Dad’s Last Wish

The phone rang at five in the morning, awakening me from a deep sleep. Fumbling, I reached for the phone, it was my sister-in-law Eva. “The hospital called, your dad is dying”, she said in a concerned voice. It was not totally unexpected, but nevertheless. I dressed up quickly, jumped in the car, and raced to the hospital. On the way I was thinking about his last few weeks, and how challenging they we’re for him. A quick thought flashed through my mind – hold on dad. When I got to the hospital ward where dad was staying, the nurse told me in a soft voice that dad past on about fifteen minutes ago.

He laid there, in peace, like if he was asleep. His live-like complexion, body worm to touch,  would mask the reality of the end of his journey with us. In fact, he looked very much like I would occasionally find him on some of my visits with him – sleeping. Sometime I would let him sleep, and just leave, other time I would wake him up. This time I knew that I am seeing him like this for the last time. I stroked his still worm forehead. How surreal. How live-like, yet not there anymore. I wandered where he was – his spirit that is. Was he still here? Was he on the way to his eternal peace? Was he with Nancy, his beloved wife? All I know for sure, we will all learn this secret of life’s end when our own time comes.

Just a few weeks ago he spoke to me about his life coming to the end. I guess, he was preparing himself for that not too distant day. He was philosophical about life – almost ready to go. He was telling me about how much pleasure he derived from his scooter rides to the local park to feed the squirrels and ducks. He would be switching back and forth between his fondest memories, and the reality of getting ever-so-closer to the end of his life. He seemed to be at peace knowing that he will not be around for too much longer, yet at times, he would drift away from the subject of dying. He spoke of his plans after he is released from the hospital. How once again, and after he gains some strength, he would hop on his scooter, and take the ride to the park to feed his animal friends.

Then, out of the blue, he looked straight in my eyes, paused a while, and then asked me what struck me as a very strange question. “Do you still fly?” Yes, I said. He paused for a long time again, and then he asked me to take his, and his beloved wife’s Nancy’s ashes on to their last trip together. He asked me to spread them from my plane over their favourite hangout. You see, while Nancy was still alive, they use to take their dog Dino for a walk to the Lighthouse Park, at the south-west tip of Point Roberts, gazing for hours at the rolling surf. Both dad and Nancy were a bit of a drifters. Nancy came from England, dad from Czechoslovakia. They returned to live in Slovakia for a while, before returning and settling back here in Canada. It wasn’t such a strange question after all – I came to realize. It just seemed so fitting that the rolling ocean surf they both loved so much, should allow them to continue their eternal journeys together. I looked straight in my dad’s eyes, held his hand, and said: you got it dad.

My dad past on at the age of 92 on December 29, 2011.

Engine Shock

One day, as I moseyed to the hangar, Don looks at me, and I could sense that the news he is about to share with me is not going to please me. “Well Ed, I’m not sure that you have the original engine in your plane. The engine’s serial number ID plate is missing.” I guess I wasn’t getting it at this point. “You see, the aircraft is not air worthy without the plate, and I will not be able to sign it off for you, unless you can find the missing plate.” Don, but the plane has a valid annual doesn’t it? “Well, it is true that there is a stamp in the book, but that only show that the inspection was not done according to the regulations.” So what is the down side? “if the plate can’t be found, and if the engine is not the one that documented in the log books, that it will be a $25,000 overhaul.” I think at this point I wouldn’t pass the medical. In fact I would probably bust the poor doc’s blood pressure thingamajig.

It took me some time to calm down. I am pretty good at appearing calm under pressure, so I’m sure Don was thinking that I just didn’t get it. Oh yeah, I sure did. I am well trained to solve problems, just ask my wife – or better not, so with my thinking cap on I went searching for the plate. My logic would tell me that I should start with the previous owner, so I did. He couldn’t recall a missing engine serial number plate. He did have a solution for me though. “Get a blank from somewhere and make your own.” This sure didn’t make me feel very good about the possible other maintenance issues Don may come across. When I put some pressure on him, he accused my mechanic possibly losing the plate. I knew that I will not be able to get any further with him on the issue, so I continued searching for a solution.

