[79FT]: Building Things

Race for the Engine

...or was it pickles?


On: May 17, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] 2019 Annual
Tags: 6781G, MA5 Charger, Annual, engine, Rotec TBI, prop

So after having discovered the electrical mess, I realized that she's gonna be sitting for a while.

Which meant...

Pickle time! Damn, this pickling thing is becoming a thing, excuse my tautologies...

I had to put her together enough to be able to run the engine to circulate and warm up pickling oil.

And she was apart. With intakes off, TBI almost off, no oil, and such.

Fuel / Intakes

So first, it was to be intakes.

RTV where there should be none

RTV where there should be none

Somebody put RTV to "seal" the intake gasket. Oh well.

Did you know that those 1 1/2 inch rubber hoses that go on intake tubes are much easier with very thin coat of oil?

Oiling the hoses

Oiling the hoses

And then, it was the TBI.

Recall that when I was putting her apart, I found pipe dope on the TBI inlet port?

Let me explain.

Fuel goes into gascolator. Then it branches: one branch goes to the engine driven pump, the other goes to the electric pump. Then, they go to the regulator on the TBI. Then, a couple of 90 degree fittings feed it into the TBI's inlet port, which has the "last chance" screen in it.

That's the port here, right above the airflow straightener:

TBI from the down low

TBI from the down low

See that white gunk? That's Teflon dope. "Aircraft grade"; whatever.

Here's the problem.

TBI inlet hole

TBI inlet hole

Fuel has to go there, into that inlet hole. That's what the screen fitting screws into. Right past that, inside the TBI itself, there's a turn, another turn, and a spray bar that sprays gas into the intake, injection-style, thru a tube with a bunch of tiny holes. That's why there are screens in the fuel system: to prevent gunk from clogging up those tiny holes.

So now, what happens when you take a male fitting out of a female threaded hole, and the fitting was doped? Some of that stuff ends up on the female portion. Next time the fitting is put in, dope remnants will be pushed in past the engaged threads, and possibly clog up the works.

Not. Good. At. All.

That's why there is the copper crush gasket behind that screen fitting - to seal it to the TBI body w/o requiring anything extra. You can kinda see that gasket all smudged around with that dope on the first picture.

So I had to deal with it.. Clean it out somehow.

It was crumbly, but sticky enough to not want to come out.

I tried every solvent on hand. Nope.

I tried carefully scraping it out with a dental probe. Yeah, kinda worked, but I wasn't satisfied.

I tried every solvent in my buddy Dick's hangar. Nope.

In desperation, I drove to the local Home.. strike that, Aerospace, Depot, thinking about picking up every kind of solvent they had and I didn't.

And then, I remembered this:

Goof-OFF!

Goof-OFF!

I don't know what kind of concoction that is; but it worked! The hole was clean. Next time was a couple days after, and when I got back to the hangar, I discovered that it has turned into a lake :(

Lake in my hangar

Lake in my hangar

Grading's all screwed up around our hangars, and when we get lots and lots of rain, they flood. Not too much though, luckily. This was the second time in the past few weeks - first time, I had my tools scattered around the floor. This time, I was smarter...

Anyway, back to the TBI. The rest of it went together quite nicely. I discovered that there was TorqueSeal put on the idle mixture screw.

Why? No idea. That screw is spring loaded. Should stay put.

Torque Seal where there should be none

Torque Seal where there should be none

I wanted to flush the lines and then the TBI to make absolutely sure none of that dope went it. The best way to do that would be with the electrical pump; but I'm a one man show.... and the switch for it is 5 feet away from the firewall.

So, I had to rig me up a little doodad.

The simple click switch

The simple click switch

.. with ring terminals

.. with ring terminals

The ring terminals were hooked up to the Master Solenoid in such a way that when the button was clicked on, the Solenoid would close.

The pump was turned on.

This way, I could click my button, Master Solenoid would close, and the pump would start running. Neat-o! I'll need it later, too.

Flushing - braided hose provides nice bond to the airframe

Flushing - braided hose provides nice bond to the airframe

The Pickling

I borescoped the engine (looked alright - I'll post a report about this later, maybe...); and it was time to fill'er up with oil.

Pickling oil was mixed up next, and into the engine it went.

A pitcher of pickling oil

A pitcher of pickling oil

A recipe for a mess...

A recipe for a mess...

After filling the sump up, it was time to check for oil pressure. Lycoming tells you in SB1241C to pre-oil your engine by cranking with the starter in 10-30 second bursts until oil pressure comes up to 20 PSI.

Well, oil pressure gauge on the Charger is finicky, so I wanted it to at least move.

Oh wait. She has an ignition/start switch. No way I can use that to crank and not have a hot mag w/o messing with P-Leads.

Crap.

Also, I might want to crank from around the firewall (the prop was still off).

But I had my pushbutton doodad!

So I rigged it up to the starter solenoid this time.

Of course I misunderstood the way the starter solenoid was wired.

It had two terminals.

I thought one of them was ground; with the wire going to the firewall. The other then was supposed to be positive.

That didn't work.

I measured it - between those terminals - nothing. "Dead starter solenoid", I though. Crap! It was 8pm. Auto parts stores were closing soon.

I rushed to a nearby O'Reilly. Picked up a starter solenoid. Went back.

Measured it too. NOTHING? How come? Something was amiss.

Only then I started suspecting that something was off. That other terminal on the original starter solenoid I was hooking my positive wire to was all corroded and looked like it never had a nut.

