Category Archives: A&P Mechanic

Pilots Rejoice!

A great start to the new year, the 2016 FAA reauthorization has gone through and the new aeromedical rules have been announced! The new CFR Title 14, Part 68, BasicMed will become effective May 1, 2017.

While the changes may sound like they are a reduction of safety to non-pilots, they are in fact going to improve safety AND make flying more accessible. It should also be a boon to general aviation overall, which includes the largest segment of aviation in airmen and the number of aircraft.

2017 is already shaping up to be an epic year for GA; or at least the beginning of some major shifts in the industry. With the new rules for part 23, changing the certification process for small GA aircraft and parts, and the new aeromedical rules, it should open things up for manufacturers, experimenters, and pilots. These changes should make both pilots and the aircraft we fly considerably safer and less expensive to achieve that safety.

I don’t think these things will affect flight training, or significantly reduce regular operating expenses like fuel, consumables, annuals, or insurance, but there should be a reduction in the cost of upgrading aircraft to newer avionics and radios. What may affect regular operating expenses are the possibilities that the new part 23 rules will make it easier for fuel system, engine, and battery developers to bring more efficient products to market.

As a pilot, A&P, and experimenter, I am hopeful that these and other changes in my personal situation will make it less expensive for me to get back to flying and get back to building an experimental aircraft. I am looking forward to seeing how these changes affect the industry.

This post was brought to you by the sheer excitement that my last medical falls within the time limits of the new rules and makes me eligible under the new rules without having to go to an Aviation Medical Examiner before flying again! This also includes getting my CFI/II and instructing in the aircraft as well as in the classroom without a visit to an AME or needing a Third Class Medical!

Here’s looking forward to a new year, and flying again soon,
~FlyBoyJon

The Itch

Over the last few days, I received two catalogs in the mail; Yard Store and Aircraft Spruce. If you are into experimental aircraft or restoration these will be no strangers, and you might be getting a little wood just thinking about them. I spent most of Christmas Eve going through both catalogs page by page, all 1300+ pages.

Spending Christmas eve looking through a couple of aviation catalogs might sound a little weird if you are not deeply infected with the aviation bug, but to me, I could think of nothing else. I had been sitting on both of them for a few days and was chomping at the bit to get at them. Fortunately I had enough restraint to get family stuff done first and waited until we were just sitting around watching movies.

I have been a pilot for 12 years, and an aircraft mechanic for 3, It’s been way too long since I have flown and I haven’t wrenched on an airplane in about a year, so I have been itching something fierce to be… that which I am, an Aviator. Sound a little melodramatic? Maybe. I went back to school full-time for over two years to become an aircraft mechanic when I started an experimental aircraft project because I wanted to be that much more knowledgeable and skilled before really getting into the project. That should give an indication of the level of aviation infection I have.

Looking at the catalogs brought my lack of aviation related activity into a very sharp view. In the Aircraft Spruce catalog, the first 40 pages, I was feeling a deep homesickness, both for flying and for wrenching. It’s an aching feeling that something just isn’t right, I just don’t know how to explain it to someone who hasn’t been bitten by the same bug. It’s like a physical piece of you is missing, a phantom pain. Over time you just learn to ignore it then something happens and all of a sudden you realize that the phantom is still there and the longing returns.

Sounds a bit crazy to those not afflicted I’m sure. For me, it is very real. In part, it is so strong because I haven’t been able to share this thing that brings me so much joy with those I love. Only one family member has ever flown with me. I want so much to take Tammy and our son flying, to share that exhilarating experience with them, to share that part of me, that fills me with such joy, I want to share that joy.

Building and working on airplanes is something I doubt they will ever find as enjoyable as I do, but flying may have some impact. I would love to take them flying and have them take advantage of the opportunity by taking pictures in-flight, and maybe, just maybe they can feel some of what I feel when I fly.

I miss the skies, I miss flying through the scud, I miss the instrument approaches, I miss the pre-flights, I miss the refueling, I miss the flight planning, I miss the excitement of driving to the airport for a flight, I miss it all. Some day soon my friend sky, some day soon.

