078 – A Cylinder Blow-Out, a Blue Fuel Stain, and a Leaking Vacuum Pump Seal

This cylinder definitely has a problem!  And I can’t help but think, could there have been a way to detect what was going on before it got this severe?  I’m not sure, but I do wonder what might have been detected if a borescope inspection had been done at the last annual.  (Perhaps that was done, and nothing showed up at that time.)

Whatever the case, this cylinder is not healthy.  Thankfully, it was found, and removed from that engine.  One complicating factor on this airplane, was that the #1 and #5 EGT probes were swapped, which could  have caused some confusion.


Another thing I saw in the shop this past week, was an area of blue fuel stain below one of the induction couplings on this Cessna 182.  (This is NOT the airplane that had the cylinder problem.)

The induction coupling clamps on this engine needed a little tightening… It’s always a good idea to check these clamps during the annual inspection, both on Lycoming, and Continental engines.

Another good way to check for induction leaks is to do an in-flight induction leak test using different power settings and analyzing information on the engine monitor.  (Thank you Steve, for pointing that out.)  You can google “Mike Busch induction leak test” for more information on that.


The third item in this week’s episode is about leaking vacuum pump drive seals, commonly known as Garloc seals.  This is the seal that keeps engine oil from leaking past the rotating shaft that drives the vacuum pump.  When this seal leaks, one indicator can be small oil droplets that are slung around in the area surrounding the vacuum pump.

Here is what this seal looked like when the vacuum pump was removed.


Remember, from last week’s episode, make sure your heating system is in good, safe, working condition.  If you have a combustion heater, make sure all checks are up to date, and consider having a pressure test done, even if it’s not “required.”

If your heat is collected from your engine’s exhaust system, make sure it has been thoroughly inspected for any defects that could allow carbon monoxide to enter the cabin.  Use a good quality carbon monoxide detector (Not the spot detectors.)  Get one that has a visual and audible warning.


Reminder:  More information coming soon about Dean’s safety wiring video course, to help airplane owners learn how to do excellent safety wiring, or to help them get better at it.

Fly safely!

077 – Is Your Airplane’s Heater About to Kill You? I Hope Not!


Check out this picture… any idea what’s going on here?

Now that we are into cold weather seasons, it’s a good time to talk about aircraft heaters.  They can be a necessary source of in-flight comfort, but if something goes wrong, they can also be surprising source of in-flight danger.

If your airplane has a combustion heater, make sure it’s maintained in a way that maximizes safety and reliability.  Some heaters have AD’s that mandate certain inspections.  Regardless of the AD’s, aircraft combustion heaters need regular and specific maintenance, to ensure proper and safe operation.

Two new AD’s have recently been issued on Southwind / Stewart Warner heaters.  In the past, these heaters were not required by AD’s to have a pressure test at regular intervals, but one of the new AD’s  DOES require a pressure test.  And it’s a good thing, as you will find out when you listen to this episode.

The new AD’s are these:

AD 2017-15-05 (Replaces AD 69-13-03.)  This AD is a one-time AD as long as the heater exhaust extension is stainless steel.

AD 2017-06-03 (Replaces AD 81-09-09.)  This AD requires fairly extensive inspection, and pressure testing of the old Southwind / Stewart Warner aircraft combustion heaters.  While it could be considered a cumbersome requirement, it really is a good thing, because if these heaters are not in good, safe, working condition, they can be flat-out dangerous!  This is the AD that caused me to pressure test that heater in the picture above.  And those bubbles are because the heater combustion tube has small holes in it, that can allow carbon monoxide gases to flow right into the airplane’s cabin during heater operation.

The interesting thing about this heater, is that unlike other heaters I’ve seen with cracks in them, this one ALMOST passed the pressure test.  It was a slow leak, but I could not get it to meet the requirements of pressurizing the combustion tube with 6 pounds of air pressure, and having it maintain at least 4 pounds after 45 seconds.

So, it was a very good thing the heater was removed from this Piper Apache.

