Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Bug, Part Trois: Let's Plan a Trip!

Yes yes yes, it's better to have road-clogging, motivation-sapping ice and snow storms on a weekend when I don't have to drive, but still... it's getting repetitive.

I'm stuck in the house again, playing with flight sims. I tried my hand at making a short Discovery Channel type of documentary, but I'm not super enthusiastic about the results. If nothing else, I found pretty good resource for researching this particular aircraft: the PDF manual that came with the download of the simulated plane. It continues to amaze me that they run regular sales on these things, so I typically get them for $15 each. Amazing!

So, here are some snippets regarding the plane that I selected for my first (and perhaps only) documentary: the Messerschmitt Bf 109 K-4:
One of the most well-known fighters of WWII had humble beginnings. When first imagined in 1933, just as a new political party rose to power in Germany, few people could have imagined that this early interceptor research project would result in over 30,000 production examples serving throughout Europe in roles ranging from ground attack to reconnaissance, and providing a mount to most of the world's leading fighter aces. 
The German air arm had already been secretly working on military aviation throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Bomber and fighter designs were disguised as civilian aircraft. The earliest plans that eventually resulted in the Bf 109 were shrouded in the same secrecy. Hermann Goering, freshly appointed Reichsminister of Aviation, in an October 1933 letter to Theo Croneiss, a man recently appointed to lead a little-known aircraft manufacturer Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aicraft Works), wrote of an impending design competition for a “high-speed courier plane which does not need to be anything more than a single seater”. BFW began preparing to build a fast civilian single-seater that could be converted into a fighter when needed.
These sims are typically developed overseas, where there seems to be some reluctance to provide certain details. I'm going to hazard a guess that it was the Nazi party that rose to power in Germany. Aircraft design in the 20's and early 30's was done in secret because the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from having an Air Force. Obviously, it happened anyway while a war-weary world averted its attention in favor of policies of appeasement. As is often the case, the wages of appeasement were harsh as the vacuum of leadership was filled by those with differing agendas. This is a lesson that is forgotten generation after generation, and to a frightening degree it appears that it has been forgotten again.

Time will tell.
The "courier plane" needed to have a top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph) at 6,000 m (19,690 ft), to be maintained for 20 minutes, while having a total flight duration of 90 minutes. The critical altitude of 6,000 meters was to be reached in no more than 17 minutes, and the "courier plane" was to have an operational ceiling of 10,000 metres. The powerplant was to be the new Junkers Jumo 210, but the proviso was made that it would be interchangeable with the more powerful, but less developed Daimler-Benz DB 600 powerplant. 
The new airplane was to be armed with either a single 20 mm MG C/30 engine-mounted cannon firing through the propeller hub as a Motorkanone or, alternatively, either two engine cowl-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns, or one lightweight, engine-mounted 20 mm MG FF cannon with two 7.92 mm MG 17s. It was also specified that the wing loading should be kept below 100 kg/m2. The performance was to be evaluated based on the fighter's level speed, rate of climb, and maneuverability, in that order.
That's a lot of fire power for a "courier plane," no?

The history goes on, with the end result being the K-4 variant. While there were many revisions made during the war years, there was one that remains to plague me today:
As with the earlier Bf 108 transport plane, the new design was based on Messerschmitt's "lightweight construction" principle, which aimed to minimize the number of separate parts in the aircraft. Examples of this could be found in the use of two large, complex brackets which were fitted to the firewall. These brackets incorporated the lower engine mounts and landing gear pivot point into one unit. A large forging attached to the firewall housed the main spar pick-up points, and carried most of the wing loads. Contemporary design practice was usually to have these main load-bearing structures mounted on different parts of the airframe, with the loads being distributed through the structure via a series of strong-points. By concentrating the loads in the firewall, the structure of the Bf 109 could be made relatively light and uncomplicated. 
An advantage of this design was that the main landing gear, which retracted through an 85-degree angle, was attached to the fuselage, making it possible to completely remove the wings for servicing without additional equipment to support the fuselage. It also allowed simplification of the wing structure, since it did not have to bear the loads imposed during takeoff or landing. The one major drawback of this landing gear arrangement was its narrow wheel track, making the aircraft unstable while on the ground. To increase stability, the legs were splayed outward somewhat, creating another problem in that the loads imposed during takeoff and landing were transferred up through the legs at an angle.
The manual contains another 100 pages of in-depth detail about the history, design, and operational aspects of the plane, but perhaps you would rather just watch my efforts to fly it. If you know how to do it, this is really spectacular in full screen HD:



Note that the only way I was able to get it off of the ground was to enable a pair of "cheats" in the simulator. They didn't help with the landing, of course.