OH! The way it's supposed to be wired is that positive goes to the same terminal where that wire I thought to have been ground was. It wasn't a ground wire - it was a diode. And the ground was off of the case of the solenoid.

Okay.

So, we're cranking now.

30 seconds. No pressure. 30 more. No pressure. Crap!

I unhooked the oil pressure sending hose (the one that hooks up to the line that goes to the gauge).

Crank. No oil. A couple bubbles is all I got.

CRAP!

The oil pump de-primed itself?

Kinda makes sense I guess? The plane was sitting for way too long :(

So, I took off the oil cooler return line. Dumped another quart of oil in there.

I had this hose fitting that goes on top of an oil bottle that was very neatly set up to mate with the engine oil hose's flare: so I could squeeze the bottle and push the oil in.

After the whole quart, I re-hooked the line back onto the oil cooler, and tried again.

Success! Now, I saw oil coming out of the oil pressure sending hose.

Hooked it up to the gauge line, and saw the gauge move, finally. Good.

Damn, with all that cranking I ran out my old battery I had put in there.

Now, have to flip the battery (to put in the good one - the flying one - I always use my old battery from the Cheetah when I mess with electrical, not to abuse the actual "production" battery).

Now, the top spark plugs go back in, the ignition wires get hooked up.

Prop time!

Bolt one - start it in. Bolt two. Bolt three.

Bolt 4. Doesn't go in? Not even a chance? What the hell?

I pulled the prop back off and laid it down. Put the front crush plate on top (that one positions the bolts).

No matter what I did, there'd be at least 3 out of 6 bolts that won't go in. This time, it was a few dry days, and I guess the prop moved enough to have the "top" and "bottom" holes (if looking at the prop horizontally) move closer together. It was off by almost a 1/16th.

So here I was. With an engine that was cranked for a total of a few minutes, and probably had scraped a lot of oil off of cam lobes and lifters.

With a prop.

I couldn't put on.

Which I needed.

To fire the damn thing up.

It was late. I tidied up, and went home.

The Prop

I wrote a note to Frank Johnson who made the prop that same night, and called him the next day.

He wasn't surprised. "Redrill" is a simple fix.

But I was a bit apprehensive, and this was a nice excuse to meet him. He's 2 hours away from me. We agreed to meet in a few days, at the first time he was available.

So, the engine with oil scraped off the lobes had to sit for another couple days.

Nothing I could do in that short a time...

Interlude

The weekend hit us; and it is a weekend in May, in Texas. Which means...

MUDBUGS!

The annual fit inspection

The annual fit inspection

The setup

The setup

The fixings

The fixings

Prep

Prep

Aliens!

Aliens!

The Boil

The Boil

The Finale

Into the trailer the prop went, and to Frank's we drove.

All tucked in

All tucked in

Of course, it took us 15 minutes out of 3 hours I spent there to fix it. The rest of it? Well, what can two guys who're crazy about airplanes do at one of those guys' shop and hangar? Hmm... What could we do? :)

The weather was swell, and I was in a good mood - and airport was on the way back from Frank's.

So, I went straight to the airport.

The prop went on beautifully.

Finally, on

Finally, on

It was nice, sitting in a running, shivering airplane, to watch the sunset. If you looked up, it almost felt like flying. With the buzz, the shake, the smell and the noise.

The Sunset

The Sunset

A couple days later, I went back to the hangar, sprayed the engine top and replaced spark plugs with desiccant.

Now, I can focus on the electrical mess...

The Muffler plug

The Muffler plug


An airplane will probably fly a little bit overgross but it sure won't fly without fuel.


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The Flying Fire Hazard

...sparks galore!


On: May 16, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] Electrical Rebuild
Tags: 6781G, MA5 Charger, Annual, electrical

This thing nagged me for a while. The Charger did not have the Field breaker. For that matter, it didn't have the Alternator master breaker, either.

It had this weird "main buss" breaker for 60 amps, but that didn't look like the Alternator breaker to me.

So in between dealing with other things after having decided to put her thru Annual in 2019 a bit early, I was running around with my multimeter, tracing wires.

Initially, I quickly discovered that some lines were definitely not fused; like Battery -> Main Buss line, and thought I'd put inline fuses into them, and be done.

She has an old charging system; a mechanical switching voltage regulator, and a Delco Remy alternator seemingly from a tractor:

The old Delco-Remy

The old Delco-Remy

Voltage regulator didn't make sense. It had 4 wires (should be 2: supply and field output, or 3: supply, sense, and field output).

Alternator didn't make sense. Instead of 1 wire for Field input, it had two wires.

Additionally, Battery Contactor didn't make sense. One terminal had a wire going to it. The other was grounded....

Interlude

Battery Contactor is an interesting point here. Normally, one terminal is connected to the "always hot" side of it (basically, directly to the battery) and the other goes to the Master Switch. Master Switch turns the Battery Contactor on by grounding that wire, providing the negative side to the circuit. It's a safety thing. If that wire breaks, it'll either turn the electrical off (open circuit), or it will keep it turned on (short to ground). That's it.

But, one of the terminals on the Battery Contactor was grounded... that means, that the other terminal (the wire coming from the Master Switch) must provide positive side??? Huh? But where does it get it's power from?

Tracing

So to tracing we went. I spend maybe 10 hours trying to find diagrams and understand that alternator and voltage regulator hookups.

And me tracing it spelled my doom.

The Diagram

Now, I didn't trace the rest of it. Just the main distribution system. That was enough.

Shall we?

