Final Assembly and Flight Testing - Page 139.

June 12, 2005:  This was a long day.  I found another oil leak at the oil temp sensor.  I had to cut the wires from it to get a deep socket on it.  I even had to grind down the outer dimension of the socket to get it into the tight spot on the right-angle oil filter adapter.  I get the feeling there is still one more slow leak to be resolved.  I managed to figure out how dipsticks for O-320 engines are calibrated.  I compared a pair of sticks from a Cessna 172 and a Cardinal and found the sticks to be different lengths from each other, and mine.  The two Cessna sticks came from real Lycoming engines and mine from the ECI engine that is a clone of the Lycoming.  What I found was that both Cessna sticks had the 4, 6, and 8-quart marks at the exact same points from the lower end of the sticks, yet they were different lengths to the cap at the top.  I scribed my stick at the same locations and put it in my engine.  It told me I was around 5 quarts of oil in the sump.  I put in one more quart before going out to fly to make up for what I lost in yesterday's 1.5-hour flight.  The stick was dead on the 6-quart mark after the oil went in and settled in the crankcase.

I put on the wheel pants and gear leg fairings today and had some visitors as usual when things get serious about flying.  I had just enough time before sundown to get in a flight to 10,000 feet over Athens, Tennessee from Collegedale and back again.   I was noticing 160 MPH on departure from 3M3 at 2000 feet MSL.  On the way back down from 10K, the speed meter went to 187 MPH.  It was very smooth at 10K.   A short 0.7 hours goes in my log book as the Hobbs now shows 3.2 hours.  I will be adding the Hobbs meter count to the HOME PAGE.  Enterprise is slowly getting dressed to play outside as you can see in the picture below before departing on my late-afternoon flight.
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I found a loose fuel cap on the RIGHT tank today and adjusted that to be tighter.  I noticed fuel stains running behind the filler across the wing from yesterday's 1.5-hour flight.  I used fuel from both tanks equally in yesterday's flight, and found that the RIGHT tank had a lower fuel level than the LEFT tank.  I filled them both before I took off for the short flight today.  I also noticed the oil went farther back on the underside of the fuselage and cleaned it off using Windex and paper towels to see what happens next.  Here is how I left the plane in the hangar after putting it in the back row for this week while I am away.  I had to move a Diamond Katana out of the way and then put it up front after N2PZ was parked in back.
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I found a small amount of oil on the bottom skin, but only up front near the exhaust after returning to 3M3.  I will have to go hunting for oil drops and streaks with clean paper towels again when I return to the airport on Saturday, June 18th.

June 14, 2005:  I made my way from Tennessee to Texas via Hattiesburg, Mississippi last night and Hammond, Louisiana this morning where I met up with some old friends I have not seen in about a year.  I drove to Round Rock, Texas today from Hattiesburg with a fuel stop and lunch in Hammond.  I missed the 5 o'clock rush hour in Houston by taking Texas state route 105 out of Beaumont all the way to Brenham, Texas.  That path is about 30 miles north of Houston running East to West.  At the end of the day, 598 miles passed behind me and some nice country scenery away from the Interstate highways going across Texas instead of getting caught in the mess in Houston on I-10 and the I-610 loop.

As for my RV news, I noticed that my first flight announcement was mentioned on the Van's web site and on Van's Air Force today.  My RV-9A is number 155 to join the fleet of RV-9 and RV-9A models.  I got an email from Larry Westbrook with an invitation to drop into his field when I head south after my test period is completed.  Larry's serial number is 90016 and has been flying his 9A for quite a while with 475 hours on the Hobbs since 2001.

I have one new picture to show you from Abby Erdmann at Flightline Interiors.   She seems to enjoy my project and the side panel artwork I provided to her earlier.   Here are two samples she has tried and asked me to check out when I got connected to the web this evening.  The one on the top seems to have the shape I wanted, but the "exhaust lines" look better on the bottom one.
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I will keep you guys up-to-date in case someone wants to offer me a job while I am in Texas at the trade show in San Antonio.  I am going to see if I can get a quickie tour at the ECI engine plant in San Antonio tomorrow morning before the show opens.  If they will let me in with my camera, maybe I can post a few pix!  We will see if they will give me any access since I have one of their engines.

June 15, 2005: The visit to ECI today (Wednesday) opened my eyes to the quality of workmanship that goes into these engines.  I found out that ECI is family-owned since 1943.  With what I saw today about quality control and the processes used in manufacturing, I am satisfied that I have made a good choice for an engine supplier.  Unfortunately, photos were not allowed, so you will have to just use this LINK to their website to learn about their engine manufacturing plant here in San Antonio.

I spoke with Abby again this morning about the upholstery and the fact that she counts stitches in the critical areas to get the "right look" to her work.   It seems that all the right suppliers have been "chosen for me, by me" to get the airplane just the way I want it to be.  We had a good laugh when I told her the fabric version above "looked like a duck."  Her immediate reply was "AFLAC!"

As for the trade show, I met a lot of old friends and made a few critical contacts that may provide me with what I want...  For now, I have another session tomorrow to attend before heading back to Round Rock to have dinner with my son and his family.  Friday is the ride home to Tennessee.

June 17, 2005:  My job for this day was an all-day ride Friday from Round Rock, Texas to East Ridge, Tennessee.  I left my son's house and headed for home at 5:23 AM EASTERN time.  I arrived at home around 8:40 PM this evening after completing 909.3 miles in the car with FIVE stops for food fuel, exercise, and refreshment as needed along the way.  As I "exercised" in my car seat today, I realized that I will have to do some kind of movements in my seat in the airplane when I am on those flights that last over two hours, just to keep my blood circulating freely.  I will keep the seat belt snug around my hips to keep me from hitting the canopy in the event of turbulence, but the shoulder straps may be let out a bit to allow some movements but preventing me from colliding with the instrument panel.

