Saturday, November 30, 2013

Carb Syncing from the GOOD seat

Rule #1 when it comes to the recent phenomenon of Black Friday, the day when sadists and masochists unite in an orgy of tribal commercialism is "Don't leave the house." Fortunately, the corollary to Rule #1 is "Unless it is to go to an uncrowded place."  This loophole leaves me open to accepting requests of the nature "I'll buy lunch if you fly down and help me sync my carbs," which refers to a mechanical calibration of the two carburetors on a Rotax 912 engine, not a dietary effort.

As loyal readers will recall, I recently sync'd my own carbs with the assistance of Kyle, presumably no relation to Colonel Andrew Lewis, who will be making a cameo appearance here shortly.  Even without the offer of lunch, I would absolutely have jumped at the offer - a day locked in the house, while far more appealing than being trampled by hoards of hungry shoppers, held no real attraction in and of itself. 

Plus, flying.  Right? Who's gonna say no to that!  Not this guy!!

And one more thing: I would have to GOOD seat this time. Because I'm here to tell ya, standing in the frigid blizzard of prop blast is no great shakes, although it does serve as a convenient reminder as to why I consistently decline invitations to climb Everest.

The trip down to Jackson was routine, the saying of which is a pre-excuse for this inexcusably boring, low-resolution video:

I have to say it: THIS is the way to do a carb sync. That standing out in the prop blast thing is crazy. In fact, I'm going to move my annual re-syncing to July or August.

It sure is a great feeling to finally see that LED in the middle light up!

The morning light really made my new paint look great, so I availed myself of the opportunity to get some pictures with better backgrounds than the row of hangar doors across from mine.

And then... lunch. I found this place on before I ever left the house.

They have an extensive and eclectic menu:

But again, I knew what I was going to have before even setting a foot out the door.


It was very good, although Andouille sausage would have been better, albeit probably impossible to find locally. The fresh shrimp more than made up for that, though.  One of the shrimp still had a tail on it, which reminded me of a recent epiphany I had. Back when I was a young 'un, my grandmother would make home made cherry pies. She would tell us to be careful because she might have missed removing a cherry pit, but if we found one, she would give the lucky discoverer a dime.

I don't remember what thought process got me on that subject, but as I look back on it today I realize that someone found a pit every single time. It took me 40+ years to realize that she was leaving one in there on purpose.

Kyle went for a 1/2 pound mushroom & Swiss burger which also looked fabulous, but brought forth no childhood memories, at least none that he chose to share:

The place wasn't very crowded, what with it being early in the day, so I took a little walkabout to see what the rest of it looked like. First stop was the bar, which was mildly depressing in the same way that the bars at Put-in-Bay are: since I only ever fly there and don't overnight, I never get to partake.

Which made this really frustrating:

After lunch, we had a little historical tour of downtown Jackson. Quite a bit has happened there.

Kyle needed to borrow some scales for re-weighing his plane post-paint (something I need to do, too), so we stopped by a friend's race shop. I wandered around looking at old stuff sitting out in the scrap yard. I really like this old drill press:

From the alliterative manufacturer Manning, Maxwell & Moore. A company name like that makes me feel like like I should be wearing a fedora and griping about Prohibition.

More or less on impulse, we decided to fly over to Parkersburg to visit Rick Gray, the guy that most inspired me to buy my RV-6, and then eventually to build the RV-12.  Rick is very well known in the RV world, to a large degree because of the incredibly high quality work he does with building airplanes. He built a couple of airplanes that were so good that they were awarded Lindy awards at Oshkosh, a feat that very, very few builders accomplish.  He also gave Co-pilot Egg her first ride in an RV-6, back when I was trying to convince her to let go of her emotional attachment to its predecessor, our Socata Tampico.

I like going to Parkersburg because I like flying along the Ohio River, checking out the barges and such.

And here we are, parked in front of the coolest hangar ever.

This is what the tools of a busy builder look like: there's no time to be constantly swapping dies for every different squeeze like I did.

This is Rick's personal plane. It's a Pitts S-1S. The '1' means single seat, and the second 'S' means that it has a symmetrical airfoil. This is as opposed to the S-1C that I always wanted, which has a flat-ish bottom wing and only two ailerons versus the four on the S-1S.

Rick explained the name of his plane. Some of you will remember a couple of years ago when Rick was involved in an accident involving an RV-10. The engine pretty much exploded, leaving Rick and another pilot gliding over the hilly, wooded terrain of southeast Ohio. Rick had to crawl through burning fuel to get away from the crashed airplane and the ensuing years of recovery left him, not surprisingly, with a fear of flying. His doctor recommended a "get back in the saddle" therapy, which led to:

It's good to see him back to doing what he loves.

