Starting a new Season

Well, the plane’s been grounded for a couple of years more due to life than anything else. Even this year it took us a while to get the wings on, get all the paperwork done, and finally today the test flight!

First off, I wanted to pass along a huge thank-you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me to get the plane back in the air. We have so much going on in our lives right now with work, a 5 year old, three adult kids and applying to join Mission Aviation Fellowship which will hopefully take us somewhere in the world where we can help others with our love of aviation… That blog can be followed here if you’d like to see how it’s going…

The test flight went well, I was glad to have the offer of Gary O’Brien from Action Ultralights to fly chase for me in case anything went wrong. After another thorough walk around, and inspection, I fired up the plane and taxied out. The winds favoured 31 at the Duncan airport so we back-taxied. Pre-takeoff checks complete, and a quick prayer, I put the throttle forward and passing the go/no-go spot, I eased the nose up and she rotated. It was pretty warm today (about 90) so I used a bit more runway than I had hoped (was at gross weight) but once airborne I was seeing 1000 fpm on the climb out at an easy 70 mph.

I kept things straight till getting enough altitude and turned towards the practice area for 2000′. I had honestly forgotten just how noisy the cockpit is with the front wind shield installed. Levelling off, the tach was climbing to 2700, and I brought it back to a more comfortable 2450 and things settled down indicating 90 mph. A couple of gentle turns and re-trimming got me back into the groove in this plane. Next was some slow flight, not a full slow flight regime, but down to 60 with 360s to feel it out. Recovering to cruise, I proceeded to do some steep turns (just 45s for now), then I headed back into the pattern.

I did two low and overs to get the feel and picture with the new cooling “elephant ears” and then on the third approach (liking what I was seeing) I decided to commit and put it down. First off, I really noticed the new CofG with that tail lead removed, not a single porpoise in the flare, and even though it still lands tail low (the tailwheel hits the runway before stalling) the roll-out was straight and true till the rudder lost effectiveness and I transitioned to the heal brakes. It’s always a bit squirrelly there as I shift these huge feet around…

Clearing the runway and taxing back to the hangar was a relief, this was a big monkey to get off my back with all the changes we made to the plane over the past two years.

After shutting down, I noticed a significant oil drip and sure enough under the fuselage was a long streak of oil. Removing the cowls showed most of the oil was probably out of the breather, but there was some that appears to have dripped down from one of the cylinders and all over the carburator so next step is a thorough cleaning and a static run up on the ground so I can determine where the oil is coming from for sure. Flight was only .7 and lost about 1/2 quart of oil…

Safety wired the mixture

I was getting a little tired trying to determine the “proper” fix for this mixture issue. Taking the advice from a friend, and more importantly, someone I trust when it comes to maintenance things like this, I’ve elected that for now, I will just hard-wire the mixture full rich so at least I can get back in the air.

It’s amazing how once the decision is made, things fall in line pretty quickly. After busting a knuckle or two getting the linkage removed, the safety wiring went smoothly and I have a running engine. As long as I stick to the lower altitudes where I typically run full rich anyway, I’m hoping for a full summer of flying ahead of us.

Nav Canada!

As the plane hadn’t flown at all last year, when I received my yearly bill for aircraft ownership in Canada from Nav Canada, I was wondering if anything could be done.

The customer service rep (Nathalie) that I talked to was incredble.  She knew right away what I was hoping for and indeed she sent me the form to fill out that would move last year’s payment forward to this year as the aircraft wasn’t flyable/flying at all last year.

It just goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to ask!  Saved me $70+

Something’s Not Right

I came up the this morning to take another friend flying.  The preflight went well, so to speed things up later, I decided to fire up the plane and get the engine warm.

It fired up easily enough, but was idling low (700 RPM) so I advanced the throttle…  Nothing…  Thinking I had maybe some contaminated fuel (water or something), I shut it down and re-dipped the tanks etc.  Finding nothing and just hoping it was maybe some water in the fuel that needed to be pulled through, I hopped back in and fired it back up.  Same low idle, but it seemed a bit higher and smoother.  I let off the brakes and slowly (very slowly) crept down towards the fuel pumps.  I would need to fill it up anyway, so maybe full tanks of clean fresh fuel would help?