~FlyBoyJon

September?

Okay, I confess, I have been one lazy blogger this year. There are a number of reasons for the lack of posting, but a lack of things to post about is not one of them. Trying to finding my voice for this blog is the main reason I haven’t been posting much. Another is that we have been flying under the radar on some personal matters.

Let’s begin with the former, shall we?

Voice

A blog must have a distinct voice of its own for it to be ‘successful.’ At least that’s what I have heard. In part, I guess my dilemma is that I’m not sure what I want the blog to be, how to gauge success, or what I would even consider that to be.

As the name FlyBoyJon implies, I am a pilot and the early intent for the site was to chronicle the journey of an adventure pilot. Something that I work on for several years was a series of adventure flights. Sadly those plans fell through and with them the aviation adventures I had intended to blog about.

Over time life has impinged on my flying to such a point that it has now bee quite some time since I took to the skies. This is something that nags at me far more than I often let on. There is nothing sadder than a grounded pilot.

Itching to get back in the air I had begun an experimental aircraft build project. Once again life stepped in. I ended up going back to school to get my FAA mechanics license and a degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology. A good thing to be sure, but it made me seriously rethink my choice in aircraft for the experimental build. Something I do plan on getting back too.

Further keeping me from aviation posts here was the decision to separate my personal aviation from business aviation. I added a domain for my professional aviation work. And once again life has a way of changing plans. My professional aviation pursuits have also been tabled for the time being.

By now I bet this is sounding rather whiny, it is to me. Believe it or not, I’m not complaining. It’s just the way things have gone down. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not loaded with disposable cash so some things just have to wait and I’m okay with that.

A long-time interest that resurfaced during mechanic school was amateur radio. I finally got my ham license and rose through the licenses and started volunteering as an examiner for license tests. Ham radio is a specific, narrowly focused interest though and it required another blog, and domain all its own. I also ended up getting a commercial radio license with hopes of it being of use in my aviation pursuits.

My wife and I also have a personal site. For a long time, it was a personal journal and email site, then a genealogy site, and later back to just an email host. Now it is our online business site.

We currently have five domains with three active sites. The two inactive ones being for commercial interests. With all of these domains and sites and not much going on in my aviation world I just didn’t know what to do with this site. So I’m back to Voice. What is the voice for this site?

Land ho!

As to the second matter, flying under the radar… That has to do with our future planning. All things tallied up, there is no way in hell we will ever be able to retire if we stay in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. That’s like 10 counties of no-way-in-hell.

To be brutally honest, I have really grown to hate California. The legislature seems to collectively suffer from cranial-sphincter insertion syndrome and has a nasty habit of passing really bad legislation. The urban sprawl has become grossly over-populated, the economy sucks, and it’s just too damn expensive. It has also become very difficult to find any meaningful work here that would make staying viable.

With California not making much sense for us, we decided to look for some rural property in southern Oregon. Back in June, we purchased a two-and-a-half acre lot outside of Bonanza, Oregon, about 30 minutes northeast of Klamath Falls. As crazy as it sounds, we still haven’t made it out to look at the property. We were in KF in May and had planned on working with an agent based in Bonanza. After several ‘scheduling issues,’ we dropped the agent and came home. I wasn’t happy with the outcome of the trip and was feeling frustrated and generally in a funk when we came across this lot and jumped on it.

I had a good feeling about this property and Tammy had an uncharacteristically neutral feeling about the whole thing, almost zen like. When it comes to buying a rural property, that’s about as in sync as I think we could get. Since then we have both been gearing up for the big change physically and emotionally.

So when will we be moving up north? Who knows. We have been paying off the land, which is just that, land. I will need to build the homestead. I do want to get up there fairly soon because I don’t want to be 60 trying to build a house, but we aren’t in a huge rush. We need to bank some materials and resources, most likely find a gig for a year or two, maybe longer, or get really lucky with some online work. We certainly don’t want to try and move or build during the winter so it will be a spring or summer affair in the next year or two.