That bottle lists the twenty-seven (27!!!) planes that he has owned/built.

Kyle and I, at least one of whom is never going to build a trophy-winning airplane (Kyle might have a chance), got a kick out of holding a Grand Champion Lindy:

This is simply amazing:

I told Rick he could look at my plane, but that he would have to stay 50' away. Rick and I have very different mindsets when it comes to airplane building: he is a maximizer, I am at satisficer.  As long as its safe and airworthy, "good enough" is good enough for me. Well, within reason, at least. I actually laughed out loud at a manager once when he told me in a performance review that people didn't like working for me because I was "a perfectionist." I was able to laugh because I knew quite well that the "people" he was talking about was a mediocre female developer with whom he was having an inappropriate relationship.

So, the first thing Rick sees when he puts on his judging hat is an edge of the top cowl where I sanded a little too much fiberglass off, leaving what I would describe as an "Oh, well, it'll fly fine" sized gap.

"Who fit the cowls?"

"That would be me," I replied somewhat sheepishly. "But that's why I told you to stay fifty feet away."

"Oh, I would have seen that from fifty feet," he countered.

"Sure," I replied, "but I would have been fifty feet away on the other side and wound't have been able to hear you!"

Joking aside, he did have some good advice on fixing an area of the avionics cover that I damaged when trying to remove the canopy after it got hung up on a "ballooning" edge of edge skin on the avionics cover.

Rick needed to get back to work and I had the ticking clock of early-Winter sunset to worry about, so Kyle and I made our way back to Jackson where I quickly refueled and headed home.

And courtesy of Rick, I now have a new "passenger" that will ride with me in the -12 every time I fly it.

Oh, if you're still waiting for the cameo appearance of Colonel Lewis, go back to the historical tour of downtown Jackson and try again.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fueling Around - Part Deux

I'm reasonably sure I've used the 'fueling around' pun before, simple because I can't imagine myself not using such an obvious groaner. So.... part deux.

To get this lengthy article started, I will give you a little background. It has to do with the fuel lines on the Rotax 912 engine that powers the RV-12. They are rubber lines wrapped in fire sleeve and Rotax "recommends" that they all be replaced every five years. Five years isn't as long as it sounds when measured in airplane years, and the cost and labor of this replacement is burdensome - the Rotax Rubber Replacement kit goes for around $1,200, although that includes more than just the fuel lines.

A somewhat onerous requirement like this invariably stirs the entrepreneurial spirit in people and sure enough, a collaborative effort between Steve from AircraftSpecialty and Tom from TS Flightlines has resulted in a snazzy alternative: they have created a fuel line replacement kit that addresses the life-limit issue of the Rotax rubber fuel lines by replacing them with state-of-the-art hoses. Here is how they are described on Steve's web site:
Our stainless braid conductive teflon hoses are among the highest quality hoses that exist. These hoses are impervious to all types of fuel without having to worry about hose integrity. In addition, our -4, -6 and -8 hoses, have a .030 thick layer of carbon black manufactured into the hose which provides an electrical path to the fittings on the end. Essentially, the conductive teflon hose is able to dissipate static electricity buildup that can exist when fuel flows through a hose. This is something that is found on high end certified aircraft hoses. We feel it is important, because it adds an extra margin of safety to your aircraft, and also prevents static discharges from eventually creating little pinholes in the hose. 
Please note that our -3 hoses are not conductive teflon, because there is not enough fluid flow through them to warrant the dissipation of static electricity. They are typically used as primer lines in aircraft or as brake lines on cars. For aircraft we recommend -4 hoses for brake lines to mate with the typical -4 hard lines that are used in the cabin. 
Finally, our hoses are covered on the outside with a stainless braid wire. The rated bursting pressure on these hoses is between 8,000 and 12,000 PSI depending on the diameter. Working pressure is between 2,000 and 3,000 PSI, and we test all hoses to their rated working pressure before they leave our shop to give you peace of mind. This is something that not all manufacturers do, as it is time consuming. However, we recognize that these hoses are the lifeblood of your aircraft, and so we check each and every one before it leaves.
He also has a couple of videos that describe the benefits provided from these hoses and the way they are manufactured:

All that aside, they are also far prettier than rubber hoses:

Of course, they don't look like that when they're installed on the airplane - because they are going to be located forward of the firewall and there is a lot of heat in that area, they will be covered in orange fire sleeve. Still, it's enough to just know they're gorgeous!

