Airplane Owner Maintenance

A Maintenance Oriented Podcast For Airplane Owners

Month: July 2016

031 – Spark Plug Servicing for Airplane Owners, and One Simple Tool You Should Not Be Without!

IMG_3874Spark plug servicing… it’s one of the FAA-approved tasks that airplane owners can perform and sign off on their own airplanes.

It’s really not a complicated process, but one that deserves some careful attention to detail to make sure the work is done properly.

This is not a training course… it’s just information that hopefully will motivate you as an airplane owner to get some help to learn more about spark plugs.  Or, if you are already familiar with the process, perhaps there might be something new here for you to consider.

Remember, always get training for this type of thing the first time or  two, until you get familiar with performing the task yourself.

Here are some things you may need, or find useful, in servicing your aircraft spark plugs:

  1.  Wrenches for removing the spark plug wires from your plugs, one either 7/8 or 3/4, and one for the smaller nut to keep the  wire/lead from twisting while you remove the nut.
  2. A spark plug servicing kit, like this one from Aircraft Spruce, can be very helpful:  And if you want to buy just the spark plug socket, they have that too.
  3. A 3/8” drive ratchet for the spark plug socket.

  4. A gauge for determining if the plug is too worn or not (The center electrode is perfectly round when new, so if it looks too much like a football, it may be too worn… use the gauge to tell.)
  5. A pick for carefully removing lead chunks.

  6. A torque wrench.

  7. And finally, number seven, that amazing little tool, the gap expander, for those occasional times when you get the spark plug gap a little too tight!



As far as I’m concerned, this is truly a must-have tool for spark plug servicing!














At Classic Aviation, we keep a bin of annealed spark plug gaskets (left).  The annealed ones will seal better  when the spark plug is reinstalled.  (Check out the right picture above to see how easy it is to bend an annealed gasket with your fingers.)

Below are some more items you may want to use for cleaning spark plugs:  Blasting media for a spark plug cleaner, and a gap gauge to get the gap set properly.  If you buy a kit like I mentioned above, these may be part of that kit.IMG_3864







Here are some more helpful pieces of information on spark plugs if you’re interested:

For Lycoming engines:

For Continental engines:  check out SIL 02-3C.

One final tip:  Keep a spare spark plug or two in your airplane, along with the proper tools to change it if necessary… one day, you may be glad you did!





030 – Troubleshooting a Pulselite Landing Light System, and an Amazing Resource from the FAA for a Very Small Fee

Episode #030… thanks Cliff Ravenscraft for all the excellent instruction in the course Podcasting A to Z!  That’s how I was even able to get this thing off the ground!

And, if YOU have a reason to start a podcast, check out Cliff’s course… it is top-notch!  For more information, check out

In today’s episode, I’m telling thIMG_3798e story about troubleshooting a Precise Flight Pulselite system in an A36 Bonanza.  It was not working when the airplane came in for the annual inspection, and it took some digging to determine what was wrong and fix it.

It was worth it though… I’m a firm believer in pulsing landing lights, for the increased visibility they provide to other aircraft.





Locating the Pulselite control was a key part of the troubleshooting process.






IMG_3788IMG_3790                                                                                                        Finding the unmarked fuse holders for the Pulselite system was quite challenging… they were behind the circuit breaker panel on the pilot’s sidewall.






Turns out, the 20 amp fuse was blown!  Check out the picture of the blown fuse, along with a new one to replace it.

Hopefully, labeling these fuseholders and putting a placard next to the Pulselite control, may help someone in the future, if there is ever another similar problem with this system.




In situations like these, sometimes it may be helpful to have the installation records and 337 form for a modification like this.  So I wanted to mention that you can get a CD of these kinds of records from the FAA Certification Office for a very small fee… just $10!  If your 337 forms and records are scattered or incomplete, this may be something to look into.

As I think back on this whole scenario now, it reminded me of some things that airplane owners can do, to make the troubleshooting process more efficient for their mechanics, especially if it is an added piece of equipment, that may not have any information in the aircraft maintenance manual.

  1.  You can order a copy of your aircraft records from the FAA Certification Office.  You can get a CD for $10, that will include all the 337 forms that have been filed for your airplane.  This is an amazing resource!  Keep this information available to your mechanic, especially during annual inspection.
  2. Whenever possible, make sure all your fuse holders are labeled, both for the component they are powering, and the proper amperage of the fuse.
  3. Add a listing of all these fuse holders, and their location, and the proper amperage of the fuse, in your POH or owner’s manual.  (Perhaps in the section for the electrical system.)
  4. When having modifications done to your airplane, ask questions about all this, and make a plan to ensure all these details are covered.  You’ll be glad you did if…
  5. Whenever you encounter a problem like the one I described today, go ahead and label things at that time, if not already done.(I put a placard next to the Pulselite control, indicating that there were 2 fuses for this system behind the pilot’s circuit breaker panel.)

029 – A Trip Down Memory Lane to the Shortest Paved Runway in Virginia

Last Friday, I had an opportunity to do some flying with John Trissel at Eagles Nest Airport, in Waynesboro, Virginia.  John is the airport manager at Eagles Nest.

Check out this unique little airport here:









AND, if you want to see what it’s like to land at Eagles Nest, check out this you tube video:

Here’s another picture from the airport’s website:







Last Friday, we were getting John checked out in Don Vreuls’ PA 24-250, a very nice Comanche, I might add!









This airplane also has a fairly impressive instrument panel, with enough toys to keep you occupied for hours, even on a long flight!  Check out the AOA indicator to the left of the airspeed indicator.  If you would like to see more information on this, you can go to  Mark Korin is passionate about using these AOA systems to save lives.  (He was one of my favorite speakers at a recent IA renewal seminar.)








So all in all, it turned out to be a great day at Eagles Nest, and I was grateful for the opportunity.

Thank you John… I really enjoyed flying with you!

And thank you Don… you have a very nice airplane, and it’s always a pleasure to work with you!


One more thing… If any of you out there have any good short runway stories or pictures that you would be willing to share with me, please send me an email:  Thanks!