Think before you clean

The poor old girl does need a really proper clean

Months sitting in the hanger waiting for the engine … then leaving it with no covers on .. needs a good hoover out .. other vacuum cleaners are available ! And deeper surface clean and then polish

All this focus on engine and bits for the annual ….and then, when the engine did a classic ‘dog fight’ on me yesterday … covering the screen with oil spatters as the cowls were off … I picked up a can of de greaser and a rag

Fatal …..

In the heat of the moment … I didn’t check the tin …

As soon as I pressed the spray the screen section went completely opaque !

Brake cleaner and Perspex DO NOT mix well 😔

New screen from stores … not bad at under £40 … will take about 40 mins to fit with those very very small Allen bolts and washers but be like glass once in

Live and learn … don’t do anything in a hurry …😊

Engine test run – part two

Having completed the initial test runs in some baking hot weather .. 34’ no less, I’ve now conducted further ground tests with better conditions and cowls on.

This means the ducting starts to work better and the smaller cylinder head cowls can do their bit .. ducting the air, which has been slightly rammed over the rear cylinder heads and also, through a specially added pipe, directly onto the mags.N

NOTE – Paul HS spotted that my mag brass pipe jets ended about 1” away from the body of the mag. He quite rightly said that would make them less effective as the stream of air around the engine would tend to break that flow … will extend these with sleeved outer .. rather than break he fibreglassed fitting

Once the engine got right up to normal ish running temps .. normal as you can get on the ground … I removed the cowls and found the interior and bulkhead were covered in fresh clean oil.

There was so much that you simply couldn’t see where it was coming from … a lot of cleaning down with de grease spray and rags and try again … and again …

Eventually .. turned out to be next day, I located that it needed to be topping 2400 RPM and pretty warm engine oil … about 60 … both quite tricky on the ground as the cable brakes aren’t too happy holding her at that power for long

Then jumping out and torch in hand to look everywhere … spotted the rear left cylinder … cylinder 4 I think .. most rearward on a Jabiru with its offset crank… had clear oil running down the outside of the rocker tube .. with evidence that possibly both tubes we’re seeping

Looking at the engineering diagrams these alloy tubes run between the engine sump and the rocker head ..the T bar rubber unit takes a pressure central feed he rocker and these tubes run – unpressured – to drain back into the sump having done their stuff and lubricated the rockers.

Hence .. the grunt needed to get it to show .. at anything cool and around fast tickover … it simply doesn’t show

The tinge on the right hand tube is oil line running top to bottom

Update … further checks .. located a small drilled hole in each rocker box head … pointing upwards .

. These very small shafts allow any excess oil that overfills the rocker to vent and exit over the cylinder head fins.

This now moves us down the path of … why are the rocker boxes overfilling … further discussion reveals that a larger bore sump feed tube may have been added in place of the normal smaller bore.These w

These will now be replaced with the normal smaller bore and a glass topped rocker cover used to see exactly what is happening under power conditions.

Love working with a true engineer

My first aviation engineer was Bob Wright from Jersey Channel Island Aero Services .. I used to love his easy going solid support and guidance ..not making me feel like some oik … muscling in on his profession but embracing, supportive and inclusive

Bob sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago … thank you Bob for all that you freely gave both in skills, friendship and support … I couldn’t have started OR finished without you.

Next was Mike Fleming, who also freely gave huge amounts of time to ‘watch at a distance’ a great skill … to not dive in and show me how it’s done (when all I would have learned was how good HE was at doing it !) but instead, nudge, ask (timely) questions … see if I understood what I was doing and what would then logically follow …. Mike did (and still does) provide context and oversight that meant you felt supported .. and learned from mistakes rather than bury your head in your hands !

Now, in the U.K., I have the pleasure of working with someone like James Milne. A wonderful easy going mine of knowledge and niceness

I could learn something every minute from this guy …. His focused ‘no nonsense’ approach to each and every step and then setting up and driving action to rectify anything is just great to be around.

At the Ranger annual today he spotted that a bevel was not quite as free as it should be .. he followed this through and suspected that he undercarriage had been stressed at some point.

To validate this we needed to get the weight off the undercarriage so, within minutes he was up a ladder, we had moved the aircraft to position it under a main hanger beam. A strop was erected and we had the aircraft floating just above ground level.

We slackened the main u/c pins and then strapped the Left and Right wheel .. so it wouldn’t splay on release, then removed the centre V brace.