There are three options for complying with this AD.  The first option is to do the required inspections and have the heater pass.  The second option is to disable the heater in accordance with the AD requirements.  The third option is to remove the heater in accordance with the AD requirements.  We did the third option on this one, which meant revising the weight and balance also.  Time will tell what the owner decides about overhauling the old heater, or buying a new one, or some other option.  I’m just thankful that dangerous heater is out of that airplane!

Here’s what that Southwind heater, model 940D, looks like out of the airplane.

How about your airplane?  Does it have a combustion heater?  If so, PLEASE do whatever you need to, to make sure it is safe.  Here is a sad accident report of a Cessna 402 crash back in May of 2012, that was caused by a malfunctioning combustion heater.


If you have a combustion heater in your airplane, whether it’s a Janitrol, Southwind / Stewart Warner, or something else, verify that all AD’s are up to date.  In addition, consider having a pressure test done, even if it’s not required by AD.  It just might prevent a very dangerous situation some day.

If you’re just not sure about all this, take a look at the Harold Haskins website, and give Hal a call.  He’s very knowledgeable, helpful, and easy to talk with.


Stay warm, be safe, and keep those aircraft combustion heaters in top-notch condition!

Thank you, Hal Haskins, for all your help and counsel you provided to me in this whole deal!


076 – Thanksgiving Edition: I Want You To Meet Brian Holmes

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you’re able to take some time to celebrate today, with people who are important to you.

I’m grateful to God for many people… my wife Maria, my kids, and many others.

Today, I’d like to introduce to you my good friend, Brian Holmes.  He’s a long-time multi-engine rated, commercial pilot of lots of different kinds of airplanes ranging from single engine Cessnas, to twins, to turboprops, and even some jets!  Something we have in common, is that we both love planes and people!  The thing we don’t have in common, is that Brian has no interest in turning wrenches 🙂  We won’t hold that against him 🙂

One of Brian’s favorite passions is helping people get past the things that have kept them stuck, and launching them into the places they were created for.

Brian also talks about the “Four Cornerstones For Strategic Living,” a concept he has developed for many years and has written a book about.  Be sure to listen to the episode today.

Thank you Brian, for recording this conversation, and for sharing your life with us!

Be sure to check out everything Brian has to offer at his website:



075 – Your Airplane’s Induction System Might Need Some Attention

Induction system couplings and clamps.  They are often overlooked… until they become an issue!

But why let it go that long?  Why risk having a problem somewhere away from home, where there might be limited tools and any necessary help.  It’s much better to do a little preventive maintenance on your airplane’s induction system, to guard against any unwelcome surprises.

Listen to today’s episode to hear about some stories about airplanes that had induction system issues that became challenging to figure out what was going on, including a recent one with Bret Chilcott and his 1947 Stinson.  Find out how Bret discovered the real problem during a Facetime call we had a few weeks ago.  Good eye Bret!

It’s a good idea to tighten induction coupling clamps at the annual inspection.  The following coupling is on a Continental turbocharged engine with the induction system on the top.

 It’s actually on this Cessna 337 that we did some work on awhile back at Classic Aviation.

The following Lycoming induction coupling clamps can be tightened with a straight blade screwdriver, or a 5/16 wrench or socket.

It’s also a good idea to check the torque on the induction flange bolts.  Induction leaks can be a minor nuisance, until something falls apart… then they become a major nuisance.

Take a look at your induction system, or have your A&P take a look, to make sure you don’t have any issues.  You just might prevent a really frustrating situation, (or a dangerous situation,) someday.

Check back next week, for a special episode featuring a conversation with my very good friend, Brian Holmes!  You can look for that one next Thursday, Thanksgiving Day!


074 – Help! I Flooded My Airplane Engine

Before we get started, I want to thank two people for today’s episode.