While that filled a couple of morning hours quite well, my thoughts soon turned to "real" flying. It's March now, so I can start to allow myself to think about the upcoming flying season. I've pretty much decided not to do Oshkosh this year, so I will have a few days that I can use for a lengthy trip, something I keep promising myself that I will do pretty much every time March rolls around.

For the first on what may or may not become a list of potential trip itineraries, I sketched out a trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. This is intended to be a leisurely trip of 5 - 8 days, depending on weather issues.

Here is the first sketch:

Leg One is Columbus to Owensboro, Kentucky for a fuel and lunch stop. Note that any actual airports named as enroute stops are really placeholders until such time as I did in and research things like fuel prices and restaurant options. I may also be on the lookout for interesting touristy things.


The zig-zags are precise - they are intended to make sure the total mileage allows for some periods of detouring to follow the river.



Leg 1 mileage: 282 nm.
Total mileage: 282 nm.

Leg 2 is the afternoon flight, and the goal is to reach Memphis, Tennessee. I'm thinking this is an overnight stay, and potentially a two-night stay, depending on the forecast.


Leg 2 mileage: 261 nm.
Total mileage: 543 nm.

There is an interesting photo op about halfway through leg 2: right around Cairo, Missouri, the Ohio River merges with the Mississippi River:


I will be much lower than this, but this is what it is likely to look like:


I have West Memphis selected as the overnight, but that could change as I hunt around for a cheap place to stay and determine the need for a rental car.


Leg 4 is a straight shot down the river. I don't have any real goals for that leg, other than to get a few pictures of Natchez, Mississippi. I have no other reason for that than having read a bunch of Greg Iles' novels, but if I'm flying down the river anyway... might as well. He goes on about the river front and the Antebellum houses, so maybe those would be worth seeing from the air.

Leg 4 ends with a fuel stop at (randomly selected) False River.


Leg 3 mileage: 288 nm.
Total mileage: 631 nm.

Leg 4 gets us to New Orleans.


As much I have tried to avoid Class B airspace because of the unpredictable nature of air traffic controllers, there is no choice at the destination. There is, however, a 'get out of jail free' card in the form of an aerial crosswalk for getting through without having to be subjected to a lot of routing, etc.

This corridor will more than likely show up on my Skyview screen, but I want to plan it as a waypoint anyway. Prior to the most recent release of the Skyview firmware, this would have been difficult. Now, though, I can just set up a virtual VOR waypoint right at the entrance of the corridor. That will be cool!


Leg 4 mileage: 51 nm.
Total mileage: 682 nm.

The snow is still falling, so it's still too soon to go out and let the snowblower bully me around in the driveway, so I guess I will start researching the airports that I have select thus far, or.... I could do a documentary on the other infamous German WWII fighter: the Focke-Wulf FW-190.

I can actually land that one,

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Bug, Part Deux

Still February, still the worst month of my life, the nasty cold/flu gone but for a residual cough that past experience tells me that I can count on as a roommate for the next five to eight weeks, and snowed in on a weekend, again.  It could be worse, of course: travel is optional on weekends, so I can console myself with the thought that at least I didn't have to deal with a seventy mile round trip to and from work. To be honest, I leave so early in the morning that there typically aren't a lot of cars on the road (but plenty off of it!!) when the weather is bad, but it is slow going and that is not something that I enjoy. I've racer's blood coursing through my veins, intermingled with the elements that draw me to flying.

