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New Paint and Oil

This is my first post in a very long time, and there are a few things to report.  First, after the autopilot installation in August 2020, the plane flew more than before, with people getting familiar with the autopilot.  Then, a longer than expected annual inspection in January/February 2021 replaced both Comm antennas, all engine intake gaskets, all oil return couplings and two lines, repaired an exhaust muffler, and broken pilot seat frame, along with numerous other adjustments to a 43 year-old airframe.  Some control surface corrosion was also found that required cleaning and painting of several affected areas to make the plane airworthy.

The plane really needed new paint, as the previous repainting in 2008 had not aged well, so a search began for a good place to get new paint.  Most of the paint shops in California were booked out six weeks to two months.  AeromechaniX recommended a shop in New Mexico that had done a good job on several other planes, and had openings in early March, so on the 5th we flew to an airfield between Las Cruces and El Paso for what was supposed to be a six-week job.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 was peaking and the paint shop employees couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t work, and the six week project became a fourteen+ week one.  84R was back on the ramp on June 26th with new rudder and horizontal stabilizer tips and wing strut fairings in its new blue and white colors.  The long annual inspection, new paint, plus flap roller replacement in October kept the plane out of service for more than 24 weeks in 2021.

New paint

New paint ready to go home

In addition to the new exterior look, I’ve been working on replacing some of the cracked and broken interior plastic trim.  Both interior door window frames have been replaced, along with wing root vent escutcheons and a new hand-held mic bracket.  Other less visible plastic pieces will be replaced will be replaced in the future.

Oil Issues

There has been a number of recent occasions where pilots have added oil when it wasn’t needed, or added more than was necessary.  There are a couple of things to be aware of when checking the oil:

  • First, don’t remove the dipstick to wipe it clean, then reinsert it to check the oil level.  The reinsertion of the dipstick can actually pressurize the tube slightly, pushing some oil out of the tube and producing a less than correct reading.
  • Second, the oil can take some time to drain from other parts of the engine back into the crankcase.  As a consequence, checking the oil with the engine still warm from a recent previous flight may show a lower than correct level.  For example, on the first flight after an oil change, the oil level was slightly greater than 8 quarts (the number 8 was not even visible), and after a 1.7hr flight, the oil level showed barely 5 quarts.  But, after sitting overnight, the oil level returned to above 8.

The engine will run just fine with less than 8 quarts of oil, and putting in too much just creates a messy oil slick on the belly aft of the crankcase breather.  So, if the engine is cold and the reading is less than six, you could add one quart for short, local flights, and maybe two quarts if you’re going on a long cross-country flight more than three hours.