First, my very good friend, Brian Holmes.  Brian absolutely loves aviation and all kinds of airplanes, but he has no interest in turning wrenches.  So I was curious about what kind of topics would be appealing to airplane owners and pilots, like Brian, who love aviation, but who don’t care to get involved in maintenance in a hands-on way.  And very quickly, Brian suggested the topic of, “What to do when I flood the engine on startup.”  Thank you Brian, for this idea!  We can all use this one, whether we are pilots, mechanics, or both.

Second, I received an email awhile back from the Honorable Arthur Rosen, suggesting it would be good to have an episode on hot starts.  Thank you Arthur!

So we will attempt to combine these two in this episode, since they are sometimes related, and one of the times that flooding an airplane engine happens, is during a hot start.

As pilots and mechanics, we’ve all seen it… that guy out there on the ramp who just cranks and cranks and cranks away on his airplane’s engine, and just can’t seem to get it started.

And if we’re honest, if we’ve done very much flying and ground running of airplanes, there’s a good chance WE’VE been that guy!

And you always hate to be that guy, because it’s flat out embarrassing!

You start to imagine that everyone around is staring at you, imagining what an idiot you are, but not acknowledging that they’ve also found themselves in the very same situation at one time or another.

That scenario is bad enough.

Now imagine, you’ve arranged to take some family, friends, or other important people for an airplane ride…

You’re so excited about this.

Your passengers are a little nervous…

And you flood the engine…

If you don’t get this right, your passengers can quickly start to question your ability.

The last thing you want is for your passengers to wonder if you can actually fly this airplane.

So what do yo do, when you flood your airplane’s engine?

Here’s my short answer:  Whatever it takes to clear out the excess fuel, until the mixture of fuel and air is just right, so the engine can fire.

But before we talk about how to do that, let’s back up.

And let’s also give a couple disclaimers:

This episode is for information and inspiration only.  Don’t just take my word for it.

Check all this with your local A&P and your flight instructor.

In other words, don’t come back and say, “Dean said on the podcast that I could do this dumb thing I did”… YOU are responsible to take all this and check it out for your own personal situation!

Listen to today’s episode, and hopefully you will find something helpful when it comes to starting an airplane engine that is flooded, or hot, or both.

Here are a few ideas we cover:

  1. Keep your engine well-maintained… it’s one way you might PREVENT flooding your engine, or having an engine that’s hard to start.
  2. Be sure your magnetos are well-maintained (500 hour inspections,) and your spark plugs are serviced regularly, (I recommend every 50 hours.)
  3. Get some one-on-one training with your favorite option… it could be a flight instructor, an A&P, or just a very experienced pilot-friend.
  4. Don’t pump the throttle in a carbureted engine… use the primer instead.  Pumping the throttle increases the chance of a fire in the induction system.
  5. Become familiar with your POH procedures for flooded starts and hot starts.
  6. Don’t run your starter too long.
  7. Discover YOUR engine’s characteristics for flooded starts and hot starts, both in summer and winter.

And if you end up in a different airplane sometime, and you’re pretty sure it’s flooded, here are a few things you can try.  This is what I do:

  1. Mixture – idle cutoff.
  2. Starter – crank.
  3. Throttle – advance to full.
  4. When the engine fires – reduce throttle to idle (important!)
  5. Advance mixture.

Once again, check this out with someone locally, whom you trust.

I also mentioned the procedure Bill Eubanks uses in his A36 Bonanza for hot starts.  Here it is:

  1. Mixture lean.
  2. Throttle full.
  3. Purge any vapor lock by running fuel boost pump 15-20 seconds.
  4. Mixture rich.
  5. Fuel boost pump on until fuel flow peaks.
  6. Turn fuel pump off.
  7. Throttle:  close, then open about 4 twists.
  8. Start engine, and be prepared to turn fuel boost pump on for about one second once engine first begins to fire.

I was amazed how well this procedure worked when I saw Bill do it.

You may also be interested in a couple of past episodes that are related, but also very different:

Episode 019 “Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Airplane Engines, But Please, Take it Easy On Them!”

Episode 067 “The Zero-Throttle Starting Challenge.”  (Only for cold starts.)