This is all pertinent to Schmetterling because the set of hoses custom designed for the RV-12 is relatively new. They have been flight tested on multiple airplanes and each installation has resulted in changes to the design. It would seem that the iterative design process has run its course and Steve is ready for someone to do a test installation of the hoses in their latest state of design. The idea is that the average builder should be able to do the installation him/herself. 

I was enlisted to prove the case.

I gave to confess that I was a little nervous about it - anything having to do with the engine and its accessories automatically triggers my 'CAUTION' mode - but after talking it over with Steve it seemed to be relative straightforward.

We shall see.

Because this is a product in development, albeit late-stage, there were no printed directions included with the hoses and fittings.   I should probably say a few things about the fittings, because they too are pretty darn nice. Again, in Steve's words:
Our fittings are another place that differentiate us from the competition. We use stainless steel fittings on our hoses instead of aluminum ones.

Stainless steel fittings have two distinct advantages over aluminum ones. First off, they are much stronger than the same size aluminum fitting.

Secondly, in the unlikely event of a fire, aluminum has a much lower melting point. The stainless fittings will protect against the fire much better. This will give you extra time to manage the situation without having a breached fitting that will dump extra fuel onto the fire.

The final item to be aware of is flare angle. Our fittings are all true 37 Degree flare fittings. This means that they are designed to fit perfectly with the AN fittings that are used in your aircraft. Some automotive hose manufacturers that do experimental aircraft hoses use a different flare angle. The truth is that the pressures that we run in these hoses are relatively low, so you might not see any leakage. However, we feel that it is important to have a product on the market that is specifically designed for aviation purposes.
They're nice looking too, and they have the additional benefit of being out in the open and easy to see.

I thought that the first thing to do should be to come up with a way to identify each part so Steve and I would have a common vocabulary, and to keep track of things while I was attaching them to the plane.

The fittings:

  • A: fuel 'out' from the fuel pump
  • B: fuel in to carburetor (B & C are identical)
  • C: fuel in to carburetor
  • D fuel 'in' to fuel pump
  • E: fuel return line at firewall fitting
  • F: fuel marshal - replaces funky block on top of engine

The fuel lines:
  • 1: Gascolator to fuel 'in' on fuel pump
  • 2: input to left carburetor (this is the lengthier of 2 and 3)
  • 3: input to right carburetor
  • 4: input to fuel pressure sensor
  • 5: fuel return line (uses fitting E)
  • 6: fuel 'out' from fuel pump

This is the 'before' picture:

After pondering the 'before' setup for a few minutes, I was able to position the fittings and hoses as I thought they would go onto the plane:

With a clear understanding of what went where, it became a matter of figuring out when and how.

I started with the assumption that the current lines still had fuel in them and that it might be a good idea to drain as much of it out in a controlled way as possible. 

So, Step 1: close the fuel line in the cockpit using the red fuel shutoff knob.

Step 2: remove the drain plug from the gascolator and let it drain into a bucket.

Step 3: remove the main fuel line from the gascolator.

Note that you are going to see a lot of old thread sealant on the AN fittings - using the Teflon sealant was a habit that I got into when doing the brake fittings - the Teflon gave me at least one more full turn without it feeling like I was going to break a fitting.  Once in the habit, I used it everywhere. This is NOT required, or perhaps even advisable.

Step 4: remove the main fuel line from the 'in' port of the fuel pump:

This proved difficult. The old fitting was metric (14mm), but that wasn't the problem. I have a cheapy set of metric wrenches from Harbor Freight, The Home of Easily Sacrificed Tools, but the wrench was too wide to get down onto the fitting. I would need a narrower wrench. Now, I do not recommend this as a common shop practice, but I solved that problem thusly:

Apparently 'Vanadium' is Latin for for 'really soft' because it didn't take too much effort at all to thin down the wrench to a point that would allow the removal of the fitting.

Step 4A: retain the copper washer from the old fitting. You will need it for the new fitting.

At this point, the main fuel line can be removed.

Step 5: Feed one end of Hose 1 down to the gascolator and attach it to the fitting:

With the large mail fuel line out of the way, it seemed a good time to remove the rest of the hoses. They all meet at the fussy junction box at the top of the engine.

Step 6: Remove the fuel transfer block at the top of the engine by removing the two bolts.

The old parts have no use in the new installation, so I stored them away.

Having removed the junction box, there are now hoses flopping around loose. Having started at the fuel pump, I headed back there to continue.

Step 7: remove the fuel 'out' line from the fuel pump.

Step 8: Install Fittings A and D to the fuel pump, using the copper washers retained from the old fittings:

The next line to remove ran from the junction box out to the carburetors. It is held in place with a pair of Adel clamps. These proved quite tricky to remove, but only because I was reluctant to remove the carburetors. It was possible on the right carb, but the left side was far more difficult. I ended up removing the carburetor on that side to get better access to the bolt head. The bolt is threaded into the intake manifold, but if you can get a wrench on the nut, you can remove the bolt out from under it.

