Readers of this blog may be wondering what happened with no posts in several months! Unfortunately the answer is that I have been suffering through the airplane owner’s ritual of the Annual Inspection and resulting maintenance. Between parts sent out for overhaul, additional parts needing to be ordered, and the holidays it has taken a long time to get the Cardinal back to airworthy state. The good news is that the airplane is now in great shape.
While everything was apart for the annual inspection two new upgrades would be installed. The first was a Reiff engine preheater. This is an electric cylinder and oil heater that plugs in to preheat the engine for winter flying. This will make for much easier winter starts and greatly reduce the wear seen in a cold start.
The second upgrade was installation of a Rosen Sunvisor kit. The old visors in the Cardinal were in terrible shape and frequently flopped down and hit the pilot and copilot in the head! Plus, some velcro had been previously used to try and stick the visors to the ceiling and it was a gooey, sticky, not adhesive enough mess. Unfortunately the Rosen sunvisors turned out to be a bit more of a project than expected because much of the plastic trim pieces were very brittle. Now there are fresh plastic pieces which look very nice along with the sunvisors.
Several issues were discovered during the annual inspection. The several big items were the discovery of loose baffles (by borescope inspection) in both left and right mufflers. This required sending the exhaust off for refabrication. The new exhaust is nice and shiny and should last many years.
Another major surprise was the discovery that an airworthiness directive on the Prop governor oil line was previously not properly complied with. The AD calls for a specific type of hose that must be replaced at engine overhaul. The hose type was not correct and the fittings were also not compliant. By replacing the rubber hose with a stainless steel line the AD is permanently complied with, so it is now resolved.
The left hand aileron bearing was becoming seized. I hadn’t noticed much control stiffness but in retrospect the ailerons were getting a bit stiff. I had assumed this was related to lubrication that would be refreshed at the annual but it turned out to be the bearing where the aileron attaches to the wing. There is not much difference in cruise due to the higher aerodynamic forces but in slow flight and landing and taxiing the ailerons move much smoother now. This might help my landings too!
And, considerable work was done on the landing gear to make sure it was in the best shape. The left hand main and nosegear tires were very worn and were replaced. The nose gear actuator was leaking slightly and was rebuilt. The nose gear strut was leaking at the seal, and after opening it up the steering bearing inside was found to be rusted and freezing up. In fact, this can be lubricated with a grease fitting (and should be at each annual) but it had not been done in some time. During the process of replacing the tire a crack was seen in the wheel halves. This was due to a previous mechanic over tightening the wheel bolts which stretched the bolt hole and cracked it! A good lesson in why you use a torque wrench. Fortunately the shop was able to find a pair of servicable used wheel halves.
On the engine a few small oil leaks were fixed and some hairline cracks were observed in fuel injector lines. The old style lines are susceptible to cracking like this. Two lines were previously replaced with the new style lines and now all lines are the new style. Compressions, oil filter cut open, and oil analysis all showed excellent results.
Finally, faced with the need to install a doubler plate around the ADF antenna in the belly I elected to remove the ADF entirely. It didn’t work anyway and technically if it’s in the plane it is supposed to work. Especially with my instrument rating checkride presumably in the next year I would prefer not to have to deal with questions about the nonworking ADF. Perhaps a knot of cruise airspeed will be gained with the removal of the long wire ADF antenna up top and a bit over 6 pounds of useful load was increased by removing the ADF and antennas!
Overall I’m very pleased with the quality of the inspection by Twin City Airmotive in Fitchburg, MA. The work did take a long time to complete and that is my one regret. From what I have seen the quality of the work they have done is meticulous and I definitely feel safer in the airplane knowing it has just had this work done. And, because the annual is due one year from the logbook sign off then the next annual inspect won’t be due until January 2014!
I’ve only flown 0.4 in the plane so far, ferrying it back from Fitchburg. Mark from Twin City Airmotive flew his Piper Cherokee 140 up from Fitchburg to Nashua to meet me so I didn’t have to deal with car shuffling. It was weird to sit right seat and also this was my first time in a low wing (other than big jets). Mark let me fly for a bit and while I didn’t log it I suppose I have about 10 minutes of Cherokee time! The good news is that the Cardinal flew great and despite almost two and a half months of hiatus I actually made an excellent smooth landing in Nashua.
2012 in Review
I flew 2.9 total in two flights in a Cessna Cutlass (172RG) in January. Then, after closing on the Cardinal in March I flew 88.1 hours in N52667. That means 91 hours flown in 2012. My total time at the end of 2012 was 175.9. This compares to 77.8 hours flown in 2011.
My aviation goals for 2013 include:
- Obtain my instrument rating. I have about 20 hours to go to meet the minimum requirement and take the check ride. I also still need to pass my instrument written.
- Fly more than 100 hours. I would easily have done this in 2012 if it weren’t for the lengthy annual so I think I will easily meet this goal.
- Fly to San Antonio, Texas for Lone Star Con. I want to make a long cross country trip. Lone Star Con (around Labor day weekend next year) is the perfect opportunity to do this with an overnight stop in a different city in each direction. The straight line distance is just over 1500 nautical miles.
- Fly to Canada. My sister in law is in Toronto and Quebec would be a great destination too.
- Take some flying videos. I made a few when I was flying the rental 172 but haven’t yet in the Cardinal.
It’s been a great year and I’ve developed tremendously as a pilot. The ability to fly on a whim and the other benefits of ownership were definitely a big factor. Overnight XC trips have led me to experience more various weather conditions. I’m sure 2013 will bring even more fun and new experiences.