I contacted a reputable engine overhaul shop, and with the owner’s help I was able to sort things out. He pointed out to me that the serial number is also stamped on the engine block, and if it is the same as the one recorded in the documents, I am in luck. It was. Now I would pass the medical again. There is a process in place to get a replacement plate from Lycoming, he said. The number on the block and the relevant records must be verified by Transport Canada; I must make a declaration that I don’t have the plate and that it is not attached somewhere else on the engine; Transport Canada then will give me a letter confirming the authenticity of the engine; Lycoming will take my $120 and sends me a new plate; Don puts it on the engine; Transport Canada inspects the installed plate, and Bob’s your uncle. Simple – no?

It’s a Routine

It is early September. Don and I discussed the annual inspection process. It is quite simple actually. The regulations prescribe what needs to be done, and most mechanics will charge a fixed rate for the work, with the exception of replacement parts and consumables. I was happy with Don’s quote, but he warned me that there may be some stuff that may need to be done, and would be over and above the inspection cost. Again, that seemed to be reasonable to me.

I’m kinda “glass is full” of a guy, so even though I unearthed some nasty surprises already, I was willing to accept that people do make mistakes and sometime overlook even important issues, so I convinced myself that all is well now. I figured, after all, the plane was owned by a mechanic – right? I think I should stop this practice. It is not serving me well. No, I don’t mean to stop being optimistic, I just have to be more realistic about some people. Not all of us are created equal.

Don

My mechanic Don

Don is a patient fellow. He knows old planes, so things like brakes not being serviced for a while, lubrication not evident in some critical places, and a myriads of other “small” issues were cropping out daily without unduly concerning him. One day, after another bad news, I remembered the saying about shoemaker’s kids who walk around in shoes with holes in their soles – or something like that. Why I didn’t remember this when I was buying the plane, beats me. I guess as a professional, I would never sell anything unless it was in better than original condition, or at least with a full disclosure. On the other hand, not everyone is a professional; however, a sloppy aircraft mechanic? That just does not compute. Since I bought the plane I’ve been hanging around the airport a lot and I will say one thing, there are many planes out there that are airworthy only in their logbooks. In reality who really knows.

Search For Avionics Shop

With just a little time left before next annual was due, I went searching for an avionics shop. I asked around and one was highly recommended. I went in to see the sales manager, and after a facility tour, I was satisfied that the company was very professionally ran. There were several helicopters being rewired for a medivac conversion, all in a great company of a Citation corporate jet. I was getting a bit worried. How is my little Colt going to fit in here with this high ticket iron. I asked the sales manager if he was really sure that they wanted to work on my old 1961 vintage bird. “No problem,” he said, we like to mix the jobs. “It is refreshing to work on small planes”, he assured me. I went home happy knowing that we soon will have a reliable transponder to fly with. Here I got the very first shock of what it costs to get something done on a certified bird. Was it a huge mistake to getting my own instead of renting? It sure looked like that. I could not believe that the cost of the installation was almost twice as much as the cost of the transponder. Then it down on me. My hunch about the miss match of the work in their shop simply confirmed that the company simply was not in tune with the need of a non-corporate aviator. Back to searching.

Avionics guru Sham

Sham, my avionics guru

This time I wet looking for a shop that caters smaller planes. I found one on my very own airport. I met Sham, the owner, and after he gave me his quote, we shook hands, and I was reassured that buying the plane was a right decision. On the way out off Sham’s shop I noticed a very familiar face. Couldn’t place him, you know how it is when you are 66, but he remembered me instantly, even though I only have a couple of years on him. As soon as he introduced himself, it all came back. Don is someone I met many years ago in another movie. I recalled that he was an AME. To my surprise, I found that he was subletting his shop from Sham. What a day, I found me an honest avionics expert, and a mechanic to boot. I knew instantly where my next annual will be done.

