No steps forward,

Two steps back.  Today was supposed to be a move ahead kinda day.  One of those days where you get things accomplished and have visual signs of progress.  Didn’t quite work out like that….

We’ve been hammering on this Embraer for the last week.   We  needed to borrow a special tool from another airline to check the rudder travel dimensions, so we called last week and asked them to shoot it our way.  We have everything ready to do this check and the tool finally showed up this afternoon.   The downside is the one hydraulic lift we have in the hangar that’s tall enough to reach the tail of this airplane is broken.  There’s no way to do the check without getting to the upper reaches of the tail.  My two cohorts and I spent the day fixing the things that make me crazy like touching up paint and cleaning under the floorboards.  All those little cosmetic things that you know need to be worked but don’t really affect the safety of the aircrew or the airplane.  Until about 4:30 this afternoon.

Joe “Golden Hands” Pilot comes back from the end of the runway with an engine issue on the Caravan.  The Caravan is a big single engine turboprop built by Cessna and looks like every other single engine Cessna ever built except that it’s on steroids.  The gang at Cessna stuck one of Pratt & Whitney’s best engines on the front of this beast; the venerable PT-6.  This engine is as reliable as Old Faithful and virtually bulletproof, so when I have a pilot come back with an engine issue, I get a wee bit concerned.  

He calls our flight dispatch guys on the way back, they call me, and I meet him at the door of the jet when he shuts it down. I climb up into the right seat and say let’s go for a ride.  The engine start-up goes exactly the way the book says it should and I’m starting to get a bit skeptical.  This guy’s been flying this type of airplane a very long time so I tend to believe him when he says there’s a problem, but still…  Golden Hands gives me the brief on what he saw happen while we taxi to a relatively dry spot on the airfield where we can run the engine to maximum power without sliding on ice.  Sure enough, everything runs perfectly fine.  I try a few things, check some different settings on throttle and prop blade pitch, even wind the clock.  Not a hiccup.   GH takes us back to the ramp in front of the hangar and shuts everything off.  Just for kicks, I open the cowlings around the engine and take a peek.  There’s far too much oil laying in there for my tastes.   This particular engine was just taken off the plane, overhauled, and reinstalled by another company.  Something’s leaking and we have the honor of trying to find it.  Imagine taking your garden hose, sticking it under the hood of your car, spraying it, then trying to find the first place the water hit.  That’s the task ahead.  As far as the original issue?  Using superior troubleshooting ability and outstanding technical expertise,  I reckoned that the part which tells the tachometer how fast the engine is spinning is going bad.  We have one and it’s about an hour-long job to change it. 

So,  I started the day out with four good airplanes with the potential to make it five, and ended the day with three good ones.  At least last night’s snow started melting off today….

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