Speaking of, it has always seemed to me that people drawn to the types of airplanes that I most enjoy, that being small, nimble, and efficiently simple, are also drawn to the types of cars that I tend to seek out. I don't have statistics to back this up, but I believe that the car most often owned or pined for by people that own/fly Van's two-seat airplanes is the Mazda Miata. Much as Van's defined the homebuilt airplane market (or if "defined" is too strong for you, try on "enabled Van's to dominate" for size) with a realistic compromise between a sport plane and a travel plane, Miata can be credited with returning the two-seat roadster to mainstream acceptance for the same reasons.  Affordable, tremendous fun that isn't entirely dependent on a great deal of (expensive) horsepower, primarily because handling comes first.

Horsepower is fun in a straight line, I suppose, but give me a light road-hugging car and a desolate twisty road any day of the week.

As I continue the search for my next project, I'm finding the ground to be sparse when it comes to anything that can equal, far less surpass, the RV-12. It can be difficult indeed to find something to do if you started my climbing Everest.  Regular readers will be shaking their heads and/or rolling their eyes: "Didn't we just slog through a lengthy essay on the benefits of open-cockpit biplanes?"

Well, yes. Yes we did. Here's the thing with that, though. Or to be more precises, things:

  - Need another hangar, both for build and storage.
  - Need more insurance, and for a plane of that nature, it would come at a premium (heh!) cost.
  - The nature of the engine that would be used and the strength of the airframe would increase risk to your's truly.
  - Much more latitude in how it's built, which equates to a much harder build than the 12, which had the not inconsiderable benefit of having detailed instruction from the very first rivet to the completion of the first flight.
  - I've already built a plane.

Those are not necessarily showstoppers, but they weigh heavily enough that the mental gears are still grinding in a quest for other ideas.

I keep coming back to building a car.

This is nothing new - I have been looking at building a car since the day I became aware of Factory Five. Factory Five is to kit cars what Van's is to kit airplanes, which is to say "the most dominant manufacturer in the industry."  There is great value in this for any number of reasons, but the most obvious are:

  - long-term viability. Anything can happen, of course, but the chances of them being around to support the product are pretty good.
  - Proven product. Hundreds, yes HUNDREDS of their kits are successfully built. I have have an old high school friend that built one.
  - Refined product. They're on something like version 5 of their top seller, which is a Shelby Cobra replica.

They are not the only game in town, though. There are plenty of others that don't have the same scale but are still viable alternatives.

But that's getting a bit ahead of the game, so let me circle back.  Step one in building an airplane kit is deciding what airplane you want to end up with. For me, the decision was a small, light, efficient plane that would work just as well for short-ish trips as it would for a half hour of throwing it around the sky. For that one I took a short cut and bought an already-flying RV-6. It was a great airplane, but it obviously didn't quench the thirst to build something. When I through "attainable assembly" into the mix, and found that I hadn't done any aerobatics for a couple of years, my choice of plane to build came down to the RV-12.

This is the stage I am at if I am considering a kit car. It has to be reasonably approachable to the first time builder, and it has to be something that I want to drive.

It is that second attribute that I have been thinking about, although the "is there even a kit available, and is it reasonably build-able" question is never far afield.

This discussion came up yesterday during my every-now-and-then visit with the CEO.

As a bit of background, he is a big fan of Netflix in the same way I am: 99% of their offerings are dreck (I grant that this is very much an "eye of the beholder" thing), but there is great value in the number of high quality BBC shows on offer. One of the things I like most about some of the older shows, or at least shows staged in older times, is looking at the cars. You Downton Abbey aficionados may be doing something similar.  I'm not talking about the fancy Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts and the big Cadillacs, mind you, but more along the lines of the famous two-seat roadsters from the golden days of the 20's and 30's.

Here are a few representative samples:






These (and to be honest, my own roadster that I use as my daily driver) are, with the possible exception of the last one, very refined cars that provide more than a modicum of comfort in addition to their sportiness. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but....

I want to be very clear about something. I love my SLK. It is probably the best car that I will ever own, and the day I found it sitting on a used car lot with five years but only 14,800 miles under its belt will always be considered one of my luckiest finds. But...

That refinement and comfort comes at a cost in the same way the modern, capable RV-12 does when compared with the RV-6. I suppose the best way to say this is to just come out with it (at the risk of sounding like a spoiled child): there are days when I miss the Miata.

I love the SLK in the very same places I disliked the Miata: on the highway and in traffic.

I miss the Miata when I get out into the rural areas and find roads that would reward a light, nimble car, and where horsepower doesn't bring much to the table.