The current  main power system of the Charger

The current main power system of the Charger

Yep, the diagram is missing the main power buss. It's dangling off of the same spot where everything else that's interesting is - the Battery Contactor (marked MA RELAY) <-> Starter Contactor (marked STARTER REL) link.

So let's see what we have here.

  • Lots of unfused wires. Do you see a single fuse here? Nope. That's because there aren't any. All the fuses are further downstream, off of the main buss.
  • Voltage Regulator has this extra wire running to / from cockpit that isn't really necessary and could've been kept on the hot side of the firewall (terminal 4 wire)
  • Alternator field broken at output (F->ALT) rather than at input (battery -> terminal 3)
  • And the best part? Always hot wire that you can't turn off between the battery and the Master Switch to turn the Master Solenoid on.

That last bit bugged me. I couldn't find the damn thing. Even before actually tracing it, I knew that if the Master Solenoid is switched on the "hot" side, it needs to get the power from somewhere, and that only could be battery. But I didn't see any wires on the always hot side of the Master Solenoid. Only when I traced it, I actually traced the physical wire to where it goes, and then found it. It was so tucked behind the battery -> Master Solenoid wire that it was invisible:

This little !@#!S@#....

This little !@#!S@#....

Oh; and by the way, the Master Switch is the only switch that's soldered in, and w/o any good insulation around the terminals, and over-stripped wires. So that's just waiting to short, and the magic smoke that'll be let out behind the panel when that shorts can't be stopped (always hot wire, remember?)

Master Switch

Master Switch

The Wires

So I kinda went backwards here; but I thought it'd be easier to see the diagram first.

Let's see.

Most of connections are made on this very nicely marked terminal block:

The terminal block

The terminal block

All the switched power comes out there, and every wire is marked. This actually helped a lot in tracing. This block is on the side of the plane, right next to the front hole's backrest.

You know what threw me off the most with that damned always hot wire (I ended up tracing it physically)? It's how it's hooked up.

Yep, it is hooked up to that terminal block. To the terminal... that is marked.. (drumroll).... "Master Switch".

Wait.. this actually makes sense... But where's the "return" from the switch?

Ah! It's the wire that's marked.... drumroll... "Fuel Gauge"!

So really, let's look at what's going on, shall we? Zoom in the image below, it's annotated.

Untangled

Untangled

So let's see. We've got this bundle of wires, a lot of which are not fused, and one of which is always hot.

The Main Buss wire is the thickest one (10 gauge maybe?) that's not fused between this buss bar and the source (engine compartment).

Oh, did I mention that this buss bar is on the side of the plane near the rear instrument panel (so that 10 gauge run, and the rest of the harness between firewall and the panel is about 30 inches long)?

What else do we see there? Oh! The two little 1/16inch thick aluminum lines carrying.. fuel pressure (and oil pressure).

Shall I say more?

Shall I say that there's a fuel tank in between the front hole (passenger) and the firewall?

That the wires run along between firewall and rear cockpit along that fuel pressure line (to fuel pressure gauge)?

That if one shorts to this very nearby fuel pressure line, it'll burn a hole straight thru it, and then ignite the gas that'll start coming out?

Yep.

Can I fix all of that?

Sure. But rewiring will be much much easier, because I have to touch pretty much everything. Re-running half of individual wires in a bundle is much harder than re-running them all.

So, I made a decision to rewire the plane... Sigh. Looks like I won't be flying for a looooong time.

Oh, and tell you what. Tracing wires on a biplane is dangerous. I ended up twisting my knee and pulling a muscle while trying to get behind the panel so badly that I couldn't walk (or sit) for 2.5 days :(.


Never ask a man if he is a fighter pilot. If he is, he'll let you know. If he isn't, don't embarrass him.


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Annual 2019: The Cowling Conundrum

...Comanche, no Comanche?


On: May 15, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] 2019 Annual
Tags: 6781G, MA5 Charger, Annual, baffles

Baffle seals on this plane are original reinforced neoprene rubber, and they were in pretty beat up shape. There is a lot of gaps, they sag in places, making the seal really not that good.

So one of the things I decided to do is to redo them.

Pardon the cruddy pictures; but those ones are the only ones I have :(

The Nosebowl

One of the things I noticed immediately is that baffle seals were turned the wrong way in the nosebowl area; where the front "air ramp" joins the bottom of the nosebowl.

Here's the nosebowl and the front ramp:

Front ramp

Front ramp

Notice the circled area? Here it is, from the back:

The behinds

The behinds

That marked rubber seal is in the circled area. Notice it's turned the wrong way; "into" the cowling, rather than away from it? Ram air hitting that front "ramp" will "bend it in", and leak into the underside of the engine compartment - precisely where it's not supposed to go.

Naive me thought that it was just wrongly installed - the rubber needed to have been folded up and out, "into" the lip of the nosebowl.

Correct and current seal orientation

Correct and current seal orientation

Ha! Well, Remo (the guy who built the Charger) thought different.

There's just not enough room there. Everything is super tight. The seal just won't go there and stay there. There's just no room.

Look at the above two pictures - inside and outside - again. You'll understand why. Use pop rivet line as your reference.

Here's where the problem gets worse. Ramp is really thin - so with just a mild pressure, I can make that gap between the ramp and the bowl 1/4 - 3/8 inches. Guess what happens when ram air hits it... :)

What ram air does...

What ram air does...

Okay, so then I went digging.

I thought this was a standard bowl. I was right!

It's an old Comanche single style bowl (I think).

Comanche nose

Comanche nose

Looks similar?  I researched further.

Here's a guy making replacement ramps for Comanches, with some good pictures.

