Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Owner maintenance

When it comes to owner maintenance thus far I have not been very adventurous.  The most I've really done is a couple oil changes with an A&P doing all the safety wiring and me really just draining the oil and standing around.  For everything else, I've handed the keys to the mechanic and paid the bill.  It's not that I don't want to do it, or that I'm mechanically inept or anything, it's just that I've been afraid to mess anything up, and when it comes to flying safely it just seems like the prudent action to have the pros take care of my plane.  That said, I do want to learn more about the plane, and that's a big part of the draw of owning.  I'm interested in learning more and I'm sure by knowing more about the inner workings of my airplane that would only enhance safety, right?

That all said, the new stinger lens cover on the tail and the new storm window seal seemed like something even I could do.  I was a bit nervous about the stinger lens... as I mentioned in another post the thing was ridiculously overpriced, required drilling, and I was worried I would crack it.  Here is a shot of the old (right) and the new (left). 

Notice the little black marks.  I removed the old lens first, stuck the new one in place and then marked the screw holes with a sharpie pen.  I can't take credit for this burst of genius, Dave Monte the superstar A&P from BPPP told me to do that.  I then bought a special drill bit for glass, wrapped a water bottle in a towel and stuck it inside the lens to provide some support, I did come up with that part though!  I then drilled out the black marks and remarkably, it didn't crack!

Beauty eh?  Okay onwards...  The instructions for the storm window seal say you can put it on with the window attached, but Dave told me it was much easier to remove it first, so I did.  Here is the old window removed.

Not a great photo but you can see how old and corroded the seal is.  Basically I just pulled it off like it was an old band-aid, took a baby wipe and rubbed for 10 minutes with with a little alcohol to get all the sticky gunk off, then lay down the new seal starting at the bottom until you get round to the other side, cut it with a razor blade and then super glue the ends together.  Easy!

The trickiest part was reinstalling the window as it's kind hard unless you have someone holding it from the outside, but I managed it.

Beauty! Now it makes a great seal too.  Inspired by my handiwork, I attempted one last effort.  The BPPP guys had done a preflight inspection on my airplane and discovered that my left elevator attach bolt had some wiggle in it.  It really should be tight, so I wanted to try and tighten it.  Doing so requires removing the tail cone though.

It came off with about 12 or so screws.  So far so good, I could now see and get to the bolt. 

However when I turned it with a wrench, it simply spun in place.  The bolt goes through the bearing there, and when I turned the nut the bolt head rotated with it.  Notice the hole at the top of the elevator attach point, presumably you're supposed to be able to put a socket wrench into that hole in order to hold the nut head.  Nothing I had would fit in there through any contortion I could conceive of... stumped!

Time to pull out the big guns... my hangar neighbor Ken Wiley is pretty much the Jedi master of airplanes, and he's always in his hangar because he is building a replica WW1 vintage tail dragger.  Here it is in his hangar.

Despite having every airplane tool imaginable, even Ken couldn't figure out how to secure the bolt.  Oh well, time for a trip back to MaintenanceExpress!  My plane is even starring on their facebook page now!  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maintenance-Express-Inc/300462573363088

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