We're about to take a major change in direction here, and I would really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to watch this video before reading on. No, really, you'll thank me for it.



Can you see where I'm headed with this? It's the racing heritage that compels. The long, storied history of the Lotus 7 pulls much harder than the playboy nature of the MG TD (the top three photos above) and seems to be a worthy stable mate to my SLK (which has plenty of playboy nature in it, thank you very much) for those days when I just want to drive for the sake of driving.

Having come to this conclusion, I am happy to report that, unlike the MG TD, there actually is a kit manufacturer that can supply just what I need.  The name of the place is Westfield, and they are located in Britain. That would normally be a giant pain to deal with, but fortunately it is simply an expensive thing to deal with. There is, you see, and American dealer that resells their kit in the US. The expense comes from shipping the kit across the Atlantic, which costs a princely $4,200.

(All of you RV-12 builders in Australia, Europe, etc. are currently drying your tears for my plight, right??)

Of course, I think I probably paid at least half of that to have my -12 kits shipped from Oregon, so it's not quite the tax that it appears to be.

In any event, I give you the FM Westfield:



Impressed?? I am!

But being the cagey little twerp that I am, I kept the best part for last:

It's build on a single donor car, which just happens to be.... A MIATA!

You can visit their web site here.

So, what would be the logistics of something like this?

  - Small enough to build in the back of my hangar.
  - No need to go out and find/strip a donor car. I would buy a pallet. I would opt for the higher-end 1997 parts, and that would cost around $4,000.
  - The kit itself, including the $4,200 shipping, would come in at around $21,000.
  - The body parts are already finish coated with Gel Coat, so no painting required, although I'd probably find someone to paint a nice yellow racing stripe on the British Racing Green body.

Open question: where to store it when done. It would actually fit in the hangar, but I would have to find a new home for my canoe and its trailer. I'd probably get a tarp to cover it and park in the back of my yard.

So, can I get you to watch another video? This is a Westfield Lotus, albeit with a different engine and non-English narration:


Can you see the appeal? I swear I saw some RV smiles in there!!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Bug

February. The worst month of my life. We aren't even there yet, and here I sit with a fuzzy head, an aching chest, and a cough that engages my gag reflex in a most disconcerting way. The weather gurus are predicting another half foot of snow, timed perfectly for my Monday commute across town. It's dark for more than half of the 24 hour day.

What's not to like?

I have, over the years, learned not to make important decisions in February when my seasonal depression is at its peak and having an undue influence on my general outlook on life. The month of February is the closest I get to something akin to clinical depression.

There was a time, though, still fresh in my mind, when I didn't suffer nearly as greatly. I remember a time when I would be outside, or near enough to, with temperatures in the teens doing productive work, and enjoying it. It was, in fact, a spell of time that I had such an overarching interest in a project that I was working on that weather, daylight, and day-to-day frustrations were pushed lower on the intensity scale than normal.

This is a nostalgic view, of course, and even in the very beginnings of my annual doldrums I recognize that. That said, nostalgia may soften the sharp edges of the past, but it does not invent the memory of good times out of whole cloth. The more difficult and frustrating times may lose some of their potency, and the highlights may shine brighter in reflection than they did as the happened, but even after applying the filter of time those memories remain valid.

I miss building.

I miss blogging about building.

I miss always having something to do with my time.

As much as I enjoy owning and flying a brand new, state of the art airplane, I feel like I lost something on the day it was deemed to be "done."

This did not start today. It did not start this week, or even this month. I've tried coming up with other things to do, but I built the RV-12 for a reason: building an airplane was something that I had always wanted to do. As it turns out, it still is.

It's tricky, though. I have no interest in replacing the 12. It does a great job at satisfying just about every one of my aviation needs. Nor do I have any interest in building another 12 - that would seem pointless in the same way that I don't have the desire to own a vacation property: I like variety.

So, what aviation needs are not served by my nifty little machine?

Well, it certainly is handy for flying out to visit folks, or to go to nice places like the Ohio Bass islands easily. It's great for giving rides to people that have never been in a small plane before and watching their eyes light up when they take the controls, even briefly.  It's even a great way to travel a hundred miles or so for an average meal at an airport diner.