This kind of planning takes a long time. I had been studying a lot of building, farming, and permaculture subjects for over five years to get to the point where I was ready to make this happen. This has been a long time in the making.

So why haven’t I been blogging any of this? Ther has been too much fluidity in everything involved. We have a gig now and we didn’t want to stir anything up with a potential move and no defined timeline for one. We still don’t have a defined timeline, but we are much closer to having one.

One of the reasons I didn’t start posting in June was that we haven’t been able to get up there and do a land and resource survey of the property. It’s tough to make a building plan without knowing where it is going to be seated especially if you are hoping to work with the land and not forcing the land to your will.

What we have been able to do is to start the weather tracking now that we know where the land is, and follow the seasonal trending. We are also going back into the historical weather record for the area. There is a webcam a few miles from the property, but that is of limited use.

Back to the blog and its voice

So what does this have to do with finding a voice? I’m not sure. I have things to say and it’s usually something of an editorial nature on several somewhat related subjects. Mostly in the theological, sociological realms. Really it comes down to, will this be an editorial or journal, or maybe a hybrid? I honestly don’t know at this point. What I do know is that I want to be writing and this is a good place to do that. For now, I’m going to let things flow and see where it leads.

Until next time,
~Jon

I’m a multi-bench kind of guy

20140317_142358While I was in A&P school almost everything I posted was, of course, aviation related. Since I graduated a lot of my time has been spent working with wood. One of the biggest projects, literally, was a new woodworking bench using traditional joinery and oak draw-bore pegs to tightly secure it all together. (later I added a crochet at the left front that was attached with 2 lag bolts which constitute all of the metal on the bench)

But wood isn’t everything. Back in October I took my first Amature Radio license test and earned my Technician class license, last month I took the General class exam and earned my General class license. I’m used to doing computer hardware work and in the past I did a little electronics work so I was familiar with some of the stuff involved in radio, but not a lot.

20140518_130113Back in the 80s I was into CB radio. Later in life when I was working in the towing industry I did a lot of electrical work on our tow trucks which included the radios, and of course, installing my own car stereos since I could drive. These other activities made me a little familiar with Ham radio, but only in a very cursory way. What pushed me to finally do what I had wanted to do for decades was learning more about aircraft radios in A&P school.

Now my “electronics bench” is shifting from computers to radio. I have some basic electrical diagnostic tools and a full compliment of basic hand tools, but I am lacking in some of the basic radio diagnostics and bench-tools. As with woodworking and other trades, what better place to cut your teeth than making some of your own tools.

Dummy Load
Dummy Load

This week on my radio projects list I had one bench tool, a dummy load. For those who may not know, a dummy load is what you would connect a radio transmitter to, instead of an antenna, to conduct a variety of bench tests, usually power output related. Not having a load while transmitting, an antenna or dummy attached, a radio can burn out; basically you are generating a lot of “power” but not giving it anywhere to go. While testing you don’t want to connect an antenna because you would be transmitting all of your tests on-air wasting air-time and occupying a frequency someone else could be using for communication.

So thats why a dummy load, now for the what. A dummy load is used to dissipate RF energy, that would otherwise be radiating from an antenna as radio waves. The load can be dissipated through a resistive material as heat instead of radio signals.

20140430_131228An easy way to accomplish this is to use a resistor with relatively low resistance and that can also handle high power loads. Another criteria is that it shouldn’t radiate, or leak, spurious signals.

That last part becomes tricky because you can’t use resistors that are made from coiled wire, normally the kind used in high power applications because the coils inside the resistors will generate inductive fields. Another more practical way is to use a bunch of lower wattage resistors in parallel so the wattage is accumulated and the resistance kept low.

