My A&P school is off for summer and my annual is due in June, so it is time to get started on my condition inspection. I scheduled my Transponder recertification check for June 1, so it is now in sync with my annual. The transponder has to be checked every 24 calendar months, so I am now good until June 30, 2024. The check takes about 2 minutes for them to do, and they charge $250 for this privilege.
I did a morning flight out to Borrego Springs to get the oil warmed up and to put another hour on my Hobbs meter. My last annual was at 881 hours, and the airplane was at 980. I had to at least get 100 hours between annuals. The self serve gas in Borrego Springs is probably the cheapest gas around, but the temps in the desert are really starting to get hot. I landed and filled up in the 95F degree heat, then flew around the desert area playing with the autopilot calibration settings. The recent Dynon Skyview updates seem to have made the autopilot much more sensitive and jerky when turning or trying to maintain altitude. I made my way back to Ramona and landed with 981.4 hours on the airplane.
I started off with de-cowling the engine and starting the oil change. I took a good look over the engine and really didn’t see anything amiss, except for two broken rivets on the lower cowling that holds the right side hinge. These had been broken previously when my exhaust hanger had cracked and the exhaust pipe had been banging down on the lower cowling. I didn’t see anything broken on the exhaust system or the hangers, so maybe it is just my engine mounts sagging a bit more as they age. The exhaust has the built in mufflers that are wider and take up more space against the lower cowl. I ended up removing the broken rivets and reaming out the holes for the next size larger rivets. Hopefully, these larger diameter rivets will fix the issue permanently.
Part of the engine inspection involves checking the ignition system. I have dual P-mags on the engine. The P-mags require at each annual to be removed and the bearings checked for “excessive play”. There is no tolerances given, so it is a bit vague on what constitutes “excessive play”. I found on the right side that the shaft was quite a bit loose from side to side, and on the left side the shaft wasn’t as loose, but it was definitely moving a bit. These probably shouldn’t be loose at all, so I’m going to send them back to the manufacturer for a checkup. Hopefully, they will do a quick turn around on these.
The rest of the engine inspection went without any issues. I did just the usual inspections of all of the plumbing, wiring, lubrication of controls, and cleaning. Lycoming aircraft engines do have a tendency to leak oil, but my engine is still remarkably clean after almost 1000 hours.
I also completed the propeller inspections and didn’t find any issues. The bolts on the hub were all still torqued properly, and other than a few superficial chips and nicks on the back side of the blades that were filled with an epoxy and cab-o-sil mixture, the prop and spinner looked in great shape.
I came back the next morning and boxed up the P-mags for shipping back to the manufacturer for a flat-rate fee service check. The price has gone up a bit since the last time. I also took my vixen file to the now hardened dots of epoxy on the prop to get them cut back to the surface. I sanded the back of the prop until it was nice and smooth, then sprayed on some flat black paint. After that I spent the rest of the day running around with shopping errands and had my annual physical appointment.
My next work session started early (for me). I spent some time getting my air compressor fixed. It has a cold start valve that likes to stick which then pops the thermal breaker on the compressor. A new cold start valve was ordered, but it is still having the issues. Sometimes the compressor works just fine and cycles as needed and runs perfectly, then at some point it just struggles to get started. I added a Tee fitting and a ball valve so that I can manually control the start up if needed. I also got a new 50′ hose to replace the old leaking rubber hose. Hopefully, without all of the leakiness the compressor won’t have to cycle on/off as much.
I used my Meguiar’s clay bar to really clean up the paint on the fiberglass cowling and nose wheel pant. I had some deeply imbedded dirt and insect goo on them. After wiping it all down, I put on some ceramic nanotechnology coating. I used this last year and it seemed to work pretty well.
The engine checklist items are all completed except for reinstalling the P-mags and doing the timing procedure. I moved on to doing the fuselage and cabin inspections. First I took out all of the interior parts like carpets, seats, seat pans, baggage bulkhead and flap access panels. I checked on all of the control tubes and flap/trim operations, then gave everything a squirt of some LPS-2 lubricant. I wormed my way into the back of the fuselage and then was under the panel and checked all of the various bolts, rudder pedals and brakes and found nothing that needed any attention. Most of the checks here go pretty quick. It is mostly a matter of checking that nothing has come loose, and everything that moves get some lubricant. As it started to get hot in my hangar, I cleaned up all of the interior, vacuumed out all of the dust and debris, then started putting everything back in.
I started by using some cleaner on all of the seats. They can get surprisingly dirty since you have to step on the seat cushions when you get in and out of the airplane. I finished up the tail section inspections. I spent some time cleaning up the elevators, horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer and rudder. Again, using the clay bar to get all of the accumulated grime off the paint, then I got everything wiped down with the ceramic coating.
I got started on the wing section of the inspection. I took off the wheel pants and opened up all of the inspection access panels. I managed to shear off one of the screws in the access panel on the left wing. I got the screw body removed and it seems to just have cracked in half. It didn’t seem too tight, but maybe it was over torqued? I spent the rest of the day cleaning all of the undersides of the wings, using the clay bar. There was quite a bit of red stuff that got cleaned off. I think it might be from something like the fire retardant used by the CalFire planes down the ramp. They leak a bit, and when it rains here the taxiways get lots of puddles. I used my mechanics creeper to get around under the wing and it is very tiring to scoot around down there and get everything clean. I didn’t find any issues inside the wings. Van’s has a Service Bulletin that requires a yearly inspection for cracks on the inboard aileron hinge attach rivets. Since my RV-9A is non-aerobatic, I don’t do much yanking and banking, so it probably isn’t much of a problem on this aircraft.