Is Your Altitude Mode On

Transponder

Original Transponder

Flying at last. I was busy on the UAV project, so Phil went flying on his own. Run-up went well, a routine Phil would say later. Radios were working fine, even at engine’s idle, all was good – or was it? On the climb-out the controller reminded Phil to check the altitude reporting position switch on the transponder. The tower wasn’t getting the altitude reading. Phil assumed that he wasn’t doing something right, so sure blame yourself first. It was a short flight.

Further investigation pointed out two possibilities, the possibility that the transponder was intermittent, or the encoder wasn’t working right. Another jewel was discovered. There was no static port! The static pressure was taken from the inside of the cockpit. Hmmm, how does this work if you open a vent or a window in flight? I’m not exactly sure, but the controllers would likely scratch their heads trying to figure out why we can’t hold the altitude.

I am really not sure to what degree this would affect the altitude readings, but there may be someone out there who may know, so feel free to chime in. I briefly considered fixing the transponder, but the cost of doing it simply didn’t make sense. I decided to put in a new Garmin GTX 327 transponder. I had good experience with it in the Katanas, so the old transponder was a goner. The old encoder gave way to a new digital unit as well. The static port issue would be also addressed.

The Fuel Level Check

Still busy on the UAV, Phil goes flying again. It was a midsummer day, and a lovely one for flying. Radios are working, I topped off the fuel last week in the anticipation of getting in the air, so all Phil had to do is to pre-flight the plane, hop in and go.

Check the fuel, even though your partner informed you that the tanks are full, right? Of course, it is a pre-flight check after all. Here comes the ladder, and…as Phil unscrews the tank cap “PUF” comes a strong fuel pressure release. What the heck is going on now, Phil muses. No flying today.

I got the call. Phil informed me about the pressure problem, and that the fuel caps were actually from a Cessna, and that the vent passages are likely obstructed. Since I bought the plane from an aircraft mechanic, I didn’t questioned the Cessna caps. Mechanics knows best, right? After all the aircraft passed its annual – well, think again.

Replacement fuel caps

New fuel caps

Back to the ADs. Here I discovered another airworthiness directive that was not done. Fortunately, Univair sells an PMA’d and STC’d replacement that takes care of the AD. I was taken aback a bit by the quote, but when the caps arrived, and knowing something about machining, I was very pleased with them. They are really first grade, beautifully machined, parts. All these fixes take time, the flying season was getting shorter and shorter, and the plane was mostly sitting on the ground, like a bird with its wings clipped.

AD’s and Such

OK, so what’s wrong with the radios? It was the beginning of a flying season, and we wanted to get some flying done before the major work of rewiring would take place sometime in the future, very likely during the next annual. I decided to get the radios working first, and do some minimal “cleanup” of the wiring mess. As I was going through all the connections and cleaning them up, something didn’t quite feel right. The starter cable looked like the original factory installed cable.

When I was going over the airworthiness directives for the aircraft I recalled seeing something about the starter cable. Sure enough, the original cable was an aluminum cable, and the AD was requiring replacing it with a copper cable, to eliminate a potential fire hazard. This was supposed to be done decades ago!

Aircraft Spruce sells a nice PMA’d and STC’d cable set by Bogert. I am one of those people who has a hard time fixing just the immediate problem at hand. If there is anything associated with it that is not right, it will be fixed. In my mind, not doing it right is like painting over rotten wood. I installed new set of fantastic copper cables, and a new battery box. The new cable system connects directly to the battery terminals, and the new battery box facilitates this very nicely. Besides, cleaning up and refinishing the old box didn’t appeal to me very much.

Battery Box

Battery boxes old and new

Replacing the starter and grounding cables also fixed the radio problems – they now worked great just on the battery juice. OK, let’s go flying – or not.

