about five inches off and jockeys them back and forth trying to get it right. "Just so you know," I explain, "That's what pilots mean if we complain about a throttle being oversensitive. These aren't that bad, but sometimes they can be almost impossible to set with one motion.

I ask him if he knows how to use the trim, which he does, theoretically, because he knows how to repair it, but he didn't expect the trim to be so sensitive, either. He knows it's about seven turns from one end to the other, so puts in a quarter turn instead of just nudging it, and startles himself. I take over and approach to land. There's no PAPI approach slope indicator on this runway and he asks about that. It's only on the opposite runway. We land and then he tells me we have to let the engines cool off a bit for five minutes and then go up again.

This time I fly a quick circuit, to land back on the end of the runway that has the PAPI, so he can see it. He points out that I have left the emergency fuel pumps on for the whole circuit and I agree. I leave them on any time that it would be severely inconvenient to have an engine quit. If I were teaching a student to fly circuits I'd have them turn them off reaching circuit altitude and on again on downwind with prelanding checks, but for one circuit I deliberately leave them on for the whole time. I put down the gear and turn base, then final. He looks at the PAPI on short final and quotes "four red you're dead!" I explain that if we follow the PAPI exactly to keep two red and two while all the way to the runway we land 1000' in, so since we have to turn around and backtrack the runway to get off, I'm landing on the numbers, which to the PAPI is way low.

We return to parking and I text the PRM with the successful outcome. He replies "Next time don't do a test flight at night." We look around. I guess it might be getting a bit dark now, but I don't think it's night. I didn't check specifically, but usually one can tell. I text back that it's not night yet. He texts back "At 10 p.m.?!" I check with Flight Services. Night officially started six minutes after we landed. We're good. The PRM meanwhile has considered our latitude and conceded that it might still be light here.

I sign the part in the logbook that says the airplane can fly the way it's supposed to, and we head to Boston Pizza where I buy the AME a beer, because he worked hard and I know he's broke. He offers me a sip and laughs at me when I look at my watch before accepting it. That's ingrained. I am never going to be "oops" illegal on a flight as far as alcohol is concerned.

The HSI still doesn't work, and it can't be replaced with the copilot side directional gyro because that DG is driven by pneumatic suction and the HSI is electric, so the connections aren't the same. We're technically legal for night or IFR now because there's another VOR and an NDB, and the law doesn't say where the heading indicator has to be, but a scan involving a heading instrument on the other side of the cockpit isn't the most fun thing to do.

Also, there's still time to enter the contest to win a book by telling me your favourite true aviation story, personal or historical. Judging in a couple of days.


Unknown said...

Is the "don't do a test flight at night" edict strictly a safety/light issue, or duty day/scheduling concern?

Sarah said...

Interesting pre-takeoff test. ( Can you follow the center line taxiing... )

PAPIs are really nice at night, and I need to pay better attention to them; no more landing-on-the-numbers low approaches at night. I landed Sunday at an unfamiliar airport with a 2500' runway and was chided by a companion about my "reddish" papis turning base. I added a little power and was rewarded by proper red over white lights, but still a glimpse of treetops in the landing light on short final. Yikes. Live & learn.