Front ramp on a Comanche

Front ramp on a Comanche

Okay; see the difference? Comanche ramps are curved the other way.

Changer vs. the Comanche

Changer vs. the Comanche

This is cross section. Mine's on the left, Comanche's on the right. Red is nosebowl; blue is this ramp, and black is my baffle seal.

Mine is "concave". Comanche is "convex". So if I got my thinking right, this makes the Comanche version more rigid facing the wind.

Drawing from the Comanche's parts' manual confirms this proper curve.

Comanche parts manual on baffles

Comanche parts manual on baffles

The parts I'm talking about are numbers 11 and 12, bottom right corner.

But how the heck do they seal them? Notice that the material on the drawing above seemingly has some "dots" on it (as opposed to the rubber material on the side baffles).

Well, back to our "remade Comanche front baffles" guy.

Forward baffles from Comanche Gear guy

Forward baffles from Comanche Gear guy

Felt strip!

Well, I guess that makes sense. Felt wrapped around the front ramp.

Felt strip

Felt strip

Felt is thick and, contacting the nosebowl, I guess, will create a good enough seal if the ramp is rigid enough. I am guessing that Comanche's ramps are way more rigid than mine due to that opposed curve.

So where are we at with all this?

Remo probably built this noseramp himself. It looks very custom. It's too thin and doesn't have rigidity - ram air will flex bend it "into" the cowling. It's not sealed properly practically along all of that bottom edge between the bowl and the ramp.

The only hope for it is that it's aerodynamic-ish and looks like a "dozer blade" - curved up. Maybe the nosebowl lip deflects the air enough for it not to go under too much:

Airflow diagram

Airflow diagram

Can I replace the current rubber seal with felt?

Maybe. The front of the engine moves. The ramp's aluminum is very light - I am afraid that if I were to add any reasonable quantity of felt to it to hold the seal tight it will warp the aluminum via relative motion of that ramp (hooked up to the engine) rubbing on the bottom of the nosebowl. Or worse yet, make a hole in the bowl.

Can I replace the ramp? Well, everything's possible; but that's a massive undertaking. That ramp / nose baffle, Comanche-style, has that compound curve, and I don't have time or skill to do it fast. 2 months? Maybe, if I get lucky. BTW this is probably why Remo did it this way - because his is just an aluminum sheet, wrapped around the front of the engine, "neck cone" style, and cut to fit.

So, what do I do?

After discussing this at length with my good friend Ben, we settled on testing this out first to see how bad the air flow going "under" will be. I can mark the bottom of the nosebowl with some tinted oil, and go fly. Oil streaks will tell me if the air is flowing under a lot, or not so much.

I'll also replace all the other baffle seals, which will improve cooling. There's a lot of gaps to RTV, too.

I don't want to replace the bottom nosebowl ones, because actually there the rigidity of old neoprene rubber seals should help...


To go up, pull the stick back. To go down, pull the stick back harder.


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Annual 2019: The Rest of April

...and 1/2 of May


On: May 14, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] 2019 Annual
Tags: 6781G, MA5 Charger, Annual, Rotec TBI, baffles, prop, fabric

Well, as usual, I got too focused on the plane and the mess I got myself into; and didn't log things as they went...

I will split the notes in multiple posts; by theme / subject. Just general notes here.

Annual, Continued

We got together with John, my IA, and continued working on the plane early April.

We pulled the prop, so that I will have access to baffles (I wanted to redo them).

John re-riveted the air takeoff flange back to the front ramp.

Meanwhile, I started disassembling the fuel system to get to the screens, including the oil sump screen, and clean them.

Airbox off

Airbox off

TBI intake airflow straightener

TBI intake airflow straightener

Okay, stop right there. See that fuel inlet, right above the air intake? See the little smudge of dope around the inlet fitting? Yep. Teflon dope. Rotec explicitly tells you not to put ANYTHING on there - there's a copper crush gasket behind that fitting.

TBI screen

TBI screen

TBI crush gasket

TBI crush gasket

See all that dope above? Okay, that thread on the TBI is a female thread. Dope will be all in it, and guess what will happen when I screw the fitting back in? Yep. It'll go into the TBI fuel galleys. Right to where that spray bar is with tiny little holes in it. Not Good (c).

TBI holes plugged

TBI holes plugged

Intakes

I noticed evidence of possible intake leaks, so without "burping" the engine, decided to pull the intakes and replace the gaskets. This is my karma. I did that on the Cheetah just a year ago, and scraping remnants of one of those gaskets and re-chasing the threads took me about 10 hours; maybe more.

Also: interesting note: she has intake tube clamps on studs and not bolts like every other Lycoming I've seen. Old, narrow-deck cylinders :).

Prop

When we pulled it, bolts were in the thru holes on the wooden prop really tight.

Pulling the prop

Pulling the prop

She has the prop made by Frank Johnson of Performance Propellers fame, and after contacting him, he just suggested to re-drill the holes and re-coat them inside with something.

Well, I got me a 29/64 (1/64 oversize) reamer, and went to town.

But first, I needed a rack.

My prop rack

My prop rack

Built with a 1/2" pipe, some foam, pipe brackets, screws, 2x6s screwed to the table, and my 3/8" drive extension rod. You get the idea :). Redneck engineering galore.

Prop on the rack

Prop on the rack

This whole thing was happening over a few days by the way; and when I finally got my reamer and had time to deal with it, the holes.. extended. Wood moves!

Hey, we had much rain then, and prop "swelled" a bit methinks.

