Since a picture is worth a thousand words then I hope this video update saves me some typing.
If you’ve been following my blog at all (and if you care) you’ve read about my engine woes. I burnt it up when trying adjust my carb settings trying to get rid of an area of throttle movement that caused the engine to bog down. I sent the engine back to the manufacturer and it was rebuilt. Then as I was breaking in the new engine it burnt up again. I sent it back to the manufacturer and they rebuilt it AGAIN. This time recommending we try a different carburetor and two-stroke oil. To ensure it was done right I asked that the engine be sent back to Six-Chuter and that they do the break-in.
The engine was sent to Six-Chuter’s engine guru, Rolando Santiago who lives outside of Vancouver Washington rather than at the factory in Wenatchee. I loaded up the airplane into my trailer and (with my wife who graciously offered to come with me) hit the road. Bear in mind this was a day and a half after we got home from our anniversary trip to Hawaii. Also bear in mind that the Pacific NorthWest was about to be hit with a huge wet storm.
The drive up was nice. We listened to the radio, talked about our Hawaii trip, how amazing it was that we were just there, and now we were here. Our goal was to make it to Cottage Grove, OR the first day. We did. Unfortunately we were delayed by 2 hours due to a jacknifed big rig about half a mile ahead of us on the freeway. The rain had started and apparently this rig was not able to handle the tight turn at his chosen speed. We were supposed to arrive at Cottage Grove at 6:30pm but didn’t get there until 8:30pm. Driving in the rain and dark on mountainous roads was not what I had planned.
We finally arrived and the front desk called the restaurant and had them stay open for us. They were closing but they were very nice to us. We stayed at the Village Green Resort and Gardens. The grounds are lovely but we couldn’t see them in the dark and rain. The rooms are kind of dated but the grounds more than make up for it. The next morning it was still raining but we could at least get a look at the grounds before breakfast and hitting the road again.
This time it was only a three and a half hour drive to Rolando’s house. Most of the drive was unremarkable except for the gorgeous scenery. 🙂 All except for the drive through Portland at lunchtime, in the rain. (I need to stop typing “in the rain” because it rained non-stop while we were there.) Rolando meet us at a gas station near his house and then showed us to his super-secret hidden driveway. My trusty truck slogged the trailer up into Rolando’s yard and I unhitched the trailer and left it in his capable hands. He and his son would do the engine install and breakin and then call me when it was done. My wife and I were free to go explore.
Because of the rain and our fatigue from all the driving the only thing we wanted to explore was our hotel room. We crashed and took a nap at the Red Lion Inn which was right on the Columbia River. We had dinner and then crashed again afterwards. I found our room number amusing and somewhat ironic due to the fact it was a non-smoking room.
The next morning we wanted to take a look at Portland and get some coffee. We pulled up just past the coffee place and a homeless man began lounging on my truck. >:-( I asked him in a rather ungracious way to please remove himself from my truck. He started to walk away then turned around and started screaming at us. I told Cristy that coffee in Portland was a bust. We headed for Vancouver WA instead and found a great little coffee place called Pines Coffee House. I can tell you after comparing both towns I can see what Vancouver insisted on a river with drawbridges between them and Portland.
We had lunch at a great little Thai restaurant called Thai Orchid. They have a great mix of Thai food and sushi, which, surprised us a little. However the food was good and was a great place to stay out of the rain. To help Cristy relax a little I found her a boutique called Not Too Shabby. Boutiquing helps Cristy decompress after travelling. Right about the time she was finishing up we got the call that the engine was done.
It was 2:30 in the afternoon and by the time I picked up the trailer and airplane it would be 3:30pm. I knew we wouldn’t get far but at least we could get south of Portland! We loaded up and made it as far as Salem. It was pretty stormy the whole way. Probably the heaviest rain I had driven in for quote some time and pulling a trailer to boot. We got to the Red Lion in Salem and hit our room and collapsed on the bed. We took a quick nap before dinner and a long nap afterwards.
The rain abated somewhat overnight. When we got on the road at 8:00am it was only drizzling. It had stopped raining by about Roseburg, OR and by the time we climbed the big grade out of Ashland and pulled into Calfornia the clouds were starting to break up. It’s amazing how the rain just stopped at the California border. I guess we’re not paying our rain bill or something. Before I go on I have to say I had the best gluten-free muffin I have ever tasted in my life at The Stars and Dreams Gluten-free Bakery. They also sell gluten-free breakfast sandwiches and hamburgers.
There were very few clouds as we drove past Mt. Shasta except for the standing lenticular clouds at it’s summit. As we drove down the grade into Redding there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We finally pulled into home at about 7:30pm, my first vacation from work, and our 30th anniversary trips finally done. What we learned is that we really enjoy travelling and if we could drive shorter distances and had a travel trailer with us that we would enjoy travelling even more.
