Ask Pete!

by Pete Schoeninger
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine December 2017/January 2018 issue

Q: Continuing the question that appeared in the October/November 2017 issue about extending range in a Cessna 172N, you did not mention adding auxiliary fuel tanks. What about them?

A: You can add auxiliary fuel tank(s) to the wings, or the baggage compartment as permanent installations, but permanent installations add weight, and cost several thousand dollars to install.

Q: With winter here, what tips do you have for us pilots which are not commonly given?

A: 1) If you use an electric engine heater, don’t unplug it until necessary. I have seen pilots open their hangar door, then unplug the engine heater before doing any preflight work, programming any onboard navigation device, loading gear, etc. Remember, the engine is designed to shed heat rapidly, so keep that heater going while still safe to do so.

2) When you drain a fuel sample, if the drain will not work, it probably has some water which is frozen. STOP AND DO NOT FLY until you solve the issue because you don’t know how much water/ice is in the fuel lines and tank, and if fuel will flow normally into the engine.

3) In consultation with your aircraft technician, consider removing wheel pants to prevent runway slush from freezing your tire to your wheel pant, possibly causing a tire blowout on landing.

Q: You have said that one of many obstacles in running an FBO is dealing with local non-aviation politicians. Could you give an example?

A: At many smaller airports, there is only one FBO, who usually leases building(s) from the government landlord, who usually owns the airport. I am familiar with an FBO in Wisconsin who succeeded after the two previous FBOs went out of business. The local fathers were delighted to have the new operator, and at first were happy that they were profitable. But after many years there, as the sole FBO, they were deemed by some as getting rich at the expense of taxpayers. So, they were sort of victims of their own success as the landlord insisted on raising the rent.

Q: A friend purchased a very rusty barn find of a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser. He and his mechanic found that it was more economical (and maybe safer) to replace, rather than repair the rusty fuselage and damaged wings. In effect, he now has a practically new airplane with only the data tag being 70 years old. But his mechanic says he cannot say zero total time in the logbooks. What can be done to reflect this “like new” airplane?

A: When the airplane is returned to service, the certifying mechanic completes airframe logs and FAA 337 major repair forms, and puts this paperwork in the aircraft maintenance records, as well as sends the Federal Aviation Administration a copy. If anyone questions the age/total hours on your friend’s like-new airplane, he should show them the items replaced, when, and the hour meter reading. But a word of caution here…some after-market firms offer replacement wings and fuselages that may or may not be legal for certified airplanes. So, don’t buy a non-certified $12,000 fuselage for a certified airplane because it could only legally go on an experimental airplane. More than one guy has been jolted by this.

Q: My friend only flies his airplane about 40 hours a year, and would like to see more hours on it to reduce engine rusting. He has offered to let me use the airplane and only asked that I replace gas used. He has said he will even add me as an approved pilot on his insurance policy.  That sounds like a good deal, right?

A: Whoa! To be able to fly an airplane for the price of gas alone, is a good deal, BUT STOP! If you smack your friend’s airplane, the fact that you are a named pilot on the owner’s policy means the owner’s insurance company is obligated to fix the airplane for your friend. That policy probably provides NO insurance for you! BE SURE to ask your aviation insurance agent or an aviation attorney for clarification on this issue, and also inquire about non-owner liability insurance.

Q: My hangar neighbor has a nice Mooney 201. He recently lost his medical permanently. I have indicated a desire to buy the airplane, and he is very willing to sell it. We are pretty close in agreement on the price, but he feels the ADF and the DME installed add about $2,000 in value to a typical 201 without these avionics?

A: In my opinion, the ADF and DME no longer add any value, and to a slight degree may degrade value if they are taking up space in the panel, and add needlessly to empty weight.

Q: Our local airport has one 3,000 X 75 ft. asphalt runway, and snow removal is handled by the village Department of Public Works (DPW). They are nice guys, but have no aviation knowledge. They plow snow the full width of the runway exactly to the edge of the runway and not beyond. After a couple of significant snowfalls, there sometimes is a snowbank 2 or 3 feet high right at the edge of the runway. I feel this is a hazard, especially to low-wing aircraft. What can be done to reduce this hazard?

A: Snow removal is not rocket science, but it is different from plowing roads because airplanes have wings. Snow blowers are great for blowing snow off the edge of runways, but are not always available at small airports. What some people do is plow a small amount of snow to the edge of the runway, then make a high-speed pass throwing the snow beyond the runway lights, then take another bite of snow, push it to the edge, then fling that snow, etc. In your case, you could suggest to the DPW drivers to plow 1/3 of the runway to the edge, then sling that, repeat with middle third, then the same with the last third. When doing this, care is required so the snow being thrown does not hit and damage runway lights. Another possibility after the ground freezes is to push snow beyond the runway lights with the blade on the front of a plow truck. The FAA has an advisory circular on the subject for certified (airline) airports, AC 150/5200-30D.

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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