Cold weather has arrived -- rather brutally this year for many of us. Whether that cold weather translates to life in the mid-50's (as it often does in the southern climes), or in the sub-zero's (for northerners), cold weather means we need to keep an eye on our aircraft's tires, to make sure they stay properly inflated.
Airplane engines suck. Pistons move up and down (or in horizontally opposed engines, in and out) and create tremendous suction that draws air in through the induction system. Although some engines benefit somewhat from "ram air" induction, and others have turbochargers to boost the airflow, all depend primarily on this internal suction to draw air in for combustion.
It's cold, it's dark, it's winter. The alternator is the electrical lifeline for your aircraft. While the battery on board most planes, if you lose the alternator, the life of the battery is typically less than an hour at full load, and even shorter with all the lights on! But many pilots pay little attention to the alternator in their airplane, since it is such a dependable piece of equipment. The problem with alternator problems is that they usually come when the alternator is under heavy load. Translation: The alternator usually fails when you need it most.
A cockpit is one of the best classrooms. When you fly, there are always chances to learn lessons from what you are doing. Whether it is a long cross-country flight into an unfamiliar area, or handling the chores of a hard IFR flight, each time you get into the plane and turn the key you start a new learning session... provided you are willing to learn.
We don't give much thought to starting the engines in our cars, even in the dark depths of winter, thanks in part to microprocessor controlled electronic fuel injection. Starting up an airplane, however involves a bit more hands-on skill. With colder weather on the way (and, in some areas, well under way), this might be a good time to revisit the one critical component of the induction system that we usually lay our hands on first: the primer.
I HAD A FRIEND WHO WAS A PILOT, AND WHO OWNED A BEECH SUNDOWNER. The Sundowner had a reputation as a well-built plane, and was one of Beech's first of a less expensive breed of airplane. The truth be told, while rugged, the Sundowner was a little on the slow side, but was still a lot of fun to fly. It was basically an upgraded Musketeer, but in this new incarnation, shared many components with the Sierra, which was a retractable model, and the Duchess twin model.
BEWARE OF WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE ON AN AIRPLANE. That lesson hits home with the plight of a friend, the owner of a perfect, low-time Cessna 182, who had some problems with his nose gear. If you think this sounds like kind of a drag ... read on.
All pilots share a common trait. Is it money? Background? Education? Daring, or caution? No, pilots come from a wide variety of backgrounds ... all economic classes, upbringing, schooling and personalities. There is one thing seemingly all pilots share, though -- that big stack of old aviation magazines. And there they are, just lying around waiting to do all of us a world of good ... maybe in ways that aren't so obvious. Yes, you've been misled. This is not a story about magnetos.
I've managed to see some of the seamy side of the world of aviation in my time, including some pretty lousy repairs. I was thinking about one repair I spotted while looking at an airplane for sale. The plane in question was an older Beech Bonanza, which had looked pretty good on the first inspection.
Your plans are all set -- with some excitement, you will be flying up to the All-Star Game, to be held in Chicago this year. Your plane is fueled, your hotel reservations are made, your flight plans are made, and you even bought the charts you need. Everything is all set for your trip, which is scheduled to start on July 12th to allow you to get in and find your hotel and spend some time in the City of Chicago before the big game starts.