In my previous blog entry I wrote about my engine woes. I sent the photos to Rolando Santiago at Six Chuter who took a look and informed me the piston was toast. He and Doug Maas consulted with J-Bird Engines (the engine manufacturer). J-Bird asked for the engine to be sent to them so they could take a look. To their credit, the guys as Six Chuter paid the cost to ship the engine back! Once the engine arrived, the guys at J-Bird knew exactly what happened.
You see, there are exactly two belts on this engine. Both of them are fan belts… more or less. One belt is on the rear of the engine and connects the crankshaft to the propeller. It reduces the RPM of the propeller because the prop isn’t designed to turn at 6500 RPM. The other fan belt turns an actual cooling fan at the front of the engine. Now there are sections in the engine manual that describe tightening these belts. I dutifully checked the belt tension on the prop, but missed the huge page in the manual saying how important it is to adjust the tension on the fan belt!
When J-Bird dug into the engine the first thing they noticed was how loose the fanbelt was on the cooling fan. And yep, the front piston was in the worst shape. Problem found. The engine was overheating due to poor cooling. Totally my fault. But here is where the AMAZING customer service part of the story comes in. I was told the engine would be rebuilt at NO COST to me whatsoever.
Now, gentle reader, I don’t know how much you know about aircraft companies but Six Chuter is an anomaly in aviation. Most aircraft companies would have said “Uh, user error, you need to pay the cost to fix your engine.” Six Chuter did not do this because they believe in their products. They stand behind their products and the components that go into their products. Six Chuter is run by people of integrity and truly believe they are held accountable to God for everything they do on this earth and it shows. I cannot say enough about this company.
So back to the engine. They are going to rebuilt it from the crankshaft up and it should hopefully be shipped back to me next week. I’ll post more updates on the re-install and next steps on the engine when I get it back.
Friday I was testing needle placement and prop spacer blocks on my P3. I did a warm up and then a simulated takeoff and throttle back to cruise to see how my throttle response would be. Everything went well until I throttled down to cool off. It ran for about a minute then RPM started to slowly drop until the engine died.
I let the engine cool down and then tried to start it again. It would not start even after several attempts. I scrubbed the morning’s flight and headed home. The next day I called factory support and he walked me through several steps to try to get the engine started. Nothing worked. Even spraying starter fluid directly into the carburetor would not get the engine to start. We verified that the spark plugs and ignition system was working, we verified fuel flow, all to no avail.
Their engine guy asked me to check one more thing. He had me pull the muffler and exhaust manifold and check the pistons. It was not a pretty picture.
I’ve sent the pictures to their engine guy and their chief and we’ll just have to wait and see what they come back with. I really don’t want to tear into this engine, I’m not a mechanic. So rather than going to the High Sierra Fly-in I may be going up to their facility to see if they can help me out.
I’ve been doing lots of tweaks and testing of my engine on the ground but haven’t flown it much. I changed that this past Friday and Saturday mornings. Friday morning I flew with the 10 degree prop blocks. These set the propeller pitch to 10 degrees. I found that throttle response was good but because of the fine pitch of the prop climb rate was reduced and I found myself at almost 6000 RPM just to maintain level flight. That only gave me a couple of hundred RPM more to climb with. Not a good feeling. Also the engine cylinder head temperatures were running too high at 400 degrees. Even worse feeling. However throttle response and smoothness were much improved as was exhaust gas temperature.
Friday night after work I put the 11 degree prop blocks in. I test flew these Saturday morning. In all honesty I didn’t notice much difference in the way of climb performance but CHT was lower which was good and EGT was also lower which is very good. I did notice a little ‘bogging down’ of the throttle in one particular RPM range but it wasn’t too bad.
For next week’s test flight have have moved the carburetor jet needle to the number 2 position. This will make it run slightly leaner which may cause EGT to rise. I’ll have to watch that.
Because there are so many parameters to change it’s all started getting mixed up in my head. To that end I’ve started a spreadsheet to track and measure all my changes. I should have done this in the beginning. I’ll put the link below in case anyone is interested.
I’m also going to take a page from one of the blogs I follow. He always leaves a song linked to the end of his blog. I like the idea. So cruise on into your Sunday evening with the smooth sounds of Tom Middleton…
So the last two weeks there has been little in the way of flying and a lot in the way of carburetor tuning. We’ve been tweaking jet needle settings and even replacing jet needles but the one change that seems to have worked wonders is repitching the prop. Six Chuter sent me two more sets of prop blocks to repitch my prop.
The blocks are basically triangular blocks of carbon fiber, similar in appears to a door stop – sort of shaped like a right triangle. The long edge is precisely set at a particular angle. You wedge the prop between two of these blocks and then place it in the propeller hub and that sets your blade angle.
The current spacers I have are set at 12 degrees. I tried the 11 degree blocks but that didn’t seem to make any difference. When I put the 10 degree blocks in I got much better RPMs and cooler temperatures, so much so that I put my original jet needle back in and back at it’s original setting. I’ll try a test flight on Saturday morning and we’ll see how it it works out.