After topping off the header tank, I tried again, but still very low idle and no throttle response.  Some locals offered some advice, but clearly I wasn’t flying today, so I called and cancelled my friend’s flight, saving them a drive up from Victoria.  The idle was so low that I wasn’t able to take it back up the slight hill towards our hangar.  So a long process of pulling the plane up the hill a few feet, resting, and repeat took place.

Back in our hangar, I took the cowlings off and with my son manipulating the throttle in the cockpit, I watched the carburetor and nothing was moving at the other end of the throttle cable.  Clearly the throttle cable had snapped somewhere between my cockpit and the engine 🙁

Out came the wrenches and I dove in.  The cable came out easily enough, and indeed, it had snapped just forward of the front cockpit’s throttle control which is where the actual flexible cable starts.  Time to order a new one and get it installed properly.

The real scary thing was that the cable was working perfectly as we landed yesterday after a very fun and long day of flying.  The airstrip here in Duncan isn’t all that forgiving, if the cable had severed on short final and I needed to go around, the outcome would have been … less than ideal.  No doubt God was holding that cable together for us last night as nothing happened to cause any kind of failure like this…

Sharing the Joy

After the fun on Pender Island, we headed up to Nanaimo where I was going to give my first ride to anyone other than my trusting wife Catherine.  This young guy is my pastor’s son and as he lives up in Parksville with his wife, we agreed to meet in Nanaimo where I would take him up for his first flight in a small aiplane.

Landing in Nanaimo was straight forward, Catherine did her duck out of the way thing and I wheel landed on RWY 34.  We taxied to the Nanaimo Flying Club’s transient parking spot, and waiting for him to arrive.  They showed up not long after, his wife came along to visit too.  After a chat, and pulling out a map, we decided on a plan that would take us northward over their house and community, then bring us back to the Nanaimo airport.

I did a pre-flight, got him situated in the front cockpit, and explained what not to touch, and how Catherine slid out of the way for takeoff and landing.  I turned on the GoPro so he’d have a record of the flight, and hopped in.  We fired up, called Nanaimo FSS and taxied to the run-up area of RWY 34 for a run-up.  I was explaining things to my passenger all the while, I hope I wasn’t boring him…

Taking off on runway 34 basically had us already pointed at his house, so it was climb straight out, level off and watch the scenery go by…  As we neared his neighbourhood, I was trying to have him show me their house, and after a few tries (putting your hand outside the windscreen in an open cockpit plane isn’t always easy) I found it.  I did a couple of lazy circles around their place so he could get some photos, then he wanted to check out an area to the West a bit before heading back to Nanaimo.

The return to Nanaimo was nice and smooth, and the only other traffic we heard the FSS talking to was an Aeronca Champ a few miles ahead of us.  There was a small fire to the West of the Nanaimo airport that we could see form the air (column of smoke) and he FSS assured the champ and us that the fire department was aware of the issue etc.  We crossed midfield, and joined downwind right for runway 34.  The champ elected to land on the grass instead of the runway, which is something I will consider in the future as it’s preferred in a taildragger like ours.  I landed a tad hot and skipped the wheel landing a bit, but I felt it was pretty good.

The champ had just parked ahead of us at the Nanaimo Flying Club’s fuel station, so we parked off to the side and the hangar talk commenced immediately 🙂


My passenger had a blast I believe, we chatted for a while before they left and then bid them all adieu.  The sun was setting soon, and as we’re only day VFR, decided it was time to head home.  One last time, we said farewell to Nanimo FSS as we lined up with runway 16 (winds were calm now).  Climbing out over Ladysmith harbour is always pleasant, and by the top of a gentle climb, we’re already lined up with “the gap”.  We cleared the way through the training area, made our call over Somenos lake, and crossed midfield.  Again the winds here at home were also calm, so I elected to land on runway 31 (no back tracking).  I came in a bit high, but in the cool evening air, the plane settled in without difficulty and we taxied back to the hangar for the night.


The next day I found how close we had come to disaster…