Annual Condition Inspection Diary
After our Sunday breakfast flight to Hemet, we got back to Ramona and I started on the Annual Condition inspection, which has to be done before June. The airplane now has 383.4 hours on the Hobbs meter.
I took off the cowling and started with the compression check. My wife was going to borrow my air compressor for her classroom this week, but I quickly realized that I needed it first for the compression check. She helped me get that done, then she took off with my compressor. Her Engineering classroom at the High School has a new Haas CNC machine that needs compressed air, and they don’t have a compressor yet!
The engine was still hot, so I drained the oil, took a sample for analysis, pulled out the finger strainer and replaced the oil filter. The engine part of the annual takes a long time to complete, but every year I find something that needs attention. I checked all of the baffles, pulled the spark plugs, cleaned the threads of the spark plug holes, put a wrench on every nut/bolt/screw. I pulled off the air filter housing and it is holding up well. I had to reinforce it at the first annual, and since then, no problems. New oil in and everything safety wired in place. I lubed up all of the throttle/mixture controls. Re-torqued the prop bolts and made sure the adjustable prop blades were aligned properly. All of the exhaust hangers were OK, along with all of the fuel and oil lines. I checked the starter and alternator wiring and belt. I cleaned out the air filter and re-oiled it with the K&N filter oil. The air filter has shrunk a bit, but it still is serviceable. I called it a day around 6pm. I had to stop on the way home and order some new NGK BR8ES spark plugs from the local auto parts store. Eight new plugs were just $21. The old plugs were fine, but when they are this inexpensive, why not just put in new ones every year? The aviation plugs are more like $30 each! All that is left on the engine portion of the inspection is to re-time the P-mags, check the Ohm readings on the plug wires, and put in the new spark plugs.
I picked up the new spark plugs after work and then go to work cleaning up the plug adapters. I gapped the plugs, got new copper washers, and put on some anti-seize with a small brush. The plug wires all got checked with my Ohmmeter. I looked in all the plug holes with my eyes and a tiny flash light. I was hoping to borrow a borescope to take a more thorough look inside the cylinders, but I can do that some other time. I torqued all of the plugs into place and then got started on the wheels. I took off the main gear wheel pants. Brake lines look fine. I checked the brake pads, and they still have about 50 hours of use. I will order a new set of pads and put a note on my maintenance sheet to recheck these at around 420 hours. I cleaned up all of the brake dust on the calipers and wheels. I was going to rotate the tires, but frankly I couldn’t tell that they needed it. The Desser Monster Retreads are holding up very well. The original tires were shot at 200 hours. These have almost as much time and are probably at 50% tread left. Tomorrow I will jack up the airplane to check the bearings and then finish up the undercarriage, and start on the wings. I was able to get the wing gap seals off tonight and I checked the fuel lines and gear weldment bolts hidden under there.
I took last night off. Worked late down at the office in La Jolla, and by the time I got home, decided I was too tired to wrench on the airplane.
Back at it tonight. I jacked up the airplane and checked all of the wheels. I measured the breakout force on the nose wheel steering. I had a bunch of stuff to start on the wings. First I removed all of the inspection covers under the wings and looked at everything inside the wings. There is a Van’s Service Bulletin to check the aileron hinge attachments on the rear spar. I reached in with my iPhone to take some pictures of the area. Left wing was fine, other than some new splotches of primer from the paint job in the area. The other side had a surprise. There was some wadded up paper masking from the painter left up in there!
I lubed up all of the control rod bearings, made sure all of the nuts were tight, and looked over the gas tank attach bolts and screws. I also cleaned the underside of the wings and put some Rejex on the paint. The Rejex is a polymer coating that is super slick, like wax that will keep the bugs and dirt off the paint. I put the inspection covers back on and finished up all of the wing inspection items. The painter had gotten a little bit of over-spray on the fuel caps and canopy latch, so I went to work getting that all off. I repolished the canopy handle by taking everything apart, sanding it with 1000 grit paper, then buffing it with some white rouge polish. It came out looking great.