One final note, I’m currently working on a video-based safety wiring course, so you can be watching for that in the future.


073 – BFR in a Cessna 310 with an Airline Captain CFI

When was YOUR last BFR?  Who was it with?  What was it like?  If you’ve been getting the same ‘ol BFR for many years, perhaps it’s time to shake things up a bit!

That’s what I did recently, and I’d like to share a few of the take-aways with you today. 

After my BFR last Saturday, I realized there are some things that would be worthwhile to talk about from that experience. 

Today, I’d like to share my experience from my BFR on Saturday, September 23, 2017, and then discuss some things that might be worth considering about BFR’s in general, and also about flying twin engine airplanes.

Rock’s Cessna 310 made for a fantastic learning experience!  Listen to today’s episode for the details.

And just for fun, here’s another airplane Rock flies… it’s a Wilga!  How about that for a different, interesting airplane?!  Reminds me of an overgrown grasshopper!

After my BFR that day in the Cessna 310, I collected some thoughts together, and maybe one or more of them will be helpful to you as well… here are some of my take-aways:

  1. Be honest with your own strengths and weaknesses.
    1. I was a little over-confident that day.
    2. Looking back, I realize I was struggling with the dangerous attitude of “resignation.”
  2. If possible get your next BFR with a different flight instructor than you’ve ever flown with before.
  3. Give your flight instructor a brief description of your experience, and the type of flying you currently do, so the experience can be tailor-made for you.  
  4. Don’t cut corners!  The regulation of 1 hour of ground and 1 hour of flight, is there for a reason – safety!  Always be learning!
  5. If you fly a twin, be very sure you are staying current with your training, especially single engine training.
  6. Get some dual on VFR charts… good to know, and rarely reviewed.
  7. Then, understand the value of an instrument rating… makes you safer, AND, you don’t need to worry so much about all the things that can trip you up as a VFR pilot.

Bottom line:  Make the most of your BFR!

072 – Beechcraft Bonanza Inspection Checklist, Part 2

In the last episode, we covered the engine portion of the inspection checklist.

This week, we cover the rest of the checklist, which is the airframe portion of the inspection.

One item on the inspection checklist that may be overlooked, is to check and make sure all the required POH placards are present and legible.  These required placards are listed in the back of the Limitations section of the POH.

In one recent A36 Bonanza I inspected, the emergency landing gear placard appeared to be a fabricated paper version.  The main problem with this one, is that it said “150 turns,” instead of “50 turns.”  This is an important piece of information that needs to be accurate.

Check out the difference between the old, improper placard, and the new, proper one:







This emergency exit window placard needs to be replaced with one that is legible.






Be sure to check back for the next episode, where I’ll share about my recent BFR in a Cessna 310.


071 – A Walk-Through of the Beech Bonanza Inspection Checklist

Do you know what goes on during your airplane’s annual inspection?  Do you know what should be going on, and what should not?   Perhaps todays episode can help think through some of these questions, regardless of what type of airplane you own.

Today’s episode deals specifically with the Beechcraft Bonanzas, and the “ANNUAL LONG FORM INSPECTION GUIDE.”

But don’t worry, if you like this idea of talking through an inspection checklist, and you own some other kind of airplane, just shoot me an email to “dean{at}airplaneownermaintenance{dot}com” and let me know what type airplane you’d like me to discuss in the future.  Or, leave me a voice message on the website:  AirplaneOwnerMaintenance.com.

Or, if you don’t like this format, and it’s too cumbersome or boring to go through the checklist, please let me know that as well.  (However, before you dismiss this whole thing, perhaps you might want to have your A&P/IA listen as well for some potential new ideas and perspectives.

Here’s the video about the autopilot roll servo cable in an A36 Bonanza:

Following is a link for the Beech Bonanza Longform Inspection Guide:


I got through about half of this in today’s episode, and plan to finish “walking through” the rest of it in the next episode.

