Editor's Log

July 2019 Issue

Catching Up

By the time you read this, I’ll be getting my Debonair out of its annual inspection. It’s been a lengthy one, in part because of some items I had deferred from previous inspections and in part because the airplane was new to the shop doing the work. Basically, I decided it was time to catch up on a few wear-and-tear items that pop up with any kind of machine, from a Roomba vacuum cleaner to a personal airplane.

One squawk involved missing altitude information on a recent ADS-B Performance Monitor report I requested after a controller mentioned it wasn’t up to snuff. The shop presumed it was either a configuration error or a bad encoder. I’ll be interested in learning about the fix. It was time for brake pads, too, and I decided to replace what I’m pretty sure are the original brake rotors as a while-we’re-there-we-might-as-well thing.

There were a couple of nuisance items, too. One was a belly-mounted strobe light that had gone intermittent. While doing some unrelated work recently, I put the strobe itself on a different circuit’s power supply and learned the problem wasn’t the bulb assembly. I couldn’t get to its power supply without removing the interior. While a wing-spar AD was being complied with, the shop found a bad butt splice. Another nuisance was a very slow but persistent leak at the fuel selector, plus one of the sump drains in a tip tank. That’s all fixed now.


The biggest, most expensive single item was the propeller, which was overhauled when I did the engine. Since then, it’s never given a moment of trouble, but paint on the blades’ leading edges had eroded away, leaving bare aluminum open to Florida’s climate. There also was a big nick I picked up somewhere that needed to be dressed. I sent it off to a nearby prop shop for inspection and repair as necessary, which should be the last time I have to touch the prop—except to rebalance it—before the engine gets overhauled. Which brings me to the engine.

Just like the prop, it’s not given a moment of trouble since overhaul, but it’s equipped with cylinders subject to an airworthiness directive mandating their removal from service at the engine’s published time before overhaul (TBO), regardless of whether the rest of the engine needs an overhaul.

As long as the engine passes regular (and enhanced) inspections, I’m fine with running it beyond TBO, but it doesn’t make sense from a risk-management or financial standpoint to replace all the cylinders in a few hundred hours and not overhaul/replace the engine. While I’m not the least bit happy with what I see in a cursory scan of overhaul/replacement prices, I’m looking at the various alternatives, none of which will be inexpensive. Such are the joys of airplane ownership.

— Jeb Burnside