Step 9: Remove the Adel clamps holding the carburetor fuel lines. Remove the carburetor(s) as required.

Step 10: Remove the carburetor fuel lines from the carburetors:

Access to the fuel line on the right side carburetor can be improved by loosening the oil tank clamps:

Step 10A: Ensure that the copper washers are removed; the new fittings have their own washers.

Step 11: Install Fittings 'B' and 'C':

I ran into a problem here. I couldn't get a wrench onto the fittings to tighten them down - there wasn't enough clearance around the flats of the fittings to allow either an open end or a socket wrench to get a grip. I called Steve and he suggested using a #4 sized AN cap by screwing it onto a fitting and using a wrench on the cap to drive the fitting in. I was concerned that loosening the cap would also remove the fitting, but he felt that the increased friction provided by the washer on the fitting would hold it in place.

He was right!

I was then able to attach Hose 3 to the fitting. Unfortunately, I did it WRONG!  You cannot allow the fitting to interfere with the operation of the engine choke arm!

The correct orientation is to point the end of the fitting downward. This explained why the hoses initially seemed to be longer than needed.

Step 12: Install Hose 2 (the lengthier of hoses 2 and 3) onto the left side carburetor. Ensure that the fitting does not interfere with the operation of the throttle and choke arms.

Step 13: Install Hose 3 (the shorter of hoses 2 and 3) onto the right side carburetor. Ensure that the fitting does not interfere with the operation of the throttle and choke arms.

Step 14: Install Hoses 1 and 6 onto the fuel pump:

Step 15: Install one end of Hose 4 onto the fuel pressure sensor.

Step 16: Attach the loose ends of the installed hoses to the appropriate locations on Fitting F:

I put off installing the fuel return line for last because I thought it would be very difficult to get at the fittings on the firewall shelf, but it turned out not to be all that bad. Every now and then, having arms as skinny as a 12 year old girl's comes in handy.  The other time is when I buy tight fitting muscle shirts: I get those cheap in the Boys 8 to 12 section at Walmart.

Step 17: Remove the fuel return like from the pass through fitting on the horizontal shelf of the firewall. Install Fitting 'E' - note that this is a very important step! Without the restrictor port in this fitting, fuel would flow unobstructed back to the fuel tank which would have an adverse impact on the fuel flow/pressure to the carburetors. 

Install the end of Hose 5 onto Fitting 'E':

Step 18: After ensuring that all fittings and hoses are fully attached and checked to make sure the gascolator drain has been replaced, open the fuel shutoff and turn on the Master switch. The electric fuel pump should be able to provide a fuel pressure indication. Visually inspect the fittings and hoses for leaks.

Step 19: Restrain the fuel lines using your preferred method:

I personally started by re-routing the main line to be below the metal tube that crosses between the carbs:

This allowed me to re-use the metal support block that had been orphaned by the removal of the old hoses. I initially tried to use a size 10 Adel clamp, but it was too tight. I didn't have a size 11 on hand, so I used a size 12. It's a loose fit, but I don't much care - it's purpose is really just to keep the hose from flopping around. That said, I'll likely replace it with an 11 at some point in the future.

I used a pair of vise grips and some safety wire to hold the clamp in place until I could get the hex bolt started back into the support block:

You can see that the size 12 clamp leaves plenty of slack in the hose, but still serves to keep it fixed in space:

I secured the right side carb line with a pair of size 8 Adel clamps, and AN3-4A bolt, and a lock nut.

Before final tightening, I snugged the Adel clamp combo right up next to the Tee fitting. This served to restrain pretty much everything all at once, but I also added a pair of tie wraps to protect the Tee fitting from rubbing on the support block underneath it:

The fuel return line seems to be half an inch to an inch too long, which is something I communicated back to Steve and Tom. The problem is that it gets awfully close to the edge of the antenna shelf. Steve tells me that they will shorten that hose by an inch from now on.

I used a couple more tie wraps to keep it from working against that edge:

The right side carb line also had the potential to rub against the rubber tube underneath it, so I used a tie wrap to fix them together. The orange tape underneath the tie wrap is the stuff I use to bundle wires. I used it here to protect the fire sleeve from any rubbing from the tie wrap.

I did the same thing with the left carb fuel line and the fuel pressure line:

And again and the fuel pressure line and the radiator hose:


  - Products described were provided from the vendor at a substantial discount. 
  - Methods and processes described in this posting are experimental in nature and are not to be taken or construed as technical direction. Use your own judgment.