June 18, 2005:  I picked up my mail this morning and received my updated flight-test limitations from John Burgin.   The flight test area is now described and depicted correctly in my paperwork.   I also received my preliminary "repairman's certificate", and the updated invoice from NationAir for my flight insurance on the airplane.  The check to them is already on its way to cover the premium.

I checked the fuel levels before take off and found the tanks to be about equal in fuel level as seen looking in the filler ports.  This confirmed that the fuel leakage around the RIGHT filler cap is no longer an issue.  The fuel cap adjustment did its job.

I flew back and forth north of Chattanooga at levels of 11,500 feet and 12,500 and got true airspeed readings of 170 MPH in level flight.  I was above broken and scattered cloud layers for those runs.  I want to get an earlier start tomorrow morning in order to fly at 6000 and 8000 feet to get some power settings and speeds at those levels.  I had leaned the engine to the point during these runs where all four EGT's were just about equal and the fuel flow sensor indicated 5.8 gallons per hour during the level-flight cruise operation. 

I also had a chance to confirm that the antenna cable going to the VOR antenna is the problem.  I took along a short RG-58 cable and used the "rubber ducky" antenna from my Sporty's hand-held radio to feed the NAV radio, then tuned the Chattanooga and Hinch Mountain VOR's successfully.  I will take apart the BNC connector on the end of the VOR coax cable to see if I missed one of the copper braids and shorted it out.  I had the Sporty's radio tuned to the Chattanooga VOR at the same time and received no signals through the coax from the VOR antenna.

I reduced power gradually and descended in the test area to the East of Collegedale doing several stalls with and without flaps as I came down.  The lift reserve indicator appears to have the correct angle on the probe since the stalls occurred when the gauge on my panel was near the RED/WHITE intersection of the gauge markings.

I had wiped off the small amount of oil near the exhaust pipes before today's flight and FOUND NO OIL there when I completed today's flight.  I pulled off the cowl one more time to learn that the only new oil was through the crankcase "breather" tube and found some oil stains on the LEFT exhaust pipe where it dripped from the tube on the hot pipe.  The oil dip stick showed SIX quarts BEFORE the flight and SIX quarts AFTER the flight.  I don't think I will be taking the cowl off again before the first oil change at 10 hours.  Since the Hobbs now has 5.6 hours on it, I do believe that Monday will be oil change day.  I filled the tanks before putting the airplane away.  I put in 19.2 gallons of 100LL fuel for 3.1 hours of flight time over two flight sessions.  Tomorrow will be a good flying day if the weather holds up.

June 19, 2005:  I reviewed my construction log book entries and transferred some data from my note pad from yesterday's flight before breakfast this morning.  I also made sure that I put the actual construction hours in my spreadsheet log book and found that I had added six hours to the number on the web home page that had already been accounted for in the spreadsheet.  That number is corrected on the home page as well as verifying the correct Hobbs meter reading is posted.   The weather looks perfect outside -- Let's go flying!   And here we are a few hours later in the day after I repaired the shorted connector on the BNC fitting on the VOR coaxial antenna cable.  Yep, that says 177 MPH on the GPS.  Although the airspeed indicator is not in this shot, it was close to the same speed.  You can see by the "whiskey compass" that I am heading WSW.  I could not believe the flash went off for this shot.  It washed out most of the GPS map page I had displayed here.  The engine monitor shows the highest EGT at 1410 degrees F, with a cylinder head temp of 383 degrees F on the hottest cylinder.  The RPM is at 2290 with 23.5 inches of manifold pressure and a fuel flow rate of 7.9 gallons-per-hour.   And no, the fuel gauge has not yet been calibrated and installed in the panel.   I took off with full tanks for this flight and the endurance is four hours.   Total flight time for the day was only 2.9 hours.
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This view out the left window shows the Tennessee River of course, just south of the Sequatchie Valley.
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The route for the day started at Collegedale with a flight around the north side of the Chattanooga Class C airspace to Fayetteville, Tennessee near the western boundary of my flight test area.  Then I went back over the top of Winchester and Sewanee, Tennessee toward the Athens, Tennessee airport.  I tracked the Hinch Mountain VOR for a while, then doubled back toward CHA and worked the controller after a Cessna went by at my 9500-foot altitude and did not see me at all.  I made two trips between CHA and Athens, then came down for a stop at Dallas Bay Sky Park north of Chattanooga and outside the Class C airspace.
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I did some stalls yesterday and thought I knew where the slow speed limit was on this bird.  I was doing a short-field approach earlier and dropped the last five feet unexpectedly and bounced into a go-around.  I came around again and got the landing I wanted on the second attempt.  When I got back to Collegedale and checked the airplane for oil underneath the fuselage, I found some damage on the left wheel fairing and the nose wheel fairing.  I realized that I did not have enough clearance around the tires.  The nasty result when I dumped the airplane on the deck: the tires got "FAT" for a very short time under the extra load.  They were obviously fat enough to touch the wheel pants while rolling and cracked the fiberglass.  I brought all the fairings home to make the fiberglass repairs in the garage tonight before bedtime.  The wheel openings around the exposed tires are a bit larger now.  The LEFT wheel fairing is shown below with the lower intersection fairing sporting some extra glass layers and epoxy under the Dacron peel ply to smooth the surface.
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Here is the nose wheel fairing with a similar treatment to get it back into service.  The fiberglass work at home tonight adds 2.2 hours to the project clock since I should have made these changes anyway to prevent the minor damage that occurred today.
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