Also, the article by Paul New that I mentioned, called “No Further Action Required,” can be found here:


And while your there at Paul’s website, TennesseeAircraft.net, go ahead and take a look at his other articles.  They are always well-written and very educational… thanks Paul!

P.S.  Happy 50 Year Anniversary to the American Bonanza Society!  ABS has been a fantastic support and resource for so many Beechcraft owners for all these years… Honestly, this is one weekend I wish I was in Kansas, instead of Virginia!


070 – Engine Hoses, And The New AD on Piper Oil Cooler Hoses

AD 2017-14-04 affects a huge list of Piper models, including Cherokees, Arrows, and Saratogas.

But before we get into that, I wanted to give an update on the alternator brushes mentioned in episode 069.  Here are some pictures of the new brushes I installed in that alternator:








That little red wire holds the brushes out of the way while the brush holder is installed in the alternator.  Then, after it’s in place and the screws are tight, the red wire is pulled out gently, and the brushes snap down against the slip rings in the alternator.

After installing this new brush assembly in the left engine of that twin Cessna I was working on, the charging system was back to normal!

Now for the new AD on Piper oil cooler hoses.  AD 2017-14-04 supercedes AD 95-26-13.

I discovered this new AD recently while performing an annual inspection on a Piper Archer.  The oil cooler hoses were still in relatively good condition, although they had over 1200 hours on them.  (This airplane gets flown a lot.)

These were not TSO-C53a, Type D hoses, so they had to be changed.  The good thing is, we ordered and installed new, Type D hoses, so that terminates the AD for this airplane.

This AD has a lot of information in it, and it can be a little confusing to figure out, but the bottom line is, if you have TSO-C53a, Type D hoses, they are not affected by this AD.  However, if you have Type C hoses, or any other hoses, they need to be inspected at certain intervals, and then replaced when they have either 8 years, or 1000 hours, on them.

How can you tell if you have Type D hoses?  Just look at the metal tag on the hose assembly.  If it says Type D on that tag, your hoses are not affected by this AD.  Generally, Type D hoses will be either the teflon hoses, with smooth, brown, exterior and a tag that says “Type D,” or, hoses with orange firesleeve, that also have a tag that says, “Type D.”

Back in 1996, another document that was issued by the FAA, was SAIB ACE 96-01, which offered some AMOC’s (Alternative Method Of Compliance.)  AMOC #1 gave the option to terminate the AD with Type C AND Type D hoses, as long as the oil cooler was mounted at the rear of the engine, and there were no defects noted on the hoses.

But with the new AD, that AMOC is no longer approved as a method to comply with the new AD.

So I had to change those hoses in that Archer… oh well, they should last a very long time!  And since we installed Type D hoses, the AD is now terminated in that airplane.

If you want to dig deep and learn some detail about hoses, how they are made, and the differences between type C and type D hoses, here is an AOPA article that is quite educational:


Here are a few recommendations to consider when it comes to engine hoses, regardless of what type of airplane you have:

  1. Although not required for part 91 operators, good idea to change them every 8 or 10 years.  Many airplane engine hoses are 20 or 30 or more years old… you’re taking chances to let them go that long.
  2. Make sure there is clearance between hoses and any exhaust component.
  3. Verify hoses are not bent too tightly.
  4. Always be looking for any leakage… esp. at hose ends.
  5. Verify all hose B-nuts are tight, with torque putty applied.
  6. If you move a hose to the side, and you hear it creaking, it’s probably old and needs to be changed.
  7. Even though the brown, teflon hoses are sometimes described as having no life limit, it’s still a good idea to change them at a reasonable frequency.

Now for one final thing that surprised me the other day.  I was inspecting another Piper Archer, and part of the inspection is draining the fuel tanks.  After collecting some liquid from the left fuel tank, I noticed it did not look like Av Gas… and it did not smell like Av Gas.  So I continued draining until I got fuel… I had drained almost 1/2 cup of water out of that tank!






It was one more reminder for me to avoid complacency, and keep doing the routine, but important items.