Now, with the weight off … you could see and feel the saddle clamps had started to dislodge. I don’t recall any particularly heavy landings .. apart from the first grass one crossing the channel to Sandown …maybe it could have been just 5 years on concrete landings …

Whatever .. it’s been spotted … it’s a relatively easy reconstruct and replace with new parts … 2 brace arms, 2 cross plates, 4 mounting arms .. 4 saddle clamps and a set of nickel rivets

Wheel alignment

After a good few years of ONLY a tarmac landings .. and around 250 of those … plus, over time, I’ve had the port undercarriage leg off and changed and the starboard one off and new end roses …not forgetting I’ve had both legs fitted with new rubbers post the Smoke (Baby) oil getting on the, and expanding the rubber … it sort of feels about time to recheck all the symmetry

Getting out the original plan sheet for measurements and remembering the technique to strop both legs together to prevent Bambie impressions … it was a good exercise today if not a tad sweltering at 32’ outside the hanger 😔

So, start with central plumb line to give me a checkpoint … found I was a few mm out each side …

Now add the strop to hold the wheels … the knack being to leave sufficient slack in the strip so that you can pull the wheels outwards to accommodate the increased leg length as you wind the rose outwards

Bit of IN and OUT a few times little more gentle slackening …. Then done .. never like leaving her on a trolley Jack for longer than necessary

Engine – ground run testing

As quite a lot was changed and updated the engine needs a careful planned set of ground run tests.

The first involves a short 1 min run and then removal of each rocker cover to check oil is indeed being pumped around each bore

It’s now been converted from Hydraulic lifter valves to solid lifter valves, the old way (hydraulic) meant that I didn’t have to do any valve checking as they self adjusted. Now I need to include regular movement and gap checking.

The checklist calls for around 10-15 timed and controlled runs .. starting with low revs ..up to 1200 and short runs just to get all oil distributed evenly.

It’s always a pain when you have emptied the oil cooler matrix – this is a new one so starts empty ! .. you need to allow for sufficient oil in the sump to fill that and perhaps any new filter that may have been added.

The dipstick on the Jabiru isn’t the greatest piece of metal known to man as, in the taildragger configuration, you don’t get an accurate reading, the dipstick being calibrated to read when the engine is in a flat orientation. The standard dipstick doesn’t reach the bottom of the sump !

Over and above the standard dip test every flight….I’ve got used to checking every so often by trestling the aircraft up to flying angle .. ie Straight and Level (you need to do this when occasionally checking the rigging and wing dihedral). Anyway, the standard dipstick mark is ignored and it’s ‘about’ 1/8” (in old money) covering the bottom tip of the stick.

At the last annual James, my engineer, grabbed the prop ..pulled the engine into its S&L position and put a stick down to check… the simplicity of this was quite obvious … vs ‘it should be about 1/8 on the bottom of the stick’ .. so I’ve created a new dipstick that goes directly to the bottom of the sump.

The remaining tests slowly take the revs up through 1800 block tests as they call them .. successive run ups and cool downs … giving you chance to check all is working.

Once you get to the 1800 tests the idea is to take it to 50’C oil temperature and THAT should open my TOCA – Thermostatic Oil Cooler Adaptor .. a neat slim block that fits between the engine and the oil filter effectively blocking (COLD) oil circulation until the engine reaches 50.

The subsequent runs take the revs up to 2400 which is where it will be difficult holding her on the brakes so the chocks will come in handy … pays to keep the elevator back in these power checks !

Engine back and installed

Forgotten I had missed writing this post … long awaited update to engine and all put back in place

Took the opportunity to replace old hardened engine mount rubbers that had started to craze… also freshen up odd little scrape on the engine mount with hammerite … wish I’d still been around Jersey and my friend Mike Flemings powder coating skills !

Refit was a breeze … slight jiggle whilst the whole thing is safely suspended on a car hoist makes it a bit like a lunar docking … getting all 4 lugs neatly aligned and NO pressure on them until nuts done up

Then set about removing the awful (my word) wiring block and replacing with much nicer quality unit and a chance to really check each end point and put new crimped ring ends in position

Also make sure that L and R CHT and EGT are indeed LEFT and RIGHT !

Updated joystick end

My old joystick end had hardened rubber surround which was making the alloy PTT switch slightly loose, so time to replace … and add something extra

Having researched the market there is a very smart Allen head that offers a PTT plus … he ability to have other electrical operated without the need to remove your hand from the stick ….

Currently my smoke system needs me to take my hand off the throttle OR across over with my right hand in an already small cockpit … the smokingairplanes u it does, however, come with an additional ‘intermittent’ option which, when wired to a suitable switch, allows smoke at the touch of a button …

The slight problem is that the Allen head is quite large and with my panel design having a slightly lower line for fuses .. the two meet! So I needed to take a small amount off the end of the stick.