I got a late start to the evenings work at the hangar. I worked late again at the day job, but this time from my home office, so the commute time is not a factor. I put the wing gap fairings back in place. I also took apart the wingtip lights to get some more over-spray off the plexiglass covers and the mirrored plexi under the position and strobe lights. I used some Meguiar’s Clay Bar to rub all of the tiny particles off of the plexiglass. It worked great. I also was able to work out all of the bubbles on the new wing walks that I put on. Not exactly a maintenance thing, but it sure looks better now. Lastly, I drained all of the fuel out of the tanks for re-weighing the airplane post-paint job. I replaced the tiny O-rings on the fuel sump drains, and put some EZ-Turn Fuel Lube on the gas cap O-rings. I had flown the fuel down before the annual to 9.6 gallons left according to the fuel computer and gauges on the Dynon Skyview. That is pretty much exactly how much I ended up with in the fuel jugs. I also got working on making some paper templates for some paint protection film pieces I’m going to cut and put on the fuselage and gear legs to protect the new paint from the fairings rubbing against it.
Late Friday night, back to the hangar to do all of the interior inspections. I started by removing all of the seats, carpets, and unscrewing all of the baggage bulkheads, flap covers and center tunnel covers. I set an alarm on my iPhone for the next “top of the hour” to do the ELT tests, which have to be done in the first five minutes of the hour. I looked over all of the wiring, stringers, longerons and bulkheads in the aft of the fuselage. Checked the antennas, wiring, and autopilot servo back there. I did find another small wad of masking paper from the paint shop down where the flap rods retract. The flap motor worked fine, but it wasn’t turning off when it hits the limit, so I think I need to recalibrate the VP-X limits for down travel. Next up is the front of the cabin. I squeezed myself under the panel to check all of the wiring, heater controls and the fuel lines. I disassembled the fuel filter, which dumps fuel all over the floor no matter how many paper towels you have under it. I put a wrench on every nut/bolt down there. I did find one adel clamp holding some wires that had not been fully tightened down. The seat pans came out lastly and I lubed up all of the controls and made sure all of the wing bolts were still tight. I vacuumed up all of the dust and bits from the floors, and the carpets. I didn’t get out of there until well past midnight, but there are only a few things left to do on the tail, and then everything can be put back together.
I was only able to work on the airplane for a couple of hours this Saturday. I started with getting out my old Windows XP laptop to run the VP-X configurator. The flaps seemed to be working fine again with the original limits, but I tweaked the down travel limit just a bit. While I was under the panel I sprayed some more adhesive on the firewall and sound-proofing material to keep it from falling off. The rest of the day was spent screwing all of the interior panels back in place. Seat pans, flap covers, baggage bulkhead and center tunnel covers all back in place except for one. I found a broken nutplate on one of the tunnel covers that I need to drill out and replace. Unfortunately, the air compressor is still over at my wife’s classroom, so I can’t use the air drill or rivet squeezer.
My daughter’s 25th birthday, so I spent all day doing family stuff. Happy Birthday, Alicia!
Memorial Day holiday today, so I had the whole day to finish this inspection. I got the air compressor back, and used it to air drill out the broken nutplate, and then to set in a new one with the pneumatic squeezer. I put the center tunnel cover back in and got all of the interior carpeting and seats back in place. The last section to work on was the tail. I pulled off the tail fairings and got a wrench on all of the nuts and bolts for the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. I checked on the rudder and elevator bolts and trim tab. The last thing was to get the cowling and wheel pants back on. I bought some more paint protection film and spent hours getting it cut out and in place under the gear fairings. I had to head home to BBQ for the family, so the very last thing (re-weighing the airplane) will have to wait until tomorrow.
I got to the hangar after work and set up the ramps and scales. I pulled the airplane up on the scales and made sure everything was in place for the weigh-in.
Post paint job, she gained 38 pounds. Not all of that weight gain is paint. I have tires that are probably heavier (Monster Retreads), the Dynon Skyview Knob panel, a second COMM antenna, reinforced steps, brackets for the O2 tank, and upholstery now that wasn’t there the last time I weighed her. Empty weight, with 8 quarts of oil (I usually only fly with 6 quarts) is 1105 pounds.
After the weighing, I refilled the tanks with gas, did my pre-flight, fired her up and made sure everything was working before taking off around the pattern for a quick test flight.
Log book entry made, and I’m good to fly for another 12 calendar months. The cost was an oil filter, 6 quarts of oil with some Camguard additive, 8 new spark plugs, one new nutplate, some various lubricants, and two tiny O-rings for the fuel sumps. Try getting a certified airplane annual done for that!