That last one there - the one where I'm flying hundreds of miles for a burger that I wouldn't have driven ten miles for. That's the tell. It's not the burger that is the appeal of those trips, it's the act of flying. And this is where the 12, although comfortable and capable, falls just a wee bit short. Yes, it's flying, but it's flying thousands of feet above the ground, enclosed in a wind proof capsule, surrounded by metal.

Nothing wrong with that at all, but it lacks something of the very essence of flying. The wind in your hair, the scents of the land you're flying over, the intimacy of being only hundreds of feet off the ground, the freedom to frolic in three dimensions in the way that only an airplane strong enough to stay in one piece at +6 and -3 Gs.

This is the type of flying that would complement that of the 12, not replace it.

It's like I've always said, when it comes to airplanes, you need at least two but no more than five.

So where does one come across a machine that provides all of that?

Open cockpit biplanes.  Wood, fabric, simple instruments, and just enough modernity to keep from getting lost.

That's what I would like to build.

Fortunately, kits exist for that, and they are pretty reasonably priced. Take, for example, the Fisher Flying Products Youngster V:





Fisher is an established kit manufacturer with decades of experience behind them and a fleet of no less than fourteen different airplanes running the gamut from ultralight airplanes all the way up to an 80% scale replica of the venerable de Havilland Tiger Moth.


The Tiger Moth replica is an attractive option, but at double the cost and almost twice the size as the Youngster, I just don't think it fits the "low-cost" requirement and also is just too big.  The single-seat Youngster evokes the Mitty-esque sense of the early heydey of sport flight much better.

The Fisher planes are wood and fabric (well, Dacron these days - authenticity often equates to maintenance burden and unreliability) kits, designed for first-time builders on something of a budget. The wood is aircraft-grade Sitka spruce for things that are built up of stringers and birch ply for the solid skins. Engine options include a 50hp Rotax two-cycle or a 65hp Volkswagon engine.




A lot of people look askance at VW powerplants on airplanes, but just as many are equally distrustful of the Rotax 912 I have in the RV-12.  Their viewpoint is not entirely unfair. VW engines have been used in homebuilt planes since the very infancy of the genre, and as with anything that has been around for awhile, they have gained and kept a reputation based on issue with the earliest efforts. This is why you don't fly to Europe in a Wright Brothers jumbo jet.

The modern aviation VW engine pretty much just uses the original engine case to house critical components beefed up for aviation use. One of the leading providers of aviation grade VW engines describe some of the enhancements:

The Crankshaft.

The heart of the engine is the crankshaft. It has to be able to absorb, dissipate and transmit. Our 82mm forged E4340 steel crankshaft is made specifically for aircraft use. It features a rectangle flat milled key for the prop hub. The crankshaft has a 3 degree taper on it that is mated to our Force One prop hub. The bolt that retains the hub is a fine thread bolt that is 3.5" long. The threads in the crankshaft are machined in the crankshaft about 3" down from the end. For the first 1.250" the thread is relieved so the pulling or retention loads is placed at the rear of the thread in the larger diameter of the crankshaft. This crankshaft is made specifically for the rigors of driving a propeller. It is not an "out of the box" automotive crankshaft as used by one competitor. In the 25+ years this current crankshaft design has been manufactured, it has never suffered a failure. Our E4340 crank is manufactured from a forged billet and machined in the USA. 69mm crankshafts are made from a 4140 forging.

The Force One Prop Hub and Main Bearing.

While not totally unique to aviation, it is in many respects when combined with our crankshaft. We recognized from early on from a number of crankshaft/prop hub failures with 82mm crankshafts and shrink fit and short tapered hubs, that perhaps it was not the best way to build stroker engines for longevity.

The Force One Prop Hub rides in a engine lubricated bearing that the case is machined out for. The Force One Bearing is pressure lubricated, utilizes 2 seals for oil control. The total bearing area has 4 to 5 more surface area than does a standard #4 position, VW bearing. But the important point is the hub is supported in the bearing instead of being attached forward of the bearing, as is the case when using a shrink fit or standard tapered prop hub. As the fit between the hub and the crank is on a 3 degree taper, it can be removed repeatedly without wearing out either tapered surface. With shrink fit hub, the .002" interference fit will eventually erode with multiple removals.

