30 Years!

I just got back from a trip to Hawaii, the Big Island.  The occasion?  My wife and I celebrated our 30th Anniversary!  Yep, 30 years ago she took vows with me.  We’ve had our share of ups and downs but this trip was definitely one of the ups.  Five years ago we went to Maui with our family for our 25th Anniversary.  This time around it was just Cristy and I.

We landed at Kona, rented a 4WD Jeep and drove up to the North side of the island.  We stayed at a B&B in Kukuihaele about 1/4 mile from the Waipio Valley.  The house was basically a studio bungalow and the scenery was absolutely stunning.  The house is set on the side of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

For 5 days we gorged ourselves on fish and fruit, visited beaches, gardens, waterfalls and ate more fish and fruit.  The reason for the 4WD Jeep was so we could visit the Waipio Valley and beach.  The drive down the road was quite a thrill.  Steep mountain road grades in the Western US are like 6-8%.  This road was a 25% grade!

Since pictures are worth far more than words…

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Blasts From The Past

This past week I’ve had two different people from my past make contact with me.  An old neighbor spotted me on Facebook and reached out to me via Messenger.  We had a brief back and forth exchange and that was it.  The other was a coworker from a previous employer.  She added me on LinkedIn.  I reached out to her via LinkedIn’s messaging system and again, there was a brief exchange and that was it.

Kind of disappointing on both counts.  I would really like to reconnect with both these folk and see how their life is going but they seem content with just superficial contact.  They just wanted to know that I was still out there somewhere… and that’s it.  So much for social networking. 🙂

That’s okay.  I’m glad to know they’re both still out there somewhere too.

Good News!

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.

Bad News

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.

Hmmm….

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.

Morning P3 Test Flights

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.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1X_E330q6iU6X_8-54gjdI0Xuz_Gk5UPr6Od_Bf1Eomk/edit?usp=sharing

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…

Life 3.0

Life 1.0 was pre-marriage.  Being born, growing up, going to school and college.  Life 2.0 was entering the workforce, marrying Cristy, buying a home, adjusting to each other.  Then came 2.1 and 2.2, my son and daughter.  Now that they have both more or less moved out we come to Life 3.0.  Empty nesters.

Should I feel guilty that I feel excited for my kids?  I’m excited they get to start experiencing the world on their own.  I think of all the adventures I had when I was my kids’ age and I can’t wait for them to begin their own.  I’m excited for them.

And I’m excited for Cristy and I.  We can start making plans for just ourselves again.  I love my children and I will always want them in my life.  But I love the life that Cristy and I can lead together now too.  And I can’t wait.

I Think We’re About There

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.