Ask Pete!

by Pete Schoeninger
Published in Midwest Flyer June/July 2017 issue

Q: Last fall, my hangar neighbor sold his airplane, and gave me his 2 horsepower, gas-powered little tug, which moves my airplane in and out of my hangar. I have only used it two or three times a month the last several months. Today, I looked at the oil and it was sort of like thin chocolate milk. I put in new oil last fall. Have you ever heard of this?

A: Yes. If you run a gas engine in the winter for only a couple of minutes, it is possible that you have warmed it enough to condense water into the crankcase, but have not run it long enough for the engine to get hot enough to burn off that condensation. So drain that oil right now. Oil is cheap… Change it often. But more important, this is why you need to carefully read your manufacturer’s recommendations for storage of your airplane engine, oil changes, etc., because it is possible the same thing could happen to your plane.

Q: At your suggestion, my 16-year-old son just got an entry level part-time job at our local airport. On his second day on the job, his boss asked him to go to the parts manager and get a gallon of prop wash. The parts manager told him they were out, but to go to their competitor on the other side of the airport. At that business, they told him they were also out, but suggested he go to the airport manager’s office. They also had none and suggested my son return to his job and report that no one on the field had prop wash. Was his leg being pulled?

A: Yes! And it probably won’t be the last time.

Q: My friend, a fellow private pilot, prefers to fly his Comanche from the right front seat, even when flying solo, rather than the traditional left seat. Is this legal? I thought you had to be a certified flight instructor to fly from the right seat? Can I do this in my 172?

A: As long as you have access to all controls, can see all instruments, etc., you should be okay. But your visual perspectives are different. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is runway alignment over a nose that curves to the left, rather than curving to the right, as you are used to from the left seat. You also have to use your left hand to control the throttle and carburetor heat, and your right hand to control the yoke.

Q: My 172M is certified in Normal Category up to 2300 pounds, and Utility Category up to 2000 pounds and forward c.g. Why the 300-pound difference?

A: Utility Category airplanes can do commercial maneuvers like chandelles, lazy eights, and sometimes, spins, with a maximum G load of 4.4. Normal Category airplanes are limited to a 3.8 G load. There’s lots more to the answer. Consult your Pilot’s Operating Handbook for more details. Note that at 2300-pound gross weight, a 3.8 G load puts about the same load on your structure as a 2000-pound weight at 4.4 Gs. (About 8800 pounds.)

Q: My father told me when Cessna came out with the Cardinal, they expected to phase out the 172. That was 1967, but today 172s are still in production and the Cardinal line shut down in the late 1970s. What happened?

A: Cardinals were delightful airplanes to fly, but initially they had numerous problems and never really overcame their initial reputation as troublesome. A few problems: The first aircraft were about 100 pounds heavier than the C172 with the same 150 hp engine; the wing on the first Cardinals was not a “low speed” wing; under some conditions with flap setting and c.g. location, the tail could stall resulting in a hard landing or worse. In 1969, the airplane got 30 more hp with the 180 hp engine, and in 1970, a new wing airfoil. But the damage to its reputation was done by the end of 1968. Sales never recovered, even though the 1970 and newer airplanes were much better. First year (1968) sales of the Cardinal were 1150 units vs. 600 C172s, but in 1969, Cardinal sales fell to 200 and C172 sales jumped up to 1300. If you are a geezer like me, you may find similarities with the Chevy Corvair.

Q: My 1979 Cessna Hawk XP has a factory installed float kit. It has never been on floats, but I am considering buying a new set of amphibious floats so I can enjoy both water flying, and ILS approaches at paved runways. I’ve been told to be ready for a big increase in insurance premiums. Why?

A: Putting new amphibious floats on your airplane will about double its value. (Your airplane is worth say $65K, and the floats double that, roughly. So before an underwriter considers the risks of your water flying, you now have about twice the hull value (airplane + amphib floats.) Talk to your insurance agent, and research the Seaplane Pilots Association. They have good information.

Q: My friend bet me an adult beverage that I could not find the starter button on his Piper Tri-Pacer. I quickly accepted, but I lost the bet. I couldn’t find it so I had to pop for a round at our local watering hole. But he still wouldn’t tell me. So where is it located?

A: Sit in the pilot seat. Put your left hand under your left thigh and feel for a metal box with a button in it. The button is your starter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Pete Schoeninger at with your questions for this column or for consultation on aviation business and airport matters. Pete has four decades of experience as a line technician, airplane salesman (300 aircraft sold thus far), appraiser, snow removal supervisor, airport manager, and as the manager/co-owner of a fixed base operation.

The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others, and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations, Aeronautical Information Manual, Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the airplane(s) they fly and other instructional materials before attempting any procedures discussed herein.

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