Here’s another interesting thing about that left fuel tank.  The cap was broken… perhaps this was the reason it did not seal well, and let water in!  (A new cap will be installed.)






Thanks everyone!  See you next time!

069 – Airplane Alternators: Real World Issues, and Online Troubleshooting

Your airplane’s alternator is something you depend on, and if it’s not working dependably, it quickly becomes a serious situation.

In today’s episode, we talk about some actual charging system issues I’ve encountered recently in the shop where I work, at Classic Aviation, as well as some interesting discussion I found in some online forums about charging system troubleshooting… (it seems to me that much of that “troubleshooting” turns out to be wild guesses, but there is actually some good information in those forums, if you can sort through all the opinions and “armchair quarterback ideas.”)

Beyond the forums, there is A LOT of good information available online for aircraft electrical system troubleshooting, and one post I found was from Hartzell Engine Technologies.  This is the one I mentioned in today’s episode, that had the tip about using a hacksaw blade for a simple test… I’m going to try that one!

You can find that post here:

Top Tips for Troubleshooting Your Aircraft’s Alternator

Finally, here are some issues I’ve encountered just recently on a twin Cessna:

The “R ALT OUT” light was on, even with the engine running, and the alternator charging normally.






And here is the “Alternator Inop. Sensor” that turns that light on and off, under normal circumstances.  It’s mounted near the alternator at the forward, right side of the engine.






Listen to today’s episode, for a description of what the three wires are for, (the red, the white, and the black wire.)


Finally, the culprit was found… the wire that comes from the ground side of the alternator inop light in the panel, was shorting out on the air-oil separator, before it even got to the sensor at the forward, right side of the engine.  This caused the “R ALT INOP” light to be on, even though the alternator was working just fine.  After fixing that, the system returned to normal operation.  This one was challenging to find!

Here’s what that wire looked like after it was pulled out of that wire bundle.






And the corresponding area on the air-oil separator where that wire was shorting to ground.






Then there was another problem on the left engine, where the alternator would drop off line occasionally… this was different than the right engine, in that it actually stopped working.  It didn’t happen often, just occasionally.  Here is that alternator:






And here is what the brushes looked like when they were removed:






Needless to say, a new brush assembly has been ordered!


So, those were some interesting issues, and it’s good to finally have them solved.


In thinking about this whole area of charging system troubleshooting, here are several things to keep in mind:

  1. We all tend to approach troubleshooting from the perspective of our personal experiences.  So, if we had a particular problem or two happen in the past, we naturally tend to think someone else may have that same problem.
  2. It’s really easy to immediately think of the main components, like the alternator and the voltage regulator.  Unfortunately, these are some of the most costly times in the system, and many times, are not the cause of the problem.  Changing them without good troubleshooting, can be a shot-gun approach… it might fix it, but it might not.
  3. Out of the ordinary issues are sometimes not covered in the maintenance manual, and these can be very frustrating to troubleshoot and figure out.  Like that chafing wire that caused the alternator inop light to stay on, even though the system was actually working.
  4. Some issues I’ve seen, that have caused problems, have included:
    1. Loose connections (at alternator, at battery, at airframe ground, etc.)
    2. Corroded/burned contacts inside electrical master switch (field circuit side.)
    3. Chafing wiring in engine compartment.


So, as an airplane owner, what can you do?

  1. Learn all you can.
    1. Read online, but be cautious!
    2. Study your POH.
    3. Work with your A&P if possible.
  2. Ask questions.
    1. If you get obscure answers that sound confusing, ask someone else!
    2. If you get a defensive answer, definitely ask someone else.
    3. Example:  Can you explain to me why you think we need to replace the alternator?  (There should be a valid answer to this, other than, “It’s the most obvious thing to do.”)
  3. Be as gracious with your A&P as you can.
    1. They’re not perfect, after all! 
    2. Some problems are complex.
    3. This is not someone you want to be ticked off at you!

Happy troubleshooting!





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