50-hour inspection

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N194SP just completed its first 50-hour inspection on the line at Trade Winds. It was quite successful, with all the normal stuff happening, including an oil change and fuel line inspection per AD 2015-19-07. The seized adjustment nut on the co-pilot’s seat height crank was lubed, which fixed that problem. A couple days earlier, it had gotten a shiny new LED landing light. All is well with the aircraft.

Despite that, I did get a nasty surprise. I fly with the seats in most aircraft, including this one, fully upright. As a result, I didn’t notice that AD 2007-05-10 had been complied with by adding a steel bar as a replacement for the adjustment cartridge. This satisfies the AD and is an eminently safe and inexpensive choice. However, it disabled (by completely removing) the adjustment mechanism. The seat can only be bolt upright.

Again, I’m faced with a hard choice. The upgraded kit of parts that re-enables the back adjustment is an eye-watering $2500. Add to that about $600 in labor, and I’m looking at a bill in excess of $3000 just to allow the seat to lean back. When this kit was released in 2007, the price was $600. Cessna parts costs have skyrocketed in recent years. I need to make a choice as to what to do with this in 2016. I’m open to feedback; leave comments if you rent my aircraft as to how you’d like it prioritized.

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50-hour inspection

LED landing light

The landing light burned out on the aircraft. So, in goes a shiny new Whelen Parmetheus Plus PAR36 landing light! Not sure what the final bill will be, but as with most things aviation, the cost for this thing is a bit outrageous. It will be about $300.

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Everyone is now welcome to leave the landing light on throughout the flight. The LED energy usage is much lower, less than 20W. The LED won’t burn out and isn’t particularly sensitive to vibration. The added safety of leaving the light on all the time is great. The slightly reduced workload of not having to remember to turn off and on the light is a nice bonus.

Additionally, there is a 50-hour inspection coming up in a couple days. I’ve asked that the sticking co-pilot seat height adjuster be looked at. I verified myself that it’s pretty stuck. To the CFIs out there who are stuck at the given height, my apologies. We’re getting that corrected.

Also, the MFD was squawked. This is a known problem. Aerial Avionics will be taking a peek at it. I’m not hopeful. If the only solution is to replace the unit at $2500, I’m not likely to do so for such an outdated moving map. It works perfectly well, but one of the front panel LEDs fails during self-test. I believe the self-test is the actual failure, as all the LEDs actually light and work properly. I’ll take it as it comes. The director of maintenance of Trade Winds may be forced to mark it in-op, which would be quite a blow.

LED landing light

Torn seat

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The pilot’s seat in N194SP is a bit distressed and there are a couple tears. It’s not terrible, but it’s not ideal and it’s just going to get worse. I’m trying to decide how to remedy that. A full reupholster of the seat is between $1000 and $1500 and will take the plane off-line for a few days. I could also throw a sheepskin cover on the seat for about $300 per seat. There’s a chance I could just fix the panels that are torn but I’m not sure how much that would save me.

For now, the problem is cosmetic, as the seat still feels great to sit in. Unless you’re sitting in it naked. Please don’t sit in my plane naked…

Those of you who rent my plane (or are thinking about it), leave a comment. Let me know what you’d like and what is important to you.

Torn seat

Fixing the trim tab

I’m going to fast forward to the present for this post. I think I’ll be alternating with the last thing that happened and filling in some history of the plane.

Last Saturday, I finally got a chance to fix the rudder trim tab. Folks who fly N194SP will appreciate that it now flies straight in cruise without any annoying pressure to be kept on the rudder pedals. I flew it from Tampa with the ball wanting to swing a quarter-ball left for 26 hours! That resulted in a very sore left leg.

Like most control surfaces, the rudder needs a bit of trim to keep it right where it should be without effort. On many aircraft, a control in the cockpit allows for changes to the rudder trim. However, the 172, being a simple, slow aircraft does with a small metal tab at the tail end of the rudder that may only be adjusted from the outside:rudder trim tab

To adjust this tab, you fly the aircraft straight and level at cruise speed to determine if the ball is centered with no rudder pressure. Whichever way the ball swings in cruise, the tab must be bent the opposite direction. Hop out of the plane and squeezing it between two blocks of 2×4, smoothly bend the tab the correct direction. Fly it again to test; repeat until flying straight.

Although this is a pilot-adjustable piece as far as the FAA is concerned, it isn’t a renter-adjustable piece per our insurance requirements. So, if you rent the plane and it isn’t flying ball-centered, just note it in the book and I’ll come out and fix it.

Maintenance can fix it, too, but the fact that it requires flying the plane makes it very expensive to adjust that way. It took me one hour of flight to fix, or about $100. Having a mechanic do it would also be one hour on the plane and about two hours of a flying mechanic’s time, or about $350 total.

I’d like to thank the great controllers at Reid-Hillview Airport for accommodating my requests. With their help, I was able to get three climbs to 3000′, three 5-minute straight-and-level sections, three landings, and two shutdowns in the run-up for adjustment done in only one hour of Hobbs time. This included a go-around for a helicopter dawdling on 31L!

Next post will be a little about me. I realize I haven’t really introduced myself!

Fixing the trim tab

Selecting the aircraft particulars

Having chosen to buy a Cessna 172, which shall I buy? First, some narrowing was done. I wanted something simple to own and that would rent enough and for enough to pay for itself. Older 172 are great aircraft, but I was worried about constant maintenance and depressed rental prices. The 172 R and S models command a premium in the rental market, but cost a bit less to maintain since they are so much newer. They were an easy choice.

I rejected the R model out-of-hand. I’ve flown one. It’s a dog. 160 HP just isn’t enough to motivate the new, heavier 172’s produced since the reboot of the Skyhawk production line. The 180-HP S model provides enough extra umph to make up for the large gain in weight.

So, steam gauge or glass? Steam gauge. This was driven by personal concerns. I’m getting my instrument rating in this aircraft. I want the freedom to be comfortable in any aircraft I choose. Glass is easier than chasing needles. So, chasing needles it is so that I get a broader range of comfort.

OK, what about features? The 172S models were pretty consistent in what features were available. Cloth seats, my preference, were rarely chosen by buyers. ADF are basically dead weight today, so having one wasn’t important. DME were another rare option that doesn’t matter much due to the GPS. That left only one major option, the MFD. And…I mostly don’t care. In the age of iPads, the KMD 550 in the S is a heavy anachronism, but it’s still nice to have.

The GPS itself changed once in lifetime of the round dial 172S. The KLN 89B is a monochrome display GPS. That GPS is unattractive to today’s renters. My minimum requirement became the KLN 94 color moving-map GPS available from 2000 and up. That narrowed my window to 172S from 2000 to 2005.

So, that pretty much settled down what I was looking for. Cessna 172S with round dials. A KLN 94. Beyond that, a good, clean airplane for a fair price. I was about to find out how hard that could actually be to find.

Selecting the aircraft particulars