With our Force One Hub, we can still use the brass distributor drive gear to drive a secondary or primary ignition system. Another competitors crankshaft does not have the brass gear on the crankshaft and cannot use a primary or secondary ignition in the distributor hole.
They also offer an optional second ignition system, which would definitely be on my must-have list.

It's hard to figure out the total cost of the engine package, of course, because you have to add in things like the engine mount and propeller, but I'm estimating that it would top out at just about the same cost as the airframe. The airframe kit is very complete, up to and including the covering fabric. It sells for $8,700, but you have to throw in a few hundred for crating and shipping. They also sell the kit as three separate subkits, but that only serves to triple the additional charges associated with getting the thing to your door.

Where would I keep it? There is a small, grass runway airport no more than five miles from my house.

One thing that's still an open question, and a relatively big one at that, is how much of it could be built in my basement - one aspect of building the 12 that no amount of nostalgia can gloss over is just how hot and cold it can get working out in the hangar!

So, will I do it?

I don't know. I try to never make decisions like this in February.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Location, Location, Location...

Things everyone knows about locations:

  - Don't build your house near a pork rendering plant, or (literally) a stone's throw from a high school, the criticality of the latter being dependent on the number and size of glass windows that face it.
  - Don't wear Maize & Blue to the Ohio State / Michigan game when it's in Columbus.
  - Don't buy sushi at a 7-11 (unless it's a treat for your cat).
  - Don't count your cards when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for that...

And here's one that not many people know, unless they've built and flown an RV-12:
  - Don't mount a $400 oil pressure sensor directly on an engine.

Luckily, there is now a somewhat cheaper replacement for the $400 sensor, and I think RV-12s are now shipping with a different type. That said, I believe the newer sensor is still attached directly to the engine where it is likely to meet the same fate as the two previous models.

In addition to the lower cost replacement sensor, there is also a nice little kit that you can buy that relocates the sensor to a presumably less dangerous neighborhood. It's sold by Aircraft Specialty, the very same folks that sell the fuel and brake lines that I have used to upgrade those provided by Van's.

At first glance, it doesn't seem all that cheap at $144.95, but when you consider it more deeply you will see that it's a bargain. It comes complete with everything you need but minor hardware such as a #14 size Adel clamp, an AD3-5A bolt, a dab of thread sealant, and whatever you like to use to restrain and protect engine hoses.

If your existing Honeywell sensor is already fried, you will also need a replacement. I went with the one that Lockwood Aviation sells since it's a direct replacement for the one I had and I wasn't in the mood to experiment:

Product: Oil pressure sender, 1/8 npt, 4.2ma
Part Number: GAOPSNDHK
Price : $129.95

These are the factors that I considered before parting with the cash for the kit:

  - Even the lower cost sensor that replaces the $400 one is $130. Mine failed at 70 tach hours.
  - Replacing the sensor in it's location on the engine is more difficult that replacing one mounted on the firewall.
  - The wire that runs from the Skyview to the pressure sensor has to be routed alongside the engine. This can be problematic.


For a person of moderate skills, the relocation is pretty straightforward. For those that are more.... challenged when it comes to skills, well..... keep reading.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my sensor died a week after Kyle, Cable & Wiring Guru for The Jackson Two, suffered an identical loss. Always willing to let him figure out the tough stuff first, I drove down to see how his relocation went. As we will see, it was a wasted trip, at least insofar as the wiring goes.

Performing the leak check:


Spoiler: it leaked. He had a small drip where the new fitting attaches to the threaded connector on the new sensor. A little bit more wrench fixed it right up.

I always like to go into Jackson proper for lunch at a great little place called Arch and Eddies. We got there before they were open, so I got a chance to visit one of our customers from the day job.


I was sorely tempted to buy some of the Crick-ettes, simply for the raw enjoyment to be had by pre-placing one somewhere in the break room at work and waiting for a co-worker to notice it, at which point I would casually just pick it up and eat it.

That plan fell through when I realized that I really didn't want to eat a cricket, no matter whether it came in a box as a "food product" or not.

I don't think I'm alone in that; I couldn't help but notice that they had plenty on hand. As in, all of them - not a single box sold.