But I still decided to fill the holes as much as I could.

Even got me some nice scales for mixing System Three ClearCoat.

Mixing

Mixing

A filled hole

A filled hole

Backside

Backside

Interlude

Hey, look, I got a nice neighbor next door!

My new neighbor

My new neighbor

Fabric

Fabric on this plane is old. Flyable from what I am being told by experts, but old. Cracking, peeling paint.

Original logs say that she was covered in Polyfiber. But the current finish looks more like Imron and the company - "flexible" automotive poly. It's cracking and peeling around areas of high wear (prop wash, etc).

Sad fabric

Sad fabric

Sad, sad fabric

Sad, sad fabric

John (my IA) wanted to take a Maule fabric tester to it; but I didn't want holes in my wings.

I discussed this with a few guys that worked with fabric their whole lives, and we came to a consensus that for now this is fine. Will just fill with silver, and keep on flying. Incidentally, that's what Glenn has been doing, too.

Full Stop

I worked on baffles a bit, but then, everything went downhill. We'll talk about baffles in the next post. And the downhill part, afterwards :).


About aerobatics: It's like having sex and being in a car wreck at the same time.


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Annual 2019: April 6

...wing root fairings


On: Apr 06, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] 2019 Annual
Tags: 6781G, MA5 Charger, Annual

Only had a few hours today, so decided to concentrate on taking off the wing root fairings. As I mentioned before, the "back-side accessible" screws were set up to have nuts on them rather than nutplates. Well, I don't know about that accessibility....

It ended up being 3 hours for ~30 screws.

Root fairing off

Root fairing off

Most of them on the back side of the wing require you reaching with a wrench thru the rear cockpit, and my arm is just barely long enough to do that successfully. Since nuts are nyloc, no way I can hold them with my fingers - they need a socket.

Some of those nuts are in a U-type channel over which the fabric is glued, and some of the holes are off-center: making it impossible to put a socket over them.

I could've ground a socket down; but I don't have a grinder - so especially one of the nuts took a while to get off. And oh, you have to do all that without dropping the nut and the washer onto the floor (and having them go into the tail). So the process looked like this:

  • Get your hand in, try to put the socket over the nut.
  • While holding the ratchet, try to put the screwdriver into the screw w/o missing it and poking a hole in the fabric.
  • Undo the screw, almost.
  • Remove the socket, take a strong magnet.
  • Finish undoing the screw, hoping that the magnet will catch the washer and the nut.

Having magnetic sockets helped. They weren't deep enough to grab most of the fully tightened nuts because screws protruded from them. I used them as magnets sometimes, and sometimes used my magnetic "fishing for lost hardware" probe.

Now I'm writing this, I realized what I should've been doing is using a long extension and a 90 degree adapter on my socket. Damn! But this still doesn't solve the problem with some of the nuts that were hidden almost behind things that were in the way (ie, a trim control wheel's attachment structure that's welded into the fuselage).

One of those pesky nuts

One of those pesky nuts

I'm considering replacing those nuts with Tinnerman-type and screws with sheet metal screws thru Tinnermans. I'd put some anti-chafe tape inside the U-channel, and then Tinnermans on top of it. Since Tinnermans are long, when undoing (or tightening) the screw, they will turn and touch the side of the U-channel, which will act as a wrench.

Wing attachment - right side

Wing attachment - right side

And that's literally all I got done today. Just took those damn screws out.


Standard checklist philosophy requires that pilots read to each other the actions they perform every flight, and recite from memory those they need every three years.


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Annual 2019: March 30

... getting familiar


On: Mar 30, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] 2019 Annual
Tags: 6781G, MA5 Charger, Annual

Decision

After getting the Charger, I have decided to fix a few basics.

  • Clean plugs
  • Change oil
  • Give her a good look over

Getting a bit ahead of myself, a series of coincidences (airport closed, baffles' condition, intake leak, and others) made me decide to go thru the annu... sorry, Condition inspection (damn, will have to get used to new nomenclature :) ).

Notes

Cowling came off.

Cowling off

Cowling off

Discovered a few booboos:

  • Cracked cowl inlet ramp: need to stop drill.
  • Baffle seal behind the inlet ramp is turned the wrong way (Glenn was complaining about high temps - one of the reasons, hmm?).
  • Top baffle seals are too hard and sag in few spots.
  • One of the air take-offs off the ramp has almost un-riveted itself.

Since I will need some helps with skills and tools with riveting, and we'll need to pull the prop to change (and turn the right way) the seals, decided that I will put her thru annual.

Studying the systems (I was mainly concentrated on fuel and other al lines and hoses to see where things go), discovered a few things, too

  • She has the Rotec TBI-40-MKI TBI installed, which requires a 40 mesh filter upstream of it. The only filter besides finger strainers in tanks is gascolator, which goes down to 72 micron (0.003) only. Need to get a hold of Rotec people and discuss this situation.
  • The "low" end of the tank (in 3-point attitude) has a very nice drain fitting + drain cock draining behind the cowl. I am seriously considering adding a quick drain there - that is the lowest point of the tank in 3-point. My thinking is: water collected in the tank, goes to that lowest point; but there's not enough of it to go thru the take-off (which is in the middle). Then, when I raise the tail, it slushes forward, goes into the take-off, and reaches the engine right when I am just off the runway. Not Good.
  • Some un-critical drain hoses are clear vinyl and hard as a rock. For now will replace them with clear polyurethane, and if that hardens, with rubber.
  • TBI needs positive stops on the throttle quadrant. Need to check if they're present and adjust as necessary.
Crack in inlet ramp: stop drill