I’m not in any hurry with the P-mags off for servicing, so I slacked off on Tuesday. Back at it, I started with taking my laptop to the hangar so I could verify some Vertical Power VP-X settings. They were fine. The software for the VP-X requires that you must to connect to the unit to see anything, even though you are allowed to save the configuration to a local file on the computer. It would be really nice to be able to just load that file with the application, then be able to view the parameters without having to get out the special cross-over ethernet cable and plug it into the unit. After that I spent a bit of time looking over my electrical system to see how best to install a Dynon Skyview Dimmer Knob that I bought months ago. This knob allows you to control the dimming or brightening of the EFIS displays directly, instead of having to go into the menus on the Skyview. Not something that is essential, since I’ve lived without this just fine for the last 8 years of flying, but if I’m going to add this to the new IFR panel (someday) I’d like to figure it out now. The knob has just 3 wires; power, ground and dimmer output. Both of my EFIS displays are connected via a separate 25-pin D-sub connector bus. Various signals go into these connectors and get shared out to other connectors. From this bus, I send out various signals to the ADS-B unit, Transponder, Emergency Locator Transponder and the Intercomm. The new dimmer output signal just needs to be connected to the right pin to go to both displays, and then I just needed 12V power and a ground. There was already power and ground on the bus for the ELT, so I’m just going to share those with the dimmer knob. Ground is ground, so no problem sharing that signal. The ELT power is coming from a 1 Amp circuit on my automotive fuse block that I use to power various lighting and low power circuits. I don’t think the dimmer knob pulls any appreciable amperage from the 40mA needed by the ELT for the GPS position communication transmissions. I can always dedicate another 1 Amp fuse if needed later. I was able to plug the dimmer knob into a new 25-pin connector that I had and just plug it into the existing bus. I got this configured and played around with it a bit and it seems to work fine for both displays. I’ll probably need to tweak it more some evening to get the low level dimming set up for night flight.
The next section of the condition inspection involved checking the wheels, tires and brakes. I wanted to swap my main gear tires around since the outer edge always wears more than the inner edge. It is always a messy job since you have to grease the bearings and clean off all of the brake dust. I jacked up the airplane and got the wheels removed, then deflated them and flipped the tires on the wheels around. Hopefully, I can get another 100 hours out of these tires. I moved on to the nose wheel and found that my nose tire is really out of round. I knew this when I put it on there back in December of 2018, but with 350 more hours on it now, it is really bad. I’ve noticed when taxiing it really shakes the nose gear, so why not just replace it now? I’ve got a new one ordered from Aircraft Spruce and it should be here in a few days. I also check the nose wheel breakout force and it is right where it needs to be.
I spent the day updating the Dynon Skyview map data, then I put the main gear fairings back on the wheels. I checked the air pressure in the tires after rotating them yesterday and they seem to be stable and holding pressure. Most of my afternoon was spent on the cleaning and ceramic coating of the top of the wings and fuselage. Surprising how much area has to get sprayed down and buffed, but the paint job deserved to be taken care of yearly (besides wiping off the bugs after every flight). I cleaned up the cabin area, too. I love it when the airplane is super clean and polished! I think I’ve also figured out a good place to install the new dimmer knob. I just need to drill some holes in the panel for that. So until the new tire and P-mags arrive back here, I’m basically done with the condition inspection.
The new nose tire arrived over the weekend, so I was able to pull off the old one and get the new one on. I found that the tube inside, which was holding air fine, had several places where it had been scrunched up on itself inside the old tire. I decided to swap out the inner tube with my spare one. I’ll keep the old one as a spare in my tool kit. This new tire is nice and round! I also checked on my P-mag shipment and it made it back to Texas as of 6/15. I’m hoping that they get turned around quickly so I can get back in the air.
Got email back about my P-mags. They are done and on their way back! Should have them on Thursday. I’ve been spending most of this week working with Terry on his RV-14A tail kit.
After a one day delay, the P-mags have arrived back from Texas. I also got back the oil analysis report and it was good as usual with no issues found.
I braved the heat today and managed to install both of the P-mags back on the engine. My hangar was easily over 100F! Too hot to go fly.
The P-mags are easy to install. You can orient them in any direction and then they are timed by simply blowing into the manifold pressure line when the engine is set to Top Dead Center on Cylinder #1. I also made sure that the Electronic Ignition Commander instrument had the correct custom timing curve enabled.
I got over to the airport earlier today before it got too hot out. I installed the cowlings, did a thorough pre-flight check, then did various run ups and checks on the engine before flying it around the pattern. I did a touch and go, then headed out towards the coast for a bit. Everything was nominal. I landed and then pulled the airplane back into the hangar and decided to go ahead and mount the new dimmer knob on the panel. This required drilling a couple of holes in the panel. I ended up locating the knob under the key switch on the left side of the primary EFIS display.
Last thing is to fill out the logbook and sign off the condition inspection. Time to go fly somewhere!