When I got around to doing my own installation, I started by removing the big oil hose fitting that sits directly under the old oil pressure sensor to provide better access for wrenching it off of there. I figured there might be some oil in the line that would prefer to lubricate the hangar floor, so I used a food storage bag as a prophylactic:


The fitting that goes in where the old sensor was is one of those that go in with quite a bit of resistance and also tend to leak a bit. I learned with the brake fittings, which are very similar, that using a little thread sealant with a Teflon additive addresses both of those issues:


With the lubrication provided by the thread sealant, I got a nice, tight fit.


The new sensor does not come with the wire needed to attach it to the Skyview, but I figured I didn't need it - I would just cut the existing wire off of the old sensor.  With that done, the only meaningful purpose for the old sensor was to cut it open and see why something that simple costs over $400. After all, they're like $35 for a Lycoming engine.

Well, it all comes down to analog versus digital, it seems. The sender for my Lycoming was purely mechanical - all it had to do was deliver a variable resistance to a mechanical gauge. The Skyview, being nothing more or less than a digital computer, needs that analog signal converted to a digital representation, and that require some electronics. Not $400 worth, of course, but maybe $129 worth.



I went ahead and pulled the original wire back away from the engine. It was attached to the Skyview wires with a pair of terminals, which made it easy to remove it entirely. I propped the two Skyview wires against the engine mount to keep them from falling back into the bird's nest of wires down in that no man's land.


I pared back the insulation, then cut off the unneeded black wire.


This is a very important part of the instructions:


The sensor comes with a plug and two crimp-on terminal female pins. If you screw up attaching one of those pins, you're done until you can get replacements. If you crimp them on before pushing the wires through the holes in the plug, well, you're done for awhile.

You also want to be very careful to get the correct wires in the correct holes, for the exact same reason. With that in mind, I very, very, VERY carefully lined my wires up to match the drawing of the plug provided in the instructions:



I also bent the exposed wire double to make sure there was enough wire for the crimps to grab ahold of.



With that done, I fastened the new oil line to the fitting on the engine. I figured that oil might have trouble getting through the line if it had air in it, so I prepared the open end of the line to allow for a little overflow as I pumped oil into it.


I had decided that I did not want to drill a new hole in the firewall to mount the new Adel clamp, so I chose an existing bolt to use as the mounting location. The easiest place to put the new Adel appeared to be adjacent to the brake fluid reservoir. I routed the new oil line up and across the engine.


To pump oil into the new line, I just moved the prop the same way I would if I was trying to 'burp' the engine. After five or six rotations, I was surprised to see that I wasn't getting any oil at the end of the new oil line.  I went around to the other side of the engine to see what could be wrong.


Remember that I removed the input line and stuck it in a baggie?  You do? Well, you could have spoken up!


With the input line attached, it took just a few more turns of the prop to fill the new line.


It was a simple matter to remove one of the bolts from the brake fluid reservoir.


The additional thickness of the Adel clamp meant that I would need a longer bolt. This is why I keep bags of them handy.


It was just as easy to mount the Adel clamp and the sensor. You can see the fitting here that also benefited from some of the thread sealant - it's the white band between the hexagonal  top of the sensor and the new fitting.


Unfortunately, the new hose was about an inch too short to let the sensor sit vertically, but a little offset was enough to allow the attachment of the line and still provide enough slack to account for engine vibration and/or movement.


If you're wondering how much the engine moves, consider the other problem that I fixed while I had the cowlings off:



There was a pretty good gap there already, but clearly it wasn't enough. I used the ScotchBrite wheel to make more room.



With everything all plugged in and wired up, I cranked up the Skyview, only to be faced with a severe disappointment:


That big red X meant that I had gotten the wires reversed, despite my best effort.  How could that have happened??

Lets's look at that diagram again:



Oh, DUH!!!

The diagram obviously shows the wires going into the sensor itself, not the front of the plug as I had mistakenly assumed.

Given that I didn't want to cut off the terminal pins (remember: I had no replacements) to swap their locations in the plug, I reversed the wires with a pair of splices instead. That did the trick!


I ran the engine for a good five minutes during which the gauge held a steady 72 psi, and not a single drop of oil leaked from either of the new fittings.

I'm calling this one DONE!