Crack in inlet ramp: stop drill

Inlet ramp baffle: turned the wrong way

Inlet ramp baffle: turned the wrong way

Inlet ramp's take-off flange - un-riveted itself

Inlet ramp's take-off flange - un-riveted itself

TBI

TBI

TBI - Regulator Side

TBI - Regulator Side

TBI - Throttle linkage

TBI - Throttle linkage

Electrical fuel pump and gascolator

Electrical fuel pump and gascolator

#1 bottom plug - in pretty good shape

#1 bottom plug - in pretty good shape

Engine compartment right side

Engine compartment right side

Fairings

Spent the rest of the day taking off fairings and access panels. This is the first thing I thing could've been done better here methinks. Everywhere where it was deemed that the back side would be "accessible", Remo used #6-32 nyloc AN nuts on machine screws instead of nutplates. Well, some of those nuts are not accessible, and I gave up on quite a bit of them around the rear wing root fairings.

Need to standardize on fasteners' length so that I don't juggle 10 different screw sizes.

Gotta love that easy access!

Gotta love that easy access!

Flying wires' fairing

Flying wires' fairing

My laborers for the day working on wheelpants

My laborers for the day working on wheelpants


Helicopters don't fly. They beat the air into submission.


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A Long Planned Trip

... for Glenn


On: Mar 27, 2019
In: [Chickenhouse Charger] Blog
Tags: flying, 6781G, MA5 Charger

Fade In

I met Glenn and Judi in 2014.

This was my second Oshkosh, and the first time I noticed the Biplane Forum's Beer'O'Clock thread.

We had two "events" that year: one in the Vintage at the awesome Piper Pub (yep, the spelling is right - it was a Tri-Pacer with the baggage door that had a beer tap. The guy who owned it claimed he had an STC; but paperwork got soaked in beer and was drying somewhere). We sneaked in a large cooler of Austin sour beer then, hauling it all the way from the opposite end of Camp Scholler. I met Glenn there, and later that night washed out in his camp and was fed with a kick-ass grilled cheese sandwich, and met Judi.

The second "event" was at Glenn's airplane, parked near Homebuilder's HQ. It was a beautiful Marquart Charger, I learned then; a 1987 Golden Lindy recipient, built by Remo Galeazzi in Petaluma, CA.

That biplane was beautiful; just the right curves and not as aggressive as more modern ones like Pitts and Skybolts. It looked straight from the 1930s, with wooden prop tipping the nose. I fell in love with it.

In 2015, we've had a good crowd around the plane.

Oshkosh 2015 Biplane Forum Beer'o'Clock crowd

Oshkosh 2015 Biplane Forum Beer'o'Clock crowd

Glenn's Charger became a traditional spot for these beer get-togethers, and we became friends who only met at Oshkosh; but to me it felt like I knew Glenn for my whole life, and 11.5 months between AirVentures felt like hours.

In 2016, I was finally around Chicago where Glenn lived, and he took me out to his home field, Poplar Grove. Man, what an airport! Just the right kind for his plane. We spent a day there, and I think I have seen only one spam can and maybe one RV. The others were a few Cubs, a Twin Beech, a Waco, and the like. A few friends showed up, and that day I got a ride in an AcroSport bipe, and later in the evening, finally, in the Charger.

Oh man. I flew a couple sport biplanes before; and while I liked them, they were too much for this lazy guy. Just a bit too twitchy and too sensitive.

This plane? It flew just like a Grumman. Perfect control harmony. Perfect, light forces on both elevator and ailerons. It fit like a glove.

Then, that night, by the way, I started seriously reconsidering building a Skybolt (BTW, this site was started as a Builder's Log for a Skybolt). I flew one, and while I still liked the plane, I liked the Charger even more.

Especially with it's more "classic" looks (and come on, admit it, we pick biplanes for looks), and it's perfect flyability.

In 2017, we did Beer'o'Clock at my camp (I forget why.. maybe the Charger wasn't around).

And later that year, Glenn told me he's thinking about selling it. He got too much stuff on his hands, and didn't want to neglect the Grand Champion.

I thought for about a day. I loved my Cheetah, and I loved the fact that it was a "normal" airplane. I could take my 2 year old son up in it. Not in a biplane. I could take "normal" people up in a Cheetah. Not in an open cockpit biplane - at least, it's a bit more.. rough, shall we say?

But I couldn't let the plane I loved just be sold on the Barnstormers; so the next day I told Glenn I'll take care of her when the time comes. I was overwhelmed, and honored to have a chance of taking care of a piece of aviating and homebuilding history.

The Plane

The MA5 Charger

The MA5 Charger

She was built in 1982. From what I could gather, she was started in 1977. There were two guys who built two MA5 Chargers in a chickenhouse in Petaluma, CA. Glenn's plane was built by Remo Galeazzi, and won the Golden Lindy in 1987. The other Charger won too by the way, some years earlier :).

Remo wrote a really nice article for Sport Aviation about both planes.

Here's another article about the plane.

Glenn changed it a bit, adding the smoke system, changing the prop to wood, and tweaking the induction and fuel systems. But the plane stayed all original mostly - original engine, original fabric, and such.

Oh, and it's the Charger on Wikipedia :)!

Logistics

I told Glenn to give me 6 months heads up, so that I could work out the logistics.

See, I have lots of hours to be very comfy flying any common tricycle single. I didn't have enough experience to haul a taildragger bipe across the country (Glenn moved to CA by then). I would have to learn how to fly it comfortably before embarking on the trip; and figure out the logistics.

