’tis Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th…Naturally.  Had a good day going at work, was more or less caught up on the wrenching side of things and getting a handle on the paperwork side when things took a little turn towards the dark side. 

I’ve been waiting on a part for one of our Cessna’s for a couple of weeks and it finally showed up.  Three screws, three hoses, and it’s in.  Getting my fat ass out from under the confines of the front seat is a whole ‘nother story.  Just getting in there is a tale in itself as well.  Anyway I get the part installed, fire the motors up, and drive the beast down to the run up pad at the end of the runway so I can make a lot of noise and not bother too many folks.  The part works fine, the system works the way the book says it should, and I’m doing the happy dance all the way back to the ramp. 

Scribble, scribble, scribble, Mr. Cratchett, so the feds are happy and what’s this?,  two and a half flight hours left until the oil and filters need to be changed?  I’ll just knock that out while things are warm and the oil will flow out easily.  I have a couple hours left in the week anyway and this job doesn’t really take long.   Or so I thought.

This particular Cessna has engines on both wings; big huge honkin’ Continental 520 cubic inch turbocharged hunks of aluminum and steel.  They hold twelve quarts of oil each at seven pounds a gallon, so 21 pounds of oil in each engine.  The plane is parked a couple hundred yards away from the hangar and my toolbox, even farther from the oil drum.  I have two one gallon jugs I fill with oil from the 55 gallon drum and lug to wherever the plane’s sitting.  That’s usually not far as it’s usually in the hangar.  I didn’t get as far as putting oil into the engines today.  

Part of changing an oil filter in the flying world is cutting the used filter open with a special tool that looks like a big tubing cutter.  What I’m looking for (besides dirt) is slivers of metal that may indicate something is wearing down inside the engine while it’s running.  The type of metal I find tells me what part is breaking down and I can take steps to fix it before it becomes a major problem.  Any metal that’s ferrous (will stick to a magnet) is not a good sign. 

I get the left engine’s filter opened up and it’s just fine;  nothing in there but a bit of grit. Just a filter doing it’s filtery job and earning it’s pay.  The right one?  Not so much.  It’s full of shiny bits of stuff that make my head hurt.   Didn’t even get very far into the folds of the paper element before I had this really bad feeling that something has gone terribly askew.  I’m not sure where this stuff is coming from, there are pieces of magnetic metal, pieces that aren’t, and what looks like bronze or copper.  My guess is the camshaft lobes are coming apart and that’s pretty much fatal.  The really bad thing is there is less than 125 hours on this motor since it was overhauled. 

I have the oil from the filter can running through a coffee filter to pull the bits out it, I washed the paper element out in solvent and ran that through another coffee filter. Monday I’ll get all my ducks in a line and call Continental Motors. They’ll be happy to hear from me. My boss, not so much…


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