The tricky piece is you DO NOT want any burr dropping down to the base of the stock unit. So, rather than a saw cut action, I bought a larger diameter pipe cutter that made a perfect job. Less than 60 seconds and your are left with a very neat, slightly sharp edge (inner) and smoother chamfered (outer)

The two new handshakes allowed an easy connection to the existing PTT circuit ..leaving about 10-15cm of cable for ‘working-wiggle’ room if I need to pull them out again. So many cut things super short and it makes it almost impossible to get crimps or soldering kit in there if needed. (The cloth pushed into the joystick tube above is to prevent any debris disappearing down the tube during this operation).

The tricky bit was then to thread through the additional cables using locking wire as a guide and tape hook arrangement to pull them down the tube and exit part way down the stick .. one will be a new dedicated earth ..the other a dedicated power to the head (when needed) and a final 3rd cable to handshake into the smoke intermittent earth socket.

Movement in the hanger

My current location in the hanger has been great as I have been pretty stationery whilst getting all bits tidied up and ready for flying again soon.

When I do move again … I have to pull a few aircraft out and about .. a lovely little blue Thruster called Millie … a gorgeous Blue Chiltern and a Kitfox …

The chance came to switch with the long term Jodel resident at the other end of the hanger … this would mean I just open 2 doors … pull out .. and the entire runway is directly in front on me … fantastic

Switched the 2 today and took the opportunity to give the lovely little Jodel and good wash down then moved the ramps to align with the Ranger tracking and then oiled and greased the hanger doors

Long awaited engine ground run …

So after a hugely long wait .. the engine is back in … new valves, new pistons, liners, new rings, beefed up and drilled flywheel access to make it easier to check bolt torques regularly … sand blasted and repainted

The new prop on and wheels out of the hanger for a first hot start

I’d opted to leave the cowls off and the spinner off so that I could easily check engine oil temps and possible leaks and bolts.

Recorded each session from a side on iPad as I can see the engine from inside the cockpit …this was to prove useful

First start didnt start immediately as there was no fuel to the bowl. Then it burst into life …first test called for 1200 tick over for 2 minute ..all temp and pressures looked great except one CHT, Left one read minus …turned out to be wires switched ..only one mis wire in the full re wire 😊

Stopped after 2 minutes and removed all rocker covers in turn to check oil and temperature … all looked great

Let it cool down and 2nd run … let the oil come up to temp and then run a little longer … to get oil to 45-50’.. took a while as the engine was completely open so very cooled by the prop wash .. she had now had around 20 mins of run time and all was looking great … good pressure of 65 and temps all well within limits.

Still not going through the TOCA oil limiter .. so need to keep her at above 55’ for a little longer in 3rd run

3rd run started instantly following cool down … this run called for 1200 for 1 minute, then 1800 .. this being a block that would repeat and cool down between each

Then, at around 3 minutes into this run up , and just after I’d started to ease up to 1800 … all was sounding smooth then there was a loud crack .. it didn’t sound metallic but thoughts immediately went to the newly refurbished engine

As soon as the crack happened I hit both mags off ..stopping the engine immediately

I turned the engine very gently by hand and all sounded fine and smooth .. no obvious mechanical issues I removed each of the rocker covers in turn to check valves were rising and falling .. all were .. so what was wrong ?

As I checked the last set of valves .. I removed the cover . Reached up to the prop tip to pull it through … and felt the tip was damaged. On farther investigation it looked like a bit of delaminating and a small strike on the hardened leading edge.

Not a clue what had caused it .. a taildragger prop is about 30” from the ground so highly unlikely to be a flicked up stone .. and we were on hard smooth concrete anyway

Watching the video back at that point and enlarging it and slowing it down .. you can see the problem ! As I’d left the spinner off for the ground tests I’d (stupidly) left the 6m hex bolt in the end of the spinner spigot

With successive runs this bolt had unwound .. and, as I approached the 1800 rpm test it reached the end of its thread and came out .. hitting the tip of he prop at prob something like 400mph

Now the task of trying to source another prop as soon as ….😔

Keeping your hand in … whilst waiting for engine upgrade

My engine has been a while having its hydraulic lifter valves converted to solid lifters apart from a number of PA28 trips to Jersey and back I’ve had very little biplane action !

Paul at TLAC v kindly said we could blow the dust off G-TLAC and keep my hand in ..

With one of my sons now working at TLAC and also part way through his PPL he was also very keen to get an eye on flying this fantastic little aircraft in and around tight grass strips vs the large controlled airspace of Jersey International Airport that we are both so used to !

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