October was the best

Oh, the irony. October will be N194SP’s last full month on the line at Trade Winds Aviation. It was also the best month the aircraft has had yet. For the first time in the eleven months on the line, it turned a profit for the month. Not a lot: about $600. And it’s a long way from digging the plane out of the hole. But I’ll take it!

The hours on the craft were good. 45 Hobbs hours were flown, though about 3 were not charged out of that due to maintenance and flight school use. Very little went wrong, either. The only maintenance to the aircraft was one hour of labor, split between readjusting the engine for the winter and connecting a plug that had fallen out the back of the CDI.


Even I got to fly N194SP! A couple coworkers and I took a great flight out to Columbia Airport (O22) and enjoyed lunch in the town. A hefty 5.3 hours of flying was a great way to spend the day. We even got a chance to see a Ford Tri-Motor fly out of San Carlos.


October was the best

Vertical card compass arrives


It won’t go in until the 100-hour, which should be near the end of the month. But it’s here and waiting for some downtime to get it in! Less than a month from saying goodbye to a dim, shaky, backward-reading wet compass.

UPDATE: The timeline moved up! Looks like it should be in and working by this weekend. No, I didn’t get 100 hours that quickly, but instead the TFR over KRHV provided an opportunity to do this while the plane wasn’t flying. The heading bug/autopilot misregistration should be fixed at the same time.

Vertical card compass arrives

January was slow

Poor weather seriously affected the number of hours N194SP flew in January. At only 17.4 Hobbs hours (12.4 on the tach), it wasn’t enough to overcome the fixed costs of keeping the aircraft at Trade Winds. I owed them $370, resulting a total loss for the month of about $2300. So far, not a great start to this leaseback thing. However, that was a known risk. The combination of having a plane to work bugs out of and winter weather meant a loss in this business.

February is liable to be slow due to the Superbowl TFRs, continued wet weather, and a short month. Additionally, I’m coming up on the 100-hour inspection, which will pull the plane down for three days at a minimum. It may happen in February or it may happen in early March. It’ll also be at that time that the plane will get a new vertical card compass and have the seat upholstery fixed!

In the maintenance side of things, the aircraft was actually quite reliable. I’ve updated the squawks page with the newest items. Basically, the flatspotted tire continues its saga, with the other tire now replaced. Pricing has gotten better, so this only ran $240 including labor, which is a nice improvement over last month’s $295.

Wheel bearings on this ex-Florida plane continue to be a problem. Both the nose and the remaining main gear bearings were replaced. This should end the mess with wheel bearings, as this means all new bearings at every location in landing gear. $575 corrects this problem for the foreseeable future.

The rest of the items were very small. The compass card become unreadable and was replaced. The AI needed a tweak to level it. The pedestal lamp bulb burned out. All that was less than $50. It consumed only one quart of oil at $6.50/qt.

The plane consumed fuel at the rate of about 11 gallons per tach hour. Sadly, I didn’t fly the plane myself for even one hour. I’m correcting that in February, as I already have a Valentine’s flight set up with my wife.

January was slow

Tire trouble

Tire 018 (3)I just returned from the club and discovered that the other main tire had been replaced as well. Turns out the bearing issues had nothing to do with the tire. Instead, a renter (PPL, not a student) flat-spotted both tires very badly. The first blew on the runway because he burned entirely through the tire and punctured the tube underneath. The other tire was flat-spotted into the cord.

I don’t know the specifics of what happened, but it was probably landing fast and long and trying to stop in time before the end of the runway. I’m thankful that the aircraft did, in fact, remain on the runway. The take-away lesson, though, is that if you’re not on a stabilized approach, go around! Saves us all some grief.

The owner of the club is negotiating with the renter right now, but he will owe a pro-rated share of the tires and the tube. I don’t know exactly what the amounts will be, but I expect that about $250 will be the charge to the renter. For me, the total cost was about $700, so it takes a little of the sting out, but it’s still pretty painful. (I’m not counting the cost of the bad bearing, which doesn’t really factor into this. It just happened to be found at the same time.)


Tire trouble

First month on the line

Wow, 2015 is done and N194SP has had it’s first full month on the line at Trade Winds. I just got my first ever statement from the club. Surprises were included, some good, some bad. I updated the squawks page with what I learned.

After all was said and done, I got a check for $141. I estimate that means I actually lost about $1850 this month, as I have about $2000 in other expenses that Trade Winds does not pay. This wasn’t unexpected. The first couple months will be losses as I deal with bringing the plane up to full-time rental spec.

The plane flew 49 hours in December. Unfortunately, 7.1 of those hours weren’t profit generating. 0.1 was maintenance and 7 was my flying for the month. I estimate I need 50 hours of income flight to break even, so it wasn’t a great month. That was expected, as the students needed to get familiar with the new plane. Most have favorites and they all cost the same, so I’m guessing January will be better. 22 pilots took 29 flights.

Maintenance held some surprises. I knew about several of the higher dollar items on the list, but the blown left tire was news to me. Apparently it blew on the runway, probably on landing. Upon disassembly, it was discovered that the wheel bearing was dry. So far, I’m less than impressed with the quality of service that Bender Aviation in Clearwater, Florida provided this plane before I owned it. Fortunately, Tom here at Trade Winds is being much more complete, and all these problems are falling by the wayside, one by one. Lots of dollars attached, but still, going away. The tire is new now, the tube is new now, and the wheel bearing is new and well lubed.

In addition to the wheel bearing, Bender should also have caught a fuel line that was bent tighter than AD2015-19-07 allowed. They should have caught the intake leak on the #4 cylinder. They should have caught the dry jackscrew on the co-pilot’s seat adjustment. I’ll give them a pass on the fuel injector, as that wasn’t showing any symptoms when I got the plane. All of that is corrected now, but it cost me $1400 that I should not have had to deal with. The joys of plane ownership!

I was also surprised by the insurance. $570 per month is steeper than I was anticipating. I’ve got an email in to Walt asking if this was an anomaly because it’s my first month. The $110 tie down was expected, and the $145 for detailing was also expected. Maintenance, at $2850, was a bit higher than expected, but not by too much.

Next month will be the first 100-hour inspection. I expect the MX to be high again in January. Let’s see what happens!

First month on the line

50-hour inspection

IMG_20151223_172348 (2)

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.

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.


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


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