A trick that can be used to help in the dissipation of heat from the resistors is to submerge the resistor package in a fluid medium that will help dissipate the heat generated by the resistors making them more efficient. The trick with this is to use a medium that has a high flash point so you don’t accidentally start a fire. This is called a “wet dummy load.” It is recommended that transformer oil is used; this is what utility companies use for the same purpose in their large power transformers. Unfortunately this stuff is very expensive. The last time I checked it was $2,300 for a 55 gal drum, about $42 a gallon if you could find it in anything less than 5 gallons. Fortunately there is an alternate, mineral oil, which is pretty close.

So what’s in store next you may ask… A field strength meter is on the list for next week. With any luck I will be able to get out and do some shopping for that project in the next day or two.

That’s all for now, and 73
~FlyBoyJon / KK6GXG

Safety Washer Tab Tool

The whos-a-whats-a? I started a new project yesterday in class, the overhaul of an Marvel-Schebler MA 4-SPA carburetor. The overhaul isn’t too big a deal even though there were spider webs in the barrel of the carb and a bunch of crud came out of the float bowl when I split the halves.

There wasn’t much of a problem disassembling the carburetor down to a few piles of small parts and the two halves of the body. Today I was ready to strip it down to the bare castings when I came upon a bit of a problem. There are two safety washers with tabs that are bent up along the flats of the nuts to keep them from turning while the engine is in operation. One is on the Pump Discharge Nozzle Valve and the other Nozzle Assembly in the barrel.

The problem is that the tabs were bent up very well and getting them back down so I can remove the assemblies was proving to be a challenge. I didn’t want to gouge the assembly to the casting and I couldn’t find anything thin enough that I could tap in between the tab and the nut faces. I mangled one on the main Nozzle Assembly and decided that this was going to get messy very quickly if I didn’t come up with another option. Everyone else was saying to just use a screw driver… ah… no.

Enter, the solution. I had a small piece of soft steel and took it over to the grinder to put a rough bevel edge on the end following up with a file and sandpaper to clean up the edge. I wanted to keep the rounded edge so I could get it into some tight places. The plan is for this to slide in between the nut and the tab with the bevel pushing the tab out away from the nut. To make sure that the edge of the tool doesn’t cut into the nut I put a slight back bevel on the flat side.

The edge fit up to the nut perfectly flat and the bevel edge is just thin enough to wedge the back side of the tab and bend it outward. All it needs is a slight tap with my 8 oz. ball peen hammer and voilà, the tab tips down very neatly without gouging the nut and doing minimal damage to the tab. I was very happy with the results.

   

And there was much oooing and awwwing about the shop. Well, okay, maybe not. But there was a few “that’s cool”  vocalizations. I think so at least. Anyway, it worked and I was happy with the results as were the parts and the instructor; and that’s what really counts.

That’s all for now.

Blue skies and tail winds,
~FlyBoyJon

A&P School: Almost Done

It’s been three and a half semesters since A&P school started on August 10th, 2011. Here I am getting ready for my last mid-term in the program. It feels really good to be so far along but there is still a ton to get done in a short time. There is a mid term, several quizzes and tests, and a final. After that there are still the FAA tests, the written, and the oral/practical that need to be passed to add the Powerplant rating to my mechanic certificate.

After finishing my mechanic ratings there is still the matter of finishing my AS in Aviation Maintenance Technology. The good news on this front is it looks like I will be able to finish my AS over the summer with three classes, one of which is a single unit in kinesiology (P.E. for those over 30.)  Then I can transfer to San Jose State to finish my undergrad work with a BS in Aviation Maintenance Management.

Ever since I embarked on this journey making plans has required factoring in lots flexibility and not making any plans too dependent on outside influences. In short, not making plans so much as having general ideas and making sure I can easily divert from one to an alternate without too much upheaval in the universe. Building all of this flexibility into the planning process has made it very difficult to do any advance work down one path or another. In one sense this has been beneficial because it has kept me on a fairly narrow focus towards completion and has been an education in and of itself. I have been keeping projects at arms length because I know I don’t have enough time to complete them and along the way I have also learned the importance of the word “no” and how to use it.