But then, things went much faster than I thought.

At Oshkosh 2018, Glenn was telling me he's about to sell the plane. I realized I didn't have time to train enough, and that it would be better to train in the Charger from the getgo. So the working plan became me renting a large-ish truck, and hauling the airplane over to Texas with wings off.

And then, Glenn offered to fly the plane over himself, as a good bye to her. I couldn't refuse.

September 2018, Glenn told me he's gonna fly the plane over soon. I put the Cheetah up for sale, and said my last goodbyes to her November 21, 2018. Then, life and weather intervened, and we couldn't set the trip up till last weekend.

'It's warming up', Glenn texted me a week and a half ago.

A week after that text, he was wheels up en route to TX, with Judi in the front hole.

The Trip

That didn't last long. An hour and change later, Glenn was stuck in Bakersfield, just at the southern tip of Central Valley, CA. All mountain passes were blocked by low ceilings...

What's funny was that I was flying.. strike that, being flown from San Jose to Los Angeles, continuing to Texas, the same day Glenn and Judi were stuck at Bakersfield. I saw the damn clouds blocking the passes. They were maybe a mile wide!!!

This delayed them by about 24 hours, but the rest of the trip was fairly smooth. They did a lot of flying after being stuck in Bakersfield for practically a whole day, and some hours the following day.

Somewhere in the desert...

Somewhere in the desert...

Saturday, March 23, at around 10:30 AM Central, they touched down at my home field. We had very little time - their flight back home was in a few hours. Glenn walked me thru the basics. We tucked the airplane away.

Judi saying bye

Judi saying bye

Glenn and Judi...

Glenn and Judi...

Quick lunch, and on the way to the airport with the big planes we went. A few hours later, late at night, Glenn and Judi were back home.

Fin

It was all so fast, I was in the state of... denial? and disbelief? I started becoming overwhelmed when I got back home in the evening on that day, and opened up the logbooks.

Remo's signatures and flight log.

Remo's letters.

Glenn's signatures and notes.

The letter from Remo to Glenn, with a bunch of pictures - just pictures of this Charger being built; mundane almost; but a part of the Champion's history.

I ended up writing this into my logbook:

First 6781G log entry in my log book

First 6781G log entry in my log book

I now am a caregiver of a piece of aviation, homebuilding, and EAA's history.

And, I am no longer planeless! She needs a bit of cleaning and a touch of TLC, and to learning how to fly her we go!

The Chickenhouse Charger!

The Chickenhouse Charger!


Don't forget to keep the blue side up.


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Good Bye, Cheetah!

...live long, and prosper!


On: Nov 21, 2018
In: [Misc] Cheetah
Tags: 9891U, flying

Great weather today. A bit cold, but sunny, calm, and overall very promising.

I rolled out the Cheetah out of her hangar for the last time.

This was a weird feeling.

When you have an airplane sitting in the hangar 20 minutes away from your house, you tend to sometimes put flying off.

It typically goes along these lines.

Hey, it's Saturday coming up. I gotta go bounce around! check the weather Hmm...looks a bit iffy. Maybe I should do this-other-thing-around-the-house-shop-or-whatever-I-hadn't-gotten-around-to. Maybe, I'll go flying after that...

Evening rolls in, you're tired and not up for flying anymore.. Meanwhile, weather was perfect the whole day!

"Next week", you think. And you go out next week, but this time it's something else that pops up and you have to get to it later in the day, and instead of spending half a day bouncing around, you buzz around the pattern for half an hour and go back to your daily messes and stuff to do around the house.

Not every Saturday was like that since I got back to having time to do plane stuff... but often, it did.

But this time, today. It was weird. The knowing that I am flying her for the last time, that I am listening to GTU ATIS on her radios for the last time, the last VOR to be tuned in, last turn direct to the destination, last approach guy handing you over to your destination's Tower...

"Field in sight"...

On a day like today...

Sunny, silky smooth, a touch of clouds, with all the gauges' needles frozen in place...

You remember all the good times you had together, and think... I'll miss you, Cheetah!

I guess, in the Spirit of Thanksgiving..?

Thank you for all the wingovers, low passes over lakes, and river runs.

Thank you for all the kids we've flown as Young Eagles.

Thank you for getting my ass out of that fog along the coast of Madagorda Island (that one was the "bag of luck" to "bag of experience" type thing for sure!)

Thank you for all the fun I had messing with you.

Thank you for that unique kind of smell that your inside smelled with (and my tiger LeRoy who lived in the plane still smells like you!)

Thank you for being a good plane and not giving me any trouble.

I hope I'll see you again sometime! And maybe then, we'll go bounce around together again. Just like the good old times.

The Cheetah

The Cheetah


The probability of survival is equal to the angle of arrival.


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Fall Round of Pickles

... out of heavy machinery


On: Oct 12, 2018
In: [Dream Shop] Tooling
Tags: shop, tools

As we have established before, Fall for Russians is all about pickling things.

Last time it was an O-360. This time, it's tools for the new shop.

My current shop is all packed up and in storage, waiting for the actual shop to be built. Well, actually for the building to be gutted.

When I have built the new house, I have kept the old house. That's what's about to become my Dream Shop. Meanwhile, all my tools are nicely set up in my storage shed, waiting for their time.

I have sold most of my Chinese Grizzly crap I bought before knowing any better, and was hunting good, old, American-made machines for a while.

