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Engine Maintenance


his formula works as proven by Flight Express, which bills itself as a carrier of “time critical air cargo and air freight,” that’s home based in Orlando, Florida. This company utilizes statistically-driven maintenance and operations programs to operate a fleet of 86 piston-powered airplanes across the country. During 2002 the Flight Express fleet—which also includes Beechcraft Barons—flew 81,144 hours. Their maintenance system is so effective they changed only 76 cylinders over the course of the entire year.

Instrumentation— the Cornerstone of Engine Management Few of us have the luxury of having a full-time team of very experienced fulltime maintenance professionals at our beck and call; but there are instrumentation systems that, when combined with preventive maintenance, help us keep an eye on our engines. Enter the engine monitor. The most sophisticated of these tell-all systems track and record every tidbit of engine, charging system and flight data,

have interactive checklists, and can even help pilots with weight and balance computations. Pilots that install a monitor system are able to keep an eye on engine health, track mixture leaning procedures, control cylinder head temperatures, and—if used correctly—save fuel. But an engine monitor is only dashboard dressing unless the operator knows how to interpret the avalanche of data. Fortunately there are schools and software programs that do a very good job of teaching pilots how to understand this data stream. The best and most informative of these is Advanced Pilot Seminars ( in Ada, Oklahoma. Their online course is $395. Once operators understand what’s going on “under the hood” and know how to control the care and feeding for their engines, the odds of a catastrophic or partial engine failure lessen. However, even the best maintained and managed engine can suffer a partial or complete failure.

The Boneheaded Engine Failure GA pilots continue to mismanage their fuel, often with disastrous results. Some-

times it’s because the pilot doesn’t know his airplane’s quirks, such as a requirement to slowly add the last 10 gallons of fuel to fully top off the tanks. But usually the reason boils down the false hope that there’s enough fuel to make it those few more miles to the destination. Toss in a strong dose of get-home-itis and rational reflection is further skewed . One study showed that 70 percent of fuel exhaustion accidents occur within 10 miles of the intended destination. Every pilot who has survived a fuel mismanagement accident remembers how shocking it is when the engine noise stops. If a no-fuel no-noise (NFNN) incident takes you by surprise: • Pitch up to gain altitude and trim for best glide speed. (Wolfgang Langewiesche in the classic Stick and Rudder calls this the Speed of Best Distance). Best glide speed varies with aircraft weight. Best glide speed for a Cessna 182S Skylane is 75 knots at 3100 pounds; 70 knots at 2600 pounds, and 62 knots at 2000 pounds. What are the best glide speeds for your airplane? • Take steps to determine if the NFNN is from fuel exhaustion (no fuel on board) or fuel starvation (fuel onboard but not supplied to the engine).

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PilotMag-May/June 2010  

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Aviation magazine

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