Thursday, February 17, 2011

Under the Weather

Both of us; me and N631S, actually. For me it's been a couple of days of "flu-like symptoms" (much better now, thanks for asking). For the airplane, it's been a bit of an electrical problem.

Last Friday the nice folks at Three Wing Flying Services at KBDR hooked up the pre-heater in a timely manner and when I got to the airplane everything was warm and set to start. On reflection, perhaps the rate at which the starter turned the prop was a bit anemic but the TCM O-470U engine always wants to run so we were soon on our way toward home in the DC area.

The flight was long (2.8 hours) but uneventful. The very strong headwinds from the west-southwest caused a ground-speed penalty but no other problems. ATC did its usual sterling job and the landing at KVKX was routine. I taxied to the gas pumps and shut down.

After topping off the tanks, I hopped back in to taxi around to the hangar and was quite surprised when the engine would not start. After two attempts during which the starter couldn't get the engine over top dead-center I checked the voltmeter. It said 9.7. That isn't enough. Fortunately there was another pilot on the field (often on Friday evening I'm the only one there) and he helped me to pull N631S clear of the gas pumps and back onto the adjacent grass.

Sunday morning I returned to KVKX and in about 15 minutes found someone with a jumper cable having the appropriate Cessna-style connector; he was also happy to help me get the airplane started. After fully briefing what we were about to do (propellers are DANGEROUS!), we hooked up the airplane via the external power connector to the car and got the engine started. My friend disconnected the cable and I taxied to the hangar and shut down. First problem solved.

Then I drove the short distance to Hyde Field (W32), to see if Dan Fragassi of Clinton Aero Maintenance was in his shop - he seems to nearly always be there. (Regular visitors here may recall having been introduced (in this post) to Dan back in July of last year when he fixed a brake problem on N631S. I recommend him highly.)

He was there, I described for him the symptoms, and he said he'd get over to KVKX by Tuesday to have a look. So I went home and came down with the flu.

Tuesday Dan called to tell me that it appeared to be time for a new alternator. He had tightened the alternator belt, bypassed the voltage regulator and still got just 13 volts from unit - not the 14.3 to 14.5 that would be normal. The output was sufficient to operate the equipment but not enough to push electrons back into the battery, especially given the losses due to the rather long cable run from the engine compartment back to the battery box aft of the luggage compartment.

I told Dan to go ahead and get N631S a rebuilt alternator (he says about $315.00 plus labor). He expects to have it installed by Saturday, so if weather allows, a Monday morning flight to Connecticut can be in the cards.


Stephanie Belser said...

Feel better soon, Frank.

weather said...

Weather 'Thank you'
snow rain maps

Frank Van Haste said...

Thank you, Stephanie. Just about back to battery, now.

== T.J.== said...

Luckily u were @ home base when your plane got "sick"! This problem could have grounded u in CT, which I suspect would have been worse... Glad u r feeling better!

Sarah said...

Glad to hear you're feeling better, but sorry to hear your plane is under the weather! I have the mid this week so if you're flying out Monday morning I won't see you, but if you do fly I hope you have a good flight! :)

Frank Van Haste said...

Hi, Sarah & T.J.!

Sarah, N631S and I are both squared away...Monday morning is in the hands of the wx gods, who from this distance look grumpy. We'll see.

T.J., if the a/c had gone down in CT it would've been a "good news, bad news" deal. The bad news of course involves added complication getting home. The good news is that at KBDR there is excellent maintenance on the field; at KVKX I need to organize Dan to come over from Hyde Field. Life, lemons, lemonade, y'know?

Warm regards to you both,