Okay, I settled for a Chinese-made Powermatic drill press, arguing with myself that it was in mint shape, dialed in with no obvious runout / shake, and would be my wood-only press anyway.

But two most important things wood-wise I still didn't have: a jointer and a table saw. Few had come up on Craigslist, and I would go over to check them out with all my dial gauges and a U-Haul trailer in tow.

I would spend close to an hour with each one of them, measuring all sorts of convoluted alignments and run-outs, only to find something very basic wrong with them.

One of these was a newer (mustard, but still American-made) PM60 jointer. It checked out reasonably well; until I asked the guy if I could adjust his fence square (I wanted to check it's warp by measuring squareness to tables along it's length).

"Sure Thing!" - he said, walked to a corner of his shop, picked up a hammer, and ... WHACK! - ... ... yeah. Call me a WHACK-o, but that is not how you adjust squareness... Not in my book. I felt for the poor machine.

I left, of course.

Another time I spent just south of 40 minutes with a PM66 table saw, only to check it's flatness dead last. Of course, it was so horribly bowed out of shape, I had to leave. And that was a 3 hour drive. Each way, mind you!

At any rate, yet another PM60 jointer popped up on Craigslist, and I grabbed a trailer in preparation of going to San Antonio the next day. That's where the jointer was.

Now, there was a rolling joke with one of the guys from the office - that he absolutely HAS to convince yet another guy from our office, his buddy, to sell me his PM66 saw - or, Russian Mafia will get him! Them both, in fact!

I kept it up for over a year; and I am not sure if that joke had made any contribution to this... but, he called me and said, "Roger is selling his Powermatic! Grab it, QUICK!". Same day as the jointer popped up.

Hah. So tomorrow I am about to go possibly pick up a jointer. Did I just land me a saw too?

I went to Roger's to dial the saw.

Arbor was shot, but trunnions were in great shape, and arbor for PM-66 is not a problem (someone still literally makes them and sells them on EBay). The tables were flat aside from a very tiny dip, a bit dirty at that, but alright.

I decided to pick it up.

So I did land me a saw and a possible jointer!!!

Next day (Friday), I rush to San Antonio to look at the jointer.

It was a green, older one, and it checked out good, except one minor mis-alignment of infeed and outfeed tables. I was trying to tighten them up a touch with gib set screws, and... I broke one of them.

The tables were flat, the motor was good, and the price was reasonable though, so I decided to buy it from the guy - especially after I broke it :).

Didn't take any pictures of jointer in transit... damn.

So, Friday night Im back, barely manage to roll the jointer off the trailer and into the garage, and Saturday I pack my wrenches and such to go break down the saw at Roger's.

See, it was set up with a large side table, router plate insert, and outfeeds - no way I would've been able to load all that; and besides, I don't need any of that aside from core saw. I already have all my router stuff from my previous shop (Incra no less).

It's raining. Damn.

I get to his place - he's gone for the weekend, his wife lets me in and leaves me alone with the saw and my tools.

About to begin.

About to begin.

Saw comes apart quite nicely.

Most of exterior stuff off, table's coming off next

Most of exterior stuff off, table's coming off next

I took off the fence, the side table, and the outfeed rollers. Side table goes into trash. Outfeeds and the fence I will sell (in fact, as of right now I sold the fence already - had three guys call me in the same day!). Yeah, I don't care for it. Incra's TS-LS any day over any other fence (and I have one :) ).

It was obvious no one has cleaned it inside. Likely, ever. Oh, well...

Dust

Dust

Remember, I said it was raining? I got a bunch of wrap, and plastic to cover the guts - I wouldn't drive under rain, but even the splash-back concerned me...

High-Tech Rain Proofing

High-Tech Rain Proofing

Funny thing - when I was almost done, we got a nice break in the rain... So, I was able to load the saw up, and got it home without further adventures.

On the trailer

On the trailer

Later, in the next few days, I scraped together a vac and a compressor (remember, all my tools are packed away!), and cleaned it out. All important and not so important unpainted surfaces got a coat of either T9 or Corrosion-X, and she got wrapped back into plastic... The Saw, I will see you in a year or so...

Clean

Clean

And the jointer? Well, the jointer was clean already. So it just got wrapped too...

The only pic of the jointer I got

The only pic of the jointer I got

They're sitting nicely in the storage shed now, making acquaintance with my other toys.

The Shed

The Shed

And, there. Two most important tools? Done. Pickles out of metal done? Done. What's left?

A mandatory airplane pic, of course! Ken Wittekiend's PA-12 on floats on Lake Buchanan, first time ever I flew a seaplane! That was nice!

The Seaplane

The Seaplane


Definition of 'pilot': The first one to arrive at the scene of an aircraft accident.


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Back from Three Years of Silence...

... [crickets]


On: Sep 26, 2018
In: [Blog]
Tags: house

So, the last entry was in July 2015. It's September 2018 now. No, previous entry doesn't count: I have written it 2 hours ago :).

What took me so long? Mostly, the damn house!

The House

The House

Yes, seems like I pulled the wrong set of plans... again, and instead of building an airplane, ended up building a house.

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Damn. Need to sort thru my plans a bit better next time.

The Tile (each handmade by my kick-ass wife - ~3000 total)

The Tile (each handmade by my kick-ass wife - ~3000 total)

So while we wait for the next project to solidify to the point of having something interesting to write about (it's gonna be The Dream Shop)..., well... I guess, we wait.

The Door Bell (which still works when power goes out)

The Door Bell (which still works when power goes out)


What's the difference between God and pilots? God doesn't think he's a pilot.



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