Went flying with Dave K. today. We'd been trying to catch a good day for a few weeks, and it finally worked out. He's working on his Private using the Above and Beyond planes. We met at 3R9 and settled on Fredricksburg for lunch. After we were away from the airport I gave him the controls. We worked on slower flight, and turns on the way there. There was a lot of traffic we could see on the panel, but never actually saw most of it.
After lunch we flew to Lampasas and I demonstrated how the autopilot can track a GPS approach loaded on the 430W. We cruised at 7500, and it was nice and smooth. It was a bit bumpy below 6000. The day was cool enough so that Cav didn't complain at all about a full power climb to get above the bumps. We logged 3 landings and 2 hours and Dave got to log a little bit of RV time!
More fun with 77WE
77WE went back the schedule this week after having the exhaust replaced. I took it out early and flew east from KAUS to do some practice. It was very smooth and I got in steep turns, Chandelles, steep spirals, and lazy 8's. I need to be more aggressive in pitch on the Chandelles (note to self, two handfuls of nose up trim), but I think I'm getting close on these maneuvers. Then I arrived at Smithville (84R) to practice power off landings. The first landing was pretty close, gear down turning final, flaps, three greens, floated about 50 feet. Acceptable, but flaps up, power on, positive rate of climb, gear up, call CTAF to stay in the pattern for another go. With calm wind or a direct crosswind, allow for a bit of float by putting in gear and flaps just a bit earlier.
On downwind, power to idle abeam the numbers. Start the turn immediately. Gear down, one notch of flaps. I can feel and hear the gear cycle down and feel the locking action in the rudder pedals. Check three greens. HEY WAIT, NOT THREE GREENS. I stare at the three lights that should be on, but aren't. Crap! I add power, stabilize the descent to a climb, take out flaps and go around. I cycle the gear several times with same result. Everything acts normal until they are in what should be the down and locked position. The three lights all flicker at the end and then go out. I know the bulbs work, but now I can't trust that they are locked. Thus ends power off landing practice. I ask if anyone is on the ground at Smithville. I was hoping someone could look at the gear on a low pass and tell if something was obviously not right. But no one replies.
I decide it's time to go back and raise the gear and climb to 3000. I think about shutting down Austin again (still down to 1 runway) and decide to make a precautionary landing at Lockhart (50R) instead. I was pretty sure the gear really were down based on the feel and knowledge of the design, but I didn't want to test that at a busy Class Charlie airport. Better to shut down Lockhart if I'm wrong.
At Lockhart, again no one confesses to be on frequency and on the ground for a gear check. I enter the pattern and put the gear down. The lights haven't magically fixed themselves. I make a normal pattern approach to 35. I keep a bit of power on to keep the touchdown gentle. In ground effect I feel carefully for the wheels to touch. Touch! The mains are there. Add some weight. They're holding!. I keep the nose up for a bit and then gently bring it down. I think about killing the engine to save a prop strike. But the nosewheel touches and holds. All down and locked. Flaps up, add power, depart.
Now I can return to Bergstrom. I keep the gear down on the way back. After that it's pretty uneventful. Tower asks me to land long and exit immediately at taxiway Golf, keep it rolling, ground on 121.9, there are jets breathing down my neck on final. This all works out well and soon I'm taxiing to the tie down spot like nothing happened.
George is there. I tell the story. He says "Huh. That's strange." Actually he does admit this requires immediate attention. But I broke 77WE yet again. Despite the issues, this was my third solo in a Piper. I'm starting to get a bit comfortable with the plane.
Brake maintenance Feb 6, 2015
The last few times I returned Cav to the hangar at Spicewood the brakes were doing something funny. First, I've been having to use too much right brake, perhaps contributing to the brake fade incident at KAUS. When I finish taxiing to the hangar at 88R I make a sharp left turn onto the apron in front of the hangar. Applying left brake causes the nosewheel to caster to the right, allowing the left turn. The last two times I did this I could not undo the left turn tendency by holding right brake. Like something was stuck. At first I thought it was a another flat tire.
I decided that it was no longer my imagination and it was time to do something about it. Took off the wheel fairings and jacked up the left wheel. It seemed to be dragging just a bit. Not much but maybe enough to cause the issue. The brakes sounded like they were grinding, but not really grabbing the wheel. Started disassembling the brake.
Turns out I had already purchased new tires, tubes, and brake pads in prep for the annual. So it was time to put those to use. I took off the old pads. They still had plenty of wear left in them. The tire was another story. It was at end of life. No cord showing, but the insides were no longer showing any ribbing. Used the nifty brake rivet tool to remove the old pads and rivet on the new pads. Then took off the wheel and changed the tire. This process takes about 30 minutes. I did not repack the bearings, they were in excellent condition. At the same time I took off the gear leg and upper intersection fairings and then inspected the gear leg, brake lines, and brake and fairing mounting brackets. These are all part of the annual inspection checklist. Everything was in good airworthy condition.
Then I dug into the right wheel. Brakes off, pads de-riveted. The right brakes were much more worn, in fact they were down to the rivets and it was definitely time to replace them. The right tire had a lot more life in it, but I replaced it and the tube anyway. It now makes a good spare for anyone who needs a 5.00x5 Aero Classic. Riveted on the new pads, reinstalled the tire, then repeated the annual inspection items for the right main landing gear.
Took the fairings home overnight and washed them. In the morning reinstalled everything and Cav is back in flying condition. One item completed for the annual.
After flying today (2/14), the brakes are behaving perfectly again.
Never did prove why there was a left turn tendency, but I think it was because the left brake pins were a bit tight. I lubricated both sets of pins with a dry lubricant, and it seems to have helped a lot.
Of course it could have just been the big difference in wear between the two tires, but now both sides have brand new tires so they are balanced again.
The nosewheel tire still looks almost brand new.