Another important skill set I have been honing is applying value to my time going beyond coming up with an hourly rate by encompassing the value of learning from projects. Deciding if a project is worth taking on or is the time better served by farming it out. Sometimes when I know I can do something, it’s not the can I that is the important part, it is the should I part that needs the thinking. This is where the time and resource Black Hole can rear its ugly head and make a fun project suck, or a profitable project turn into a money pit.

With all of this learning and self realization going on you might think I would awaken from this aviation dream and realize that it is a bitch to make any money in this industry. Nope, no such luck. I’m hooked. I do think I have learned a few “secrets” to aviation/business success though. Keep it simple, keep the scope narrow, get and stay known in your niche, and never compromise on the quality of your work. An aviation business can always fail, but these are the key things that seem to cause a business to fail, aviation or otherwise.

What is the take-away from all of this? Work with what you have. Take on only the work you can do now. Grow slowly with well planned steps. Never stop learning. Keep an eye to the sky, an ear to the ground, and your nose to the grind stone, then you just might make it.

Blue skies and tail winds,
~FlyBoyJon

Is a blog just a blog?

Sorry about yesterdays disjointed post. I’m really not sure what happened, other than distraction and a somewhat confused general state of mind after spending the day in the shop cleaning up.

This morning I am gonna’ do a little house cleaning here on the blog.

I had set up a blog for Off Grid stuff. If you know me IRL you know I want to live ether next to, or near by a small airport away from “the city.” Hey, I am a small town kind of guy. I also want to be living as self-sufficiently as possible. The Off Grid blog had a few entries that I wanted to keep so I moved them her to FBJ and closed down that blog. If you are interested, they are in the Off Grid category on this site and I will be posting any new stuff here.

It seems like the FBJ site has always been somewhat enigmatic to me. Maybe it’s my OCD that gets in the way of just posting when the mood strikes. I like to have things compartmentalized into there own little categories separate from each other. Having an idea for a post is one thing, I have them all the time, what usually keeps me from posting is where to post it. This gets messy when you have so many interests, and worse when you have a bunch of topic specific blogs. So here we are again, It all comes back to FBJ. I am going to try and post when the ideas strike rather than saying to myself that it should be posted somewhere specific to that interest.

I will continue posting to Lumber Jocks because I am participating in the woodworking community there and that interaction is important to me.

The Vintage Aero Works site and blog are still in the planning stages, but that site will most definitely be reserved for aircraft restoration projects and related topics. it will be my commercial/professional website.

So what will be posted here on FBJ? A little bit of everything. A lot of aviation, some school related posts, woodworking adventures which will mostly be tool and aircraft related along with skill builders and cabinetry work, and any progress in moving off grid and all of its related topics. All of this along with an occasional soapbox post on politics, religion, philosophy, the economy, or anything else that pops up.

One of my goals for this year is to be more engaged with the FBJ site. We shall see how it goes.

Until next time. Peace, Love and Airplanes.
~FlyBoyJon

Fall 2012 Almost A Memory

This semester has just flown by at mach speed! It seems like just yesterday we were out at the airport picking our engines for the overhaul project and now we are a week from finals and the last day of class and only 175 days until the last day of next semester and completion of  the two year AMT program.

Since my last post I have had some fun working on a couple of other projects at school. We removed the engine, a Continental O-470, from our Cessna 182. I had the opportunity to work on the Pratt & Whiteny PT-6 removing the fuel controller and finding a low pressure fuel leak. And I had the chance to finish replacing the ignition switch on our Cessna 172 and run it up. It felt good to be sitting in an airplane doing a run up, although it did make me a little homesick for flying. I need to get back in the air.

There are several possibilities floating around for after graduation, but nothing even remotely solid. There are a couple of FBO jobs that may or may not be open, there is the possibility of teaching, and of course there is the need to finish my degree. For now, I’m keeping my ear to the ground of job stuff but focusing on head-down-full-speed-ahead on school and studying.

Blue skies and tailwinds,
~FlyBoyJon