Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Search Of... The Oil Can

As I may have mentioned, or perhaps not, I have been heavily involved in the completion of an "almost done" RV-12, purchased by a guy that used to hangar his Cessna 172 a couple of rows over from my own hangar. As it turns out, "almost done" in reference to what he bought fits with the old plane builders pithy "eight percent done, eighty percent to go."

The fundamental truth in that statement arises in the same way it does when you're having a house built: once the frame is up, the roof is one, and the walls are covered, the first-time owner thinks the house is almost done, when in reality there are not many things in life that are further from the truth. It's the finish work - the multitudinous fine details - that takes the lion's share of the time and effort.

And so it was with the "almost built" RV-12, although to be fair, quite a few of the most time consuming things have been introduced by the initial builder. I may or may not have shared the story about a thick white wire that had an inexplicably located piece of electrical tape around it. Peeling off the tape out of idle curiosity exposed a cable of five wires, all five of which were cut through. All that was holding the cable together was a small unmolested piece of the outer insulation and the aforementioned electrical tape. There are only two possible explanations for the tape: it was either put in place my someone with so little understanding of electricity that he thought he could repair it in the same way you would "fix" a leaking hose, or it was put on there to hide the fact that the wires were cut.

Being generous in nature, I think it was the former.

Hey, who just laughed?

The wire bundle ended up being the control wires for the elevator trim, which in most people's opinion is not an optional component. Kind of a must-have, really.

As far as the trim goes, that was the first of many fixes, only one of which seems to be a result of my own carelessness or mental incapacity. Once I got it all working, it turned out that despite my best efforts, the direction of travel was opposite to that required. I figured it would be easier to just change the UP/DOWN labeling on the switch that controls it, but I was overruled by the owner.

No, not really.  I just went ahead and rewired the two responsible wires.

So, it has been things like that from day one. The most recent endeavor was getting the autopilot to work. The original builder had decided that he had no need of the optional autopilot, and he acted accordingly: he didn't install the servo mounts back when it would have taken ten minutes, so the much, MUCH tougher task of installing them after a whole lot of airplane had been built around the installation area.

And.. the wiring. I had to fix the wiring. No fun, that, especially when two of the three wiring problems were introduced by Van's as part of the conversion from the old, obsolete Dynon to the new Dynon Skyview.

All of those fiascoes aside, the worst had to be putting brake fluid into the braking system. There are a few different strategies for that, but based on the experiences of my build and that of The Jackson Two, our preferred method is to fill a thumb-pump oil can with brake fluid and pump the fluid UP into the airplane through the bleed valves on each brake assembly. Easy-peasy.

Easy, that is, as long as you aren't depending on a cheap Harbor Freight (Home of Dysfunctional Pumping Products the Frustrate Your Every Need) oil pump.

We pumped that thing for what seemed like hours, yet despite the misleading appearances, no oil was getting pumped anywhere.  Frack!! (Heh, see what I did there?)

The problem was eventually solved when The Jackson Two flew up with the oil can they use - the job was done in minutes. I simply had to have one of those oil cans for myself, but they had purchased it at a place called Rural Heaven or Wal*Rural or some such. As such, none were locally available. That was just fine since I had no pressing need for one, but I filed it away as something to be pursued next time I was down south.

Coincidentally, I flew down south the other day. I had no real reason to go, other than to burn off some of the fuel that I purchased after the Put-in-Bay trip with Annie Girl. You might remember that I lost my fuel cap just prior to that trip, having presumably left it sitting on the wing on the flight prior to that flight. The fuel that needed to be burned off was purchased at the same airport that I lost the fuel cap at, which was not a coincidence. I went there specifically to see if someone had picked up the stray fuel cap and returned it to the small terminal building there to be added to the Last & Found collection.