Radio Gremlins

Original COMs

The original radios

One day Phil decided to go flying. He called me later that day to report that the radios will not work until the rpm is at around 1500. This is around the time when the generator kicks in. All’s good, but how come the battery is not providing enough juice to power up the radios? My background in electronics kicked into the analytic thinking mode. It was clear to me, that since the battery was almost new and always fully charged by a solar panel charger, it must have been corrosion in connection junctions causing the grief.

Wiring mess

What a wiring mess

I stuck my head under the panel, and I really wished I had the barf bag with me. I can’t stand mess of any kind, but this wiring was past my tolerance level. Wires leading to and from places that didn’t belong there, wires not terminated to anything, breakers wired against all logic protecting nothing – well what can I say – a royal mess!

The jewel of the wiring was this tiny toggle switch. It was switching the radios

Toggle Switch

The COM toggle switch

from COM1 to COM2. In theory one would ask what is wrong with that. Well, the problem was that the switch was switching on and off the power,  not the audio! The writing was on the wall, the plane will be rewired. This, however, still didn’t’ answer the question why the radios didn’t work on the battery alone.

Stay tuned.

My Partner Phil

My Mentor Michael

My instructor and mentor Michael

After the deal was consummated, I asked Michael, also a carrier instructor and Aki’s colleague, to ferry the aircraft from YPK to its new home at ZBB. In his long carrier as a pilot/instructor, Michel must have flown every light aircraft known to men. He once owned a flight school in the UK, which he fondly talks about from time to time. I felt that Michael would be the perfect person to indoctrinate me in my “new” Colt. I needed someone to check me out, to keep the insurance company happy, and of course, to make sure that I don’t “buy the farm” as the saying goes, or something like that.

Partner Phil

My Partner Phil

Michael ferried the aircraft from its previous home base to its new home, about 20 minutes flight time away, while I drove back. I was so proud. I finally owned an aircraft. I guess this would be a good time to mention that Phil, my long-time friend and a very accomplished pilot, was also looking for a plane, so it was only natural that we became partners. Our insurance company required a good check-ride for both of us, so it seemed logical that Michael should check us out in our new mount.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Phil was cleared after the first flight, but I needed some more time. Flying Katanas for the past year was giving me some challenges on the final approach. The Colt, with its Lycoming in its nose, presents a much different visual clues than the Katana with its nose sloping down quickly. To make a long story short, my flare stunk.

Life interfered a bit and I was not able to fly for a few weeks due to some business commitments. To make this situation worse, Michael was leaving town for a while. Did I mentioned that he absolutely loves Thailand? While Michael was basking in the Thai sun, I settled on becoming Phil’s co-pilot. This was just fine with me. Flying with Phil, an experienced pilot with 1500 plus flight hours, a plethora of ratings and types of aircraft flown recorded in his logbook, looked like a good way to become familiar with the aircraft.

Owned By an Aircraft Mechanic

Fuselage Structure

Inspection of fuselage structure – no corrosion – all is well

The comforting part about my decision to buy the C-GDNR was the owner. He was a retired aircraft mechanic getting out of flying. The price was in line with other like planes, so it didn’t look like one of those “too good to be true” deals. The plane is a Piper PA-22 108 Cold, built in 1961. Remember, this is my first plane I was buying. I really wanted a plane, so all the caution was out the window. In fact, I wanted it so badly, that I asked the mechanic doing the
pre-purchase inspection to look at the “show stopper signs” only. Big mistake!

In all fairness, the aircraft had its annual, and the engine ran fine. The logs showed it to be in a good condition, verified by the mechanic, with about 1200 hours left on it. The engine was my real focus, I figured that all else should be really only minor stuff – remember the aircraft had current annual. The previous owner, an aircraft mechanic did all the work, which was then signed off by an AME with a current license. What I learned about this arrangement later sent shivers down my spine.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download