Sadly, the door to the building was locked and there was no one there to pick through the Lost & Found box, assuming that they actually have one. I walked dejectedly back to the plane, where I was met by a friendly guy in a pickup truck who seems to have assumed that my woeful look was somehow directly related to a frustrated attempt at using a men's room. I thanked him for his concern and turned back to the plane. As I did so, my eyes were drawn to a small object placed on top of the big metal box that encompasses the fuel pump. Sure enough, it was my wayward fuel cap, which had been rendered invisible to me as I concentrated on figuring out the self-service terminal off to the side.

So, all of the fuel has been sitting in the tank patiently awaiting the good flying weather that would be necessary for flying some of it off. Said weather had to date not been forthcoming.

Until, of course, a few days ago. 

I arrived at Jackson after a scenic flight down south, albeit at an altitude that provided a smooth ride at the cost of being able to fully enjoy the vibrant fall colors, at least until I was approaching the Jackson Co. airport for landing. As you can see, the colors were nice, but unless you watch the video you won't be able to tell how choppy it was. If you don't want to watch the video, well, just take my word for it: it was choppy.

The Jackson Two are deep into their own annual inspection, as it turns out. Further, they ran into a problem with a stuck hex head bolt, and the only solution appeared to be the use of a screw extractor, or an E-Z Out as they are commonly known. 

Even though there is precious little about them that is E-Z.

"Perfect! We can go get one at Rural World. And I can get an oil can!"

Kyle, radio spokesman for both The Jackson Two and the Jackson County International Airport Runway Maintenance Division, asked if we should "drive for fly."

I answered with the same perplexed look my dog gets when I ask him if he folds or crumples.

"It's not in Jackson, it's in Gallipolis."

Oh, I see.  The answer was obvious: "Fly."

It's not a lengthy flight - it's only about 15 minutes. Scenic, though, so it was a good thing that I hadn't violated my oft-violated "never fly without a camera" rule.

The loaner car was available at Gallipolis (I have no idea what our Plan B was had it not been), so the trip to Rural King netted the oil can that I wanted and the E-Z Out that Kyle needed, so we were soon back in the air. The landing back at Jackson Co. was somewhat delayed by another airplane in the landing pattern and the need to give him plenty of room to turn around and back taxi (just as you saw me do in the video, right?), although I ended up leaving more space than necessary as he landed that Cessna in an astonishingly short amount of runway.

I did okay with my landing, but not nearly as well as the Cessna guy did.

I needed to get headed back north as the day was getting late and I am not allowed to fly at night anymore. I started gathering stuff up and doing a quick inventory - it didn't take long to notice that I no longer had my camera. It didn't take very long at all to determine that the only place it could be was back at Gallipolis, either lying broken on the runway after falling off of the wing, or still sitting in the loaner car.

I was hoping for the car, but I couldn't see how I would have left it there.

With time being short, I made an expeditious trip back to Gallipolis (by which I mean I went ahead and burned the volume of gas required to fly as fast as my little 100hp kite will go) to see if I could find the camera. Sure enough, and to be great relief, it was in the car. There was a brief moment of concern when I peeked in the window and didn't see it, though, but it was pushed back under the seat. Which, as I think about it, is probably how I managed to miss seeing it in the first place.

From Gallipolis I headed straight back to the home field. There was no longer any time pressure; I would land well within the allowable time frame. The skies had calmed down too, so it was a smooth, relaxing ride as I went over 100 hours of flight time in the plane.

Arriving back at the Home Drome, I ran into a little problem with a Cessna approaching the airport at the same time. I was closer, but the tower must have felt that the Cessna was better positioned - he cleared the Cessna to land and cleared me as "Number two, follow the Cessna."  As it turned out, the Cessna was both slower and not actually better positioned. He either fibbed about his actual position, or didn't know it. It's always hard to say with a renter.  In any event, he flew an insanely wide and slow approach, so I had to counter by dragging along at 70 knots waiting for him to get out of the way. He dragged it out so far that I was right on the edge of breaking into the Port Columbus airspace before I was able to make my turn back towards the airport.

At least I had my camera with me.